What has empathy got to do with technical SEO? with Daniel K Cheung

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Show notes

In this week's episode, Jack Chambers-Ward is joined by Daniel K Cheung, Sydney-based SEO consultant and host of the Dreading Sundays podcast. Daniel joins Jack to discuss:

  • The origin story of Dreading Sundays
  • Why empathy is so important in technical SEO
  • Understanding different types of empathy for different work relationships
  • Learning to communicate priority tasks to non-SEOs



Jack: Welcome to episode 44 of season two of the Search With Candour podcast. My name is Jack Chambers Ward and I am your host for this week. This week I am joined by the utterly fantastic Daniel K Cheung. You may know Daniel from his fantastic tweets, one of my favourite people to follow in all of SEO Twitter. And you may also know Daniel from his various SEO podcasts throughout his career, including the recently launched early this year, Dreading Sundays podcast, which is maybe my favourite week-to-week SEO podcast going at the moment. I really, really love Daniel's style and the way he interviews. He's had fantastic guests, he tackles interesting topics and overall Daniel, one of my favourite people to listen to and read, talking about SEO in general. Daniel is a SEO consultant and organic growth educator based in Sydney in Australia, and we have a very, very interesting conversation about how empathy is important when it comes to doing technical SEO and basically understanding different types of empathy and how that can relate to what you're doing on your website or on your client's websites and why that is important for you to understand as part of your SEO work essentially.

Sponsor - SISTRIX:

Before we get into my conversation with Daniel K Cheung, of course, led to give a little thanks to the wonderful sponsor of this episode SISTRIX, because SISTRIX is the official support for Search With Candour and SISTRIX are known as the SEO's toolbox. You can go to if you want to check out some of the fantastic free tools such as their SERP Snippet Generator, hreflang validator, checking out your site's visibility index and of course, tracking Google updates for your website.

I mentioned some fantastic features last week when talking about their domain comparison stuff that they now have added to this SISTRIX toolbox, which I highly, highly recommend you go and check out if you would like to subscribe to SISTRIX and become a user of the toolbox, it's been invaluable for me and my clients to be having a look at their visibility and understanding patterns and trends and being able to compare SERPs and compare competitor performance and all that kind of stuff. It is really, really good and they've been doing some fantastic work recently in adding new features.

What SISTRIX also do is fantastic stuff when it comes to their blogging side of things as well. And there's one piece, in particular, I'd like to highlight this week written by the one and only, Steve Paine, who we've had on the show previously. Steve over at SISTRIX is doing a content marketing case study, and it sounds like a very obvious and simple thing because it is! Steve dives into what seems to be a fairly straightforward blog structure for an insurance company called William Russell Insurance. And it is just a kind of testament to how you can lay the groundwork and keep building upon simple, straightforward, clean SEO. And they have created content consistently for a very, very long time now going on since the end of 2020 coming onto 2022. And not only do we get SISTRIX data, we also get some of their Google search console data from the client from William Russell themselves directly. They dive into what has been successful and why this basically long-term sustainable strategy has worked so well for them. It's something I know we worked with clients here at Candour, and something we've worked with, I know I've previously worked for insurance clients as well and this is a perfect example of how a blog, essentially just a straightforward blog but handled really well, built really well and maintained and managed very well with a clear content strategy can really still perform in 2022. Sometimes the simple stuff work, and you don't have to do anything crazy or fancy to get meaningful content that ranks and works and produces growth essentially for your website. So highly recommend you go and check that.

As always, the link for that will be in the show notes at If you'd like to keep up with SISTRIX's blogging stuff, you can go to If you'd like to keep up with trend Watch, which I know will be talking about in a few weeks as well, that is their monthly newsletter, which is delivered straight to your inbox featuring all the latest trends, you can go to That's for TrendWatch, and for the fantastic content marketing analysis provided by Steve and the data journalism team over at SISTRIX. Thank you SISTRIX once again for your continued support of the Search With Candour podcast

Jack: And without any further ado, welcome to the show, Daniel K Cheung. How are you sir?

Daniel: I'm fantastic, Jack. Thanks for having me. I'm a bit tired from work but life is good. I can't complain.

Jack: Good, good. I'm glad to hear it, because we were just saying this before we started recording. It is late on a Friday for you, so apologies listeners if we are both a bit tired. We both had busy weeks. It's Friday morning for me because I'm here in the UK, but Daniel, you're all the way in Australia. The literal other side of the world for me here in the UK, so apologies if it's a bit of a Friday energy to this podcast. We'll bring some good energy, don't you worry. But for the listeners who don't know who you are, first of all shame on them for not knowing who you are already, but just in case they don't, please give us a little intro for the listeners who don't know who Daniel K Cheung is.

