Moving from agency to in-house with Jen Penaluna

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In this week's episode, Jack Chambers-Ward is joined by Jen Penaluna, SEO Manager at The Lowdown, to discuss her recent career move from working in SEO agencies to working in-house.

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Jack: Coming up on this week's episode of Search With Candour, I will be talking with the SEO Manager over at The Lowdown, Jen Penaluna, all about her transition from agency life to working in-house. What are the surprises? What are the misconceptions? And what are the things to look forward to? If you've been thinking about transitioning from agency to in-house or vice versa, this is the episode for you. Welcome to episode 74 of season two of the Search With Candour podcast. I am your host for this week, Jack Chambers-Ward, and I will be talking with a BrightonSEO speaker and Rising Star Award nominated SEO, Jen Penaluna later on in the show. We'll be talking all about her transition and journey, career journey really, from working for agencies and now moving over to a very recent in-house role with The Lowdown. It's a really interesting conversation, something I don't have experience with, having worked my entire career pretty much agency side. I think you'll learn a lot. If you are thinking about that move in your career, it's definitely worth paying attention to Jen's advice and the journey so far that she's been through.

Sponsor: SISTRIX

Before we get to my conversation with Jen, I'd like to say a very big thank you to the sponsor for this week. It is of course SISTRIX, the SEO's toolbox. And you can go to if you want to check out some of their fantastic free tools that includes their SERP Snippet Generator, if you want to see what your actual title and meta description and all that stuff is going to look like on the SERP in a snippet, there's a good way to do it. And that's using SISTRIX's SERP Snippet Generator.

If you want to check, validate and create your hreflang tags, you can also do that for free. If you want to check and keep up to date on Google updates, there's rumors, potential rumors, an algorithm update, there's some little volatility checks. I've seen a few people tweeting about it. SISTRIX will keep you up to date on all the Google updates. And of course you can go and check your site's visibility index for free as well. I mentioned last week that we have the latest Trend Watch, that is Trend Watch from May, 2023 by the fantastic Nicole Scott. Trend Watch is, of course, 10 trends every single month delivered straight to your inbox. And you can go sign up for it by going to And you get a little sneak peek on the website, but you do have to subscribe to the newsletter to get all 10.

And I'll basically do a little preview of the top one from the article today. Broken Planet, something I'd never heard of before. But Broken Planet is a fashion brand, basically. So Broken Planet have really captured a lot of people's attention in their rise to fame because of their huge, huge focus on sustainable fashion and clothing. Sustainability is a topic that keeps coming up in Trend Watch. I don't know if you've noticed that. I certainly have. And it's a thing that is going to continue to come up I think because it is a huge talking point for so many people around the world and so many industries around the world as well. Broken Planet use exclusively recycled material. They consciously reduce waste, for the creation and maintenance of their company as well. And I think a lot of people are really trying to be a bit more conscious when it comes to buying new clothes and trying to be much more sustainable in their efforts. I think Broken Planet have done something that is trying to lean towards that edgy side of things, of that shock value. There's a button on the website that says reality on, reality off.

With reality off, you get on these lovely beaches and the typical kind of stuff you see on fashion websites where you get waves and people running around and it's, oh, it's all perfect and lovely. If you put reality back on, there's rubbish all over the beach and the sea are gray and the world is a terrible place. Unfortunately, it's true. And I think that instant shock value thing for their website is a quick way to grab people's attention. They've also been very active in participating with things like pop-up events and really getting involved in wider fashion discussions, but bringing that ethical production and sustainable commentary to it. Credit to Broken Planet for doing that.

And I think this is something you can really take away with some of the data from Trend Watch is, how can you get your brands or a particular topic that we'll be talking about to really stand out from the crowd. And I think taking this advice from people like Broken Planet ... Who are fairly new in the grand scheme of things when it comes to fashion, their explosion over the last nine to 10 months or so has made a huge, huge impact. I think a lot of people are now paying attention to them. And it's a lesson we can learn for you, your clients or your website, if you're working directly on a website, you're working in-house, it's something you can really take away with you and understand why they're working, learn the strategies and the way to apply them to the things that you are doing.

The data from SISTRIX and Trend Watch is a brilliant way to get a glimpse into that and get the ball rolling for some ideas. And I find that really, really useful. Like I said, you can get nine more trends on top of talking about Broken Planet by going to Subscribe to the newsletter there, and you'll get 10 brand new trends delivered to your inbox every single month.

Moving from an agency to in-house SEO

My guest for this week is a BrightonSEO speaker, a Rising Star Award nominated SEO. And owner of Burt and Frank, the sausage dogs very importantly. And perhaps most importantly, a former radio host of Music Radio Hud. Welcome to the show, Jen Penaluna, how are you?

Jen: I'm good, thanks. Have you been stalking my LinkedIn profile? That's some deep diving.

Jack: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah, I do my research here on Search With Candour, making sure, I know you've got radio experience, so I think you're ready for a podcast for sure.

Jen: A hundred percent not applicable, no.

Jack: But most importantly, Burt and Frank, the sausage dogs, I feel like there's where we need to start. The key part of any social media strategy is adorable pets.

Jen: Yeah, it's basically my personality now, I'm just a dog mum. Do SEO on the side.

