Internet Marketers On Learning SEO and the Future of SEO Education
Last week, Bruce Clay, Inc. hosted #SEOchat on Twitter and the topic of discussion was SEO Education. Seasoned Internet marketers candidly revealed how they went about learning SEO, sharing tales of internships, books, training courses, conferences and more.
Having begun in the mid-’90s, SEO is still a relatively new industry — the education paths Internet marketers have taken is widely varied. Read on to discover how several SEO managers, senior SEOs and content marketers learned SEO as they answered questions on:
- Learning SEO
- Formal Training
- The Desire to Learn SEO
- SEO First Steps
- SEO Conferences
- Real-World SEO Lessons
- Becoming a Professional SEO
- Advice for Those Just Getting Started
- Continuing SEO Education
- The Future of SEO Education
Eager to jump to a particular topic? Click a heading above … or read them all!
Q1: How much formal training is necessary for an SEO?
@KevinWaugh: Little to none, it is not covered in higher education, and it has moved very fast over the last 5 years.
@MatthewAYoung: Formal training is essential, but a moderate amount is sufficient. SEOs have to learn by doing and sometimes failing.
@SanDiegoSEO: I don’t think any formal training is “needed” but it can sure help separate fact from fiction.
@sonray: It can be helpful if the degree adds value (I went for Phys ED) but DESIRE to learn is more valuable.
@MindyDWeinstein: I think some form of formal training is needed. Hands on is huge, though.
@cshel: I think everything you need to know can be learned outside of a classroom, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to know.
@LanceMoore22: I would say it’s not a formal training, but an art and science.
@tony_dwm: I think that knowledge of biz & training in marketing are pre-req of SEO training. The “why” is key and these help.
@treycopeland: no formal training is needed. read seo blogs. technical experience does help. former web dev turned seo here.
@KevinWaugh: Based on the college students on my team, I’m glad it is not covered. I had to reteach HTML, which is bad.
@CallMeLouzander: Fundamentals don’t change; don’t try to game the system, serve good content, keep up with tech changes.
Q2: If there is formal training, what does that look like? An apprenticeship? An internship? Something else?
@MatthewAYoung: The Bruce Clay SEO training of course! Which I took a few times in my day ;)
@KevinWaugh: Workshops might be the closest to formal, easy to get into, gives you wings, and lets you go.
@LysaChester: I think formal classroom fundamentals in SEO is great, but most learning is done through internships and entry level jobs.
@MindyDWeinstein: Regarding higher education, I actually went through “SEO” textbooks. They are all outdated as soon as they go to print.
@CaitlinBoroden: I began with an internship. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to dig in and learn!
@sonray: I spoke at @SearchDecoder’s NYU Master’s level class. I was super impressed with the class and quality.
@SanDiegoSEO: I would think formal training would consist of a combo of hands on experience, and lessons on what NOT to do and why.
@CallMeLouzander: Whether interning or studying under someone, vet them first. Bad practices in SEO hurt both you and your clients.
@paulaspeak: I learned SEO on the job, but I work for Bruce Clay! ;) #advantage
@ScottCowley: I teach SEO, but I wish there were an ecommerce site to just hand to the students and let them optimize. The system is imperfect.
@KristiKellogg: It seems like formal training of SOME kind ensures bad habits don’t develop.
@MatthewAYoung: I learned SEO through a combo of formal training, client work, personal study, engaging in a community of SEOs.
@crbawden: Went through some online training courses, they covered the basics well but not details, simply reading articles worked better.
@nikipayne: I started learning about SEO taking webinars on behalf of a marketing director who didn’t have time to take them herself.
The Desire to Learn SEO
Q3: When was the first time you heard “SEO?” What made you want to dive in?
@tony_dwn: Late nineties. Primarily a fascination with words and their meaning, coupled with a deep interest in marketing.
@sonray: Working at a bike shop during the winter and was looking for ‘busy work’; started w/ eBay and local search.
@SanDiegoSEO: When an ecommerce client wanted the service. No one was offering it, so I figured I’d learn it. over 14 years ago.
@KristiKellogg: The first time I heard SEO was a week before my interview with @BruceClayInc. SEO, SEM, SMM, PPC, etc. #TooManyAcronyms
@MatthewAYoung: At an old job, the sales and marketing director asked if I could rewrite content on the site with SEO in mind.
@MatthewAYoung: She asked if I knew what SEO was, I lied and said sure …
@LysaChester: First time I heard of SEO was when I went for a job interview asking me about SEO and Social Media experience 1 1/2 ago.
@CallMeLouzander: When I first heard “SEO” I asked programmer friend about it; he didn’t even know white hat SEO existed.
@DigitalDionne: It was 2010 or so. I was still a journo with AP. I was intrigued by strategic word use to “catch” someone. Like fishing. I eventually decided I liked the concept of words that made money. And my career in news was soon dunzo. lol
@KevinWaugh: I heard of it at a job interview for an #ecommerce site, so I decided I should really learn it. Never stopped learning since
@crbawden: Learned of #SEO from a drunk friend who said people make money by getting sites listed on Google. And here I am now.
SEO First Steps
Q4: After you heard those three magic letters, how did your SEO training begin? Online? With a book? With a course?
@CaitlinBoroden: My training kicked off with @sonray and @dragonsearch! Reading lots of blogs and books as well.
@ScottCowley: I had informal job training, but I bought SEO for Dummies and read at night. My wife would write quizzes for me.
@sonray: Read all the blog posts until they become boring. Experimented and failed often which was the best learning.
@MindyDWeinstein: You also learn a lot at SEO conferences by networking. A collection of knowledge all in one place.
