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Top 5 Tips for Beginner SEOs – Part 1

John Doherty —  February 8, 2011
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Every day, new people enter the world of SEO. These may be former web developers, graphic designers, PR professionals, or former software support technicians. The unfortunate reality of beginning SEO is that there are few good mentors available in-person for these young SEOs, and the work involves so many facets of the Internet that it is impossible to be taught them all by a mentor.

With this in mind, I want to bring to you my top recommendations for beginner SEOs. Why should you listen to me? I’ve been in SEO full-time for about 4 months now, yet I’ve been around the fringes of SEO and, unbeknownst to me until recently, doing some SEO work for the past 3 years. I am a trained web developer and worked in software for a while, but I also developed a website around a book publishing company based in Europe where I started to hone my skills as an SEO. I consider myself a beginner still, so these recommendations come from my recent experience of entering the full-time SEO world.

Tip 1: Find a mentor

I cannot emphasize enough the necessity of finding a mentor who will teach you as much as they can, who will answer your questions every time, who lets you learn and make mistakes, and who is also a learner themselves. When I jumped in on a startup book publishing company in Switzerland, my mentor did not have a ton of publishing knowledge, but he had a lot of business knowledge from his long career, and he had the desire to teach me and listen to my ideas.

To be honest, I still do not have ONE SEO mentor, but I do consider many of the best-known to be mentors to me, because they write in-depth and well-researched articles.

Tip 2: Get involved on Twitter

One of the great aspects of the SEO world is that almost everyone is involved in discussions on Twitter. Everyone from Rand Fishkin (@SEOmoz and @randfish) to Wil Reynolds (@wilreynolds) and the Critchlow brothers (@willcritchlow and @tomcritchlow) takes the time to post interesting links for everyone’s benefit. If they speak, you should listen.

Also, begin to engage in the conversations. Ask questions and be a likable professional. Be willing to learn, challenge when appropriate or necessqry, and post interesting articles you find as well.

Tip 3: READ EVERYTHING

The SEO world is constantly changing, so if you want to keep up with the changes and shifts in technology, you should read as many of these as possible, if applicable to you. I say applicable because there is simply too much information for it to all be applicable to you, anf if you read everything you probably will never do any actual work!

I will also reiterate the advice that I read earlier, about learning the basics before attempting high-level SEO tactics. You have to crawl before you can walk. I recommend reading SEOmoz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO to begin, then as many of the articles as possible about basic linkbuilding and internal site issues. Many can be found on SEOmoz.org.

Tip 4: Ask Questions

If you’re just starting in SEO, and especially if you do not have previous web development experience, you will have a lot of questions. Ask them.

Use the people around you, your co-Twitterers (see Tip 2), and forums (see Tip 5).

Tip 5: Get involved in forums

The SEO world contains many forums where you can ask your questions and receive relatively prompt and in-depth responses. I especially recommend SearchEngineWatch (Twitter: @sewatch) to get started. SEOmoz also has a good discussions area.

Remember: at the beginning it is OK to just ask questions, but after a while you should start answering questions to which you know the answers and have implemented. Don’t just regurgitate what the “experts” have said, but also do not be afraid to give an honest answer. After all, forums are for discussion!

This is the end of Part 1. To continue, please flip the tape over and continue on the other side.

Only kidding. Tune in for Part 2 tomorrow.

John Doherty

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3 responses to Top 5 Tips for Beginner SEOs – Part 1

  1. Very helpful post, thank you! …In keeping with the subject of this post, I’ve always wondered:

    Generally speaking, how much coding knowledge do you think a competent SEO needs? In other words, how much coding knowledge should the newbie SEO be aiming to learn?

    I ask this question from my perspective of having taught myself enough HTML and CSS to build my website, and implement the little bit of SEO that I know. I’m looking to grow as an SEO, and I’m wondering how much more coding I should learn.

    This question also raises the related question, “Which languages are generally most advantageous for SEOs to know?”

  2. Great post John, could ask for a better find in my quest to improve my site ranking. Thanks very much!

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  1. Top SEO Tips For Beginners – Part Two « John Doherty | The Beginner SEO - February 9, 2011

    [...] Attention: This post is Part 2 of a two-part blog. If you have not read Part 1, please read it here: Top SEO Tips For Beginners – Part 1. [...]