The FCDC was at BrightonSEO in April, and we chatted with Kristina Azarenko.
She is a no-nonsense SEO consultant who has worked with Fortune 500 companies as well as medium businesses.
She is an SEO expert who is recognized by other SEO experts. She is often invited to speak at various SEO conferences and webinars.
Name: Kristina Azarenko
What She Does: Founder of MarketingSyrup
Noteworthy: She was named one of the 13 women shaping the SEO industry. People at Google, Shopify, and many marketing agencies worldwide have read her newsletter. Kristina is also an SEO educator.
💡Kristina’s Discovery of SEO and Taking an SEO Course.
While working as a debt collector, Kristina stumbled upon an SEO course while browsing the internet. Intrigued by the opportunity, she decided to invest two months’ worth of her salary into the course.
Despite her limited technical knowledge at the time, Kristina was determined to learn and grow in the field of SEO. The course proved to be useful and helped kickstart her career in the industry.
💡Migration and Starting a Business in Canada
Kristina decided to migrate from Belarus to Canada to pursue new opportunities and personal growth. Moving to a different country presented challenges, but she saw it as a chance to start anew and grow her business.
Kristina’s transition to Canada involved starting from scratch, finding high-paying clients, and establishing herself as a reputable SEO professional in a new market.
💡Transitioning to a Smaller Company and Gaining Experience
Kristina’s desire to have a more meaningful role led her to work for a smaller company called Amasty, which developed Magento extensions.
During her five years at Amasty, Kristina gained extensive experience in Magento and had the opportunity to work on various digital marketing projects beyond SEO, such as PPC management.
Her time at Amasty emphasized the importance of taking responsibility, self-learning, and creating opportunities for growth.
💡Embracing Responsibility and Taking Risks
Kristina shares an example of when she decided to move a company’s website from HTTP to HTTPS, despite initial concerns from the company’s founder.
By taking responsibility, implementing the necessary changes, and believing in the positive impact it would have on rankings, Kristina was able to successfully execute the transition and achieve improved search engine rankings.
This demonstrates the importance of taking risks and embracing responsibility in order to bring value to the company.
Taking Calculated Risks
Kristina emphasizes the importance of taking calculated risks in both business and personal life. She shares her approach to pricing discussions with prospects, stating that she doesn’t judge whether they can afford her services or not.
Instead, she focuses on presenting the value she offers and lets the prospect decide. She believes that taking risks is necessary for growth and that there is nothing worse than having regrets.
Transitioning to Entrepreneurship
Kristina took the leap into entrepreneurship by starting her own business and creating courses.
She saw it as a risk but believed that it was necessary for her personal and professional fulfillment. This decision allowed her to have more control over her career and pursue meaningful work.
Her Tech SEO Pro Course
Kristina launched the Tech SEO Pro course in response to the demand from people who had been asking her for a technical SEO course for two years. With over 300 students, she considers the course her “baby” and loves the impact it has on her students.
The course focuses on simplifying technical SEO concepts and dispelling the misconception that one needs to be a developer to excel in technical SEO. She believes that anyone can learn enough about technical SEO to excel in their role, even without coding experience.
Connect with Kristina
Check out her tech SEO Course
Chima Mmeje 0:08
Hi. And we are back at another Brighton SEO, this time around we are at Brighton, SEO, April 2023. And you’re gonna notice change of scenery, change of location. We’re moving up. And this time around I am with Christina. How do i pronounce your last name? I don’t want to spoil your last name as their as their uncle. Yeah, Christina as our uncle.
Christina is one of the hardest working human beings that I personally know. I don’t know how she has so many things running around at the same time. And today, I feel extremely lucky that she’s in the UK right now. And I was like, There’s no way a person have this chance to get her story on camera. So today, the mission is simple. Dig into Christina’s background, let everything I can about her for moving from Iran to Canada, upgrading her business, and now running a very successful SEO curse. Christina, it is nice to meet you. Thanks so much for doing this.
kristina Azarenko 1:17
I’m sure everyone watching us now. And thank you so much for having me. I’m just I’m super excited. I have no idea what the questions are going to be. But it’s going to be fun. I promise.
Chima Mmeje 1:28
That’s always the thing. We never tell anybody the questions. We just like, couldn’t see them on camera, and then we’ll just start jumping into it. And the story always evolves as people start talking. And I think that is what makes this su story. Always so excited. All right, Christina, I’m just gonna dig in right now.
