Today we’re honored to feature our interview with Dana Lookadoo, founder of Yo! Yo! SEO and one of the second wave of SEO women professionals who pioneered the SEO and search industry. Dana was well ahead of the SEO/Search industry curve when she decided to integrate social media and education into her brand. Here, Dana shares her story with us. Enjoy!
Laura: Would you share with us how you came to be a second-generation SEO (woman) professional?
Having been in the tech and Web development industry years before focusing on SEO, I was used to male-dominated conferences and meet-ups. My first Search Engine Strategies conference in San Jose in 2005 sealed the deal for me: I was inspired by how many women were leaders in search marketing at SES!
I learned a lot from those 1st generation women, i.e., Shari Thurow, Jill Whalen, and Heather Lloyd-Martin, during this time. They openly shared best practices about information architecture, SEO, and copywriting.
I became even more excited that women were such successful technologists, marketers, and communicators! You could say I followed in their footsteps.
I also want to credit a couple of “first generation” men – Andy Beal and Lee Odden. From them I learned a well-rounded perspective about integrated marketing strategies (and less SEO-only approaches).
My initial focus on SEO was birthed out of a fork in the road in 2003.
I had previously co-owned a successful Web development agency in Monterey, CA. Maybe we grew too fast, but my business partner attempted suicide. Pandora’s Box opened up. The result was dissolution of the business.
I regrouped and refocused. Web 2.0 was in its infancy. The shift to a more consumer-centric Web was underway. This fit perfectly with my passions – people, writing, and website usability.
I had no idea the choice to focus on SEO would be so pivotal.
I started Pixel Position, a firm to help people “position” their sites and marketing messages. That was in 2003, and I devoured as much information as I could to help clients develop and design search-friendly websites and content that people wanted to link to and talk about.
The road to a fairly good track record of success was paved with a lot of hard work, study, and doing what’s right for other people. Paying it forward and donating time to help non-profits has been part of that journey. “Give back, and it will be given back to you” has proven true.
Laura: So what is the story behind Yo! Yo! SEO: What does it mean? (“Word-of-Mouth SEO”)?
Dana: It was time for a change. The importance of social media was growing, and I decided to rebrand, again.Listening and engaging people (online & offline) were pivotal aspects of marketing online. I called it “Conversational SEO.” I wanted to rebrand to express how Social Media and SEO fit hand-in-glove. I was also teaching clients how to optimize their digital content and their online conversations. I wanted an agency name that reflected such.
I played around with names and spent a lot of time researching available domains. I wanted something that expressed the combination of search and social, while also expressing my educational approach.
“You’re NOT On Your Own in SEO” was my initial tagline. Remove the “NOT,” and the resulting acronym is YOYOSEO. The domain was available. The rebranding began.
BUT, I didn’t want people thinking of a yoyo. To reflect the urgency of the growing importance of word-of-mouth and shouting out in social media, exclamation points were added : Yo! Yo!
Yo! Listen up … Yo! Shout it out …
The Yo! Yo! SEO process is “Word-of-Mouth SEO.” We help companies optimize their online conversations, which means their websites and how they engage in social media.
The rebranding was a lot of fun, and it has paid off 3+ years later.
Laura: Describe for us a classic “day in the life of Dana Lookadoo” in or outside of Yo! Yo! SEO.
Dana: Oh, the days vary dramatically. I’d like to draw a picture of my ideal work day when I feel totally in control, but during the past couple years, days are more “reactive” than I’d like to admit.
Interestingly, working with corporate clients often means you’re part of their team rather than acting as an outside agency calling the shots. Helping to optimize and manage their social media presence often means I spend more time interacting with and getting to know a client’s audience and less time socializing and sharing with my own. I’m closely involved in the content optimization and creation process as well.
Lyena Solomon and I take an advisory and training approach, which means close collaboration is key. We analyze stats and campaign performance while researching to ensure clients are staying ahead of the competition. A lot of time is spent writing and critiquing content while documenting processes and helping clients prioritize their many tasks and needs.
Daily work hats include content developer, community engager, designer, business advisor, marketing strategist, conversion optimizer, analyst, and circus juggler!
