On the 85th episode of the Digital Marketing with Bill Hartzer podcast, I spoke with Ash Nallawalla, the author of the book titled “Accidental SEO Manager: Managing SEO Teams, Agencies, and Websites that Sell (Tapping Organic Leads for Profit Book 1)”. In this episode, I talk with Ash about his background, how he got into SEO, and details about the book. We discussed all of the background information about SEO that he included in the book, as well as other topics discussed in the book like managing a remote staff.
Accidental SEO Manager is the first book in a series written for search engine optimization (SEO) managers and the C-suite. It gives them a high-level view of the subject and offers tips on how to hire and manage in-house and remote SEO teams, find the best SEO consultants and agencies, and get the best outcomes for online success. It covers the nuances of keywords versus entities, types of content, the relevance of links and rankings, managing online reputation, and finally, the SEO strategy process.
Transcript of the Podcast Episode: Accidental SEO Manager
Bill Hartzer (00:03):
Hi, this is Bill Hartzer and this is the Digital Marketing with Bill Hartzer podcast. And speaking today with Ash and Ash has been, gosh, I known Ash for probably at least 10 years from different search engine marketing conferences and so forth that we’ve met in person. And it’s not too often that you have a chance, especially in the internet industry to actually meet people in person and talk with them. I’ve met, you know, I’ve talked with Ash several times and this afternoon I wanna kind of take some time and, and talk about his new book the act, the accidental SEO manager. But first welcome Ash. What, tell me a little bit about your, about your background and kind of how you got into SEO.
Ash Nallawalla (01:02):
Hi, Bill, and hello to all the audience. I live in Melbourne, Australia, and have lived there for over 40 years; prior to that New Zealand, and prior to that India. So that’s where the accent comes from. I got into SEO around the age of 48 and that was completely accidental because I had a good career in major companies. I was with Macromedia at the time and a series of layoffs one after the other, in the jobs that I had made me think, okay. Having a senior position is not a good idea. So I decided to become a CRM consultant and I set up a website, which has never operated as a CRM consultant website because I got it to rank number one for that phrase, CRM consultant for almost 10 years until Google’s algorithms got smarter and realized that I really didn’t have much content there about the topic.
Ash Nallawalla (02:24):
And there were far better deserving sites, but it did the job for me because a friend in the U.S. recommended me to a private company. That’s now a NASDAQ listed company named RingCentral and I did their SEO, and I thought, okay, I’ve done that. Let’s go back to being a CRM consultant. And they said to me, here’s the login to our Google ads or Google AdWords as it was known. Then I said, look, I’m a CRM consultant. I haven’t done this work before. They said, no, it’s easy. Just here’s the login, just have a look. So I did. And then they gave me the logins to LookSmart. And there were a handful of other PPC engines back then, this is the early two thousands. And I suddenly realized that the money is good. And there aren’t any CRM consulting gigs happening because companies were a bit scared after the .com bust and were not buying new systems.
Ash Nallawalla (03:32):
So that’s really how I started working for myself. And then I got into an agency role. I was the head of an agency with a big domain name company, Bill, that you might have heard of – Melbourne IT, which was the biggest at the time in Australia. And they had an SEO agency as part of their many offerings. I turned that around and well, from a low base, it was nearly going to be shut down. It seems. And I was told that after I’d achieved some phenomenal percentage improvement and that led to several in-house jobs. So somewhere in the middle of that, I also ran my own SEO training business. I was lucky for a little while to have Ted Ulle (tedster) known to many senior SEOs as my business partner. So the two of us had made up a training course, which was fine for the time. Today, I’d be embarrassed to show it to you, but so for a little while I was running a training business, and then I went back into inhouse and I thought I was retiring. Last year a former colleague who had seen some amazing work I’d done for a large bank invited me back into the workforce. I’m nearly 70 this year and back to full time and I love it. I have no plans to retire and I felt that I should write a book. So back to you Bill.
Bill Hartzer (05:21):
Sure. So you know, I do have some notes, I could call them notes. It’s, kind of in a book format for some, some time and, and always spoken a little bit. But it’s one of the things, that was on my bucket list or to-do list to get that done. But I have actually have a book in my phone. I did get the Kindle edition of the book. And I have it here on my phone. It’s called the the Accidental SEO Manager – Managing SEO teams, agencies, and websites that sell. And that’s the, a Kindle edition. And I like the dark mode.
