3 Lessons Learned

Your first year as an SEO is bound to be a true learning experience. Here are three of the most important lessons that I’ve learned  from wonderful teachers, countless hours of research and most of all, through practice. I hope these will point you in the right direction as you begin your career as an SEO.

Lesson #1 – Relationships are everything

Relationship building is more important than link building. The sooner you realize this the quicker you will be on the road to success in this (and really any) industry. The biggest hurdle that you will run into is building relationships from behind a computer screen.

Being sincere and genuine online is the best advice that I can give you. Building relationships is infinitely easier when you help others. Give a fellow SEO hints and tips that they could implement on their website if they’re on the SEOMoz Q&A boards. Let a blogger know that you’re a fan and that you’ve subscribed to their newsletter. Build relationships with bloggers even if they are not in your industry. Your efforts will only be appreciated if you are REAL. Don’t fake it, be genuine.

Lesson #2 – Great SEOs focus on user experience

In the heart of every SEO there is a trailblazing marketer in the digital age. The best marketers have a knack for understanding what the customer wants and needs at every stage of the marketing funnel. Once you master this type of empathy, you will begin to “get it”.

Rand Fishkin of SEOMoz as well as other industry leaders (Wil Reynolds, Ian Lurie, Neil Patel) continually stress the importance of the user and doing what is best for them. Too many SEOs get caught up in Google rankings as opposed to user intent and experience. We can’t control search engine algorithms, so let’s take control of the value that a website can offer to a customer.

Lesson #3 – Creativity drives success

Search Engine Optimization requires a lot of creativity. This can be the most intimidating as well as exciting part of being an SEO. You are this generation’s Mad Men. To be good at this job you need to constantly be thinking outside the box. Each website is unique and there is no one size fits all solution.

I like to think that creativity is bred out of a mix of knowledge, entertainment and distraction. My personal advice: know the ins and outs of your client and their goals. Next, brainstorm a ton of ideas. Finally, take a breath and go have some fun (at least move on to something different). Repeat this process until you get an “ah-ha!” moment. Many times I have found that it is when I’m not thinking about a client’s strategy that my best ideas come to mind.

Let me know what you guys think about the lessons I’ve learned and post anything else that might be useful in the comments. I’m sure a ton experienced SEOs will have very valuable info to share with our young SEOs in training.

Photo by Cristiano Betta