In Search of SEO Training

Dec 24, 2008 2:43 AM  By

In times of economic uncertainty and shrinking budgets, more merchants are taking search engine optimization into their own hands by bringing SEO “in house.”

It’s great that merchants are empowering their staff to optimize Websites and build inbound links. Nonetheless, there’s an old adage that goes “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing” and it holds true for SEO.

An overzealous but well-meaning staffer can inadvertently cause more damage than good—even tripping a Google penalty for over-optimizing pages or for acquiring too many links too quickly.

So it’s essential that your staff be well schooled on SEO—from the “best practices” to the technical nuances. It’s also important that they be equipped with the bevy of SEO tools and resources essential to be effective. Here’s a few strategies learning the SEO ropes.

Any fan of online learning will appreciate the vast repositories of SEO training materials available via paid subscription at SEOmoz.org, InternetMarketingNinjas.com, and Training.SEObook.com.
I consider all three to be “must haves” for the serious search marketer.

At $3,000 per year, InternetMarketingNinjas.com is the priciest of the lot, but its training videos come from more than a dozen top experts on SEO, and it comes with a number of excellent tools—most of which are accompanied with training videos on their use.

An SEOmoz Pro subscription (starting at $79 per month) is the absolute “must have”—in part for its “Pro Guides” and in part for its impressive new Linkscape tool.

If you don’t have the budget for any of the above, there’s still quality, free education to be had in the blogosphere. The public (and freely available) SEOmoz Blog is an amazing resource in its own right.
Beyond that, my recommended blog reading list is too long to list here, but it includes: mattcutts.com/blog/, searchengineland.com, seobook.com, naturalsearchblog.com, seroundtable.com, searchenginejournal.com, and blogoscoped.com.

Some of the best learning happens on the job “through osmosis” from work colleagues who are already skilled at SEO. This can be hard to come by if your company is just venturing out into search marketing—this is where internships can play a valuable role. By having selected staff intern at an SEO agency or client-side with a company with deep SEO expertise, the intern learns valuable real-world SEO skills.

Webinars and interviews from Google engineers and industry practitioners are also great sources for learning. Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team, is the most sought-after Googler (Google employee) by the SEO community; he’s seemingly all knowing when it comes to Google’s search engine.

Besides reading Matt’s blog, you’d do well to watch/listen to every one of his interviews, a sampling of which can be found at www.mattcutts.com/blog/tons-of-pubcon-interviews-on-video-and-audio/ – more can be found be searching Matt’s blog for “interviews.” My interviews of Googlers Matt Cutts, Amanda Camp, Maile Ohye and Vanessa Fox (now ex-Googler) are all available at www.netconcepts.com/tag/seo+podcasts – mixed in with industry veterans Mike Moran, Eric Ward, Alan Rimm-Kaufman, and others. Turn your car into a mobile university and listen to podcasts rather than music on your commute into the office.

There’s also something to be said for real-world (in person) learning. Conferences like SMX West, SMX East, SMX Advanced (searchmarketingexpo.com) offer not just great networking but a full program of conference sessions spanning SEO copywriting, keyword research, internal linking, link building, local search, and mobile search, to name a few.

Then there are regional meetings like SEMNE (semne.org) and SEMpdx (semportland.com). These are run more frequently (usually monthly); typically one major topic is tackled by one or several presenters.

What about reading books, you ask? The problem with the discipline of SEO is that it’s evolving so quickly that a book becomes dated soon after its release. So I rarely recommend books on SEO that are more than a year old.

With that said, the book Search Engine Marketing Inc. just came out in its second edition, and it’s excellent.The O’Reilly book, The Art of SEO, is due out in May, and it will be excellent as well (I’m slightly biased; I’m one of the authors).