Bill Hartzer (06:21):
So it’s a really easy read, so far. I mean it it’s been a fairly, very easy read for me. Lots of great content I’m a dark mode kind of guy. So I like the, the dark on the white text on the dark screen. Spent an hour, basically about an hour or so reading through the book yesterday. And so let’s see Accidental SEO Manager – managing SEO teams, agencies, and websites that sell. You have a fairly good background section that covers a lot of, what SEO is and what, Google search console is and all the different stuff. I feel like that’s really necessary for a book like this, to include that background information. What are your thoughts around, and reasoning for, including that? I would call it background information – about everything from domain names to Google Search Console and, and I saw the Google Quality Raters Guide and so forth in there.
Ash Nallawalla (07:50):
The reason for including all those topics is because this is a book for managers; this is not a “how to perform SEO”, if you are a beginner. Yep. And you want to start SEO, as you will see, there are perhaps three topics on some pages, you basically get one or two paragraphs per topic. I felt that was the right size dose for a manager. The whole point of the three books – this is book one of three – is to equip the managers with the right jargon, the right knowledge so that they can have meaningful conversations with their consultant, with their SEO agency or with their in-house team. And I felt that because there are hundreds of topics that are included in SEO I should try and get most of them documented here. And I’ve tried to exclude some esoteric topics that may not apply to many companies.
Ash Nallawalla (09:09):
So this is what I’ve distilled. I felt that and I’m talking of corporate SEO managers. I found that most of them had no background in SEO. They had come up through the traditional sales or marketing route, and they suddenly discovered that SEO is part of their responsibilities, and they might have product people under them or UX or content. And then suddenly there is this little one person or two person SEO team. And they’d like to know a little bit about it. They don’t want to know everything. They don’t want the details. My reasoning for writing these books was these are books that needed to be written and hopefully read by some of these managers because it’s difficult for them to say that, well, this is too technical for me. I want to remind them that SEO can bring in as much as 60% of your online revenue.
Ash Nallawalla (10:25):
If you’re a traditional large company with an online presence the rest would come from other means because large companies have a big budget for pay-per-click (PPC). They have budgets for email marketing. Sometimes, like the company I work for, the marketing is everywhere. They sponsor stadiums, sports teams – the brand name is out there on buses, on trams like we have in Melbourne. So SEO can bring in anywhere from 30 to 60%, some more, some less. So you can’t just leave it to some junior person or you tick the box that says, well, yeah, I’ve got SEO covered, but you have no idea how well it’s covered. And I’ve noticed that – not necessarily in the companies I worked for – but one talks to fellow SEOs at these conferences. You compare notes regularly in person or at little meetups like we had in Toronto yesterday, and we compare notes.
Ash Nallawalla (11:40):
And there is some resonance to this book that it really has gone to certain depths that you’ll never get elsewhere. Oh, so far I’ve not seen anyone else covering it. So I talk about squads that we have in a scrum environment and how they’re constituted and how you can have SEO teams, a single person, SEO in a large company, how they can best operate, how they can help different silos. So there are many considerations that the accidental manager needs to be aware of, and really it makes them look good if SEO is performing well, sales rise, conversions rise, and they get the kudos. So I hope many accidental seo managers will read the book.
Bill Hartzer (12:45):
Yeah. I mean, definitely. So I do think that, it’s not only just, managers and even SEOs because, I find that what’s happening is, is there’s, we’re telling just about SEOs in particular, there’s a lot of SEO, marketers, or people who do digital marketing, who send, might have lost you in certain things.
Ash Nallawalla (13:14):
Okay. You are frozen there for a second, but you’re back.
Bill Hartzer (13:17):
Sure. Yes. The, the joys of using internet technology nowadays, sometimes it’ll freeze, but we have because of my remote location. So anyway, so what I have found though, is that that there are specialties, even people are in digital marketing even if you do SEO there’s, you may actually be working on just a part of SEO and reading, going through this book. It reminded me that SEO is just not just, you know, maybe optimizing, you know, optimizing something on a page and then you’re done, there’s so much more involved from, you know, from linking to you know, to content some different parts of SEO that essentially make up that whole phrase of, you know, the, of SEO or search edge optimization from technical to content, to OnPage optimization, to links and so forth.
Bill Hartzer (14:37):
And you know, it, as I read the book, it was, kind of enlightening to me that, Hey, there are several different parts to SEO. It’s not just one thing. And you get into things like, different parts of, different algorithms and different parts of algorithms that Google’s used over the years and so forth. So I found that there’s definitely not only just those basic parts that you’ve included but there’s also additional information in there that is a good refresher course, if you will for even the most seasoned SEO.
Ash Nallawalla (15:26):
So one of the challenges of the last two years has been remote workers.
