038: Self-Taught, SEO Speaker, and Strategist Extraordinaire, Shelly Fagin

C: Podcast

Shelly Fagin has been in the digital world since she was a young girl playing on her green screen Apple IIGS. After figuring out how to connect to the internet, it was all gas, no breaks to agency work, over 12 years of consulting, SEMRush speaking, and managing a team at CreditKarma, to now being the Director of SEO at DigitalOcean. Listen to this episode to learn how her mentors helped teach her confidence, and her curiosity helped her teach herself the skills. 

Key Points + Topics

  • [2:00] Shelly Fagin is a lifelong computer geek. Her grandparents bought her an Apple IIGS with a green screen when she was very young. As she grew up, she heard people talking about “the internet” and how no one knew how to connect to it. So she pulled out that old green screen computer, dusted it off, and figured out how to get connected. She enrolled in her community college’s computer science program because she was so excited to learn about coding. Then, she took her first class, AS400. She was so disappointed. It wasn’t at all what she’d expected and wasn’t really related to programming. So she stepped away from that program, transferred to Arizona, and got into their accounting program. She started working online once she became pregnant with her first child when she was 24 years old. It was the early days of online work, but she knew she didn’t want the traditional office setup. 
  • [4:45] She read many books and taught herself how to code. She started building websites and became frustrated with many of the Content Management Systems (CMS) available. As she built websites, she began to wonder how she would get traffic to them. This led her to the world of SEO and digital marketing. When Twitter became mainstream, her sources of education from others in the industry broadened considerably. Eventually, she was hired by a local agency to build up their SEO department. It turned out the personality of that agency wasn’t the best match for her, so she struck out on her own and started her agency, Highly Searched. She then continued consulting for clients through her agency for the next 13 years. 
  • [8:00] Eventually, Shelly found herself working with SEMRush (a BIG name in the digital marketing world). She was invited to their coveted Facebook group, SEMRush All-Stars. She became a brand ambassador for them and traveled around the country to speaking engagements, promoting the various benefits and tools SEMRush presents. Then, she was recruited to North Carolina to work for Credit Karma by Intuit. She actually concluded her work with them a week ago and is excited, if tight-lipped, about her next adventure! 
  • [11:55] At the beginning of her career, Shelly spent far too much time struggling through things on her own. She’s the type of person that feels bad asking for help. This led to her being in a bubble by herself for the first few years of her career. Eventually, she moved to Houston, found a couple of great local industry groups, and started making connections and finding mentors. Rae Hoffman and Shelly connected through SearchHOU, where Rae would often speak. Shelly’s confidence was built through many of their conversations. Shortly after meeting Rae, Melissa Fach found Shelly through her attendance at PubCon. Shelly had attended for a few years but never would have thought to pitch herself as a speaker without Melissa’s encouragement and guidance. Her first speaking gig was the “big” annual PubCon in Las Vegas, and she’s spoken at just about every PubCon since. 
  • [19:00] When it comes to mentoring others, Shelly takes a mostly hands-off approach and encourages learning by doing. After all, that’s how she found her stride. When she first started managing her team at Credit Karma, there were hardly any “senior” SEO people on the staff; nevertheless, it was an incredibly well-built team. They’re all so curious, and that’s a skill you can’t really teach. 
  • [24:38] A WordPress evangelist, that’s Shelly in a nutshell. She loves how flexible it operates as a CMS. She fully admits there are a lot of bad WP sites out there, but it’s all about what you do with it. Its flexibility makes it especially good for enterprise-level uses. You can make it “headless” and use it just for people to manage their content. Or you can pull data in from other sources and platforms that management might not want stored in WordPress. The “market” of WordPress is huge, so if you find yourself needing help with a particular challenge, there’s almost always someone who’s done it before and can (and will) help you through it. When it comes to plug-ins, Shelly’s a bit on the “less is more” side. She will always recommend Yoast for SEO, RankMath, WPRocket, and Sucuri because no one wants a hacked WP site. She also strongly encourages people to use a robust hosting provider like Kinsta or WPHosting. 
  • [32:35] Like many of our other guests, Shelly is firmly in the “it will make us better marketers, not take our marketing jobs from us” camp when it comes to AI. She thinks it will help make us more productive (if used in the right way) and is already using it to help streamline processes, but not writing content. She also loves the AI present in Code Interpreter. 
  • Digital Marketing Conferences – Shelly’s Recommendations