Daniel: Oh, let's see, where do I start? I was born... No, no, no. Hello everyone. I'm Dan. I go by various things like Daniel K Cheung, whatever. Call me whatever. I've been called all sorts of things.

Jack: DKC is pretty cool by the way. DKC is like a rap name. That's awesome.

Daniel: So I fell into search by accident, well purposeful accident almost four years ago and so that's a very short time in SEO. And from there I've gone from someone who knew very little and was earning minimum wage to now been earning six figures in an in-house role. So I started agency side in a junior content and SEO role where the only experience I had was running my own WordPress website because I was a wedding photographer for 10 years prior to that. And in a very short three and a half years I learned a lot about SEO and then also about mentoring and leadership and that's how I got to command the salary that I do. So yeah, I fell into SEO mainly because I needed to support my wife and I. We'd gotten married and being a wedding photographer just wasn't that financially stable or responsible.

And she, for those who don't know, probably all of you, she is a childcare worker, specifically a nanny, so it was quite painful for me to see her just exchanging her time for money and being so exhausted and feeling like I wasn't contributing. And so I stopped being an, and I'm using air quotes, an entrepreneur, or a small business owner or a founder, whatever those cool titles you self prescribe, and went back to the workforce and that was me for years ago. Now I work in-house at Australia's second-largest telecommunication company where I don't really do much SEO, but we can dive into that later.

Jack: We will definitely dive into that. And perhaps most excitingly for me, you are the host of one of my favourite podcasts, the Dreading Sundays podcast. In case listeners don't who that is, please do give a little intro to Dreading Sundays as well. Because we've actually got some crossover with some guests. I've stolen some of your guests you've had on.

Daniel: You sure have poached them, haven't you?

Jack: I know, I've already spoken to Jamar. Listeners, you will have already heard that episode. Jamar Ramos is the man and basically, after I finished the podcast with Jamar, we basically just geeked out about how much we like you and your podcast. So it was a big Dan love fest.

Daniel: Oh wow. Dreading Sundays came about because after three and a half years working agency and going from the bottom to almost pretty much the top, I decided to test the waters just for lulz. Am I worth anything in the market? And I saw the biggest bank in Australia having a head of SEO, actually wasn't head of SEO, it was just an SEO manager role. And so I applied for that and that was just before Christmas 2021. And then I didn't get through, so I got the interview process and I thought I interviewed well, but for whatever reason I didn't interview well because I hadn't practiced very well for at least four years. And so I felt a bit annoyed by that and frustrated. I was like, I actually started to really want to get this in-house job at a bank. And so that started this feeling that, a seed growing inside me of maybe I'm not so happy agency side. And I couldn't quite figure out why because very grateful to what everything James, the founder of Prosperity Media had given to me and all the opportunities that I had. But at the same time I was a little bit disenfranchised with everything. I didn't really see a future apart from I could keep asking for more money, but there was that missing thing. And being a typical late millennial, fulfilment is a big thing as part of my life. And that is if I keep rocking up and hating what I do, then what's the point? And I'm not earning millions so it's not really quite there. And so thus started this quest of trying to find an in-house role because strangely enough, over here, at least in Australia, in-house SEOs are seen as a better, again in air quotes, than agency. And I know having spoken to many others, people feel as though in-house SEOs are boring and don't know as much, but over here it's quite different.

You have to have a lot of agency experience before you get an in-house role, at least a mid to senior role. And so coming back to your original question, where Dreading Sundays came from, it's that, I think it's called the Sunday scaries or the Monday blues. And for those of you who are listening who work a standard nine to five, Monday to Friday, you know that feeling. Sometimes it creeps up on you Sunday midday, sometimes even Saturday evening and you're already like, "Shit, I have to go to work on Monday." And that's a feeling, dreading Sundays. It's a play on Sunday scaries or Monday blues where you don't really look forward to the work week. And why I want to have this podcast called this is because I want to break that. And that is empowering people who want to work or are working in digital marketing, whether it's search or SCM or anything else to learn and hear from others who have managed to progress their careers.

Sometimes it's from being the best at what you do, in other areas, it's about being a great person in the workplace. You don't necessarily have to be the smartest or the quickest. And as long as someone else who looks like you and sounds like you has carved out that space before you, then that pretty much gives you the impetus to go, "Hey, maybe I can as well." Maybe you can't make that change right now, but at least someone else has done that, and you can take the required steps to reach your own goal so that you stop hating Mondays. And Crawling Mondays is already taken by another amazing SEO, Aleyda, so therefore it became Dreading Sundays.

