EP#1 Isaline Muelhauser – Why I started WorkinSEO

To launch the podcast, Isaline, Work in SEO podcast host, is answering questions as a guest. Isaline discusses her path in SEO from digital marketing, the challenges she faced, what she was scared of when she started her SEO consultancy Pilea.ch and why she wanted to launch the WorkinSEO podcast.

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WorkinSEOPodcast full transcript interview with Isaline Muelhauser

Isaline: Hey folks, it’s Isaline and I’m thrilled to start this work in SEO podcast. A podcast where we explore the diversity of career path leading to working in SEO. We interview amazing people to learn from them and help you find your own way in your SEO career. 
Today, we’ve decided to start things upside down with a different format where I’ve asked my partner, François, to be in the interviewer seat. He has witnessed my transition into the SEO world from traditional marketing. His experience inspired me and he supported me along the way. François has co-founded the startup, Monito, where it witnessed firsthand the power of organic search to reach millions of users worldwide. 

 Hey, let’s do this. This is going to be an interesting format. And I think that’s the first time where I’ll be the one asking many questions in a row. This is #WorkInSEOPodcast, episode one. Isaline Muelhauser, SEOnerd and content strategist. 
What I personally like about SEO is that you find a wide range of diversity of backgrounds in this field. No one learned SEO at school, but kind of stumbled into it. Either on the job when starting your own website, sometimes from a digital marketing or paid search background, often coming from the content side of the equation. 
Some people got into from an early stage of their career, some much later. This is what I like about your idea of the podcast, Isaline, and it’s that there is so much to learn from others. And let’s start with you. 
Do you remember when you heard about the concept of search engine optimization for the first time and where were you in your career? 

 I actually don’t. However, I remember when I started talking about Google Analytics. And I think, as a content writer, I started first with Google Analytics because I was like, “Oh, I put so much effort into writing this piece of content. I want to know what’s the results.” And then, of course, when the result was not what I actually expected or hoped for, then, I started talking about SEO. But at this point, I didn’t know that it was SEO. I only knew that it was about making my piece of content better to reach a wider audience. 
I think for this very first step, I was lucky to be surrounded with very experienced Google Analytics person who just guided me and explained so many different things to me.

 We already learned something that you, that you entered SEO from, from the content angle or as a content writer. But let’s rewind a bit. Can you describe this a bit, what the various roles you had before, where you are today, and kind of the tasks that led you to writing content for the web and then learning about SEO. 

 Oh, yeah. I think when people ask me what is my career path and where I started. I always struggled to answer really, where should I start? Should I start when I actually started earning money and where it was like job and job experience and I was doing some widely different things? And I was working in shops and I was working in a hotel cleaning rooms and such things. And actually working in marketing started only later after I finished my studies. And for me, the studies were really a big part because I worked a lot to financially support myself during this time. 
When I had my first, I would say, “real job” when I was working for a festival. It was documentary film festival. I was in charge mainly of the websites and I think I was really passionate about these technical aspects and, and all of the tiny changes you can do to a website to make it like more comfortable for the users. And at this point, I had no idea what it was doing, but I was actually working on the architecture of the website to make it more user-friendly. And that was the very first, I would say, technical experience. 
And then, I did link building in Berlin for an internship where I didn’t know that I was actually doing actual link building. At the time, it was called something like “partnership” or something of this kind. Then, I did small writing as an internal communication specialist for big Swiss company and that was a very, I would say, formatting experience for me to be in a very big company where they are like thousands of employees. 

 What we could summarize up to that point where leveled as communication roles, right? 

 Yes, exactly. More or less, it was communication or digital marketing, something. 

And then?

And then, there was the web development agency. And then, that was a very big step because I moved from a traditional company to a web development agency. And there I met colleagues who were passionate each in, in their own types and, and kinds also. And I remember in particular working in close hands with two designer. And I have to name them here because they’ve had such an impact on my life and my creativity and inspiration. They are Darja Gartner and Jérémie Fontana. And just by sharing what they liked and they’re own inspiration and magazines and articles, they opened my mind and they really opened doors. And for me, it was awakening. I was like, “Oh, my God. But this is the tech world. This is what it is about.” And that’s where the expression “tech worlds,” actually enter in my world because I didn’t know what it was before. 

And that’s within this agency that you had a transition, right? 

 Yes exactly. And this is in this agency, surrounded with experts people that I had this first conversation with the Google Analytics specialist. And I felt very pressured to do some research and perform in the role that I had in this company. And that’s what drove me to look for optimization. Like, “How can I do better? And how can my piece of content and anything I do for websites perform better?” 

