Since 10 years ago, SEO has come on leaps and bounds. The journey began with blatant spamming; followed by a phase of quasi-spamming, which was then followed by something more legitimate (if you can call guest posting legitimate). But now we’re at a point where the only way to succeed is through full-blown brand development.
However, the problem with full-blown brand development is that it isn’t cheap; SEO agencies are paying their top SEOs upwards of $100,000 and according to a report by SEOmoz, the average salary is around the $40,000 mark. So how can a small or medium sized agency be expected to afford all of this?
The thing is, SEO agencies don’t need to hire SEOs.
As an owner of an SEO agency – that sounds like a pretty irresponsible/reckless/stupid thing to say – so let me clarify. SEO agencies need very talented SEOs, but they don’t need a company full of staff with 10 year backgrounds. At Inbound we employ talented individuals regardless of their understanding of SEO; it’s not to keep costs down (although admittedly that is a convenient benefit), it’s to focus on what’s important – culture fit, written ability and personal development.
But how can you get a team of excellent writers and project managers completely engaged in SEO without the usual formal (boring) training process?
Google’s Algo History
Whenever someone asks me what I do for living, it’s easy to get carried away talking about the wonders of link building and content development – but this is pretty sad; and it’s hard to get anyone excited about anchor text. However I find that people always show at least a mild resemblance of interest when I start talking about algorithm updates. If Google hit a site because it had a ton of advertising above the fold or because they offered a weak user experience – people are going to get it; but better yet they’re going to begin to understand what Google likes to see in a website.
So we’ve started something of an office tradition. Every new member of the team has two weeks to study up on Google’s algo history (that’s pretty easy thanks to SEOmoz), and then at the end of those two weeks they present a brief overview of what Google has changed over the years. It’s great for the individual but it’s also a great way to reinforce these updates with the rest of the team.
Algorithm history is great and all, but when it comes to SEO the best way to get clued up is to look at what’s happening now. We decided that the best way to achieve this was to spend the first 15 minutes of each day browsing SEO news sites (our favourites being SEroundtable.com, searchengineland.com and the recently formed, domain theiving news aggregator – inbound.org). Every morning there will be something new happening, and most of the time there’s something relatively exciting on the horizon. Given enough consistency, checking out daily news gets a little addicting and it opens up the office for debate and discussion nearly every day. What’s better is that people in a team can actually get to grips with why they’re doing what they do; no one finds it rewarding to sit a desk and carry out tasks with no understanding of why.
Getting Hands On
About 6 or 7 years ago I didn’t have a clue what HTML was, let alone php and some of the more complex codey stuff. So in order to get a grip, I started a few sites and began chopping them up and messing around with different elements. It helped that I actually wanted to learn; but I realised that without a doubt the best way to pick things up was to get hands on.
We don’t need everyone reading php code; but basic HTML helps, and an understanding of how different elements and meta tags are interpreted by search engines is important. Therefore we make sure that each member of the team owns a website in a market that they love; but for the most part, the way the website operates is totally down to them – we tie in every training session with each person’s project so that not only can they get hands on, but they have a reason to get hands on!
This kind of training is invaluable. It’s way more fun than writing down note after note and they can also reap the rewards of the traffic that they bring in.
Why Bother with All of this?
All of this stuff boils down to one thing. For a team to learn and improve, they need lots and lots of enthusiasm; this enthusiasm drives debate and discussions in the office which in turn helps people to plan better strategies and question different methods. There’s no substitute for enthusiasm; and finding it doesn’t require an expensive SEO with a decade’s worth of experience.
Featured Image Credit: Onward Search