SEO techniques

MozCon Virtual 2021 Interview Series: Joy Hawkins

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We’re thrilled to welcome Joy Hawkins back to the MozCon Virtual stage! Local SEOs know Joy as a GMB expert, and for her work leading Local Search Forum, Local U, and the amazing team at Sterling Sky. 

Ahead of the show, we talked with Joy about her research into Google Posts, what she loves most about her work in local SEO, and what she’s looking forward to at MozCon Virtual 2021. Check out the interview below!

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

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Question: 2020 was quite a year, how did the Sterling Sky team adjust? What were some of your favorite projects?

Joy: We were really fortunate. Because we have clients in so many industries, we didn’t have a huge number of cancellations when COVID first hit last year. We had a couple of rough months, but most of our clients that did pause their services ended up unpausing after a few months.

We actually saw a lot of growth in the second half of last year and were able to actually hire six more staff in 2020, two of which had lost their previous jobs because of COVID. So overall, I feel really blessed and saw a lot of good come out of a bad situation.

Question: What do you think was the biggest challenge for local SEOs this past year? What changes or trends stood out to you?

Joy: There have been a lot of technical issues and bugs to deal with when it comes to Google My Business. They launched a ton of new features to try and adapt to the ever-changing environment, and I find whenever that happens, stuff breaks.

Question: Local SEO is constantly changing. How do you and the team stay on top of algorithm updates and changes?

Joy: We track everything. I make a habit of trying to know everything that is going on in the industry, and part of how I do that is by moderating the Google My Business forum and our own forum, the Local Search Forum. I also find the local SEO community is really active on Twitter, so often new things get shared there.

Question: You founded Sterling Sky in 2017. Could you describe what it was like founding and building an agency? Was there anything that surprised you?

Joy: When I started, I thought it was just going to be me, and maybe a few others. I never envisioned having this many staff (19 currently) or clients, so that has definitely been an exciting piece that I never planned.

I remember when I hired my first full-time staff in 2017, I wasn’t even sure I had enough to pay him and had a plan to cut my own salary if needed. Literally, the same month he started, we had an influx of new clients that was unexpected, so it all worked out perfectly.

Question: You are extremely well-respected in the Local SEO industry — what steps did you take to get to where you are today? What recommendations do you have for others looking to elevate their personal brand in the SEO space?

Joy: Never be afraid to help people or share things that you’ve learned. I started in this space by writing articles. It started as my own blog (which morphed into the Sterling Sky blog), but then I started writing for other publications and becoming a lot more active on social media. Forums played a huge role in how I learned and shared knowledge. I also made a habit of attending conferences and meeting the people I looked up to. I’ll never forget the first time I met Mike Blumenthal and how intimidated I was. Networking in this space is really important and MozCon is definitely one of the best places to do that.

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

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

The awesome thing about working with SMBs is that changes can get implemented quickly and you don’t have tons of hoops to jump through to get stuff approved. Seeing the impact from our work quickly and watching clients’ leads increase is insanely rewarding.

I’d say the hardest part is dealing with algorithm changes. A huge majority of the time, algorithm updates are a good thing for our clients, but it’s definitely frustrating the times when you feel Google gets it wrong.

Question: At MozCon, you’ll discuss a study you and your team conducted where you analyzed more than 1,000 Google Posts. Why Google Posts? What sparked your interest in this topic?

Joy: Google posts are something I get asked about on almost every webinar I’m on. People always seem to be wondering what they are supposed to post about. I think I get asked if posts impact ranking several times a month.

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

Joy: I think people will be surprised to see what types of posts performed best. It definitely wasn’t the outcome I was expecting. Based on posts that I see regularly on Google My Business listings, I’m not sure everyone is aware of what types of content performs best.

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

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

Question: Who in the MozCon lineup are you most excited to watch this year? Anything else you are looking forward to?

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


A big thank you to Joy for her time! To learn more about Joy’s upcoming presentation, see details on our other speakers, and to purchase your ticket, make sure you click the link below!



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