REALITY SEO: Crystal Wong: From Pharmaceuticals to SEO guru: How I found my dream job

REALITY SEO: Crystal Wong: From Pharmaceuticals to SEO guru: How I found my dream job
Reading Time: 17 minutes

 

Putting away the prescription pills and picking up SEO stats

 

In my Reality SEO episodes, I like to focus on real humans grappling with the Google beast, and Digital Marketing.

Yes, I get lots of marketing professionals, copywriters, and web developers passing through my slippery funnel of courses and resources, but I also get real business humans.

And sometimes my courses and resources have the power to turn normal business humans into digital marketing beasts!

As so with Crystal Wong, a kindred SEO-loving soul.

Today we’re talking to Crystal about how she went from working as a Pharmacist to an SEO consultant, and the challenges she’s faced along the way.

 

 

About Crystal Wong

 

Crystal Wong is the founder of Skyblue Search. She offers practical, strategic, and personalised SEO consultancy and solutions.

Crystal spent years as a clinical pharmacist before she escaped into the wonderful world of digital marketing and SEO.

She now loves to help health and other businesses succeed by harnessing the power of Google.

Crystal is a self-confessed crazy cat lady and lives with 2 cats and a big dog (and a daughter) who are all girls.

 

 

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And big thanks to Jenwren77 from Ireland for their lovely review:

“Funny, engaging, and highly informative.

 

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Transcript

 

Kate Toon:
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Kate Toon:
In my reality SEO episodes, I like to focus on real humans grappling with the Google beast and digital marketing. Yes, I get a lot of marketing professionals, copywriters and web developers passing through my slippery funnel of courses and resources, but I also get real business humans. And sometimes my courses and resources have the power to turn normal business humans into digital marketing beasts, as so with Crystal Wong, a kindred SEO loving soul. Today, we’re talking to Crystal about how she went from working as a pharmacist to working as a successful SEO consultant, and the challenges she faced along the way.

Kate Toon:
Hello. My name is Kate Toon. I’m the head chef at the recipe for SEO success, an online learning hub for all things related to search engine optimization and digital marketing. And today I’m talking with Crystal Wong. Hello Crystal.

Crystal Wong:
Hello. Hi.

Kate Toon:
If you look at the little picture of us in the episode, you’ll see that we are wearing matching beanies today, which was completely accidental. And we’re maybe thinking that this should be the uniform of all female SEOs moving forward.

Kate Toon:
So before we get stuck into the episode, just like to introduce Crystal. So, Crystal is the founder of Skyblue Search. She offers practical, strategic and personal SEO consultancy and solutions. Crystal has spent years as a clinical pharmacist before she escaped into the wonderful world of digital marketing and SEO. She now loves to help health and other businesses succeed by harnessing the power of Google. She’s also a crazy cat lady and lives with two cats and a big dog and a daughter, who are all girls. Wow. That’s a lot of female energy in the house.

Crystal Wong:
Yeah. Yeah. No, it’s crazy, but it’s good. It’s good. Lots of little girls.

Kate Toon:
Lots of little creatures when you need little creatures. I’m so reliant on Pomplemousse now, my dog, who is a boy, but to keep me positive. We’re recording this in lockdown week five and obviously Melbourne has been in lockdown since about 1930. But we’re not going to talk about COVID today. We’re going to talk about your SEO journey. And I must admit Crystal, I mention you a lot. I literally was just on a podcast this morning, and I mentioned you.

Crystal Wong:
Really?

Kate Toon:
Yeah, because I think it’s pretty darn cool to go from being a pharmacist to an SEO. So look, tell us about that. How long ago did this all happen? You were putting pills in jars one day. The next day everything changed. So how did it happen?

Crystal Wong:
Yeah, so I started off my career as a pharmacist. So obviously I went to uni, I did pharmacy and I did commerce, but I was working as a pharmacist for about five years after uni, retail and hospital, and I didn’t enjoy it. And I always knew that this wasn’t for me, but I wasn’t really sure what else to get into. So after pharmacy, I got a job in big pharma, like a big pharma company thinking I would use marketing and pharmacy in my work, but it turns out I didn’t enjoy that either.

Kate Toon:
No, no. Yeah. It happens, doesn’t it?

