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Listening to the riveting career journey Mike Ulrich, the Director of Digital Intelligence at Wpromote, has taken is like experiencing an episode of the Star Wars saga. The origin of Mike’s career journey is comparable to a jedi protagonist in the beginning of a Star Wars film who secretly possess immense force but grows up like any other member of the galaxy on a remote planet. Mike began his career journey as one of the many SEO analysts in the “wild west” days of SEO. What makes Mike’s journey unique is that he identified a need for in-depth technical SEO audits for client websites, which has led him to his role today: making sense of vast amounts of data and giving this knowledge data-driven direction. In our discussion, Mike addresses his shift from a general to technical SEO position, what digital intelligence is, the value of your website’s data, and what leadership advice he would pass on to his young son.

Not Too Long Ago, In A Galaxy Not So Far Away…

Question 1: Where did your SEO journey begin, Mike? What was your first job after college?

Answer: An unpaid internship at a company called Magic Logix. The company had about 10-12 employees…after a few months they hired me on as an SEO Analyst doing paid ads, as well. At that company I had a boss who became a mentor-like figure who had me work on different accounts and she slowly began giving me more accounts.

Question 2: Was search engine optimization a good foundation for your digital marketing experience? Are you glad you began your career in SEO?

Answer: I’m perfectly fine with where I started. Where you start doesn’t necessarily dictate where you’re going to go. Where you go is based off of your strengths, what you find interesting, and finding a good company to foster those strengths.

The Leap From SEO Padawan To SEO Master

Question 3: When did you begin making the shift from general SEO analyst experience to SEO technical knowledge?

Answer: It was at the next company I worked after Magic Logix, which was ReachLocal. I was one of 3 or 4 analysts there. I got to build out SEO plans for all these large national clients. I ran into numerous client websites where there were a bunch of issues. I began asking myself, “Why are my client’s rankings falling off the chart?” I learned it had to do with the technical foundation of the website. I discovered you need to fix the foundation prior to moving on to the keyword selection and content optimization portion of SEO. I watched these adjusted websites’ performance drastically improve over the course of 3-5 months.

Question 4: What was the biggest change that made you realize your future in technical SEO?

Answer: Some of the biggest changes that got me to love the technical side of SEO was being given free rein to learn technical factors that impact websites. As I saw problems on websites I taught myself how to fix the issue, and then learned how to implement these changes. I saw great improvements on these websites. Technical SEO is like a mad scientist experiment.

The Force (AKA Digital Intelligence) Is Strong With This One

Question 5: What is digital intelligence? Instinctively, I want to relate digital intelligence to artificial intelligence, but I don’t think this is the case.

Answer: I can give you a background in digital intelligence. Digital intelligence is when we take digital technology platforms and find a way to implement them to pull intelligence or data out and push it where it needs to go. We’re sculpting data. Our team is taking unstructured data and finding ways to push the data where it needs to go into pixels, scripts or specific channel analytics. In essence, digital intelligence is not like artificial intelligence where it thinks for itself, but we’re defining “events” and “event types” data on the page. Say its a specific product and customers come to an ecommerce website then click products they want to buy. Our team can pull information we’ve added tags to based on the product names, the color of products and all these different aspects you can look at to see which of your products are the most viewed. This allows us to gather the data and show the customer intent behind the data to clients.

Sage Leadership Advice

Question 6: What is the most valuable skill you learned from working with your team?

Answer: One of the most valuable skills I’ve learned regarding teamwork was actually through the team here at Wpromote. I have learned that working together as a team and managing doesn’t mean you’re barking out orders…leadership means you’re leading by example. Our team is highly collaborate. We have daily scrum meetings and we have great communication. I’m not micromanaging anybody. It’s actually the opposite. If someone runs into an issue we all jump in and can give ideas and solutions.

Question 7: How old is your son? And what leadership qualities do you hope your son learns?

Answer: He is 16 months old. I don’t necessarily want to over-influence him into developing specific leadership qualities determined by me, I want him to be the best person that he can be. I want to instill in him a good character. I hope he puts his entire self into anything he does and takes advantage of the opportunities in front of him. I think a great character paves the way into being a strong leader.

Main Takeaway From Mike’s Leadership Journey

Mike’s career development journey from general SEO knowledge to finding his passion in technical SEO audits is an inspirational testimony to beginning professionals in the digital marketing industry. The areas of opportunity to learn in digital marketing are immense, but it is exciting to find a specific area to focus on, such as Mike did.

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