Jack: So we're here to talk about your recent, congratulations by the way, your recent move in your career to in-house from agency. So it's something we touched on a couple of times here on the show before, moving from the agency, Evoluted, over to The Lowdown. I think that's a really interesting topic. We're going to dive into your experiences, what people can expect, maybe some misconceptions and misunderstandings people might have about that process and the differences between the two as well. So should we start with your career so far leading up to this transition period and now moving over into in-house. Has that been a big shift for you? Was that always the plan essentially is what I'm trying to get to as part of your career?

Jen: Good question. I really struggle with the, where do you see yourself in five years time? Because I'm not sure.

Jack: I guess, is this where you saw yourself five years ago is another way of saying it?

Jen: No. But I couldn't really see myself. I really like the agency side, but I thought one day I might go in-house or I might go freelance. But I don't think I've got the attention span for freelance. I think I need somebody to keep me accountable. I was always under this impression that in-house might be boring. I hope that's okay to say. That it's just one thing. I'm used to working on multiple clients. And actually somebody did say that to me, somebody that knows me quite well, when I said, "By the way, I'm leaving, I'm going in-house." And they were like, "Oh, do you think you'll be bored just working on one client? Because we know that you hate being bored, you hate not having tons to do. What if things are quite slow because you hate projects like that that take ages to get done." I was like, "Yeah, it is a bit of a concern, but ..." We could chat through it in a bit. But it was quite a lengthy interview process. So I feel like I'd vetted that enough to make sure it definitely wasn't going to be boring.

Jack: Yeah, I think you're totally right. There's that first misconception of, agency life is a hundred miles an hour and a million different clients and it's always moving and stuff. Whereas in-house stuff can be a lot more slow, getting through process of the higher ups making decisions and all this stuff. But yeah, I guess, let's start with how you made that decision really, how you came to the decision of leaving agency life. Like you said, you went in with some nerves and some concerns, but it sounds like it was actually a pretty positive process overall?

Jen: Yeah. So if I go right back to the beginning. Obviously I joined Evoluted from another agency. And like you said, that was quite a big thing for me at the time because I was quite comfortable where I was at the previous agency. Evoluted had some great stuff to offer, I really like the people, still really like the people, if they're listening. And yeah, like you said, they've pushed me to be a BrightonSEO speaker, to be nominated for that Rising Star, that I didn't win, but still nice to be nominated. And congrats to who did win though. And it was a great couple of years. I probably wasn't expecting to leave as soon. But essentially I was a customer of The Lowdown's, and it was something that I use them as a service. So I've had a lot of issues with GP appointments around periods and things. And I think I came across them on TikTok. And then I went to their website and I was like, "Oh, I can book an appointment." And it's a 20-minute appointment rather than 10 minutes. So I've actually got longer to try and fit all the issues in. So I did. And I paid for that. And afterwards I cried happy tears, not sad tears for once.

Jack: Wow.

Jen: So I told everybody about it. And I was like, "I've finally had a GP appointment where I felt listened to about women's issues." And I think I tweeted about them just to say, "By the way, this is brilliant." Because I've literally just wanted everyone to know because I wanted someone else to have that experience. And Alice the founder, she must have seen the tweet, so she messaged me last year, to say we're looking for an SEO manager if you want to chat. And at the time I was really happy, not that I was ever unhappy, but I was in a really great place. I loved the team, I liked the clients that we worked on. I was on track for a promotion to start managing some of the team members as well. So I knew that that was coming. I didn't really want to deviate from that. So I said no. And then a few months later I signed up to be a mentor for Women in Tech and I realised I was in a very similar situation to the person that I was mentoring and-

Jack: How interesting.

Jen: Yeah, it wasn't the original plan. And Areej must have some spidey sense knowledge, because I'm sure I didn't put this in the notes, but I realised that we were both going through a very similar thing and we were evaluating what do we actually want? Because I don't think either of us were unhappy, but we were like, "What would make us really happy?"

So we started working through what are the bits of the job that you really, really love and if you could do more of that, you would be so much happier? What are the bits that you don't like as much? And I started to realise that maybe in-house would work better for me. And then I was thinking back to The Lowdown and I thought, "Why did I ..." There we go. That's Burt, he's the nosiest, the littlest. So yeah, I thought back to The Lowdown and I thought, "Why did I close that door before I'd even opened it and considered it?" So I got back in touch with Alice and said, "I'm not a hundred percent definitely looking to move, but I would like a conversation just to see what's what, see if things would align." And then that set things in motion.

Jack: Wow. Yeah, I think that's a really interesting thing. And I think a lot of mentor-mentee relationships, and I've talked about this a couple of times before for very different subjects, but you find yourself giving good advice to other people but not actually taking it yourself. I know I'm totally guilty of this, of self-confidence issues, self-doubt, all that stuff. You'll big up your friends and your colleagues saying, "Yeah, you're brilliant, you're amazing." And then give none of that to yourself. I think that's really interesting. You happen, like you said, Areej's magical spidey sense lining you up with your mentee and bringing you two together and realizing, actually no, we're going through the same thing and that journey, the advice you're giving to them could actually apply to you as well. That's really, really cool, really interesting.

