Screw SEO skills. You can learn the important bits of SEO in an afternoon and practice them over the course of 6 months and be better off than most people claiming to do SEO are.
You want to know what SEO director roles are looking for? People skills. Soft skills. Leadership skills. Learn to talk to businesses in English. Learn how to talk to people and how to persuade people with both data and charisma. That's going to take you a million miles further than knowing the ins and outs of canonical tags.
For raw skills, learn how the ins and outs of linking work and how to identify a good link, learn the on page factors that make things tick, know enough code to know when something is broken.
And then, spend the rest of your time learning how to market and do business.
Spot on, Joel. You could be the most knowledgeable SEO in the world but if you don't have the skills to persuade clients or (and I apologise in advance for using this phrase) internal stakeholders you could still end up doing a bad job because someone else will be calling the shots and they might not know the first thing about SEO.
Couldn't agree more. Very well said.
Haha well put! I can imagine that people skills can be hard to come by in a profession where you're staring at a screen all day. Thanks for the advice Joel
I agree 100%
Another piece to add is STRATEGY. The hard skills are definitely important, but sometimes we need to take a step back every once in a while and ask, "Will this help us meet our goal?"
How do you know what steps to take if you don't know where you're going?
My advice is to build your own website. Your best learning for SEO will come from building your own site watching the traffic grow. If you want to learn multiple programming languages build sites on different CMS's and test different things. I have done a few courses over the years any thing from Online too Google, Now I run my own courses for people. To be honest the best knowledge is when you network with experts or build your own sites and test SHIT!How do I get ahead? Test things which other people are not currently doing.
This is the best answer you're going to get, Christian. The fastest way to learn SEO is to set up and manage your own web properties.
So if you don't have your own site yet, now's the time to get started on it.
Completely agree with James. Test out all different kinds of things - get a good understanding of both black hat SEO and white hat.
Another really important thing is to familiarise yourself with as many tools as possible - find new tools and ways to integrate them into your SEO process - oh, and make sure you're a wizard on Excel!
I have a "friend" who wants to learn about black hat SEO. Any recommendations?
http://wickedfire.com careful your head might explode. I think every inbound marketer should learn both sides of the fence.
Tell him to join a black hat forum, and be prepared to have his site de indexed. I don't totally dislike Black Hat I think it is important for even White hat SEOs to know what is going on with Black Hat tactics, negative SEO ect. So if your site or clients site are hit you know what the method is. And in the end of the day black hats are just trying to make a living.
Black Hats and Affiliate Marketers both test the boundaries of what is possible ranking wise in ways that 98% of inbound marketers never will. When a new update hits every inbound marketing blog instantly puts out the same "content is king" blog post. Black Hats skip the post and get to testing. Sad but true.
Thanks for the answer James! Ran a few of my own sites in school and from my experience so far you're absolutely correct; you have to take most of what you read with a grain of salt until you test it yourself.
Well to be honest I know some people dont have time to start a site, even though wordpress can be very quick. As I said above another thing I am doing recently is running Online Marketing events, as I know many people in the community with limited are hungry to learn ect. What I do is each month we bring in experts from the field. Each month our event has a different expert, so really great speakers any thing from SMX speakers to up and coming people who dont get a chance at SMX. We even have paid training days aswell for people with very affordable prices. It is not so much about making money it is more about training others and giving back if you are in Australia check it out - http://www.meetup.com/Online-Marketing-Sydney/
Man that's something I'd love to attend! All of those conferences are way out of my budget right now and I haven't found a good place to network with other like-minded SEOs.
Unfortunately I'm in Toronto so Australia's a little out of my reach, hopefully I can find something like it in my area.
Check out Meetup.com most large cities have events for Search, if their is no event make your own event and contact people who are experts in fields and get them to talk. Yeah the reason we started it was because many people complain about paying $1000+ for a conference. So we get the same people you see at big conferences to come and speak at our events for FREE or for a small cost. Best way to learn is find some one who is an expert in a field and do any thing to get some of their time, buy them lunch/ coffee/ stalk them on Twitter (as Wil Renylods usually states).
Become proficient in ANY cms other than Wordpress. Everyone wants to work on HTML sites & Wordpress sitse - not many people want the Drupal & Joomla, Magento, or OpenCart sites. Become an expert in a different one.
Also, as far as languages, you should be 100% capable in HTML, understand PHP & CSS. The rest is for later.
Learn to be efficient- whether that's by figuring out Neils Bosma's SEO tools to get things done, understanding screamingfrog & xenu link sleuth, etc or even just how you go about work. Learn Excel, period.
