Welcome to the SEO Careers interview series. This week, we’re happy to sit down with Diane Kulseth, Senior Solution Expert at Siteimprove. She’s a 12-year veteran of the SEO industry, and started from the ground-up as an SEO intern when her career began.
If you are interested in being featured in the SEO careers interview series, please submit your name and contact details on our contact page.
Enough chit-chat, let’s jump right into this interview!
Hi Diane! We’re so glad to feature you on SEOjobs.com. Please introduce yourself to our site’s readers.
Hi I’m Diane Kulseth, and I live in Minneapolis Minnesota. I’ve been doing SEO since about 2010, so I guess that gives me about 12 years in the space.
Please share with us your current SEO role and for what company you work for.
I work at a company called Siteimprove as the Senior Solution Expert for SEO. Basically that is a fancy title to say that I help build the industry presence of Siteimprove as an SEO tool. I speak at a variety of conferences, write blog posts, and engage with the rest of the industry via LinkedIn, and other Slack groups. I also help to provide feedback to our product team on how we can continue to grow the tool and improve it.
I’ve been working at Siteimprove for a little over 4.5 years now.
Can you share with us how you entered the SEO industry?
I went to college at the University of St. Thomas and got a degree in Marketing Management.
I landed my first job by networking! I met my future supervisor through LinkedIn in 2009 and asked for an informational interview with him. He was very accommodating and ended up offering me an internship that would later turn into a full-time job post-graduation. Networking works, folks!
My starting salary was $38,000. I remember it like yesterday because as an intern, I was asked to help create pay scales for the company’s various roles and their progressions. I knew that the role I’d eventually be offered started at $36,000. But I had been working with the company for 2 years, so I would negotiate for an additional $2,000.
I wasn’t hoping to leave when the time came to leave my company. I had been trying to get promoted, but my path at the company was unclear. Fortunately for me, a recruiting company reached out and asked for a meeting. In their words, I was “grossly underpaid” for the work that I was doing and within a few weeks, they had placed me at a company I adored with a significant pay jump.
How did you start to learn SEO? What are you currently doing to keep up with the ever changing SEO industry?
Members of my agency’s team helped me learn SEO from their perspective, and I was given the opportunity to go to conferences and other organization events (shout out to MnSearch!) and I learned a lot from those spaces. I was frequently reading Moz, Search Engine Land, etc.
Recently, I took BlueArray’s Technical SEO course, and I’ve taken both of Kristina Azarenko’s courses because she has such a unique thought process to SEO. Whether you’re new to SEO or you’ve been in for over a decade, there’s a lot you can learn from her!
Today, I keep up with SEO through Traffic Think Tank, Women in Tech SEO, and engaging with folks on LinkedIn and Twitter. I still read Search Engine Land, Moz, Search Engine Roundtable, etc., but I’m more likely to check in with what my peers are saying and how they’re approaching updates.
Can you share what factors are most important to you in an SEO career and why? When do you know its time for a new job? Do these same factors play a role?
What’s most important to me in a company is the opportunity for growth. Salary growth is certainly great, but I’m primarily looking for the opportunity to grow in knowledge, grow in my role, my exposure in the company or industry, etc.
My role with Siteimprove has given me ample opportunities for travel and public speaking/building my personal brand, which is a benefit I never knew I wanted until I had it. They additionally have an on-site chef in our Minneapolis office, so while I enjoy working hybrid and having those days I can focus at home, I also enjoy the days when the smell of Chicken Tikka Masala fills my senses and I can eat with my coworkers!
While currently unmarried, I’m always keeping an eye out on what healthcare options and parental leave look like. If I stay at a company for several years, that could be an important part of the conversation at some point.
If a role is fully remote, I would definitely ask what (if any) stipends are available for office furnishing. I don’t need an Instagram-worthy workspace, but the pandemic sure taught me I needed a better home office chair.
What recommendations would you give to someone who is looking to join the SEO industry and get their first full-time SEO position?
The first thing I would say is to get your LinkedIn profile up and running. It doesn’t have to be filled with a ton of experience, or recommendations, but it will be among the first places hiring managers will look for information on you.
Next, I’d start posting regularly on Linkedin (2-3x/week) and/or Twitter (2-3x/day). Start finding people to follow, ask questions about what they’re sharing, or share your thoughts. Post about what you’re learning in SEO, what confuses you, what you find interesting, and any big “Aha!” moments. Participate in hashtags. Start crafting your unique perspective. Connect with others. Soon, you may start seeing roles open that you have connections to. Reach out to those connections to see if you can get an introduction to the recruiter or hiring manager.
One thing I want to emphasize is that you don’t have to bring something completely new and innovative to the table to participate in the conversation. Often (and I’ve been guilty of this!), SEOs want to share something groundbreaking. The only problem is that they then never enter the conversation because they can’t think of something big. Whether you’re commenting in support of a post, or offering a contrasting view, your perspective can provide value.