I was at the end of my junior year of undergrad in April 2012. Two completed internships left me committed to a career in marketing; one was in product marketing and was one in market research.
I hadn’t heard anything about SEO until @GigCFO sent me a tweet from @dan_ shure accompanied with, “give him a follow.” From there, I started to see tweets about SEO and quickly found others to follow. I was keen on learning more.
Five years later, here’s what I have to share on the topic of learning and developing as an SEO:
Be a patient when it comes to learning and application. I remember being a few weeks into my first job and someone was talking about something I didn’t understand. I got frustrated and down on myself for not being able to follow along. Looking back, it was not the best mindset to have; I was new to SEO so not picking up on something right away is understandable. Be patient when you are learning something new but don’t shy away.
Pay attention to the parts of SEO that excite you. There are so many paths to go down as an SEO. If you know the ones that get you the most jazzed, you can double down and get really good at them. From there, you can carve out a special role for yourself. If everything excites you, roll with that too! Just keep in mind you likely won’t be the best at everything.
Develop analytical, creative, and technical ability. Regardless of what excites you, analytical competence goes a long way. You need to know how to access traffic, ranking, revenue, and other data in order to point to wins and diagnose loses. Analytical skills can also help articulate what works and what doesn’t work using large datasets. You also should practice thinking creatively and have at the very least a basic understanding of technical SEO. Creativity can apply to content, execution, testing, and many others areas. Little more on this here, and @randfish had a good t-shaped marketer post.
Communication is important. From pitching ideas, articulating strategy, or sharing results, the delivery and communication method is super important. One perspective that has motivated me through the last 5 years is truly believing I was in the business of communication. Whether I am working on an internal project for co-workers or something customer facing, my job is to communicate it crystal clear. Communication is something I’ll always be working on, as it comes in many different forms.
Persistence and execution win. Let’s look at link building for example. Link building is a large undertaking in most cases. There are a variety of steps needed to execute and secure links. Persistence will get anyone through the long process.
Read often. Stay open to the stuff you read but also don’t be afraid to criticize it. There’s a lot of information out there and it’s worth practicing forming your own opinion on stuff. That way you can start to cipher between what’s good and what’s bad.
Practice making a business case. This is one I am really still working on. The more you can frame how much can be made or lost in revenue through an idea the stronger your case.
Work on pattern recognition and curiosity. Functionality of the sites you work on should become second nature. On page elements, links to a page, and technical implementation across page types should be something you know intuitively after a few months of working on a site. Pattern recognition can also help when identifying wins, losses, and competitor tactics. One of my favorite parts to SEO today is competitive intelligence. Also, shout out to @abay for bringing up pattern recognition a few weeks ago.
Share your opinion. At the end of the day, SEO is a service based profession. Take a stance on what you research and communicate that opinion to stakeholders and clients. There might be times you are not understood. It’s about bouncing back, knowing when to push or when to back off.
These are some of the most important lessons I took away from the last 5 years. I’m still working on all of them too and if you know any others, drop them in the comments.