Ask a seasoned SEO how to get good at the trade and many will give you similar advice. You may be directed towards conferences or industry news sites. These are excellent ways of building your knowledge of theory. Learning theory alone is not enough, others will say. You should hone your craft with a practice website. This might be your own blog or an affiliate site. You can test out your newly acquired knowledge, learned from others’ experiences and ideas, without risking anyone’s livelihood. This too is solid advice. There is nothing like getting stuck in at the deep end to put your understanding to the test. How though do you identify where you are going wrong if you aren’t seeing growth in your “practice site”? It can be difficult to see where your gaps in knowledge are which are preventing progress. The necessary skills of a successful SEO are wider than just the ability to make a webpage rank. We need to be able to communicate, think strategically, and understand the wider marketing landscape. This article sets out some alternative methods of testing your existing knowledge and making you a well-rounded SEO.
1. Reddit:You need no introduction to Reddit, if you are within the digital marketing industry you are likely already familiar with it. However, you might not be aware that it’s a great educational tool as well as a place to lose 3 hours looking at cats. One of the most enjoyable aspects of Reddit is that there are communities for just about everything, including digital marketing. There are some dedicated sub-reddits specifically for SEO; r/SEO, r/bigseo and r/TechSEO are popular ones. Here you can ask your questions about SEO or the impact of a recent Google announcement. John Mueller, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst, is also known to frequent these “subs” and is very helpful in answering Redditors’ queries. By asking a question in these forums you are inviting answers from SEOs around the world. It is instant access to professionals you may never meet otherwise. Be warned though, there are no barriers to providing advice on Reddit. Anyone with an account can comment on a post. This means there is no way of vetting the advice you are given. That is, apart from the down-voting and corrections of other Redditors. This brings me on to the second use of Reddit in building your SEO knowledge, answering questions yourself. There is nothing like mustering your courage and giving your opinion, just to have someone swoop in and correct you. It can be painful, but it is also an effective way to learn. If you have an opinion about a subject someone has raised in their post, take a risk and voice it. Accept that someone with more experience may tell you why your suggestion would not work. You can guarantee you will never forget what they said. You may disagree with them, but that process of reasoning through your argument will strengthen your knowledge. Please don’t actually argue with them, let’s keep the SEO industry a friendly one. You could ask them more clarifying questions, however, which will help you dig deeper into their reasoning. You may listen to their response and realize they are correct. They may save you making a serious mistake. Posing your response as an opinion that you are asking to have sense-checked is a safer way of opening up your theory for challenge by others. It is also a better way of preventing the original poster from following your advice if it might not be right.
2. Write SEO Guides:Another way to sense-check your SEO methodology is to write guides for other people. It will help you to organize your thoughts and identify where you may be lacking detail in some areas. You could create material for others in your team, or to publish online, and ask for feedback. This will strengthen your processes as well as expose you to new ways of working. The key is to make sure you ask other people to try out the guides and allow them to constructively feedback on them. The process of creating a guide means you will need to have enough knowledge of the subject that you can bring someone else through it step-by-step. Through writing it you will likely need to research some aspects and inevitably discover other methods of achieving the final outcome. It may lead you to discover more effective ways of carrying out your regular SEO tasks.
3. Teaching a Family Member:If you have been in SEO for a while there is a high chance you have spent at least one family gathering explaining that you don’t actually work for Google, but you do care a lot about search engines. Use this opportunity to sharpen your SEO skills by exposing your knowledge gaps and refining your powers of communication. When asked to explain what you do for a living you are stress-testing your understanding of the fundamentals. Teaching family or friends the basics of SEO will force you to think through what you know in a logical way. It will highlight any gaps in your knowledge, especially if your willing subject starts asking questions that you feel unable to answer. This will give you an indication of what you need to research in more detail. Take the question, “what is a search engine robot?”. You might be certain you know. However, explaining it to someone else could show that you are not as sure of the finer details as you thought. Understanding what a search bot really is could greatly open up your understanding of technical SEO. If every question you struggle to answer is used as a jumping-off point for your own learning you will fill gaps in your knowledge quickly. Teaching an industry-outsider will also help you learn how to efficiently communicate SEO to someone with little to no knowledge of it. This is a very valuable skill as we frequently need to talk about SEO to clients, stakeholders and bosses who may be only aware of it at a top-level. It could also give you ideas of the sorts of questions a client may have, or where there are frequent misunderstandings of how search engines work. Discuss SEO enough times with those who don’t know about it and you will soon have a multitude of analogies and illustrations at your disposal.
4. Learning from Colleagues in Related Fields:Don’t work in isolation. Ask a colleague or acquaintance who is in a related field to give you an overview of their job. It can be a great way to dig into how their profession can impact yours. For instance, learning more about PPC can help you understand conversion funnels. Asking a developer how code is rendered is invaluable for growing your proficiency in technical SEO. Discussing other stakeholders’ jobs with them gives you a better idea of how SEO fits into the wider picture of a website and profitable business. Whenever someone else’s decision impacts your SEO success ask them why they chose that course of action.
- Why did the developer add that line in the robots.txt?
- Why did your boss decide to lower the SEO budget in favor of display advertising?