What does it take to work as in-house SEO? How to find in-house allies to get SEO strategies implemented?
Ellie, an SEO specialist based on Argentina, shares her story with us about her time working in Naranja Bank in Argentina.
Meet Ellie Ferrari
Ellie is a geek of Digital Marketing and SEO in particular. She loves the internet and working on digital projects with distributed teams integrated by people from all over the world and from varied cultures and languages. She loves being alive and learning new things all the time. Her curiosity has no limits and almost nothing scares her. She often gets what she sets out to do. She doesn’t promise what she can’t deliver, which is why her response is often the typical SEO answer: “It depends.”
🧡 Many thanks to Ellie for sharing her story with us.
Listen to a genuine story of what it is like to navigate your job as an SEO in the finance industry:
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WorkinSEOPodcast full transcript with Ellie Ferrari
Thank you to Ahrefs for sponsoring the Season 2 of the WorkinSEOPodcast!
Isaline: Hello, everyone. Welcome to a new episode of the WorkInSEO Podcast. I am Isaline Muelhauser, founder of WorkInSEO job board and podcast. Today’s episode is about working as an in-house SEO specialist. Our guest today is Ellie Ferrari, SEO specialist at Solvo Global. Hello, Ellie.
Ellie: Hello, Isaline.
Isaline: Welcome to WorkInSEO Podcast.
Ellie: Thank you for having me today.
Isaline: Can you tell us a little bit about you, and how you got into the wonderful world of SEO?
Ellie: I started in 2006, working for an agency in Miami. I am based in Córdoba, Argentina. I was born here in Argentina. At that point, because I speak English and I was working in something related to the internet, I got the job as an ad trafficker in a marketing agency.
I started there as an ad trafficker. I ended there as an ad operations manager. A trafficker is someone that implements online campaigns. At that point, I discovered the world of this SERP, the world of the search engines. We had big clients. Like Starwood Hotels, HBO, Sony, things like that.
At that point, I started to pay attention, not only to the ads, in the SERP, but the other things: the positions, how did we end up in the answers to the people. I started to — well, like that. The other thing is that what seduced me is that it is the most unpredictable thing in the digital marketing. Because if you work with paid campaigns, you kind of have most of the factors, you can predict most of the things.
In SEO, you can predict, but not so much. You have to work, and you have to hope that your work is going to be successful. But there is one big black box, which is the search algorithm so you have to do that. For me, that is very exciting because you have to be learning new things all the time.
I started there. We had no clients who wanted to pay for SEO. So, I actually did SEO optimization for free, like a bonus. We worked in the paid media campaigns and the bonus was SEO. And then, in 2011 or 12, I changed for another place. I worked in a migration of a big site in SharePoint for a global company.
That was a very good challenge. I had a distributed team of 19 people. It was fun and the result was positive. It was an SEO migration, SCM migration. We had to work in the redesign of the site and the content and everything. So it was great. After that, I decided to until that point, I was working as a digital marketing specialist. So I also did paid media. I worked as a growth marketer. And then, there I decided that my main, the main thing that I liked was SEO and that I wanted to work 100% in SEO.
From that point on, I only accepted jobs in SEO. I started to do that. And then, in 2017, I never worked for Argentina actually because Argentina was kind of very behind in digital marketing. So no one did anything like was what I was doing for the United States. They called me, Naranja, which is a main credit card issuer in the country because they started their digital transformation process. They had a company that was helping them with the digital transformation. They told them that they needed an SEO specialist. They looked for an SEO specialist. Their central branch is in Córdoba. So they wanted someone in-house, to go to the office 100%. The only person that they found in Córdoba was me. Well, I took several interviews and exams. Well, I had to prove that I knew what I knew. And then, I started working with them. It is a very traditional place. It’s like a bank, almost. They were very used to work in silos. IT didn’t talk to marketing, and marketing didn’t talk to PR, and PR didn’t talk to, you know. Everyone was kind of attending their game. I needed all of them. At first, I had like six months getting used to the way of work. I work with Agile methodologies since 2011. They started Agile. So they have 3,500 employees all over the country, and 200 branches.
