Tyler Brewer, Senior SEO Manager at LogMeIn, spoke to us about how difficult it can be to explain the “why” of certain SEO strategies, and reminded us that it’s important to dig into the past when reporting on SEO victories. He also shared his passion for music and reading, and explained why it’s great to be at a company that recognizes the people behind the work.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Christine: How did you get started in marketing?
Tyler: I’ve always been a performer. Since fourth grade, I’ve been singing in choirs. I did theater in high school, more as a leisure activity, something fun to do with friends. When I went to college at Boston University, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do, and I was hoping that talking to people would help me figure it out.
A lot of the theater friends I made were telling me, “I’m in the college of communications. I’m in the school of communications.” Whether it was the advertising track, or the communications studies track, or the PR track, it seemed to be what all the theater kids were doing if they weren’t going to school for theater or for music. It was the perfect meeting point of me wanting to perform and convince an audience of something, while being strategic in business about how my skills and interests meet up. Even an interview or presentation is like a theater performance.
So I declared my major as communications, and eventually got a double major in international relations too. In my senior year of college, I started doing internships. A lot of folks were saying, “You’ve really got to start getting those unpaid internships in early so that you will have experience when you graduate. You’ll be a better applicant.” I started at a small boutique agency called Overdrive Interactive, as a media planning intern. When they had some of their staff leave, I got to work on some SEO and SEM projects that I really took to.
So when I was looking for my first job out of college, I found a search marketing internship at an agency, iProspect, that would give me an entry-level position after three to six months of a successful intern program. They really taught me everything I needed to know about SEO and SEM. They offer tracks in SEO and SEM, as well as an integrated SEO-SEM position. One day, they said, “You’re more than welcome to do both. You’re more than welcome to pick one. What would you like?” And I said to myself, “Oh my god, I see all those managers on the paid search side of things doing billing at the beginning of every month. I do not want to do that ever. I’ll pick SEO please.”
That’s what led me on this path to where I am right now. I’ve been doing this since 2011, and it was around that time when some of the big changes to SEO and Google search were happening. But I realized when I was at iProspect, the reason I like doing search and the reason I like SEO is I like knowing what people are looking for. Browsing behavior on the internet is so much different than search behavior. Browsing is just going from one screen to the next, seeing what can entertain you. When you’re searching for something, how you’re looking for something and your means of getting there is fascinating. How well and how quickly are you getting to that answer?
Christine: Tell me a little more about what inspires you as a marketer. What brings meaning to your job?
Tyler: SEO is really just a reflection of reality. A lot of times we are saying, “I want to rank for this term. I want to be visible on this term. I want to start getting traffic from this term.” It’s really a matter of convincing your stakeholders that in order to be visible, in order to rank, you have to make that a reality on your website. It’s helping businesses tell a story so that it can be found by search engines. There are so many good things that a company or a business might do, and they might just seem like small little processes, but they might be the tipping point on someone’s user journey.
It’s about helping businesses realize that what they do is important, and helping them flesh that out into a story that users can digest and find useful. That’s what motivates me. In some ways SEO is a very aspirational field—I want to rank on this term, how do I do it? But the reality is, we’re not going to show up for things that we don’t have on the website. So it’s about convincing businesses to build content around those terms. And it’s that selling that I love to do.
Christine: Tell me a little bit about what you’re excited to be working on right now. Are there any particular causes or campaign?
Tyler: Yeah, there’s one with lastpass.com, which is one of the primary products in my business unit. We just launched LastPass Identities, which is an enterprise identity solution. We took password management and added in single sign-on and multifactor authentication to round out what we can offer to enterprise businesses. Now that we’ve launched the product, what’s getting me excited is thinking about how to evolve the website to reflect the wonderful new aspects of our product lineup. How do we educate customers about what our product is and what its features are, so that we can convince more people that LastPass is their go-to identity solution? A lot of that is figuring out what people don’t know about identity management, and what people don’t know about cybersecurity and password security.
And then, it doesn’t matter if you’re SEO, or display, or media, or whatever, a big part of any marketing effort is finding that little gold nugget and figuring out how to get more value out of it. Last year we built a landing page around a term that we would have definitely ranked for anyway. But by building a landing page dedicated to that term, we improved conversion rate, and we saw triple-digit incremental increases in traffic year over year for that particular keyword.
So now what I’m doing is, I’m saying, “This term is great, this feature is wonderful, but how do we map that onto how the product works on all of these features and platforms?” It’s about taking those things that work and figuring out how we can prolong their value or continue to add value. It’s always nice to find something that works, but then you have to figure out ways to keep that success alive.
