An Intern Empowered: What I Learned from a Summer at Distilled

This post was written by Kelly Sykes, one of nine interns who joined Distilled for the summer. A University of Washington student, Kelly worked as part of the Seattle consulting team. Kelly recounts her eight weeks with us, and some of the most important lessons about consulting, communication and empowerment she learned along the way...

If someone asked you to list the typical roles of an intern, you would likely assume that intern’s universe centers around busy work and coffee runs. Fortunately for myself, Distilled’s idea of an internship paints the intern in an entirely different light. This summer has been an in-depth learning experience. Every project completed and every client interaction observed taught me how to excel in digital marketing and highlighted the subtleties of providing an excellent experience for clients.

Before I dive into further detail, I would first like to address a recent Stone Temple study that revealed that women are significantly less comfortable than men when using voice search in public. This seems like a random fact. Why mention it? Greater likelihood of using verbal voice commands highlights society's training in confidence. Men have historically held take-charge roles, and tech is no doubt more of a boys’ club.

As a woman starting out in tech, my summer internship could have been intimidating, but instead, it was empowering. I’m here to give insight into what I have learned as a digital marketing intern and to highlight the tips and tricks that have taught me how to show confidence in my career and in myself as a woman in tech.

Taking part in Conference calls

Surprisingly, one of my largest learning experiences this summer occurred during conference calls. Sitting in on calls is a great way to learn about the subtleties of client interaction. There is an art to discovering how to work and interact with each client in order to best serve their needs. Remaining professional and composed at all times is key. The client hired you to deliver a service and go above and beyond in performance, but that by no means enables you to assist beyond the bounds of your job. Outperform but do not overstep.

They might not seem glamorous, but conference calls can teach you a lot about communication.

Additionally, remove ‘sorry’ from your vocabulary. During our second week at Distilled, one of the consultants stressed the detriment of overdosing on apologies. Shocking announcement: human beings make mistakes. Whipping out the word "sorry" all the time insinuates weakness and subordinacy. Instead, be honest in admitting the error, fix it, and excel in future performances.

Working on tech audits

Working through a technical audit is logical. You check redirect chains; ensure the site has correct schema markup; and search for errors with title tags, hreflang, duplication, sitemaps, robots.txt, etc. Knowing what to look for and where to look for it is the key to a successful audit, which is made easier by Distilled’s Technical Audit Checklist (for Human Beings). Purely going through the motions of the audit is fine until you get stuck-- a common occurrence for someone new to the field. In the SEO world, the knowledge base needed for extraordinary performance is vast, so you need to discover how to find the answers on your own. Put in the time to research and learn. If that doesn't help, then, by all means, reach out to an expert in the field.

Good employees only mark a task as complete if they can guarantee a high quality performance. Great employees additionally absorb and retain information learned along the way so that it can be utilized in the future. Tech audits test your ability to problem solve independently, which is a skill of unparalleled importance in your career and in your workplace self-confidence.

Attending MozCon with the whole Distilled team


MozCon was an amazing experience. Being able to attend the conference as an intern with fresh eyes in the field was an extraordinary opportunity that peaked my curiosity exponentially. MozCon presented a wide range of speakers that discussed SEO life hacks, experiments conducted, what's to come in the field, and how to best prepare for the never ending changes in tech. I left the conference with a notebook filled with lessons learned.

Distilled Seattle at MozCon 2017

I was particularly inspired as a woman in SEO. The final day of MozCon was dedicated solely to female speakers to counteract the industry norm of a mostly male lineup. It was inspiring listening to those women, as they are all such phenomenal minds and forces in a male-dominated industry. They emulated productive confidence, grit, and creative problem-solving. Britney Muller’s speech discussing her experiments on MOZ’s website was particularly empowering. Her personal experimentation exemplifies the rewards that stem from a curious mind who challenges accepted truths: a competitive advantage, an understanding of what matters, and the ability to work smarter and more efficiently.

Completing a Google Analytics certification

On the topic of empowerment, another great way to boost confidence and understanding is to get certified. Encouraged by Seattle's Principal Consultant, Ben, my fellow intern Courtney and I earned our Google Analytics (GA) certification in July. I am so pleased that Ben pushed us towards this opportunity. GA is a fundamental platform for SEO, and obtaining this certificate allowed me to understand data tracking, reporting, and analyzation so much better. Acquiring knowledge is powerful. I highly encourage everyone in the field to take the time to earn a GA certificate. I felt like a stronger participant after earning mine. Next stop, AdWords certification!

Conducting keyword research

Keyword research is tedious, yes, but it is also so important. Putting in the time to conduct keyword research on Ahrefs or Keyword Planner allows you to find ways to increase organic search visibility. Distilled taught me that going above and beyond expectations is critical to producing content of value. This is done through making implementation as easy as possible for clients, which may require you to present content to them in a variety of ways. Consider analyzing their competitors' sites and keywords, presenting keyword synonyms to make their content writing easier, and suggesting what would be good content for them to write based on the volume and keyword difficulty of certain terms. Be their ultimate aid.

Learning to use Google Data Studio (and other new software)

Almost every speaker at MozCon touched on staying on top of the industry, which is exactly what I advise those new to the field (myself included) to do. Every day, new technologies are developed to make life more efficient. An example of this is Google Data Studio, which allows you to produce reports that are more aesthetic, easier to understand, and more efficient for chart comparison. Data Studio has recently been implemented into Distilled reporting, and analysts and consultants greatly appreciate the efficiency of the tool. Playing around with the platform shows its obvious advantages. You can truly benefit from process flexibility and adjustment to technological adaptation.

An example of the kind of thing you can do with Google Data Studio

Developing new PR contacts

To make the internship even more well-rounded, I was given the opportunity to work on the PR and creative side. While I did enjoy the time spent working on content ideation, the majority of takeaways occurred when searching for PR contacts. Britt, Seattle's Creative and PR Lead, gave great advice for contact outreach: give publishers options. Every writer, reporter, and publication likes to present content in their own way. You can increase the chances of your content being published if you allow the contact to implement the content in their preferred manner. Your personal flexibility in content creativity and presentation is your greatest chance of success in this environment.

I am so grateful for the wide range of tasks and responsibilities I was given this summer. Not only did I learn about SEO techniques and the industry in general, but I also was given a phenomenal opportunity to observe business etiquette, understand how to best present myself with productive confidence in a work environment, and determine that now is the best time for women to work in SEO. Tech will be a boys’ club for a few more years, making every woman entering the industry a value-add. Join the workforce with the mindset of listening, learning, applying, and succeeding. You’ve got this.

Thank you, Distilled. It has been a pleasure!

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