I'm actually an excel junkie so that bodes well for me! Thanks for the advice, although I know the basics I definitely need a more intimate understanding of HTML, PHP & CSS.
Develop their writing/blogging skills, learn how to use analytics and how to interpret/use data, and improve their communication skills (for project management, social media, PR and client relations). Lastly, to never stop researching/learning.
Write. Every. Day.
SPECIALIZE. Please. Specialize in SOMETHING. (I'm honestly still struggling with this myself). There's still WAY too many people who "do it all".
The way to add value (IMO), to your own career and to your clients or employers is to specialize via a T Shaped Skill Set: http://www.distilled.net/blog/seo/building-a-t-shaped-skill-set/
What parts of SEO do YOU like the most... get you most pumped up, you'd skip meals or sleep over? You'll discover this in your initial experience through trying different things, and some self reflection.
SEO is such a huge field now, I think it's wise to 1. figure out your 1-3 most passionate areas and then 2. dive deep into learning them.
I agree Dan, and I also feel your pain.
The hardest part of specialising is that:
• I enjoy Ecommerce• I enjoy Local• I enjoy a technical SEO challenge• I enjoy Content Creation (writing, graphic, video & audio work)• I enjoy Link Building work• I enjoy Analytics
It's hard to pick one.
• Working on all of the above• Training on all of the above• Paid Search & other online advertising• Web Design
It's a tough choice.
Thanks for replying Rob and Dan. That's great advice and I never really thought about it like that before.. Having a specialty will definitely set you apart from the crowd of "I can help any website" SEOs.
I think that ecommerce interests me the most, so maybe I'll start veering towards it!
It's funny because while some people consider SEO a specialist role, covering it all makes you a generalist...
humility - know that no matter how good you get there is more to learn and there will always be people "better" than you.
learn to program - it gets harder to do the older you get so at least learn HTML/CSS/ and some basic PHP while your brain is still in learning mode.
You hit the nail on the head with humility Patrick. I know that that probably isn't what Christian is looking for but it's definitely a good starting point.
It helps put you in the right mindset as far as who you are and what kind of attitude you should have.
Aside from that, I'd go with writing and focusing on people skills. Because if you have both of these working for you, you can easily create relationships all over the web through guest posting. And as you already know, guest posting is still one of the best ways to do SEO (if not THE BEST)!
Good luck to your career Christian and remember that principles form habits and habits shape success.
Thanks spook! Writing skills keeps popping up I'll definitely have to brush up on them. I'm good with the grammar (haha) but I got no flow..
Agree with all of the above. Excel and basic understanding of code is really important, as is the ability to write and create decent content. I would also probably suggest knowing your analytics inside out. Knowing how to work with advanced segments can save a lot of time and awkward phone calls!
Something I wish I had thought of earlier broaden my horizon and look at things that weren't just SEO. Looking at things like CRO and online psychology have proven really helpful when it comes to sorting out lost revenue, falls in traffic and working out why content isnt working.
But as the guys said above the best way to learn SEO is to do it yourself. Make a few sites, build links, build content, build a community and try risky things. Its far better to fuck up your own site and work out why rather than risk messing up a clients.
Thanks for taking the time to answer John! Regarding online psychology I'm a big fan of the blog Social Triggers, are there any other resources you can recommend?
There are loads (including social triggers which is excellent btw)...but for people starting out I would definitely start with two books. The first would be Cialdini's Psychology of Persuasion to get a good handle on how psychology can be used in marketing. From there I would really suggest Natalie Nahai's Web Psychologist, its only recently been published and it is obviously written by someone who knows what they are talking about!
I would also suggest looking at other areas such as behavioural psychology and behavioural economics. One of my favourite information sources is a chap called Rory Sutherland. He works over at Ogilvy and some of his ted talks are superb.
I'll definitely give those a read! Really appreciate the advice :)
Besides the advice above, I would add that you should focus mostly on developing:
- technical knowledge - it would be a lot easier for you if you would know the basics of coding. Like mentioned before in the discussion, the best way is to learn is by doing. Create your own website and start experimenting.
- analytical knowledge - try to master Google Analytics or any other software of your choice. The more easily you would be able to slice and dice your data, the faster you'll do your work.- marketing knowledge - write stuff to improve your copywriting skills
I think the "basics" of coding are very overrated. What you need to
learn is project management, and technical writing. You are not going to
be coding in an organization, you are going to be directing others to
make changes. If you can write specifications for features and
modifications, you can shorten the development time for what you need
and you can stand out as someone easy to work with. You want to be easy
to work with throughout the organization, because SEO is desirable, but
not essential, and you will get routed around.