Jen: Yeah, it was, she was also thinking, "Do I want a promotion? Will that make me happy? Do I want this next role or do I want to consider something a little bit different?" And I was like, "Oh, good question." Because I'm also one step from a promotion, do I definitely want that? And in all fairness, because I obviously came from managing a team before, and Evoluted was a bit of a bigger team, so it took a bit longer to get to that management position. But then I decided actually I would really miss doing the do. Whereas an in-house role, there's nobody else, in this company anyway, I'm the only SEO. So everybody relies on me to do everything SEO-wise. And that's what I wanted really.

Jack: Amazing. So you've covered how you found it, I guess, and that journey. I think it's a really interesting journey that you were already a customer because that is a really great way to find places you want to work at for want of a better phrase. And it's something you brought up in the show notes before we started recording and stuff was how to find a company that aligns with your values. Because I think, again, so many horror stories agency side of terrible agencies, terrible agency owners, charlatans, liars, people running away with money, all this stuff. I don't really, maybe it's just because I'm in the agency life and I'm in my little bubble, but I don't particularly hear that stuff in in-house. But the fact that you brought that up in the show notes I think is really interesting because you get companies that you wouldn't necessarily think, "Oh yeah, they need an SEO person or whatever." And the fact that Alice, the founder, reached out to you straight away, and you were already a customer, you were already essentially an advocate for them on social media as well, that seems like the perfect alignment. So was that like the stars aligning in your head of, "I like the company, Alice seems cool, they're looking for an SEO, this is the moment to make your shot?"

Jen: Yeah, it felt like the universe put it in front of me rather than me going out for it. And I thought, "I don't want to upset the universe so I be better go for it." But yeah, in terms of values and clients and things, because there's only so much control you've got over who you work on at an agency. And I've never worked on anything that I've hated or anything like that. But I've worked on a lot of boring things. And it's not necessarily the industry's boring, it's just not something that's an interest of mine. And I have found that working on something that genuinely is interesting to me, it's so much easier to sit down and do the work. And think actually I'm going to help make a difference to somebody, somebody like me.

Jack: Yeah, I think that's a huge factor that keeps the passion alive for want of a better phrase. If you're genuinely interested, and The Lowdown do amazing work in helping people who menstruate get access to stuff and making a huge difference in so many people's lives. Like you said, there's that ethical side of it as well. You're not working for, I don't know, a tobacco company or a gambling company or whatever it is, these slightly less ethical companies. And as you said, with agency life you do get lumped with some pretty dry clients sometimes. My driest is probably, from my previous agency, was an agricultural lime supplier for fields. And what they do is they supply the stuff that balances pH levels in local fields here in Norfolk. And I was like, "I'm from Norfolk, we are a farming county, but I have no idea what you're talking about." And I quickly learned all about lime.

Jen: I think that is funny. Yeah, I think that is one side that I miss to be fair, just the weird things that you end up knowing about on the agency side. I think my worst moment was the, I have had a few, they were a great client and everything, but they were a company that made the machines that make cardboard boxes for delivering things in.

Jack: Wow. Not even the cardboard boxes themselves. They make the machines that make the boxes.

Jen: Yes.

Jack: I didn't even know that was an option. Does that make sense?

Jen: Well, yeah, I suppose if you really think about it, everybody needs different size boxes for different things.

Jack: Seems fairly obvious when you say it that way, Jen, yeah, I suppose it does. So, going through that process, you mentioned Alice contacted you, you came back round on it a second time. What was that actual transitional process for you? You've made up your decision of, okay, I'm want to give this a shot and see what can happen. What was that interview process like? What was that transitional process during that time?

Jen: So it was probably longer and tougher than I expected. Alice asked me for a CV and I've not done a CV for about six or seven years. I was like, "Oh, I can do one but you'll have to give me some time." And she was like, "Actually it's fine, we'll just chat through your experience and stuff." So I was like, phew. So I still haven't had to write one. But yeah, I think I chatted with five people in total over a period of a few weeks. And there was a test as well, which if you told me that for agency life, I'd be like, "Absolutely not. I am not going through all of that for a job basically." But I understood that ... it's a startup as well, we're a very, very small team and if the wrong person gets hired that's got potential to cause all sorts of problems. And now that I'm in the company, I know that they've worked with a lot of SEO consultants in the past and there's been lots of conflicting advice and suggestions that actually weren't that great. And they just really don't want to get burned again.

The test was really interesting because a lot of it was more theoretical questions, like how would you approach this task? You don't have to do the task because you don't have access to all our data. But how would you do it? So I think Allie said something like spend a couple of hours on it. But I'm a bit of a perfectionist and I wanted to do as much as I possibly could. It took me ages. I think I sat down over a period of a few days and I kept going back to it. Because I was like, "Actually it depends, it really does depend." So I was given all these different scenarios. "Well, I would approach it like this, but if this happens I would do this." I might have gone a bit over the top, but that's just me. But then I got to chat through it with our chief technology officer as well. And I was quite intimidated actually because I thought, "This is a CTO, she's a woman, she's really, really smart. She's going to say everything that I've written is technically incorrect and I'm stupid." And it wasn't that all because she wouldn't have had the conversation with me if it was a terrible exam. So it was really nice to chat through that and then understand how we would work together on a day-to-day basis.

