As Global Organic Search Lead at Omega Engineering, Gaizka Nunez works with teammates from all over the world. For Humans of Marketing, he talks about the challenges of global SEO, the importance of learning from others, and the value of digging in, building your own websites, and testing things for yourself.
Christine: I would love to start at the beginning and talk about your career path. What got you into marketing? What got you started down the path that has led you to where you are today?
Gaizka: I’m an engineer, and I started working at Omega as an engineer. There were two of us focused on the Spanish market — I’m Spanish, by the way, I guess you guessed that. It was only the two of us, so we needed to do everything. We were doing organic, we were doing PPC, and we were doing traditional marketing as well, so we were managing all of the magazines and, of course, the customers.
It was working well in Spain, so a couple of years later, they gave me the opportunity to go to the UK and take over EMEA.
We just changed the way we work. So rather than focusing per market and doing everything for that market, we created teams for organic, PPC, creative, and so on.
The strategy is becoming global, and at the end of the day, we want to have the same strategy everywhere in the world. So we want to do more or less the same thing in England and in the States, rather than fighting for the same traffic.
Christine: I’d love to hear about how that was different — how going from focusing on a lot of different channels and one region, to focusing on global SEO, has changed your day-to-day. And maybe also, what’s different about organic? What makes working in organic special?
Gaizka: Well, I really like organic. I guess that’s why I was offered this position — everyone knew that this is the thing I like the most.
Christine: We love organic the most too.
Gaizka: Of course. It’s because we are the best. We rule the world.
Anyway, as you say, it’s just different work, you know? Before, it was easier aligning your organic strategy with your PPC strategy because you were doing everything. So if you created an article, let’s say, for this journey, at this state, you already knew what was missing in that journey, and you were going to fill that gap with PPC.
However, what we are doing right now is focusing just myself in organic, just Patrick in PPC…so now we need to open these tunnels and we need to align our strategy and our tactics with our colleagues. That’s the challenge. We need to have good communication, and we need to talk every day. We need to know exactly what our colleagues are doing.
Christine: Yeah, that totally makes sense. I would actually love to dive a bit deeper into the way you align these strategies. How do you spread the word about organic and share your insights across other teams? And how do you share your wins within Omega to make sure people are hearing about organic and understanding what they can do with it?
Gaizka: Well, we are still at the beginning of the journey. We are migrating the websites right now, and we are changing everything, absolutely everything. So right now, we are more focused on not losing traffic in the migration.
We’re tracking all of our keywords with Conductor, and we’re using Google Analytics for traffic. If we see that we are losing a lot of visibility in one of our technologies, for one of our most important keywords, we know we need to freeze that gap and invest more money in PPC.
We’re going to recover that traffic at the end of the day. Let’s say in one month, two months, three months or whatever, we’re going to recover that organic traffic. So it needs to be completely dynamic. Every week we need to adjust everything.
Christine: Migrations are always very stressful for SEO teams, for web dev teams, for everybody that has content on a site. And obviously you’re playing a really important role in managing that. To shift gears a little bit, what inspires you? What motivates you and fuels you?
Gaizka: It’s different from other jobs. For instance, I was in sales. In sales, you sell something and you are happy. Someone has a problem and you solve that problem. You say, “Oh, yeah, this is going to help you,” and then everyone’s happy.
But here it’s different. You don’t know who you are helping — they are numbers, and you can’t put a face to a number. But it’s fun to say, “Oh, yeah, I’m going to create this content. I’m going to amend this title. I’m going to put an image here,” and in two weeks, you see that number going up, and you can say, “Oh, that’s me.” That is quite rewarding.
It’s something that you can be proud of — you do something and you see the effects. You can see actually that the number is going up.
Of course, if you do something wrong, you see the number going down. But that’s the funny thing, isn’t it?
Christine: You can see your hand at work.
Gaizka: That’s right.
Christine: How about outside of work? I did notice in your LinkedIn that you were a photographer for a little while. What are things you do outside of work that help you get new perspectives as a marketer?
Gaizka: Well, the interesting thing about this job is that you can try it by yourself. It’s not, like, physics or mathematics, where you have a book and you know, oh yeah, this is hot because I’m putting fire there.
There are some great guys who are trying things, testing things, and telling us, “The best thing is to do this and that.” But it’s based on a test. And Google tends to hide everything. So you need to try it for yourself as well. But it is something that you can try. Nowadays you can have a website really, really cheap, really, really easy. Even my mom has a blog. So I have a couple of blogs for testing some things. Nothing important. But you can test it yourself, and you can say, “Oh, look, I’m getting 10 more people than yesterday, because I changed that. So, yeah, that guy was right.”
So, I have a couple of blogs that I am a bit embarrassed of, but that’s the funny thing. No one needs to know my name.
