SEOs: Do You Suffer From “Imposter Syndrome”? | Local SEO Guide

This post was edited on 03/23/2023 to account for new team members.


This week, I wanted to talk about imposter syndrome in the SEO world. 

“Imposters” are people who feel like a fake; people who may be doing their job just fine but feel like, at some point, they’re going to be ‘found out’ as a fraud or as someone who shouldn’t hold their position.

I first experienced imposter syndrome when my (amazing) teammates congratulated me during my first month at LSG. They said I was doing a great job with SEO, but I felt like I was just doing…my job, not going above and beyond in a way that warranted praise. “Surely,” I thought, “I’m getting away with something. It’s only a matter of time before I’m found out as mediocre.” And yet… I wasn’t. Two years running!

Imposter syndrome is common among people who are new to their jobs, but you’d be shocked at how prevalent it is even among people who are “experts” or have been doing SEO for years. Here are a few experiences some of my co-workers have had with imposter syndrome:

Interview 1: Jess Peck, Machine Learning Engineer

Profile photo for jess

When did you start experiencing imposter syndrome?

J: “Birth? lol, uh. probably early career. At early jobs, people would ask if I could do x thing, and I’d respond with “I can try/sure.” I’d do it, and it was usually fine, but I was always sure I was missing something. Surely this email I sent will bring down the whole company if my manager doesn’t look it over. I kept doing stuff sure that someone was going to figure out I was faking it. They still haven’t caught me.

What do you think brought on your imposter syndrome or made it worse?

J: “Moving to more STEM stuff, honestly, improved it in some ways and made it worse in others. I was always good at the humanities subjects, which made me pretty confident there, but I always felt like I was missing something with science and math. I thought STEM fields had something about them that made them harder or more stressful than other topics (they don’t). It just… led to me overthinking things and stressing. Which I, uh, still do.”

Do you still suffer from imposter syndrome?

J: “Hahaha yes. All the time — I mean, nowadays I know it’s imposter syndrome, and I know those feelings aren’t necessarily accurate. But logic doesn’t make feelings go away. I’m still pretty sure the alarms are going to go off and I’m gonna get kicked out of the ship (this is an Among Us joke).”

What kinds of things have you done to relieve those feelings?

J: “Honestly it’s been less about relieving feelings in myself and more about knowing that a) other people also feel imposter syndrome, b) less competent people than me DON’T feel imposter syndrome, and c) being on a team with people who will tell me if I’m being an idiot– when there’s no guessing, it’s a lot easier to know what you have and if you’re shit is bullshit.”

Interview 2: Wesley Anderson, Local SEO Analyst

When did you start experiencing imposter syndrome?

W: “When my boss at my old agency told me to figure out SEO and made us start selling it before I had even started to see results. Ever since then I have felt like I had to play catch up. It was a bad way to start for me.”

What do you think brought on your imposter syndrome or made it worse?

W: “Reading blogs on SEO sites that seemed like everyone else had it figured out with their data and apparent ranking changes, when I didn’t really see that on my end.”

Do you still suffer from imposter syndrome?

W: “Here and there. Being at Local SEO Guide has shown me that SEO doesn’t really have set rules, and everyone has to figure out what’s best for the website. Though there are a few things that are important: content, links, and technical SEO.”

What kinds of things have you done to relieve those feelings?

W: “Talking to other people in the industry! Learning that everyone is doing their best to figure it out. Once I got past the conference speakers and the blogs that seemed like everyone had it figured out, it was easy. There’s a whole SEO world where everyone is sharing information and trying to help each other.”

Interview 3: Jen Avery, SEO Analyst

Profile photo for Jen (They/Them)

When did you start experiencing imposter syndrome?

J: “I experience imposter syndrome almost every day, in various ways. Because I’m neurodivergent, I’ve felt this since I was a kid.”

What do you think brought on your imposter syndrome or made it worse?

J: “A big part of it is feeling like there’s never truly any signal to what being an ***** is, even with legal numbers to signify certain things. No one tells you, as a kid, how hard adulthood is, so being an ***** always feels like a shocking punch when it’s harder than “they” said. You see people around you as high power execs, lawyers, doctors, and they look more like what an ***** is. Not someone who works at home, wearing pajamas every day.”