Christine: Right, SEO isn’t something that you can check the box once and then you’re good forever. What do you do within your organization to keep SEO front of mind and make sure people are investing in it? How do you help foster a culture where SEO insights are part of what people consider?
Tyler: Bravery is the number one thing. It takes courage to talk about things that have already come to pass. I just sent a quick success update to some of the executives in my business unit about a page that we built over a year and a half ago. This quarter, that landing page got over a million visits and is by far the highest traffic driving landing page across organic search, referral traffic, and direct traffic. While a lot of the traffic is coming from direct and from referral as well as organic searches, this was an SEO-driven idea that is providing even more value outside of the channel. So it’s about not being afraid to say, “I know this was a year ago, but look how well this thing is still doing.”
Executives are happy that it’s still continuing to drive value, and that leads us into conversations like, “What can we do to our other campaigns to help prolong value?” It helps me get that buy-in for SEO elements of product marketing campaigns. It takes bravery to report on things that happened in the past, because nowhere else in the marketing world are people talking about things that they did a year ago. But it’s the things that I did a year ago that are driving performance now, and I can’t be afraid to bowl forward with things that we need to do now, but which we’re not going to feel until about a year and a half from now. You need that kind of bravery.
Christine: I would love to hear more about your team. What does it look like, and how do you talk to other teams?
Tyler: We have SEO managers for each of our business units, and each of those business units have anywhere from three to five websites underneath them. So a lot of what we talk about is, “This was a successful tactic for us. Is there a way we can extrapolate that across the other business units?” Sometimes they’re very deep-in-the-weeds tactics, like adding ratings and reviews schema markup to feature pages. But then a lot of it is coming together and thinking at a very high level about the things we’re struggling with.
One of the things we were struggling when I joined LogMeIn was that we weren’t getting things implemented. We were spending time making recommendations, but our product owners didn’t have any reason to implement anything. So we went in search of a tool that could help quantify our efforts, and that tool was Conductor. We’ve been using the features within Conductor, like the business case tool, to quantify what our efforts can get us, and that gets people on board. Now we have that evidence and we have those case studies to say, “This works, SEO works. Give us this resource. Give us more resources to develop the website.”
I work in-house, and I’m dealing with product marketing folks, web and e-comm folks, product folks, and demand gen, providing whatever insights we can to those teams. One piece of evangelization that I need to be better at is communicating how my SEO insights affect what others do. For example, I need to make sure we’re speaking to the paid search teams enough to say, “Hey, these are the non-branded terms you should be bidding on, or these are the non-branded terms you should be pulling back spend on because we’re doing great in organic.”
It’s about being a little bit more creative, more thoughtful. I have to say, “I have this data point that means this for SEO,” and then take it that one extra step and say, “This is what this insight could mean for you as well.” That’s when I connect with other teams, when I go one step further and think about how the data that I’m analyzing could affect other people’s day to day.
Christine: Tell me a little bit about LogMeIn as an organization. What makes it a great place to work?
Tyler: LogMeIn is such a great and supportive organization. They really believe that we are the cream of the crop, that we are the most talented people out there, and they will do whatever they have to do to support that. And LogMeIn believes in SEO. They believe they need to do it. They see that it’s a considerable chunk of the pie when it comes to our website’s e-comm and web traffic. My job is to help them realize why it’s important. They know we need to do it, but they don’t always know why.
At an agency, you have an idea, you have a tactic, and you have to describe everything. You need a full tactical plan baked and ready to go for your clients. But at LogMeIn, they trust that you’re telling them the right thing, and they don’t need all of the slides upfront that talk about why SEO is important. They just want to know, “What do we do? What do you think we’re going to get out of it? How did you come to this conclusion?” It’s them knowing that we will do our due diligence that has opened up my intellectual curiosity.
Christine: The way companies are able to handle remote employees can be interesting—it can show you whether your employer is treating you like a grownup or not.
Tyler: Yeah. LogMeIn has a series of business priorities. Right when I joined, the CEO, Bill Wagner, said that their top business priority was making sure that their employees were happy and satisfied. It was only after they had actual measurable metrics that indicated an improvement in their employees’ happiness and wellbeing that they felt confident enough to move that to second priority. Then, business growth and revenue moved into the top position.
