10 Insights from a Molecular Biologist Turned SEO


When I heard Alessio Madeyski, the creator of the “Meet Your SEO” series, left molecular biology for a career in marketing, I was intrigued. It’s not a story you hear too often.

Alessio’s the kind of person you want to talk about marketing, life and big ideas. That won’t happen due to lack of proximity, so here are the 10 questions I would ask Alessio over some beers.

What so-called “SEO rule” do you break?

Honestly, I think I never broke an SEO rule. Sometimes I look around and what I find really boring about the SEO community is that they are ONLY focused on SEO. They talk about Google like they talk about a friend or an enemy, but they don’t stop for a minute to think that maybe our friends are the customers.

So, if I have to name one, the SEO rule that I broke was to keep my mind opened enough to embrace other projects, in order to keep customers satisfied. Google can change over time, and it really can do whatever it wants (without asking anything to SEOs), but when you give something to the user and you keep that relationship going, the rest will follow.

Since you’ve been an SEO, describe a failure you’ve had and what you learned from that experience.

Thank God there are failures. I mean, people should talk more about failures because from those we can learn more. One of the recent failures I had was with a contest I helped to organize with my company, and I was really sure it was going to be a huge success.

We asked people to write about this contest, but really FEW people wrote something about it. Rather than crying about it, I stopped and I analyzed what went wrong. Well, it turned out a lot of things were wrong. The graphic, the landing page, the way we used social to promote it … I mean, I think I would never write about it myself.

I like to try new things, but I understood how much attention to detail I have to give to every single aspect of the project. Sometimes you are not able to take more time to develop the project, because your company wants it as soon as possible, but it’s always worth trying to make your boss understand you need time to do the things right.

Another important lesson I learnt, and that I’m trying to applying in my every day job, is how much important is to do something that clicks with the user. You need to ask them what they want. Who are you to impose something? Ask your users what they want, and use social media in this smart way, rather than just self-promotion. People are getting sick of self-promotion.

What are some techniques you've found effective to get your boss or executive team to take action on your ideas?


Really good question, because it really depends from the people you have in front of you. I just show passion for something. The main problem I’m seeing when someone is speaking about a new project or a new role in a company is the lack of magic. Fuck the bullet points, fuck the standards.

Do something innovative, or don’t do it, because how much you believe in a project is going to decide if it’s going to be a success or not.

So, be passionate about it, the rest will follow. And fight for everything you believe in. There is no time to take orders from your boss and just nod your head. Do something.

Some traditional marketers and public relations folks think SEO is about gaming the Google algorithm – what can SEOs do to change this perception?

They need to change their mind. Are you really happy to spend hours and hours of your time to game Google's algorithm, then to discover the trick is not working anymore? What’s wrong with you? Do something that matters and do it now.


Photo credit: Mr. Matthew Cutts

People using Google don’t know how Google works. We know. But then again, Google can change from a day to another. Google is changing following its own business, users are there waiting for you to show and come up with something awesome for them.

Moreover, I know many people are arguing that SEOs need to be only SEO, and don’t care about PR, social media, coding…

Well, to me it’s not right. You need to embrace your company philosophy as a whole, and be involved in many things, because only doing this you can be more near to your users. (moreover, if tomorrow Google is gonna close, what are you going to do? I was in a lab eviscerating mice 2 years ago, now I’m an SEO manager … in two years I can be something else … people need to evolve).

Is there somebody outside of the SEO or marketing world that inspires you?

Yeah, otherwise I will be a dead person. Music. Music is a huge part of my life. You can check my last.fm profile. Music inspires me in every aspect of my life. Favorite artists? Trent Reznor and Aphex Twin. I admire even a lot of people who are making me grow as a person, like my girlfriend Giulia and many friends around the globe who are making this world a better place.

What is one thing you do to keep your team motivated?

Be myself. With all my weak points included. I strongly believe that a good manager is someone human first of all, someone who listens to things beyond work. We usually tend to think a good boss is the one we see in American movies, but it’s not. If you are a prick in your life, you are a prick boss too.