Jack: The differences in interviewing can make a huge difference. Like you said, you would not go through five different levels and a test and this and that for an agency job because it feels like, for want of a better phrase, they're a dime a dozen. There are so many different agencies, there are so many different options out there.

Whereas a specific in-house role, and coming back to things that align with your values as well, finding something that perfectly aligns with you, and it certainly seems like The Lowdown does for you. That is one of the far rarer cases. You're not going to come across that every single day. Whereas you could probably apply to another agency any day of the week and give it a go and give it a shot. I think that's a really ... a thing most people don't pay attention to or aren't aware of because we don't really talk about the interview process as much. I feel like it's quite a hush hush, no CEO or no head of SEO or head of marketing or whatever or recruiters in general particularly talk about the interview process until you are there doing it. And in that mode and in that zone. And then it's all, like you said, all systems go, paying full attention to it.

Was that intimidating to you or were you just like, I'm ready for this? Like you said, you had a couple of hours but you want to get really, really stuck into it and you want to give it your best shot. Did you feel like it was a big competition, big, big shot?

Jen: Cool question. I actually didn't, I felt like I was at home. I spoke to somebody, I spoke to people in the growth team, I spoke to the medics just to get a feeling of what everybody was like and how they worked and if they liked me as well. Because it was quite staggered, it didn't feel really overwhelming. But I spoke to a couple of friends that are in the marketing and development industry. And they were like, "That's ridiculous, it's taking ages, I wouldn't bother." And I was like, "I get it, but it doesn't seem like a difficult thing to do because I understand why they're doing it this way. And it's not question after question, like do you know what this means? It's not like that. It's more about finding the fit between us and making sure that the way that I approach things is how they approach things as well." So I remember, I think one of the first chats I had with Alice, I can't remember the exact question, but I said, "I like to just get things done and see how they go. And we can always perfect it after. I feel like a lot of times clients can wait to get something absolutely perfect to get that new page up or that new area of the site. But actually let's just get it up, let's see how Google reacts. And we can always perfect it as we go along. Give it time to age, see how it does." And Alice was like, "Yeah, that's exactly what we do." So that was the moment, yeah, this is going to work for me.

Jack: That's an interesting part of it as well, coming not just from aligning from values but actually the approach that the company has already had already, especially as you come in, as you said, the only SEO person. You're going to be the driving force behind so many campaigns, so many site changes, so much content and things like that. Having a boss or a manager or whatever it is, whatever the situation is, that trusts you and understands your approach to it is hugely important in the in-house role. Again, I'm assuming and guessing, not knowing that perspective, but I think that's something you get a lot in agency life of, this is how we've always done it so it's going to be done this way. And I think it's really interesting you coming in, particularly to a startup which is another layer to it, and you being that first SEO person, being the driving factor behind all of it. Was that a big decision for you to know that I get to give actionable recommendations that are actually going to get changed? Rather than having to wait on a client and then they report to someone else and then they report to someone else and then six months later maybe they've made a decision. Whereas as soon as you knew you and Alice were in sync there, you could actually get things done and make changes.

Jen: Yeah. I think it was one of the points of the comment from somebody that I used to work with that was like, "Do you not think you'll be bored?" Because we feel like a lot of the time in-house things take ages to get actioned because they're big corporations that have to go through multiple layers. And just to get one little thing sorted out, it can potentially affect lots of other things. I was like, "It's not like that because it's a startup and we're still in that testing and pivoting period. So it means I get to try lots of new things out." And what's been really interesting to me is seeing just the pace at which we can have a theory, test it out, learn from it, did it work? Shall we roll this out to more things? Shall we try and make this better? Or did it not work? Take that learning and just move on. I feel like there's this need to deliver great results all the time for everything for clients because obviously that's what they pay you for. But sometimes you do just have a hunch and you think, "I really think this will work, but there's no clear promise that it definitely will work. But definitely let's test it."

Jack: Yeah, freedom to try new stuff out and just experiment I think, and so many people have said it on the show before, it's such a key part of your initial learning process as well. I think so many of us have learned just by building your own site and not even realizing you're doing SEO until somebody says, "You know you are ranking for this keyword, right?" You're like, "What's a keyword? Oh right, that thing. Yeah. Yeah." So yeah, it sounds like having that freedom is a really big positive as well to be able to try new things out, be trusted by the other people in the team and the other departments as well and being able to experiment with stuff. Do you find yourself doing a lot of that AB testing or is it more like, just try a campaign, see how it feels, then we'll try something different later on? What's the actual, not to steal your strategies or anything like that, but what's the process for your approach for that?

Jen: So, I'm on week four at the moment as we're recording this, and we basically pivoted our entire strategy on week four, so it's been a really interesting first month. Basically started trying to get to grips with everything. There's a lot of internal processes. We work with an SEO consultant at the moment, so she's reducing her time down, end up not working with us from next month. So I'm really going to miss her. Obviously she's got a way of doing things, she's set up processes. So I've been trying to learn exactly what they are. Even down to things like getting the medics to write blogs and how we upload them and how we brief them and things like that. Just to make sure there's consistency before I start doing my own things as well. So, to be honest, that took up quite a chunk of time. And I also did a super mega technical audit. I loved it. It was a great week, just finding everything that was potentially wrong with the site that we could make better. And it's been set to the side now. And I understand why.