Jack: Excellent. And I think you've done a fantastic job by the way of highlighting so many underrepresented groups and stuff like that and making sure you're having those kinds of guests on. That's something I've very consciously tried to do since I've taken over the show from Mark and things like that. And we're more active in recruiting more guests and stuff like that, including talking about different types of diversity and people's journeys through SEO and all that kind of stuff. So I think you're doing an awesome job and if you aren't listening to Dreading Sundays already listener, I don't know how much more I can endorse it. It's like my favourite SEO podcast. So go and listen to it. Dan's fantastic.

Daniel: Thank you.

Jack: And you have a voice for podcasting. I don't know how else to word it.

Daniel: Did you call me ugly?

Jack: I can see-

Daniel: “You have a voice for radio.”

Jack: You're a handsome man. I didn’t say a face for podcasting. You have that smooth Aussie tone to it. There's a lot of big Aussie podcasters and stuff and I don't know if that's some kind of friendliness to the Australian accent maybe and there's a reassurance to your calming tone on Dreading Sundays I think.

Daniel: Thank you. I don't know if Australian and “soothing accent” goes well.

Jack: Unless you go full Bogan mate, then maybe.

Daniel: Oh maaate!

Jack: I won't be doing the accent, don’t worry. But we are here to talk about something a little bit different, not quite, just talk about how much we enjoy each other's podcasts and stuff that. We could do that, but that'd be a bit of a dodgy listen for the listeners. We're actually going to dive into something pretty interesting and this topic you brought up straight away as soon as we were in contact and you worded it in a really interesting way and I want to delve into that as well. Specifically thinking about empathy and how that relates to SEO. And the way you worded it specifically was what has empathy got to do with technical SEO specifically? And I find that fascinating as a topic straight away. I love that you just came with this super high concept just straight out the gate. Cool, let's dive into it.

Daniel: Alright, let's get into it.

Jack: Should we start off by defining empathy and I guess why you want to talk about it on the show? Let's start with that, why you brought it as the topic for this podcast. Because like you said, you're not often on the other side of the mic, right? So this is an opportunity for you to talk about something you are passionate about, you want to talk about and maybe you don't get an opportunity to as the main host of your own show.

Daniel: Sure. So I won't give my own definition of empathy. I think it can mean many things and a lot of the traditional saying of empathy is to walk in a million miles or a thousand miles in someone else's shoes. It's not quite that, but it is understanding someone else's context and situation. And that's the difference between empathy and sympathy. And the whole thing of me embracing empathy was even before I was a wedding photographer, I actually studied speech pathology or in other words speech therapy. And that was a very client-focused type of learning where everything that you did, whether you were planning a session or reacting to a client was based on how they were presenting. So you could plan for something but the client comes in and they're totally different. So you have to adjust. And so coming back to SEO and specifically technical SEO, I think all of us have, whether we're juniors starting out or very experienced, we've all done audits.

And when it comes to tech SEO, the words checklist and audits and technical SEO are very intertwined. But those are just deliverables. Those are just processes that we as practitioners of SEO do. When you are the client who's paying for something, a checklist is meaningless, as is an audit per se. What they're really paying you for is the expertise to go through your checklist and to identify things that are important to them in their immediate context depending on why they hired you in the first place. And sometimes the reason why they hired you may not be the priorities or the recommendations that you actually commit to because you are the expert, you are the one who is using the data, looking at their business and going, "Okay, crawling is okay, rendering is okay, indexing is okay, so what else really is the matter here?" Okay, maybe they wanted you for a technical audit sweep or whatever they call it because they don't really know what else, just find what's wrong.

And you could be the typical SEO and go, "Oh here are a million things." Or you've used Screaming Frog or you used SISTRIX or you've used any of the SEO suites out there to identify any of the possible issues. Using your brain when I say use empathy for technical SEO, it's what exactly does the client need to hear? Not necessarily what they want to hear, but what do they need to hear so that they can achieve their goals? That really is empathy and technical SEO. You could pretty much say your executive summary should be very empathy driven. That is you specify what the problem is, you specify what the recommendation is and why they need to care about it. And that really is it. All the other stuff you can not tell them or just put it in the appendix because that is good to know, but that's not why they need you right now.

