Deepcrawl’s SEO interview series continues this week with Martin McGarry, SEO Consultant at Search Assistance. Jamie Indigo, Senior Technical SEO on Deepcrawl’s Professional Services team, sat down to chat with Martin about his experience as a first-time BrightonSEO speaker, what SEO has in common with football management, how to make allies across teams as an SEO, and much more.
Listen to the full interview below (or read on for the abridged version)!
Q: What’s your name and professional title?
Martin: My name is Martin McGarry. I consider myself a freelance consultant, but I’ve also set up a business called Search Assistance.
Q: You did your first BrightonSEO talk this year — what was your talk about?
Martin: I work in environments where I do leadership and strategy work and I wrapped [this SEO concept] in a bizarre analogy — I spoke about Gareth Southgate, who’s the England football manager. And in professional football management, there are different leadership styles. There are managers in the ‘fast-track, spend lots of money, buy lots of players, and try to win every game’ style. And then there are other managers that have longer-term projects. That was the message that I was trying to get across — SEO is a longer-term project, it’s not a channel.
Organic search is the channel, and SEO is a project. And you need to approach it with a project management process. And it’s kind of what they do in soccer, or football: a three-step process.
Phase 1: Do your basics right. Phase 2: Start to compete properly. And then phase 3: be the best and get to #1.
Q: Why is considering the long-term project management aspects of SEO important to you?
Martin: It’s important because I see lots of, say, senior figures—clients, line managers — who take the stance of wanting to be #1 [in search rankings] on day one. And I also see a lot of conversation on social media, especially among SEO consultants and agencies, about trying to hammer home the notion that they can’t fix everything on day one. So we need to better present the process of a long-term project in SEO, and we need to talk to these people and explain that [SEO] is not an instant fix. You have to commit to this and it has to be something you do over a number of years.
Q: How do you make allies across teams as an SEO?
Martin: I’m a community-type person, so I try to talk to people on their terms and I understand and empathize with their situations. Especially with devs. I think, with devs, it is one of the big areas where we [as SEOs] have conflicts. So I’ve come to approach devs from more of a technical perspective. I’ve tried to learn a bit of code and I’ve tried to understand the project pain points from their perspective as well.
In SEO, you want everything done straight away and sometimes you don’t understand why something’s been stuck in the pipeline for so long. So you have to see it from the perspective of everyone involved in the project. And that includes the CEO or MD. They all want to prioritize their own things and the SEMs want to prioritize theirs. It’s like networking. When you’re in a company, you’ve got to network with everyone in the business and understand what their priorities are.
Q: What inspired you to start speaking at industry conferences?
Martin: I’ve always wanted to do it, for various reasons. So I’ve approached some conferences over the years and I’ve been accepted to some very, very small, intimate pub meetings and I’ve done a couple of those. And my motivations have changed over the years. There was a point where I wanted to come to conferences just to learn and build my personal profile. I once used a talking opportunity within a different set-up to try and get a pay rise and to influence the company I was working for at the time to take me a little bit more seriously. Now that I’m older — I’m 15 years into my SEO lifespan— it’s about giving back what I know. Now that sounds like a lazy cliche, but you do end up with a lot of knowledge. And you’ve got to give it back. You’ve got to share it with the next generation. Because at some point, when you enter a senior position and you get older, you start leading people and you stop doing the stuff yourself. And if you don’t impart that knowledge you’ve got to others, you end up doing even more stuff! So you’ve got to give it back. It isn’t a charitable thing, it’s making sure the next generation knows the things that they need to know, so you don’t end up doing everything yourself.
Q: What has pleasantly surprised you about working in SEO over the years?
Martin: What I’ve seen over the years is more demand for SEOs, which has been great. So the demand and the growth is something that’s really pleasing to see. And it’s taken a long time, but it’s good to see that there’s a lot more respect for, as I would call it, projects. So we are winning over the crowd.
I think that’s partially because of the way Google Ads has transitioned into a more dynamic, AI-driven tool. And there are some big companies that aren’t prepared to invest open budgets into ads anymore — they’re looking for a more intricate strategy from somebody who’s manually running a campaign, like an SEO campaign or a technical project. I’m pleasantly surprised about the increased focus on SEO nowadays.
Want more first-hand knowledge straight from some of the world’s best SEOs? Check out our full interview series with search optimization experts.