O/SEO/O™ E19: Opinions About Adapting to Change

Published on: 
August 29, 2023
Updated on: 
September 20, 2023
Sam Torres
Sam Torres
Tory Gray
Tory Gray
Begüm Kaya
Begüm Kaya

Welcome to a special collaboration episode with our friends at The SEO Mindset during which we’ll share opinions about a topic that’s as timely as ever: change.

Real talk. Marketing is very much a moving target, and SEOs can feel that pressure as much as anyone. So with all the chat around AI upending search, we decided it’s time to take a step back and ground ourselves. Because let’s be honest, if you’ve been in the industry for a while, you’re probably no stranger to endless (com)motion! 

Along with our special co-hosts Sarah and Tazmin, we’ll chat about whether or not the change we’re seeing now feels different than big shifts in the past. Plus, we’ll talk through tips and perspectives for embracing - and even capitalizing on - a landscape in flux.

Did these opinionated opinions spark some questions? We’d love to answer them - along with any other SEO questions - at

If you enjoyed this episode, we have plenty more opinions! Get them in your feed by following us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Video Transcript

Sam Torres 0:07  
Welcome to a collaboration between The SEO Mindset and Opinionated SEO Opinions™. I'm one of your hosts Sam Torres with my fellow hosts of Opinionated SEO Opinions, Tory Gray and Begüm Kaya. And then we're joined by the lovely ladies of The SEO Mindset, if y'all want to introduce yourselves.

Sarah McDowell  0:22  
Would you like me to go first, Tazmin? Yes, I'll go first haha. Yes, so my name is Sarah. I cohost The SEO Mindset Podcast. I'm very excited to do a collaborative piece with you today. So very excited. Tazmin, who are you?

Tazmin Suleman  0:41  
So my name is Tazmin. Sara said...Sarah, and I cohost The SEO Mindset Podcast, and in the rest of my time, I'm either coaching people to further their careers or writing about it or talking about it. So that is my whole life. It's more about learning and development.

Sam Torres  1:04  
That's wonderful. And yes, Tazmin, I believe you are surrounded by a bunch of SEOs right now. So really excited to be talking about this topic. We're going to be talking about embracing change, and really being healthy throughout everything that goes on in an industry like SEO. But of course, it's not limited to only SEO.

Sam Torres  1:23  
So before we get started - Tory, Begüm - did you guys want to introduce yourselves?

Tory Gray  1:33  
Sure...I'm Tory Gray. I'm the CEO and leader of The Gray Dot Company. We focus on SEO strategy and technical expertise. And we just really love digging into meaty, fun SEO and data problems with really cool teams and clients. So. Glad to be here.

Begüm Kaya  1:50  
And I am the technical SEO at the Gray Dot Company who is always happy to tackle these challenges alongside these two beautiful, brilliant ladies.

Sam Torres  2:02  
Awesome. Well, thanks so much everyone for joining. And let's just dig in. So Begüm, you wanna kick us off?

Question #1

How do you stay on top of changes in the industry and adapt to them as they happen?

Begüm Kaya  2:10  
Of course! I'm very excited to do that, as it's a very, very relevant point, I would say recently. So our first question is - for industries where many things evolve and change, fundamentally, and it's happening very do you stay on top of, dare we say, the changes that happen in the industry and adapt to them as they happen.

Sarah McDowell  2:40  
I can go, if that's okay? I feel very like, British and very like..."Is it okay if I speak? Is it my turn?"

Tory Gray  2:50  
Mind the gap! 

Sarah McDowell  2:50  
Yeah! That's so hard, isn't it? It's a great question, but it's so hard. And I think, just as a caveat, working in the SEO industry, it can be overwhelming by how much change there actually is. And it's really hard to stay on top. So I just want to start with my caveat saying like, if you don't...don't...don't feel like you are losing or you're not doing well, if you don't feel like you're keeping up because there's just so much - it's hard, right? 

Sarah McDowell  3:22  
But tips that I do to try and keep up with what's going on in the industry is being part of like communities. So I think we're all part of the Women in Tech SEO community. Fabulous community.

Tory Gray  3:32  

Sam Torres  3:32  

Sarah McDowell  3:33  
Shout out to Areej AbuAli - fabulous woman as well. So yeah, being a part of that community is great to keep up-to-date because people are always posting stuff in there - news, what's going on. Lots of the times that's how I sort of come across new things. I also sign up to newsletters... now,  back in the day, I signed up to every newsletter going, do you know what I mean? I thought like 'more more more' I need all the information. 

Sarah McDowell  4:03  
Obviously, I ended up overwhelmed. Didn't read all the newsletters that were coming in. It just like, yeah...they just sat there and it was another thing to do on my to-do list. So what I do now is I kind of cherry-pick the newsletters and yeah, and articles and stuff like that...that come up, or people point me in the direction of, so I cherry-pick sort of my favorite ones and stick to them. 

Sarah McDowell  4:29  
And I try...I try, obviously it's very hard - but I try and carve out like 15 minutes at the start of my day or, during my lunch break, or before I finish - 15 minutes just trying to like browse newsletters, browse the news, things like that. Google also has a good...every month they do a round-up, don't they, on YouTube. I've forgotten what that's called - like 'Search', 'This month on search". It's something like that. 

Sam Torres  5:01  

Sarah McDowell  5:02  
And I've just put everyone in the spotlight. I don't know. Because everyone's like 'I don't know what it's called, either.'

Sam Torres  5:06  
Yeah, I get always get a link for it in the Women in Tech SEO community, so I think we're probably all watching it in the same place.