Jack: Yeah, I think that's a really interesting way of looking at it. Because I touched on audits with Olga, who I had on the show a few weeks ago, and thinking about going through that process and we were both talking about how important that manual review process is and how so many people like you say, rely on the checklist or rely on the tools a bit too much and don't actually think about not only what the client needs but what the users and the audience for that client need as well. What bumps in the road are they going to hit when they land on that website? Oh this is your most popular landing page. funnily enough, it doesn't have this barrier to accessibility that these other pages on your site do, for example. And I think you're totally right, trying to look at it from a few different sides on different types of empathy.

I did a little bit of research and came up with some definitions of different types of empathy and stuff like that. And I think we can, you've already touched on most of them straight away, but I think giving the audience an idea and understanding the client's website as well from these perspectives. So the three types, and this is from the book Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, talking about cognitive empathy, which is the example you gave, Dan, with putting yourself in another person's shoes and trying to understand their point of view. Emotional empathy is trying to feel what they feel. Like you said, that's the opposite end of sympathy, that's that emotional connection to it. And then I think this is where it comes into the client relationship side of things is the empathic concern where you're trying to understand what they need from you as a human being, let alone as a deliverable, right?

And I think understanding user journeys and exploring a website as a user, the first time, say you're first working with a client or it's your first time doing an audit for this in-house role or whatever it is, looking at a website for the first time, I always, always do a manual review first before I start playing around with tools. So you get an idea of what is the user experience, what do people landing on this site out essentially out of the blue from a search engine and not knowing the context of the company or anything like that and trying to understand user context there. And I think that ties into, I know something Mark has talked about a lot as the golden rule of SEO is that any SEO improvements should not hinder the user experience. Because at the end of the day, you want to get more users, you want to make more money, make more conversions, et cetera, et cetera. So do you think there are common pitfalls people bump into when they rely on tools too much and don't think about that kind of audience experience from the other side? Do you think that's a fairly common thing in technical SEO?

Daniel: Very, very. Because it's how we've learned how to identify these problems. As SEOs, we become really good at finding problems and we even know what the solution is as a one-line recommendation. And this is the hard lesson I had to learn when I went in-house for a big enterprise company that has a very expensive tech stack with many different touchpoints is that saying, "Oh, you should use server-side rendering instead of client-side rendering." To you, that sounds easy, it's an easy fix, but to the company that's actually not even a recommendation. It's like, do you even know who's working in the tech stack? We have it 60 employees, front-end devs who are doing this and backend devs. That is not a feasible recommendation. And so when it comes to extending empathy into technical SEO and the reporting of it, the actual deliverable as a professional, it comes down to actually even before you start the audit, you sit down with your stakeholder who's representing the client, especially if it's a large organization to understand who owns what? Who else do I need to be involved with?

Because one of the biggest mistakes I've realized retrospectively that I made at agency side, even though I was working for these big brands was the recommendations I was making never got implemented because the people who actually could do it were never involved in the discussion. And that stakeholder I was talking to probably didn't even know who was responsible for it. So right now I'm in a massive organization where there's squads in Agile and it's like even, I don't know how, actually I do know, it just takes time to find the right person to get shit done. And if you are working at an agency or as a freelancer or a consultant, those are the first things you should ask as part of your discover onboarding as opposed to jumping into a bunch of recommendations that will fall flat because the people who will consider it and need to then prioritize it and size it and get an ROI estimate, they're not in the conversation and therefore that's why nothing gets done and that's why the contract doesn't get renewed.

Empathy, it's understanding what the other person at the other end and more importantly, what their bosses and their bosses' bosses care about. It's not about the technical SEO, no one cares about that except for us. How do we make more money?

Jack: Exactly. That's something I know we both touch on. We've both spoken to Tom Critchlow on our respective podcasts and Tom is such a fantastic person to talk about for that kind of stuff and understanding the language you should be using and how to understand speaking to executives and the different relationships you can have, whether working with a client and you are speaking to their content writer and you're recommending everything to a person who's been on the job for six weeks and they know less about the site than you do. Or you can be speaking to the founder of the company who built the original site single-handedly and now it's a multimillion, as you were saying, Dan, like this huge conglomerate or whatever it is. And I think understanding the difference between, again, people's different understandings, their level and the lack of understanding in SEO or understanding an SEO depending on where they're coming from and speaking to external developers is the bane of my life working in an agency.

I'm sure plenty of people can relate to and trying to understand their flow and relate to where they are and oh yeah, we have resources, they're serving 15 other clients as well. And where this client is my priority, but not necessarily their priority. And then when it is their priority, they're not my priority, trying to weigh all this stuff up I find so interesting on the agency side of things. And when you are coming to that kind of conclusion, what kind of approach do you take from your agency experience to have that conversation with developers? Do you just literally try and get them in the door so all the people that need to be involved in that conversation are there as much as possible?

