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6 Lessons Learned from 6 Months of SEO

John Doherty —  May 8, 2011
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A new job in a new industry guarantees that you will learn new skills. This holds true whether your new job is as a janitor (did you know that there are 5000 janitors in the US with a PhD?), a teacher, or an SEO.

Since I am in transition between my first and second SEO jobs (from in-house SEO to SEO agency), I thought I would take the time to write out a few lessons that I have learned. Many of these can, and might be, fleshed out into more detail in the future, but for now:

Six Lessons I Have Learned

Lesson 1: Learn how to use Excel.

Your work will be much easier (and you will get a lot more done) if you can spin some graphs, compose a useful VLOOKUP formula, and sort and filter information contained in tables. When you are dealing with tens of thousands of lines of data, your brain (and nerves) will thank you. To get started, read Excel for SEOs.

Lesson 2: Communicate with others on your team.

If you’re working on a team (and you probably should when just beginning SEO), take the time to learn the strengths of others on the team. For example, the team I just left consisted of three people. Ethan is super strong in Excel and Analytics. I learned a ton from him. Ryan is a workhorse and creative when it came to linkbuilding strategies. We all learned from each other and did some great work.

Lesson 3: Read everything you can.

Enough said.

Lesson 4: You will make mistakes.

Ask questions, make a plan to correct, and learn from these mistakes. As an SEO, you will have access to awesomely powerful tools, such as Analytics, Webmaster Tools, and others. Read documentation and best practices. If you’re not taking chances, you’re not going to learn as quickly, but do not be stupid either. Use tools like SEOmoz’s Pro Q/A (if you’re a Pro member). There are industry experts there just itching to help you!

Lesson 5: Put what you learn into action.

I used to follow some RSS feeds that did not add any value to my Google Reader. I have now un-subscribed from these. If the feed is not adding value that you can use, feel free to unsubscribe. Also, if you are reading too much, you’re not working enough. Use Postrank to filter out not-so-popular articles from your RSS feed.

Lesson 6: Have fun!

The SEO community is full of great people who are not only good at what they do, but are also very likeable and approachable. Don’t be afraid to engage and ask questions of them.

What lessons have you learned in SEO? I’d love to hear some input.

John Doherty

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I'm the Senior Marketing Manager of HotPads.com, based in San Francisco. Previous to Hotpads I worked at Distilled for 2 years as an online marketing consultant. In my spare time I shoot lifestyle photography, ski, rock climb, and update my Twitter and Google+ accounts.

6 responses to 6 Lessons Learned from 6 Months of SEO

  1. Hey John,those are some good lessons you learned. Really, excel knowledge is essential for SEOs even I too want to learn it & from distilled only, have seen excel teaching post in their blog before also.

    • John Doherty May 8, 2011 at 1:53 pm

      Hey hyderali –
      Thanks! Excellent Excel knowledge is super important, you are right. I think it’s wonderful that Mike put together such a good intro to Excel. Honestly, when I hear from some SEOs that they do not know how to clean data in Excel, I wonder what they do all day….or how well they do their job!

  2. Business Strategies with John May 8, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    Love this post John, your going to do some awesome stuff over at Distilled. Will have to get together once your settled in New York. :)

    This SEO stuff is so interesting, I’m learning a ton. I’m very strong with Excel, having done large budgets. How do
    you use Excel for SEO purposes? What do you mean by cleaning data?

    I appreciate your help, John

    • Hey John –
      Thanks for the comment! I’m glad you like this post. It would be great to get together in NYC!

      By “cleaning data” I mean taking large chunks and interpreting it to find out what you need (ie types of links or onsite changes), and then using that data to make positive change happen.

      I guess some of this also hinges upon prior knowledge of what it means to have a good link profile, etc. At a high level, “cleaning data” is not necessary for SEO on your site. Simply follow the Best Practices (many of which are laid out in SEOmoz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO). The detailed things should probably be left to a professional…at least at first, I think.

  3. I think the biggest lesson after about 12 months of SEO is that nothing happens over night. Long term SEO benifits take long term commitments.

  4. Thanks you John for share your experience. I found your site 2 days ago, and I have to thank you for your interesting blog.

    Good luck,

    Francisco
    From Montreal