Local U Interview Series: Joy Hawkins
Carrie Hill


Santa isn’t the only one coming to town in December; it’s time for another Local U interview! With our LocalU Advanced event coming up in Williamsburg on March 5th, we thought it would be fun to interview a few of the speakers. This month we have the pleasure of interviewing Joy Hawkins.


Business Development

Can you tell us about Imprezzio and what specifically you do there?

Our parent company (Imprezzio Inc) owns Imprezzio Marketing and we have a bunch of different offices, but the primary one that I report to is in Toronto. Imprezzio Inc & the companies it owns have about 200 employees. Imprezzio Marketing has about 30 employees. My job here is split into 2 main roles. I spend half my my time in sales and have about 72 clients that I oversee and manage. (We have about 1,300 clients for SEO/SEM total.) The other part of my job is troubleshooting our hardest ranking cases, coming up with training manuals for employees for SEO & SEM, keeping everyone here updated on all the new changes in the SEO world, and blogging & speaking at events. I’ve been working here since 2009.

Why did you decide to go local?

Before I worked at Imprezzio, I worked for a company in Toronto that sold AdWords. I remember the day Google Places came out because all our clients (who were SMBs) were like “What are those? How do we get there? I want to be there!” I was instantly fascinated with how it worked. Back then the product was really basic and it was extremely easy to rank. I remember keyword stuffing business titles and thinking I was smart for getting clients ranked overnight. Of course we would never do that now :). This was before there were any written guidelines on it.

What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned working at Imprezzio?

I would say teamwork & the importance of being organized. We have multiple people that work on the same client so it’s imperative to have good communication and be organized to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Where do most of your clients come from?

Most contact me because they were referred to me, read something I wrote online, or saw me speak somewhere.

What does your office look like right now? (Pictures to prove it!)

Nothing fancy! I work from home mostly and am one of the only remote workers here at Imprezzio. I used to have three monitors but currently survive with two.

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Who do you look up to most for career guidance?

I think Matt Cutts used to be my career idol before he disappeared. I would say that the person in the industry that impresses me the most currently that I would consider a great role model would be Darren Shaw. I think he does a really great job of running his company. I’m guessing he’ll probably read this. 😉

What business questions are you currently trying to solve for your company?

We are about to start doing some SEO for ourselves (go figure) & are about to launch a new website and I’m leading that project. I’m also working on a few cases of businesses that rank high organically but rank terribly locally. I’d say those are the hardest to fix quickly.

What do you think it takes to be successful in this industry?

You definitely have to be good at solving puzzles and be one of those people that is never content with your current processes. I’m constantly looking for ways to improve my troubleshooting processes and hardly ever use the same approach twice. I’m always looking for things that everyone else missed. I would also say you have to be very self-motivated and enjoy learning and reading.


What do you think most companies miss when it comes to local?

I would have to say using Google Map Maker. So many people I speak to either hate it or don’t know how to use it. It’s been a really awesome tool for helping fix issues with local listings & getting rid of stupid spammy listings that rank high as a result of spamming. I would also say dealing with duplicate listings & really understanding the GMB guidelines. I see it done wrong so often.

If someone had a gun to your head and said, you can do one thing and it has to move rankings up in a local pack, what would you do?

I’d have to say linking to the right page on your local listing (an inner page vs. the homepage) or getting a few backlinks.

In your consulting what do people tend to always have wrong?

Usually their business title in Google My Business (GMB) is breaking the guidelines and their address formatting is wrong (Google Maps can’t understand it).

What is the most messed up local problem you have solved?

This was hard because I have so many to choose from but the one that always still sticks in my head is this one from years ago. My client had just cancelled with his prior SEO company and they weren’t happy about it so they decided to upload pictures of poop onto his listing. After a few failed attempts of flagging the photos I posted on the GMB forum and Mike Blumenthal got Google to remove them right away. It was actually what got me interested in posting more on the forums once I saw how much easier it was for Top Contributors to get things done.

A more recent one would be this one that I shared at SMX East.

Where do you see local search in five years?

Hopefully having more features and being more difficult. I like that it’s difficult because it means that not just anyone can figure it out which is great job security. 🙂

What do you think Google is doing wrong with local?

This one is easy — definitely the stupid “Permanently Closed” labeling they have on listings. Especially professional/practicioner listings. My family doctor of over 20 years died in a car crash last weekend. The only option I have to get rid of her listing now that she’s no longer there is to mark it closed. So now everyone that searches for her on Google gets this ugly bright red “permanently closed” label which makes it look like the whole practice is closed. It’s not. I think I send cases to Google complaining about this weekly. We see it all the time in the forums.

Home Life

Can you tell us about your family?

I met my husband as a freshman at Liberty University and we got married in 2007. I have 2 kids — Alexa is 3 and Kai is 1. Having kids completely changed my life and they have been the greatest blessing.

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Where do you live and why do you live there?

I currently live in Uxbridge, ON, Canada which is a suburb of Toronto. I never really pictured myself moving to the country but ended up moving slightly farther away last year when we bought this house because I wanted a house with an indoor pool.

What does a typical day outside of work look like?

Generally it’s spending time with my kids & hanging out with friends. We like to host parties and so do lots of friends of mine. I’m also a big board-game fanatic. Especially games that are either hilarious or involve strategy.

What are some hobbies that people would be surprised you are involved in?

Who has time for hobbies with two little kids? After my kids are in bed I probably spend most of my time editing on Map Maker as a part of the Regional Leads program, posting on the GMB forum, updating my blog, and binge-watching Smallville (currently on season five). I also spend quite a bit of time praying and studying the Bible.

Are there any organizations in your local community that catch your interest?

My husband and I are very involved in our church. I currently play piano for one of the music teams, serve in the nursery on Sundays, plan all the wedding/baby showers, am the Chair of Finance on the finance committee, and I built the church website so I keep it updated along with their Twitter & Facebook profiles.

Tell us about 3 things in your house that you are super proud of?

Screenshot 2015-12-16 14.09.03

  1. The pool. It was the thing I wanted for years.
  2. Our wood stove in our living room (makes it super cozy on cold days).
  3. The pool table in the basement (the other type of “pool”).

If you could give advice to our industry about non-industry things, what would that advice be?

I would say to be careful not to spend all your waking hours in front of a computer. No one says “I really wish I had worked more” on their deathbed. The time I spend with God and with family & friends is irreplaceable and I think having a really good work-life balance is really key to having a meaningful life. I’m really blessed to have found an industry I love so much but aim to not be a workaholic that ignores the other priorities in life.

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with Gyi Tsakalakis & Joy Hawkins

Carrie comes to Sterling Sky with SEO experience that dates back to 2005! She has a passion for figuring out what works for each and every client and picking apart the problems that arise in our “it depends” relationship with Google. She has also been organizing and nurturing the LocalU Conference Series since 2017 – through to today – across a hectic few years of pandemic and back into in-person conferences again.