Daniel: That is the ideal situation. It comes with a lot of angst and frustration of these developers are shit, but that doesn't help anyone. Maybe they are, maybe they aren't, but it's having that conversation first. Well, first it's finding out who are the people who can implement it and if they're external devs, great. Sometimes that's better than someone who's internal because sometimes they have that incentive to get stuff done. And then it's getting stuff done, as I have found in life, not just SEO, is it's really about the connections you make and the impression, that first impression you have. Don't burn those bridges. SEO's shit on developers a lot, but at the same time, again comes down to empathy, if we haven't done what they do on a daily basis, then we don't really understand the full picture of why they do things a certain way.

And sometimes we feel like we need to educate, but maybe that's not the case. Maybe it's just telling them this is the problem, it's here, this is how we'd recommend that you fix it. Do you think it's feasible? Many of them are just like, "Okay, great," they just action it. That's fine. I think Jamar would've talked about ego. Once you bring ego into it, that's when you have issues. When everyone's just doing their job essentially, whether it's a developer or you are listening, you work in an agency, you're just there to do your best work. Everyone wants to do their best work, so remove those barriers. And a lot of those barriers come from ego, unfortunately. So drop that and just write an objective impartial recommendation of what needs to be done. Easier said than done on some days, especially when you think it's such an easy fix. Coming back to my site that I do, my in-house role, there are certain things that most SEOs will be like, "I can't believe you don't have this on your page or in your code." I can't believe it as well, but here we are.

Jack: And I think that ties nicely into thinking about, again, like you said, touching on ego and things like that and trying to strip away your relationship with the company and you already knowing that context and thinking about the user experience now that I think that is so key to so much accessibility. And that's something I know again we've both touched on with previous guests on our podcast and things like that and how important accessibility is and how underutilized and underrepresented it is in so many different ways.

And that could be something as simple as correct alt text on images, so visually impaired users can use screen readers correctly and are able to understand that. I did an experiment, I think it was a couple of years ago now, and I installed a screen reader and I was like, "I will close my eyes and experience this website as a visually impaired user." Oh my god, there were some serious, serious problems. And I think doing little things like that may have made a huge difference to me understanding different user experiences and different user journeys. Is there anything you can recommend from your experience, Dan, of those little bits and pieces you can better understand user journeys both from a technical SEO's point of view and accessibility point of view as well?

Daniel: I think accessibility is hugely underrepresented and it's not because a lot of SEOs don't care about it. We do. It's then when we make that recommendation or that suggestion, the pushback is how's this going to impact business? When you have competing tickets to complete, that is the hardest thing. And when you don't have an accessibility advocate within that client or within your organization, it's a very difficult conversation. All you can really do is pull up the national stats on how many people have X, Y, Z and go, "This is the population that you are missing out on, that you are underserving." And begin those conversations.

At the end of the day when it comes to business, and this is me being very, very cynical, they only care about the bottom line. And fortunately in the EU you have... I think the EU or is it in Canada or in Northern America, they have substantial fines if you don't meet certain accessibility things, yes. Australia, we're still very behind and that's why you still have stupid buttons instead of a tags. You have all sorts of ridiculous stuff happening that those with disabilities just cannot navigate your site even if they wanted to.

And sometimes it's worth maybe spending your own time demonstrating it. Maybe that's how you start that conversation and then bringing in someone external to talk about it, their experience. But at the end of the day, it comes down from the leadership, do they care about it? And unfortunately, they will say yes, but they won't take action. So that's the reality of things, but that doesn't mean that you should give up. Pick your battles, pick the times that you want to have a conversation about it. And when you have a conversation about it, be armed with documentation and examples.

Jack: I love the idea of sitting down a CEO and being like, "Okay, close your eyes, you're going to experience this website as a visually impaired user," or however, having a completely different perspective on a website can give you such a different idea of what people are going through. Like I said, when people land essentially completely out of the blue from Google or whatever search engine they're using and just land on your website with no context and no understanding of what your goal is for them. So how do you think we can then use that kind of empathy and combine it with a technical SEO to then improve that user journey to again, like you said, drive those conversions, get more money, be very cynical?

Daniel: Honestly, I don't have an answer.

Jack: That's a big question. I have just thrown that to you out of the blue. I apologise.

Daniel: I have not succeeded. No, that's fine. I think it's absolutely fine to be vulnerable and that is me being honest saying, I have not solved that, therefore I can't really say based on my experience what to do.