There you were in a content writer and content strategist role, selling your service for the agency’s clients. And that’s from what I, what I understand where you had to understand, how does this content fit into the strategy of your clients, and how that ultimately the goal is to gain visibility in one of the main way that we all know now is, is through Google and search. 
How did it help you enter the SEO world from a content perspective, and do you think it’s a particularly interesting first step or background to bring to the SEO world?

 In the goals I had in the agency, the way I was writing content, it was very much linked to the business objective and what the company was trying to reach as a company and what the company was trying to do on the website. 
I think this is what I bring from, with a background in digital marketing is it’s this very wide perspective of the need of a business. And as a content strategist, I have a very deep knowledge of the different steps of a customer journey, especially as I was working in close relation with UX designers. The first step to any project is the customer journey workshop. 
I think that’s the particular routine of someone like me coming from this field is that you have this intention to do something really for the business. And the website is a mean to do something for the business. And I always have this sort of overview at the back of my mind, even though I’m doing maybe a very tiny task on the website. 

And obviously, content and words, it’s at the essence or the starting point on any SEO work, obviously, starting with, starting with a keyword. I think knowing having a deep experience into this, I would say, even “raw material” of the SEO world is, is obviously very important or helpful entering the SEO world.
And as we’ve discussed before, you had a strong expertise in content, but SEO at the start was new. How did you, how did you learn about it? How did you educate yourself? What were the different steps that you made to learn on this topic?

 Actually, you should be the first to remember because I started by asking you questions. And I remember one time we were in a bus going to, to an Open’er Music Festival. And that’s when you explained, “This is the indexing and that is crawling. And this is how Google works.” It started with asking questions and having kind enough people around me who would answer them and also direct me to trustworthy resources and articles. 
And that’s a big part because, otherwise, I would have had really overwhelmed because I tend to feel really lost when I’m faced with something new. And I’m like, “Oh, my God! Never, I can do that. And, I will never learn enough and be good enough.” But then, step by step, a tiny response at a time, I get there. 

Yeah, I definitely remember that actually. I think one of the direction I pointed you and maybe that’s the time for a shout out is through all of the content that Ahrefs is producing and how to use the tool, but also that introduce you to the world for SEO and keyword research, crawling those kinds of things.
And if I remember correctly, that’s what’s one of the elements where I think like many people how you get into more into the weeds of how SEO and kind of the skills that you can learn around, around using these tools. Do you have any, anything else that you remember? 

 I remember very precisely. And this is the first credits I have to give to someone here. 
Well, maybe the second credits. You mentioned Izzi Smith. And Izzi Smith, at this time, had a website. Very rock and roll website. And she has, of course, red hair. And I could identify with this person, and I saw Izzi and I was like, “Oh, but she’s like me or I’m like her. I mean, if she does it, I can do it. Maybe I can do it, too.” And in that moment, I realized, “Oh, but they are women in that field and they are people like me.” 

And then, that might be a good transition because part of this might have been seeing that it was possible and might have played a role there. We left kind of your career path working at this agency and transitioning from doing content to learning about the performance of its content and working in SEO to make sure that the exposure of that content and visibility of that content increase. And then, another big jump. 

 And then, another big jump. It was 2019, I jumped and started a consulting service. I felt it was time to move on and to be doing what I wanted to do. And I think at the agency, it was not exactly possible to realize the job how I wanted to do, because I had to follow guidelines of course. And it’s sometimes a bit easier to find clients and try maybe tasks and do your own projects when you are a consultant. That’s where I started opening many different websites. Not all of them are successful. 
But at least it was a good exercise to do all the job by myself and, and build something from scratch. And I think it’s also at that time I have to introduce Sara Moccand-Sayegh. Sara started at the agency a bit before I left, I left the agency. And I think we clicked, we started discussing.
At first, I was very shy because as you might know, Sara is an extrovert, and she talks a lot and very loudly, and I’m the absolute contrary. I was really shy and very impressed. And also, Sara comes with more technical experience. 
And I think this is something I feel very strongly about: is coming from the content side of SEO, I feel like I’m never good enough and that the real good SEO, technical SEO. I was very impressed and I was like, “Oh, my God. Who is that woman?” And actually, we had a first event together during a meetup that I was organizing, Content Strategy Lausanne. 
And the vibe we had together and we created with this meetup, we realized there was something special. That made us very happy and made the audience very happy. And this is where we started. SEOnerd, Switzerland.

You made this jump of going solo, starting your own business and becoming a consultant. And I think many, many people listening would be curious. Where do you start? How did you find your first clients? How did you answer questions like how did you set your hourly rate? Those kinds of things.