Your best skill is going to be comprehensive knowledge of Google Analytics.
need to be able to view the HTML source of any given webpage and
understand what code is driving the search engine ranking factors, and
especially what's missing that should be there.
Aaaaaand, last but not least, regular expressions. Regex saves me tons and tons of time and allows me to work independent of programmers for almost all research.
MySQL is also useful.
Funny that you mention management paranoia, I actually just got that spiel from my boss yesterday.. He recited almost exactly what you said, including the "Chicken Little" part. It really opened my eyes to the fact that SEO (at least in a big organization) is as much about persuasion and getting your way without causing havoc, as your tangible SEO skills. A lot of people don't understand exactly what you're recommending and can take things overboard reeeeaal fast.
I have a basic understanding of regex but I can definitely see it's potential, and MySQLs been on my list of things to learn for a while now.. maybe I'll give it a higher priority.
Thanks for the in-depth answer Joe!
I'd recommend trying to learn or do all of the following (at least to some degree, while specializing heavily in a few):
After doing finance in school I decided to do SEO full time, and that's what I now do. I'm just curious as to what skills (programming lanugages), courses, certifications, or anything of that nature do you recommend a young SEO gain to get ahead of the pack, other than the regular SEO skills. What are some skills you'd love to see with an intermediate SEO applying to your company? Also not limited to SEO, but also internet marketing or marketing as a whole.
1. Python/regular expressions (urllib and re libraries namely) - has helped me a lot with scraping information about target audience.
2. Basic MySQL to be able to analyze registered users (again, your target audience).
3. Google Search Operators - you should be able to quickly retrieve information that you need about the website.
4. Excel - for analyzing data sheets with competitor's links.
5. Read several books on Branding - as a Senior SEO you should be able to see the general picture of where the company is moving.
6. Management and Marketing - again, read several good books on this topic. (Peter Drucker and Phillip Kotler).
7. NEVER stop learning new things about your profession, learn something new everyday, different aspects of it.
1. Basic HTML/CSS/JS/PHP (Sign up on Lynda.com)
2. Usability Analysis (Check out 10 Usability Heuristics)
3. Information Architecture & UX (Read: Don't Make Me Think)
4. Marketing, in particularly neuromarketing
5. Basics of copywriting (Inverted pyramid writing and headline principles)
6. Web server basics i.e. redirection, caching etc (Focus on apache/nginx)
7. Google Analytics (Read Advanced Web Metrics)
8. Basic psychology
From my first 18 months in a Community Manager position which also has a large amount of SEO responsibilities, I would say learning to write, as Jason said, is incredibly important.Not only will you be able to create better content, but writing in a style that your target market responds to will become easier.
Basic HTML / CSS is always useful. Excel is a must. And to be honest, just reading ... and understanding ... is the best advice I can give you.Read, read and read some more. The more you can absorb the better. Then go out and try to put some of the things you've read into practice!There's not much in SEO you can't learn by reading and testing!
Log files. Know how to query them and interpret what they are telling you regarding how your site is being crawled.
Thank you Ryan, and thank you internet: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/carlosag/archive/2010/03/25/analyze-your-iis-log-files-favorite-log-parser-queries.aspx
There's definitely some great stuff here, but I want to take it to a bit of a different level.
Every SEO needs:1) To be adaptable. At somepoint in your career what you're doing is probably going to change or be ruled as black hat by the SEO gods, you need to learn to try to constantly try new tactics.
2) To be transparent. Not just to clients but to yourself. Always be honest.
3) To know how to take criticism. Your clients will yell at you and ask you why their not number one. Learn to deal with this and learn how to manage people's aspirations.
4) To know how to create content. There will be a time in which you have to fire up a camera or open up a word document. It doesn't need to be the best, but you need to know how to create content out of the little things.
5) To know how to laugh. Too many people get caught up in this game of white-hat or black-hat SEO. If you don't know how to laugh at yourself or know how to have fun in marketing, you will not last long in this field.
Quit SEO and learn how to create stuff that people actually want to read.
Oh and take up a moderate crystal meth addiction.
If I would be at your place I would work on enhancing my
writing skills and get better at presenting my ideas on the paper. As far as
the languages are concern I think HTML and PHP are good enough but anything
extra is bonus!
What you should actually learn over the period of time is
what Joel said People skills. Soft skills. Leadership skills and more.
I don't think there is a single set of skills you should aim for. I think the most important 'tool' you can have in your arsenal is the ability and willingness to always be learning.
It's also important to remember that no set of skills always applies to every site, client or project. You will hopefully constantly encounter projects that force you to learn a new skill.
For more practical advice, try not to waste time memorizing code syntax or cms's right off the bat if it doesn't come naturally to you. If it's something you can look up quickly, then you'll eventually learn it through repetition and familiarity.