Guest + Episode Links

Full Episode Transcript

Danny Host 00:05

Hello everyone, I’m Danny Gavin, founder of Optidge, Marketing Professor and the host of the Digital Marketing Mentor. I’m super excited to have my friend Shelly Fagan here today. She’s the former director of SEO at Credit Karma. She’s skilled in multiple digital marketing areas and has a passion for design and UX as well. She brings in-depth expertise of SEO and WebDev to us today, working in the industry for nearly 20 years. If all of that doesn’t keep her busy enough. She’s also a contributing writer to Search Engine Journal and a speaker at numerous marketing conferences. She was also the vice president of some local marketing organizations in Houston and, just overall, an amazing person Welcome.


Shelly Guest 01:40

Thank you, Danny, you’re too kind. I have missed getting to be with you in Houston and see you face to face, but thank you for having me on today.


Danny Host 01:50

It’s absolute pleasure. Today, obviously, we’re going to talk about mentorship and your expertise with WordPress and, of course, AI and SEO. Let’s jump right in. Let’s talk about your background. We were just talking about this a minute ago, but where did you go to school? What did you study? It sounds like you kind of hopped all over the place. Love to talk about it a bit.


Shelly Guest 02:10

I’ve been a computer geek all my life. I actually started. My grandparents bought me this little Apple 2GS green screen computer that I played with when I was really young. Then it got put away in a storage cabinet and then along came the 90s. I was in high school. I kept hearing about the same called the internet, but no one around me knew how to get on it. My grandparents wouldn’t quite spend the money that it would take to get an upgraded, nice one that had a disk drive that I could put one of those AOL disks into. I pulled that old green screen Apple out of the computer it actually came with a modem dusted it off and was able to. I found this dial-up service called Delphi and was all about figuring out how to get online, and very slowly and tediously. That started my fascination.



Right out of high school I actually enrolled in our local community college in a computer science program. I was excited because I wanted to learn how to build things for the web. I was very, very disappointed when the first class they put me in was something called AS 400. Let’s just say it was the most boring thing ever in my life. It really had nothing to do with programming or developing for the web. I stepped away from that program, took more basic classes, took economics and absolutely loved economics. I did my micro and my macro. Ended up moving to Arizona. I went to ASU for a little over a year, took accounting. Was really loving accounting. What’s crazy is I hated math growing up but for some reason, when I got to college business math and things that makes logical sense that we use just really easy. For me it’s logical and I really love that side of it. So I thought, oh, maybe I’ll do accounting Basically. I’m very ADD if you cannot tell. So I cherry picked my classes and I never really found a truth path.



I started working actually online after I got pregnant with my first child. So I was early days, 24 years old, new Insilient. I did not want to work in a traditional office or anything like that. I wanted to be able to work from home. So I started teaching myself how to code and buying these old books because, honestly, back then there wasn’t a lot of places online to even go and learn how to do this and I taught myself from a book HTML, a little bit of CSS, kind of got frustrated, started playing around with different CMSs that were around at the time.



Then I naturally was more of well, if we build something, how do we get it to rank? How do we drive traffic? And that’s when I stumbled across SEO. It was a couple of years into my journey and became instantly captured and fascinated and then knew that I was cheating out, so to speak, in the way I was going about building websites. And then I really really learned the value of hand coding and understanding how to code and code right, and that was kind of like pivotal changing point in my career and was able to kind of learn both simultaneously. So I was more in my ADD true self. I was constantly coming up with a million ideas and building out a site for this and building out a site for that, and it was just all about hands-on doing stuff. Because in that and obviously Twitter I think when Twitter came around finally started to find bloggers, people who in the industry were writing about their experiences and sharing.