Christine: Talk to me about your team a little bit. How do you work with the other members of your team? What does that process and structure look like, and how do you communicate with the people you work with who aren’t on your team?
Gaizka: I’m based in England, in the U.K. office, which is the headquarters of EMEA. So this is really a fantastic office, because you have people from all over Europe. Working with people from other countries, it’s a wonderful experience, because you really learn a lot from them, not only at a professional level, but on a personal level. We are so different, and at the same time, we are all people.
Right now, there are only two people working here in marketing, in EMEA. We talk with people in Japan, in Korea, in China, and our team in the States. It’s fantastic, because I might know about organic, but we have other colleagues in the States who are really good in, let’s say, video or PPC. So we’re learning a lot from each other. You can know a lot about one thing, but if you have a bigger picture, it’s always better.
Christine: What makes Omega in particular a special place to work? What makes it different from other engineering companies?
Gaizka: Omega was the first time I worked outside of Spain. When I came here to EMEA, I was so surprised to find that you can be happy working. That feeling, it’s something I didn’t have until I came here. So it’s a bit of everything. I wouldn’t be able to say just one thing. It’s everything. And I have free coffee, so that helps.
Christine: Always helps. What have you worked on at Omega that you’re most proud of? I know it’s hard to narrow it down to one thing.
Gaizka: That’s a tricky one. Something that I should be proud of is that no one was doing this before in EMEA. No one was taking care of the digital aspect; no one was doing anything in particular with the website. So as soon as you start doing something, even a little thing, Google just is really happy, and you have a big boost in traffic. We’re talking about 250% improvement, or something like that.
So you can look back and say, “Wow, that’s fantastic.” You’re helping everyone. You might think that traffic is traffic, but that traffic is going to turn into sales. So I like to think that I helped somehow.
Christine: Don’t worry. I’m not trying to force you to take full credit. I know a lot of these things are team efforts. That’s part of what makes organic great. What’s something that you’re working on that you’re excited about? What’s something you’re looking forward to?
Gaizka: The migration.
Christine: You’re looking forward to it? That’s a good sign.
Gaizka: Yeah. We need to migrate, like, 25 websites. We have migrated 2 so far. So it’s a bit challenging, but the idea is that the more times you do it, the better you are going to get.
Right now we’re spending a lot of time on the American website because we need to learn from our mistakes and learn how Google is understanding our new website. So hopefully instead of months, the next one will take weeks, and the next will take one week. Maybe the last one, we’re going to do it in one hour. So that’s something that I am looking forward to, to see our improvement in doing this.
Christine: What’s something you would tell somebody considering a migration? Is there any advice you would give to somebody considering that process? It’s something that a lot of people know should be done and want to do, but have to get other people’s buy-in for because of the potential pitfalls. Do you have any advice for somebody about to go through that process?
Gaizka: Well, they need to plan it. Everyone needs to plan their migration. Every migration is different. Our migration is a full migration, a complete migration. Really radical. We’re changing the structure, the internal linking of the URLs, the names of the images, even our database is changed. It’s like starting from scratch.
I would advise someone to just test it, and test it, and test it, and test it. If you need to spend six months, one year testing it in a testing environment, that’s going to be good. No rush. Then do it and migrate it. Don’t feel bad if you’re dropping traffic. Don’t feel bad if things are not working. Afterward, you need to be fast enough to do damage control, especially on SEO, and you need to have already some bridges of communication built in. You need to accept that you’re going to have fluctuations in traffic, and you need to make the managers understand that’s going to happen.
Christine: Do you guys have any processes in place at Omega to promote what you’re doing in SEO? To talk about the wins, show people what you’ve done?
Gaizka: We normally have, once a month, something called a marketing lab. If someone wants to show something, to share something with the team, that would be the moment. It’s fantastic. It’s a way for us to connect on the big picture, to know what our colleagues are doing.
And then, we have colleagues all over the world, in Japan, in Korea, in China. We also need to make them part of the team. We need to train them and we need to show them how to do things. So I have weekly meetings with them for show and tell.
Christine: Do you also work with any other teams outside of the marketing team, providing organic data or insights?
Gaizka: Yeah. We have a team keeping everything updated on the website. So they need to learn or to know a bit of SEO. Just the basics. We cannot pretend that everyone is going to do our job. But they should know that the title is important, that we should add a description. That the description should include 150 characters, or that it would be ideal if you could add a call to action.
But at the end of the day, it’s something that we need to check ourselves on. I don’t want to say that they haven’t done it well, or that they aren’t doing it correctly. It’s just that they are not experts in that area.
Christine: I’m going to ask you a two-parter, so get excited. What’s one brand new thing you’re trying out, or a new skill you’re learning this year in marketing, and what’s one new thing you’re learning outside of work?
