Kahena Interview VII – Alex and Anna Moss
It is always interesting when couples work alongside each other. Manchester couple Alex and Anna Moss are one such couple. The two work together at Pleer which Alex formed in 2003 after previously having done some work in television. Alex was somewhat of a prodigy getting involved with HTML as a 13 year old. He has progressed from that and now does everything from designing WordPress plugins to blogging, consulting and speaking. Anna began working in law but then moved into SEO. She specialises in content writing and social media. She is swimming in the Great Swim where she is raising money for Orly Tenzer. It is our pleasure to be able to speak to them.
*For ease of reading, we have reverted to blue for when Alex speaks and pink for Anna.
Where do you think the industry will be in 2 years time?
This is the most interesting question. Let me answer that one at the end
Has anything in the evolution of SEO surprised you?
No. When algorithm updates occur sometimes people act shocked that the algorithm in question has been applied. Let’s take Penguin for example – people were up in arms but really, if you think about it from a non-SEO perspective, the algorithm update was justified and fair. The people who seemed to lose out were the same people who knowingly worked against Google’s webmaster guidelines.
Of course there were some anomalies to this where sites with honest intentions were penalized, but that’s why the re-inclusion request option is there.
Do you miss your old professions?
Alex: Haha – no! My job wasn’t all too glamorous but I met some interesting people along the way. When thinking back, the 20 gloomy days didn’t balance enough for the one good day.
My job whilst at the BBC for Dragon’s Den was to read all the submissions and pass any interesting ones to the producers. Working on the show (and other shows) made me realise that television production is a form of magic, and working in production let’s you see how the magic is done. Usually once you find out the secret to how a magic trick is performed the interest dwindles
What are your pet peeves about SEO?
Ego, cowboys, and the reputation our industry has because of those two things. Oh, and outing – don’t call out someone else’s work. Nobody wins in this instance.
What are the differences between SEO in Manchester and London?
SEO in Manchester is much better I say this because I’m one of the organisers for MancSEO, a monthly meetup welcome to anyone who works in our industry from entry level to directors. I’ve formed really close bonds with the MancSEO community and am proud to be part of it. In fact, MancSEO is having its final meetup tonight in order to make way for MancSAS – opening the meetups to more than just SEOs.
Any downside to working alongside your spouse?
Only one – bringing your work home with you. When you share a client and you get an email at 10pm, we’ll be both there to discuss it if we want to. It’s annoying but at least we get the work done quicker than usual
What are your indulgences?
Alex: Jammie Dodgers
Anna: Crisps, cheese and good wine.
What has been your biggest mistake to date and what did you learn from it?
Alex: Oddly enough, working in television. Part of myself thinks this was a waste of 2 years of my working life. However, no mistake comes without an upside. I can make the perfect cup of tea
Anna: Anna makes no mistakes
You can invite any 8 people (living, dead, fictional) to a dinner party – who do you invite?
Alex’s 8 people:
Banksy – someone so famous and nobody knows his real identity. I’d love to know how he lives off the fame he doesn’t publicly claim
David Attenborough – I’d want him to narrate the evening.
Mark from “Peep Show” – the epitome of a grumpy Englishman with reluctant social skills. I love him
The Inglorious Basterds – if only they existed. I would love to shake The Bear Jew’s hand
Sheldon Cooper – yes, I realise Nichola Stott mentioned him in her own interview, but he’s an extremely interesting character. I’d love to see him and Anna argue as to who will sit in the seat that is “in the best spot”.
Robert Zemeckis – I’m a big time travel fan, and he made the trilogy that defined time travel movies and defined half my childhood dreams of owning a hoverboard.
Frank Rosenthal – the man Robert de Niro was based on in “Casino”. Organised crime stories have always interested me and he was the most interesting.
Anna Moss – if I didn’t invite her to this dinner party she’d have my head on a stick!
Anna’s 8 people:
Marilyn Monroe – always wanted to meet her, true beauty
My grandma – my dad’s mum, never got to meet her
Hugh Laurie – funny, he can serenade us all and he is good looking!
Otis Redding – so he could sing That’s How Strong My Love Is
Brain – because together we could take over the world!
Mark Twain – read so many of his books and he is the master of amazing quotes
Antonio Carluccio – food hero and he could make dinner!
Alex Moss – My wonderful hubby (and he would kill me if I put down Nichola Stott instead of him, can I hide Nichola and have a 9th person?)