What was the first job you ever had? I mean, ever had it could be a job you had when you were five, when you were a? We were 10? What was the first thing you ever did? That was technically a job?
kristina Azarenko 1:55
Well, technically a job was when I was back at college and was I think, like 17 or something. There were Indian exhibitions coming to Belarusian means, and they needed like people who were selling goes there. They needed interpreters, and you will use like an interpreter and a sales person at the same time. Oh, yeah. Well, it was nothing queasy. Well, that I think my second job was crazy. I was a debt collector.
Chima Mmeje 2:24
What now? Oh, my God. But I did not know this a debt collector. Yes. Dig into detail. How did you even find a debt collector? We were looking for it?
kristina Azarenko 2:38
No. Well, it sounds like you wake up and like, I want to be a debt collector. But it’s also like to be fair, it was not like I was knocking on peoples door and like, you have a doubt, you know, you know what’s going to happen if you don’t pay it off? Well, no, it’s not this kind of thing. It’s not this crazy thing.
Chima Mmeje 2:54
So you need the depth collector job. What happened next?
kristina Azarenko 2:58
So actually decent leave the collector job before something else happened. I was randomly browsing, like things at work, you know. And I accidentally found this SEO course, I have no idea how he did it. I literally have no idea. And then I signed up for it. It costs like two of my salaries. And they still have no idea what I was going to learn there.
And they didn’t even know like what a website was. I was super not tech savvy. And so just like to put things into perspective, you can go from not tech savvy to tax ad, honestly, trust me, I’ve been there. So I found this course. And I signed up. It was like for three weeks of not weeks, months. And then I started this course.
And when I finished it, I was like wow, girl essentially was trying to find another job because obviously I was not I was not ready to be a debt collector. Oh, my life sounds like okay, I need to I need to move on. It’s time to move on. And then I found my first Junior SEO job at an agency. So yeah, it was it was how my SEO SEO career started.
Chima Mmeje 4:07
Wow. So you took a course? The course useful?
kristina Azarenko 4:11
Yes, it was useful. I mean, that’s why I believe in courses so much, is just like my SEO career started from it. And obviously, it’s not like I just paid for the course. And then it automatically magically worked for me. Obviously, I learned a lot. I also took two weeks off my then job so that I can, yeah, to learn and like to read and I remember going through this rabbit hole of different like tabs, you know, you read one post, and then you just like open three more and it never ends.
And at that point I remember we have like homework and everything. And the first thing that I remember about technical SEO because I really liked it when I was starting and I was like wow, it’s it’s interesting, but then I remember we that we have the cone worked You create a robots. txt file and put it in the root folder of the website.
And I remember googling how to do this. And I was literally crying. Oh, my God was that noise? It was so funny. I didn’t know at that point. I didn’t know that. I didn’t think it was funny. But yeah, I was crying because it could mostly growl technical SEO. That’s, that’s me. That’s how I started.
Chima Mmeje 5:27
Okay, now we’ve gone from Christina being a debt collector, to using two months of our salary to pay for her first SEO course. And now, after learning, obviously, comms implementation, what did that look like? How did you start implementing?
How did you get your next job? Because that’s, I think that’s something that people struggle with. They learn SEO, and they don’t have anywhere to go. To learn, so to implement and to grow, how did that happen for you?
kristina Azarenko 5:53
Yeah, I think I think it’s a great question. And I think, well, sometimes you find opportunities, sometimes you create opportunities. So for me, I didn’t even know if those jobs were available when I was like doing my course. And I just believe that everything’s going to be fine, I’ll find something. So I find this junior job. And I was actually doing like link building.
I think that’s mostly most SEO start with. But then within a few months, I was already training other team members, because I was actually interested in SEO, like some people were not they were just like working there and following processes. So it was like, I learned it. And then I upgraded things. And I started training people and I became a team lead.
And then that’s how I basically started implementing because it was working with clients. But it’s funny at the team at that time, we didn’t even have access to them Webmaster Tools, because he would have account managers who have access to them, not us. But then I moved on to the next job. And I was working for London School of Business and Finance, London School of Business or finance big.
Yeah. So I was working for them. But honestly, I was like, coming up with ideas myself. So at that time, infographics were was like, pretty popular. So I created infographics, I would reach out to people to share it, I would write, pause. So I was always self LED. And I was looking for opportunities rather than waiting for someone to come to me and say, Oh, here’s what you can do, and then do this.
Chima Mmeje 7:25
So I like that. I like the part about looking not just looking for opportunities, but creating opportunities. I think that’s why we always advocate that way, just learning SEO, or anything at all. You can start by building a website, and then using that to learn so that when you start applying for gigs or jobs, you have something to show because the market is crazy competitive right now.