Sarah McDowell  5:15  
Yeah, basically it's headed by John Mueller, isn't it? So... 

Sam Torres  5:18  

Right, yes, anything by him is golden. But I think one of the things I really love about what you just called out is cherry-picking your newsletters. I'd also say there's almost a sense of cherry-picking your discipline within SEO. 

Sam Torres  5:32  
I think a lot of people don't realize SEO is such a broad field, and there's many different specializations that you could go into. So, you know - pick your areas where you really want to be really good at it. And, you know, obviously, major changes you probably still want to be up on, but I think the community call-out is a great one. Yeah. Tazmin, how do you usually coach any of your clients through these kinds of changes?

Tazmin Suleman  5:58  
One thing I will say to them is 'Put a blanket of perspective - no one died.' 

Tazmin Suleman  6:05  
You know, it is a job, it is a discipline, it is part of your life - it is not your whole life. The other thing I remind them to look at is "what can you realistically control, and what can't you." 

Tazmin Suleman  6:19  
Because we feel like this...there is this abundance of change going on. But actually, when you look at what you can actually do about it, it is a small subset of it, rather than the whole. 

Tazmin Suleman  6:32  
So those are two things, I get them to look at, a bit. Like you said, you know - look at which bits you actually need to learn to progress. Because you can't learn everything. And remind yourself that you're not the only one in that situation. This change isn't happening just for you. It's happening for a whole industry. So like Sarah said, you're not getting left behind, you're not losing - everyone is in the same boat. 

Tazmin Suleman  6:59  
But the more you can keep hold of, like your... your inner strength, the better. Because once you start feeling overwhelmed, it's a slippery slope. And Sara, and those people who know me, will know that I always always advocate self-care. 

Tazmin Suleman  7:16  
Self-care isn't the thing that you do when you're broken. It is the thing that you do every day to make sure you are in the best possible physical, emotional, and mental state to be able to deal with the changes. Hope that's given you some tips.

Sam Torres  7:35  

Tory Gray  7:38  
Yes, just one more thing to add, I just want to say, in this particular year, above all years - this has been a... just a bananas of a year. So maybe just give yourself a little bit more grace than you might even usually. 

Tory Gray  7:53  
This is hard at the best of times. 

Tory Gray  7:55  
This year, I think everyone - including the people who, this is their job, and that's what they do is stay up on this, so they can inform their teams - and even they're exhausted. So just breathe and remember, there's time and we'll figure it out. And it's okay. And just like Tazmin said, you're not saving someone's life, you're not curing cancer.

Sarah McDowell  8:14  
Give yourself some slack. Be kinder to yourself, I think is what we're all saying.

Tory Gray  8:17  

Sam Torres  8:18  
Um hmmm.

Begüm Kaya  8:18  
Definitely. And this goes, actually, both ways. The more you take care of yourself, the more you're available to lift up your team as well, or other stakeholders that you're in contact with. So I mean, another angle of this would be the information transfer. 

Question #2

How do you go about keeping other stakeholders in the loop regarding industry changes? What do you choose to communicate (or not) and when?

Begüm Kaya  8:29  
So how...I actually wanted to ask how do you go about keeping other stakeholders in the loop? Whether on industry changes, or lift them up? And how do you help them increase the impact on the business? When and what do you choose to communicate and when?

Sarah McDowell  8:53  
I'll go again! I feel like I'm stealing the show a little bit, always going first! 

Sam Torres  8:58  
I like it. 

Sarah McDowell  9:01  
That's a great question. So yeah, I suppose it... One of my recommendations here is, who is that stakeholder that you're talking to? Okay, what is...what is their job within the business? 

Sarah McDowell  9:18  
What is important to them? And how does SEO help facilitate their job? Or how does SEO help their job, or help their department, or lift it up, or what have you? So understand who you are talking to. Understand how they tick. 

Sarah McDowell  9:36  
So I recently read, and I go on about this book so much because I love it so, so, so much, but, I recently read a book called Surrounded by Idiots - understanding four types of human behavior, written by a Swedish behaviorist called Thomas Erikson. And he basically... it's a book all about how to understand the four main types of human behavior and he kind of casts... he categorizes them into four different colors. Okay. 

Sarah McDowell  9:36  
So that was a really good book as well, because I'm also... I'm not just understanding what that person does in the... in the... in the company, but I'm also understanding how they are as a person, right? 

Sarah McDowell  10:21  

Do they like fluff? Do they like stats? Are they analytical? Do they... do they want the research to back it up sort of thing. So whenever I have something important that I need to relay to the stakeholder, whoever that is, I try and understand those core principles, first, because then, when I'm coaching them, and telling them about this important thing, and how it's going to impact them, I'm not setting myself up for a fail because I know how best this is going to come across. If that makes sense.

Tazmin Suleman  10:54  
I would want... as a stakeholder, I'd want to know straight away, even if you didn't give me all of the detail. Tell me something's happened, because that maintains the trust. And if even if you have to say 'Something's happened, it's going to affect your bottom line, I don't have the numbers yet. I will get you the numbers by Thursday.' 

Tazmin Suleman  11:18  
That's fine with me. I just want to know that I can trust you, and you're taking care of it. And I wouldn't want to know all of the details - How is it impacting my bottom line? What are you going to do about it? Again, I don't need all of the detail, I want to know that I can again, trust you to get on with it. So that would be my... the other side of the fence thoughts on this.

