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Debra Mastaler gets JobShadowed about her career.  You can find Debra on her website at www.alliance-link.com and on her Twitter feed in the sidebar of this interview.  

What do you do for a living?debradenim

I am a website marketing consultant.

How would you describe what you do?

I work with online business owners to create effective marketing strategies to increase their search engine rankings, drive targeted traffic and build brand.

What does your work entail?

A lot of historical and statistical analysis! Once a client retains my services, I spend a good deal of time researching their website statistics, media influence and competitive intelligence. From there I can create a targeted list of marketing tactics and sources a client can use to drive traffic and search rankings.

What’s a typical work week like?

I am in the office Monday through Friday from 9:00 am until 4:00 pm. I spend several hours reading every day and the remaining time in research and reporting mode. I make a point to visit a number of SEO forums several times a week and participate on the SEOBook forum daily.

How did you get started?

Alliance-Link has been in operation since late 2000, it came about while I owned and operated a directory featuring organic food and clothing. When I started to rank well for a large number of money terms, business owners advertising in my directory asked if I could I help them “optimize” their sites. I had no clue what that meant so I started looking around for information and found the now defunct Rank Write newsletter by Jill Whalen and Heather Lloyd Martin. Jill took the time to explain what I was doing and how SEO influenced a website’s visibility in the search engines and from there, Alliance-Link was born.

Prior to Alliance-Link I spent 15 years in the marketing department of Anheuser-Busch and four years in the Civil Service. Both jobs provided valuable marketing experience in sales, promotions and publicity. It was an invaluable experience and a large part of why I work the way I do today

What do you like about what you do?

I enjoy researching different industries and developing creative and custom marketing plans. I love analyzing numbers and dreaming up ways to drive traffic. I also like the flexibility I have being a sole-proprietor, I usually stick to a Monday through Friday schedule but like the fact I can take a day when I need it and not inconvenience anyone.
What do you dislike?

I dislike being sedentary for long periods of time, I recently purchased a stand-up desk which helps!

How do you make money/or how are you compensated?

I offer two types of consultations and charge a flat fee for each. Most clients use PayPal although there are some who still prefer to cut checks!

How much do you make?

I am very comfortable and can easily support myself.

How much money did/do you make starting out?

When I started Alliance-Link in 2000 I made less than $10,000 the first year. Suffice to say I’ve come a long way since then.

What education, schooling, or skills are needed to do this?

The type of consulting I do requires a fair amount of experience in marketing, I think you’d be hard-pressed to develop creative and innovative media relations, promotional, email or sales driven tactics if you didn’t have the experience to draw from. You also need to be organized and a dedicated researcher. You can create fun tactics all day but if you don’t understand the demographic behind a website or how to find them, you can’t develop tactical recommendations.

What is most challenging about what you do?

Keeping up with the constant changes being made at Google, Bing and Yahoo as well as the major social media sites!

What is most rewarding?

When happy clients come back six months later to share their success stories and say “thank you”.

What advice would you offer someone considering this career?

Before you go solo, work for a brand or agency for a couple years to learn the ropes. Focus on learning how the media really works (there is so much more than issuing press releases), how to create and track a promotion and how to build an email list.
Look for established players, watch how they promote themselves and what they’re saying. It is human to develop favorites but don’t discount anyone.

New business won’t come to you initially, you’ll have to work to earn a reputation just like you would in any industry.
Find a forum or online community and get involved, the relationships you make will last a lifetime and you will constantly learn something new.

Once you go solo, invest in good equipment, dual screens are a must. Backup every night.
Budget for at least one industry conference a year. Go, learn, network. Once you’ve done a couple, pitch to speak.

How much time off do you get/take?

I schedule several weeks of vacation a year and have the flexibility to take days when I need them.

What is a common misconception people have about what you do?

People outside the SEO community hear the word “website marketing consultant and immediately think that’s code for “web designer”.

What are your goals/dreams for the future?

To continue with my consulting business and develop my small but growing media company.

What else would you like people to know about your job/career?

My job is no different than anyone else’s, my compensation and satisfaction are tied to my efforts.

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