The Untold Story of Stuart McIlreavy’s Rise to the Top

Stuart McIlreavy owns and is a digital media professional with many years of industry experience, working primarily as an organic search consultant.

How would you specifically explain what you do as an SEO?

I create media experiences that people connect with.

Before I think of how I am going to execute a project, I think, “Are people going to be interested and excited in what this is about, and how can we connect with these people?”

The technicalities of SEO are important, but the bigger picture—thinking about what you want to accomplish and whether or not you can do it in a way that people will get excited about and ultimately discuss online—will determine your success as much as the technicalities.

What is your primary marketing goal when it comes to delivering results?

In the projects that I produce now, our main goal is to change the world for the better.

So even though I still think about things like organic performance and do a lot of analysis, if I don’t see that the project is having any impact on the outside world or the non-digital world, then it is not working.

Which new skills are most important for SEOs to learn in the next six months?

I think media skills are the most important skills for new SEOs.

To be successful in business and SEO, you almost need to become a media personality and know how to communicate about issues that people are going to connect with.

There are no obstacles to people being in the media or participating in the media these days with things like YouTube, and everyone is born with a beautiful personality and something important to say.

It’s just about plucking up the courage and learning how to use the media for SEO benefits.

What do you find most rewarding about SEO?

Everyone can do it; there is no barrier to entry, and it is a form of communication that anyone can use to communicate their message and make the world a better place.

How do you stay updated with the latest SEO industry news?

Not so much these days, but just the regular search engine blogs, and if I really want to get into the nuts and bolts of what search engines are doing, I read SEO By the Sea.

As an SEO, what is your favorite SEO hack?

I don’t really have hacks or tricks. The last commercial project I worked on was for the Westfield Corporation.

We increased their annual traffic by a significant amount—over a million visits a year—and that’s probably a modest estimate.

I look at every piece of media as unique and implement optimizations based on what I have previously learned has been effective.

I don’t see SEO as being about facts or knowledge. It’s a tacit discipline.

I think SEO has excited me more post-Penguin because, for years, I was frustrated that the industry was tacky and spammy.

I think most companies know now that if they want to succeed, they need to play the long game and do quality work.

In many ways, the internet and SEO industries will merge into something akin to the television industry, but everyone will be able to access and participate to achieve their own goals. That’s exciting.

What are some of the top tools and apps in your SEO stack?

I am still a huge fan of Searchmetrics, as I think it is the best platform on the market and has the strongest leadership team and culture.

The first thing I use on most projects is probably Screaming Frog.

How is your typical work day structured?

It is not. First thing when I wake up. I say my prayers, then I blaze up. Get dressed as sharp as a razor. Then it’s back to getting cake, bruh.

Which one book or blog post would you recommend every SEO should read?

I still dig the Seven Mile blog by Frank Schilling.

He doesn’t post much, and it is about domains, but this is really more important or more core than SEO.

Some of the posts give you a really deep inside look into the ‘Traffic’ industry.

What advice would you share with other SEOs who want to become more productive?

Don’t try to become more productive.

Become more creative, learn what the best ways to use your energy are, and focus your time on only doing things that have an impact.

Spend the rest of your time on the beach.

Among the Google algorithm updates, what is the most challenging one that you’ve encountered?

I’ve never been a guy who cared about algorithm updates. I once worked on a project for an insurance company in Sydney that had a major spam penalty.

They ranked #1 for “life insurance” and other valuable terms primarily through link buying, and Google hit them with a range of penalties.

I joined the project once the penalties were hit and spent my time both doing legitimate consulting and also doing laborious and difficult link removal and re-inclusion requests.

I guess the Penguin update was the biggest change I worked through, but it made me happy to see so many people get penalized because I always saw link buying as cheating.

If there’s one SEO guru, you’d recommend who and why.

The person I respect most in the industry is probably Markus Tober from Searchmetrics.

He started working in digital environments doing scraping and then went on to envisage and create the whole Searchmetrics platform.

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