Crystal Wong:
Yeah. Yeah. So, I mean, I guess I was quite idealistic in that I kept moving around, trying to understand what I enjoyed and what I wanted to do with my life and give me the lifestyle that I wanted. So I moved around in marketing quite a bit, doing sales and business development and then marketing in general. It was only really after I had my daughter who is only five years old. So about five years ago that I discovered SEO. So as you do, while I was on maternity leave, I started an online store. I started a Shopify store.

Kate Toon:
Who hasn’t done that. And did you name it after your two children? Did you call it like Fluffy and Bean or Fun with Clara?

Crystal Wong:
Almost, almost. I named it after my cat. Yeah, so it was called Calico Babies. I was selling secondhand baby clothes. So it was like an online marketplace for secondhand baby clothes. And it was like a crash course in marketing at the time. So I learned SEO. I learned email marketing, social media marketing, a bit of everything, just trying to get it to work. Yeah. So, I mean, that was my introduction to SEO and that was my first taste of it. I felt like I don’t enjoy anything, but I didn’t enjoy that either because I found that a lot of my time I spent washing baby clothes and ironing baby clothes.

Kate Toon:
Yeah, that’s bad enough when it’s your own baby, let alone-

Crystal Wong:
Yeah, that’s right. I ended up taking up a part time job for a kitchen renovation company and they actually needed me to do SEO for them. So that’s when I came across you and your course, and I learned SEO to apply it to them. And I think you might remember me asking lots of questions about kitchen renovation SEO.

Kate Toon:
Let’s see. I’m trying to think about how long ago that was, because it feels like a while, but then, internet years is different to real years. But I think it was about three or four years ago, was it?

Crystal Wong:
2017 end of 2017 I took the course. Yeah.

Kate Toon:
Yeah. So, I mean, that’s an interesting little journey and it’s funny because, trying to apply big picture marketing ideas that you’ve learned at a brand or on a course to a small business, a lot of it doesn’t really apply.

Crystal Wong:
Not at all.

Kate Toon:
I spent a lot of time when I worked in ad agencies doing strategies and charts, whatever. Then you start your own business and you’re like, “Look, can someone just tell me how to make my email collections for my website. It’s not the big picture AB testing stuff. Oh, my phone is ringing. Sorry, I’m going to put that away. I’m so professional. And that’s staying in the podcast, because that’s how we roll.

Kate Toon:
Yeah, so big picture marketing applied to – You did obviously The Recipe for SEO Success, which obviously is amazing. Plug, plug, plug. But I mean, there’s one thing doing the course and there’s another thing going, “I love this.” Because as you said, you did not like anything. So what was it about SEO that tickled your fancy? Because it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, is it?

Crystal Wong:
No. Well, see, that’s the thing, I felt like there was something really wrong with me, because how can I not enjoy anything? I mean, I liked bits and pieces of all the work that I had done, but nothing really stuck. And I was always looking for the next step. I was always looking, where can I go next? But I think when I got into SEO and I did your course, by the way, it was the most practical course that I’ve ever done and I’ve done many, many courses. I’ve done two degrees. I’ve done so many online courses. And I mean, this is the one that changed my life. That sounds ridiculous.

Kate Toon:
Oh my God. I love that. I’m going to turn it into a snippet and put on my website. No, that’s fantastic. I just want to jump in before you answer the question that I asked and say, you know what? I think a lot of people don’t like what they do, but they’re not brave enough to say that to themselves. It wasn’t like I woke up every day and went into Ogilvy thinking, “I love my life.” I didn’t know there was an alternative, I was like, this is what you do. I’m not meant to be happy and then just get on with it, and then live for the weekend. So I think possibly you were just a little bit more self-aware than I was, because it took me till 34 to escape my reality. Do you know what I mean? And even then it was only because I got pregnant. [inaudible 00:08:22] self awareness. So yeah. SEO, it just clicked with you for some reason.

Crystal Wong:
I guess, coming from a scientific background, I liked that it was grounded in data. I liked that part of it. And I mean, when I learned marketing, I enjoy marketing because I think, I enjoy business, but a lot of it is really fluffy. A lot of it is very wishy-washy. Yeah. And I couldn’t get it through my head. I couldn’t understand how is this actually helping, whereas with SEO, you can actually use data, apply it and then see results. And that’s what I really like.