@paulaspeak: @smx sets the standard IMO for Internet marketing conferences. Even @dannysullivan & @mattcutts are there.
@KristiKellogg: Fun and random fact — March is the busiest month for #SEO conferences. How do I know? I made the Internet Marketing Conference Calendar.
Q5: What about learning at Internet marketing conferences? Which ones do you attend, and are they worth the price?
@sonray: Depends on your knowledge level and the level of the conf. Some are duds, some are FANTASTIC.
@KevinWaugh: I went to Internet Retailer Web Design conference last year and the SEO part was high level, nothing in part of new tricks. Score: 6/10.
@MatthewAYoung: I think if you’re learning something that can improve your business, conferences are worth the cost.
@MindyDWeinstein: SMX and Pubcon conferences are always great. SMX Advanced is one I highly recommend.
@KristiKellogg: I think perhaps conferences are good once a base level of #SEO knowledge is in place.
@DigitalDionne: I’ve done Digital Summit and Digital Atlanta. I’ve learned good stuff. But really wanna hit SMX.
Real-World SEO Lessons
Q6: What is the most important lesson you had to learn as you gained experience as an SEO?
@sonray: Hustle wins. Pick yourself up off the mat when you fail big and be willing to put yourself back out there.
@MatthewAYoung: How to distill complex SEO concepts to clients so they could understand them.
@KristiKellogg: At first, I was hesitant to trade clever titles for optimized ones — until I saw keyword optimization maximizes reach!
@LysaChester: The fact that it is ever-changing and in SEO there is always something new to learn.
@SanDiegoSEO: Test everything no matter what you’ve heard.
@tony_dwm: That it wasn’t about me. It was about helping clients achieve online results. If they won, I won. If not, why?
@crbawden: Just because we understand #SEO is important doesn’t mean everyone else does.
@MatthewAYoung: You can learn all you want about SEO, but if you aren’t good at client services, then expertise means little.
@nikipayne: Most important lesson learned: Don’t ever buy links!!!
@DigitalDionne: Patience. You won’t be an SEO sorceress in a few days, weeks, months or years.
@ScottCowley: SEO is one piece of a gigantic pie. It works better for some than others. 85% of it doesn’t change. People in SEO are awesome.
@CallMeLouzander: Also, good point. SEO has to work in conjunction with marketing and development to be effective.
Becoming a Professional SEO
Q7: When did it seem that the training wheels had come off and that you warranted the title “SEO”?
@SanDiegoSEO: The first time a client referred me to a friend of theirs, then again when a firm gave me continued pay days.
@sonray: When my clients started seeing sustained traffic & conversion increases month over month.
@KevinWaugh: When the scenario in A6 happened, it shaped my standing in that organization on SEO.
@LysaChester: When I started creating SEO marketing campaigns on my own and they paid off! FTW!
@MindyWeinstein: When I was no longer the one asking the questions, but was the one answering them (and I was seeing results).
@crbawden: When I could finally hold conversations on industry events, probably took at least 6 months of research and reading.
@DigitalDionne: When I started having my own ideas. I’m still just two years in. But it’s like a kid… when they’re a baby, they just listen. But by 11, they have their own thoughts. When I got my own thoughts, I felt like an SEO.
@KristiKellogg: When I saw my articles begin to rank #1.
@MatthewAYoung: When SEO became my state of mind.
Advice for Those Just Getting Started
Q8: What advice would you give to someone wanting to get into SEO?
@LanceMoore22: Be willing to learn. Always learn.
@sonray: Never say no to the opportunities that come your way; be giving with your knowledge.
@SanDiegoSEO: Learn the technical side as well as learning analytics to show what your work has been producing.
@MindyDWeinstein: Work with an SEO company that is willing to train you. Take your time, study and when you are ready, get your hands dirty.
@DigitalDionne: Develop mentors you can trust. Do the white hat – but learn the black hat too. There’s value in knowing the good and bad.
@KristiKellogg: Carefully consider you’re going to learn from. #IChooseBruce
@MatthewAYoung: Learn all you can from the white hat community on what do right, also attend #SEOchat every Thurs!
@djpaisley: Follow and engage with OLD School SEOs still in the game working at the top levels of the industry!!
@kickstartseo: Work with an SEO company that is willing to train you. Take your time, study and when you are ready, get your hands dirty.
Continuing SEO Education
Q9: How do you continue your SEO education?
@MindyDWeinstein: Read SEO blogs and attend conferences. Of course, join the #seochat whenever you can! :)
@SanDiegoSEO: With no job ever “done” continued work is the best education, but shows, blogs, and articles help too.
@sonray: Building up and teaching my team, sharing what we’ve learned whenever and however possible. Helping others.
@DigitalDionne: Currently doing Market Motives for work. But mostly by reading books and testing (or at least trying to).
@KevinWaugh: Twitter is great to get pulse of industry. Along with forums link @Inboundorg
@CallMeLouzander: Following good SEOs on Twitter and G+ helps. @sonray is right- good SEO involves helping and educating each other. #payitforward
The Future of SEO Education
Q10: Where do you think SEO education is headed? Is this going to be something the class of 2025 will major in?
@sonray: Depends on what happens w/higher ed and people’s opinions; self-learners will always be but degrees will add legitimacy.
@MindyDWeinstein: I believe more colleges will start to offer SEO education. Things change, of course, but students need a foundation.
@KevinWaugh: I think it will baked into the Marketing Degrees, along with other digital endeavors.
Thank you to everyone who participated in this week’s #SEOchat! #SEOchat is held every Thursday at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET on Twitter. Learn more about participating here.