Interview with Magdalena Sikora, a Multi-Channel Marketing Manager at New Look

Magdalena Sikora is a Multi-Channel Marketing Manager at New Look. She is a talented and experienced specialist with deep knowledge about SEO and Online Marketing. She was speaking at SEMcamp seminar 2013, where she gave two great presentations on “Building a Powerful Network of Influencers” and “Enterprise level SEO planning and execution”. We had a great pleasure to talk to her afterwards.

In today’s speech you mentioned the importance of blogging for website promotion, so you also gain your customers through the blog?

Yes, we do, however blogger outreach is more about creating awareness of our brand across different audiences and increasing our authority among fashion industry.

Do you measure your market share? In general, as a company.

 Yes, and we use many different tools in order to understand our position and visibility online as well as interest in our brand; tools like Hitwise, which allows to understand our popularity online.

From SEO prospective it is all about monitoring our rankings as well as rankings of our competitors.

Let’s move to our official list of questions. Could you tell us how you ended up in SEO? 

I graduated Human Resources Management, so one of my first professional positions in London was a Recruitment Consultant role. It is a quite difficult job in a very sale-sy environment, but it allowed me to earn some money.

In the meantime, since I always very much enjoyed creating website and spending time online (who doesn’t like it;) and my husband was a graphic designer at that time, I created a website that sales personalized wedding invitations.

The website looked professionally, but was getting no traffic, so I started reading about online marketing and Google and this is how I first time find out that something like SEO actually exists.

As I wasn’t aware of any online resources that teach about SEO (I didn’t know any SEO blogs), I bought a book on Amazon site- “Google: how to get on the top and stay there” and this is how it started. I optimized our site and got us first clients as the website started ranking 2nd for “personalized wedding invitations”!

All of that was happening in 2008 just weeks before the recession. When the recession started, I decided to quit my day work in recruitment and try to find a role in SEO!

So you just resigned without knowing where to go?

Yes, I saved some money that would allow me to live in London for 3 weeks without a job. I wanted to rest and then find new a job, but this time in SEO.

I sent my CV to a few SEO agencies. When invited for an interview at the ‘Search Works’ (one of the first SEO agencies in London), I took an SEO book with me to show that I’ve been learning:) and went for an interview (laughing). And I got the job!

You write that your nickname is “traveller in Search”. What do you mean by this nickname? Is it your life credo or something else?

I love travelling. It is my second biggest passion after SEO. I have a travel site and blog and manage large Google Plus travel community. I also travel quite often, I try to go to Asia once a year and explore new places and then write about it, but I do not want to associate my travel profile with Mags, an SEO consultant, so I use a different pen name.

May we try some quiz? For example, what was your worst SEO experience?

I don’t have an experience of losing all the rankings in one day (thankfully), but I have seen ranking drops for a few important terms in the past. Since I work with international sites that are old and have a lot of heritage, there are often actions taken by my predecessors that might have worked in the past but can be harmful today. I think this is a massive challenge for all SEOs.

It is also amazing how much spam is still out there in non-English Google SERP- they don’t seem to be touched by Panda nor Penguin updates.

And what gives you the most pleasure in SEO?

 I love improving sites from SEO perspective. I like finding issues that requires implementation of more complex solutions. It keeps me going. I also like finding answers in data, digging in Analytics and Omniture and finding answers for business questions.

Maybe you remember some SEO routines that were difficult for you, especially at the beginning of your SEO career?

I think meeting with clients when working for an agency. I was quite shy and even today, when giving the presentation at SECamp gave me a lot of stress:)

Maybe you can give some piece of advice for SEO beginners?

 There is one thing, which I have never changed since started working in SEO- I use Netvibes.com. I literally start every day from opening this site. It is nothing more than feed reader, but you can organize your feeds in a more visual way. It really works for me- I am very often asked how come I am able to stay on the top of all SEO news. The answer is Netvibes. And guess what? It is free!

 And what resources and bloggers are you subscribed for?