Another thing that really resonates with me is people who can speak to the dichotomy of living. Last year we had a nice end-of-year marketing all-hands meeting and our VP of Marketing, Alison Duran, said something along the lines of, “We want to take a moment to celebrate all of the major milestones, and wedding anniversaries, and engagements, and babies, but we also want to acknowledge the people who are not having a great year and the fact that it’s tough sometimes.” The acknowledgement that not everyone is happy all the time still resonates with me to this day. At LogMeIn, they will let you take the time you need, whether that’s vacation time or working remotely, to do the things that you need to do to make yourself happy, because that’s when your job performance is at its most optimal.
Christine: Great employers also invest in development and helping their employees continue to grow—what is something that you’re learning this year?
Tyler: Agile processes and scrum ceremonies. Our web and e-comm team works pretty much exclusively as scrum teams. We weren’t really aligned with that when I first started, and I thought the best way to speak to the people who are the gatekeepers to getting things deployed on the website is to speak their language and be in their processes.
Learning about the agile product development process has been really, really interesting. I’m learning how to manage our time and manage our workload, because we get requests from a lot of external stakeholders and that takes away time from SEO-driven initiatives.
Christine: So we’ve talked about what you’re learning, and what you’re working on. What are you most proud of having done in the past?
Tyler: My performance and membership with the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus. Like I mentioned before, I’m a performer at heart. I sing with anywhere from 150 to 200 other guys three times a year in one of the most acoustically perfect auditoriums in the world. I could not be prouder of all of the work that we do, because we create musical experiences to help change hearts and minds, and we provide community for folks who might not know who they are yet, and who want to explore how to be themselves. I’ve gotten to travel the world and perform in some of the most amazing performance spaces with the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus.
Right now, I co-chair the membership services. So I’m helping with the programming of how are we make sure our members feel fulfilled and happy and welcome. Staffing the Membership Services Committee and running that has been some of my proudest work, because I see people enjoying themselves, and I see them being themselves, and I see the community and the friends that they make. What really excites me and invigorates me is seeing people being themselves fully and authentically. I seek out experiences and opportunities to be with people who are living their authentic selves. I get a lot of that at LogMeIn too, because they’re so supportive. They want us to be happy with who we are and how we live our lives.
If you’re a marketer, we want to know your story. We would love to consider you for Conductor’s weekly feature, Humans of Marketing.
Christine: That’s awesome. What’s the best piece of advice you have for somebody just getting started in marketing?
Tyler: Don’t take it personally. Don’t take anything personally. I like to pay attention to detail; I do a lot of research around why we should do things a certain way. And early in my career I would get easily offended if someone was asking probing questions, as if the research and work that I had done wasn’t enough for them to comprehend what I was asking them to do. But it’s really not a dig at your work, it’s about that person trying to understand. People have different levels of understanding of what you do, and SEO is not necessarily something easy to grasp. It’s complex, even when it seems easy to you because you’ve been doing it for years.
It’s something I’m still working on in a lot of ways, and it’s something I’ll continue to work on. You just can’t take things in business personally. If things don’t get done immediately, that’s fine. Things will continue on. You need to be gentle on yourself.
Christine: That’s an important one, because the way you treat yourself affects you a lot, and it affects how others treat you. Can you take me a little further into the process of how you share your wins internally?
Tyler: I send the Director of Web and E-comm, the product owner of my website, and the two marketing leads for my business unit a bi-weekly email that has a highlight and a lowlight. That’s usually around some sort of data, whether that’s a landing page improving, keywords improving. And then I share the work that I completed in one sprint and then the work plan for the next sprint, so they get the larger story of what my work is all about.
Christine: How do you tell that story when you’re looking for budget or headcount or something that you feel is necessary for success?
Tyler: I wish there was something more complex to talk about, but it’s really just speaking up. It’s saying, “We need to have monthly check ins. We need to have a quarterly business review.” We want you to hold us accountable, and we want to tell you why things are going well or not going well so that we can get those resources or additional headcount. It’s just about being brave and saying, “Hey, I put together this report. I think you’d find it really interesting, and I’m going to tell you why it matters to you.”
Christine: What do you read, or watch, or listen to for new ideas? Are there any particular thought leaders, podcasts, Twitter accounts, books, or any other recommendations we can give to the wider audience?
Tyler: I love Search Engine Journal and Search Engine Land, with the caveat that some of their writers are pretty much Google mouthpieces. You need to be willing to look under the hood at some of their ideas, because SEO best practices aren’t always best practices across the entirety of the internet. There are people out there who are crafting their own SEO models off their own API calls to Google search console and actually figuring out what aspects of their website are weighted the most in terms of organic search performance.