We basically had a meeting, and without giving too much away, we're moving into a new chapter, we're calling it the New World. So a lot of what we've done in the past we're parking, but there's still some things that we will carry over. So things like the crawling and indexing issues that I've found, they will still apply to the New World and all the new things that we're doing. But some of the things ... I'm sure people will be going on and having a look, I'm not saying it's a technically perfect site, and we know it's not. And that's also something that I think's really interesting because you can look at somebody's site, especially knowing that there's one SEO person, and think, "Oh, that's not perfect, I'd change that." It's like, "Yeah, you might, and I probably would as well, but it's not a priority because of what it will impact." So it comes back to all the north star metrics that we're all working to as a company. We do want to be profitable, we want different segments of the site to be profitable in their own ways. And then once we work out, actually this bit isn't as profitable as it could be, it's not a priority for us anymore. We want to move on to the next thing that is. So that's where my priorities are as well.

Jack: Right, yeah. You mentioned metrics and measurements there. How has that been different going from ... I find a lot of agencies will hang their hat on a particular thing, the classic LinkedIn graph without an actual Y axis. "Yeah, traffic's shot up." Has it though? It's gone from zero to 10. That's not actually impressive. 10 Xed our traffic. Yeah, two to 20 is not that impressive. But I think there are some genuinely interesting ways to do reporting for SEO. There's multiple different ways of doing it depending on what your KPIs are and things like that. How much has that changed for you going from agency to in-house and that going from reporting to multiple different people maybe in different ways to being more focused?

Jen: Oh god. So at the first agency I worked at, I really liked reporting. I built the Data Studio dashboards, I knew exactly what I wanted in them, tailored it to each client, loved it. Then I moved to Evoluted, and they've got their own ways of setting things up. So it was a little bit more restrictive, but it was still a really good time to reflect on the past month, look at the new month. But it was very similar for each client, even though they had different metrics.

And now that I've just got one, it's a lot more granular than doing it for clients. Even though we'd break things down, like the non-blog traffic or the non-branded traffic, things like that. What we're doing now is breaking it into really specific segments of the site, like where people are in different stages. And actually seeing on a much more detailed level, like this new section that we launched last month actually now accounts for, say, 4% of overall traffic. And it's just quite interesting to see this more zoomed in level.

Jack: Yeah, I find myself a lot when ... In my previous agency I had about 15 clients or so, I now have about five here at Candour, so it's a bit more manageable. But I think you're totally right that once you focus on one site, and as you said, doing technical audits, you get to know it really well. I know you're only in week four, but it sounds like you've got a pretty good grasp of it already. That you are able to look at that nuance and the tiny little details and get more granular. Like you said, being able to see a particular typical customer journey or a user journey from blog to then converting and contacting or whatever it is. That is the stuff I feel like you often don't get time in an agency setting to really, really dig down into the data and pull it all out and have a look at it. Is that something you've been enjoying, being able to really dive ... it sounds like you love data and digging around in data, so that definitely sounds like a positive from my end?

Jen: Yeah. This week I've put together a mini deck on looking at what our returning customers do. Because our returning customers are the most valuable for us. So we wanted a little bit more data and what do these returning customers actually do. Where do they come back to? Where do they drop off? What do they do while they're on the site? What's the conversion rates for different things on there? Can we make it easier for them to come back and get what it is that they want?

And then finding some surprises in there as well. I expected that most people would come back to the site for their prescriptions. But it's been interesting seeing how they come back to the site because they're not always through the pages that you would expect. And then I've also found some blog posts that people have come back to and then ended up converting on that we wouldn't necessarily have thought they would. So straight away that means we can try and optimise those blog posts a little bit better for call to actions just from looking at that data that I probably wouldn't have got to look at at agency level.

Jack: Yeah, that sounds really valuable. I think that's, from my side being like, "Ooh, that sounds good." Getting a little bit jealous. So what have been the biggest surprises for you? Like you said, you're still only just over the first month here, so everything's still pretty fresh. What have been the biggest changes and maybe the biggest unexpected changes and surprises you've experienced with that transition and now in the first few weeks?

Jen: Oh, I feel like I've covered a few of them anyway. But the no time tracking has just been a ... it wasn't a surprise, it's something that even now when I'm switching between tasks, I'm looking for the time tracker to start tracking new time. I'm like, "I don't need to do that." And for the first couple of weeks I was like, "Am I definitely doing enough hours?" Because before I had something that literally told me, now I have to look at the clock and work it out myself. So that's a bit odd. It's nice, it's quite freeing. But I actually quite like time tracking in a way because it showed me how much time I spent on certain tasks. But I'm not doing it, yeah, I'm not doing it again.