Thanks for starting the great discussion.
I'll echo what others have said. Soft people skills are invaluable as you traverse the many levels of SEO comprehension within your organization. For example, your CEO might think that SEO means paying Google to increase your rankings. Mine used to! Or, your CFO might think that organic growth through SEO is free and won't cost the company a dime.
Demonstrating the value of your contributions and facilitating a greater understanding of SEO as it applies to the overall business direction is huge.
In essence, learn to teach well.
Oh yeah, things like competitive analysis, content creation, linking strategy, and personas are pretty important too.
Once again thanks for sharing! I couldn't be happier with the response from the Inbound community, I've now got a great list of things to get done in order to improve myself.
And from my little experience so far I agree, getting people on-page (haha) with SEO, what it actually does, and the long-term commitment that comes with it is a huge part of the job.
I would actually like to add another answer:
READ! The best SEO's are up to date on the latest Google updates, announcements, what is working/what isn't and things to stay away from. The majority of my success comes from staying up to date on places like inbound, blogs I read, etc.
Its a good strategy to create your own website and looking for the traffic if you are an intermediate level SEO.Otherwise you don't go for a site of your own.Go for the best blogs on SEO like search engine watch,search engine journal,moz blog,Techwse rise to the top.It will take some months to read out all the post.But it will be worth for you.Wish a great success.There are several Giants to help you on Inbound.org, and you are the right place to begin.
Here is one more. Be inquisitive and skeptical. When someone has an answer for you, ask for supporting data. When you don't understand a topic, ask to be brought up to speed. Working with intelligent people makes it is easy to assume the answers you are being given are correct. Don't do that. Demand explanations and supporting data. On the flip side, make sure you support your own arguments with as much data as you have available.
Hi ChristianFor me the key factors are developer skills, analytics skills, writing skills, CRO skills and excel skills.
Build a bunch of sites and spam the living shit out of them - take a different approach with each site and see what you can do to get it deindexed.
This will teach you more than any course/mentor/tutorial and give you a great 'feel' for things and how hard you can push.
It will also give you invaluable data to analyse so you can look for patterns & make comparisons.
You should also aim to get sites hit with penaltys so firstly you understand exactly what triggers them and secondly you get a shot at recovering them which is fantastic learning process.
Once you've built out a few sites like this - when algo updates come round you tend to have winners, losers and neutrals and you can dissect updates very quickly when everyone else is still losing their shit.
Haha that's awesome advice, it'll take a while to set up but I can see how it's well worth it. Thanks for taking the time to answer Matt, I look forward to each of your posts.
I would share my own experience here..When i started my career in SEO industry, i was ZERO! Yes, a big zero who didn't know anything about wordpress, blogs, how websites work, how FTP works, what is keyword etc!Just for my entertainment i made my 1st blog on blogspot and started posting content of other sites (it was about movies only) without knowing anything about copyscape type of sites! Through that i learned how to make a blog, how to customize it using html, how to setup webmaster, analytics accounts and how to WORK online (Actually). That was my life's best experience from which i kickstarted my career and i was always ahead of my colleagues in my x companies! "I learned the way to learn" Start reading and working at the same time. That's the only way IMO.Conclusion: You can't learn everything just by reading! Such as: to learn driving you need to sit in the car and switch on the engine rather than reading about "how the car engine works" in the BOOK! Take action and that's the only way (IMHO).
Here are a few that I can think of:
1. Build a WordPress Blog on your own domain on something that you are very interested in writing about, and learn everything you can about blogging, WordPress, plug-ins, attracting links, using analytics programs and site management. Build positive relationships with other bloggers in that space.
2. Begin editing and learn as much as you can about Wikipedia, including their notability policies and other policies. Start off with small edits on topics that you are interested in, and want to learn more about. The experience of learning how to edit and how to work within the policies of the site will give you a lot of insights into how a large User Generated Content (UGC) site works. Start exploring other UGC sites, and how they might use gameification and other tools.
3. Carry a Point & Shoot camera around with you everywhere, and take lots of pictures, as well as looking at a lot of pictures. Being a good writer can be really helpful to you, but being able to be creative in other media as well can broaden the skills at your fingertips.
4. Read everything that you can from the search engines, and treat it as if it's a business activity analysis. Try to understand why they are making changes instead of just what changes they might be making.
5. Create SEO-Based Tutorials, FAQs, Resource pages, and other training materials, and work on teaching others who might be interested. Being able to communicate well, and manage others is a great skill to have.
6. Join local meetups on online and offline marketing and business and network. Learn to use social networks to build relationships with others, and be truly social.
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