Hear Judith ‘Decabbit’ Lewis’ Origin Story
I first came across Judith on a SEMrush webinar and the thing that caught my attention and my respect was the following line – “everything in SEO still works.”
What she was saying was that web2.0s, directory listings, niche edits, guest posts, parasite SEO, forum spamming – these offpage tactics all still have some validity. However, none individually are the holy grail to ranking in the SERPs.
I just knew she was someone I had to interview as she must have a story to tell – and in this episode of Make SEO Simple Again, she does not disappoint.
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About Judith Lewis
“I LOVE what I do. I could stop tomorrow if I wanted to but I don’t want to stop because what would I do with my life? What? Sit and watch TV?” – Judith says with disdain.
“That is not me. I’m not the type of person who is going to just sit back and do nothing. If I stopped SEO, I would start it again. But not dropshipping.”
International conference speaker, SEMrush webinar presenter/panelist regular, founder of Decabbit Consultancy, and an amazing human being, Judith Lewis describes herself as a full-stack, full-service search engine marketer.
A Canadian expat originally from Toronto, currently living and working in the UK, Judith has been in the industry for over two decades. She comes from an entrepreneurial family of high-achievers and met her now husband in a Multi-User Construction Kit (Muds/Muck).
Decabbit Consultancy is, in her words – “a lifestyle agency” where she accepts clients only if they drive her interest and passion. That is, she will not take on a client because they feel as though they need SEO or other forms of digital marketing. Although, she will happily assist friends.
Judith started out as a programmer in the 80s and in the 90s, the internet was a fledgling thing and Judith started an online affiliate business as a side hustle on top of her underpaying office job.
“You had to download the order form in order to fill it out. You had to write the affiliate number of the place where you were coming from onto the order form of the place you were ordering from and so you had to trust the person you sent there to actually fill it in.”
But what makes Judith quite different to most SEOs is that she admits to being a spammer. In fact, in the 10 years prior to becoming a conference speaker, Judith was doing all sorts of link-building techniques and this is what gives her such a diverse range of insights into the SEO landscape – because she has tried pretty much anything you can think of to manipulate the SERPs.
On What It Is Like Being A Female SEO
The 80s was fantastic to be female and guys were great at helping and being supportive.
“Once you stopped being a girl and started being a nerd – everything was fine.”
The 90s as an SEO was a little bit more difficult. Judith felt a lot more isolated and tried to learn as much as she could about retailing via magazines and as much as she could about online through reading anything she could get her hands on but she had no idea it was called SEO.
“I learned that guys don’t really cope very well with lack of norms. In an all-boys environment, they’re fine but the moment a girl comes in, they get all flustered. And I was teased a lot.”
At the same time, Judith notes that she received a lot of help from guys who were very generous with their time explaining how Pascal was working the way that it was and helping her debug problems.
“It was difficult to be a woman back then and it still is difficult to a certain degree but there are two sides to the search community.”
She’s had red wine thrown at her and been told that she would never amount to anything because she was a woman. Judith revealed that when she was sexually assaulted at a recent conference, she had people she could turn to who immediately protected her.
Support For Female In Tech/Digital
“I think we’ve come a long way from the days where guys could get away with anything. There are now women and men in place that when you say that you’re uncomfortable, they will be there to protect you. It doesn’t matter where you are, there are people in this world that will protect you from the evil and nasty people.”
Here are a few supportive communities that Judith mentioned:
On The Topic Of Failure
“Despite being a spammer, I’m risk averse.”
Judith recounts how she took on a manual penalty for a very large client as a result of spammy link-building. Within minutes, the brand could not be found on any Google search – not even for its own brand name.
Zero. Organic. Traffic.
“It was because I had gone on a link buying spree and although I was careful, the link provider was not as careful I would have liked, for example, they bought exact match anchor text links in directories.”
The worst thing about it was that the client was an online-only business and when they disappeared from Google they lost over 50% of their sales overnight. And it took six weeks to get the client back into the SERPs. Judith calls how she had to enlist the help of Gareth Hoyle and Paul Madden.
Her Biggest Win
Judith was able to rank social lender Zopa (not a big bank) rank #2 for they keyword loan, loans and loan-related queries over the lucrative Christmas period pre-featured snippet days, doing so via a very substantial investment in content.
“It was in excess of £10,000 and was a content and link-building campaign.”
She tells how they got three real customers, aged them through makeup, and interviewed them at various ‘ages’ to demonstrate visually how old a person would be when they would finally repay their credit card loan through minimal repayments. This was extremely effective at showing the difference between the time it would take to repay the debt via the social lending client.
The content was pushed through paid channels, seeded socially, pushed via organic coverage, as well as a radio day – essentially every digital lever was pulled. And this was how they were able to rank the social lender so well, above all the other major banks for such a competitive keyword, for over a year before it started to drop down the SERP.
“It was expensive but absolutely worth it.”
Parting Piece Of Advice
“You’ve got to be top of mind.”
With almost 25 years of digital experience, Judith has no shortage of advice. For example, she recommends working together with the PPC team to help bring their CPC down by optimizing landing pages.
Judith suggests bring in cupcakes, donuts or low-carb protein powder drinks to a meeting and simple asking, “Hey guys, what can I do to make your lives easier?” because sometimes, it is up to people in different departments to come together to help each other.
Secondly, when starting a new role ask for help and when it comes to applying for jobs, don’t be shy women!
How To Connect With Judith
People Mentioned In This Episode
- Craig Campbell (website | YouTube)
- Gareth Hoyle (website)
- Paul David Madden, Co-founder Kerboo (Twitter)
- Bill Slawski (website | Twitter)
- Bibi The Link Builder (past podcast guest)
If you enjoyed this episode of Make SEO Simple Again getting to know Judith Lewis, you’ll find similar informals chats I have with various people in the digital marketing space.
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