And that’s when it was just like turn on the water faucet of learning everything, seo and very exciting wild, wild west, early days of search and eventually I was actually invited to work for a local agency. They had worked specifically in the paid search area. They had been outsourcing SEO. They wanted to bring SEO in-house. So I went to work for them for a little bit. I kind of set up all their processes and procedures and they had a girl who still kicks button SEO today and at the time she’s like help me. She came out of real estate and they printed, I think, Aaron Wall’s SEO book, if you remember that. But they printed her a binder of it and handed it to her and say here you’re an SEO.



It was fun actually kind of setting up all the processes, but I didn’t quite feel that some of like my ethics related to search was very much seen eye to eye with the place that I was at. So I ended up stepping away and I’m like you know what? I’m just going to work directly with clients, and so that kind of started my search of what I call highly searched was my agency name consultancy. That is still around today. But I basically worked with clients for almost like, say, like the first like 12 to 13 years of actually working hands on in the industry with other people and eventually always kind of thought I would stay a consultant. I loved being able to have the flexibility, the freedom you know I became eventually a mama for. So being able to be at home while they were young have that flexibility really got a chance to dip my toes in a lot of different niches.



Eventually I went to work with some rush. Actually, I was asked to come in to start creating their initial Facebook group. So when the if you haven’t joined before, if you’re a subscriber of some rush, there’s a fantastic Facebook group called the sunrush all stars. I was blessed enough to be a part of creating that in the beginning, getting the ball rolling. Now they have some phenomenal team members that lead it that are awesome. But I also was a brand ambassador for sunrush. So I got the opportunity to go and speak all over the country about using the tool set.



But that kind of gave me that insight into actually working for a company in house. And then that brings me to my last job. I was recruited away from there to come move my family to Charlotte, north Carolina, to come work for credit karma, also owned by Intuit, was surprised by how wonderful it was to work in house at the enterprise level. So it was kind of a no brainer to come and take that role. I knew it was going to be a big challenge. Been there for the last two years, previously to credit karma. I’ve always been remote, so I’m actually. I left credit karma last week was actually my last week, so that’s why Danny said formerly but I’m excited for my next adventure. I’m not ready to announce just yet. That’s pretty much my background in that shop.


Danny Host 09:29

Yeah, no, that’s awesome. I mean I’ve got so many things that I want to unpack there. We’ll touch on a couple. But I think it’s amazing that you literally ran your own agency Although it wasn’t an agency but and then you went into enterprise, which I think is so cool, because most people have that opposite experience. But I love how you were willing and open to try something new. That is awesome, I guess. Another point, a question that I have, is because you hopped around so much in your education I know you have a daughter in college Are you like strict on her, like you got to know what you want to do, or are you kind of like open, like oh, you can kind of figure it out? I’m so curious about that.


Shelly Guest 10:04

I know I’m kind of on the fence both ways and it really depends on my mood or I’ve tried to be super supportive. I want to enable them to be able to be what they want to be. But I also know a lot of times we don’t know what we want to be. At this young age my daughter really, really wanted to go to a school called SCAD, which is Savannah College of Art and Design. If anyone’s ever Googled the tuition at these fancy articles, it’s not cheap, and so it was kind of scary to do that because I’m like oh, what does she get there? She hates it. It just isn’t her career path and we’re spending all this money. Let’s go to a community college. I honestly have been back and forth, but ultimately she was just really convicted it was what she wanted to do. So I’ve been supportive. She’s starting her junior year this year. She’s still there. She’s doing really well.



I’m trying to grin and bear it when it comes to the tuition side, but with my boys I’ve taken a different approach. My son Cohen isn’t going into a senior year. He has an aptitude for coding. He’s not a very social person. He loves sitting at his computer and gaming. So like him. I’m like listen, we can go to community college, take your coding classes, we’ll do some coding boot camps. You don’t necessarily have to go to some big fancy school because it’s going to be all about your skills and what you can do Exactly. So it varies, I really I think it depends on the kid, but I try to be supportive.