Sam Torres  11:39  
No, that's great. And I love how it's really...a lot of this is just basic relationship, right? Communication is key, making sure you're on the same page. So... so yeah, love all of that. 

Sam Torres  11:53  

As far as just like logistically how it happens, I'll speak to just what we do at Gray Dot Company. So to keep the team up to date on what we see, we really just post a lot of things in Slack, we may post some thought processes, and then also bring up important things in our one-to-ones with our team members. 

Sam Torres  12:15  
Externally, because we are an agency, we have clients - for major changes, we actually will send out an email, especially if it's something that's going to affect the clients. And we tried to make a note of it too. 

Sam Torres  12:27  
We can't do it in GA4 anymore, but so now we have to put our annotation somewhere else. But those are the places... those are definitely the things that we try to do. Keep a record of those types of, you know... if Google is making an update, and...and that's something that we need to communicate as quickly as possible.

Tory Gray  12:44  
Yeah, when it's a big thing, too, something we do is to review a bunch of different things, and then to put it together in an internal document where there's some synthesis of "what the heck does this thing mean?" So an example from earlier this year before things got too-too crazy. Or maybe it was last year? What even is time? 

Tory Gray  13:01  
But uh, suddenly everyone was talking about entity SEO. And I just, you know, I had to go like this and put my head over my hands. And really just think about what... what is this. And so eventually, I took a deep breath, and I went and I viewed a bunch of videos. And then it's the thing that you often think it is, which is - it's not actually net-new, it's just... it's a slightly different lens, and a way to talk about an existing problem. 

Tory Gray  13:25  
But the point being, you go, you absorb that information, you put that together in a synthesis document, and then it's something you can share with your team. And as a bonus, we've actually taken that sort of stuff, like I've done this in previous years, when suddenly everyone was talking about internal linking, and how important that was, and then I can turn that into content. 

Tory Gray  13:43  
I've turned that internal documentation with an articulate point of view, and say, 'This is why this matters.' After we've, you know, done some work and processed it make sure that I'm making sense with what I'm saying.

Sam Torres  13:56  
And on the flip side, we then took that article, and I've turned it into custom documentation for clients. So the uses are just tenfold. Yeah.

Sarah McDowell  14:06  
Re-purposing content left, right, and center. 

Sam Torres  14:08  
Yes. Yes. Yeah, in a past agency, it was very large. I would set up...I had a monthly meeting to get in front of all the account managers, and other channel heads, to kind of tell them, 'what's going on.' 

Sam Torres  14:21  
And that's probably been one of my favorite things to do because also preparing for that meeting forced me to stay up-to-date. So it was really nice, but obviously hard to get management buy-in to get that many people in the room and get their time. But something that I found is very successful for keeping the whole team on the same page.

Sarah McDowell  14:40  
I think something else just to add, as well. And it's something that we said earlier - SEO, Google, search engines - I realized that I just had a load of buzzwords there so, get me as an SEO. But there is so much change happening... it can... you can end up feeling like you're chasing your tail a little bit. 

Sarah McDowell  14:39  
And you could...and especially when I first started in SEO, like whenever something new came up, or like Tory, as you were saying, everyone's talking about entity SEO, it can get... it's really easy to fall into the trap of getting caught up in that thing. 

Sarah McDowell  15:16  
Because that's the really trendy thing in SEO or Google at the time. 

Sarah McDowell  15:21  
However, you always need to take a step back and be like, right, okay, 'how does how does this impact my business?' How does it impact my, if you're an agency, how does it impact my clients? Sometimes it's going to have a big impact. Sometimes it's not. So I think it's just having that awareness of just because it's trendy and big in SEO doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be big for clients and yourself.

Sam Torres  15:48  
So I'm gonna go a little bit... digress a little bit. What you're talking about, really just makes me think of the movie Up, and the dog is just like 'squirrel!' 

Sam Torres  15:58  
Like, I feel like there's a lot of moments that we have in marketing for that, with digital. So do you guys have any tips on how to kind of avoid that, like, 'Oh, I'm gonna focus here. Oh, this is hot. That's what I'm gonna go look at. This is the trendy thing.' Anything for helping to stay focused on that bottom line? Because it is really easy to get into like... the flashy things.

Sarah McDowell  16:21  
Prioritization is your friend, is what I would say. Roadmaps, plan, strategy, okay. Like... and again, I just jumped in there - 'squirrel!' I was excited. I wanted to get involved, and Up is a great movie as well. But yeah, like, always try. And because you've put a plan and a strategy, you've put this together. So you know where you want to go. You know... and it's, it's going to be a long-term plan, isn't it? Because things take a while. 

Sarah McDowell  16:52  
So whenever something new does pop up, have a... have a look. And if it... if it is going to impact you, how does it fit in with your roadmap? If it doesn't impact you, don't let it take away from your roadmap, because that's more important at the end of the day - that roadmap, that strategy. And I'm not saying that, like... your strategies, and plans need to stick and stay the same. I'm not saying that at all, because they do need to be flexible. 

Sarah McDowell  17:19  
You need to be able to change because things are like changing all the time. But just don't get too carried away with all 'what's that shiny thing', because at the end of the day, businesses have their own goals. Businesses need to make money, businesses need to do X, Y and Z, right? And that's... I always get confused. 

Sarah McDowell  17:38  
Is 'Zed' or 'Z' the American way? I think 'Z' is the American way. 

Sam Torres  17:42  

Sarah McDowell  17:42  
'Zed's' the English way, isn't it?

Tory Gray  17:44  

Sam Torres  17:44  
And Canadian. 

