How to Become an SEO: 40+ Experts Reveal Their Best Advice

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It can be hard to explain what SEO is, let alone articulate exactly how one becomes a great SEO.

It requires knowing who to trust, creating strategies that work for unique clients, mastering SEO tools, honing technical skills, and a lot of patience.

Luckily, the SEO community is incredibly generous with their knowledge. I recently stumbled upon a Facebook post where we asked:

“If someone new to SEO asked you for your BEST piece of advice, what would you say?”

I was impressed by the depth of the responses. The advice rang true, even years later. The discussion felt like I was in the same room with a group of highly intelligent people who spoke with a unified voice.

Here are responses from 40+ marketers, organized by theme.

How to Become an SEO

You sure about this?

“Don’t become an SEO…it’s a trap.” –Corey McNeil

“Find a new job!” –Scott Griffiths

“Marry someone rich!!!” –Michelle Gower

“Run.” –Travis Prebble

“Less competition that way.” –Marty Martin

Learn how to learn.

“Don’t Google it.” –Aaron Kronis

“Just because you read it on a so-called SEO blog, that doesn’t mean it’s true.” –Alysson Fergison

“Find someone who knows what they’re doing to help.” –Chris Bates Michaelis

“Find a good mentor, someone with a proven track record. There is so much stuff online that you need to filter what is practical and steer clear from ‘red herrings.’” –Michael Pam

“If I could understand fully the paradox and the learning curve involved in Search Engine Optimization I might not have ventured in. It is strangely simple yet very complex.” –Corey McNeil

“Learn to ignore the detritus spewed by 90% of SEO ‘experts’ and find, listen to and learn from the REAL experts (of which I am not, I hasten to add).” –Phil Turpin

“Read, and then read some more.” –Tim Staines

“Then Read some more and then never stop reading about SEO.” –Aaron Hemmelgarn

“Start a website OF YOUR OWN that you don’t care about and use that as your learning playground. Make sure it’s not a client’s site or someone that is paying you.” –Joe Schembri

“If you don’t like to learn, teach yourself, test and be wrong occasionally – find something else to do.” –Carrie Hill

Learn how little things impact big things.

“Know your goals.” –Craig Kilgore

“You’ll never be quite sure what to do if you don’t first understand why you’re doing it and how each tactic impacts the overall strategy… SEO is like an endless knot – you can’t tug on one part of the knot without affecting another part of it.” –Alysson Fergison

“Know your audience/customer, first and foremost. What do they need? What are they searching for? How much do they know already? Where do they gather? What do they value? Find out, and then give them *that*.” –Sarah Peters

Create content you’d share.

“Invest in good content.” –Michael Raia

“Content content content.” –Alex Fernandez

“Forget SEO and write for people.” –Sarah Arrow

“Don’t try to game anything, be true to what you create, make content you would share, you would enjoy and share it to the appropriate market.” –Aaron Kronis

“Write killer content that people love and want to share, then give them easy tools to share including email, Facebook, Twitter and bookmarks… all without leaving your page.” –Mark Oborn

“Follow the basics, don’t try magic tricks, use long-term strategy and create innovative, useful content (everyday).” –Thiago Santana

Get to know Google.

“Google is not your competition.” –John J. Curtis

“Follow the guidelines provided by Google. Tricks and trends change, but the guidelines don’t… Oh, and don’t start a site you’re not passionate about. The less you care about your site, the more likely you are to use thin, totally uninspiring content… resulting in fewer links and social mentions.” –Keith Goode

“If it looks like a totally above board way to help Google find you and help people find your stuff, it’s probably a good idea. If it looks like a way to pull a fast one on a search engine or trick its users, run.” –JF Amprimoz

“Google will always claim algorithm changes are solely intended to improve the users’ experience. The louder and more vehement that proclamation, the less likely it’s actually true.” –Alysson Fergison

Get under the hood.

“Learn how to create marketing that works, that shines and then learn how to put keywords on a page.” –Darren Moloney

“Keep your consumer/audience in mind when constructing your site content (hint: spend time, before doing any coding or content writing, on keyword and competitive research).” –Andy Wolsiffer

“The basics are important. Crawlable site, User-focused content. Title tags. Coffee. (Or tea)” –Grant Simmons

“Start with basics like titles, metas, non-duplicate content and understand the Open Graph tags for social sharing, and learn about Schema eventually!” –Aaron Kronis

“There are really only 15-20 things at most that comprise the majority of the search ranking algorithm: title tags, content optimization, creating relevant compelling content, backlinks, anchor text, page hierarchy, etc” –Doug Nyren

“Don’t skimp on your on-page optimization.” –Greg Shuey

“Get a clean site that spiders will WANT to crawl!” –Pixelsilk

Know how to present yourself.

“Find a niche and market yourself as somebody helping others “build online influence” “grow leads” – call yourself a “marketing strategist,” etc. SEO is overused and not understood.” –Pamela Ravenwood

“I don’t even market myself specifically as an SEO provider anymore since so many of them have given the profession a bad name.” -Kale Chris Smith

Don’t take shortcuts.

“Don’t pay someone $1,000 a month to move words around on a page or add meta tags.” -Kale Chris Smith

“Don’t let yourself get fooled by someone who’s more interested in putting your wallet at the top of their search results instead of your best interests.” –Jason Bean

“NEVER promise rankings or guarantee results to clients.” –Darryl Coombes

“Avoid shortcuts and thinking you can get results off of spammy tactics.” –Corey McNeil

“Don’t lie. To your clients, to your colleagues, or to your employees. It *will* come back to bite you in the ass. I guess that’s applicable to anything, but it seems necessary to state this more often in this industry.” -Michelle Lowery

“Never lie to your clients. SEO is an ongoing learning experience, things will work and some won’t, you will learn. If you don’t know something, tell them you will have to research it some more and actually research and get back to them. Don’t lie to them, be honest with your clients and they will be clients for much longer then if you were caught lying to them.” -Randy Heft

“Stay away from spammy software and find a niche you’re head over heels passionate about.” –Oliver James

You got this.

“Hold on for the ride.” –Michael Johnson

“Be yourself.” –Donna Saulnier-Raven

“Be Awesome!” –Kevin Getch

“It doesn’t happen overnight.” -Steve Long

“First build something great, then SEO becomes easy. Most SEO is making up for not being the best at something.” –Rob Woods

Your Turn

Thanks everyone for contributing on Facebook. What did the community miss? What’s your best piece of advice for someone learning SEO?

  • Build the best web page on the Internet about the keyword you’re trying to rank. Anything less than this to begin with is an attempted shortcut. If you can honestly say that your page is one of the top five pages on the Internet about your keyword, then that’s 80% of your job done.

    It may take you a week to build the best web page on that topic. But it’s safer, more permanent, and more stable than relying on links to juice-up a substandard page that doesn’t deserve to be ranking. Provided the rest of your site’s internal linking structure and presentation is fine, then you’ll only ever have to worry about one more thing, and that’s getting new links.

    • I love this advice! It always makes sense to spend the time to lay out a good foundation.

  • Great discussions 🙂