Daily non-work hats? I admit it’s hard to turn off the optimization flow outside of work, but I do shut down from social and the computer. I spend time with non-search friends and family and log mile-after-mile cycling. My physical and spiritual parts of my life get a lot of attention as well. Then there’s gardening and organic foods.
I guess you could say I’m addicted to more than SEO.
Laura: You have an impressive list of clients as a business trainer. You also develop classes for corporate in-house training: What is it that you do as a business trainer? (i.e., is it strictly SEO copywriting, or a broader range of subjects?)
Dana: You’ve touched my passion point. Sharing, downloading, showing, teaching, and empowering others with the skills to make a difference fulfill me beyond end. I could sit on the phone or in-person for hours just explaining the hows and whys of various aspects of online marketing, or how to use software.
I used to teach and write a lot of technology courses, including train-the-trainer sessions, Web development, how to use the Internet, software, and Web tools.
Currently, training involves showing marketing and non-marketing departments the importance of SEO, copywriting, and social engagement and how they are a pivotal aspect of reaching out to clients and prospects.
The focus of most training revolves around helping companies in their paradigm shift from “me” messages to “you” terminology, focusing more on personas and their audience. Not-so-glamorous training involves showing best practices for using Photoshop, optimizing meta and Open Graph tags for search and social, tagging URLs with campaign variables, etc.
Laura: If you had to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, what would they be?
Dana: Hmmm… You had to ask the tough stuff. I’ll focus on Yo! Yo! SEO’s strengths and weaknesses rather than my own. (Isn’t that a nice way to skirt a tough question?)
STRENGTHS: We specialize in helping companies understand their audience (personas) to guide them with their online marketing.
That ranges from terms they use (keywords for SEO & PPC) to what attracts them and keeps them engaged (quality content) to what keeps the relationship going (social media interactions). The ultimate goal is to help them close more sales and/or generate leads.
Our key offerings include this approach with SEO at the core:
- Website design/redesign and CMS migration
- Content development and social engagement
- Online visibility audits (SEO, Social, PPC, Usability)
WEAKNESSES: Limited bandwidth.
Laura: As an SEO professional of some 9 years, what are your thoughts/perspective on the state of the SEO industry?
Dana: It’s an exciting time to be part of SEO and search. Google’s latest algorithms, especially Panda and Penguin, coupled with focus on Author Rank, mean companies who create quality content can finally win without link wheels and article spinning.
We’re not totally there with “clean” spam-free SERPs, but Google & Bing’s increased focus on social signals is helping weed the garden. In other words, companies who focus on the needs of their audience can reap the fruits of their labors.
It’s also a fast-moving time, and “integrative marketing” is key. Pure SEO is a thing of the past.
- Marketers have to take a holistic approach and work closely with clients to help them understand that stuffing keywords and link schemes is not going to produce ROI and may hurt them.
- Companies must be willing to listen by putting the customer first, taking time to build relationships online.
- Quality content is essential, and companies need to stand out from the crowd.
- In other words, they should not be afraid to shout out a Yo!, and show some leg!
Laura: Any words of advice for those just beginning their career in SEO?
Dana: Good question.
- First, realize you can’t specialize in it all. Work your strengths.
- Be realistic to know that this is a career and not an 8-5 job. You have to dedicate to constant study.
- As a minimum, learn how to code HTML.
- Learn how to write for the Web and an audience who has ADD.
- Build relationships with peers in the industry. Don’t go into SEO if you don’t like people.
One more thing, don’t put “Guru” as part of your bio anywhere on the Web!
Laura: Thanks Dana! :)
Dana: And thanks to you, too!
About Dana Lookadoo - Founder of Yo! Yo! SEO, Dana calls herself a “search geek who prefers people over search engines but optimizes for both.” Her specialty is in coupling audience engagement and social media with SEO. Dana began a career in computing/PC training in 1984, then moved into website development and online marketing. As a business trainer, Dana has developed and conducted technology classes for Sun Microsystems Open Gateway Programs, Monterey Institute of International Studies, U.C. Santa Cruz Extension, and Walmart’s MEM Technology Conference Series. She believes, “Successful engagements require creative tactical planning, implementation, perseverance and presence!” Follow Dana @lookadoo.
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photo/image thanks to Top Rank blog