MozCon Digital 2021 Interview Sequence: Pleasure Hawkins


We look forward to welcoming Joy Hawkins to the virtual stage at MozCon again! Local SEOs know Joy as a GMB expert and for her work leading the Local Search Forum, Local U and the great Sterling Sky team.

Before the show, we talked to Joy about her research on Google Posts, what she loves most about her work in Local SEO and what she is looking forward to at MozCon Virtual 2021. Check out the interview below!

And don’t forget to grab your ticket to see Joy and our other incredible speakers at this year’s MozCon!

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Q: 2020 has been quite a year, how has the Sterling Sky team adjusted? What were some of your favorite projects?

Joy: We were really lucky. Because we have clients in so many industries, we didn’t have many cancellations when COVID first hit last year. We’ve had a tough few months, but most of our customers who paused their services stopped after a few months.

We actually saw a lot of growth in the second half of last year and were even able to hire six more employees in 2020, two of whom had lost their previous jobs due to COVID. So overall, I feel really blessed and have seen how much good comes out of a bad situation.

Question: What do you think has been the biggest challenge for local SEOs over the past year? What changes or trends did you notice?

Joy: Google My Business had a lot of technical issues and bugs that needed to be fixed. They introduced a ton of new features to try to adapt to the ever changing environment and I find that every time that happens, things break.

Question: Local SEO is constantly changing. How do you and the team keep track of algorithm updates and changes?

Joy: We keep track of everything. I’ve made it a habit of knowing everything that’s going on in the industry. I also moderate the Google My Business forum and our own forum, the forum for local search. I also find that the local SEO community is very active on Twitter, so new things are often shared there.

Question: You founded Sterling Sky in 2017. Can you describe what it was like to start and build an agency? Was there anything that surprised you?

Joy: When I started I thought it would be just me, and maybe a few others. I never thought I would have so many employees (currently 19) or clients so this was definitely an exciting piece that I never planned on.

I remember when I hired my first full-time employee in 2017, I wasn’t even sure I had enough to pay him and had a plan to cut my own salary if necessary. Literally the same month it started we had an unexpected influx of new customers so everything went perfectly.

Q: You are well respected in the local SEO industry – what steps did you take to get to where you are today? What recommendations do you have for others looking to improve their personal SEO brand?

Joy: Don’t be afraid to help others or share things you’ve learned. I started in this area by writing articles. It started out as my own blog (which turned into the Sterling Sky blog) but then I started writing for other publications and got a lot more active on social media. Forums played a huge role in how I learned and shared my knowledge. I also made a habit of attending conferences and meeting the people I looked up to. I will never forget the first time I met Mike Blumenthal and how intimidated I was. Networking in this area is really important and MozCon is definitely one of the best places to do it.

Question: What’s your favorite part about local SEO work? What’s the hardest part?

Joy: I love the challenge. It’s like solving a really difficult puzzle. I’ve always loved strategy board games, and SEO often feels like that.

The great thing about working with SMBs is that changes can be implemented quickly and you don’t have tons of rings to go through to get things approved. It is incredibly rewarding to see the effects of our work quickly and to watch the number of customer contacts grow.

I would say the hardest part is dealing with algorithm changes. For the most part, algorithm updates are a good thing for our customers, but it’s definitely frustrating when you feel like Google is doing something wrong.

Question: At MozCon you are discussing a study you and your team carried out in which you analyzed more than 1,000 Google Posts. Why google posts? What sparked your interest in this topic?

Joy: Almost every webinar I attend I get asked about Google posts. People always seem to wonder what to post about. I think I am asked several times a month whether posts affect the ranking.

Question: What insights are you most excited to share with our MozCon audience?

Joy: I think people will be surprised what types of posts do the best. It was definitely not the result that I was expecting. I’m not sure everyone knows what types of content are performing best based on posts I see regularly on Google My Business listings.

Question: Why should local SEOs invest in a Google Post strategy?

Joy: It’s a really easy win. You can get more traffic and conversions from posts with minimal effort. It’s one of those low-hanging fruit strategies that every business should use.

Question: Who in the MozCon lineup are you looking forward to the most this year? What are you still looking forward to?

Joy: There are so many to choose from. Wil Reynolds has the way to blow my mind every time he speaks, so I definitely look forward to hearing his. Dana DiTomaso is another of my favorite speakers. She is one of the smartest people I know in the industry. I’m also very excited to see Noah Learner’s name on the list. I actually met him at a previous MozCon and couldn’t believe how much energy he had. I’m not sure where his energy is coming from, but I need to find out. I recently heard him speak at one of our LocalU events and was really impressed with his knowledge and ability to analyze data.

A big thank you to Joy for her time! To find out more about Joy’s upcoming presentation, check out the details of our other speakers and click the link below to purchase your ticket!

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