So you’ve done your first job. You’ve worked with London School of Economics, what happened after that you I believe you are still living in Belarus at this time.
kristina Azarenko 7:54
Yes. I wasn’t nervous at the time. And then my next job was because I wanted it to be in a smaller company. So that was more meaningful, meaningful. Yeah. Because I really, I don’t know, I really wanted to do the job that moves the needle. And I can actually be on the frontlines. You know, I think many people would relate to that relate to that. And I found a job at amasty That was the name of the company. A monster? Yes, that name of the company.
And I, so I was an SEO there. And it was a company that developed Magento extensions. So I worked there for like five years, and they got really familiar with Magento. And at that time, Magento. One, it was becoming Magento. Two, so it was also an interesting transition. Yeah, so basically, I came there. And I remember, during the first week, I was, I was on the phone with my husband.
And I was like, going after after the work, I was just like talking, like, oh my god, I can help them so much. I’m so excited. There’s so many projects that I can do. So I was also self loud, basically. And it was fun, because I could tasks, I could do things. I even was a PPC Manager for full time for a year there too. So it just helped me to see things differently. And I did a lot of like digital marketing in general, not only SEO. But yeah, that was fun.
Chima Mmeje 9:26
Okay, so I like this part, because going small, can be a strategy to go big. Because if you go small, then you can do more things and you have more freedom to experiment and to create than you would at a bigger company where there’s a lot of bottleneck and bureaucracy. So I think we are in an era where people are trying to get to the head of SEO, the head of content, digital marketing, positioning, like they have like this five year plan and you’re hearing Christina here, saying that she was in a row for five years intentionally because she wanted to grow.
So I think the lesson here would be When you’re starting out, it will always be better to start with a smaller company that will give you more tasks that will allow you the freedom to experiment, to take projects to be selfless to self innovate, because you can use that to build an arsenal in your portfolio. Yeah, that’s amazing.
kristina Azarenko 10:18
I love how you put it. And one thing that I will definitely mention here is that is responsibility taking responsibility for you for your work and for you like for what you’re doing is super important. And, for example, now, I sometimes hire people, not SEOs, but like for different stuff, and they really love. When I see people, they actually care about their jobs. And they take responsibility for this instead of waiting, for example, for someone else, like their boss to create a task. And then okay, and I implemented the task, and that’s it.
Well, no, self lad means taking responsibility, sometimes taking risks, too. But I remember when I was, you remember this thing when HTP was like, becoming HTTPS, because it became a ranking factor. Google is like really good at pushing things. Because Oh, now it’s a ranking factor. And everyone was like, okay, okay. Okay. So we moved, and I remember, I was doing everything like with our developers. And then I remember one day, the founder of the company is coming to me, coming up to me, and he’s like, Oh, tell me what’s going on.
I’m like, wow, would you move from HTTP to HTTPS? It’s like, why did you do he was so surprised, and he was cautious, because he’s like, Oh, God was traffic, I’m like, is going to be fine. And I took this risk, like, we did everything properly. And we actually got a boost in rankings. And it was like, long time ago, you know, get boosted rankings after moving to HTTPS now. But it was good. So like, it’s an example of taking responsibility. And sometimes we ask and carrying out your job in really good way so that you learn and then you bring value to the company to
Chima Mmeje 12:03
you had his phone. Okay, now, I want to talk about something that I think is very personal and close to many people that live in developing countries, because I just said, who like getting really personal here. And that is in migration, moving from one country unless it’s one western country, because I know that that is a dream for many people, many people are getting into SEO getting into tech, just so they can leave the developing country where they are right now and go to a more developed country.
Granted, Belarus isn’t exactly a poor country, even though it’s because it’s in Iraq. But I think we can still take lessons from that. So Christina, talk to me about one why you decided to leave Belarus, how did you make it happen going to Canada, and how you started to grow your business because I feel like it basically felt like starting from scratch, finding like high paying clients, because now you’re no more chatting the same thing. You’re chatting in Belarus, like, talk me through all of that, and then work back to be the course creator and deciding to go full time as a course creator after you migrated? Because that was a big risk.
kristina Azarenko 13:10
Yeah. I mean, there’s so many, like so many. There’s so many parts to that. Yeah. So started from Belarus. And honestly, it’s like, it’s an it’s in Europe. It’s sad that it’s not
Chima Mmeje 13:20
a developing country. Because basically looking country, you’re looking at Africa, you’re looking at India, looking at Pakistan, you’re looking at like really, really, really poor countries. But the
kristina Azarenko 13:29
problem is that it’s actually poor country, like not meeting on this scale, but it’s quite poor country. My first I think my first salary was something was I was making less than dollar per hour. So yeah, it’s it’s not a well developed country. So I was working there. And I really was concerned about the political situation and everything for like, for a long time. You want to Google Why was going on there and what is going on? You can, you’re free to do so.