Sometimes we do try and work out roughly how long it's taken us in total, just because we will take that into account when we think, "Has something been a win or a loss to us?" If it's been ... we've made a bit of profit on it or people have converted at a great rater or whatever, but maybe we've done a video and it's took us hours and hours and hours and hours, and if we were to do that again, is it worth putting all those hours per week into doing that task again and again? Maybe not. So that's quite interesting as well. But what I think I need to get better at doing, and it's something I've mentioned this week actually to the team, is not switching between tasks super quick. Somebody might put something in Slack that's like, "Oh, could anyone just pull this data off?" And I'm like, "Yeah, yeah, I'll do it." Or somebody thinks, "Oh, could we find this out because it'd be useful for X, Y, Z." And I'd be like, "Oh yeah, that sounds really interesting, I'm going to jump on that." And I just abandon what I'm doing, jump on the next thing. And when I started, I did a personality quiz, and it was pretty accurate what it gave back to be fair. So on the first day the team went through, who they are, how they work, what their KPIs are, but also what are they great at and what do they need to work on. And we went through their personalities. And I found that really interesting. So I gave that back to the team as well. And I was like, "This is what mine's come out as." And one of them literally said, "You will jump from project to project. And I was like, "Well, I do do that." So that's already on my list then to work on a little bit better.

So, what I think I'm going to do is start blocking out my calendar a little bit more to say these number of hours I'm going to be working on X, so don't jump into other projects during that time.

Jack: Yeah, I'm totally guilty of that myself as well. I'm right there with you, mate. Where you end up, like you said, you see that message on Slack, you think, "Oh yeah, I could help out with that." And there's that sudden shift of focus over there to something completely different. And then by the time you come back around to the thing, you're like, "Oh, what was I doing, where was that thing again? I was just trying to check this thing and I've forgotten where I put that. I was halfway through a thing." I am right there with you doing exactly the same things.

Jen: It's data as well sometimes, you can just go down an absolute rabbit hole. And I think if you just left me to it, I'd find out all sorts. But it's not what the goal is right now, get the contract.

Jack: So what do you miss about agency life? We talked about the biggest changes, biggest surprises, there must be some balance there of the differences between the two. So what have been the things you think you're going to miss from agency life?

Jen: I've got to say the Evoluted colleagues, in case anyone's listening, miss you all. But I do genuinely miss them. Now I'm the only SEO person, so I don't have really anybody else to say, "Can you just sense check this for me, or what do you think about this?" Or other people sharing, "Ooh, have you seen this on Twitter? Have you seen this/that Google said?" It's all down to me now. But I do also miss just the silly stuff day to day as well. I just tell everybody about all the stupid stuff that I've done. "Oh, the dogs have been really naughty." Or whatever. Because we are really, really busy at The Lowdown. And we jump on meetings, we ask about weekends, we know what's going off in personal lives. But it's probably not at that same level as it was at Evoluted where I'd just tell them all sorts of stupid things that I'd done. And everyone would just laugh at me.

Jack: Are you mostly remote working now for Lowdown, and you were office based or were you remote for Evoluted as well?

Jen: Yeah, so I'm in Barnsley and Evoluted were in Sheffield. It's not too far away. But yeah, especially with all the train strikes, and just generally how they never show up on time, that's not great. And I've driven a couple of times but nearly cried because there's just too many lanes and roundabouts, so no thanks. So I was mostly remote but we had a lot of socials and things. Most I'd go to them. And yeah, now The Lowdown's in London, so it's going to be not that often that I'm going down. But I've been down just before I started and the offices are beautiful. Everybody's really nice. But yeah, I just sit here in my little bubble.

Jack: You mentioned the SEO consultant you've been working with as well. I think it's always nice to have somebody to bounce ideas off of as well. I think that's the biggest thing that draws me, as well as like you said, having somebody else to plan stuff and help with all that kind of thing as well. Because I am a terrible planner, I can do the stuff, I just can't work out how long it's going to take me to do the thing. Having somebody else to bounce ideas off of is a huge benefit I think, especially in SEO. And I think that's why so many of us gravitate towards communities like Women in Tech SEO and SEO Twitter and LinkedIn and all that stuff as well. Do you feel like you're going to be a bit more active in those communities? Will you have time to be active in those communities as well?

Jen: Yeah, to be honest I've noticed that I have been a bit more quiet. And it's something we did chat about. Yeah. And I think some of it is, thinking about Twitter especially, I scroll through it now, and there's so much junk on there. I think it's just the algorithm, it's how Twitter's changed. Or maybe not seeing as much interesting stuff as before. And then LinkedIn's just showboating mostly as well.

So I feel like I've not contributed as much. I feel like I haven't had tons to say. But I don't want to become someone that's just tweeting for the sake of it either. So hopefully I'll get to a point where ... We've got some really exciting projects on at The Lowdown and I really want to be able to do some talk or something about ... mini case strategies in a way. Like here, we expanded into this area, this is what we did and this is what we achieved out of it. Because they were always the talks that I found the most interesting that I'd go and see. Because there's always some part of it that you can apply to what you are working on.

Jack: Yeah, definitely. I think, like you said, there's a big leaning towards agency people at SEO conferences as well. Things like BrightonSEO and Search London and all that stuff, it leans pretty heavily towards a lot of agency workers.

