The FCDC was at BrightonSEO in April and we had an exciting conversation with Himani Kankaria.
She founded Missive Digital, an organic digital marketing agency helping businesses multiply their organic visibility and conversions.
Name: Himani Kankaria
What She Does: Himani Kankaria is the Founder of Missive Digital
Company: Missive Digital
Noteworthy: Himani speaks at global conferences such as BrightonSEO, Whitespark Local Search Summit, Semrush, Meet Magento, and more. She is a regular contributor to the Search Engine Journal.
💡Choosing between Coding and SEO Courses.
Himani faced a decision between coding and SEO courses, which are both valuable skills in the digital landscape. She discusses her choice to pursue a career in search engine optimization after graduation.
💡The Value of Ethical SEO Practices.
Himani emphasized the importance of following white-hat SEO techniques and avoiding black-hat or grey-hat practices. Her previous company strictly adhered to ethical policies, which ultimately protected their clients from negative impacts during major algorithm updates like Panda and Penguin. This highlights the long-term benefits of maintaining ethical SEO practices and providing valuable content for users, rather than resorting to manipulative tactics.
💡Advice for SEOs in Developing Countries just starting their career.
Himani advises newbies to identify what sacrifice can get them what they want to achieve. You’d have to do those sacrifices and just don’t stick to whatever you are comfortable with it. When you get into your comfort zone, you are missing out on what you can achieve.
💡Balancing Work and Parenting.
Himani discussed how she decided to take a break from work during her pregnancy. She also talked about the fear she thought it will have on her career growth as the industry is male-dominated
Himani’s decided to stay connected to the industry during her career break by remaining updated on algorithm updates and exploring related areas like social media marketing exemplifies the value of continuous learning. It underscores the importance of leveraging available resources to stay relevant and informed, even during temporary career breaks.
The significance of user-centric content optimization
Himani discusses a project where the focus shifted from traditional keyword optimization to optimizing content for user experience and satisfaction in a meaningful way. This approach involved structuring content based on user expectations, utilizing psychology and user flow to enhance visibility in search results.
The importance of pushing beyond comfort zones.
Himani shares her personal experiences of making sacrifices, taking risks, and embracing challenges to achieve professional success. This topic discusses the mindset and approach required to overcome limitations, expand skill sets, and reach higher levels of expertise.
Connect with Himani
Chima Mmeje 0:07 So I’m really, really excited for our next guests. This is Himani. How do i pronounce your last name so I don’t die.
Himani Kankaria 0:15 It’s kankaria.
Chima Mmeje 0:16
Can Korea. See, I’ve been trying to get someone from Asia on the show, and this is the first time we’ve been able to make that happen. So I am really, really, really excited because now we’re going to dig into the story of someone who lives in India and walks out of India, we’ve not had that on the show yet.
So see, just populate this is going to be an amazing episode. So as we always do, I’m going to start by asking Himani what was the very, very first job that she did?
Himani Kankaria 0:48
Oh, my God, that’s, you know, something, which is very close to my heart. It’s something that you know, I did my it, right. So right after the it, it was something that, you know, I had to choose whether I should go with coding or whether I should go with something new. Right.
So in that case, what was happening is that, when I went for an interview or something like that, I realised that, you know, coding is something not a part of, you know, I would enjoy or, you know, would do for the rest of my life, because I was good in project management and all of those stuff during my college times.
So, you know, in that time, what happened was that, you know, there were two courses that were very famous in, you know, India, or specifically where I come from, which is Ahmedabad. So, you know, there it was a PHP and search engine optimization. Okay, so I chose Search Engine Optimization at that point in time in 2010. And, you know, I did a, you know, two months course.
And to be very honest, in just one and a half months, I got the placement there. Yeah, yeah, exactly. So that was very exciting. And, you know, I was given that, in that point in time, I was just doing a little bit of link building stuff, directory submissions, social bookmarking things, forum submissions, and, you know, days SEO, exactly. Because that was the pre Panda and Penguin updates.
Yeah. So at that time, I was doing all of those stuffs, and we were seeing, wow, the rankings are going up. And it was so amazing. And within six months, I was, you know, being appreciated. And I was promoted as a team lead.
Chima Mmeje 2:20
So let me get this straight up. You. You did? Is it an internship? What was the first thing you did where you said you had to choose between between PhD?
