SEO has taken the online marketing world by storm and for good reason: there are about 2 billion websites in the world, and the demand for SEOs is exploding. It’s prime real estate for marketers, and everyone wants a piece of the pie. SEO has seen a steady increase over the last ten years and shows no signs of slowing down.
A career in SEO can provide you with a comfortable life, stability, flexibility, and the opportunity to meet some amazing people. But, it can be difficult knowing where or who to turn to – the sheer volume of information out there can be intimidating when you’re just getting started. I would know because I used to walk in your shoes – I was, too, once a beginner trying to make it in the scary world of SEO.
So, I thought to myself: What advice would I give to an SEO trying to make it? What are the things I wish I’d known earlier in my SEO career, that would’ve helped me dodge a few bullets on the way?
If you’re looking to venture into the world of digital marketing and build a rewarding career in SEO, take advantage of the important lessons an SEO pro learned the hard way.
Embarking on an SEO career is exciting – it’s a profession that is fast-paced, innovative, and constantly evolving. While taking courses is a great idea to get started, there is a lot more you can do to learn the ropes. The best thing about choosing an SEO career is that you can have any background for an entry-level job. What it really takes to become a good SEO specialist is critical thinking, good communication skills, motivation, and adaptability.
The booming digital market would agree. In 2020, Forbes cited that the SEO industry exceeded $80 billion by the end of the year. Is SEO for everyone, however? Definitely not. If you like sticking to a certain way of doing things, don’t get into it. If you’re creative, analytical, love challenges, and learning new things — then jump on board. Those who will succeed in SEO are self-starters and, by nature, curious.
There is no direct or “right” path to SEO. You can be a new college grad or looking to change careers after 20 years. We all have different paths that got us there. Would it be good to have an official degree in digital marketing or computer science? Sure. But, what is most likely to make a difference?
No matter how you get into it, the SEO field requires some specific skills. Let’s dive into some insider strategies and resources to help you get there.
In my case, I learned everything the hard way. I started my SEO journey back when keyword stuffing was considered the gold standard and I fell into it by accident. I dove straight into the deep end of SEO without any formal SEO background and barely made it to the other side. But, I fell in love and have been doing it ever since.
Although it’s not what I had originally intended to do, I can’t tell you how happy I am things turned out the way they did. My remote job in SEO is freeing and fulfilling. It lets me be part of a team without having to sacrifice my introverted nature. But, it definitely came with its share of surprises. Along the way, I’ve picked up on some big trends and major mistakes. And lived to tell about it.
There’s so much I could have done better to advance faster in SEO. So, why not learn from my pains and gains? Here are key things I wish I’d known about SEO when I was embarking on my adventure.
There seems to be a lot of confusion about SEO and content marketing among the newbies. How do they fit together? Which one is more important? The answer is – content marketing is SEO. You can’t really do one without the other anymore. I wish I knew the impact that content marketing had on SEO when I started and how important high-quality content can be. Content marketing should be the coal to your SEO locomotive. If SEO is all about optimizing your business to drive more inbound traffic, then content marketing is SEO.
The SEO industry has turned to the shock-and-awe method of attracting new clients, which might get you a bit too eager. But, unless you’re using some black-hat technique that risks you getting banned or spam-based traffic that will only bounce and destroy your analytics, SEO won’t grow any business overnight. It will usually take 4-6 months to drive results, depending on many factors. So, don’t stress and be patient – slow and steady wins the SEO race.
When I first started my SEO career, I thought that keyword research was the end-all-be-all. I simply researched a keyword, stuffed it wherever I could and I was good, right? Boy, was I wrong. The foundation of a successful SEO strategy is laid on a solid understanding of your customer. SEO experts who build solutions from a user experience-improving perspective seldom go wrong. Invest heavily on technical SEO while keeping 3 main users in mind – your customer, audience, and the Search Engine bot. Be up to date on the trends in the industry and adapt to an ever-changing search landscape to stay ahead of the competition.
At one point in my SEO career, I was so focused on the technical side of SEO that I’d completely lost sight of how important great content is. I knew how to churn out run-of-the-mill content ideas, what structure to stick to, and how to link … But that’s as far as I got. I let my analytical mind run wild and spent too much time thinking about creating content, and too little time doing it. And that’s not how you drive organic traffic or succeed in SEO. What piece of advice would I give to my younger self? Get back in the trenches and gain more hands-on writing experience. Start with writing about what you know. See what works well and what doesn’t. Learn how to make the audience truly connect with the content on a personal level. Start following expert copywriters and pay attention to what they do and how they do it.
Surely, you’d be crazy to say no to money that comes walking through the door, right? Actually, it turns out I was crazy to say yes. I did a lot of project-based work for clients who didn’t have the potential or budget for a long-term commitment. After a while, I realized which clients would turn into lucrative and stable business opportunities and which ones wouldn’t. And that’s what started driving real growth. So, focus on working with clients that you think have a good chance at becoming long-term ones. Those are the ones you’ll enjoy working with the most. They’ll teach you the most, give you the best margins and let you gain some niche expertise and authority.
Don’t limit yourself and don’t be afraid to dive deep into SEO. So much of SEO is a guessing game and you may find a few surprises along the way. Don’t blindly follow the advice of the ‘godfathers’ of SEO without questioning it. Yes, a lot of people have been doing this for far longer, but changes and updates happen daily. Be curious – don’t be afraid to test, fail, get up and try again. Who knows? You might be the one on the brink of the next big SEO strategy breakthrough!
If you feel like there’s a ton to learn, you’re not alone – it’s part of what so many love about being in SEO. A habit that has enabled me throughout my SEO career is the fact that I prioritize learning daily. In an industry that is rapidly changing and filled with noise, you have to consume a lot regularly, while distilling truths for yourself. What I love about the SEO community is everyone’s willingness to share their knowledge and expertise. Today, there is no shortage of blogs, webinars, and podcasts on a range of SEO topics. You might even want to consider joining SEO groups on social media. Even though I have been in SEO for a long time, I still tune in to learn from other experts in the field.
With the SEO industry constantly evolving, one thing’s for sure: SEO is not only essential – it’s also exciting! If you’re craving challenges to keep you on your toes, it just might be your dream job!
Unfortunately, I can’t turn back the clock, so my decade-younger self will never read this. But you just did! Hopefully, what I’ve learned and shared will help you cut the learning curve and move forward in your SEO career more quickly.
SEO is a hidden gem and a digital-age superpower. Take pride in what you do and do it fiercely!
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