Gaizka: One thing that I would like to learn about is the new big data approach that everyone is having. Like using, for instance, Python or something like that, to see if it’s going to be helpful for my job or not.
Then outside, I don’t know if this is the answer that you’re looking for, but I’m trying to learn how to brew my own beer.
Christine: Oh, wow. What kind of beer?
Gaizka: Something drinkable at the beginning.
Christine: Our in-house SEO wanted to make a beer based on search volume for ingredients that he was going to call Hoptimize.
Gaizka: That sounds really geeky.
Christine: Yeah. So how are you working on that? Are you just doing it at home? Do you have a setup already?
Gaizka: Well, I wouldn’t say that I have a brewery in my house. I bought a big pot and all the tools you need. I made my first disgusting and undrinkable beer, which is good. I mean, I didn’t die in the process.
Christine: That’s the first step.
Gaizka: That’s right. So I was really happy. I mean, it’s just for fun. You can go to the supermarket, and you can buy a drink. But you need to have a hobby.
Christine: Let’s transition and talk a little bit about SEO. Digital marketing in general — I don’t have to tell you this, but I’ll do it anyway — it’s changing all the time. New stuff is happening, Google is changing, it’s nonstop. Do you read or watch anything in particular to stay up on digital marketing or SEO trends and topics?
Gaizka: A long time ago, I Googled, “best SEO bloggers to follow,” and you come across these posts with 50 bloggers. So I took every one of those to Feedly, and I started following people.
It’s a dynamic process. In Feedly, you’re able to see which blogs you are reading the most, and which ones you are not reading. So if I notice that I’m not reading any of those, I get rid of them and put in new ones. One of the things that I can do, of course, because I speak English and Spanish, I can follow both languages. We also have some really good SEO guys in Spain.
The English SEO is really good if you want to know something that is happening. But the Spanish ones are a bit different. They tend to write about how to do something, and they’ll have really, really long posts. So they have a different approach. It’s more actionable.
But I wouldn’t say, I really love this guy, or I really don’t like this one. I couldn’t say just one person, to be honest.
Christine: That’s actually very interesting. We were just having a discussion about one of our SEO leaders speaking at a conference, and he has this very high-level vision for what search intelligence can be, and now we’re working on getting more tactical, actionable things into the talk. We’re talking about trends so often that it can be hard to get really in depth. So that’s very cool that the Spanish SEOs have found their niche there.
Gaizka: Yeah. Different country, different approach.
Christine: That’s obviously a huge benefit of global SEO, being able to dip into another market’s resources and learn how they’re doing SEO over there. Is there anything challenging about approaching SEO globally in so many different markets, and connecting with those audiences at a local level?
Gaizka: Yeah. So you can imagine, language is one of those. There are some amazingly difficult languages, like German, with really long words. You come across words in German that don’t translate into English. So that’s challenging, to find the keywords or what you need to write about.
The other challenge — it might sound more trivial, but it’s really important — is international cannibalization. So, for instance, we have different websites. The English one, and the English version of the States, they are fighting each other if we are not doing things correctly. That’s a serious problem, because you want people to be addressed to the correct website, to the correct market.
Christine: To make a little switch, there’s one more piece of advice I wanted to get from you. What advice would you give somebody who is considering, at the start of their career, going into SEO or organic marketing?
Gaizka: Don’t trust when someone is telling you that you can double or triple, or have five times more traffic in two weeks. Those guys are just looking for your money. Just have your own pace, and try everything by yourself. Open a blog or a website, about something you like. Any sport you like, or any hobby you have. Just create it, write it, and start testing things.
This is how you learn things, by testing for yourself.
Christine: Gotcha. The final two questions are a little bit more fun. Is there a song that you’re playing on repeat, or artists that you like to listen to when you need to get focused or get pumped up?
Gaizka: I really like British music from the ’70s.
Gaizka: Hopefully no one is going to be angry with me, because you know, they have like this kind of war between America and Britain in the ’70s, of which has the best music. But I will say the British won.
Christine: That’s actually a great, great point. I’m a big fan of Brit pop too. So I appreciate the sensitivity, but I think that we’re okay.
Then finally, our strange closer here is, thinking about all the things you’ve Googled in your life, what’s the weirdest (work-appropriate) thing that you’ve Googled?
Gaizka: The first time I used my voice to Google something, it was 10 or 15 years ago, something like that. I did it in Spanish. I don’t remember exactly what I said, or what I was looking for. But what Google understood was, “Porn on bicycles.” Porn movies on bicycles.
Christine: Oh! Oh my.
Gaizka: I said, what is this? I’m not going to use voice search anymore. This is not working, and it’s not going to work ever.