Himani Kankaria 2:28 Yeah, so it was a course it was a course right after my graduation. So that’s what I’m saying? How did you even
Chima Mmeje 2:33
get to know about having this availability of either coding or SEO? How did he even come into the picture? Who told you about it?
Himani Kankaria 2:40
So exactly? You know, what happened to that, you know, there was this last year project, when it comes to you know, it when we do it, there are various projects that we have to do. So in that case, we did a project with that company, which was providing training for to these things, right.
So that’s how we came to know that these are, you know, competing at that point in time, always, you know, I was hearing from our seniors that okay, I went to PHP course, I didn’t take SEO course.
I’ve gone SEO course. And I’ve done not done php. So it was like, you know, competitive. Yeah, exactly. So I thought that, okay, PHP, something that was related to too much coding, I thought, let me go ahead with SEO. Okay. Which had very little coding,
Chima Mmeje 3:20
yes. Because we just had Christina. Christina was saying, you don’t need to know how to code to do SEO, technical SEO, that is not your job.
Himani Kankaria 3:29
Exactly. Now I’m realising.
Chima Mmeje 3:32
Okay, so you get what was your first job? When you finish this training? How did you even get the first job because you tried it? That’s something else. Christina, where you finished training, getting that first job is always a big issue, because you don’t have any experience. And you’re trying to apply to gig. So how did you get your first job in SEO? Right?
Himani Kankaria 3:51
So, you know, like I said, that, you know, when I was doing this training day where the SEO agency as well, so they were serving to the clients in Germany, Australia, and all of those geographies. So, in that case, what happened is that, you know, while I was interning, I was given a lot of, you know, assignments to perform at home at, you know, the, you know, location.
And, at that point in time, the trainer, the trainer was, you know, gorging my performance, that how she’s performing, how she’s coping up with the things, how she’s grasping, and all of those things. And they realise that she’s doing a bit, you know, different from what, you know, other people were doing in the course and something like that.
And that’s the reason why they approached me that hey, humanI do we want to you know, do a small, you know, kind of job kind of thing with us? And I was like, yeah, why not? Anyways, I don’t have a job offer in hand right now. So I would love to do that. And that was the same Yeah, that was my same you know, first job where I did the training, and I would like to let you know this, that now they are our client,
Chima Mmeje 4:58
you know, went from being In the place where you learn SEO to not be in your clients, yes, that is amazing. That’s a that’s a that’s a super story. That’s a motivational story from Grace grace. So now, how long did you stay with this company? Two and a half years, two and a half years? Okay, what did you learn in this company that prepared you for the next role?
Himani Kankaria 5:21
Okay, so there were a couple of things, you know, number one thing that they taught me is that, you know, be open to challenges. So it was something that, you know, one day I walked into the office, and my boss was like that, you know, hey, Manny, you have a call with a German client. And I’m like, what? I mean, I’ve never spoken to anybody till date and God directly giving me to a German client whose accent is difficult to understand, especially for Indians. Yeah. So I was and, and I was like, I literally got paranoid, and I gave this reaction to him.
And he was like, No, you cannot say no, to me, just go attend the call, and come back to me. And I was like, I literally went there. I was just nodding the head, you know, in front of the client. And I just went, and I said, I didn’t understand anything. And he was like, that’s okay. You cannot No, you cannot say no.
So that was one thing that I learned there, that, you know, whenever you face any me, whenever you face any challenges, even that is on the spot, you cannot say no, you have to just take it up. Next thing that I learned is that, you know, never go, which is, you know, in the grey hat SEO, or the black hat SEO, because what happened is, the our agency was purely into that, you know, white hat thing at that point in time they were these things were openly discussed, right?
So we were not allowed to do any, like link exchanges, we were not allowed to do any paid link building or something like that. So they were very strict on those grounds that good policies. Exactly. So at that point in time, I didn’t know what to be very honest, when I got to know is when the entire industry was suffering from that Panda and Penguin update.
Yeah. So that was something that, you know, the entire industry was crying. And, you know, they were like many of the companies in India as well as globally, they shut off. Right. So they face really bad crisis. And it was something that changed the entire face of the industry. Wow. Yeah. So at that point in time, we were unaffected. And none of our clients were affected with any of the algorithm updates, because
Chima Mmeje 7:24
you had already maintained good SEO policies. Exactly.
