Going from SEO N00B to Full-Timer in Six Months and What I Learned Along the Way

When I was four years-old I asked my mother what red and green traffic lights meant.  I immediately followed with two more burning questions regarding why dogs wag their tails and why people respond, “you’re welcome” to a “thank you.”  Done!  For the next several minutes, I was omnipotent.  My education was complete.  I knew everything there was to know in the universe and was ready to take on the world.  I must have been a charming child! (Involuntary shudder.)

I am now what you all call an SEO newbie. A few members of the SEER team came to talk with the Temple University American Marketing Association about the topic of SEO. After their presentation I sent an email thanking them for introducing me to a whole new sector available to marketing majors and asked to discuss the company further. They invited me in for an interview and the rest is history. Boy, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  It was like being four years-old all over again with hundreds of questions.  I don’t like being the only person in the room who doesn’t know what is going on.

When I started at SEER last November SEO was simply three letters pushed together. In fact, starting here was like entering a different world with an entirely different language. SERPs, link-building, and domain authorities were foreign concepts. Various status codes like 301, 302, and 404? Forget about it. Spiders were eight legged creatures I screamed and threw shoes at and a white-hat was something you didn’t wear after Labor Day. Needless to say, I had a lot to learn.

So, as my intern status is replaced with the title of associate, I thought I would list a few things that I have learned over the course of this internship.

1.  Content truly is king

This is a common expression that spans over many industries. I didn’t realize how true it was until I started working on SEO. I now understand how detrimental poor or inaccurate content can beContent that is inaccurate on a site is the same as lying to someone. Think of it this way- everyone’s heard the online dating horror stories. You think you’re going to meet your perfect man/woman, but when you arrive you don’t see the long-legged blonde model in her 20s or the tall, dark and handsome hunk working his way through med-school like the profiles indicate. Instead you find the man/woman of your dreams is really a 45 year-old divorcee who is unemployed and lives at home with their parents/cats.

When people are led to a site based upon false content and discover that the page does not offer what it promised, the situation is very similar to the blind date catastrophe. Content is one of the most important aspects in regard to creating the best user experience possible.

2.  Knowing how to outreach

Creating these messages is no easy feat. There is a thought process behind every keystroke when crafting an outreach message. So many factors are taken into consideration for this process. Are you reaching out to a blogger that is most likely to check their email on the weekend? Is this someone who would appreciate a more casual message or is formality the better approach? Because our world has become so technologically focused, it is sometimes hard to remember that there is a real person on the other end of the monitor.  Be real. Be human. Be transparent. These are all factors that have led to successful outreach campaigns since I have started at SEER.

3.  Know your strengths and weaknesses

This is a fast moving field and it is important to get things done right. Bonus points if you can get them done right the first time around! The important thing to remember is that no one is perfect. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. The people that succeed are those that can identify their weaknesses and own up to them. People that know their strengths and find people that can compensate for their weaknesses are the real power-houses. Admitting a weakness in an area does not make you weak. It makes you smart and it can help you get the job done at the maximum possible level.

4.  SEO is more than link building

If the sole purpose of SEO was to sit behind a computer all day spamming other sites for a link, the industry would not have survived this long in my opinion. Did SEO function that way at one time? Yes (from what I have been told by the SEO vets). There was a time when SEO consisted of people embarking on spammy and shady endeavors (or what I now know as black-hat practices). The important thing is that the industry adapted to survive.

The SEO companies that lived to tell the black-hat tales are the game-changers. The best SEOs thrive due to a combination of marketing, transparency, and search. Not only can SEO increase your online presence, but it can grow your business. What people seem to forget is how closely correlated one’s visibility online is with the success of a company.  Link-building, when done right, can boost the success of a company.

