I want to work in SEO. Where do I start?

The field of Search Engine Optimisation is often considered to be an impenetrable and mysterious one, the lair of covert, shady types desperate to keep their clandestine methods and illicit tricks away from the public eye lest they be discovered for the manipulative tricksters that they are.

In the short time that I’ve had the pleasure of attempting to immerse myself into this community I’ve encountered absolutely no one who fits this description.

This perception appears to be exacerbated almost exclusively by misinformed commenters who appear to simply be frightened and wary of an industry they don’t understand. This reality is unfathomably sad as I have rarely encountered a group of individuals so eager to share knowledge and strive for mutual growth, success and evolution. There exists on the internet a vast array of incredibly useful and relevant knowledge that is available free of charge to the eager and willing would-be SEO. From e-books to case studies, journals, blogs, infographics and more, the list is exhaustive.

I would consider myself far from an authoritative source when it comes to discerning what is, and isn’t, a useful resource, but I found these two pieces to be exceptionally helpful:

http://www.seomoz.org/beginners-guide-to-seo

http://www.clockworkpirate.com/

The SEO Moz guide serves as a thorough and all-encompassing guide to the industry and its practices. The Clockwork Pirate e-book presents more ideas concerning the mind-set and attitude that one must adopt in order to find success as an SEO, particularly in the field of link building.

The necessary ability to adapt and respond to each individual task and challenge presented by potentially vastly differing clientele is one which I soon grasped the importance of. The fact that one method or technique achieved great success with a project by no means signals that this same plan can be extrapolated across a portfolio of clients, let alone one containing a myriad of companies representing an even greater number of industry sectors. In order to achieve success in the field of SEO you must strive to be a visionary chameleon of sorts, tailoring each strategy specifically to meet the needs of every specific client.

Google search results

SEO is an industry in which it’s constantly necessary to be receptive to new ideas. Google’s algorithm is constantly fluid, and you must be too.

By this same token, it is of paramount importance to display contrast and variety even in each individual project. If one specific method yields vast success and boosts rankings, it is important not to allow yourself to be biased and one dimensional. A colourful, diverse link profile is a natural link profile. And that’s what Google is looking for.

It is so important to comprehend the fact that no magic method or quick fix exists. Initially I was eagerly anticipating a big reveal, the moment when my colleagues would unveil the fabled SEO Holy Grail allowing me to bask in the transcendent light of page one rankings, but eventually I came to the realisation that this was never going to happen. The secret of SEO is quite simply hard graft, boundless ingenuity and determined perseverance.

Perseverance is another theme that I would place particular emphasis on. As a naïve SEO neophyte I approached the discipline of manual outreach (the practice of actively contacting people to discuss partnerships or link building opportunities) with a callow sort of optimism.

“If I email someone of course they’ll respond!” They probably won’t.

“Why wouldn’t they? Surely that’s just mean?” Because the individual who you’ve deemed influential enough to contact is probably extremely busy, and often beset by a multitude of useless emails. And some people are just mean.

So try, try, try again. Don’t be defeated. Mr Super Blog really might want to publish your guest post, but perhaps your email was unfortunate enough to be sandwiched between a spammy advert for a payday loan and a message from a Nigerian prince eager to divide his wealth among random strangers. Perhaps your subject line wasn’t considered relevant? Perhaps the email address that you found is no longer in use? So compose an irresistible subject line, and send a letter! There’s always a way. Don’t give up.

In summary, I’d highlight three main headlines to derive from my initial foray into SEO:

  1. Stop looking for and/or expecting a magic, instant page 1 super-secret method. It doesn’t exist. Commit to the long term strategy or you’re destined to struggle.
  2. Realise the importance of perseverance. Don’t be denied!
  3. Strive to forge a diverse array of skills. Adapt to each situation that you’re faced with and always endeavour to be original. You’ll end up with a diverse link profile and an authentic plethora of skills to employ going forward.

If you’re starting a new business, or just new to the world of SEO, check out the following links for some great SEO tips:

6 Onsite SEO tips for businesses

3 ways businesses can improve local ranking 

If you have any questions or want to add anything, please don’t hesitate to comment below. I can also be found on Twitter. Thanks for reading!