Serpwizz

SERPWizz Interviews

Gerry White

Rise At Seven

Gerry White has been in the industry for 20 years, with a background in development he transitioned to technical marketing leading on SEO, analytics and other digital growth strategies in companies, agencies, the government and corporations such as the BBC. In the past few years Gerry has spoken at conferences around the globe including Paris, Germany, USA and of course the UK. A regular judge for awards such as the UK Search Awards, Growth Awards and E-Commerce Awards and was the Technical SEO Lead for Just Eat a FTSE 100 company in 12 markets as well as consulting for other e-commerce brands. Currently working at the SEO Director for Rise at Seven.

Check out Gerry’s: Website, LinkedIn, Twitter, Email

What are some of the biggest challenges/obstacles you faced when starting out with SEO, and why?

When I first started in SEO there wasn’t Twitter, or even social media at all, very little real information on what worked and where, soon there were forums. Today there is so much information and so much conflicts, the only way to learn what works is to test
and learn – it can often be trial and error. Now there is so much more to learn as websites are far more complex than ever before.

Tell us about your favourite/most successful link-building strategy - how quickly do you typically see results from this method?

There are three good ways to build links right now – the first is create something that the media would like to link to – usually engaging, story telling and interesting. The second is almost the same, making resources that are useful that government or universities would want to link to. The third which is my favourite is news jacking, creating something incredibly responsive, to a breaking trend or news story which gains media interest. Links from highly trusted relevant sources that Google values have proven to deliver results within days.

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do?

It is common agency side to have many plates spinning – exciting projects, sudden issues, the business as usual tasks. There are many different sofware solutions for this both personal and business, but one thing I personally find useful are post-it notes in front of me – good old fashioned physicaly post-it notes that are stuck either to the bottom of my screen or to the wall (when working from home).

How do you choose who to reach out to/partner with? Where do you find them, and what approach do you take when reaching out?

Relationships are critical in SEO, these are built at conferences, in Twitter from seeing what they do on LinkedIn. I also hate to say it but ‘influencers’ in our industry do impact us, I listen to other experts in SEO as to who to talk to, listen to and it goes a long long way to whether we should work with them or not.

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

Our industry has more mythology and strange strange blackhat techniques than any other, people trying to decrypt the ‘black box’ of Google workings. I have even seen and heard of people recommending corrupting Google Analytics data to make their data seem better for Google. Fundamentally, what is right for the user is normally what is right for SEO.

In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?

One thing I strongly believe in is empowerment, if you can give your colleagues ownership and trust, they might do things differently to how you would have but generally the results are positive and often it can lead to new and exciting approaches. The other thing I am learning is taking time away from the screen,
walking, excercise significantly improves productivity. An hour walking and an hour working can often be more productive than two hours working.

What do you think about link swaps?

I think that it is important to understand that the Internet has always socially linked to each other, if links are natural it isn’t a bad thing. For example the TakeItOffline.co.uk conference website I run with friends will naturally link out to the people who are talking at the event and people who are engaging, it is common for these people to link back. That said ‘link exchanges’ historically just were spammy.

What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made?

One thing I undervalued until recently was my network of experts, from going to conferences, listening and engaging it has meant that I have a way of learning about what the true issues are, peoples opinion I can trust on different topics.

Describe your most effective SEO campaign ever. What made it so successful, and why?

I think one of the best campaigns Rise at Seven have done was the Clear Night Sky – a visualisation of how the universe would look without light pollution. Visually stunning it was linked to by universities, academic sites as well as media publications, the
diversity and quality of the links that were gained naturally made this campaign win quite a number of search awards

Tell us one thing about SEO that most people don't know?

People over stress about off page metrics and often think their rankings are hampered by something algorithmic or something black box, often they just aren’t as relevant for the search query, the intent of the user. Google will always prioritise user intent and relevance over ‘metrics’

What is a 'SEO trick' one could execute in <5 minutes?

Run a site crawl and fix the basics – it is often the little things that make a big difference, check for broken links, odd old pages and duplication that should be resolved.

If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it — metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions — what would it say and why?

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”
My favourite Albert Einstein quote. I feel like this give us the power to reimagine how we tackle far more than if we simply used ‘the process’.

When did you first become a rebel?

I was in a well paid role working as a sales manager (selling digital cameras) it seemed to surprise a lot of people that I should change role, take a pay cut and work on a website project, which back then wasn’t the way most people really did things!