Danny Host 11:45

Yeah, no, that’s amazing. Yeah, each kid is a world of their own, so it’s awesome that you’re open to that, and it’s nice to have diversity in the family. All right, so let’s jump into mentorship. So, Shelly, how would you define a mentor?


Shelly Guest 11:59

I probably spent way too much time in my career struggling and out all on my own. I’m really like one of those people I feel bad putting people out asking for help, so I usually don’t. I also, I think, was in a bubble for the first like big chunk of my career where, because I was a mama for I worked independently I couldn’t swing or justify budgets to send myself to expensive conferences. I was in a small town for quite a while before we moved to Houston so we didn’t really have other people in my area that were doing what I was doing. So I struggled all alone for a really long time.



I think had I opened up and had more mentors, I probably would have seen my career progress a lot quicker. But yeah, I finally it actually opened back up when we moved back to Houston from the Midwest. There was a really great local search industry group happening in Houston, another really great one in Dallas. I just started going to some of the events and making connections locally. That really was a pivotal part change in my career trajectory and path, to be quite honest.


Danny Host 13:25

I look at you as always being an influencer. I didn’t realize that those things actually pushed you. That’s awesome. It just shows you how important it is to get out and to meet people. Obviously, it’s hard when you’re a mom, and it is what it is, but it’s cool that that was the impetus.


Shelly Guest 13:44

It really truly was, because, honestly, I am the epitome of someone who has major imposter syndrome. I would watch and listen to people speaking at conferences and just be like there’s no way I can do that. What do I know that these people that are coming that wouldn’t already know? There’s just no way it was going and actually forming those connections, I think one with other speakers and hearing their side of things and how it is for them, that really started to open up that side of things for me.


Danny Host 14:18

Yeah, I think that’s a good segue into talking about who have been some of your mentors in your life. I know Ray Hoffman and I think she was instrumental in speaking. Then there’s also Melissa Fosh. Let’s talk about them.


Shelly Guest 14:31

Ray. Actually most people know she lives outside of Houston in KD, texas. We were a big part of Search Houston together. She really was one of my early role models for female speakers and bloggers. I learned a lot from Ray. I was able to build that confidence that came from conversations with Ray. I’m expressing my oh, there’s no way I could do that. She’s like what are you crazy? At this point I’ve been in search for probably 12, 13 years. I had a lot of experience and, because I was a one-man shop who did about everything, I had a very diverse skill set but I just didn’t see that she was able to reframe things in a way to build my confidence and just give me that little bit of confidence that I needed to speak for the first time.



It wasn’t for getting that door open. I did my first speaking event at Search Houston. That was the very first time that I got up and spoke and I’m like wait, I like this because, guess what, I’m a geek when it comes to search and if I get to talk about what I’m passionate about, the fear, the anxiety, yes, going up until the event, until I started speaking, I was a nervous wreck. Soon, as I started speaking. It just all started coming out and the interactions from the crowd and the conversation. If you love what you do and you know what you’re doing, it’s definitely don’t let those anxieties keep you from that. I definitely have to attribute that to Ray giving me that confidence to do it for the first time.



Then Melissa comes into play right after that. I had been an attendee for a couple of different years at Pubcon. At that point she gave me the inspiration to actually go ahead, the nudge to pitch, to speak at Pubcon. I’m like are you kidding? There’s no way I’m going to get picked. The next one was a big Vegas pro one. I’m like maybe I wait until one of the smaller local pub cons, but no, she gave me a lot of really great tips on how to pitch and how to pitch well. That was really instrumental as well.



I took a lot of time, wrote a very detailed, specific pitch. It wasn’t like a monologue or a huge amount or anything like that, but I sent a few different options. It’s not generic. I would tell anyone right now don’t ever send a conference person who’s choosing speakers a generic pitch. Don’t be like oh I’ll speak on link building, you are not going to get picked. It really needs to have some substance to it. Tell us what are you going to talk about specific to link building. Tell us a scenario that you did or a strategy and how it turned out. This is what I’m going to talk about the strategy that we put into place and how we did it. Also, I think something that’s actionable is really helpful. That gave me confidence, my outside of Sarchio.