Himani Kankaria 7:27
Exactly. So even you know, I learned from that my, you know, boss, now client is like that, you know, even if any content that you’re publishing, it has to make sense, right. So, at that point in time, I was new to the content and something like that, but I used to read articles, right. But at that point in time, I learned that okay, you cannot write crap and just publish. Yeah, so these are, you know, the main things that has put a great foundation in my career. And
Chima Mmeje 7:55
I love the you have to be intentional with what you’re creating for clients, because the cloud, the quality will supersede you. Exactly, exactly. That is good. So now you’ve left this place. What was the next job?
Himani Kankaria 8:08
Okay, so next job was the, you know, I because I was expecting, so I had to take a little break from my full time.
Chima Mmeje 8:15
Now pause. I don’t think we’ve ever talked about this. Okay. Parenting in your career. Okay. How did you even balance that you took a break from from your career to go and have a baby? Yeah. Were you scared that that was going to affect your career growth, taking a break in a male dominated industry?
Himani Kankaria 8:32
Actually, I was. Okay. So initially, at that point in time, there were hardly women in this entire SEO thing. Yes. And that actually scared me. But it was something that I never, I was never completely out of the industry, because that was the time when all the algorithm updates happened, right, one by one Panda update, then Penguin updates, and there were more versions rolling out.
So I was learning. So what I was doing is that you know, whenever I will think of going back to the industry, I should be knowing what is happening, I should be you know, well updated, I should be learning. So I literally started trying my hands on social media marketing, that you know, how it works, and how it affects SEO. Also, I started, you know, writing some, you know, like, 100 200 words of content.
It was something that, you know, I loved writing during my college, as well I was writing writing poems, and, you know, what we call in India is Chinese. So, we used I mean, I used to write those things. So I had that love, but then I tested experimented wrote some 100 200 words,
Chima Mmeje 9:38 you went from writing poems
Himani Kankaria 9:45
to transformation No. Exactly. So, that’s how it was bad. You know, I tried my hands and then I started doing freelancing at that time. So I was writing at 60 pesah for word, which is like No pair size, like kind of a Pence in pounds or something like that.
Yeah. So I was writing just 60 PESA per word a lot of money, obviously, no, not at all. But it was something that, you know, I knew that this is not I’m earning for, you know, the earning purpose, but I’m earning this just that I get more exposure and more learning. So that was I started, you know, doing all of those things. And within, like, when I was wanting to, you know, go back to the industry after two and a half, I mean, no, I guess a one and a half year.
So in that point in time, like, I was, like, very much struggling, because, you know, the pay that I got last, people were not ready to pay that. So it was difficult for me to get back. And this was when you took the break, right? Yes, absolutely. So now people were not ready to, you know, be and gay give the same package to me. Because, of course, the industry was completely affected.
So now it was becoming very difficult for even companies to trust any SEO that they might not be doing those things that have, you know, impacted other websites. So that was the case. And, you know, I was like, Okay, give me a chance, at least. So I worked in an immigration company. Wow. And just for two and a half months, because I just wanted to enter into the market. That’s it. And that company was ready to give me a job. So I took it, right.
So in two and a half months, I realised that, okay, this is just, you know, one website that I’m getting to work upon. So I’m not going to learn anything there. It’s just that you know, okay, one website is something that, you know, I learned it, okay, now I know how to trick it. So make sure that, you know, it helps users hit helps search engines to understand better, but I knew that, you know, I would need more challenges to make sure that I am sustaining. I’m learning.
So from there, I got, again, the call from that same company where I left my first job. Okay, so they approached me, the owner was now in Australia. So he approached me and he told me Himani, can you get back to our, you know, team and something like that? I was like, yeah, why not? So I entered there, we did, you know, we worked with like, say, six months or something. And then the dream company came to me, which was an IT corporate in Ahmedabad with 500 people company. And I always wanted, you know, right after my graduation, I wanted to work in that company.
And they came to me that we have an opening Himani, can you come down for an interview? I’m like, and I went to there, I was selected. And I tried almost everything that I wanted to try on that product, you know, that on which we were working. And that was the same product, for which I wrote a content, which took 21 days to finish. I was, you know, talking to testers talking to QA and all of those people. For 21 days.