 Well, to be honest, I was freaking out and I’m freaking out every two days, even today. I look brave and they look like I have my things together. But I think it’s just that I manage how scared I am and I put it in a box sometimes. And I’m like, “Okay, let’s do this. Even though I’m very scared.”
And actually, you should remember that too because, for me, the first step was to examine my financial situation. Because I was very aware of the fact that as a consultant, I might not have clients and sufficient income straight away.We created together several Google Sheets with formulas and stuff to determine how much money I need to carry on my life and how much money I have, how long I can last if I don’t have clients and such things. 
And this part for me was very important because coming from a very modest background, I’m very aware of what it is not to have much money and what it entails, and how far I can go with that. I needed to feel secure on that side because I believe that to start a company, it’s not only about motivation but the background has a great impact. I don’t come from a background where it’s a possible thing to start a company. I come from a background where you do your job and you are thankful to have a job. That was the first step to overcome these concepts that I had from my childhood and think, “No. Well, I’ve grown today. Thanks to my parents and thanks to my studies.”
And today, I’m in a situation where I can start a company and that actually makes me very emotional because this is not something I thought I could achieve in my life. And I think it’s also not something my parents thought I could achieve. I have many, many things to be thankful for, to the universe, to the country I live in, to you François.

 And the solution was Google Sheets. And, guilty as charged, I love Google Sheets. And, obviously, I remember that putting numbers on papers and doing some forecast and was a big part in — And it’s something we discussed about yesterday, about visualization, like, obviously, when you forecast stuff into a spreadsheet, and I know about that, having done a couple of rounds of fundraising for a startup is that it’s very hard to predict the future and you’re most of the time get it wrong, but it’s a form of visualization that make it possible. And I think looking back, it’s been one year and a half now. And I think, overall, we can say it was a success and a good move. But how did it went or how did you see that now? 

 I think it was definitely a success and a good move. And I think that you’ve just heard the real reason why I started this podcast and this whole work I’m doing with WorkInSEO is that I know we are not old in the geographical or we are not only in a place where we can start and we are not all equal in face of the dreams we have. But what I’ve learned also, thanks to the mentorship program I followed with Women in Tech SEO is that it’s hard, but it’s possible sometimes to overcome some learned patterns we have. And I have no impact on where you are today and of your situation. 
However, what I can do is bring you people who did things to give you examples and to help you visualize the many, many different ways you can do things. And I do believe that SEO is a field you can enter at any stage in your career because we are all learning SEO each day. Like it’s really something that you can do like self-learning. 

 And it’s a, it’s a great transition to my last chapter, which is about community and there are two aspects of it. One is participating in community and I’ve been witnessing firsthand the impact of the Women in Tech SEO community started by Areej AbuAli and, and all the women you’ve been able to meet and get support from, but also give back. And I think I’ve been seeing how it has helped you throughout this journey by not being alone. I think having some people to discuss with them and a good environment was really, really helpful. 
And the other part is community organizing. And very, very early on, you started at the agency organizing meetups about content strategy (Content Strategy Lausanne), and then another one called SEOnerdSwitzerland with Sara. And I’m curious to hear. If you can remember, why did you start a meetup? Because it takes a lot of time and a lot of energy and it’s something that you need to do for others in order to keep you going. 
Obviously, you can learn a lot from it yourself but it’s kind of an act of giving back to the community. Why started the meetup and what did it bring you?

 I started Content Strategy Lausanne when I started really working on products, writing on products for clients. And I thought it was useful for me to meet other people, to meet pairs who are doing something similar. And again, how was strongly supported by my colleagues who experienced what it is like to be inspired by other people. I think the first step was really to find inspiration together. And actually, the very first meetup was watching an InVision webinar together and eating crisps, and then discussing what we had learned. 

 And now that we’re reaching the end of this podcast, can you share a little bit why this podcast and what can listeners expect from the next episodes?
 Why #WorkinSEOPodcast podcast? Because I want you to see what is possible and how widely diverse the paths are and how widely diverse the expertise of each of the SEO person is. 
What you can expect in the next episodes is that I have invited a very interesting crew of people who will do exactly the same as I did today. They will share the experience. They will share the roles they have and the specifics about these roles. Like, what is an SEO outreach specialist? What is it like to work for a publisher? All these kinds of things. 
You will hear from different people. I try to choose people from around the world with different experience, different career path. I hope you will enjoy it. 
As an inspiration for you at the end of this podcast, I really encourage you to check out who is Areej AbuAli, who are Roxana Stingu, and Aleyda Solis, and who is Ruth Everett and — well, I can’t name everybody but I want to give credits for women in the Women in Tech community because if they were not there, I would not be here today because that would not feel brave enough.

Thank you and see you in the next one.