Kate Toon:
Yeah. I get that. As I said, some of these marketing courses is all very abstract. It’s all very abstract.

Crystal Wong:
Very abstract.

Kate Toon:
And I’m a tactics person. I like to actually just do the thing. And I think as you said, I’m not a huge fan of data. I’m not a math person, but I think SEO uniquely combines left brain, right brain. So all the tech stuff is pretty much black and white. So you do X, Y, and Z. It’s fast. Keywords, although it’s based on data, you’re looking at search volumes, click through rates, bid rates. It’s also quite intuitive and a little bit emotional. And then the copy, hopefully is full of empathy.

Crystal Wong:
Yeah. Creative as well.

Kate Toon:
And even the backlinks Yeah. You’re looking for sites with a higher ranking authority, but you’re also looking for fit and resonance.

Crystal Wong:
Yeah. Yeah. And it’s about relationship building. I mean, it’s a bit of everything. It’s sales. Especially working for myself, I mean, I’ve got to do the sales part as well. Yeah. So I just really enjoy. Every day is different and every day is a challenge, which can’t be said for every kind of work, I don’t think.

Kate Toon:
No. And it can be too challenging at times as well.

Crystal Wong:
Very much so. Yeah. Sometimes it can be very overwhelming.

Kate Toon:
I think, although SEO is very data driven and some people think, oh, SEO, isn’t very measurable, because they’re measuring the wrong things usually just ranking rather than ROI. But I think what challenges a lot of SEOs and as a female in the SEO world, I think we’re uniquely different in that we’re often more willing, this is a sweeping generalisation. I’m sorry. But in my experience, we’re a bit more willing to ask questions. Whereas in a lot of the SEO community, I used to be in, I think it is changing, there was this fear of asking questions because the thing is, although it’s black and white, it’s also 50 shades of grey.

Crystal Wong:
Totally. Absolutely. Everybody’s got their own theory about how stuff works. It’s different for different industries. So people think that they’re right, but then they’re not. And then, yeah, it’s very confusing.

Kate Toon:
You can read the data in many different ways. So, Crystal, you’re also a member of the Digital Masterchefs, like Kerri Bennett on the podcast as well, who’s also a member and often we’ll post questions in there. Like, “This is what the data says. This is what I’m seeing. What does this mean?” And you have to just ask someone else.

Crystal Wong:
Absolutely. Absolutely.

Kate Toon:
Because it’s black and white and not black and white. 

Kate Toon:
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Kate Toon:
So I mean, we’ve talked about what you liked about SEO. Was there anything that surprised you about SEO that you hadn’t thought of before when you were doing your general marketing?

Crystal Wong:
What surprised me? I guess the biggest surprise is that I really enjoyed it. I mean, to come across it and learn that I enjoyed it and that you can make money out of this. And I guess that not a lot of people seem to be doing it. Not as many as I would have thought seem to be doing SEO or SEO consultancy.

Kate Toon:
Yeah. I think there’s more agencies, but there’s not that many freelance people. And often, clients don’t want to pay for those agency overheads or they want to have a relationship with just one person. So, that’s an interesting move into what we’re going to talk about next. You did the course, you were like, this is something I want to do. It’s not like the next day you started getting clients. What was that first six months to a year like, as a freelance SEO consultant? What were your struggles in that time?

Crystal Wong:
Oh, many, I’ve got to say. Yeah. So when I started, I was still working for the kitchen renovation company for about a year after I did the course. And I mean, I guess I applied all my learnings there. But then I realised the SEO is the only thing that I want to do. I don’t want to do the rest of the other kinds of marketing. So I thought I’m going to do SEO and just that and take on clients, just for SEO. And at the time I didn’t even know that this kind of job existed. I didn’t even know what to call myself. And it was a really tough time in my personal life as well, because, I had just gone through a separation. It pretty much happened at the same time. So I started my business. I had no clients. I went through a separation two months later. I had a young daughter who was still in childcare.

Kate Toon:
Brilliant. Brilliant way to start a business.

