*Post updated January 2012, originally published August 2011*
“I’m an SEO beginner and I want my first job.”
Is this you? Are you looking to find your first SEO job, but don’t know where to start? The SEO and online marketing industries are growing rapidly, with an incredible increase in the amount of jobs posted online:
We all need to know where to start when trying to learn a new skill, though, so allow me to give my thoughts from a couple of years of perspective.
Print and Read The Beginner’s Guide to SEO
SEOmoz (a website you must become familiar with if you are going to work in SEO) put out an incredible resource called The Beginner’s Guide to SEO. This guide, broken into multiple chapters, covers everything from the technical bits of websites to linkbuilding and how search engines work.
I have been carrying my copy around in my backpack for over a year and consult it often. Print it, dog-ear it, use it up, and then print it again. Trust me.
Build Your Own Website
Once you’ve built your first site, build another. Every time you launch a new website, you learn new skills or refresh old skills. Reminders such as the importance and work required to build an email list, optimize a site technically, implement OpenGraph tags, and more will constantly serve you well whether working inhouse or agency side. I recently relaunched SingleGeared.com, a side product, because I wanted to both make a site responsive and rebrand it, two things I had never done before. And I learned many important lessons along the way.
I highly recommend using WordPress, because it is relatively easy and quick to set up. The mass amount of available free plugins and enables you to customize your look and content on your site. The plugin I recommend most is Yoast’s WordPress SEO, because it is light and powerful. It fits all my onsite SEO needs.
Read Everything You Can
Subscribe to RSS feeds in your Google Reader or RSS reader of choice. Here are the sites I recommend to everyone:
YOUmoz (SEOmoz’s User Generated blog)
SEER Interactive (in Philly)
Conversation Marketing (to learn about good content)
Google Webmaster Blog
Hugo Guzman’s blog
Jason Acidre’s blog
One of the best things I ever did was start using Flipboard to aggregate content from people that I trust. I followed the steps in this post and adjusted them for my content aggregation needs.
Get on Twitter, Get Involved
After building a site, getting some readers, reading a lot of blogs, and maybe doing some SEO on your mom’s puppy site, you need to get involved on Twitter. Many great conversations happen on Twitter, and that is also where you will hear about SEO jobs at great companies.
The trick to Twitter is that there is no trick. The SEO world is tight-knit and helpful, so you have to be friendly and helpful as well. If you can’t produce, you’ll move along pretty quick.
Get a Twitter name that is professional (no “MikeLovesBeer” handles here, except in rare cases) and start following some people. Engage them in conversation, ask good questions. Eventually you’ll gain some followers of your own.
One word of advice: don’t be afraid to be a bit personal, but build your online name first. I will sometimes tweet pictures now of dinner, or a beautiful sunset, but only do so now that people on Twitter know me, and I have met a lot of them in person now.
Go to Conferences
Conferences are THE place to learn incredible information, meet a lot of cool people in the industry, and yes, hear about job opportunities! I don’t care if you have to stow away on a cargo ship across the Atlantic; go to a conference. I found out about Distilled opening our NYC office when I went to the conference in London. My friend Curtis in the UK found a job there as well. Be nice, be personable, know your stuff, and don’t be afraid to approach the “big names”, because they are all great people and will help you to no end. Trust me.
I wrote a case study of increasing my Twitter following through conferences here.
Be Available for Work
People who do good work can always find work. There are endless amounts of freelance SEO jobs available for people who are willing to take the work on on the side. You don’t have to be an expert yet, but if you’re insatiably curious you will increasingly get better and provide more and more value for clients.
The key here is to be transparent. Let people know that you’re young and still learning, but that you’ll work hard. Because you’re less experienced, charge a lower hourly rate than high-paid experts would and get experience.
Also, build permission to do a case study, even an anonymized one, into your contracts. This way, you can show future clients what you are capable of doing, even if you can only tell the online vertical.
Best of luck to you!
Good luck. SEO/inbound marketing is a great field to be involved in, since the community is always excited by people who are excited and trying to add value. Engage, make friends, and have a ball.
Feel free to reach out if you have questions as well. One of my joys in life is helping others succeed.