Tory Gray  17:45  
And Canadian? 

Sam Torres  17:46  

Sarah McDowell  17:46  
There you go. So that's my info. I don't know if Tazmin has more sort of like behavioral or more psychological...

Sam Torres  17:54  
So, before we get to that. I don't know if you can hear there are product managers everywhere cheering hahaha.

Sarah McDowell  18:12  
Oh brilliant.

Tazmin Suleman  17:59  
Brilliant. Not so much behavioral, more... human. So have a group of people who are willing to challenge you. So I'm part of this Business Mastermind. It's... there's four of us in total. Every month, we get together and say, 'This is what happened this month. This is what I'm thinking of doing this month.' 

Tazmin Suleman  18:15  
And they're really good at saying to me, because I am that, 'Oh, look, there's this new thing I could be looking at!' 

Tazmin Suleman  18:27  
And they say, 'And how is that going to help you? How is that going to help you reach the goals that you have said that you want to reach? How is that going to grow your business?' And that, I think, for me, is key to having people who you're accountable to. And who are absolutely willing to tear you into shreds because that trustworthy relationship is gold.

Begüm Kaya  18:57  
Yes, I was gonna go with the same thing, because again, coming back to Women in Tech SEO, there is a mentorship cohort that's happening every six months now I think, that is so valuable. And you get to meet so many people that you're going to pick their brains about. And most of the people are available to help, and they're really willing to help, actually. So it's very good to have that community for yourself where you can rely on and just go talk stuff. 

Sam Torres  19:32  

Question #3

How important are industry support systems and communities in facilitating growth and navigating change?

Begüm Kaya  19:34  
So with that thing in mind, we can come to our third question, which is - how important is it to create and take part in industry support systems or communities to facilitate growth and navigate change? Maybe we can start with Tory this time?

Tory Gray  19:56  
Me?! Oh my goodness!

Begüm Kaya  19:58  
I'm putting you on the spot, Tory!

Tory Gray  20:01  
So, well, it's funny, because I think we're all going to be a little bit biased in answering this question because we are all part of a community - how we met that, you know, has been, I think, honestly pretty transformative. I can only speak for myself, but I think I'm not the only one. You know, I don't know that I had that support system. 

Tory Gray  20:19  
I, for the first, what...12, 13 years in SEO, you know, I had my team locally. And I had good managers - that I was very lucky to have, but I didn't necessarily have the broader SEO community. And I didn't start to participate in the broader SEO community, until, you know, thanks to Areej and Women in Tech SEO, and emotionally and you know, in terms of like business success, I owe so much to her. 

Tory Gray  20:50  
So my biases, can you live without it? Sure. Can it transform you and make you better and happier? Yeah, go find it.

Sarah McDowell  21:00  
I think it's also important to be part of a community because it can help you feel less lonely. Especially because there's lots of SEOs out there, who they might be the only SEO in their... in their team at their, in their business. So it can feel quite lonely. Especially if like... because I think people who work in SEO, you kind of catch the bug, and you love it, you love talking about it. When there's new things that come up, you want to like discuss it, you want to share it. 

Sarah McDowell  21:33  
There's been times where I've tried to have these conversations with my girlfriend, and she's like, 'I really want to be excited for you, Sarah, but I have no idea what you're saying to me.' So being part of a community, like the Women in Tech SEO, helps you not feel lonely, right? There are a bunch of other people. And in the case of Women in Tech, fabulous women who are like, this is gonna sound cliche, like-minded individuals, but they are because they have the same passions as you they're interested in SEO, Google, they like nerding out on it as well. 

Sarah McDowell  22:07  
It's also a safe space to ask questions. Okay, so if a change comes up, or there's something that I need to know, I go to the Women in Tech SEO community because how many times have we posted something out there on say Twitter, and we get don't call them gremlins? What do you call them? The word has gone out my head. 

Tory Gray  22:27  

Sam Torres  22:28  

Sarah McDowell  22:28  
Thank you! Trolls! You get the trolls who start like keyboard warrioring. That looked more like jazz hands didn't it?

Sam Torres  22:28  
I liked it.

Sarah McDowell  22:33  
Keyboard warrioring, and it can just make you feel a bit worth...well not worthless, but like...because...because question is a stupid question, okay? Like we're all learning, things are new all the time. And actually, I always try and ask the obvious question anyway. Because how many times have you been in a meeting, someone asks the obvious question, and you're like, 'I am so glad they asked that, because I had no idea myself.' So yeah, that's my thoughts on the matter as well. 

Sam Torres  23:07  
To that, I think it's like the...anytime you go to helpdesk support - 'Have you tried turning it on and off again?' Like, sometimes you just need to go there. Because what if there is a foundational piece missing? Right? That's...that's really, you know, we laugh about it. But also, how many times has that solved the problem? 

Sam Torres  23:28  
Way more than probably any of us want to admit! 

Sam Torres  23:08  
And I will say for those... 

Tory Gray  23:14  
It's annoyingly often.

Sam Torres  23:34  
Yeah, annoyingly often, for sure. And yeah, again, I'm another huge, huge supporter of Women in Tech SEO. I owe that community a LOT. I wouldn't have even met my now business partner without it. So you can imagine just the impact it's had on my life. 

Sam Torres  23:50  
And I do want to say for those who do not identify as women, there are other communities for you as well. Tory and I are in a number of others - there's Traffic Think Tank, the OMG Center. There's lots of things that you can find on Reddit...

