Posted 29/03/2017

In Conversation with Nichola Stott

Nichola Stott is a go-to expert on all things SEO. With a deep-seated enthusiasm for Search and the results it can bring, Nichola is renowned in the SEO industry. Following a position as Head of UK Search Partners at Yahoo!, she founded her own agency in 2010 and has since helped a plethora of cross-industry international clients increase their revenue through Search.

Ahead of her presentation at Digital Hampshire on 24th April we got up close and personal on her time in the industry and what advice she would give to businesses who want to stay ahead with SEO & CRO.


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1. What prompted you to set up theMediaFlow?

I was working at Yahoo! at the time and had been for around four years. I’d been back from maternity leave a few months and things had changed somewhat. It was pretty clear even back then that search just wasn’t a priority for Yahoo! and it was search that I really loved more than the company so that combined with the fire in the belly that a new baby will give you the only way to get what I wanted was to start out alone.


2. What were some of the unexpected hurdles you’ve encountered?

I’m not sure any of the hurdles I’ve encountered have been unexpected. There’s been a number of things that have been hard from finding suitable office space with a fast enough internet connection, to recruiting people with the right attitude, passion and mind-set – but none of this has been unexpected.


3. What were some of the unexpected benefits?

There have been a few unexpected benefits that I hadn’t really considered at the outset probably because I’d always gone the formal as opposed to entrepreneurial route. Most of them apply to the relative freedom that being your own boss affords. I say relative because of course there are always deadlines and dependencies but for example if I’m working on strategy or staff development plans I can do that wherever and whenever I want.


4. You’ve already achieved a lot. What are your unfulfilled business goals?

Two in particular spring to mind; firstly to develop a product idea that I’ve been mulling over this past year or so and secondly to improve the operational efficiency of the business to a level that I’m happy with.


5. How do you think SEO has changed since you set up the agency?

Search engines try and determine the most relevant, quality results to a human initiated query. It stands to reason that as technology has evolved in the past six or so years then this determination criteria has also evolved. In addition Google in particular has improved their detection and determination of SEO tactics that mimic the symptoms of relevance and quality which has helped to clean up some of the disreputable side of the industry that give the rest a bad reputation. There’s been little of fundamental change for us as an agency as we focus on data driven technical SEO; meaning as long as we stay abreast of technical developments and considering how Google will adapt to them, we stay ahead of the curve.


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6. What are the biggest challenges you see for business with regards to organic search?

It’s going to be interesting to see how it plays out for sites as Google makes more and more changes that position the organisation as an intermediary between the human and the content owner. I mean in terms of things like AMP which serves content on a static URL, personal agents like Google Now acting as your proxy. We may not be far away from a total search experience that circumvents the site/content owner completely by use of mark-up like Schema and JSON-LD to render everything in-SERP, including the conversion activity.


7. What advice would you give to a company with regards to staying ahead with their SEO & CRO?

SEO isn’t voodoo or rocket science and is pretty simple – common sense meets computer science. Do not let any professional or agency provide advice to you that they cannot explain in detail or back-up with evidence. Question exactly what everything means. Get them to prove why they are recommending something. Make sure they do their own research and testing and don’t hawk out second hand solutions they’re read on someone else’s blog.


8. Running a business and staying ahead in a 24/7 industry is challenging. How do you achieve balance between personal and business?

At times I don’t and can’t. Our industry is a little strange in that we’re a frustrated scientific community. Frustrated because we’re not working in lab conditions and nobody is in possession of all the data nor in control of all the elements. So to peer-review and replicate test and experimentation those in the industry at the top of the game tend to collaborate and communicate frequently. We think nothing of answering questions and contributing our own conclusions to our peers who are technically competitors. A lot of this collaboration and communication may occur outside of normal hours in global groups.


9. What one piece of advice would you give to a younger you?

You can do a lot more than you think you can.


10.  If I cast you away on a desert island

a. Which book would you take? 

The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene

b. Which song/piece of music would you have on repeat? 

Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation (I overplayed Goo way too much).


Nichola’s professional recognition includes being named in the BIMA Hot 100 Digital People, winning Best Use of Search at both the UK Search Awards and Wirehive Awards and co-authoring books including Econsultancy’s SEO Best Practice Guide and Hit me! How to Get Your Small Business to Punch its Weight Online.


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