There are some little stuff like bring breakfast, or have a laugh together, or give them a day off when they are not in the mood that can really change the way you motivate the team. I’m interested in the results, moreover I’m interested in knowing that people working with me are able to dream, to do something different, to put some magic in every day work. I want people to be happy, the rest will follow.

In five years, what will in-house SEOs do differently than they are doing now?

In five years? Damn, things are happening fast and are happening now. What in-house SEOs can already do is to destroy every barrier with other departments, like PR and social media, onsite, user experience… being part of a whole, not just a bunch of nerds who are doing some stuff nobody is caring or understanding.

Best thing I obtained in my SEO career are the ones I did collaborating with the WHOLE team. You’re not working in an agency. You need to understand the whole company to be able of doing something great.

If you got invited to speak at an event like MozCon, SearchLove or SMX, what would you speak about?

I would like to speak about how we have to motivate people, how it’s important to let people dream. I would like to talk even about how you can create cool stuff listening to your users, rather than a bunch of links just for the sake of it. Not saying content is king, I don’t even really care about this stupid jokes everyone is making, but I do believe content is important, really important to keep your user with you forever.

I wouldn’t talk about tech SEO or hard SEO because there are people better than me for this kind of stuff. Plus, it’s a little boring too, so I wouldn’t listen to myself in the first place, how could I expect other people to do it?

How did you get the idea for the “Meet Your SEO” and “Meet Your Marketer” series?

One night I was dreaming to become an SEOmoz associate. Rand Fishkin was talking about this to his staff over SEOmoz, and everyone was saying I needed to learn more about SEO before becoming an associate. So, Rand came to me and he was so kind to tell me this in a calm way, even giving me for free one of his photos with an autograph on it. I was sad. I asked myself two questions: “how much money is Rand’s photo with an autograph can value on eBay?” and “how can I learn more about SEO?”

I love Twitter. I mean, it could be better, but I love it. So I ask few SEOs I really admire if they can answer some questions for me so I was the first one to learn from their questions and then even all my readers as well. Meet your SEO is a huge success and I’m really proud of it, especially because many people began to connect to other SEOs they didn’t know , and many of my readers were saying they learnt something more through the series. Amazing uh?

Meet your marketer is just at the beginning (and thank you for being part of this project David), but I wanted to interview people who are not strictly SEOs as well, always for the process of keeping the mind opened. I don’t have so much time to coordinate the two series right now, but I hope to continue to find and interview amazing people. So stay tuned!

SEO can be stressful. What do you do to unwind and keep balance in your life?

Many things. But I would like to tell you about a project I just started that I’m so proud of. I’m a huge fan of Seth Godin. I happened to read his book “Stop Stealing Dreams”, a manifesto on what is wrong with our current education system and what we can do to change it. Damn, I simply love it. I was agreeing with every word he was saying.

So I said: “I need to translate this in Italian, put it in the web, and then collect all the posts in an ebook and other digital formats. And share this thing among teachers, students, parents, everyone. Because we need to change the way our school are preparing future generations”.


So I wrote to Seth Godin about my idea, and after few hours, he answered me back saying I had the right to translate it to Italian, and at the end of the project is going to put a link to this in the official “Stop Stealing Dreams” page. Just WOW.

So I setup a blog, called “Non rubate i sogni – a cosa serve la scuola?” where I’m gonna put each part of the manifesto day by day, and at the end I’m gonna create the ebook every Italian should download (for free), read and share.

I’m asking to journalists, magazine and friends to help me out on this, because I believe in this project. I believe people can stand and change things. Do whatever you have to, but don’t settle. A lot of people is helping me out and I’m so happy about this.

One can say: and if is it going to be a failure? Well, I’m sorry for the people who are not sensible enough to care about education and future generations. I read it, I tried to share it with my countries. I will always stand to change things. That’s the most important thing.

Many thanks to Alessio for taking the time to do this. You heard the man, don't settle.

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