Tory Gray  24:05  

Sam Torres  24:05  
Yeah,  Top of the Funnel (Tofu). So there's really a lot of communities. And yeah, I implore you to find them, because it's, you know...especially with remote work on the rise. 

Sam Torres  24:18  
I think people are just realizing how lonely we are. And how much we do want to nerd about these things with other people. And Sarah, I was laughing because my husband definitely has had the same experiences of like, he has heard me teach classes so many times, because I'll practice with him. And he's like, 'Yeah, you're getting really excited about canonicalization and I just don't care.'

Tory Gray  24:42  
Well I was also laughing at what Sarah was saying, because I feel like... you'll never berated in Women in Tech SEO, but if you're going to be berated about one thing it's gonna be - 'this is a stupid question, but...' 

Sam Torres  24:51  
Oh my god, it is!

Tory Gray  24:51  
Or 'this might be a stupid question, but...', or 'forgive me for asking this...' like, no, we're actually gonna get on you because that's not okay to say, because you''re harming yourself and you're setting other people up accidentally to make them feel like they're asking stupid questions. 

Tory Gray  25:04  
No such thing! We're here for everybody, where they are, wherever that may be today. 

Begüm Kaya  25:10  

Sam Torres  25:11  
So true.

Sarah McDowell  25:11  
This is making my heart full. I feel like my cheeks are going to ache...

Sam Torres  25:15  

Sarah McDowell  25:15  
Because I'm smiling so much. I'm nodding so much. Yeah, not that nodding hurts your cheeks, but anyway...

Sam Torres  25:22  
I'm gonna go with it. Yeah, yeah.

Begüm Kaya  25:26  
So the elephant in the room, ladies, are we ready for it? 

Sam Torres  25:31  

Question #4

How do you feel like the current climate and conversation around AI are like or unlike major changes that have impacted SEO in the past?

Begüm Kaya  25:33  
So we've been talking about change, but the most, I think the biggest element that caused that change, or the shift in SEO might be the AI conversation. And this current conversation around AI has stoked a lot of fear, in terms of what it means for SEO, what the future of SEO is going to be like. How do you feel this is like, or unlike other major changes that have made SEOs feel uncertain about what's next?

Tazmin Suleman  26:06  
I'm going to put my halfpenny's worth into this and then leave you SEO proper professionals to it. I was born so long ago that I remember a time before Google, I remember a time when we... if you wanted to find information, you went to this thing called a library and got what was called a reference book. You weren't even allowed to take that book home. 

Tazmin Suleman  26:32  
So do I think things are moving fast? Yes. 

Tazmin Suleman  26:37  
Have they moved fast before? Yes. I don't remember being scared at the time. I don't remember thinking, 'Oh, no, I'll never have to go and look at three reference books again', instead of just typing something in and getting the answer. 

Tazmin Suleman  26:52  
But I do appreciate that it's crazy right now. Personally speaking, I don't... you know, line of business is very different. People still want to talk to a coach, people still want that human interaction. And I don't think we should ever, ever underestimate the power of what human interaction brings into any scenario.

Sarah McDowell  27:18  
Yes, I love that. We are human. Human connection is important, isn't it? And that's kind of what we've been saying anyway, like, the whole point of being part of a community. And working remotely is like, you want to find connection with people somehow. And that's always going to be an element. 

Sarah McDowell  27:36  
To me, I think, when change comes, it is scary, because we were scared... like, you hear that you should embrace change, right? 

Sarah McDowell  27:50  
"Change is good." But it can be scary because you might be thinking, 'Oh, gosh, that's something else that I've got to, like, get clued upon', or 'something else that I'm not like good at' maybe. Or you might be thinking 'Oh, is my job at stake?', because that often gets talked about as well, doesn't it? 

Sarah McDowell  28:09  
So I completely get those worries. And I've had those worries, too. But something that, as I'm doing research and looking into when I've started to use AI more, is you kind of have to try and embrace change, and have a go, because then you're less likely to be left behind. And I think AI, we don't know where our AI is gonna go, do we really? We can only, like, predict or have our own opinions about it. But there are, there are ways to use it. And it's not that scary. 

Sarah McDowell  28:46  
Like ChatGPT is a great tool. And it can actually...I found that it actually speeds up processes for me. So because I do a lot of content briefs, or I do a lot of research and putting content ideas together. I can use ChatGPT to speed some things up for me. I don't think that, like AI can replace content writers altogether, because I've seen it where companies have been pulled up because they've used AI or ChatGPT or what have you, and something has been wrong. Something's not been quite right and stuff. So there's still a place. 

Sarah McDowell  29:23  
I realized that I'm going all over the shop with this answer. That's kind of like how my brain works. The shiny stuff. 

Sarah McDowell  29:32  
But yeah, so yeah, just try it. Like I was hesitant to like use it first. Because I was like, oh, gosh, it's too, too techie for me. But actually, as I started using it, and the more that I started using it, like the more comfortable I was, and like I've been... and I experiment, experimented more. 

Sarah McDowell  29:51  
So for example, when I'm writing content, I know that I can be...I love words. I'm a fluffer. I put loads of stuff in, so you can use AI and ChatGPT to say 'Hey, make this more concise." And things like that. There's loads of really cool use cases for AI. You've just got to get out there and start using it. Try it, experimenting with it. And there's loads of resources out there that help you as well.

Sam Torres  30:17  
Yeah. So one of the things that I've also been thinking about, because of that fear of like, it's going to take my job. So the other thing I like to add the perspective is that SEO for us specifically, we are a young industry, right? 

