Micah Fisher-Kirshner: How did you get into SEO and how long have you been doing SEO?
Takeshi Young: I got into SEO by way of web development. I started building websites while I was in middle school and helped pay my way through college by building websites for local businesses.
Eventually I became interested in how to make money by building websites for myself, and that got me started on the path to learning about SEO, building AdSense sites and getting into affiliate marketing. This was around 2007, so I’ve been “doing SEO” for around 11 years now.
My first official job as an SEO was in 2009 for an eCommerce startup called Become.com. I now manage SEO globally for Optimizely.
Micah: Ah, I remember the days in the comparison shopping world at Become, seems so long ago! What would you say your strengths (or preferences) are within the SEO field?
Takeshi: I would say that my strength in SEO is technical SEO since I have a background in web development and have a strong understanding of how the web works and am comfortable working with code.
I’ve also had the opportunity to work on PPC and social media campaigns at the various companies I’ve worked at, so I love to approach SEO with an integrated approach that pulls together multiple online marketing channels.
Micah: Who inspires you in the SEO space?
Takeshi: I enjoy reading content from SEOs like Glen Allsopp, Brian Dean, and Jon Cooper; SEOs who aren’t afraid to get into grey hat territory and are generous with sharing their learnings. I respect Danny Sullivan for his integrity and honest reporting on Google and the state of SEO (even though he recently went over to the dark side).
Micah: Why did you decide to join Optimizely and what’s it like doing SEO for a known brand?
Takeshi: I joined Optimizely because I’ve always been interested in A/B testing and CRO and used the product at previous companies. Plus it’s a great company with a strong growth trajectory.
Doing SEO for a known brand has been fantastic. I previously worked mostly for growing startups, where getting traction with SEO and competing against entrenched competitors was a challenge, so working for a market leader is a positive change. I spend almost no time on link building at Optimizely, and am focused mostly on content creation and optimizing conversions once visitors land on our site.
Micah: What advice would you give a mid-level SEO to advance their career into the top tier?
Takeshi: Top tier is subjective, but the way to grow your profile in the SEO community is to build your personal brand. Start a blog, write for other blogs in the SEO space, and sign up to speak at conferences to build a profile and get your name out there. Many of the marketing tactics you use to promote your clients’ sites can be used to promote your own brand.
In addition to marketing yourself, it’s important to know your stuff. Become the expert in the SEO topics that you’re interested in by reading everything there is to know about the subject, picking the brain of experts at conferences and meetups, and running your own experiments. The “experts” in the field are those that discover novel or interesting approaches to SEO, and share them with the rest of the community.
Finally, I would broaden my expertise beyond just SEO. SEO at many companies will eventually plateau and reach a point of diminishing returns, and Google’s algorithm is also very fickle and not under your control, so it’s useful to have other ways you can add value.
A/B testing and CRO are natural compliments to SEO that can increase the value of the traffic you’re driving, social media marketing can be a compliment to your inbound marketing efforts, and PPC can be a way to supplement your SEO traffic and involves a similar skill set. The more diversified your knowledge, the better you’ll be able to adapt to the changing online marketing landscape.
Micah: If you had a say, what factor would you wish to modify/add/remove with Google’s algorithm and why?
Takeshi: I wish there was a clearer way to get into Google’s knowledge cards, as it can be a mystery sometimes why some sites are featured there and not others. I’m also not sold on Google’s push for AMP, which complicates website architecture and puts a lot of control in the hands of Google. But overall I believe their algorithm works well and is the best that’s out there.
Micah: Thank you Takeshi and best of luck in your continued career!
Background by President Micah Fisher-Kirshner: We’re doing a series of interviews with local SF Bay Area SEOs (starting with the board) as a launching point for future blog posts. If you’re an SEO in the SF Bay Area and would like to be interviewed, please contact us here.