Bill Hartzer (15:33):
Ash Nallawalla (15:34):
Many of us have spent the last year or two working from home. And I’m one of the lucky ones who had the choice of opting to stay at home as did perhaps half my company and the remaining people work at the office just one day, a week, or two days at the most. Full time in our company was only three days in the office and two from home = that was the pre-Covid situation. We are lucky to be in such a company. So one of the topics I’ve written about is managing a remote SEO team. I noticed that more and more companies are advertising for remote SEOs, and there are some considerations, largely to do with taxation and obligations such as insurance and health cover and things like that. So what I’m suggesting is if you really want someone and they live in a different country and they are the best fit for the job, companies need to talk to their HR teams and say, okay, we really need this person. We know that it’s going to create a bit of work for you guys and some work for our accounting people or our legal people. But can we do it? And I know some people who have done it because our company, the one I work for has people overseas working full time every day they join us.
Ash Nallawalla (17:59):
Yeah. So you also need to be aware of time zones. And something that may surprise some people because there are some countries and I’m thinking of India because I came from there and I can relate to those issues is they might have a sudden week-long vacation for some religious festival. You weren’t expecting this one, but suddenly your team says they’re shutting down for a week or two weeks. You need to be aware of all those issues, sort them out before you hire someone. The other thing I’ve noticed is when people have to take leave and they’ll take leave for the wedding of the third cousin twice removed and things like that. And they disappear for a day or two. So yes, some countries pose certain challenges, but if they’re the best fit for your company I suggest you do that.
Bill Hartzer (19:08):
Yes. I have noticed even, you know, I work for myself specifically and, I’m remote to essentially from a home office a hundred, a hundred percent of the time. And, I do work with a lot of agencies and I know that even before 2020 we had a lot of agencies who were essentially ditching the, the office and, and going a hundred percent remote with their employees. And so it is a trend has been a trend in the digital marketing industry specifically to have you be a hundred percent remote and you know, well, you know, where we are at a point where there are, you know, companies bringing in employees back there, you know, there obviously can be issues even just internet issues you know, people at people working at home, don’t have sometimes, you know, the most reliable internet connections and you know, and, and are the fast internet conditions that, you know being in a city in a major city with a, you know, in an office environment where you’d have a really fast internet connection.
Bill Hartzer (20:33):
Whereas, you know, I I’m able to get, you know, a hundred megasecond, but you, but we, you know, you sometimes experience dropouts like we have in, you know, in this conversation. So it happens. But luckily, you know, as far as scheduling I think, you know, when it comes to SEO, SEO is a more of a long term strategy where, you know, certainly pay per click. If you go out, if someone goes away for a week or two or a few days, there’s someone needs to be watching the pay per click and new Google ads account and, and watching the spend and so forth. And whereas SEO is more of a long term strategy. And I think you got, you know, into mentioning that a little bit as you know, in your book as well. Can you speak a little bit about the long term you know, SEO strategy versus, you know, obviously you can’t just put up a page and expect it to rank within and, and bring in all sorts of leads in a few, you know, even, even in a few days.
Ash Nallawalla (21:52):
Great. So I recommend, yeah.
Bill Hartzer (21:58):
That’s so, yeah. So tell me a little bit about the, you know, the long term strategy of SEO versus, you know, something that, you know, where we don’t have to necessarily you know, watch SEO every single day. But the long term SCL strategies.
Ash Nallawalla (22:38):
Bill Hartzer (22:39):
Okay. I’ve moved to a different connection. So hopefully this will be a little bit more stable. It’s been on my, you know, we do have some storms out there and I’m using a satellite internet. So, but yeah, so tell me a little bit about the long, you know, long that SEO is a long term strategy. You know, you don’t necessarily have to watch it every single day. Like, you know, maybe Google ads, you need to, you know, be consistently watching it and tweaking and, and, and you know, especially cuz you’re spending money every day. But when it comes to, you know, SEO, SEO is a, you know, I would say a minimum of a three month, six month, 12 month, you know, several year strategy. Is that, is, is that correct?
Ash Nallawalla (23:27):
Definitely. I can mostly speak from the large company viewpoint, where websites have been built over 20 years ago and then they’ve been rebuilt many times. Therefore the content has been out there for a while and Google may have collected most of it. Now, whether it continues to rank is the challenge for the SEO. So you might find that these days a Google SERP has got just 7, 8, 9, and occasionally 10 results on the first page. Therefore at the best 10 companies can be there and they’re competing with non-commercial competitors like Wikipedia, magazine articles, I wouldn’t say blogs that much, but unexpected competitors, therefore, a strategy for a company that is pretty big and has the budget to do the right things could be expensive. If they’ve taken many wrong decisions in the past, it might take a few months to move the dial.