Jack: Yeah, I think it's an interesting thing to just even think about, right? To have a conceptual idea of what your ideal user journey is and compare that to, whether that's through analytics or literally getting some people to sit down and go through your website and get live data from users. And again, all about inclusivity, include people from different backgrounds, from different disabilities and things like that to understand your site from different perspectives. I think that'd be a really interesting... Again, all about implementation. I'd love to have the budget and the time and the options to do all this kind of stuff, but not always realistic. But I think there is that element of having the relatability and being able to communicate that to clients, things like that. Have you found your passion for empathy and your understanding of empathy useful when communicating to clients and then communicating to higher-ups while in-house? Is there a different approach to that from your perspective?

Daniel: Yes. The answer is always yes.

Jack: Well, the answer is always, "it depends" it I think. That's the go-to answer.

Daniel: No, no. Well, technically to that, it depends on who you're talking to. You are going to frame things a particular way depending on what your objectives are and what their objectives are. Agency to a client communication can be very different from in-house to a senior leadership team. But at the end of the day, it comes down to the same thing. And that is what is the message and how do you deliver it with the most impact? And something that I've, again had to learn the hard way is for whatever reason, SEOs like to be very meticulous.

We like to articulate all the variables so that whoever's listening on the other end gets the full picture of the scope so that we're not making assumptions of anything. When you're communicating to a stakeholder or to someone senior, that's the very opposite of what they want to hear. Quite often they're after an oversimplification, and for me that was very difficult to adopt until someone told me that as feedback. Daniel, you are overcomplicating things. Just start with the oversimplified version and if that person wants to learn more, let them ask you. Otherwise, you're going to overwhelm them with stuff and they'll be like, "Okay, I don't understand this. I don't understand this person. Please go away from me."

Which is really counterintuitive to how a lot of us think, especially tech SEO. We want to be very careful, very mindful of what we're saying so that we're not making baseless claims. But at the same time, if you are conveying a certain thing to someone who is quite higher up in the food chain than it may be better to just start with the high-level strategic overview rather than working your bottom way up and explaining every single minutia of why their implementation of AEM, I love AEM so much is not great for any experience, whether it's a bot or a human, but end of the day it comes down to what are your goals? Do you want to just get something done or do you want to sound like you know a lot of stuff? It depends, right?

Jack: I think that's a key thing for that presentation moment. And you were so right, touching on the executive summary earlier, thinking about how that intro and those opening slides, and it's something we've been talking about recently here at Candour and the way we present to clients and doing a big annual review presentation is different to doing a monthly report, for example, or a quarterly report or whatever it is, whatever kind of cadence you're on. And once you're at that 12-month review stage, you've clearly built that, hopefully, fingers crossed, you've built the relationship with the client you would hope at that point. And you've got that clear understanding of the site, they understand how you are working and the dynamic there and everything like that. And you can go into a bit more detail, but I think you're totally right, those initial, especially if it's reporting to people who are not directly involved in that process and maybe are not your contact persons at the company, like you said, you're going suddenly in the 12-month review, it's stakeholders and the CEO and all that kind of stuff, people you have never spoken to before and you're suddenly presenting to them. I think having that really clear executive summary, this is the high-level stuff. In the first five minutes, you get all the information you need, then you can switch off and play on your phone or pretend to take notes and doodle on your notepad or whatever it is, whatever it is CEOs do in meetings. I see you, CEOs, we see you, we know. And having that kind of thing where even if it's as simple as presenting a single piece of information per slide, that's something I think we've been really pushing here at Candour recently is not doing, here's all of the Google Analytics data, here's all of the search consult data on one slide. We're like, no, no, let's do one query at a time, one page at a time, whatever it is. Do you have any tips there from your presentations over the years of thinking about that kind of thing and how to lay things out and make things, again accessible for less knowledgeable SEO people and like you said, higher-ups and senior management buying in and that kind of thing as well?

Daniel: Yeah, so reporting or presentations or dashboards all fall into the same thing. Your storytelling, you're telling a story. A, you need to know what that story is so that you can drive to it. Now, when you don't know the story, that's when you rely on visuals. And for whatever reason, we think that cluttering a page with awesome visuals, graphs and tiny texts makes you look knowledgeable. No, that just makes you look really stupid because there's just too much going on. And this goes back to the management consulting rule of thumb, and that is one thing per slide. What is the one message you want to communicate, as you said? And that's it. And going back to Tom Critchlow's course, executive presence and how do you communicate with the higher-ups? It's anyone within the C-suite, five slides, that's it. Everything else smash it in the appendix because by slide three, that senior person would already be starting to ask questions and you won't even deliver the rest of your presentations.

