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Dealing with Senior Pressure as a Junior SEO Executive

Working as a beginner in an agency or in-house can be challenging. Here's how I approached senior pressure while working as a junior digital marketer.

Dealing with Senior Pressure as a Junior SEO Executive
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Entering the world of SEO as a junior is a big deal and hugely exciting.

In a new role, which may be an introduction to the industry, the learning opportunities are endless.

Your skills are also in high demand both from your direct team and from across the rest of the business.

Most businesses come with a hierarchy and a wide range of experiences and seniority.

A typical marketing team will consist of digital, print, brand teams and so on, each with its own management structure.

For most of us, the day-to-day responsibilities of our role, mean we come into contact with senior members of our own company or, if you work in an agency, senior managers from other businesses who have their own pressures and tasks that may well involve other, more junior colleagues.

As a junior executive, I have often felt conflicted by the pressure of my own responsibilities while being involved in the deliverables of multiple senior managers, plus a sense of trepidation, when needing to present my work to someone more experienced.

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Naturally, opinions can differ and there will always be compromises.

However, in today’s Friday Focus, I will walk through how I approached senior pressure while working as a junior SEO and digital marketer.

In Conversation: Keep Things Straightforward & Focus on the Key Message

I’ve been told I can be a bit “waffly” when I talk, so this point is a really key element when dealing with senior pressure.

That said, a key point always at the front of my mind is to keep the conversation straightforward and ensure I can understand and work on the key message.

Here are the three areas I always try to refer to for communicating my SEO and digital marketing decisions with a senior executive.

It’s a way that has always helped me strike the right balance between being respectful of authority and being decisive.

Start With & Lead With the Key Point

I often say too much and take too long to get to the key point by providing too much context.

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I admit I worry that if I don’t provide the full story my idea won’t be understood or that my reasoning won’t be clear.

By the time I work my way up to the area of importance, the impact of the introduction often gets lost.

To get around this worry, I focus on the feedback I have been given, that “a narrow focus, is best when talking face to face.”

If I need to talk through my work, my first way of making an impact is to lead with a headline, ensuring my message will be far more effective.

By doing this I have found my confidence improves as I lose the anxiety about telling the whole story.

A good example here would be discussing the findings of an SEO audit. Lead with the key points rather than the process you took to complete the audit.

The wider story is important, but not essential at the moment.

Add Detail With a Thought Process

After closing the key point, I then take the opportunity to add more context and walk through how I came to my conclusion.

When presented with a well-structured discussion, any listener would benefit, not just senior managers. If appropriate, I offer more detail and then tailor this depending on the response.

Again, I prefer to keep this on the brief side, while not compromising on the detail that leads to my findings.

Although my work was being presented from a junior perspective, it was a great opportunity to demonstrate my technical ability and the quality of the strategy.

Going back to my SEO audit example, this stage would be guiding the senior manager in question, through the reason for each action, adding the detail on potential gains, the difficulty of the work and the next steps.

Looking to change title tags?

Great! Show the reason why, the effort needed, and the potential benefits

Thinking of recommending more supporting content?

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That’s often a great suggestion, but one that needs a justification due to bigger time commitments.

By adding the justification, after a key point, I find I am talking in a way that keeps things concise, yet nicely ordered, ready for further presentation higher up the company hierarchy if needed.

It sounds simple, but when I realized that, regardless, of position, we’re all speaking the same language, good communication is more a case structured detail over disconnected ramblings.

Open the Door to Questions & Advice

To wrap things up, after framing my key points and my reasoning I aim to create some balance by opening the door to feedback, questions, or general comments.

It is almost inevitable, that my personal point of view, isn’t exactly the same as someone else’s (we are talking about SEO after all), so I aim to be prepared for a knock to my confidence when someone senior disagrees with me.

The difference I have aimed to evolve here is the ability to stand up for my case while being receptive to advice.

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Any comments I do get, I make sure to do something with, to ensure my work increases in strength.

Any areas of disagreement are taken in context with a clear opportunity for me to add further justification where needed.

Every SEO project has different demands and a varying number of people involved in the process, but by following these steps, I have learned to step out from the shadow a junior title, to communicate on a senior level.

In Times of Pressure: Understanding the Steps for ‘Out of Scope’ Requests

“Can you do me favor?”

In my experience, that’s a question that I have struggled to handle when it comes from a senior manager. Often it comes pre-loaded with expectation depending on who asks the question.

When I was brand new, I was eager to impress resulting in my less experienced self going along with most of these requests for extra help.

When it comes to this type of request, I have learned that as a search professional (not just a junior), two of the biggest skills are to ask why and to know when to say “no” constructively.

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Don’t get me wrong, I am all about being a team player, but by picking up favors and extra work, my core job role gets less attention.

During roles as a junior SEO and digital marketer, I have been involved in multiple projects at any one time that come with plenty of work on a day-to-day basis.

After all, SEO is never finished

Ask Why

When faced with a senior staff member asking me to work on something that isn’t my direct job (excluding my direct line manager), I will ensure I know the full story.

Often words like “urgent” or “critical” are thrown around without much thought, so it is worth knowing that, no matter how junior you are, you can always ask why.

Learn When to Say ‘No’ Constructively

I will put this out there to all junior marketers, saying no is OK and should never be treated with resentment.

You know your own pressures and workload better than anyone else and know whether you can take on additional work.

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In addition, I learned to realize when I may not be the best person for the task, even if I am technically able to complete the request.

A theoretical example would be a senior request for the SEO team to work on website speed… something key to SEO but technically, within the realms of web development.

In this example, I would ideally have taken the time to understand what I have full control over and what I can have the biggest impact on.

My answer here:

“I agree that website speed is important but my skills lie best in understanding the impact of site speed on SEO, over actually making the actual improvements themselves.”

It’s just like saying no but in a constructive way!

In Day-to-Day Business: Understand Everyone Is Human

A key theme across a number of Friday Focus articles and deservedly so, is that everyone is human!

Whatever role you work in, from junior to CEO, you are human with individual pressures and deadlines to meet.

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Understanding how these pressures differ per person and that no one is immune from stress ensures I can approach a senior staff member, without feeling inferior.

Sure, you can argue that the pressures of a CEO are more crucial than anyone else in the business but it’s all about individual perspective. Make sure not to lose sight of your own pressures when faced with someone else’s.

Every big boss has deadlines too, so this pressure is likely to also be shared with someone more junior to share the load. I find learning prioritization is key in these situations and often helps tailor how I deal with senior pressure.

I take pleasure in remembering that most senior managers were at the start of their career once, likely when SEO was a very different ballgame.

This knowledge can be incredibly valuable, with a newer perspective just as crucial in offering a different opinion.

To Sum Up

When it comes to a career as a junior SEO executive, I want to tie things back to the exciting world that lies ahead.

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Just like a website, try and test different approaches in how you work with senior management and use these tips to contribute to what works for you, rather than a direct replacement.

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Image Credits

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita

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Matthew Ramsay

Senior Client Manager at PPCGeeks

Matthew Ramsay is a Senior Client Manager at UK PPC agency, PPCGeeks. Matthew is part of a growing team, aiming ... [Read full bio]

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