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International Women’s Day: An interview with Chérie Bellingham from Return

Author: Faye Dixon
Cherie Bellingham

This Sunday is International Women’s Day, a global day dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women and promoting gender equality. To commemorate, we’re chatting to a number of our amazing female clients, across the different industries we operate within.

Next up is Chérie Bellingham, Senior Technical SEO & CRO Executive at Return, chatting to Forward Role’s Faye about how she ended up working in the technical side of SEO and why she thinks there aren’t as many women in her industry as other areas of marketing.

Hi Chérie, thanks for speaking to me! Let’s start off with talking about what your job entails?

No problem, my primary role is to optimise websites for search engines and to improve conversion rates. This entails researching the needs and the behaviours of the clients' target audience, understanding technical weaknesses of the website and reverse engineering competitor activities; all resulting in myself and the team building long term strategies to drive more traffic to the website and increase the chances of those people converting.

Alongside my primary role, comes with it project management, mentorship and improving the teams' internal processes to make us more efficient and better at our jobs.

What do you love most about it?

It's a massive job, I'm not just siloed into one tiny aspect of my industry; I get to experience and learn it all. Return are massive believers in cross-training and pushing people to learn more than one speciality, if you want to, making everyone super valuable as a specialist. I don't ever think I will feel like I've 'completed' my industry because there's so much within it and it's forever changing which means I'm never bored. I love how every day I learn something new, even if it's as small as learning a new formula in Excel. 

How did you end up working within technical SEO and CRO?

I left university not wanting to go into the industry I initially went to university for and found an interest in programming. When leaving university, I taught myself website development where I learnt about SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). After a year of self-teaching, I took the plunge to look for a job in the SEO industry. Worship Digital saw my potential and hired me to help them build their A/B tests for their conversion experiments which allowed me to put my new-found technical SEO skills into practice on larger websites than my own.

After Worship Digital, I moved to Return who promoted me to a senior position within six months where I have helped shape the team and mentor junior members of staff.

What were the main challenges?

Imposter syndrome was the biggest challenge. I still have it to this day and I don't think I will ever not have it. Because the industry is so big and still growing, I've suffered from doubting my own expertise and sometimes my confidence takes a hit. I think this is very normal in the industry and there's no shame in admitting you need to brush up on your knowledge, you've forgotten something, or you simply just don't know. The most important trait that all my clients appreciate is that if I don't know something, I'll soon become very competent in it.

Why do you think there aren’t as many women working in technical SEO and CRO roles?

MullenLowe London created a video a few years back asking children in a primary school to draw a firefighter, surgeon and a fighter pilot. 61 drawings were of men with only 5 of women. When they introduced the three professionals to the children, the children seemed shocked, confused and in disbelief that these professionals were all women. I think the fact that there are fewer women working in technical roles is a symptom of this and the job roles we typically saw men and women do growing up.

Tech is very often associated with programming even though there are technical roles that don't require extensive programming knowledge. And when people typically think of programmers we think of men.

We see a lot more women dominating in the creative side of the industry whether that's graphic design or content writing but on my journey, I have introduced many of these women to my technological world and they are so intrigued, they just always felt "that job is too hard for me" because it has tech in the title.

I think the work that it is being done to encourage STEM interest at a young age is key to people no longer feeling like they can't do a job because it has a word in the title that has a stereotype.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about getting into a technical SEO or CRO role?

For someone who does want to get into technical SEO, it's all about problem solving. Any skills you may not have or don’t have experience in can be learnt on the job but the way you approach the situation is key.

Constantly ask questions to solve your problem and you will find yourself with a step by step guide on how to resolve the main issue.

It's not good enough to collect data, you need to be able to understand it, learn from it and create an action plan from it.

I’d also say it’s good to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you and don't be afraid to ask questions, this includes online communities. There's so much support out there online and there's an increasing number of meetups that there will always be someone willing to help, provide a new perspective and to share connections with.

Faye Dixon specialises in SEO jobs at Forward Role. ​Keep up to date with Faye by following her on Twitter or connecting on LinkedIn.Click here to read through our other International Women’s Day interviews.

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