But you do see in-house people coming as well. And like you said, I think some of the really interesting talks you get are from people like yourself who are able to really focus on, we tried this thing in our niche and it worked and here's why and here's the results and all that stuff. So do you think that's going to be a plan for you going forward to use those case studies to then come back to BrightonSEO and other SEO conferences and be the now, they're like, "Oh, Jen's an in-house speaker, cool, that's interesting." Become the exciting SEO unicorn of in-house. In-house Jen!

Jen: Maybe. It's not something that I'm desperate to do. I definitely don't want to do a talk or anything for the sake of it. I will speak if there's something that I think is worth sharing. Yeah, just thinking in the future, some of the projects that I'm working on right now, I think they're really interesting. And hopefully other people would think that too. So last week we were on the telly, we were on Davina's pill documentary. And the week before we really rushed to get some new bits in our navigation because we're planning a new navigation anyway because it's one of the first things that I said. It's like, "We've got a much bigger site than it actually looks like, there's loads of stuff off and off. And it was something they were already working on. But now they've got my input as well. So we did a bit of a hacky job just to get some of the side effects in there because we didn't have them anywhere in the navigation. And people find them organically, but if they google The Lowdown, they're not going to find them. And that in itself had a huge, huge increase. Thousands of people during that documentary time that were coming onto The Lowdown did go into those side effect pages. So it shows us that they are valuable, it is something that we definitely do want in the new navigation.

Jack: I feel like big navigational changes can be a huge thing to try and push through with clients and going through that process, as we were talking about earlier. I think being able to make that rapid change just before a big thing, like being on the TV with Davina McCall is a huge plus for you guys for sure. That's an incredible idea to get that sorted quickly and then seeing the results of that so quickly afterwards as well.

Jen: So yeah, hopefully little things like that, I can share those and be like, "Actually we had a hunch and we did this." One thing that, I did wonder if I was ever going to be able to share this, but it turns out they were doing it anyway, it was literally one lunchtime, I was sat here having a sandwich or whatever, and I thought ... We've got a lot of these side effect pages. This is before I joined the company as well. So there's a lot of these side effect pages. So for every method and brand of contraception, there's a side effect page where it pulls from real user data, quantitative data. And I thought actually, there's a lot of search around people asking, can this particular pill brand, for example, cause acne, can it cause weight gain, can it help with it? So I was like, I emailed Alice and I was like, "It's just a quick idea. I don't know if you're on with it or even if it already exists because the navigation's not great. But can we look at doing something where we get these, can it cause X, can it cause Y, and can we pull from this data?" And she was like, "Yeah, and I love it and we've actually just done this recently." So she sent me the links to these pages. I was like, "Oh, brilliant." So at least we are alike thinking.

And it's these cause pages that are now in the navigation to that side effects menu item. So that's the thing that really took off during the documentary and since as well. It's something that has kept up traffic because now people can access it.

Jack: Yeah, being able to access the information is so important. And I think a lot of the wider discussion around the search generative experience and all the shifts that are happening on the SERPs at the moment, that FAQ style content of, I want to know does this thing give me this side effect? There will be a huge factor going forward for all different kinds of industries, not just side effects for medication and things like that. But I think that is a huge point to cover for want of a better phrase. Make sure you are answering every query that all of your users could possibly be thinking of. You want to prove that you are the authority in that industry and on those topics. So yeah, credit to you guys and the team for actually getting on that so quickly. And them already thinking in that direction as well.

Jen: Yeah, I like thinking of expanding into new areas as well. And it's really interesting to be at that inception level where a couple of people are mapping out these new questions to ask basically. Like, what data do we want to collect from people about their experiences that other people would find helpful? So literally thinking about what would you want to know? What's the search that people are actually searching for? But if we give them an answer, is it actually helpful to them as well? So yeah, things are coming, but it's really interesting to see what goes into all that. So it's not just dumping the keywords in a spreadsheet, it's thinking about real people and what they will do with that information at the end.

Jack: I think you've got the perfect advantage as well being a customer yourself and already having the experience from the other side, I think it's a huge benefit. Because I think that can be a real roadblock sometimes for working agency side is actually getting through the processes of speaking to the sales team. And then the sales team then feedback from the customers. And then you've got three or four people in between you actually doing the work. And then the actual company.

Very, very rare that an agency worker will actually get to speak directly to a client's customers. And that seems weird to me that that would be a thing. But with you already having experienced the customer side of the company and then also coming in and now working for the company, that seems like the perfect dynamic. You already have an idea of the kind of things people are going to be asking when they're using contraception or menstruating or going through and getting new prescriptions and things like that. And as you said, and has teased new things that you're expanding into as well. Yeah, that's a really fantastic combination. And I think that's why you've worked so well so far.

Jen: Thank you. Hopefully, it's just going to be good. I was also thinking, "I've not really been through any issues with a client where they've dropped due to an algorithm update." You see these scary things on Twitter. And I'm not saying it's because I'm a brilliant SEO or whatever, it's just not fallen that way for me. So I've never really had to recover them. So it's something where I'm like, "Oh god, if we get hit by an algorithm update, that's on me, I'm going to get fired or whatever." So that's something I'm yet to experience and handle. So any tips are welcome from anybody.