But it’s, it was hard, because you would usually feel like a potential crime person because no matter what you could be detained, like so it’s like, okay, I really wanted to live my life and I really wanted to do big things without being afraid of standing out, you know, and we Belarusians, we have it engraved, engraved, like, Okay, we are not that good. And everything everywhere in the world is better is better than delivers. So, I remember thinking that it’s, by the way, not not true.
As an immigrant, I already learned so many things. But what it was going to say is that I wanted to move to the UK and I was dreaming about living in London. Getting going back to my 15 years old when I was in love with Daniel Radcliffe, who’s Harry Potter. You know? You said personal right? I’m getting personal here. So I really drowned to live in the UK and I travelled here multiple times. And what it was really hard to move to the UK. So I was like, okay, maybe I can move to Canada, because one of my friends moved three years before that.
And one day just decided, well, I should actually go into the UK. One more time, I came back home and I was like, Oh, my God, I feel so much psychological pressure, and they really want to move to a place that we will be just will not interfere with my life. That’s the best way to put it. So my husband and I, we started preparing and there is immigration programme to counter it’s called Xpress entry. So it’s pretty straightforward. It’s not lottery or something. It’s just like, complete tasks. And the different stuff is called Express Entry. So if you want to look it up, please do. And we, we went through. So we were invited to go to Canada, and we went to Canada.
And oh, we didn’t immigrants and it’s not it was not easy. Because basically, in Belarus, we had so many things. We we built a house, we at that point, we already have a really good salaries because we were working in it. So we were like, okay, but then you move to a different country. And it’s a huge setback in many in many respects, plus cultural plus the language. And I remember coming from Volusia County, I was like, Oh, my God, everybody who is so smart, as much smarter than me. And that’s my friends. A very bad attitude.
Don’t recommend ever don’t recommend. So I came there. And I was like, doing lots of interviews. But I was not confident in the interviews. I was like, Well, I knew things. But I was I didn’t know how to talk about them. And people encounter and maybe like in general, North America, they are taught to sell themselves really well. So it was pretty hard to compete with people who might or might not be good at what they were doing. But they’re good at salad themselves. So it was pretty hard. So I remember actually got my job.
The first job was different. But then I was stolen from my first job in Canada by another guy who was the founder of an SEO agency just because it wasn’t meetup. And we were like sitting across the table and had no I had no idea who he was. And we just started a conversation, not an interview, just a conversation. And then he was like, You know what, this is stupid. And then blah, blah, blah. And he was like, I want you to work for me. Because we were so on the same page. And I was so confident I felt like I was being myself. And because it was not interviews, not like censoring or anything or doubting myself. So I got this job. And I worked there for a year or something, maybe a year and a half. And he’d never thought that I wasn’t going to go, like working for myself full time.
And at the end of 2019. I think it’s September October, I decided to do so I don’t know, I think I don’t know what I was thinking about. But I didn’t have anything I didn’t have. Like lots of networking things because all my links from Villa ruse they became relevant. You can’t just you can’t charge Canadian prices to Belarusian people. That makes sense, right? It doesn’t make any sense because they can’t afford it. Exactly, exactly. But I’m living in Canada, I can’t, I can’t charge Belarusians, Belarusian prices, because it doesn’t make sense for me. So most of my contexts became irrelevant. And think about that I was building this, like, things from since I started working.
And it just it was it sucked, because it was everything was irrelevant. So I but I was really confident in my SEO skills. But I quickly realised that SEO skills is just one part, you need to be really good at business skills, too. And I sucked at business skills. Yeah, but I learned pretty fast. So it took me just like three months or something to purchase them. So yeah, and to start confidently selling because I started from being afraid to talk about my prices, even on swag to be uncomfortable, like talking about my prices of the sales call. And that would be one of the first things that I would bring up like about the budget in general. And fast forward in 20. Last year in 2022.
I decided to phase out of client work because I mean, it was good, but it was not fulfilling enough. I wanted to have a bigger scale. So I phased out of client work and I went full time to course creation. I was doing it since 2019. On and off I would run cohorts of my first course which was called Old SEO challenge. And I don’t know, I just love course creation. And even like five years ago, I would, for some reason, I will just come up with course curriculums, because I don’t know, I just love it, I had this idea of creating a course for immigrants who come to Canada, like how to adjust their mindset, that’s the most important thing.