Crystal Wong:
It was awful. I remember thinking to myself, I don’t know how I got into this situation. I mean, I am at rock bottom. I had no income, a broken family. I had to move back home. We were selling our house and this is when I started my business. Yeah. So it was tough. It was really hard. And the first six months to 12 months were really hard because I had to learn SEO, learn how to run a business, pick up the pieces of my personal life and yeah, start taking on clients. And I mean the first few clients actually came from you, Kate, and I’m eternally grateful for that.

Kate Toon:
I just want to say, I like the honesty about that, because I think so many people tell their origin story. They start a story and they got a loan or a mate invested or their partner was working full time. So they didn’t really have that pressure to have an income, which, no disrespect. If your partner’s willing to support you, brilliant. But, when it really all comes down to you, amazing what it pushes you to do.

Crystal Wong:
Totally.

Kate Toon:
When I gave up agency life, because I was about to give birth to a human, my husband at the time had one client. And so I was the breadwinner and literally, a month after I gave up my job, I gave birth. In that first year I had to try and do what you did because having the skills is one thing. But knowing how to run a business, is a whole other kettle of fish. How much do you charge? What your processes are? I need business cards? What software should I get? Just do the pitch process and propose, try to weave in phone calls. It is challenging. And people often ask me that question and I’m like, the first year was miserable and I’m not going to pretend it was anything else than that. And you have to push yourselves, I guess, don’t you?

Crystal Wong:
Yeah. Yeah. Well, I mean, obviously like you said, I had the pressure to make money somehow and now, I think back on it, I was still very idealistic. This is what I wanted to do and I was going to make it work. And I think I was also really lucky in that I had a few people that I could call mentors, like you. I also met another SEO consultant at a networking event, just very randomly. And when I met him, I was like, oh my God, I’ve never met anyone who does SEO. I don’t know anyone else who does this.

Kate Toon:
You can name drop him.

Crystal Wong:
Huh?

Kate Toon:
You have to name drop this person.

Crystal Wong:
I don’t think he’d appreciate it.

Kate Toon:
Oh really?

Crystal Wong:
But yeah, no, it was so helpful, just even to see somebody doing what I wanted to do and to be able to not so much ask questions. I mean, just to have the confidence to know there was somebody there that I could ask.

Kate Toon:
Yeah. That solidarity is really important and you are in Melbourne and I know that you regularly go to the Melbourne SEO meetup with [inaudible 00:17:09] and a few other-

Crystal Wong:
Yeah, I met those guys.

Kate Toon:
They’ve been on the podcast. And there is a good little community here in Australia that is quite open and friendly and non-competitive, which I love. So I think that’s it, having a little bit of a network and a few people who are going to refer work to you. And obviously these days I don’t do SEO for people anymore. I only teach. And so I’m always looking. We’ve only got five or six SEO people in Digital Masterchefs. Sometimes, I’m like, can someone take this lead and everyone’s like “I’m booked out.” This is it. We need more people. And I think you’ve mentioned as well, being a female in a vaguely male dominated world. I do think that’s changed an awful lot, even in the last three years. I’m seeing oodles of female SEOs, which is fantastic. So, I mean, here we are. You’re now a couple of years on from that horror year. Where are you at now? What kind of clients are you working with and what are you enjoying working on?

Crystal Wong:
I guess I’m happy to say that I’m pretty busy these days, very busy. I’m taking on larger and larger clients. I have to tell you, the first client I took on was a stripper agency.

Kate Toon:
Awesome.

Crystal Wong:
So that was my first client. So, I’ve moved on from there. And actually recently I’ve taken on quite a few e-commerce clients and I’m realising, wow, there’s a huge demand for e-commerce SEOs, especially in this current climate.

Kate Toon:
Yeah, absolutely. And so I think several of the DMC members are your clients as well, which is good. So that’s great bringing the community back again. So, I know that you’re working in a bit of e-commerce SEO. You’re a big fan of local SEO. That’s – love a bit of local. So how about we wrap up with some tips.

Crystal Wong:
Yeah, sure.

Kate Toon:
So maybe we could do a local SEO tip and an e-commerce SEO tip. So let’s start with local SEO. I’m a new business. I haven’t really done anything towards my SEO. Where would I start with local SEO?

Crystal Wong:
Where would you start for local SEO? Okay. So, for example, if you’re a business that has different services, I would make sure that you’ve got to have a different page for each service, because I’ve found that a lot of clients come to me and they have all their services on the one page and you’re never going to rank for any of your services if you do that. So make sure when you start your websites, separate out your services and make sure there’s a page for every one that you do.