Do you still suffer from imposter syndrome?

J: “I think I’ll always suffer from imposter syndrome, mainly because the goal posts for success or adulthood are always moving.

How have you recovered from imposter syndrome?

J: “The best I can ask of myself is to work on being the best I can possibly be and hope the universe strikes me with some luck.

Interview 4: Caleb R, Technical SEO Analyst

Profile photo for Caleb Romo

When did you start experiencing imposter syndrome?

C: “10 years ago, the minute I started getting a “real” salary from an “*****” job for doing website work as opposed to getting cash under the table. Having to Google what felt like basic things made me feel like I was faking knowing anything at all.

What do you think brought on your imposter syndrome or made it worse?

C: “I was a foreign language major who quit college in his last semester – I don’t have any formal education or certifications in SEO, design, website development or administration, etc. So I hit the ground running, out of breath, feeling like I had to fake it until I made it. People go to school to know how computers and websites work and rack up student loan debt and know the proper terminology, and I was a monkey at a typewriter for every new responsibility I took on.

Do you still suffer from imposter syndrome?

C: “Sometimes? Mostly in specific scenarios where I know my knowledge is limited, where I know that if I learned more about X or Y then I could be of more use or explain a concept better. Like, if there is a technical SEO problem specific to JS-rendering that I have to detail in such a way that a developer can act on the problem and fix it, I know a more thorough understanding of JS-rendering libraries would make me sound like less of an idiot.

In those moments where I feel like I’m telling someone more knowledgeable about X SEO-related things about X, to fix X problem, then I feel like an imposter. Despite knowing that there’s a problem, I feel like I’m faking being an expert, trying to convince an actual expert that I’m not pretending.

How have you recovered from imposter syndrome? 

C: “Learn more, do more. It’s just experience. The fewer times you have to Google something, the more terminology and concepts you learn, the less of a fraud you feel. People come to you for expertise, people say some variation of “Oh, yeah that makes sense, I didn’t know that,” and when you know you’re right then you feel more confident in your expertise.

The other side of this, though, is negativity bias, where the negative emotional response to a bad thing happening is stronger than the positive emotional response from an equally positive thing happening. So if you get 50 affirmations of your expertise and experience 50 instances of feeling like you don’t know enough to be an expert, the latter will overwhelm you.

The goal is to get to a point where the affirmations greatly outnumber the moments of doubt.

Interview 5: Nik Wright, Director of Content

When did you start experiencing imposter syndrome?

N: I don’t think imposter syndrome can be relegated to an exact moment in time. For me, it’s situational. It can arise at any time, with varying intensity.

However, after about 10 years of working in journalism and publishing, a familiar industry, I made the jump to SEO and content strategy. Within a few months, I had all sorts of people asking me SEO questions that I had no qualifications to answer, compared to you and our coworkers.

For example, 3 months after I started here, one of my grad school professors asked me to deliver a guest lecture on SEO for journalists. I got the deer-in-headlines feeling when the request came, fearing that I’d end up babbling some incoherent, hand wavy stuff about title tags and topics. It ended up being fine. From that talk, I still get questions for advice, lots of thanks, and even a few client leads for our company.”

What do you think brought on your imposter syndrome or made it worse?

N: “I think for most people, imposter syndrome is the result of overconfidence being in debt to underpreparation. And a little bit of debt is OK and healthy — it keeps you on your toes. If you’re somewhat prepared to deliver a talk, take on a job, leap into a situation you’re rusty at dealing with, having confidence in yourself will inspire others to be confident in you, too.”

Do you still suffer from imposter syndrome?

N: “Every day, to some degree. With more experience, small wins, and trust of others, it goes away bit by bit.”

What kinds of things have you done to relieve those feelings?

N: “For me, I mitigate imposter syndrome by asking lots of “dumb” questions, and being honest about my abilities and knowledge.

One trick I’ve used to really help is called “Inversion,” which my old college pal James Clear writes about. It involves imagining the worst case scenario for anything. Thinking of all the ways something can go wrong. Then avoiding all of those things.”


Have you experienced imposter syndrome while working in the SEO world? Tell us in the comments what it looked like for you and what you’ve been doing to overcome self-doubt.

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