I had to evaluate first, to audit, an SEO audit. And then, I had to start explaining. Because that’s the thing, “in-house SEO.” You need a lot of people to collaborate. You need a lot of people to help you with — they have to make decisions. You are not the complete owner of everything. So you can’t say, “This has to be done right now.” No. You have to negotiate. You have to ask the board of directors, the IT people or the IT managers. You need to find allies to work. Because in a very traditional financial industry, except of FinTech, financial industry, banks, and this kind of businesses are very, very traditional. So they don’t cross lines. They have a very organized power grid. You have to talk to a lot of people and you have to have your allies in each one of the groups to get things done. And then, when you get the results, because that’s the thing, we get results. We get good results, right? And when you get the results, you have to give credit also to the people that helped you. You have to be grateful because that’s the way to get more help. I started with them in 2017, and I spent four years and a couple of months with them. In those four years, I managed to create an SEO culture in Naranja.
Isaline: I heard that you have very interesting career path because it seems you are really one of the leaders in the industry in your country and started working for companies abroad. And then, you were needed back in a company in the country. I can imagine that was pretty difficult to, as you mentioned, that the industry was kind of traditional, working in silos, and people were not really aware of what is SEO. So, it must have been pretty difficult to get people on board, right? I mean, get people to actually collaborate with you. You mentioned that you needed allies. In the past podcast, this is a subject that was raised by other guests. Who said, “Internally, you need to do internal politics.” Can you tell me more about how, like very practical example of how you get someone on board with your idea? Even though this person has no idea what you’re talking about.
Ellie: In a big and very structured place like this, you have to think that everyone has their job, and everyone has their backlog, right? And you have to find a convincing point. The convincing point is always money, right? Yes. Because it is not enough for the financial industry to be the first in the SERP, to have visibility. That’s something because you have brand visibility there but you also have to show the money benefits. That you are going to lower the cost per acquisition, and that you are going to lower other costs, and that if you’re in a position, you are going to improve the quality score of the paid ads, and you are going to pay less. So that kind of thing, you have to have an insight and you have to be able to prove.
After that, I have to show them that because we reached — in 2017, the brand changed. Previous brand was “Tarjeta Naranja,” which is orange card. We changed to “Naranja” alone. Only the word “Naranja.” Naranja is orange. It’s the color and the fruit, right? Well, Argentina is the only country, Spanish-speaking country, that when you Google, “Naranja,” you get the financial company in the first page. In the second page, you have the fruit and the color. And the rest of the countries, you have the fruit and the color, right?
They asked me to do that, and I did that. I was explaining a step-by-step because I needed the help of the technical teams, and of the public relations teams, and of the content teams. With the rendering, going back to the rendering, we had the first position for Naranja. And we had the first position for “Tarjeta de Crédito,” which is the main product of the business, which is a credit card, right? There is where you compete, the non-brand keyword, the main keyword. We were the first place in two years. When we migrated, the rendering was broken and we started to go down because the bot didn’t read the content. I had to explain, I had to show the consequences because we were selling less credit cards from organic, and it was from the moment that the rendering was broken. It was broken because there was an update, an Angular update. They performed the Angular update. And then, they didn’t QA the rendering. It wasn’t included.
I had to do two things. First thing, get them on board to fix the rendering. The second thing, for the future, is to include the rendering in the QA. You don’t go live with a page if the rendering is not working, and you don’t go live with an update of the [0:15:12.0 unin] framework, if the rendering is not working, right? So they didn’t have that in their horizon. So, I had to talk to them. At first, I had to talk with the manager. I had to talk to the directors, board. I had a couple of allies there. One of them was the president of the company because the universe loves me. He liked me. So, that was one of my allies. The other ally was the chief operations manager. A woman called Susan Vergero, and she was kind of an advocate of my work. They were the two people defending me in the high management. And then, I had the UX manager. He understood about SEO. So, it was a good thing. And then, there was the IT chief technical officer, and he asked me to explain. He took like half an hour of his very, very busy calendar for me to explain. Of course, I had to prepare very well to explain everything in the least time possible. I got someone, a DevOps. A very senior DevOps. He’s a very good person, and he’s a genius, and he was my ally there.
I had those people that understood. And then, it was easier for me to get the other people on board. But the strategy was showing things, explaining, and workshops. Very short, workshops.
