If you’ve been in SEO for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard the name Virginia Nussey. Even if the name isn’t familiar, surely her work is. As the Social Media Editor for Bruce Clay Inc, Virginia writes about all things search and social and has become a live blogging all-star covering conferences such as SMX and SES year round.
I’ve followed Virginia’s work since the start of my SEO career back in 2007, but I didn’t have the opportunity to meet her in person until earlier this year when I attended SMX West. A fun spirit with a friendly smile, she was a pleasure to meet. But what I was most fascinated by was her life on the conference circuit and her ability to regularly liveblog sessions like a rock star. After doing a guest post for the Bruce Clay blog, and then running into her again at SES San Francisco I decided I wanted to learn a bit more about Virginia’s past and what it’s been like attending and covering search conferences all these years. This interview is the result.
For those who may not be familiar with you and your work. How and when did you get involved in the internet marketing industry and Bruce Clay Inc.?
It was one of those happenstances of good fortune that I came to work for Bruce Clay, Inc. In late 2007 I was looking for a writing gig through a temp agency. I was coming out of journalism school at a time when traditional media wasn’t sure how to profitably deliver content to online audiences and that practically meant a hiring standstill. So, I felt very lucky at the time to find a position with a company that valued content writers; little did I know how lucky I really was to be entering a burgeoning industry from very near the ground floor. It was a fast and steep learning curve from there into search engine marketing, and on to the bigger picture of Internet marketing, and further on into holistic branding strategy. It’s a dynamic field that surprises me to this day, five years from my first introduction to SEO.
In September 2010 you parted ways with Bruce Clay Inc and would return nine months later. During the time away you spent some time doing freelance writing. Upon your return you talked about the major differences between freelance life and the agency life on the Bruce Clay Blog. Looking back on that time, what advice would you give other agency professionals considering a similar move?
Have in place a lifestyle and work environment that supports productivity. It’s pretty intuitive but I think some of those elements include:
Location: Whether it’s a home office or a coffee house, know where you can go that will be distraction free.
Peer interaction: Give yourself an outlet to trade notes with colleagues. This could be meetups, online groups, conferences or something else. Be part of a community so you don’t feel isolated, something to satisfy in-person interaction that could be missing.
Schedule: Have a production schedule in place, a plan for getting things done. If you’re disciplined in meeting deadlines you’ll be successful.
You’ve been covering search conferences for a number of years now. Do you remember your first conference, and what do you feel has changed most about the conference experience since then?
The first search industry conference I went to was SMX Advanced 2008. I remember being introduced to industry veterans by Lisa Barone and Susan Esparza and, to be honest, I felt like I was being initiated into the SEO cool crew. Those ladies are connected, and it really felt like there was a celebrity set in search – and I knew The Lisa so I was set! I think now the celebrity vibe has mellowed because there’s so much fresh, creative, cutting-edge talent. It’s a dynamic field now, and it’s fascinating to see so many personalities and skill sets moving the industry forward. There’s a lot more variety of methods and tactics covered at shows, and they’re splintering off into specific channel shows, like the new SMX Social, and in time that may splinter off more. The overall direction I’ve witnessed from the conference scene has been concurrent growth and division, interestingly enough.
The Bruce Clay Blog does an awesome job covering industry conferences. How many conferences a year, on average do you attend and live blog, and what is it like traveling so frequently to cover those conferences?
The company probably attends about six conferences a year and between Jessica and I, we probably liveblog two or three each. Attending conferences is one of the most exciting parts of the job. It’s a fast-paced few days of total immersion in topics of critical importance to everyone there. You really never turn off because you’re learning during official presentations, when info-hungry attendees are asking questions during sessions, during a few minutes downtime at the booth when people stop by and over drinks with colleagues and peers. It’s awesome fun.
By covering so many conferences, much of the information you hear probably becomes a bit redundant. How do you keep the information you live blog fresh and relevant when oftentimes it may be a subject you’ve covered previously?
We thoroughly vet each conference’s liveblog schedule, comparing the conference agenda to previously blogged sessions. One thing I do is look at the speakers of sessions, because a session title could be the same but if the speakers are different you’ll be getting a totally different presentation. It’s also a good idea to pay more attention to speakers than topics as we evaluate the agenda with an eye for speakers we feel are leaders in the field.
Looking back on the last year of search conferences, have there been any tidbits of knowledge or conference moments that stand out in your mind as being particularly awesome?
The stand-out moment at a conference this year for me had to be Matt Cutts’s surprise Q&A keynote at SES San Francisco as the history of search was represented by Mike Grehan, Brett Tabke, Danny Sullivan and Matt Cutts on one stage – unpredictably awesome. I was very impressed throughout that show with the agnostic approach SES took, eschewing years old traditions of speakers in favor of cutting-edge, fresh, relevant topics and presenters. You know there’s got to be a lot of politics behind the scenes at industry events, especially those as large and established as SES and SMX. I applaud SES’s leadership for recognizing that personal politics need to take a backseat to high-quality educational content.
In all the years of doing conference coverage, do you have a particular favorite that you look forward to attending each year?
SMX Advanced is always awesome in terms of content caliber and events. I think that’s one show where speakers and presenters look forward to the possibility of learning and hearing something new as much as the rest of the attendees. And Seattle is always a treat.
In addition to conference coverage you blog regularly for Bruce Clay Inc. Writing on such a consistent schedule can be hell for many SEO’s. How do you manage to regularly come up with new topics and what advice do you give SEO bloggers who are struggling to come up with fresh content?
Keep a notebook of ideas. When you’re stumped and on deadline, draw on one of these evergreen topics and with a little research you’ll have a post.
Reuse content. Reports and recommendations for clients can be repurposed for a general audience.
Keep your eyes open. Teaching moments can be found in the most unexpected places.
Answer questions. Write posts about things your clients ask you about. Write posts about things your project managers and sales department ask for resources on. And, quite simply, ask your audience what they want to hear about.
What’s your favorite thing about your work?
The people, no surprise. I definitely missed coming into the office during my stint as a consultant. Nothing can replace friendships grown through professional collaboration and shared successes.
What’s one interesting or random fact about Virginia Nussey that the internet marketing world may not know?
I have the world’s biggest sweet tooth – and will battle to the bellyache for the title!