What does a typical day of yours look like?
Alex: Check emails, have a shower, check emails, drive to work, check emails, action all those emails, reply to the emails, get more emails, action those responses, take a look at some analytics, send some tweets, go home, check emails, watch some telly, have a shower, check emails, do more freelance work, watch some telly, check emails, sleep.
Anna: Get up, go downstairs into the living room, turn on my laptop and sit and work until i get hungry, eat, return to the living room to work, eventually switch off and make dinner for when Alex comes home (with the occasional cig break intervals)
Away from work, how do you like to relax?
Alex: Eating and watching stuff on telly. Sounds lazy… and it is. My work makes my brain tired so I try to relax by not using it as much as possible
Anna: With good movies and wine
Given the demands of your position, how do you achieve the balance between personal and business?
I won an iPad in March and it’s actually a blessing. Before that I used my laptop more in my free time and found myself working a few minutes later. The limited functionality an iPad brings keeps your online activity more personal.
I’ve also been quite good at not working after 9pm. If I do I won’t get to sleep before 3am
Who are your favorite heroes in fiction and real life?
Alex: Oddly enough, I’ve thought about it quite a lot and I have no real “heroes”. What I do do instead is think of how fortunate I am to be in an industry where lives aren’t at stake as I wouldn’t be able to deal with that kind of pressure. If you haven’t watched it already, make sure you watch “24 Hours in A&E” on Channel 4 – never have I realised the work NHS staff do for people on a daily basis. Watch an episode of that and then consider that having 50 emails to read when you get in the office tomorrow isn’t such a bad thing.
Anna: I’d agree with Alex about “24 Hours in A&E”, we all moan about the NHS but when you see how hard they work and the small salaries they get paid, they truly are angels. I hate it when people don’t remember that they are getting medical attention for FREE, if you were in America or any other country and you didn’t have private health insurance you would have to pay every time you went into hospital. I’d also say my parents. They have been together since my mum was 14 and my dad was 16 and have been happily married for 33 years which is a rarity these days. Plus they put up with me when I was a teenager – I was horrible, a proper rebel, I was terrible and I honestly don’t know where I would be if they hadn’t stuck by me (I’m much more pleasant now)
In what circumstances wouldn’t you work with a client or cease working with one?
When they have unrealistic expectations. One client stopped working with me once because I couldn’t promise him 40,000 unique non-branded visits for highly competitive terms within the first 30 days of a brand new site launch -all with a £500 total budget.
Where do you think the industry will be in 2 years time?
This is something nobody can essentially predict, however, it’s a very broad question so can have a broad interpretation. However, I would like to think I could make a couple of decent guesses
The industry is becoming more and more diverse and with that, brings more and more diverse people and skills to the industry. With that, the industry will have to cater for this and think that this will be done by, instead of broadening an already broad job description for an “SEO”, creating more specific roles for sectors within SEO will become more commonplace. This is already happening but there will be a point where there will no longer be a guy who is a “general SEO”.
Linkbuilding will become more and more complex when it comes to strategy. If Google’s Penguin Update has taught us anything it’s that people can’t be “lazy” when it comes to link acquisiton. Don’t just pay for a link and relax – it’s not just against Google’s webmaster guidelines but it’s just not creative. Creativity will play a more prominent role with linkbuilding. Black hat will certainly not disappear but it will definitely become harder – which leads me to believe that in the end the only back hats will be the 1% of extraordinarily clever devs or will be hired by the search engines themselves in order to improve the algorithm. Florian Rohrweck is a good example of this (although from a security background)
The industry also has to defend its reputation. All too often does a client come to me after being missold by a previous agency. There are too many cowboys around willing to poach clients who know nothing about search, or anything online at all. I predict that the next 2 years will see some form of self or independent governing body that will deal with companies that consistently perform unacceptable work.
Essentially the same outlook will remain throughout our careers and this is what we should be focused on the most. Whatever you do in SEO you will be doing it to increase one, a combination of, or all 3 of the following factors: Exposure, Interaction and Conversion. Making sure that this ethos is implemented on each project will ensure creativity and success.
What’s next for you both?
Well, this is even more interesting. We have been preparing for something big and going to announce something very shortly. Keep your eyes peeled
Thanks for your time
Alex: You’re welcome
Anna: Our pleasure