My next speaking event was at Las Vegas and at PubCon. Oh my gosh, I will tell you it was very, very scary. I was so nervous. Thankfully, at that point you realize that a lot of the attendees that come to these conferences they’re in their first few years of their career. They’re really just eager to learn and hear what you have to say. Most of the people that are super experienced and will know basically everything that you’re saying, they’re not either going to be there listening to you or they’re your friends and they’re there to support you. Either way, those fears that I had early on, where people are just going to laugh at me because I’ll have nothing to teach them, didn’t never realize that was really instrumental kicking off. I’m pretty certain I’ve spoken at every PubCon ever since.


Danny Host 18:42

In my mind right now. It’s like I think Shelly Fagan and PubCon is basically synonymous. When there’s a PubCon, shelly’s there. It’s pretty crazy how that all started. I want to segue to now mentoring others. It’s amazing. You were on your own for a long time. Suddenly, you go into this corporate world, whether it’s at Cox or Credit Karma, and you’ve got people under you and you’re mentoring them. Tell me about that. How was it to be a mentor? Obviously you’re their boss, but mentoring them and showing them, inspiring how was that?


Shelly Guest 19:13

Honestly, that shockingly became my favorite part of working as a director. Obviously, I’m massive geek about the strategy side of things. Even just, I have been an independent person for so long. That usually does things. I’m not used to stepping back and letting other people do everything and me just giving out the strategy. I really, really loved it because I walked into a role that didn’t have a lot of senior SEOs on my team.



Actually, when I started, we had a couple of contractors who were in their first couple of years in search. I had one person who’d been at Credit Karma for a couple of years but came from the paid side when COVID happened and isn’t really and would say today they’re not really a true SEO. They work more on the product project management side of things. That was really my team. And then I had a new hire that came straight out of college out of his MBA, though he had done an internship at an agency and done some link outreach, but that was the extent, let me just say this team. They’re phenomenal. I was very lucky to walk into such a well-built team, my person that came just out of college. He’s fantastic Data side of things and so he was actually hired because they thought, oh, we need a link builder and he did a leak outreach. Kids are like genius when it comes to data analysis and not only that he’s passionate about search, naturally curious. So even when he wasn’t working he was off researching and just learning what come to me. And it wasn’t like a new first year SEO that typically is very insecure about their thoughts because it’s nerve-wracking, right Like you’re worried you might harm a business or get you know tank traffic if you do something wrong. So a lot of times those early days in SEO is very timid about speaking up or putting out their ideas. But I was very lucky to just have a really smart team to begin with. But what’s really cool is they were all very curious and passionate about searching for me.



If I am starting from scratch and hiring a new team especially if we don’t have, like these high budgets for very senior marketers I’m looking for someone who just has that sense of curiosity you can’t teach that and someone who knows how to dig and keep digging and when to stop. I think is a very valuable skill set and, honestly, is the coolest thing ever. I love being able to be there and help them come up with a strategy. For the most part, for me, I always operated I wouldn’t say hands-off. I love letting my team get experience and I think the only way you can get that experience is by actually doing things and sometimes failing. Yes, I’d set those guardrails if I see something like scary going on that could be harmful. Sure, you know I’m there.



But for the most part I really was championing my team to speak up in leadership meetings, to present, to get that experience to come to me with their theories and we put together ways to test these theories and build out some data-driven strategies out of kind of those theories as well, and I think that’s the best way to learn. So for me, that was kind of the approach that I took to mentorship really just being there, being supportive as much as possible, someone as a sounding board, but also letting them get the experience that they need to actually learn. That’s really, I think, my favorite thing about being a leader is just watching them grow, and they really truly have grown so much over the last two years. I’m so incredibly proud of my team.


