We’ve got a very special guest with us for this installment of our Champ Life Series; Stacey MacNaught, a mother, a hiker, an entrepreneur and an expert on all things SEO & content. We’ve got a series of questions for Stacey to learn more about her journey & her successes.
Kulsoom: Hi Stacy, thanks for being a part of our #ChampsLifeSeries. To start off, please introduce yourself.
Stacey: I’m Stacey. I’m, first and foremost a Mum of 3 young sons. And I run a small SEO and content marketing agency just outside Manchester in the UK. I’ve been writing content for businesses now since 2004 and doing SEO since 2009.
Kulsoom: How did you start your professional journey? What convinced you to pursue a career in this field?
Stacey: I was copywriting as a freelancer when I kept finding more and more people asking me about SEO when it comes to copy. I didn’t really understand it but knew I needed to figure it out. So I applied for a trainee SEO role with an agency in Manchester in 2009. My plan was to do a couple of years, figure this SEO stuff out and then go back to my freelance copywriting. But I ended up falling in love a little with SEO, progressing, and ultimately ended up on the board at that agency. I was there for just under 10 years in the end.
I went freelance in 2018 which was the right move for me at that time. It gave me the flexibility to work around my family. And now I have a (very) small agency. I want it to stay small because I enjoy the work much more than I enjoy things like managing people.
Kulsoom: What were the struggles you faced at the start of your journey, and how did you overcome them?
Stacey: The biggest challenge in the digital space is competition to land your first role, I think. Since 2016, there’s been a 175% increase in people looking for SEO jobs. In 2009, the competition wasn’t as fierce but for sure, getting that first foot in the door I think was the most challenging thing.
Someone ultimately took a chance on me despite me having no SEO experience at all and there’s always a degree of luck involved there.
I think the other challenge I found difficult early on is learning the “non SEO skills.” The things that you kind of need to progress in a career but that aren’t SEO related. People management is a great example. As I progressed in my role with that first agency, I was managing people more and more. Not only am I just not a natural people-person at all, I also didn’t enjoy it.
I’ve overcome it now by creating a business that isn’t going to be adding in loads of people, where everyone is hands on and ultimately where the requirement for me to manage a team doesn’t exist!
Kulsoom: You founded your agency, MacNaught Digital; tell us a bit about that.
Stacey: My initial plan in 2018 was to be a freelancer. And I really enjoyed this for a few months. I started to get enquiries a little faster than I’d anticipated and I was getting help from my Mum with some of the work.
To cut a long story short, I ended up hiring my Mum full time and changing the model slightly from a single freelancer to a small agency. There are 6 of us now and that’s the maximum number of people I really want in the business.
Kulsoom: How powerful do you think the Digital Community has become over the years?
Stacey: The SEO community in particular has been so valuable for me over the years. I learned so much from others on social media, in groups, at conferences. And Twitter in particular gets a bit of a bad rap for some of the trolling and dramatics that go on. But despite some of that, I still get a lot of value in talking shop on social with other SEOs.
Communities like Women in Tech SEO (founded by the wonderful Areej Abuali) are also incredibly valuable. They’re incredible places to get genuinely excellent advice, make connections and friends.
Kulsoom: As an expert in SEO & content marketing, what advice would you give to new businesses that are just starting?
Stacey: Start by getting the basics in place. Keyword research, search intent analysis, appropriate content. Yes, it takes time to rank. And yes, you have to link build in most spaces. But having the foundations right from day 1 saves a lot of undoing things and messing around later.
If you’re doing this yourself as opposed to hiring people, resources like the Moz Beginner’s Guide to SEO and the Google Search Essentials are invaluable. But ultimately just learn as much as you can before you dive in.
Kulsoom: In your professional opinion, what key factors can businesses leverage from Content Marketing?
Stacey: So whenever I talk to people about their content marketing, the one thing I hear far too much is “I was told to blog x times per week.”
Kulsoom: I mean, what is that? What is with this creating content for the sake of creating content?
Stacey: So for me, content should serve a clear purpose and for every single thing you produce, you should have a clear goal and a means of measuring it.
Maybe it’s a product description copy designed to improve organic traffic to that product page. Maybe it’s a buying guide designed to win an audience of people who are early stage prospective customers. Maybe it’s to earn links and PR coverage. But whatever it is, have a goal.
For me, content is incredibly powerful in driving SEO traffic both in terms of people shopping and people learning. And I think when you get a successful piece of content that attracts those learning, provided it’s relevant enough, these pieces of content generate audiences that become incredibly useful retargeting groups.
So I think content can serve dozens of purposes when you work alongside different marketing channels.
Kulsoom: Who inspires you?
Stacey: Professionally, I have so, so many people whose work I admire. Hannah Smith is an excellent creative content consultant whose work I’ve admired going back over a decade now. So if I’ve got to pick one and one only, that’s the one!
Personally, I’ve always been inspired by the diligence of my Mum. She worked multiple jobs at times when I was growing up and her work hard mentality is something she still has today. She works with me these days and no matter what task I set, I just know it’s getting done. She’s so reliable and has such a diligent approach to work.
Kulsoom: How do you spend your free time? Is there anything in particular that helps you recalibrate and break the monotony?
Stacey: I am a mega keen hiker. I particularly love mountain ridges so whenever I get the chance, you’ll find me crossing a ridge with a GoPro on my chest
Hiking, for me, is a great way to unwind, relax and keep my physical and mental health in check.
I also love the obvious things like spending time with my children.
Kulsoom: Now it’s time for our rapid-fire round:
Rapid Fire Round
|What’s your one favorite social media platform?||Twitter (still). It’s the one I get most value from|
|Tea or Coffee||Coffee|
|Your ideal travel destination?||I would absolutely love to go to New Zealand|
Thank you so much, Stacey, for your precious time. Looking forward to serving you. Best of Luck!