And never acted on most of these ideas. Because it’s just not possible. We we don’t write, we don’t act most of ideas, but we just pick those that we really love. And that will work. So that’s how my tech is your poker started in the first place. Yeah.
Chima Mmeje 20:36
So that’s an amazing story. Because you go from having a really good business, your home country. And then you have to uproot your life and go to a new country, many people who have emigrated to Canada, the US, the UK, you understand what she’s talking about? And then in this new country, you have to figure out how do I now attracting new clients base that can pay me enough to have the same quality of life or even better in this new country, and then you keep taking risk?
I think that’s something we’re very afraid of, you keep taking risks, to test yourself and push the limits and say, Okay, this is not what I want to do. I want to make money. But I also want to do something that is fulfilling. I think that fulfilling part is so important, I just want to admit, like when I say hey, man, that needs to be because so many of us, we are stocking on fulfilling jobs, because we’re afraid to go out and do the thing that actually makes us happy.
Because one, we can figure out how to monetize it. And two, we can figure out how to sustain it so that it becomes a really good source of income for us. So that’s the thing I want us to think about. That’s something I want everybody who is listening to this episode, to go back and think of, Am I happy with the job that I’m doing? Is there something else I want to do is embrace ball? Is it going to be viable? Is it going to be something that I can make work, and then use that to build a life? That makes me happy? All right, Christina, tell us about
kristina Azarenko 21:56
someone who just like, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, because
Chima Mmeje 22:00
I’m the same way too. I’m the same way too. I like taking risk. It’s, it has to be calculated every time I speak to a prospect about my pricing. I’m not judging to see if you can afford it or not. I think I told someone yesterday, it’s not my business, if you can afford my pricing or not, that’s up to you. That’s a huge problem.
And it’s a risk because I’m not sure if the person I’m talking to can afford my pricing or not. I decided to go start my own business. I decided to start doing courses, I start start doing this and that everything is a risk. And sometimes it feels I failed so many times, but it’s a risk or what I take, because I can say I’ve done it, then the risk I didn’t take and I will start having waters. There is nothing, absolutely nothing. That is worse than having regrets.
kristina Azarenko 22:44
Yeah, if you don’t take risk, if you don’t change anything, especially if you’re not fulfilled, yes, nothing will change like in the year like think about that in a year, you will still be unfulfilled and unhappy. But if you change it, then in a year, you might be living your dream life. Hi, Fi
Chima Mmeje 23:01
for that. Yes, motivational speaker. All right now plugging your SEO course. Tell us about your SEO course.
kristina Azarenko 23:12
So a little bit backstory, I’ve always been fascinated by like, okay, um, teacher education. Oh, really? Yes, I am. Oh, wow. I never Yeah, I was. After college, I was a translator. And then I went to the University, and not the one that I quit, but another one afterwards. And I created as a teacher and never wants to be teaching like in a classroom, I really wanted to like, I don’t know, honestly, I needed a diploma. And they never thought that I would be teaching. But for me, it’s just like I wanted to do, again, meaningful things.
So like, for example, if I teach then I teach people who actually want to learn Excel, not just making people learn, right? So, and I naturally at all jobs where I was, I would naturally train people at some point, even with my first Junior job, right? I like I just loved it. And one thing that I really love is simplifying concepts for people. And it’s really, really works well for technical SEO because my mind honestly now like my brain speaks technical SEO language.
And I know that for some people, things can be hard to like grasp, but with the right approach with the right framework, or like how you explain things, people can understand it much easier. And I’ve seen this so many times with my students. So that’s why last year I decided to create like, people were asking me for technical SEO course for like two years.
So I was like, Okay, I’m doing it. And last year I did it, I launched it and now there are over 300 people. It’s called Tech SEO Pro and honestly, this is my baby. I love it. It’s it’s just yeah, and my main thing is that Well, first of all, as a technical SEO, you don’t need to be a developer to and that’s one of the misconceptions, right? You just need to know enough because everybody should do their jobs. You don’t you don’t tell developers how to do their jobs.
And another thing is that I find that many women still, just, I think, two days ago, I met a woman. She’s just like, starting SEO, career, and she’s like, I always thought that in technical SEO, they’re mostly man, like no, girl. That’s not true. That’s not true. And I was so happy when I so that in my course, like 49% people, the last week counted were women. So I was super happy about that. Obviously, I don’t get like views, you know, because he would not trust me. So all the people that I have, whether it’s women or man, they’re amazing people, so I’m happy about that. Yeah,
Chima Mmeje 26:12
I see everything is just the sum i managed to make selling our costume inspirational, like a motivational story. All right, Christina, thank you so much. This has been amazing. Bye bye. Thank you.
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