SEO scared me. It was technical, it kept changing its rules and it took a while to work. For a long time, I’ve looked at it as a collection of tricks you use to trick Google. Here is the story of how I learned SEO, made friends and started having fun teaching it.
1. Listen. Then Ask. And Listen Some More
I didn’t think I needed Search Engine Optimization. I was just starting out as a Digital Marketer and we had a full-time SEO person working with us at the agency. I saw to my own tasks and he did his own thing. And for a while, that was ok.
Then I got a nasty feeling that I wasn’t doing enough. That a Digital Marketer isn’t defined by what his job description had written down, in that particular company. So I decided to forgo the requirements and assumptions and start learning SEO.
I got my start using SEOMoz’s guides and articles. It seemed to be the authority on SEO and everything was neatly organized. It soon didn’t seem that technical or weird. They made it sound not only easy, but somewhat cool. It was a very liberating feeling to know that SEO will help you in the long run. And that if you do your job right and do little tweaks along the way, traffic will come to you.
It didn’t seem like a struggle anymore and no longer did I think SEO was just about tricking Google or search engines in general.
2. Listen. Ask Some More. Write Things Down
My proudest moment came when I managed to get 2 SEO experts to sit down with me and explain the process and the thinking behind it. I got my SEO colleague and someone I’ve found on facebook who had been optimizing websites for about years.
We arranged to meet at a Chinese restaurant and boy was I ready! I started quoting things I had read, only to find they were obsolete or no longer in use. I calmly wrote little notes down, but inside I was terrified: “Everything I thought I knew about SEO is wrong, they’ll laugh at me now”. And of course, nothing bad happened.
I later found out that bringing people together and creating even a tiny community is something people are grateful for. After all, no one wants to feel alone and unsure if what they’re doing is ok.
3. Listen. Do. Ask. Show
Soon after we had the first meeting, I created a local facebook group, focused on helping marketers with their SEO and PPC issues. It grew organically and it found its own identity over time.
Reading and listening was fine, but I knew I had to prove I had what it takes to really DO SEO. I started a WordPress blog reviewing local shaorma places (there are a lot of them in Romania, so I had a good niche to start with). Nobody was really doing this, so my competition were the sites for all of these shaorma places. I knew right away I could compete and get to #1 in the Google Search Results.
My secret? Create good content, sprinkle a little SEO on top and wait. I consistently wrote 8 reviews and within a few months I was at #1. I was thrilled. There I was, still thinking of myself as a newbie, overcoming well-established sites.
I came back to my little facebook group and told pretty much everyone about what I had done. They couldn’t believe it – I was just starting out, my blog wasn’t hosted anywhere, there wasn’t any backlinking campaign in place…and yet there I was, at #1.
4. Listen. Do. Teach
I continued to talk about my results and methods, but also teaching basic SEO to young up and coming digital marketers around the country. I’m still passionate about teaching and I’m glad I managed to do it in the overall context of website optimization.
SEO is nothing without content. And great content might never find its true potential without SEO. I continued listening to my students, so I adapted my courses to fit their needs and answer their questions.
5. Do. Teach. Listen
I’ve continued my SEO experiments and I’m now doing burger reviews and I’m already at #19 and growing, after only 1 post and 1 month of starting the new blog.
Back at the digital agency, I’ve been promoted so I now manage the SEO department as well. We’ve implemented a set of weekly challenges and tests, centered around Search Engine Optimization. Now we get to work as a team and focus on different elements, like speed, innovation, performance, and trainings.
Since other colleagues could benefit from knowing a bit of SEO, we’ve also delivered a very popular internal training. And we’re planning a few more, mostly targeting advanced users. We can clearly see the impact that its had on project managers, where we can now feel we speak the same language.
So not only did SEO improve my vision about websites, optimization, and teams, but it has also brought us together and made us more efficient. We communicate more clearly and we’re able to work together on issues or problems that until a few months ago were only designated to the SEO department.
So what were the steps of learning SEO and how can you get started?
- I listened to people who were smarter than me.
- I asked them lots of questions and made notes.
- I continued to read and learn, but also apply the techniques I learned.
- I showed everyone my results and taught them my methods.
- I kept on teaching and learning and remembered to listen for new advice.