Ann Smarty, a name that needs no introduction in the SEO industry. She’s a smart blogger, SEO and Social Media Analyst having expertise in the online marketing arena. I consider her as a learning resource and a medium through which I learn a lot of SEO tactics. In simple words, she is amongst those SEO personalities that inspired me in building up my career as an SEO.
So, first of all, I want to thank Ann for offering her precious time from her busy schedule. Let’s move on to our third interview session with Ann Smarty.
Abbas: Can you please let our readers know something about your past? How did your career start in the SEO industry and what were the factors that attracted you to move towards this industry?
Ann: First, thanks for the kind words!..
As for my start, it was totally unplanned. I was in Ukraine in my fifth year in the university, totally bored, looking for some part-time job as a refresher… I was going to be an English linguistics professor in my native university. All was already decided and settled.
Then I found a part-time job as a customer support team member in an ecommerce store selling in the United States and UK. It was my chance to practice my English skills talking to English-speaking customers. I took the job… In a couple of months they saw my enthusiasm and started giving me some marketing tasks, teaching link building and SEO.
That’s when I got totally excited. I started my first blog, saw referrals and got absolutely happy 🙂 I loved it!
I dropped my plans to become a university professor (leaving my relatives, teachers and friends puzzled), graduated from the university and became a full-time SEO. Then in a couple of years, I started an SEO blog and decided that blogging on SEO was more fun than doing SEO. Since then my career has been more about community management and content marketing than doing SEO.
Abbas: As we all know that the online marketing industry is evolving and link building has now completely transformed into link baiting. Ann, according to you, what’s the major difference between link building and link baiting?
Ann: I wouldn’t call it “link baiting”. I like “link earning” more. That’s the process of creating digital assets (articles, ebooks, research papers, videos, graphics, etc) that are funny / useful / innovative enough for people to link to them (and thus you).
Abbas: ‘Content is King.’ It’s an oldie but a goodie. What are the key factors that can make your content go viral? We are all aware of the popular forms of content for example an article, a presentation or an infographic. What do you think are the top most forms of content that will really work in the upcoming SEO trends?
Ann: I think anything works depending on how much effort, thought and hours you put into creating it. Plus it depends on the type of the audience you are targeting.
Slideshare presentations seem to work great nowadays because Slideshare is a very fresh social media network and thus it doesn’t take too much effort to get to the front page of it.
But that doesn’t mean ALL you need to do is presentations. Try as many content forms and types as you can handle and see what seems to work better for you and what you enjoy creating more! “Loving” your content and the process of creating it is very important.
Abbas: My Blog Guest is your most successful project so far. What were your aims at the time when you started this project and what are your future plans for it?
Ann: My Blog Guest is my first project 🙂 There was the time when I was more known as an Editor-in-Chief for Search Engine Journal than founder of My Blog Guest! So it’s nice to know it’s finally changing!
When I was starting it, all I wanted was to create a powerful community. I wasn’t planning to monetize it in any way. I didn’t have any huge development plans. I did want to add value to the web and give website owners a place to meet for the sake of exchanging free content and helping each other grow.
Abbas: As you have been working in this field for many years you might have come across many clients who have misconceptions about SEO. Would you like to list some common misconception about SEO and what are your responses to these queries?
Ann: Funnily enough, I haven’t provided SEO services for too long. I was lucky because people who contacted me for services already knew who I was and what I believed in (most of the time they found me through searching for my name). So they were smart enough to trust what I was recommending.
Hence I am not sure about the misconceptions. I see a lot of people who target the wrong objectives though, for example, links instead of traffic and mentions, reaching high rankings instead of “earning” high rankings, traffic instead of conversions, etc.
Abbas: SEO has always been a process of learning. What blogs do you read on a daily basis and who do you consider to be your mentor?
Ann: When I started my major community was SEOmoz (now Moz) and my major mentor was Rand Fishkin. I had no idea how smart he was (I am still wondering lol) but I liked it how involved he was with his own community, how helpful he really wanted to be and how consistent he was with his insights and beliefs. Now that many years have passed, I don’t have time to be active at Moz….
Jim Boykin is one of the first people I’ve been reading and following and now that I am working with him, I am positive he may be the mentor now. I keep wondering how he manages to be everywhere 🙂
For SEO knowledge and trends, I am following these blogs:
Abbas: Moving on to my last question, what advice and suggestions would you like to give to the current SEOs’ in the industry? What techniques should they adopt and what should be dropped in order to rank well in the SERPs?
Ann: Well, there’s no fancy “techniques” when it comes to SEO. All you need is patience and enough persistence to provide real quality. “Earning” your way to web success is hard but it’s doable!
Thanks for having me!
Finally, I would like to thank again Ann for offering her valuable time from her busy and tough schedule. I hope you guys will definitely learn something from her advice. Your comments will be appreciated.
Have a great vacation Ann! 🙂