Isaline: So, let me recap. First, you had some allies. Like, internal allies, who were rather well-placed in the hierarchy, and who helped you have further meetings with people who could actually help you do the work and fix the issue. And then, you prepared a presentation to have really examples to show what it was doing, and you tried to link this example with money. I have this impression that you have to show confidence and I’ve always wondered internally how to present myself. I’m a consultant, so I was not really good with the internal politics. I had already this impression that you have to dress a certain way, or do certain things, so that people listen to you.
Tell me, what’s the secret sauce? What do you do? Does it just come naturally? Or is this something one can learn?
Ellie: Yeah, I think you have to learn that. Because I am a shy person and I am an introvert, yes. Also, as you can see right now, I have violet hair and very short hair but I like to change my style. In this kind of environment, this kind of bank-like environment, everyone is very formal. I’m not. So, I try to little, my originality or my original style, not that much because they knew what they got when they got me. So, I wasn’t going to change that much.
The other thing is, in all over the world, we have most in technical positions. Also, in Latin America, they are not used to women in this kind of hybrid roles. The role of SEO is kind of hybrid. You have a very technical side, and you have a very content marketing side. Sometimes, they can’t merge those two things.
Yes, you have to be confident. But also, for me, you have to be strong. Because sometimes, just because they are men and you are a woman, they say, for example, if you have a strong character being a man, you have character. And if you have strong character being a woman, you are a crazy woman, right? So, you have to calm down.
In here, for example, when you want to defend something and you get passionate, if you are a man, that’s fine. You have your eyes and your teeth closed, and that’s fine. But if you are a woman, they say, “Calm down. Are you going to get your period in these days? You need an aspirin?” That’s very common here. It is not the same for a woman and for a man. So, I am passionate. I have passion for what I do. I love SEO. I enjoy my job. I am very happy when we get the results I want to get. I am very, very grateful when someone helps me with that or collaborates.
But, to get them on board, you have to kind of be on the same page with them. You don’t have to fear. You don’t have to have fear. Sometimes, when they say things that refer to you as a woman, for example, and it’s not the point of the conversation, we are talking about SEO. So there is no difference if I am a woman or a man, because we are talking about SEO, right? Don’t get distracted by that. If you get your feelings hurt, because sometimes that’s what happens, and you feel the need of have a good cry. When I was in that place, if I needed that, if I got my feelings hurt, I didn’t show a lot. I never cry in front of people. If I needed to cry, I went to the bathroom. I cried like five minutes. And then, I went the mirror and I said, “Ellie, get your shit together, and go on.”
Isaline: I heard that it’s a lot about staying focus about the message you want to transfer, which is about SEO, and always reframing the conversation to this message. I heard that the preparation is then really important. I want to come back on something you said earlier. Earlier, you mentioned that it’s also really important to share success when there is success. Can you tell me more about what you mean by that?
Ellie: For example, when we started in 2007, there was no online process to get the credit cards, right? We didn’t have online sales at all. Not paid, not organic, not anything. We started there, and at the end of the year, we had the 100% online. So, you didn’t have to go to the branch in person to get the credit card. But, you could get the credit card 100% online, and then on the mail in your house, right? So, that was an innovation at that point in Argentina, in 2017 and we started to see the sites.
We have right now, there is like the 70% of the sales are online. From that 70%, 30% are from organic, from SEO. Usually, if there is not an SEO team and you don’t have an SEO specialist/analyst, someone that is specialist in the numbers, you need to look at your numbers because no one is looking at the organic numbers. Everyone is looking at the paid media numbers because there is the big money, right?
In this kind of country, main country credit card issuer, you have to get your numbers right, and you have to show the numbers. You have to add the SEO numbers to their equation, and you have to show the value. The value is money, and numbers, and results. That would be the main thing. But you have to add the value, and you have to have everything. You have to prepare very well. You have to think about all the questions they are going to ask you, and you have to go from the most obvious questions to the most infuriating questions. The most ridiculous questions, you have to get that right as well. So, when someone asks you something that is completely ridiculous, you are a queen and you know what to answer. So, you don’t lose your cool. You answer, and you are friendly, and you get them on board. You convince.
