Become an in-house SEO leader with Tessa Nadik
Growing and maturing in your career from a tactical SEO professional to a strategic leader is no easy task, and there are plenty of people who will question your aspirations along the way.
Just ask Tessa Nadik, Senior Director of SEO Product and Content Strategy for Kelley Blue Book and Autotrader.
“I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told, ‘SEO is not a career path,'” Nadik recently told me.
“SEO is a fulfilling career path with endless growth opportunities, especially if you do well with analysis, critical thinking, and constant change. what’s next?’ when in reality, SEO itself is a very worthwhile career path,” she added.
Tessa was working as a web technical analyst for United States Steel when an acquaintance presented her with an interesting opportunity: a small steel fabrication/sales company looking to hire someone to boost their SEO and inbound marketing presence.
“Honestly, I got into SEO by accident,” she said. As the company’s only marketing employee, she was on her own to figure out how to resolve a manual penalty discovered on day one.
In this interview, Tessa shares her career journey from introverted marketer to internal SEO leader – someone who became proficient at developing talent, motivating teams, and evangelizing SEO across the organization.
Open a career path in SEO
Can you tell us more about what led you to a career in SEO? What was the path that brought you to where you are today?
Tessa Nadick: “After spending a year in that first role, I went to DICK’S Sporting Goods, where my SEO career accelerated.
The team was bigger than most, and I had the opportunity to learn more than I ever could have imagined, and quickly.
I worked a ton with our on-premises SaaS SEO partner, Matt Grabiak, learning the ins and outs of technical SEO.
I’m forever grateful to Matt and the other people I’ve met along the way who taught me not just SEO, but how to build and lead a team.
As an introvert, I never imagined myself as a leader in the early years, but it was necessary to progress in the previous companies.
In my first role as a people leader, I learned a lot about managing teams and the kind of leader I wanted to be.
Since then, I have worked a lot on my role as a leader and on the environment of my team. To my surprise, I also fell in love with the leading teams, removing obstacles and celebrating their victories.
Transferable skills will serve you well in SEO
You have worked in various verticals: steel buildings, sporting goods, vehicles, education, etc. What do you think are the most important transferable SEO skills that will take you anywhere?
Tessa Nadick: “There are so many different paths in SEO, but there are skills and characteristics that make SEO successful based on my experience.
Communication skills are essential in any position. Being able to communicate who, why and how effectively is invaluable.
Second, be adaptable. Algorithms change, industries change and we have to change with them. There will always be parts of SEO and any career that we cannot control.
However, we can control how we adapt, and if you manage to adapt, you will do well in SEO.
Evangelize SEO at the leadership level
In your LinkedIn profile, one of your responsibilities is to “champion and evangelize SEO through organization and leadership.” What tips can you share to help others succeed?
Tessa Nadick: “As Senior Director, my responsibilities have expanded.
Our organization has grown from about 11 to about 30. Although this expands my reach, the evangelistic work is still there.
In this organization, we are fortunate to have a lot of management buy-in – that was not always the case in previous roles.
SEO may take precedence over other priorities, but anyone can change that perception with the right approach.
Not only is it essential to have management buy-in, but buy-in from your peers and cross-functional teams is equally essential.
Fostering those relationships and showing value are two game-changing things. You can’t expect a team to prioritize work when they don’t understand the “why”.
As an SEO, it’s your job to show the “why”. SEO is no longer that black box where we have no idea what’s going to happen. We can certainly make informed projections.
Throw away that impostor syndrome and recognize that no one in your business can do it as well as you.
You also need to know when to compromise and when to push as hard as you can for something.
Growing up in your career means you can see the big picture, which means SEO isn’t always the top priority. Being aware of this is a game-changer and makes working with others more manageable and productive. »
Finding the right balance between leadership and management
At your leadership level, how is your time divided between SEO strategy, people management, and other activities?
Tessa Nadick: “At my level, I balance my time around strategy management and pave the way for success.
I always emphasize that I am a hands-on leader in that I am not just talking about SEO or lead; I can also do SEO.
This is something I insist on and is vital to me because when our team needs a vacation or something else comes up I am there to provide cover and fill in with no problem.
I spend most of my time collaborating with our team to discuss and stimulate ideas to grow.
We have a great environment where everyone has a voice and isn’t afraid to say “I don’t know”.
We all have strengths and weaknesses, and it’s my job to make sure our platforms allow everyone to speak up, ask questions, collaborate with purpose, and grow in their role.
Making sense of disruptive trends
Are there any emerging trends in digital that you think will become particularly disruptive and what marketers should know about them right now?
Tessa Nadick: “In my opinion, there are always emerging trends that disrupt SEO.
That’s why it’s essential to make sure you’re aligned with your organization’s partners.
Think about the emergence of more paid features, videos, social media, news and more that have entered the space.
Without productive synergies with your partners, it disrupts SEO, but it becomes a complete strategy with partnerships.
Best-in-class enterprise SEO cannot be done in silos alone; it takes a village.
What do you wish you had known before entering the SEO industry that you would share with others to help them grow and succeed?
Tessa Nadick: “While not always easy, SEO is a fulfilling career path with endless growth opportunities.
SEO can be a great career path if you do well with analysis, critical thinking, and constant change.
Notice I said career path: I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told, “SEO is not a career path.”
I spent too much time thinking, ‘What’s next?’ when in reality, SEO itself is a very worthwhile career path, whether it’s traditional SEO or growth!”
Feature image: Courtesy of Tessa Nadik