Danny Host 23:32

And the dots really do connect because you were the way that you learned. The way that you’ve become who you are is because you did the work, so you internalize that and then created that opportunity for the people under you, which is amazing. Sometimes people forget where they came from, but you definitely didn’t, and that is so cool.  So as we move into Wordpress at Optidge, we’ve been big proponents of Wordpress as a website platform for a very long time. As you know, it frequently gets brushed off as being a basic site platform for beginners and bloggers, and certainly not something for large enterprise level businesses, like we spoke about a couple minutes ago. What is it that you like so much specifically as it relates to enterprise level business sites?


Shelly Guest 24:58

So Wordpress for me. I love the flexibility of it and there is a lot of bad Wordpress sites out there. Do not get me wrong, but it’s all about what you do with it. I think that determines if it’s going to be good for you or if it turns to be something not so great. It’s super flexible and it can be as flexible as you need it to be, especially at the enterprise level. You can make it headless and you can use it just for people to manage their content, and if you have a big development team who wants to have the JavaScript and Reactor of impages and pull in data from places that they don’t necessarily want to store in wordpress, you can do that as well. So there’s a lot of flexibility.



The other good thing I would say is the economy in wordpress is huge, and by that I mean like if you ever need people to help you, you’re always going to be able to find people that understand wordpress. And just because someone knows a certain type of code they know PHP. Yes, they can definitely go in and do tinkering around and do things for you in WordPress, but I would still prefer someone who really understands the ecosystem of WordPress. They understand the interest cities of it and whether or not the code that you’re doing or the customization could potentially be harmful or it could break in a future update. I think it really is good that if you’re working in CMS, someone really really understands how it works, because it’s not about building for the now but thinking about the future as well. It’s definitely not fun to have to come back and clean up a site that has been used and abused and overly customized over the years. Then suddenly it’s really slow and WordPress is WordPress as well. I see that a lot.


Danny Host 27:03

Talk about slowness, which I know. This isn’t the point. Do you have any favorite WordPress plugins that you recommend? I’m sure you have a list.


Shelly Guest 27:11

Right, I do. Obviously, on the SEO side, I’ve always used Yoast. Yoast does a really great job. Also used Rank Math as well. They have some really cool stuff. It really depends on the site, but I always prefer Yoast. For me, I always say the less plugins the better. There are certain things that belong in a plugin that don’t necessarily belong in a theme. You really need to know when you use a plugin for something and when you don’t. I love, is it WP Rocket or is it WP Rocket?


Danny Host 27:44

Yeah, I think it is WP.


Shelly Guest 27:46

Rocket. I started to get their names all mixed up. It’s okay. Securi, I would say like hands down, because no one wants a hacked WordPress site. WordPress isn’t an easy hack but unfortunately, because it’s the biggest CMS, it becomes the most targeted and the most vulnerable Because it’s open source. That makes it even more so. The plugins and the themes that you use on it can make it vulnerable if you don’t know what you’re doing. Even if you do, I would suggest you have a security plugin and Securi, because if it does get hacked, they’ll actually help you clean it up. Those are my go-to’s. The rest really depends on what the site is and what we’re building, what we’re looking to accomplish. I’m a little lean on the plugin side.


Danny Host 28:36

Yeah, no, I don’t blame you. I also think a good hosting provider is also important, 100% Like Kinsta or the WP Engine’s out there. They’re a little more expensive, but at least from a security side and speed it’s definitely worth it.


Shelly Guest 28:49

Yeah, you definitely don’t want a host gator or any of those type of mass hosts. I’ve always had dedicated virtual environment. For that reason, definitely hosts.


Danny Host 29:02

We can leave our host gator WordPress disaster stories for another episode. Exactly, is there a platform that you prefer to avoid when it comes to SEO?


Shelly Guest 29:12

I would say I probably won’t speak to this because I’ve been in a bubble the last couple of years working in-house and only on WordPress. I know a lot of the CMS is out there. It’s usually my recommendation If you can’t self-host, I would stay away. I do like Shopify, actually for e-commerce. I think it’s great for that, but usually, with that said, I usually don’t recommend like Blogger, blogspot or any of those type of Wix or something that, even though Wix has improved a lot as well.