What advice would you give to someone just starting out on their SEO service provider journey? What advice should they ignore?

Be proud of your work, engage on Twitter and ignore anyone trying to put you down, that said social media should be as much about engagement as broadcast.

Describe your link-building team. How many members are there? How do you measure and track progress?

Our digital PR team are now around 40 strong, made up of data, creation, and more – it isn’t just a bank of link builders, far from it – in 2021 you need a broad mix of skills and talent to be able to deliver the required porfolio of coverage.

What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?

Study hard, listen to everyone and be brave. It is important that you learn as much as you can so you can be adaptive to what is needed.

What careers advice would you give to your 21-year old self?

Be brave, be confident – I think too much of my career I didn’t value my own worth enough, imposter syndrome can be something we all suffer from.

What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?

The book I’ve recommended most recently is Scaling Up by Verne Harnish – it is about scaling a business and a recommendation from Stephen Kenwright, I’ve not read it back to back yet, but I have read so much from within it and listened to the podcast. I
used to read a huge amount historically but recently I’ve become a podcast addict.

What is the most significant thing that someone much younger than yourself has taught you?

There is a quote somewhere that you should employ a lazy man to do the job – it generally means if you can find a smarter way to do a job then that is the best approach. Python and other automation is changing our industry and I think older folks need to learn and trust different approaches with APIs rather than manually
doing it.

What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)?

Powerblocks – being able to go to a conference and keep my phone and laptop charged is so useful – I have a huge RavPower one which also charges my laptop (with USB-C). I would love to say it is recent, but I haven’t travelled a huge amount!

Tell us about your business. What does it do and what value do you add?

Rise at Seven combines bigger and bolder content marketing and Digital PR strategies with industrial-strength technical SEO expertise to deliver more value than the biggest agencies in the world ever could.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

When I was younger I nearly became a ski instructor and a diving instructor but the digital career was where it was at!

Where do you see the SEO/link building industry in the next 5 years?

SEO is increasingly about entities rather than pages, topics and relevance will be winning. Mobile and PWAs will also grow steadily, this is an exciting area of tech.

Tell us about someone you admire and why you admire them?

He sadly passed away recently but Hamlet Baptista was incredible, he taught me

What is a 'hack' you have for success that most people don't know about?

My worst habit and this is shared with many other SEO folks is not listening to what the client wants, what will make him look good and what is the issue he has brought you in for. If you can give your client what he wants, he will trust you and often this means you can start to go down the rabbit hole.

What one song can you listen to every day non-stop?

Nina Simone – Sinnerman

What is the most surprising thing you've seen in your industry?

The community, particularly around the recent pandemic has been amazing – you don’t realise how many friends you have in the industry until you can’t catchup with them.

How has Covid-19 changed your industry?

More meetings and less travel – it seems like Zoom, hangouts, skype and every other type of technology has taken over the old fashioned interactions

What's your favourite holiday destination?

Italy – best food, and best drink – I also love the culture, but one thing I want to do again is scuba diving and I am not sure if they have the best diving in Italy, so I might need a few.

What popular celebrity do you admire the most and why?

Elon Musk used to be my favourite, but I feel like he can be a little bit too ego driven, so I am going to go now with Bill Gates, I know Microsoft did many things that could be considered anti competitive but I think that things have changed.

What one thing in life do you consider to be overrated?

Apple. I want to spend £200 on a phone and £1k on experience worth photographing. I think the culture around Apple products is bordering on cult like.

What's something exciting you're currently working on/learning that only a few people know about?

I love it when Google reaches out with private betas innovation and exciting updates, I do believe that the way search will evolve over the coming 3 years will be very exciting.

What are you NOT Very Good at?

I am natually quite disorganised and love to go down rabbit holes – staying focused on what I need to do rather than what I need to do is probably what makes me good at SEO but you still need to get the tasks completed

What's your star sign?

Gemini

What did you have for breakfast this morning?

Omlette – so easy and you can chuck in left overs normally!

Author

Heather Wilkinson is a globe-trotting content creator and PR enthusiast who’s finally put down roots in her native UK. When she isn’t working, you’ll find her pretending to care about Minecraft for her son’s sake, while secretly reading the latest Ace Atkins novel (or sleeping – her second favourite past-time).