If you consider that search engine optimization is most likely the fastest growing area within the web design and website development industry, it’s actually surprising to find so few people who are qualified to teach it.
In fact, almost no one in the industry does teach it. SEO is a very nebulous topic and grasping the larger picture on multiple levels can be difficult in and of itself so trying to put the information into a cohesive training course is that much more complicated.
Take for instance some of the general factors that must be considered in an SEO training program.
- The SEO as an art vs SEO as a science debate
- Trying to fit SEO into a comprehensive marketing plan
- The on-site SEO vs all-linking debate
- White-hat SEO vs Grey-hat SEO vs Black-hat SEO
- Internet marketing vs SEO
Relatively few industry insiders can explain the various perspectives within each of the above, much less impart that knowledge onto others in an SEO workshop training seminar.
Here are some tips on how to find the best SEO teachers. Admittedly, some may be more difficult to assess in an initial conversation. That’s just the nature of how life goes when hiring any company. Consider that when you go to Best Buy, if you haven’t read the online reviews about a particular digital camera, you’re left to trust a twenty-something year old guy who was told what to answer you, typically exaggerates and uses a bit of FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) to make the sale, while knowing very little about the product.
That said, here are some of the most important aspects of the best corporate SEO trainers:
Experience: There is No Substitute for it
Your SEO trainer should ideally have at least 3-5 years of hands-on experience in SEO. I will elaborate on this point in a future blog post but for now suffice it to say that there is a history to the SEO industry. The fact of having used SEO during the “early days” and making changes over the years, as needed and as Google (in particular) changed, is much more powerful than someone who “heard” about the old ways without any real understanding of them and their progress.
There is no substitute for experience and it’s not something you can rapidly acquire when it comes to SEO. As people gain more experience, they have a larger database of examples from which to draw. You’d be amazed at how much that can help during the learning experience. This is especially true for the world of in-house SEO training where there exists even fewer teachers than small business SEO trainers. (To be fair, many large scale companies are still ignorant as to the power of SEO and haven’t reached out to SEOs who could help their businesses).
Continuing Education: Up-to-date with the Most Recent Trends
The fact that I still see companies who offer search engine submission and extensive link exchange packages is unnerving. You want to know that your SEO trainer is reading up on the newest areas of growth within the industry, learning about statistical packages, and other happenings. In the real professional world, psychologists, medical doctors, and countless other accredited associations require their constituents to acquire continuing education credits every once in a while. The idea is to make sure they are keeping up to date with the latest techniques. Well, in the SEO world there is no such program. You have to be a very self-motivated go-getter to spend a lot of time reading and testing to keep up with the latest changes.
That said, I suggest that you look for someone who does refresh their knowledge periodically, especially those who adapt the services they offer. For example, if social media optimization is becoming important for SEO, does the trainer dicuss it and integrate it into the training program? The ability to integrate and account for change is important.
The best SEO trainers will coach you through the different points of view and explain why some methods may be better than others. SEO is not a one-size fits all type of program. I highly recommend against hiring an SEO consultant with a totalitarian attitude whereby they only give you the one perspective and it happens to be the one they want to push, while completely ignoring all others.
They have tested various techniques and been proven effective (this ties into the point about experience).
Try to discover whether the SEO trainer is grounded in reality. I know that sounds like an unusual criterion but if you consider that someone will be forced to generate ideas on the fly to account for your specific needs, it is helpful if they know what they are talking about.
Training individuals and small business web developers is different from training larger corporate web teams. Ask whether the person understands that corporate culture is typically slow to change and may therefore require increased flexibility within the training? For example, anyone could set up a training program but when working with a brand name company, telling them that changing <title> tags is important doesn’t mean that they will make the change within 2 days of the seminar ending. It could take weeks or months for such a change to be approved.
Real-world Teaching Experience & Ability
SEO is very much its own bubble. Ideally you would find someone who was teaching (any subject) before becoming an SEO trainer. If you can hire someone with years of experience as a successful educator, more power to you. If they’ve taken courses in teaching, even better! Keep in mind that just because someone is great at doing something doesn’t mean they will be great teachers.
Find out what the SEO trainer views as goals for your company. Is it high rankings? Increasing visibility? Sales lead generation? A shift toward pay per click? If they only talk about rankings, you will lose out.
I’ve been asked to optimize some very unusual websites, sometimes under conditions that don’t sit well with me. I would rather work with a company that has integrity, like I do. Wouldn’t you?
Actual Design Experience
Consider it a major bonus if you can find an SEO trainer who actually knows what an attractive design is. You’d be hard pressed to find one with extensive web design experience. I am actually astounded that so many SEOs don’t know the first thing about web design and have never used Dreamweaver or Photoshop. There is something to be said for hiring an SEO trainer who has design experience.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am an SEO trainer and can be hired to work with you and your company. This blog post was written based on my experience in working with many people at a multitude of companies. I encourage you to add your own comments on the topic. Did I miss some points? Do you disagree with others?