I wrote it i optimise it, I optimise it, and I then made it live. And within four days, it was on Featured Snippets. So it was my first experiment of writing a content with optimization and then making it live. So usually, what we used to do is that, you know, we will create a content and we will just publish it, we will look at the performance, and then we will optimise it, but this time I did vice versa. I optimise before it went live,
Chima Mmeje 13:18
which is how it’s supposed to be. Exactly,
Himani Kankaria 13:20
exactly. That’s how it has to be. But initially, we didn’t know that, you know, it has to be like that way. Because initially, we used to get the writing from the writers or the writers
Chima Mmeje 13:29
and then just publish exactly, but that still retain a bias you you learn by testing. I think that’s the that’s the lesson here. You learn by testing, and then you knew that okay, this is best done that and then that becomes a part of your process.
Himani Kankaria 13:41
Absolutely. Absolutely. And I got an appreciation from the director of the company, which made the difference to my life. And I’m like, you know, okay, now I need more challenges. Come on, bring it on. I
Chima Mmeje 13:53
love that. I love that the more success you’ve had, the more challenges you want that the most easy wanted to try. So how long did you stay with this company now that you’ve gone back to them?
Himani Kankaria 14:02
Okay, so I worked with them for one and a half year. And then what did you do after that? Okay, so then I went to consulting, you went to consulting? Yes. So, you know, I asked them that, you know, I want more projects, not just one, because I want to test that whether I can be ready. You know, because I became comfortable with that, you know, five day a week kind of a culture.
I was very much you know, getting comfortable with only working with one website at a time and something like that. So I wanted to challenge myself that Okay, give me more projects, give me more products, product websites, and I want to work on all of them. But because they had, you know, certain limitations, so I had to quit that job. Okay.
So then I went to you know, another company that offered me Okay, Himani you can do a part time job with us. I did there but then because it is something that you know, when you do consulting, they always feel that okay, this is very less of you. Himani. Can we get some more hours of yours? And I’m like, No, I don’t want to work. With just one website, I want more websites to be working on. And then I went to working with this E comm.
Kedah, which is my own baby as well, with what Sasha and you know, we launched this website with just one purpose, whatever we have learned for E commerce, we just want to give back to the community. Because ecommerce is something that you know, not openly everyone is helping that how you can start your E commerce business and all of those things. Right.
So there, we started that, and I started also consulting many other businesses. Right? So it was like complete consulting, I’m entering into now entrepreneurship journey. So from job, I transitioned to consulting as an entrepreneur, and yeah, for like, I guess, one and a one half year, I was completely into consulting, and then started building a team.
Chima Mmeje 15:51 So you went from consulting, and then gradually, those are instead of building your company, when you do officially launch your company
Himani Kankaria 15:57 during COVID?
Chima Mmeje 16:00 Like that was like that has to be like the worst time to launch a business.
Himani Kankaria 16:03
Yes, absolutely. I even you know, talked about this, during my bridon. SEO talk last October, that, you know, what happened is that, you know, when COVID happened, because consultants are very expensive due to their hours, right? People count you on hours, right? So they feel that you are expensive. So what they do is okay, whenever there is such crisis, they will show you the door, right, so that what, that’s what happened to me. And my husband was sitting beside me, and I was talking to a couple of inquiries.
And I’m saying, No, I’m not available at this point in time and all of those things, and he was like, How can you say no to a customer? And he was like, you know, because it was locked down his business? Well, of course, he was into textiles. So you know, the entire industry was just completely off. And he was sitting beside me, he was just identifying what are roadblocks, I have to scale up my availability and something like that.
And he was like, hey, Manny, get a T. We cannot, you know, compromise on this thing. Because you’re getting inquiries, but you don’t have time, being a good surgeon, you play on hours, right? And because you have limited hours, you cannot scale up. Right. So he wanted me to scale up because he saw some potential in me. I don’t know why.
But he was like that, you know, know him, and we need to get it, get a team, train them, and we will see what happens. So literally, I did that, you know, onboarding to team members during COVID. And it was like, you know, then it was no looking back.
Chima Mmeje 17:30 And from then on, it’s just been like, up what has been the most fulfilling project you’ve worked on to set up your business?
Himani Kankaria 17:38 Okay, so is it something that you’re talking about the challenging product project,
Chima Mmeje 17:42 is something that that the results made? You feel so satisfied? So good?
Himani Kankaria 17:49
Right, right. Right. So there was a project where they, you know, there was a huge publishing website? I’m not too sure if I have a right to announce it over here. Yeah. Don’t need to call. Exactly. But yeah. So even I don’t know about them as well.
But yeah, it was like almost they had 1 billion organic traffic already monthly. Right. So they came to me. Yeah, 1 billion organic traffic monthly. Wow. So it was something that, you know, they came to me, and they were like, Himani, we have a huge content library on our website. And we just want you to optimise it.