I also really like the SEO and Big SEO subreddits. I always tell people new to SEO that it is a good place to go and read what people who are in your position are struggling with. And if you’re further on in your SEO career, you can go in and practice answering some of the easy SEO questions in case you get asked those at work.
Christine: What’s something you do outside of work that makes you a better marketer?
Tyler: Reading is so crucial. When you read, you synthesize new means of communicating, or figure out more streamlined ways of communicating. I’m reading a book called Words That Work, which is about the fact that it’s not what you say, it’s what people hear. That is so important to any marketer. But I’m always reading all sorts of things, whether it’s fiction, nonfiction, business-related, not business-related. I also listen to The Daily by the New York Times every day, just to get a little snippet of some good reporting on what’s going on in the world.
Christine: What’s one song, or artist, or album on repeat for you right now?
Tyler: Oh yes. Chris, by Christine and the Queens. I’m dying to see her live. She’s doing the whole gender non-binary thing and taking the helm of her own career. She does all of her own production, and is working with all these cool artists. I just, I’m freaking in love with her.
Christine: She’s literally the coolest person in the world.
Tyler: I cannot stop listening to that album.
Christine: I love it. Tell me about a day in the life of Tyler. Let’s start with your morning routine.
Tyler: A day in my life starts with my cat daughter screaming at 4:35 AM for me to feed her. Then I’ll go back to sleep for another hour until my alarm goes off. I wake up and then try to do some brief floor exercises to wake my body up—I find that when I’m waking my body up, my mind wakes up a lot faster. Then my fiance and I get on the bus and on the train, and get to work. I like to get to work pretty early. I’m usually in between 7:45 and 8:00 because it’s quiet and I get a lot more done in the morning. Then I feel good about having an hour for lunch and leaving at 5:00.
When I come into work, I open my email, open my Slack, see if there are any messages, and then immediately dive into Conductor and some of the other analytics platforms to see how performance is doing. Then I check my Trello board and see what’s going on for the day. I’ve really liked taking on the agile approach to doing SEO because if I’m out sick or I’m on vacation, I already have my sprint plan. And if I’m coming back after not being in the office for a couple of days, I know exactly what I have to work on next. That is really, really nice.
Then I’m usually meeting with people within my business unit to see how projects are going, or to see how we can provide SEO value. And I like to read at lunch. It’s good to pause what’s going on in the workday to eat, read something, and let my mind breathe a little bit. I’m always listening to music at my desk, always.
If it’s a Wednesday, I usually hang around the office a little bit later because I have rehearsal from 7:00 to 10:00 on Wednesdays. And then I’m usually home with my fiance Tyler. Yes, his name is also Tyler.
Tyler: We’ve heard all the questions.
Tyler: We love to cook, cooking is one of our languages of love. So we cook together and then clean up, maybe watch a little TV or read and then go to bed. It’s simple living. A lot of the differentiation comes with what we do on the weekends and where we want to travel to and what friends we want to see. Being an adult is freaking hard. It’s balancing what you want to do and what you don’t get to do all the time, and keeping those relationships with your friends that are so important.
Chosen family is very important to me. As a queer individual who was blessed with a very accepting family, I know not all queer people are that lucky. Having a chosen family is super important to me. They’re the people that you call your family, but who you’re not forced to be around simply because you’re related. You genuinely like who they are and what they have to offer you and what you have to offer them. I just like being with people. I’m a social creature.
Christine: We all are, right? Even those of us that are introverts. So, two final things. One, what’s the weirdest work-appropriate thing you’ve ever Googled?
Tyler: When I first started out, one of my first clients was a pharmaceutical company that was offering a vaccine for HPV. So I had to Google all of the side effects and disease implications of HPV. I’m not afraid of the human body, but if I had to do another image alt tag for that website again, I was going to cry.
That was right around the time when Google came out with that thing where they would use your search history to try to figure out what demographic you were in. And they thought I was a 65-year-old woman who had so much going on. The websites I was working on had to do with type 2 diabetes, a high cholesterol drug, an HPV vaccine. There are a lot of weird things you end up googling when you’re doing SEO for a pharmaceutical company.
Christine: I can imagine that’s very true. Our final question—what does your ideal marketing community look like, and what would it do for you?Tyler: My ideal marketing community would be a community of people who are not afraid to do what is right, even if it won’t earn the most dollars immediately. In SEO, a lot of times I have to convince people to make small little tweaks and changes that incrementally stack up to a lot of web traffic. But it’s hard to quantify what switching 302 redirects to 301 redirects will do. I’d like to be part of a community of people who are unafraid to do what’s right, rather than what is going to drive the most money.