But for me, I like that freedom, that flexibility of being able to customize and scale and grow the site. Even though I might not need it now, the client might need it in the future. I like to set them up to be future-proof and that future to be as easy as possible. I’ve migrated a lot of sites from platforms that didn’t have that flexibility and it’s a nightmare. When I do the migration, traffic doesn’t usually suffer, but most migrations people come to me because someone botched their migration. Most companies do see drops in traffic, sometimes for several months. To be quite honest, that’s never a good thing, really. Something that has that freedom, that flexibility, open source is always good for that. But then it comes with trade-offs with other things as well, of course.


Danny Host 30:46

Yeah, I think that you initially were thinking about Wix. It’s kind of funny because it is crazy how far it’s come along. I’m sort of rooted in similar concept of you of having more ownership, but honestly, they’ve made huge strides. It’s going to be interesting. I myself haven’t had enough chance to work with it, but it’s going to be interesting. I actually had a fun LinkedIn post about a year ago about Wixverse WordPress. I think it was my best LinkedIn post ever. What’s better, it’ll be interesting to see how things proceed.


Shelly Guest 31:20

That is actually my assignment. Now that I have this little break between in-house roles, I need to spend some time getting up to date and testing out some of the new CMSs. I’ve heard wonderful things about Duda as well. There’s just some really cool new ones that I would like to play with. Contentful, I know there’s HubSpot CMS. I haven’t used it lately. I’ve migrated people away from it in the past. It’s not fun, but I would say it sucks, because I do get asked this. My information I have to share today is not really as up to date. It’s a few years behind.


Danny Host 32:07

It’s a great challenge for you to get up to date. It’s funny because I’ve migrated people to HubSpot.


Shelly Guest 32:14

I love their CRM. That’s awesome. It was in those scenarios that probably was unnecessary For the way they wanted to grow. It just wasn’t the right platform for them for what they’re using it for.


Danny Host 32:29

Yeah, the CRM is actually absolutely wonderful. I recommend it to all of my clients. We’ve spoken with a handful of digital marketers about AI and SEO. All of them are rejecting the notion that chat, gbt or things like that are going to take away our jobs. What’s your stance?


Shelly Guest 32:44

I don’t think it’ll take away our jobs. I think it will enhance our lives and make us more productive if you utilize the right way. I definitely think there’ll be people that abuse them and use them in ways that I never would. I don’t think again, but we’re in search. It has always been shady practices or things that might work in the short term but in the long term isn’t super sustainable. So it’s just another evolution of that. I do think there’s ways to leverage and use AI to increase our productivity and our processes, and especially on that side of things I’ve been building.



I was building some really awesome things with my team. Again, we would never actually use AI to generate content that we were going to publish. Being in the YMYL space you know, I know there are some of our competitors was doing that. We built some cool data tools to analyze the results that they were getting and closely watch what was happening, but for the most part, using it to really take away some of that time consuming work. Now that the code interpreter is available, that’s amazing. You know, when you’re working at the enterprise level, it’s hard to really stay on top of what’s actually happening with your site, especially if you’re managing multiple sites and you usually are expected to report on a weekly basis and it’s like that’s just a small little insight but being able to tap into something like AI and code interpreter all these plugins pull it in with our data it allows us to get alerts when things happen that needs closer look and that’s been really like so time consuming because we were doing that manually before. Honestly, it’s made us tremendously more productive and I will say we also leveraged it.



If anyone saw my SMX presentation I did, I think, in early June or late May. I will actually be doing it again. They have August 16th and 17th. They have an AI specific event that’s coming up and I’m going to be giving that presentation Again. It’ll be slightly modified, but it talks through some of the tools that we built for our CK team in order to enhance our content briefs, that we were creating for our editorial team to produce content. So it’s some really cool stuff. I don’t know. It’s very exciting. I find it really exciting.


Danny Host 35:30

I was working on sales forecasting for my dad last night using code interpreter to like 3 o’clock in the morning.


Shelly Guest 35:38

So I love it.


Danny Host 35:40

I’m ready to pause everything in the agency and be like guys. We got to do just code interpreter work all day. I love it, it’s a really exciting time.