I am subscribed to all typical blogs- Search Engine Roundtable, SEOmoz and SE Journal and SEO Watch. I absolutely loved Sphinn in the past and I am really disappointed that they closed it down. My favorite now is SEO Chat!

I read a few UX, WordPress and Technology sites on a daily basis as well, websites like UX Magazine, WordPress Hacks or TechCrunch.

For social media, I find Jeff Bullas’s and Brian Solis very helpful.

Now that you are a multi-channel marketing manager what is your favorite source of traffic and what works the best for you?

 Are you seriously asking me about that? (laughing). SEO. There is no other option!

Yes, but PPC is also really good, lots of opportunity and data to analyze.

Yes! I find it more and more interesting. I am really lucky as I manage a great team on an agency side and I learn a lot from those guys!

I am also very interested in affiliates and would love to grow this channel at New Look a bit more. I like its technical aspect. You can really do a lot with the feed and if you are creative enough, you can use the feed for building some cool tools, which can be also used across other channels!

What education is more suitable for SEO, SEM work – analytical or humanitarian background?

 To be honest, I don’t think it’s important where and what you study (although some prestige university degrees might give an easier start).

I did my bachelor degree in accountancy and finance, and master’s degree in human resources management. I think, HR management helped me to understand people’s behavior, sociology and that helps me to understand online searches. I think this kind of knowledge could be also useful for UX a bit! But I don’t believe that university degree is crucial in order to be successful.

And what do you think is a key to your personal success? You have managed to achieve lots of things, you have managed to work with great companies, maybe there are life hacks about time management?

I think it’s about not giving up. I came to UK about 10 years ago from Poland by bus. It took me 48 hours to get to London :). I had about 60 pounds in my pocket, and I thought it is a lot of money! I finished on a train station; I could not speak English, but I didn’t give up and here I am.

If you think deeply insight your heart that something you do is right – just do it and don’t think about it too much. And believe in yourself! Everything can be achieved as long as you believe it!

And do you think being an SEO requires much of creative thinking?

Yes, I think creativeness is one of the most important skills in SEO. That’s also why I think SEO and socials should work together. Social teams are full of young, motivated and creative people with many great ideas. So if your SEO team doesn’t have those skills, don’t worry, team up with social team. You can create much more together!

What is your daily routine as a marketing manager like at New Look?

Every day is completely different. It’s also super fast moving environment- we launch new collections every few weeks!

Monday’s mornings are all about previous week and planning for a week ahead. I’m checking performance of all channels to see if we are staying within the forecast etc. There are also many meetings happening that day!

Between Tuesdays and Thursdays, I catch up on all 5 acquisition channels I manage and try to sort out challenges we come across that week. There is always a lot of work!

On Fridays, I work from agency’s office where I held meetings with their different teams. We discuss learning from the running week and plan actions for next days.

Looks like there is a huge amount of information and routines, do you enjoy this?

I love my job, but it doesn’t mean I don’t have difficult days. If you manage numerous channels, there are many different tasks not connected with each other- I deal with everything from making sure we target relevant SEO terms, through meeting with affiliates, forecasting and dealing with technical feed problems. It is challenging, but that is what makes the job more interesting!

And when you manage to get some free time what do you do?

I run my own websites, which I have to take care of, as well as my husband (laughing). We try to work together on some freelance projects plus we also build websites.

Since the weather in London is absolutely a nightmare, I try to escape as often as I can to Italy. It’s the most beautiful country in the world for me. I love Sardinia!

Outside of that, I am in the process of creating my own business. It would be so nice to be able to explain parents what I do for a change:) I hope in 5 years time, I will be a happy owner of a small company.

 What about your own clothing brand?

 I am not the biggest “fashionista” to be honest:) Travel is where my heart is! But my husband and I are currently working on a business idea that will require us to collaborate with various fashion designers, so let’s see how it goes. I will update you in a few months time:)

Thank you very much, Magdalena!

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Interview with Magdalena Sikora, a Multi-Channel Marketing Manager at New Look

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