Taryn's daughter

Meet Taryn – Aviva plc

Taryn Siwale, Director of SEO at Aviva Ireland, talks about how to find you.

SEO means search engine optimization. My job is mainly to make sure that Aviva Ireland web pages are easy for people to find through search engines, like Google.

I’ve been working on a new page for auto insurance. This page needs to answer as many questions as possible for auto insurance customers. But first, they have to find it – that’s where you come in.

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I don’t know if SEO existed when I was younger, but I’ve always been interested in computers. At school, I was a computer wallet. I remember going to the computer room and turning on the computers and helping the people who wanted to use them. loved it.

When I left school, I did an IT (Information Technology) course with Dorset College. Since then, I have always worked with computers in all jobs.

At one point, I had my own web design business. I was building websites for clients, and they were saying to me, “We have this new website, so why don’t we have any visitors?” So, I started reading about SEO and right away it worked great for me.

When you take it every day

I am a single mom and adore my 13 year old daughter. When I was first born, I had my own business and we were in a slump. I spend my days with a child in one arm, writing with the other. I remember feeling overwhelmed and yet finding the time and energy to work.

When I look back now, this is a testament to what you can do when you get into a difficult situation. Keep moving forward, be positive and take it one day at a time.

Taryn’s daughter

My daughter is considering a career in animation. She has an animation tool that she uses to bring her graphics to life and I’m here for her, helping her with things like coding. I don’t know much about animation yet, but I’ll get there.

On being a woman in a man’s world

Technology is still a male-dominated industry. I don’t know what the stats are, but I’m starting to see a lot of very prominent women in tech nowadays.

In college, there were probably only four girls from a class of 25. We were in the minority, but we were pretty tight – the four of us were fine.

I went to an all-girls school, so entering a class full of boys was a bit of a change. But I have never felt discriminated against being a woman.

When I see an opportunity, I never think about the things that might hold me back. I think companies are trying as much as possible to keep things on a level playing field, so I’m doing my best going forward.

Two selfies taken by Taryn

In one, two, three…

Search engine optimization is divided into three main areas.

One is the validity of the technical website. Search engines prefer sites they can “see” to function properly and may penalize those who do not.

Two is basically a popularity contest. The more links that come from authoritative websites to your own site, the more Google likes it. You can do this by creating content that others want to link to.

The third concerns the content itself – words and images. For example, many people have heard about keyword stuffing. This is where you look for words people type into search engines to find your product or service, such as “insurance”. Then you put “insurance” into your web page as often as you can.

Keyword stuffing is So Bad for SEO. Google started demoting sites to do just that a while ago – rightly so because it gets in the way of good, useful web content.

Google changes target posts all the time. Last year they brought in a new set of standards for how long web pages should take to load. Site speed really matters – according to Google, 53% of people using mobile phones leave a page that takes more than three seconds to load.

Google keeps me on my toes, but they’re always trying to improve the web for the people who use it, like our customers, and that’s a good thing.

In fighting with song titles

I use a tool called Google Adwords for keyword research, among other things.

I enter a term like “auto insurance” and Adwords gives me a list of words people use to search for auto insurance. This helps me decide which words to include on the webpage – in a natural, flowing way – to help people find what they’re looking for.

Now I really trust Google, but I always come back and do additional checks too. I’ll tell you why…

When I was working for a health and wellness company, we would rank for a certain keyword, but we didn’t get any hits for it. I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is crazy.’ So we googled for that keyword, and there was a number one song with the same title. People were looking for the song, not our site.

This also happened here. We had an article titled Driving home for Christmas. I told the writers that we might not get a lot of web traffic because when people use Google Driving home for ChristmasThey’re looking for Chris Rea’s song, not tips about safe winter driving.

Get it right

I worked on a huge project for an airline – we rebuilt about 6000 web pages. When these new pages were published, we did not see any negative SEO impact. This may not sound like much, but it’s amazing.

Google has more than 200 ranking factors, so there is no way to determine the impact of changes on your website. You are always at the mercy of Google.

In addition, Google changes its algorithm often and when it does, web pages rank search results up and down.

Maybe you’ve been working hard on your website, but maybe your competitor is working even harder. Or they may have posted something Google favors on your content.

That’s why as soon as I come to work in the morning, I check Google to see if our pages have improved, declined or retained their status. Our ratings set the mood for my day.

misunderstood

I’ve redesigned a website for a job board business. When we showed it on air, there was a small issue and Google punished us for it. Our visits to the site decreased – it took us nine months to bring the site back to what it was in Google rankings before the redesign.

Website redesigns can be tricky. Google has understood your old site and now you have created this shiny new site. It’s like saying, “Hey, we were there, but now we’re here.” Google has to understand your new website and rank you accordingly. Sometimes it doesn’t work out as well as you hoped, at least not right away.

One of the biggest misunderstandings about SEO is that it takes time. People used to call me a wizard of the dark arts because no one really understood what I did.

I would ask to change the website, but no one understood why and when they made the change nothing happened. Then over time, we saw an improvement – more web traffic, more customers – and that’s how I gained trust.

Looking ahead

One of my biggest goals is to get number one auto insurance for Aviva Ireland, which will have a direct impact on our bottom line by bringing new customers to the site.

For me, this is the year of SEO tools. I want to dig into some great new tools, learn how they work and then apply them to my job. And digital accessibility, we’re ramping up that to make sure our website is completely inclusive for all users, which is really important to me.

Outside of work, I joined a theater group with my sister. She wants to be in the spotlight, but I’m more than behind the scenes. Or maybe a backup dancer #5. Just a fun thing, to go out and meet people.

I think people are like websites, you have to put yourself out there to find them.

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It takes our people to make Aviva a great place to work. To find out more about life in Aviva, follow us on LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter.

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