5.  Failing is ok

Failing is something I have come to accept as a part of SEO, mostly in regards to link building. When you are sending out your emails, making your calls, sending your feelers out into the abyss that is the World Wide Web, you are going to fail. No one achieves every link building opportunity they try to attain. It’s impossible. (If you’re reading this and saying to yourself ‘but I can’, you’re either delusional or brilliant. It’s such a thin line between the two).

As Ben Affleck so eloquently put it in his Oscar acceptance speech, “It doesn’t matter how you get knocked down in life, ‘cause that’s gonna happen. All that matters is you gotta get up.”  Keep sending out those messages and calling those people. Do not let your failures stop you from trying and avoid letting your ego inflate too much when you achieve success (although a nice pat on the back is always encouraged). Everyone has good and bad days. Certain endeavors may fail, but if you keep trying, something is going to work and it will be worth it.

6.  The learning is never over

If you are someone who likes to learn something once and be done – this is not the field for you. I mean it. Get out. This is a field that never stops evolving and reinventing itself. This is the Madonna of industries. I could spend every day reading articles about new technologies and methods. I think that’s what I love about SEO so much. I am someone who gets bored very easily but I can honestly say that this job has never been dull. In fact, I’ve described the experience like being on a roller coaster ride. You’re climbing that first hill and you’re figuring out a strategy that would work for your client. When everything is in place and you’re ready to run with your campaign, you round the crest of the hill and you plunge into the fast paced adventure. The ups and downs occur as you reach out and find those link opportunities and suddenly the ride is over and you’re left with the feeling of wanting to do it all over again.

So, for those interns looking for the super-secret-recipe that will land you a full-time position, it contains a not-so-secret ingredient – HARD WORK. That’s right! It’s a term that may be elusive to some people, but it is the key. For those of you who need a refresher let me tell you what I believe hard work entails. In this industry (or any internship for that matter) hard work begins with seeking out assignments.  Any assignment.  No task is too small for you.  Remember:  you don’t know anything yet so all assignments bring bits and pieces of enlightenment.  Try to work for as many people as you can. Don’t be afraid to ask a million questions.  At this point you are all brawn and no brain, so any opportunity to take a dog task off someone’s desk is a golden opportunity for you.  If you do the task well, your name will be remembered.  And once that happens you will be rewarded with harder and more interesting tasks.

If the task can be completed in more than one way, then follow through with all the possibilities.  Work as if you were the one who had to face the client.  Work as if it were your own company.  Your name is attached to your work; therefore, your reputation for thoroughness is always on the line.   A desire to learn, a healthy fear of failure and a little hutzpah are essential characteristics for an SEO intern/employee (and this may just be my opinion, but I don’t think other industries would complain if you were in possession of these traits either).

Internship programs often hire many interns and only grant full-time positions to a chosen few.  Those other newbies are your yard stick for excellence.  Before you go all Mean Girls on the other poor interns, I’m not saying you should push them in front of a bus or put Visine in their coffee.  Don’t forget to be a team player.  You can learn a lot from other interns.  Just don’t be afraid to work your hardest.  This isn’t about staying with pack.  Like Baz Luhrmann says: “the race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.”  Can you do better than your last assignment?

My dad taught me that you can’t expect to get something if you don’t ask for it. (He also taught me that there’s “no crying in baseball” so I should “suck it up, princess,” but that’s beside the point).  If you believe you’re doing stellar work and are unsure of your status with the company, it may be time to ask for clarification.  Let them know “I don’t just want a job. I want this job and I want to work for you.”   I could go on and on about this topic (look out for a post in the future), but I digress.

This company makes me want to be a better employee.   This wasn’t just an internship for me.  When I was introduced to this industry, I knew I belonged here.   Never did I anticipate finding a job I enjoyed this much.  I’ll never be that four year-old again that thinks she knows everything.  She has been replaced with a twenty-two year old who knows nothing and I’m okay with that.   Everyday is a new experience and another chance to learn something new…

 What did you think of my first blog post for SEER? Have any tips of your own? Comment below or contact me through my Twitter at @KATHRYNSaKEEPER.