Throughout my working life I have always referred to myself as a “Jack of all trades – Master of none”. The reason being is that I like diversity in my job, I like to get my hands dirty and have every single one of my fingers in the proverbial pie and I have never concentrated on one field of expertise – until I decided I wanted to be an SEO fulltime.
Even then SEO is such a wide topic that it is always easy to get caught up and distracted. This became so apparent recently when we were interviewing for Junior SEO’s at Mediaworks and it reminded me of my own experiences trying to learn the elusive skill of SEO. As a result of the wide circle that encompasses SEO it is simply not something that can be learnt from a book – you actually have to do it to learn from your mistakes.
When I started out doing SEO, I learnt on the job whilst I was a web developer with a high knowledge of XHTML & CSS and basic knowledge of PHP so as you can imagine learning SEO for me was formulaic and processed – but I also tried and tested what I was reading. Access to how to do SEO is a lot more accessible than it was 5 years ago, but it is now also surrounded by a lot of noise, ambiguity and “make money online” websites. From what was once a simple role, being an SEO can easily be confused with a fully fledged online marketing expert due to the ability to snowball into a mass pit of distraction if you don’t learn the basics first.
Looking at my current role, I get involved in so many areas it’s hard to gauge what is SEO 101 and what is a specialist subject – and what to learn first:
- Content optimisation
- Link building (sourcing, arranging, building)
- Site architecture & link strategies
- Conversion rate optimisation & site usability
- Social media (online brand management)
- Networking (Online & Offline)
- Analytics, Statistics & Metrics
- Code optimisation (page load)
- Online PR & Article creation & submission
I didn’t wake up one day with this knowledge, nor did I read them from a book and regurgitate it word-for-word. I have learnt all of these areas by getting my hands dirty and fiddling, tweaking, testing and getting amongst it.
Unfortunately, as the demand for SEO increases, we are now in a position where print/pr/marketing companies are not able to deliver the SEO they offer due to a lack of in-house expertise or simply employing a web developer who read a book from Amazon at the weekend. This bullshit approach to SEO appears to have spawned the latest circle of friends down the pub – something that was once reserved for web designers – the “My mate can do that for £100” referral.
Simply learning the skills to be an SEO involves such diversity in topics that there is a great risk of simply reading far too much and doing very little. My advice to anybody who wants to get into SEO has to understand that SEO is a very, very broad field now and you have stop yourself getting bogged down by all of the branches attached to it. Read about the basics – content optimisation, site architecture and link building – then you can get caught up in the glorious position of users finding your website and having the headache of getting them to buy/partake.