Our ongoing SEO interview series continues in this Q&A with Senior Digital PR Executive Maddie Davies, a recent first-time BrightonSEO speaker (and an ex-journalist turned SEO and digital PR pro). In this conversation with Lumar’s Jamie Indigo, these two SEO pros discuss the intersection of digital PR and SEO, how one gets started in a digital PR career path, and how SEOs can get started speaking at industry conferences.
Check out the full interview here, or read on below for some key takeaways:
Q: What’s your name and professional title?
My name is Maddie Davies and I work at Propellernet. I am a senior digital PR executive.
Q: What was your BrightonSEO talk about this year?
Maddie: My talk is about the ways you can use digital PR strategies to widen your target audience. And how to address to your clients that they can reach a much bigger audience than they might think. For example, if the client is a car sales company, it’s not just people who want to buy a car that they can target—they can touch on lifestyle interests as well. If you want to buy a car, you don’t just spend 24 hours a day searching for cars online; there are other interests in their lives that you can really draw on and pull emotion from to create stories that will resonate with them.
Q: Why is this an important topic for you?
I think when you work with a client who isn’t really that aware of digital PR and how it works, it’s really our job to try and make it as easy as possible for them to digest it. And it can sound over-complicated; people have so many names for what digital PR is and within SEO itself, there’s so much for a client who’s quite new to it to grasp. I want to help these clients understand why we produce the content that we do and I think it just allows a much better relationship between you and the client—which is quite important when you work in an agency as I do.
Q: What inspired to you start speaking at SEO conferences?
Maddie: When I started my job at Propellernet last February, I hadn’t done any speaking in my career up to that point. And I’m still fairly new to the industry—about two years, and most of that has been during the pandemic, when in-person speaking opportunities didn’t exist. But I’ve always been in performance and theatre, and I’ve always known that speaking to people is something that I really enjoy. And I think the thing that really inspired me to do it was the idea that if other people who are quite new to the industry, like myself, if they can see me doing it — you know, a little bit nervous and learning so much — hopefully it will encourage other people who are thinking about it to go for it as well.
Q: How did you get into SEO and digital PR as a career path?
Maddie: I actually got into SEO from journalism. So I was trained up on journalists’ desks; I worked on a few lifestyle desks and a few glossy magazines as well. While I was there, we started working with external SEO agencies who were trying to teach us the best ways to do things like optimizing our content. That was probably 2015, when I was really starting to understand that this is the way content needed to be optimized in a digital sense because we were moving away from print and toward purely online journalism. So while I was [in journalism] and writing and receiving a lot of content marketing stories, I realized I might be on the wrong side of the job. And that’s what led me to come to be on the back-end of it [in digital PR].
Q: How do you explain the benefits or return on investment of SEO to others in your organization or in your clients’ organizations?
Maddie: I have to say that the people who I work with, I learn so much from them about SEO on a daily basis; our SEO team is great and we have a Slack channel if any of us have a question. They’re fantastic.
The way we like to position it to clients is that our work will always keep them front of mind for audiences and hopefully, top of Google too. We’re keeping their name relevant so people will hopefully remember them and associate them with their key target words.
Q: What has pleasantly surprised you about working in SEO?
Maddie: The people! I’ve never worked in an industry where people are so willing to help you out and answer questions that you have. Even what I might think is a dumb question, people understand—they’ve been there as well, and they’re so happy to answer it. Other industries I’ve been in, you know, with journalism, you’ve always got an editor in chief, your sub-editors, your interns—it’s very hierarchical. Coming into the SEO industry, that’s kicked out; nobody really cares about [hierarchy]! And it’s honestly something I really love about my job.
Q: Do you have any advice for people who are considering pitching to talk at an SEO conference?
Maddie: If you are thinking about pitching for BrightonSEO… First off, just do it. I don’t think there’s any harm in trying to pull it together. That experience alone, of trying to flesh out your idea — you might just have a little sentence in your mind and think, “Maybe one day I could maybe turn this into a 20-minute talk.”
It’s so interesting, as soon as you get that form to apply to talk, you might just put down one idea. But then as they’re asking how you’ll elaborate on it and everything, you’ll realize that you will have a subject there! And be passionate about it — that’s the biggest piece of advice. I think if you’re not passionate about your subject, that might be obvious in your talk. Even if right now you don’t know everything you need to know about your topic, you’ve got time to make sure that you will by October [the next BrightonSEO conference]. Though they do come around quickly!
But yes, just put down that idea on a piece of paper, even if it’s one sentence. Just start fleshing it out. And the team at BrightonSEO is great about trying to help you to make sure you’ve got the strongest idea going forward, they’re so helpful.
Want more first-hand knowledge straight from some of the world’s best SEOs? Check out our full interview series with search optimization experts.