Kate Toon:
Yep. Very much agree. And use the service page in your navigation as an index. Don’t make it non-clickable. That’s another thing that drives me mad, really bad usability. Yeah. Love that. Individual services pages are going to give you more opportunity to rank.

Kate Toon:
So, for the e-commerce, I guess maybe what are some of the mistakes you’re seeing e-commerce stores has made when it comes to SEO?

Crystal Wong:
I find that with e-commerce stores, I spend a lot of time fixing up their collections pages. And maybe that is something that they’ve overlooked, because collections pages, I mean, they are your big opportunity to rank for that collection and you need descriptions on that page. You need good descriptions that will tell people what you’re trying to rank for on that page. So make sure that that is all filled in.

Kate Toon:
Yeah. Collections pages and no category pages. Yeah. I see that too. There’s just no copy on those pages. And people, so they go straight to products. But I think, and again, it’s not just for SEO. Like I like to know, especially if it’s a small business, why have you bought these products together? What’s special about them? What’s interesting? What’s different? And a little bit of an intro also gives you an opportunity to inject some personality, which is so important, especially if you’re a small business. Again, just talking on the podcast that I have just done, where I name dropped you. I was just talking about my whole mantra of give me a reason not to buy it from Kmart. You have to give me a reason not to go and get it mass produced from Kmart. And often that comes through the copy. I feel that you really care. You’ve handpicked these items. So it’s not just for Google gods is it? It’s for humans as well.

Kate Toon:
Look, Crystal, as I said, I name drop you wherever. I feel like you’re kind of, I take a little bit of, I was going to sound super patronising. I take a little bit of pride in our relationship, and everything you’ve achieved, and I’m always trying to foist more jobs on you, but you’re too booked. If people do want to find out more about you and maybe book you for some work, where’s the best place to find out all about you?

Crystal Wong:
So on my website, so www.skybluesearch.com.au. I also would like to give a plug. I’m actually starting a new business. Yeah. Just for local maps ranking. It’s called Smarter Maps. So you can find it there. It’s www.smartermaps.com.au. The site is almost finished. So it’s very, very new.

Kate Toon:
Fantastic. Look, we’ll include links to those in the show notes that was Skyblue Search and Smarter Maps. And if I think you type in Crystal Wong SEO, you’ll probably find Crystal as well. So thank you so much for coming on today.

Crystal Wong:
Thank you for having me. Thanks, so much.

Kate Toon:
Maybe we can start a little shop selling these beanies.

Crystal Wong:
Yeah. SEO beanies. Wow.

Kate Toon:
I think that’s the way forward.

Crystal Wong:
E-commerce store.

Kate Toon:
You can handle it, I don’t want to. All right. Thank you so much, Crystal.

Crystal Wong:
All right. Thank you. Thanks, Kate. Thanks for having me.

Kate Toon:
So that’s the end of this week’s show. If you have questions about SEOs, e-commerce SEO, local SEO, you want to chat to Crystal, you’ll find her and me, in the I love SEO group on Facebook. Now I like to end the show with a shout-out to one of my loving listeners, and today it’s from Jenwren77 from Ireland. She writes, “Funny, engaging and highly informative. I’ve been listening to the Recipe for SEO Success podcast for a couple of years, never tyre of the content nor Kate’s dulcet tones.” Oh, thank you. “It’s an incredible resource for both SEO newbies and more tech savvy. Sometimes it’s hard to believe it’s free. Although the occasional techie episode, fledgling SEOs will still find them useful, so don’t skip ahead. I guarantee Kate and her guests will make the driest topics moist.” I love that. “And easy to swallow, funny, engaging, and highly informative.”

Kate Toon:
Oh my God. I’m going to refer to my SEO podcast as the moist SEO podcast. Thank you, Jenwren77, you rock. And thanks to you for listening. If you would love to leave a review or rating, I’d be extremely grateful. You can pop it on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you heard the show. And of course, head to The Recipe for SEO Success, where you can learn more about Crystal Wong, check out her website and any other useful links. And yeah, finally check out my other podcast, The Kate Toon Show, new series coming soon. Until next time. Happy SEOing.