Ash Nallawalla (24:53):
I know companies that, for example, need to move their technology from a previous or out of date content management system to something they’ve been told is better. Now, who tells them is pretty crucial and whether the SEO is part of that decision is also crucial. I cover that in the third book, which is still being written, but my advice is – please involve the SEO as early as you can and not after you’ve signed the deal with some platform provider that has managed to sell it to your CEO on the golf course. So if that has happened, what could have been a six month strategy might become a five year strategy and more. The other issue for many companies is content. Do they have inhouse content writing capability? Like the company I work for has about 20 full time journalists in-house.
Ash Nallawalla (26:09):
So they still commission a bit of third party content from time to time when their staff cannot attend, like an overseas motor car event – because I work for a car related business. Many of the cars are released in Europe, Japan, North America. And we cannot fly our journos all the time. This requires a strategy and luckily we’ve got a great managing editor who does that. The SEO doesn’t need to get personally involved at that micro level. We just talk regularly every week and we just keep our finger on the pulse, see how they’re performing in news or just for their standard reviews and other content. Technical issues also take time.
Ash Nallawalla (27:17):
I find that most technical issues in large companies seldom involve the SEO at all. And I’m talking of the initial construction stages rather than the day to day business-as-usual topics. I’m very fortunate that we’ve got a scrum structure where I work alongside developers, a scrum master, a product manager and some UX people, QA person. So our team is really nicely constructed and we talk every day, but I’m aware of other companies where the poor SEO is not even part of that conversation. They discovered that suddenly a new content section has been added and then they discovered it after the fact, so trying to fix such an issue after the fact makes it a longer proposition. And sometimes the SEO just cannot rescue it in a reasonable manner because it might involve rebuilding that part of the website. And no one’s got the appetite for that. They’ll just say that we can just throw some PPC ads at it and get around it that way.
Bill Hartzer (28:53):
So we just have a few more minutes. You know, so I did, like I said, I mentioned that it didn’t take me really that long and to read through the book but you got so much information about it. It’s called the the Accidental SEO manager available on Amazon. And as you know, in, in hardback co you know, in hard copy, but also just within minutes, I was able to get it and start reading on the Kindle edition and which worked very well for me specifically. So, yeah, so there’s a,
Ash Nallawalla (29:34):
(shows book to the camera) I can’t get it in focus for some reason. Yeah. I don’t know why, but anyway you’ve shown the cover of it in Kindle. It looks exactly the same in print.
Bill Hartzer (29:46):
Yeah. So you know, the way everything, you know, I gotta let you know, Even as a seasoned technical SEO, it was great for me to get overview of everything again, and and kind of look at, into some different areas that, you know, I think I’ve neglected over the years on certain websites and certain clients plus we, you know submit some particular areas. So, anyway so yeah, so, so the book is Accidental SEO Manager – Managing SEO teams, agencies, and websites that sell. This is the first book of a series of books that are coming out. And and what is the plan as far as the additional books in the series? How will they be spread out?
Ash Nallawalla (30:40):
So the history of this book is that it was one manuscript, and I have a good friend who’s a former CEO of a couple of NASDAQ listed companies. His frank comment to me was, “no CEO is going to buy your book. If it’s got SEO on the cover, it’s not…”
Bill Hartzer (31:03):
Ash Nallawalla (31:03):
“…appealing enough to a CEO. So I said, well, what language would they like to see? And he said, well, anything that talks of money; in that, basically means leads and conversions and sales, lost opportunities, untapped opportunities, and so on. So the third book tentatively is called Untapped, and it talks about leaving money on the table and how they can empower their SEO managers by including the SEO team at the right level. So that they’re not the last to find out; giving them the right resources so they can get SEO success because they’re not lacking for resources. So that’s the third book, but the second book is a little bit more technical – it’s for the SEO manager, it’s called Talking points for the SEO Manager. So that’s the book that goes into Core Web Vitals and Lighthouse. And there’s a lot of jargon in that. I did not want to scare the SEO manager who might be browsing the book at a book shop or online. So I thought, well and it’s gonna be roughly a hundred pages. So it’s not as big as this one. The third book will also be around a hundred pages. So the three books altogether cover SEO for the managers and the C suite
Bill Hartzer (32:56):
Sounds great. So the first book is the Accidental SEO Manager – managing teams, agencies, and websites that sell. And from Ash now, Ash Nallawalla and and look forward to Amazon and Kindle it’s out available right now. Again, thanks Ash for being talking and speaking with me this afternoon. I know we’ve worked through some internet technical issues, but it’s been on my end. So thanks again for joining me this on the Digital Marketing with Bill Hartzer podcast. And we’ll see you next time. And definitely will look forward to seeing the next book and talking, talking with you about the next book, as soon as it comes out.
Ash Nallawalla (33:46):
Thank you, Bill. And thanks to the audience.