Shelly Guest 35:50

Oh my gosh. It’s so exciting to be in search and there’s so many different things we can use it for. It’s like we’ve only tapped into the small, limited amount of its capability. I think it’s really cool.


Danny Host 36:04

So, as we start to wrap up, if you had to pick a favorite element of SEO, what would it be? Content, technical links, schema markup, what would it be? Oh gosh.


Shelly Guest 36:14

Not links. I have never been a link builder. I hate everything about having to build links other than the strategy behind the producing amazing content. But I will say I’m a technical person through and through. Probably comes from my background, starting as a coder. I love schema. I would say schema is kind of technical as well. I like trying new schema and things that we don’t necessarily see rich snippets and things for, but testing up new ways to mark up content in ways that I’m hoping will turn into something really cool in the future. But yeah, honestly, in using AI oh my gosh, able to combine different schema types and I leverage that to help fix my schema errors. It’s so helpful and it saves me a lot of time and from beating my head against the wall and frustration when I can’t figure out why it messed it up and it won’t validate.


Danny Host 37:07

What are the top three conferences that you enjoy or recommend to our listeners?


Shelly Guest 37:13

Ooh, ok, so this was going to be easy. Obviously, pocon, I’m super partial Because it’s like a big family and I think that’s the best part. The networking side the education is really amazing, but it’s like a bigger union every time I go. The next one I’m going to I have not been. I’ve heard amazing things from a lot of my fellow speakers who’ve been to a lot of conferences, but they love Brighton SEO and I’ve never been able to travel over to the UK to go, and this year they’re having one in San Diego. So the first one in the US that one comes really highly recommended and then the third one I’m going to. Actually, I love DFWSEM.



Their local group, the state of search, their event, all of the stuff they do in Dallas is just phenomenal. And then, honorable Mention, I would say I have not been either, but the Women in Tech SEO group has been amazing Again. They were always over in Europe and so now there’s going to be one, I think, in Philadelphia this fall as well. So just a lot of really cool stuff happening that maybe, if you haven’t been able to travel all the United States, now is your opportunity to go to some cool events.


Danny Host 38:34

Love it. I think that’s a great roster. I would include all of those as well.


Shelly Guest 38:39

And come to PubCon Pro Austin in September.


Danny Host 38:43

I know I think I am going to be coming to that, but we’ll see. So, shelly, where can listeners learn more about you?


Shelly Guest 38:50

I would say Twitter or Threat or X, oh gosh, oh, that’s going to take getting used to. Before I went in-house I had a clubhouse group called Clubhouse SEO. We used to do weekly I would do site audits live. It was the best thing ever, that’s OK. But when I went in-house I was doing nonstop meetings and so the thought of talking to more people just killed me inside. So I kind of had to stop doing that. But I’m hoping, now that I have this break there’s X spaces or whatever they’re calling it I’m hoping to do some live stuff there. So go follow me on X Twitter Threads as well, in case it ends up sticking, and Facebook as well. I’m on Facebook, instagram. I don’t do a lot of industry stuff on Instagram. Follow me on TikTok. I post nothing about the industry, but I have some cute pets and they’ve gone viral a few times on TikTok.


Danny Host 39:50

It’s so funny, the mention of Clubhouse. It just brings me back to like. I haven’t thought about that, and I remember you were super active. It’s amazing.


Shelly Guest 39:58

It was amazing. I honestly need to pop back in, but I’ve just heard it’s just died and I’m like, oh, that’ll just be really sad, but it was really amazing in those early days.


Danny Host 40:09

Shelly, thank you for being a guest on the Digital Marketing Mentor. Thank you for having me, and thank you, listeners, for tuning into the Digital Marketing Mentor. We’ll speak with you next time.


Shelly Guest 40:18

Thank you so much.


Danny Host 40:20

Thank you for listening to the Digital Marketing Mentor podcast. Be sure to check us out online at thedmmentorcom and at the DM Mentor on Instagram, and don’t forget to subscribe on Apple podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen to your podcasts for more marketing mentor magic. See you next time.

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