Considering a career in search engine optimization?
The sheer volume of information can be intimidating when you are just starting out with SEO.
We asked industry experts to share their tips for those trying to find their way into the nascent SEO career, and here are their top tips.
1. Build on your existing skills and knowledge
“Most SEOs start with one of these skills: writing, marketing, or web design/development,” says Bing Areola, Senior Director of SEO at Assembly Global.
Once you decide to do SEO full time, “start learning the other two skills you are weaker in but you don’t need to be a professional. It’s not your primary strength, but this is where you learn to build teams, or even outsource tasks if necessary,” he recommends.
Specialization is great, but having a working understanding of what your colleagues are doing makes you more effective at your own tasks.
Sam Hollingsworth, Vice President of Digital Strategy at Eleven Ten Thousand, suggests you start with books and blogs.
“There are many legitimate web publications that can teach a lot about SEO. Most of them are free like Google SEO Beginners Guide and SEO’s SEO Beginners to name a few,” he says.
Webinars, social groups, forums, podcasts, and even YouTube videos are other great places to get free SEO education.
However, there is a lot of misinformation and outdated content about what a ranking factor actually is, which SEO tools and tactics work best in different scenarios, and more.
It is important that you carefully evaluate your educational resources. Find consensus among experts about best practices in reality today, and know that Google’s algorithm changes can come and change things quickly.
You will also need to develop your understanding of the two most important skills needed to succeed in SEO – critical thinking, analytical knowledge, and your ability to adapt to rapidly changing situations in between.
2. Learn the basics of website building
“Over the past few years, I’ve helped many potential SEO professionals jump-start their careers,” shares Ludwig Makhyan, co-founder of Mazeless – Enterprise SEO. It’s usually suggested that everyone start by exploring HTML and CSS and knowing the basics of a website anyway, and advises that w3 resources are a good source for that.
“Starting a micro-test site is the best approach, as you can code the page and improve it yourself,” McKian adds.
Whether you work at home or self-employed / agency-side, it is important to have a solid understanding of how the websites you work for, whether they are custom facilities, WordPress-based, e-commerce platform, etc. .
While search engine optimization (SEO) best practices are largely the same across websites — links, quality content, and user experience are essential, for example — you may find SEO for Shopify a very different beast than Wix or Weebly site optimization.
Search our web development archives to discover expert articles on platforms and relevant to your SEO work.
3. Hone your communication skills
“The biggest shock to many new SEO professionals is the lack of predictability and uncertainty,” says Kevin Roe, Vice President of Strategy and Product at Purelinq.
He advises, “You have to be an expert at working in this kind of environment with communication, goal setting, flexibility, building proofs of concept, testing and scaling.”
Hollingsworth advises a similar approach.
“The basics of every job still apply: Use communication to your advantage. Be elegant. Be motivated with good behavior, and never stop learning.” Hollingsworth explains and notes that a large part of effective communication comes from clear, well-written emails and outputs.
“Another big part is breaking down complex concepts into simplified ideas to better understand them,” he adds.
So-called “soft skills” like communication are often overlooked in SEO professional development because there are many technical and analytical things to learn.
However, your communication style can have a huge impact. The difference between landing this client or not may be; Or get that promotion… or not.
When it comes to the specific communication skills you’ll need in SEO, Adam Bruhl cites the ability to listen, think on your feet, and know how to extract complex information into a format that meets your audience’s needs as being among his most important.
4. Learn how to tell stories with data
“Be good with data,” advises Lee Foot, Director of Search Solved.
“Learning how to use LOOKUP and COUNTIFS in Excel is a must. Learn how to find the story within the data and present it in an easy-to-understand way for stakeholders,” he says.
Failing to use visual cues to ingest text, trying to tell your story without the necessary context, and a lack of trust and credibility are among the biggest mistakes SEO professionals make in their approach to data storytelling, says Justin Logbell.
You can dig into more of the top mistakes he identified and how to fix or avoid them here.
Amy Hebdon recently shared these compelling examples of data narration designed for paid search that you can adapt to meet your SEO reporting needs as well.
Claudia Higgins, SEO Insights Strategist at Conductor, recently shared some of the toughest lessons I’ve learned about SEO reporting. Prior to joining Conductor, she managed SEO data and statistics internally for a large e-commerce website.
There, I learned the value of continuous work to improve SEO reports.
“Creating consistent and accurate data earns trust within the company,” Higgins said. “The less labor-intensive I can make the process, the more time we can spend diving deeper into the data and discovering root causes and emerging opportunities,” she added.
5. Expand your network
Foot also suggests that training at an SEO agency will help you develop your skills quickly. “It’s great for networking too if you decide to be self-employed in the future.”
Chouinard shares the same perspective. He believes that “most SEO is analytical and educated. SEO is great because you drive business decisions, build your niche, and discover new things firsthand.”
“The hardest part is learning to fail. Not everything works out. Be humble enough to accept defeat (or change imposed by Google) and maybe restart from scratch sometimes,” he advises.
It has been a difficult time for many new to the SEO industry to make contact, as the pandemic has seriously affected our ability to meet in person.
However, virtual and mixed events are becoming more and more common.
It is also a good idea to follow SEO professionals on social channels. Many share their articles, blog posts, and case studies for the benefit of the industry as a whole.
This beasts list of 202 SEO experts to follow is a good place to start.
Don’t be afraid to get involved and be part of the conversations that happen online.
As you learn and grow in SEO, try out new tools and have all kinds of different experiences, you’ll find a focus area that works best for you.
But when you’re just starting out, it’s a good idea to try as many things as possible.
Check if you can create some links to your website.
Set up a site you can mess around with, and try different size optimizations to see what works.
Read SEO books, make time to visit reputable blogs, and invest in training programs when you find an area that you really want to research.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is largely an on-going educational industry where even those who have been in it for 10, 15 or more years can’t afford to stay in place until competitors can’t overtake them in the rankings.
If you feel like there’s a lot to learn, you’re not alone – it’s part of what many love about being in SEO.
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