That's a little FYI, for those of you who haven't been in those big meetings, if someone actually has decision-making powers, they will start questioning everything and going to rabbit holes by slide two or three, and that's fine. That's where you get to showcase your expertise. But that's where you don't really need to build out an extensive deck because we're not in the deck-making business. We're in the how do we help you make more money through organic channel business. And again, it comes down to what is the problem you're trying to solve? What is the problem they're trying to solve? It's always going to be around money somewhere. And for me, I don't really feel as though SEO is a direct marketing or sales channel unless you are affiliate. But even then, it's just a way of bringing in traffic. I know a lot of people say, okay, you can only report SEO-wise on revenue, but a lot of the stuff... Look, if you work for a service-based business, you can't really track that and that's okay. So you need to define what your measure of success metric is and align that with the client. Are they okay with this metric as opposed to, oh, organic channel contributed X thousand dollars this week or last month. Sometimes that doesn't work for whatever business, so that's okay. Just make sure that you and the client are on the same page so that when it comes to that quarterly, half-yearly or annual review, you have all your ducks in a row. You have your cadence of what you are reporting on this metric, and look at this growth, or at least it's not falling in a recession.

Jack: Fingers crossed.

Daniel: Oh, the cynicism is strong.

Jack: I think the British Pound is pretty close to the Australian Dollar by the time we finish recording this podcast.

Daniel: One-to-one, baby.

Jack: Yay. Woo.

Daniel: It's unheard of.

Jack: Back in my day, I remember.

Daniel: But yeah, presenting is an art form. It's about not what you know, but how much of what you know can discard so that you can get to the brilliance of what you're good at or what your agency is known for because you can get there, you can demonstrate all with the questions that they'll ask or in the appendix, but always with your first slide, second slide, third slide, pretty much smash what you're trying to tell them. And that's it. And that is a lot easier said than done. You need to practice, practice, practice. Because I said deck making isn't our forte, but ultimately when it comes to pitches and these reviews, they're very, very important.

Jack: Yeah, definitely. I think, again, something Tom Critchlow touches on is getting that experience, getting your foot in the door, understanding how maybe like you said, the sales team or the founder of the company, whoever it is, who is doing those pitches and establishing that initial connection, understanding their process and seeing how that is different to the reporting process and then to the full review process or whatever it is, however your agency works and however in-house works as well. Thinking about that and understanding that is a whole other side of empathy. It's understanding that client perspective.

I don't know if you have much experience working with clients who are quite experienced with SEO, and I know I've had that a couple of times where in previous roles and for most of my four or five-year career, I've gone through and been mostly work with people where I am building them from the absolute ground zero. They know nothing and I'm introducing these concepts to them during meetings, during the onboarding, all that kind of stuff. There've been a couple of clients where we'll be like "Oh yeah, here's this data." Blah, blah. I'm like, "Yeah, we use Semrush, we use Ahrefs, we have Search Console. We're doing all this stuff already." Have you experienced that before, Dan? And do you have a different approach to that from working with a brand new less knowledgeable client to them working with a more knowledgeable client?

Daniel: Some knowledgeable client are great, some knowledgeable clients are an absolute pain in the ass, because they think they know and they do know, but they think they know. And there's that interesting story of you watch me work, it's cheaper than you do it. And then I can't remember, but there's this funny story where the price increases.

Jack: Yeah. I do it, $500. I do it and you watch me, $800. You design it and I still do it, $1,000.

Daniel: There's different scenarios. There's clients who have access to certain tools, which is great. It means that they value SEO or organic growth. That's great. Leverage that, lean into that. It means, oh, they actually care about the organic channel for their business. They have access to tools. Great, let's use less of the data dump from these tools and help them understand how to maximize the most of these tools. Hopefully, that's what they want and why else would they have these tools? Sometimes the agency is an Achilles heel. It's like, do you want to overtrain them so that they fire you? But at the same time, most clients don't have time, like the stakeholders and the point of contacts, they've got other things, many hats to wear, and if you can teach them stuff, that's great, they can take that to their next role, but they're not actually going to replace you because they physically do not have the time.

So it's actually a win-win for everyone that you educate them how to make the most out of the tools that they have so that you are not necessarily doing the grunt work. You can do the analysis, you can do the consulting, you can do that high-level coaching that they require so that maybe they can hire a junior, much cheaper for them and for you to crunch all that stuff. And then you bring it all together. It's all about perspectives and what your agency and your business model is. For the ones who are less knowledgeable, that can also be a challenge because you are constantly introducing new concepts. But perhaps that's because we keep talking about SEO because that's all we care about. Maybe it doesn't have to be always in SEO terms. That's an interesting way to communicate recommendations, is not calling everything SEO, SEO.