Sam Torres  30:34  
Tory has 14, 15 years experience. I'm coming in with 13 now, like, we're grandmas. Oh god, guys. We're still in our 30s. So that's weird. Like, it's weird to be, you know, and I know there are people who have been doing it for 20-plus years. So I'm not gonna say that there's, there's not more experienced people out there. 

Sam Torres  30:54  
But it is just, it is a young industry, it is a young field. And I'd also argue that what Tory and I were doing 10 years ago looks nothing like what we do today. So our job has already changed, and we've kind of evolved with that. Now, one thing I've also seen, you know, journalists much smarter than may have commented on that, this AI is almost like the .com bust version two. And what did we see happen? 

Sam Torres  31:24  
Well, we did see, you know, unfortunately, some industries did decline, right. So talking about the reference books and encyclopedias, those companies, you know, had to reimagine how they're going to run their business and generate their profits. So I think there there is some, you know, some areas where there is going to be change, and it is going to be painful. 

Sam Torres  31:46  
But on the other side, also look at all of the job creation that that .com bust did, like produced! We wouldn't have jobs without it. Well, I mean, I'm assuming we'd still have jobs, it's just wouldn't be this one. So, you know, I think it's, we're in kind of that... we're gonna see, you know, really what... what doesn't survive anymore because of that. 

Sam Torres  32:11  
And it is terrifying and you know Sarah, you were talking about, I'm seeing...we're seeing a lot of people who are choosing to replace their content writers with AI. 

Sam Torres  32:21  
Think it's, you know, there's a lot of conversations about why that's a little too soon. There's bias in AI, we can't cite everything, fact-checking, right? There's, there's a lot to that. 

Sam Torres  32:32  
But also, at the end of the day, our jobs have changed so much that it's almost like, 'No, it's just our skill set is going to change'. Because I even think about just in the last five years, as an SEO, suddenly, we're talking about Amazon SEO, and TikTok SEO, and YouTube SEO. 

Sam Torres  32:52  
And if you had told me 10 years ago, that part of my job would be how to optimize on Amazon and YouTube, I'd be like 'No, that's somebody else...that's somebody else completely.' So it's just we are constantly evolving. And because we are young, I think is one of the reasons why we are changing so quickly. Because there's no mold for us to fit yet, right? 

Sam Torres  33:15  
I've...I've been fortunate, I've been talking to some more established marketers who got started in the traditional and have moved to digital. And this, like, a lot of people still have no idea what SEO is, and still have this idea of like we're sacrificing goats to Google in the back room. I mean, it's just...

Tory Gray  33:34  
All that snake oil and stuff. Yep. 

Sam Torres  33:37  
Yeah. So I think there's just...also I want to...I just want to add the lens of our job has already been changing rapidly as an industry. I think AI is just bringing some clarity or framing some of it, that it's a little bit more visible to us right now.

Tory Gray  33:56  
Yeah. You know, at the same time, I don't want to undersell it, because I feel the AI things that have been happening this year have been nothing short of seismic. And I don't think we've seen this much change in the SEO industry. I mean, I think that predates Google, like this much rapid change, all the time, when there's so many new stories. And like the rapid clip at which things were changing, right, like new newsletters, new things, we learned about the Samsung's of the world, and this mistake, and that mistake, and who's getting sued. 

Tory Gray  34:31  
So I'm very happy, frankly, that that's slowed down a little bit and that it's having some well-deserved, right-sizing, frankly. Like there was so much news about it all the time, and there was so much potential. 

Tory Gray  34:45  
And like any new product launch, like it gets really big, and then it has that kind of normal slump after where we figure out here's the use cases. Here's its limitations. Oh wait, they're getting sued. We'll have to see how that nets out and what does this mean for copyright law? And like legal implications of all of these things. 

Tory Gray  35:03  
So I'm glad it has slowed down a little bit. I think it also will have other future periods of rapid change. So brace yourselves in some way. But, I don't know, I'm thinking about like cross-training or...

Tory Gray  35:19  
Because I think it's easy to say, frankly, that in the world of, especially technical SEO, where we sit, it has changed less. But if you're in the field of copywriting, I think your world has changed a lot more. And I don't want to... I don't know invalidate their experience where... how many content firms have shut down this year? 

Tory Gray  35:39  
It is a different environment. 

Tory Gray  35:41  
And how many in-house teams or companies have let go their entire team or they're down to a skeleton crew. It has been seismic, and we'll see how it shakes out. But I agree that let's rightsize it, let's use it as a tool. Let's not think we can replace every single human on our team, because you can't. And the experts, the expert copywriters can look at that copy and they know why it's not hitting in ways that you or I are not content experts, can't necessarily tell. 

Tory Gray  36:13  
And you might think that that means your customers can't tell. But I think it adds up over time. There's an authenticity, there's a human connection. There's something there that's a little more indefinable. That I think we would all... I don't know, we have to remind ourselves over time, so let's not put too many eggs in this basket. But let's explore it. Seriously. 

Sam Torres  36:36  
I agree with that.

Begüm Kaya  36:38  
And I was going to say that I'm already overwhelmed with the amount of content that we get from AI and how interesting that is to interact with and identify - what are the downfalls, and what can be done and not? 

Tory Gray  36:52  
Yes, yes, yes, yes.

Begüm Kaya  36:54  
So I don't know if I'm simplifying it, but I feel like we are talking over another subject, about everything that we have been having a conversation about. So it's just like a new field that we're entering, yes. But the amount of data or at least say content that we get is a little bit difficult to deal with, at least for me at this time. 