Jack: Listeners, if you're out there, if you have any tips for Jen, please do let us know. But yeah, I guess, you would come under the YMYL umbrella, giving medical advice and dealing with medication and stuff that is a thing that is more heavily scrutinised by Google and things like that. So yeah, I'd be very interested to see ... Because I've worked with some medical clients before, obviously not in-house, but from an agency side of things, and you do notice a lot more fluctuations, like you said, from small little changes and adjustments and things like that.

I think Google are getting better at it, hopefully, I say optimistically, half believing my own words. But I think, yeah, that's something, again, coming back to the transition and the whole topic here, going from agency to in-house, understanding that industry and where the search engines see where you are can be a huge factor as well. I think jumping into a huge industry you know nothing about could be pretty difficult. But I think you're, like I said, you're positioned pretty well that you understand the company and the customers really well. It's just going to be the, how does Google see that? Do they understand The Lowdown as the authority and all that kind of thing?

Jen: I've always found it really interesting how does Google know that content's medically reviewed? So it's something that, on our blog, they've already got, who's written it, what's their author bio, links off to their page. Sometimes it's a doctor, sometimes it's not. But it's always reviewed by a doctor before it goes onto the blog. And then we've got, who reviewed it, when did they review it, and it links to their doctor bio. But how does Google know we're not lying? I know we're not, because we've got it all in Asana, but Google doesn't know that. But one of the first things that I noticed, I think it was literally day two, so it's a JavaScript website, but we've got the blog on WordPress. So I noticed on the schema, so the author for the bio, it wasn't the same as who had actually written it. And then I realized it was because of who had published it in WordPress, that's what the schema was pulling through as.

So I've been in and changed the key ones. But they are all going to need changing. And I was like, "Oh God, it's day two, and I've found that, what else is to come?" It’s a thing now where at least we're getting some of them aligning with the schema and who's actually written it rather than two very different things.

Jack: Yeah, I think there's something we talked about a lot when it comes to Healthline, I think they're one of the best at having that, like you said, that record of, this was reviewed by this professional person, this was written by this person. And the actual change log of, this has been re-reviewed, this was originally published two years ago, but has been re-reviewed in accordance with recent guidelines or whatever it is and all that stuff. I think you guys do that really well.

Like you said, having the initial author and then reviewed by with the tick and then the official bios and things like that. It seems really basic, but I think it's something so many people miss out, especially in YMYL circumstances. And I think, yeah, credit to you guys for having that in there already. And as you said, having schema and things like that is so important to clearly establish authoritative, tying into the E-E-A-T thing, that wider conversation of establishing yourself as experts, having experience with it, authoritative and trustworthiness all tying around together, that's hugely important in that field for sure.

Jen: Yeah, and there probably are things that we can do better as well. So I'm splitting time between technical content and expanding into this New World's next stage. And I've not really got round to the content side properly just yet. So yeah, don't judge me on it. But it's pretty good, it brings in a lot of traffic for us. It helps a lot of women as well.

Jack: There you go. You can't say better than that. It brings in traffic and it helps a lot of women.

Jen: There we go.

Jack: Exactly. Awesome. Well, thank you Jen for joining me. It's been an absolute pleasure to pick your brains and understand what the journey has been like for you. How can people follow up and find you on the various social media things that you may or may not be active on at any given moment?

Jen: Don't think there's many Jen Penalunas, but you'll probably find me. I'm Jen Penaluna on LinkedIn and I think it's @penaluna_jen on Twitter because I think I made one years ago and had to delete it, whatever. So yeah, search it, you'll find me.

Jack: Yeah, there'll be links on the show notes, listeners, just go to There'll be links there for Jen's social media and of course to as well. And you can go and learn more about Jen and keep an eye on all the cool updates and SEO tricks and case studies you'll be releasing in the not too distant future as well.

Jen: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Jack: Thanks for joining me. It's been an absolute pleasure.


That's all we have time for this week. Thank you so much for listening. Thank you for joining me, Jen Penaluna this week. I thought it was a really interesting discussion, all about the differences between working in an agency and working in-house. Listeners, I hope you've learned a lot as well if you are thinking about that as part of your future career move or you've recently moved from agency to in-house or vice versa. Hopefully some of the advice and some of the pointers there from Jen will be very, very useful to you in your career as well. Coming up next week, Mark and I will be doing another one of our SISTRIX live streams over on the SISTRIX YouTube channel. Please go and check that out. There'll be a link for that in the show notes. We'll be doing that later on next week.

I'll also be having a podcast crossover spectacular, a two-parter across both of our shows, with the one, the only, Garrett Sussman from Rankable and The SEO Weekly. I made a brief appearance on The SEO Weekly a couple of weeks ago when the SGE stuff was announced, and Garrett wanted some hot takes on the SGE and what we can expect following Google IO. So it'd be really, really cool to finally sit down with Garrett, somebody I've never really spent enough time speaking to on social media and things like that, but somebody I've always wanted to sit down and have a chat with on a podcast, because I'm a huge fan of his podcast, and I think it will make for some fantastic discussions. Selected, a double mega two-parter, one half on Search With Candour, one half on Rankable coming up very, very soon between me and Garrett Sussman as well. So thank you very much for listening. Please do stay tuned for all that stuff and have a lovely week.