That also is a skill, well, it's art form. It's how do you get people who work in content to do aspects of SEO without calling SEO? Because once you start talking about user-driven or search-intent-driven content, then that has certain connotations of how people write. Whereas if you show them how to use certain things such as the SERPs, look at entities, use any of those awesome tools like Surfer or whatever, you're essentially up-skilling them to embrace certain aspects of search into their expertise and that also helps. That lifts the burden off you to trying to teach them SEO per se. And you are empowering them to do what they already do, but do things the way that you feel as though search is going to be served well.

Jack: I think it's a really interesting thing, and I know Katherine Watier Ong has touched on this a few times as well, talking about that training your clients and helping them understand it, and like you said, that helps the buy-in, that helps them understand where you are coming from and such an interesting thing you brought up there, like talking about SEO in a non SEO way.

I recently talked to Maddy Osman about that and her writing for humans and robots, checking out how you were trying to come at it from two perspectives. Getting SEOs to do writing is one thing, but getting writers to do SEO is another thing as well. And trying to understand rather than just like, here is the page title, here is the meta description, here is all the SEO stuff. Like understand, maybe call it a headline, translate it and understand if they've worked in journalism before, that's the kind of language and the approach that they're going to be used to and be comfortable with. Whereas trying to rejig your brain, say, after a decade of working in journalism and suddenly having to do SEO and transferring from analogue to digital, essentially.

Daniel: Oh how far they've fallen.

Jack: And understanding that process can be so key. I think that's a really, really interesting point there, Dan, Like bringing that almost translational skill and understanding, using different language for different people and different perspectives you're talking to and from, and can be really, really key there.

Daniel: I mean, it all comes down to persuasion, right?

Jack: Yeah.

Daniel: If you talk about empathy, the flip side of that, the more darker side of that is persuasion. In marketing that's all we're trying to do. And when we think about SEO, it's how do you augment someone almost like inception to convince them that this is what they want.

Jack: You learn from this episode, listeners, incept your clients, it'll be fine. If you can hook them up to a dream machine on a plane, everything will be fine and they'll do the work for you. Who knew? Well, I think that the learning point of “do inception on your clients” is the perfect way to wrap up, Dan. I think that's the message we want to leave on, right?

Daniel: Yeah, sure. Okay.

Jack: Gone from thinking about empathy to just tricking them with dreams.

Daniel: Dreams are real. What's real? I don't know.

Jack: Exactly. Exactly. Well, if people do want to follow you and Dreading Sundays and all that kind of stuff. Where can they find you across the internet, DKC?

Daniel: Well, you can find me on Twitter mostly. My handle is @danielkcheung, and that's probably where I'm most active. I'm supposed to be active on LinkedIn, but I frankly don't have the time to get into thought leadership, because I'm too busy working.

Jack: Fair, fair. Of course, you can go to as well and find all of the fantastic episodes there. Like I said, big fan of the podcast. So I highly recommend if you do listen to Search with Candour, it's a very, very nice companion piece. And like I said, you'll have some crossovers. You'll hear Dan on this show. You'll hear Jamar on Dan's show and Jamar on my show as well. We've both had Katherine Watier Ong on. We've both had Chloe Smith, lots of fantastic guests, and we touched on different topics as well. So don't feel like just because if you've listened to my episode interviewing that person, you shouldn't then go off and listen to Dan's interview as well, because we do, you and I have a very different approach to podcasting, but still coming at it from different angles and perspectives there. So yeah, appreciate that.

Daniel: Thank you very much.

Jack: And thank you for joining. It's been an absolute pleasure. Lovely to finally talk to you.

Daniel: It has been. Thank you so much.

Jack: And that's all the time we have for this week. Thank you once again to Daniel K Cheung for joining me. An absolute pleasure to talk to one of my favourite people in SEO podcasting. I'm hoping you enjoyed it and found it as insightful as I did. I will of course be back again next week with more fantastic SEO guests and SEO news. As I mentioned last week, Mark and I will be trying to get back into a more regular schedule. We've had some fairly crazy schedules for the both of us recently and trying to get back into a more regular update for the SEO news side of things. Whether that's going to be a live stream or just a more regular episode of the podcast with us together, I'm looking forward to having more conversations with Mark and discussing the SEO news as well as having all the fantastic guests. We will continue to have throughout the end of the year heading towards 2023 as well. So with that in mind, thank you very much for listening. We'll see you next week and have a lovely week.