Sam Torres  37:23  
Oh, it can be very overwhelming, yes.

Begüm Kaya  37:24  
Definitely, the news that are coming with it are also very overwhelming.

Sam Torres  37:28  
Yes. There's so many pieces to it. And yeah, even just you know, Sarah, I mentioned how it is sped up some of your processes. There are so many tools out there that figuring out which ones will be the right ones to help you, you know... 

Sam Torres  37:45  
I don't know about y'all, but sometimes I'm like, do I have a process? I don't know. I just kind of, because I'm an SEO, I just kind of come in and wing it. No, it's...Tory would never let me get away with being that improvisational. So clients, don't worry. But it is just, you know, try to figure out where, where are those wins? And yeah, it''s huge. It can be.

Sarah McDowell  38:11  
Just, just to add as well. So if we talk about Google's E-E-A-T, aight? How do you say that with the added 'E'? 

Tory Gray  38:21  
I like that - 'E-E-A-T'

Sarah McDowell  38:24  
I've heard someone else say that, that's... that's not a Sarah original, unfortunately. But, but one of those E's is experience, right? So something that I do think about is that like, AI - it doesn't... it can only regurgitate what is already out there. Do you know what I mean? Like what is already common knowledge, what is already... because it uses references from different sources and stuff like that. 

Sarah McDowell  38:49  
There is still... I think it's still important to show your experience. 

Sarah McDowell  38:54  
So me working for a... Captivate, a podcast hosting platform, there's still some things. So when I'm writing content... I'm a podcaster, myself, so I have experience, and I can add what's not already out there. 

Sarah McDowell  39:10  
What's my different angle? Do you know what I mean? 

Sarah McDowell  39:13  
So... and that's just one example of where AI falls down. Because yeah, like it doesn't have the, like, that kind of experience or like, someone an actual podcaster, doing podcasting things, and being able to write about that, right, as a... as an example. So yeah, I don't know where else I this story was gonna go, I think that's me, done.

Sam Torres  39:42  
Unique value, you gotta add it!

Tory Gray  39:43  
Yeah, I think that's interesting because we can create all the things, to what we've all been saying. 

Tory Gray  39:50  
Okay, but as soon as everyone can create everything at a drop of a hat, how valuable does that thing become? And how does that change our industry? So... we'll see how it evolves. 

Tory Gray  40:02  
But maybe having more of everything that's... probably not the highest quality... is not the winning formula for the future, although it's going to create chop and change and pain for us along the way. 

Tory Gray  40:12  
Because, well, Google is the one that's going to have to deal with it, in many ways, and we're all going to suffer as they plod their way through figuring that out, in order to make their users happy. 

Sam Torres  40:22  
Um hmm. Yep.

Question #5

If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice when you were just starting out, what would it be?

Begüm Kaya
That was a very beautiful wrapping up. Amazing. Thank you. So closing notes - I have a beautiful question hahaha for you all - if you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice when you're just starting out in SEO, or for Tazmin, consulting and coaching? What would that be?

Tazmin Suleman  40:54  
Should I jump in? 

Begüm Kaya  40:56  
Go ahead!

Tazmin Suleman  40:57  
I would say, take ownership of your career. See it as both a responsibility and a privilege. Don't leave it to anyone else, because no one else is going to know you as well as you know you. And if you don't know you, that's part of taking ownership, having that self-awareness. So you know, take some time out? It could be a day, a year, have a strategy day, where do you want your career? What do you want to learn? What do you want to build, what skills you want to develop? 

Tazmin Suleman  41:31  
This is...this is your career. 

Tazmin Suleman  41:33  
This is your life, have fun with it.  Put yourself in, but at the same time, don't leave that to someone else. Even the best-meaning, amazing manager. They are great to have in your life - don't rely on them. 

Tazmin Suleman  41:51  
Be... be a partnership with them, build connections. And I think that definitely the world now is so open to different opportunities, different ways of working, different modes of working, whether it's remote, or going around the world or doing whatever. 

Tazmin Suleman  42:11  
And never think that it's too early or too late to start doing that. I'm...I'm redesigning my life in my 50s. And for me, I tell people, I'm actually redesigning my life so that my retirement works for me. So the next 5, 10 years... it is to build a retirement, because when we retire, you're 65, 68. Most of us with a natural age span still have 10, 15, 20 years to live - what are you going to do? 

Tazmin Suleman  42:43  
I'd be I don't want to be knitting and gardening all of that time, I want to be speaking, I want to be writing, I want to be presenting. So it's building up my part-time retirement job from now. And again, don't think it's too early if you're 15, 17, 18, and you've got a vision of where you want to go. Brilliant, embrace it! You can change it. But again, you know, see it as like I said, both a privilege and a responsibility.

Sam Torres  43:16  

Tory Gray  43:16  
Love that insight.

Begüm Kaya  43:17  
Can I jump in at this point? Because it's very relevant to me what you have been saying, Tazmin, but definitely have... having a support network. Also partners who are going to hold your hand through this. It's very, very valuable. So thank you, the Gray Dot Company. 

Tory Gray  43:34  
Thank you!

Begüm Kaya  43:35  
And yeah...

Tory Gray  43:38  
I'll jump in because my answer is also pretty similar. The short answer being just find your people. I would argue there's no job in the world that is not made better by working with people you like and respect. You know, you know you're not alone. They can help you grow and they hold you accountable. And they're there with you on the journey. And it matters for everybody. Every job.

Sarah McDowell  44:07  
Love it! Is it my turn? Is it my turn to... I have had time to think of a cheesy tagline. You ready? 

