Valentin Boulan, SEO and Website Content Manager at Audley Travel
How did you start out as a marketer?
I started out as an SEO executive at a small London agency, which no longer exists. It was fun but often fast-paced, particularly coming straight out of university.
I would definitely recommend anyone starting out to immerse themselves in a similar environment.
Small agencies are brilliant places to develop your skills, learn from your mistakes, be exposed to a range of clients, and collaborate with brilliant people.
Looking back, what was your hardest struggle when it came to delivering results?
Coming from an organic search background, it is always trickier to demonstrate value compared to a paid media channel.
SEO is a contradictory discipline, all about understanding how Google’s algorithm works while openly acknowledging that nobody actually does.
This doesn’t mean results are harder to deliver. However, attributing positive performance to a specific activity or campaign can be more challenging.
While owned channels like PPC work in very controlled settings, SEO isn’t an exact science and relies on correlation data. For a lot of stakeholders looking for guaranteed ROI, this is hard to accept.
What do you find most rewarding about what you do?
Helping new people always feels rewarding. Digital marketing is a small industry full of unwritten rules where everyone knows everyone. It can be daunting and hard to navigate at first.
I remember the people who helped me get jobs, trained me, and guided me when I started out, and how much I valued their support. It’s nice to think I might be able to help others in that way as well.
If you were given the chance to build your career all over again, what would you do differently so that you could achieve your dreams faster? I don’t think I’d change a thing.
How is your typical work day structured?
There isn’t really a typical day or week. I like to work on projects with a particular focus and a defined set of objectives.
One day I may be working closely with editors, and the next with technical teams or digital PR. More than other digital channels, SEO depends on cross-channel cooperation for success.
As someone who works closely with websites, I also try to be as data-driven as possible. Looking at global and segmented performance or errors often drives plans rather than anything set in stone months ahead.
Weekly team catch-ups and trading meetings are the only recurrences in my calendar.
Can you tell us about a time where you had to put in significant effort up front and then wait a long time for success?
In a previous role, my team and I spent about a year delivering very strong work. The site we worked on remained painfully stagnant the entire time, only for its traffic to explode overnight.
I’m talking more than double. Performance has remained consistently high ever since.
It was a truly puzzling case study—nothing like anything I’d ever seen. Indeed, Google works in mysterious ways.
As it happened, I left the company a month later, so it was amazing to leave on a high and see the team’s brilliant work finally and deservedly pay off.
What do you do to stay up-to-date with new marketing techniques?
Reading industry news sites is an absolute must, and I try to dedicate some time every week to do so.
Following industry leaders on LinkedIn and Twitter is also a great way to see what other experts are working on and identify trends.
I try to attend a few conferences or tutorials each year, which is a nice way to meet peers in person.
Can you tell us about a project you’re most proud of from your past work history?
I once helped upsell a global project, which resulted in my team growing from just me to eight people. In a relatively small business, this represented considerable growth.
To contribute, sell in, hire, train, and manage a whole new team was a lot of fun. It was really cool to see hard work turn into tangible change for the whole company.
What advice would you share with other marketers who want to become more productive?
Set yourself targets at the start of the year, and push yourself to achieve them.
We often get caught up in the actual day-to-day work without necessarily thinking about the bigger picture for ourselves or our teams.
Why not make a list of new skills you’d like to develop this year or courses you’d like to attend?
Maybe you’ve been thinking about starting your own business on the side. Or, like me, you might not be a huge fan of public speaking.
Why not face it up by running a group training session? You don’t have to come up with the next Amazon to do personal growth.