Over the past year I have been involved in the interviewing and hiring of a number of experienced SEOs and newcomers to the SEO industry. One of the key things that I ask in those interviews is: how do you keep up to date with the industry, and what are the techniques required to succeed? As you would expect, you get a lot of stock answers from those with experience, but those who are new to the industry don’t really have an understanding of what they need to be doing to succeed.
To help those who are new to SEO, I wanted to provide five tips that I would have loved to have been told when I was starting out.
1. Read, Read, Read and Read!
We work in an industry that is thriving in content, and as a noob to the industry that’s great. Start to read the basics rather than jumping straight in with the advanced. You need to have a good grounding.
- Google Website Optimisation Guide
- Moz Learn SEO
- Beginner’s Guide to SEO
- The Beginner’s Guide for Learning SEO
- The Web Developer’s SEO Cheat Sheet
- Perfecting Keyword Targeting & On-page Optimisation
- The Beginner’s Checklist for Small Business SEO
- Search Engine Ranking Factors
- DistilledU – Modular learning programme
Once you have gone through these initial guides, don’t stop reading. The industry moves so fast that you should be reading daily. To make this easier for you, I would seriously recommend using a good RSS program that syncs with all your devices. I am currently using Feedly, which I think is great and works for me. I also use Pocket, an online bookmarking tool. If I am in a rush or too busy, then I can add a post to Pocket and read it at a later date. That way I tend to miss very little from a content point of view.
Below are just a few of the blogs I check on a daily basis. I have also created an ultimate list of resources over at OxonDigital.
- Seer Interactive
- Search Engine Land
- Search Engine Round Table
- Search Engine Watch
2. Get involved in Social Media & Meet-ups
We are lucky as an industry that people are very open and happy to share what they do, and will help where possible. However, if you don’t know them or haven’t engaged with them in the past, they are unlikely to help.
The first step is to start following the right people on Twitter. I tend to use Twitter for more business-related stuff, and keep my Facebook account completely separate. The majority of my tweets are therefore work-related, and those whom I have followed or who follow me talk about similar stuff. Below are a few of the people I follow.
People to Follow:
- Matt Cutts – @mattcutts
- Rand Fishkin @randfish
- Danny Sullivan @dannysullivan
- Wil Reynolds @wilreynolds
- Richard Baxter @richardbaxter
- Will Critchlow @willcritchlow
- Lee Odden – @leeodden
- Pierre Far – @pierrefar
- Garrett French – @GarrettFrench
- Dan Barker – @danbarker
These are just a few of those whom I actually follow, but I do follow a number of lists.
Twitter Lists to get you started:
Once you have started to follow people within the industry, the next step is to get involved in conversations. This could be by asking specific people questions or getting involved in conversations you feel you can add to. If you are asking questions, make sure that the person you are asking is the right person, don’t just ask the question for the sake of speaking to them.
The next step is getting yourself along to meet-ups and conferences. If you are unable to get a ticket, try and get to the drinks afterwards. Speaking to people face-to-face and buying someone a drink is a sure way of sparking a conversation. Use Twitter to see who is going to the event before you get there, and arrange to meet them. If you get no responses, don’t be afraid to go to the event anyway, and just start a conversation with the attendees; networking is a huge factor in our industry. Make as many contacts as you can, as it will help in the long run.
If you made it to the event, and managed to make some conversations, then don’t end it there. On your way home, make sure that you thank them on Twitter, and stay in touch over the coming days. This industry is great for networking, and if you make the right contacts, they could open lots of different doors in the future, including job offers, guest blogging opportunities and software demos.
3. Test everything!
This is huge! There is a lot of good stuff written and lots of theory provided, especially at conferences, for you to take on board and possibly implement.
The problem is it is mainly just that: theory. When I joined SEOptimise, I remember telling a colleague that I would test everything that I learnt even if it came from senior members of the team. Not because I didn’t trust them – I did – just that I wanted to see the impact of what would happen, how to implement said technique, and how to monitor results.
Before you implement anything that you have heard or read, you need to test them. To test these techniques, you need to have a website to test things on. I have a couple and also do some testing on my personal website, but your company may have some URLs that they are happy for you to burn. If not, then buy a couple of domains (they are cheap) and hosting, and put WordPress websites on them. The design of these websites doesn’t need to be amazing, as the main purpose is to test.
Now that you have your test websites, you can start your test. I’d recommend doing one test at a time per website, and you should always document what you have done. If the test doesn’t work, then you can analyse what you did and identify whether you could have done something different. If it works, then you can write a post about your test and share it with the world.
I think this is one of my biggest takeaways when learning SEO all those years ago.
4. Make life easier
SEO can be a difficult in its current form, so creating tools to make things easier, bookmarking tools, resources or finding bookmarklets to help is a great way to get ahead.
There are many tools available to help us gather data, but you will always want to cut that data up further. This is where those Excel skills are needed, and the Distilled guide is great for getting to a certain level. Moving on from there is all about experience, playing around with the data and finding solutions for what you want to achieve.
Make sure you set aside some time to mess around with data. We have time set aside each week to allow us to develop personally but also to develop our internal tools to make our lives a bit easier. What do you do to help yourself?
5. Don’t be afraid to ask
I think our industry is unique in that everyone is happy to help. I could have blinkers on here, but I just don’t see the same camaraderie in other industries as we have – though I could be wrong!
This is where those contacts come in handy. With a relationship you can start to share information, but also ask for help. You’re not going to know everything. Why struggle? Just ask somebody. Other people will either have a fix or can point you in the right direction. Although we may be competing in the same niches, the main competition is still the search engine.
Just because you ask questions, doesn’t mean you are incompetent; you are not going to know everything. Make good contacts and don’t be afraid to share or ask for help.
So there you have it: five tips for SEO newcomers. Is there anything else you would recommend? Any resources that you think I should add? I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below, or as always on Twitter @danielbianchini.