Sarah McDowell  44:14  
'Get comfortable with the uncomfortable.' 

Sam Torres  44:17  
Ooh, okay. 

Sarah McDowell  44:18  
Yeah? So I feel like we've covered there, Tazmin the accountability, like, take ownership. And we've also covered the like, finding your people, like... people that can support and help you grow. So mine would be yeah, you have to get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable, because things go wrong. Right? 

Sarah McDowell  44:43  
And I remember when the first thing went wrong in my job, and I wasn't prepared. And it really shook me. And it started... it got me questioning 'Am I a good SEO? Am I good at what I do?', right? Things go wrong all the time, but the reason you don't know about it is because people don't post about it. 

Sarah McDowell  45:05  
People don't go, 'Hey, I effed up.' Do you know what I mean? 

Sarah McDowell  45:08  
And so it's getting, like... yeah, people make mistakes all the time. So don't worry, at the end of the day, the biggest thing that can go wrong, I don't know, a website goes down. Yeah? 

Sarah McDowell  45:20  
That's...that's probably the biggest thing or like money stops coming in. So cut yourself some slack. Things go wrong! And yeah, I'm gonna say that tagline again. Hopefully, I won't get sued, because I've obviously heard it from somewhere else, haven't I? Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Sam Torres  45:08  
I love that. And for reference, I absolutely did delete a client's website early in my career. Thankfully, I had it backup in four hours, because I had just taken a local backup. Yeah, those, those leaks definitely happen. Most of what I know about website infrastructure hosting, and especially email servers, I'll say right now is because I've broken it before, and then had to fix it. So...

Sam Torres  46:08  
I have to say, I guess a pivotal turning point for me in my work-life balance, and in this career, was when someone did finally tell me 'You're not curing cancer.' 

Sam Torres  46:21  
And it's like, 'Oh, I'm just making a bunch of white dudes richer.' Because the particular agency I was in and it was not... yeah, I think the other thing I'd probably advise myself is, "Don't work there.' 

Sam Torres  46:37  
Just kind of that perspective of like, hey, it's, like Sarah said it... mistakes happen, it's going to be okay. You know, just, you're not the only one. 

Sam Torres  46:49  
But then I'd say what's impacting my life most right now was the advice that I was given by someone else of being authentic. And I think that does really blend a lot into Tazmin, what you were saying, because I also, you know, I think about that agency that I worked at, and I dealt with a lot of things that no person should have to deal with, or, you know... for all of us, we're women in a very technical space. 

Sam Torres  47:13  
And sometimes we have to deal with situations that, frankly, we shouldn't have to. And when I was younger, if I had been more authentic to myself, I would have probably stood up for myself in that moment instead of just taking it. So be yourself. 

Sam Torres  47:29  
And the other side, I say to that is, in... early in my career, once I started becoming a manager, I thought I had to fill a certain role or emulate and look a certain way. And what that actually did is alienate my team. And it hurt people that I really cared about. 

Sam Torres  47:49  
And realizing that it's because, whether someone can articulate it or not, they recognize that something is artificial about you when you're not being authentic. And so that really changes all of your communication and the trust that's there. So yeah, like my first roles as managers, as a manager, I hurt a lot of people because I was trying to be something else. 

Sam Torres  48:13  
I was trying to be a different kind of leader because I thought that's the one I'm supposed to be, instead of coming to work and being Sam and having purple hair and tattoos and just being a little not-safe-for-work sometimes.

Sam Torres  48:26  
So, well I... yeah, I have fun. And I live my life. And I want everybody else to do the same. So yeah, shorten that with: be authentic. Be yourself.

Tory Gray  48:37  
We're getting deep here, y'all.

Sam Torres  48:39  
We are. I like it! Well, this was absolutely wonderful. Thank you, Sarah and Tazmin for joining us and to my cohosts Tory and Begüm. Always lovely. 

Tory Gray  48:51  

Sam Torres  48:52  
Sarah and Tazmin, where can people find you?

Sarah McDowell  48:56  
We are everywhere. 

Sam Torres  48:58  
I love that.

Sarah McDowell  48:58  
Everywhere. Before I say all the way, say the ways to get in contact. Just want to say thank you to for inviting us to be on this podcast. It has been awesome. It's been really good to chat with you all. I think it's been a really good, open, transparent, and just like an honest conversation, hasn't it? And it's made my heart full. So thank you. Thank you very much. 

Sarah McDowell  49:26  
So yeah, the best way is, so our podcast, go to and check out all of our episodes there. So we are a podcast that focuses on career development, personal development growth. 

Sarah McDowell  49:46  
We talk about subjects like this, but also like... burnout, impostor syndrome, anxiety, time management, so all of that lovely stuff we talk about. And yeah, I am SarahMcDuk on most social media channels. Someone did point out to me that that spells out 'Sarah McDuck.' So there you go. Tazmin over to you.

Tazmin Suleman  50:12  
So yeah, or LinkedIn are probably the best ways and for Women in Tech, obviously our Slack community is another place where you can easily find me. And, and obviously, again, the podcasts because Sara and I feel so passionately about supporting people in the industry with mental health issues, soft skill issues, all of the things that help you in your SEO career that aren't SEO. So yeah, those are the best places to find me.

Tory Gray  50:48  
Thanks again for joining us, it's been awesome.

Sam Torres  50:50  
Yes, and thank you for joining Opinionated SEO Opinions. If you have any questions about SEO soft skills or hard skills, we would love to answer them. Just submit them at and we will see you next time.

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