How to be a better SEO
We all know people in the search engine optimisation field can be a competitive bunch, all trying to get to that number 1 ranking for their chosen key terms, phrases etc. This competitive nature drives a desire to be better and do better in most of the SEO’s that I know. This really is a good thing as it drives people to innovation, and I think even more importantly to better themselves and improve their skills as SEO’s. But how can you become a better SEO?
Photo by World Economic Forum via Creative Commons
Expand your Skill set
A lot of people in the SEO industry either have marketing-esque or IT-based origins and historically these are two disciplines haven’t overlapped much with the few exceptions (looking at you Steve Jobs). People with marketing qualifications have been hesitant to branch into the IT field and vice versa, however if you want to become a successful SEO you need to have a fair bit of knowledge of both. Personally, I came from a predominantly marketing background, and I felt it was imperative that I learnt some IT and in particular HTML and CSS skills. Yep that was me, the guy reading HTML for dummies on the bus and let me tell you something it has been a massive help in my SEO analysis work.
No longer am I the one going to the technical guru asking the difference between a span and a div, now I can figure it out for myself and see how certain HTML impacts of the SEO effectiveness of the page I’m analysing, awesome. Similarly, if you are a complete coding freak who views a website and automatically sees the code behind it (Neo style from the matrix) but has never explored the wonderful world of Google Analytics it is time to get involved, study up on some Google analytics tutorials, visit Occam’s Razor by Avinash Kaushik (in my opinion one of the best analytics blogs on the web) and get a heads up on what great things you can do with Google analytics. If you are unsure about where to start do a website audit (not a real website audit but you know what I mean) on your own SEO skills, find out where you think you are great and where you are not so great and concentrate on improving your weaker areas. Many SEO companies also deliver training programs, which specifically address certain SEO areas such as SEO copy writing or link building; these may seem fairly pricey but are usually worth the outlay as they can provide valuable SEO information that is presented in a structured way. In fact Bruce Clay Australia is running a 1 day SEO training course in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane during October.
Read, Read, Read
An imperative part of being an SEO is keeping up to date with new developments, emerging technology and current trends. For example, when the no=follow/Pagerank sculpting debacle (Matt Cutts dropped a bomb shell that Pagerank sculpting no longer works to help flow more PageRank to the unblocked pages) erupted, I needed to know what was going on ASAP to soothe anxious clients, but how did I know what to tell them? Well, I have about 20 different online marketing/search engine optimisation/general marketing/Search engine webmaster central emails or information updates sent to me daily. If I have the time I also peruse my RSS reader, which has some less vital but always informative posts on topics ranging from Google’s less than stellar handling of old Usenet archives to Kurt Vonnegut’s rules for writing short stories. There are a couple places to start off here, The Official Google Webmaster Central Blog is always a good resource and well as Search Engine Land’s Search Cap, which is a collection of the week’s best articles and resources from around the web. The more resources you read the more resources you will find and it’s all about prioritising and finding the blogs/updates that you feel give you the best value.
Start your own site and Experiment
This was something that was suggested to me as soon as I got into the industry, and I regret the fact that I only acted on this advice about a year later. You can learn a fortune of theoretical information about SEO on the web, but if you never put that intelligence into practice you won’t improve yourself as an SEO as quickly and effectively as you could. Believe me its alot easier to tinker with your own site and stuff it up completely than explaining to your boss why you mistakenly disallowed all the search engine spiders in the robots.txt file and your clients’ site is not longer ranking for anything (this happened to a friend of a friend, promise :) ). If you are looking to get to grips with the Google Website Optimiser where you can use different types of testing to see if a red button or green button will get you more conversions, it is also easier to implement this on your own site. Another advantage of setting up your own site is that is gives you a unique insight into how your clients might think and what metrics and KPI’s to present to clients to show that your SEO efforts are actually working.
There are heaps of other things you can do like : improving your people and public speaking skills, getting to grips and exploring new social media trends and networks, getting to grips with the mainstream advertising industry and what methods and techniques they employ that you could borrow to improve your SEO, the ability to hypnotise Matt Cutts and steal his Google knowledge and…… well I could go on forever but they key here, is knowing yourself and being able to prioritise what new skills or projects would most benefit you as a practitioner of SEO and endeavour to improve yourself in these areas.