Yeah. You the content is written already, they rank on, say, rank number eight, or rank number nine, or something like that. Just get us on the Featured Snippets. That’s it. And it was so challenging, it was a short term project. But you know, it was so challenging, because all the other competing blogs were equivalent to that website.
I mean, they also had the same kind of authority, you know, Domain Authority website. Exactly. Big websites, great content. So it was all about you know, then we started playing with the users the psychology, right. So based on the topic, we understand that, okay, if I would have been that person reading that content, what would I want to read first? So we didn’t optimise any keywords, any links, nothing there.
What we optimised is the user flow, the content flow as per the user expectations, we put some table of contents and you know, we play some schemas and all of those things to make sure that, you know, achieve some visibility in search, you know, the SERPs, right? So that’s what we did. And boom, we saw a massive number of blogs, getting on the features.
Chima Mmeje 19:35
Okay, let’s, let’s let’s dig into this because I think it’s very interesting. Some every, everybody’s just talks about where you’re optimising. Okay, optimise this optimise that. While we don’t really hear people talking about optimising for the user in a meaningful way, and doing that by the structure, which is what the man is describing.
What does the user want to see first, and then place it that at the top right, yes. Using that to flow from Yeah, that was a very, very smart move. You did that for all the content pieces. Yeah. And you saw results.
Himani Kankaria 20:05
Exactly, exactly. And that’s when we changed our entire procedure of, you know, optimising your content.
Chima Mmeje 20:13
See what I just said earlier? I mean, remember, I said earlier that it’s by testing that you learn, and if it’s successful, it becomes part of your process, exactly, as we just described. Now, again,
Himani Kankaria 20:24
exactly, absolutely. And that’s what has helped us as well that, you know, not for just this project, but there are many other SaaS companies, unicorns, you know, unicorns are also our customers. And they have huge content library, but only a part of it that that they perform. So what happens is, then they are stuck. Okay, after one year, we have consistent visibility, we are not going up, Kimani, can you help us and something like that.
And when we read out their content, it’s completely mess. Literally, why? Because it’s very generic content. I mean, you’re a unicorn, come on, you are a big name, you have huge branded traffic, what you’re not monetizing is the non branded one. So you’ve created a lot of content, but then you’re not monetizing it, you’re losing out that chunk of you know, business.
Right? So that’s how we help them that you know, okay, you get to understand the users first, why are they going to read this content? If they are not going to read? See, we know users are very busy, they might just skim through the content as well. But at least the flow should make sense to them, it should connect to them, then only they will read even the pointers till the end.
Chima Mmeje 21:31
That is so good. That is so good. So last question. Do you have any advice for SEOs in developing countries that are just starting their career? Once they’ve done the training? What should they be doing next?
Himani Kankaria 21:45
Right. So I will be, you know, this thing that you know, when you’re growing, right, it’s something that you know, you’re going to face a lot of challenges. Sometimes you might have to make some sacrifices as well, right? You’re already doing it. For growing for learning, there can be any kind of sacrifices they might have done, right? Please don’t stop doing that. Because I sacrifice my five day working job.
I went into consulting where I was working six day, and being an entrepreneur, I’m working 24 by seven. Right. So there’s no holiday for me even I’m in Brighton and I’m basically working exactly while listening to the talk. I’m replying to an email. So it’s like, you know, you feel that, okay? That can be choice, that can be your choice, as well. But I’m saying that identify what sacrifice can get you to what you want to achieve.
So for that, you have to do those sacrifices and just don’t, you know, stick to whatever that you are comfortable with it. When you get into the comfort zone, you are missing out on what your what you can achieve more than what you’re into, you know, the comfort zone.
Chima Mmeje 22:54
That is such good advice. Basically, as you learn, you need to keep pushing yourself further. Okay, now, this is my process, what else? What else can we test? Where can we take risk? Because that is how your processes keep getting better. And that’s actually how you become an expert. Taking risk.
And I think we talked about this too, with Christina, being a risk taker, so that you can push yourself to the not to the limit, but push yourself and see what else is possible. Absolutely. So that was really good advice. Thank you so much for joining us in money. This has been incredible as who I know, just like I promised. Absolutely. Thank you.
Himani Kankaria 23:27 Thank you so much for having me.
Chima Mmeje 23:28 Thank you. Bye bye.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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