But it is that. It is a lot of prep preparation, a lot of convincing yourself that you are not going to be defeated and that you are going to keep your focus on what you want and you are not to talk about anything else than what you want. So, politely, you go back to — it is kind of mindfulness. When you are practicing mindfulness, you have a lot of thoughts that are like going on in your head, and you have to pay attention to your breath, right? You have a lot of worries going on and when you see that you are distracted, thinking about what you have to do, you go back to do your breath. You go back to paying attention to your breath. This is the same. You have a lot of other factors, but you have to be focused on what you want to talk about. So, politely, you go back to SEO.
Isaline: That’s great. Thanks a lot for the advice. I see that we have discussed a long time already. I love your stories. But before we finish, can you tell me what you like about working in-house? For someone who is sort of hesitating, “Is in-house for me? What are advantages? Am I going to like it?” What do you like about working in-house? Compared to the other roles you had before.
Ellie: The good thing about working in-house is that you can start something from scratch. When, for example, they don’t have an SEO team and/or they don’t have SEO experience. Even though it is a lot of work, you have to create a lot of new devices for you, tailorized for that business. You have to think out of the box, and you have to get all the resources you can to be able to show and to be able to share your knowledge, your SEO knowledge. There is something very good that I like from a book from Jessica Bowman called, “The Executive SEO Playbook.”
She says that you don’t need everyone in the house to transform in an SEO specialist because you are the SEO specialist. But you need to them to know that, if they know their 20%, the little action that they need to do to contribute to SEO, that is going to be contributing to the final success. They don’t need to know all the facts. They don’t need to know everything. They just need to know what is the best practice. They have to do as copywriters, as UX writers, as DevOps, as PR, for example. So, you have to divide and conquer. The interesting thing about that is that you have to be very creative because it is not something that is written already somewhere. You have to create. Of course, when it does work, you feel very happy because things worked.
Isaline: I heard there is something very gratifying about unifying a team towards project and a goal. Especially, of course, if at the end of the day, the results are there, which if you work well together, they are. So, yeah, that’s great. It’s true that as a consultant, you are very punctual. You work on a project, they take as much as they can. Sometimes, they just keep on doing because you’ve told them well enough. So, thanks for sharing.
Ellie: You’re welcome.
Isaline: If people want to keep discussing with you, where can they reach you?
Ellie: They can reach me in LinkedIn, Ellie Ferrari, and it’s E-L-L-I-E Ferrari, like the car. And then, in Twitter is @ellie_ffe.
Isaline: Perfect. I’ll make sure to share that in the description of the podcast, so everyone can get in touch, and know more, and follow you, of course. To close, can you tell me, since we are in December, what do you see for 2022? What’s coming up for you next year?
Ellie: That’s a very good question. For me, since 2020, since the pandemic, what has been growing a lot is eCommerce because everyone started to buy everything online, more than before. So, eCommerce is a big, big change. The other change that I see is local SEO. Because local SEO, with the pandemic, changed. Right now, you see that there is a change in Google My Business. It is more integrated with Google Maps, and there are new things. Local SEO has to go up after the pandemic also. There are businesses that you can’t get online. You want to have breakfast in a restaurant there, so you have to go there. That’s that, for me. Those are the two main things.
The third thing is Core Web Vitals. This year, 2021, we are talking a lot about E-A-T. But we stopped talking about Core Web Vitals because we were very excited about the update in Core Web Vitals since the end of last year. When it happened this year, we stopped kind of talking about Core Web Vitals. There is a change in 2022 regarding Core Web Vitals. I guess it is going to be in the conversation more again.
Isaline: Thanks a lot for sharing. That was great. It was really lovely to chat with you today. Thanks a lot for taking the time to answer my questions, and to share your experience with our audience.
Ellie: Thank you so much for inviting me. As I told you before, I congratulate you for this podcast because it is wonderful. So, keep the good work.
Isaline: Oh, thanks a lot for your support. This was WorkInSEO. You can follow us on Twitter, @WorkInSEO, and on LinkedIn. I share regularly the job opening and all the news about the podcast.
If you do have suggestion and feedback, please reach out to me, and don’t forget to like and share, of course. Every little thing helps a lot. Thank you, everyone, and goodbye.