Education is very important to in-house search engine marketers—it’s the only way you can hope to keep up with the scrappy entrepreneurs who are constantly pushing the envelope with new tactics and techniques. There are many routes that you can go to get your education, but you should understand that in a constantly changing field, education needs to be continual. While you’re learning you’ll be using your new knowledge as part of your daily job. But what else can you do with that education to further the goals of your department?
First, let’s look at the places that you can get your education:
The big two here are Search Engine Land and Search Engine Watch. Why are they the big two? Well, apart from the fact that they both have many columns addressing various aspects of SEM, and they both keep on top of all search news, both of them put out daily lists of links to other blogs and articles that either say something new and original, or contribute a new perspective to an ongoing blogosphere discussion. So if you just read these two blogs, you’re going to get exposure to a variety of viewpoints, and be kept very well informed on most of what’s happening in search.
Forums allow you to be involved on a day to day basis in a much more dynamic environment, enabling you to ask and answer questions with other forum participants. Different forums have different styles, focus, and ‘rules of engagement’, so you’ll probably want to lurk for a while to get a feel for a forum, just to make sure that it’s the right place for you to spend your time. Examples to check out here include: The Search Engine Watch Forums, the Cre8asite Forums and the Small Business Brief Forum. While it’s not a true forum, I’m also going to include Sphinn in here, as you do have the ability to create discussion threads, and the comment threads tied to a particular article are sometimes more informative than the original articles.
Conferences are a great place to get an in depth education on a variety of SEM topics. The standard bearer for years has been Search Engine Strategies (SES), with PubCon being another option. However, this year has seen the entrance of Search Marketing Expo (SMX). To determine which conference you should attend, you should look at the focus of the conference (some of these conferences are becoming more specialized, focusing on topics such as SMX Local & Mobile and SMX Social Media), the sessions being offered (will they add enough value to cover the cost?), and the location (the conference promoters try their best to spread the conferences throughout the US, and throughout the world. If you’re East coast, then maybe you’ll want to wait the 3 months for the next New York conference, rather than heading out to one on the West coast). Conferences are also a great place to network and meet people that can answer questions that you may have either at that time, or at a later date.
These days more and more vendors seem to be offering training courses on SEM topics. Training ranges from more personal training than you’d receive at a conference session, to specialized training in one or more specific areas of SEM, to tool vendors giving you ‘hands-on’ training on their products. With training courses you need to research the type of training that you are looking for, and look for a best fit based on your needs.
Books? For something that I described as a constantly changing field? Yes, books. There are some good ones out there that can give you a good grounding in overall strategy / tool set use, even if in 6-12 months time they may prove to be outdated. Some examples of books that I’d recommend you read are: “The new Rules of Marketing and PR” by David Meerman Scott, and “Web Analytics: An Hour a Day” by Avinash Kaushik. Then there are the e-books that you download that are usually regularly updated by their authors. Examples of SEM ebooks include: Aaron Wall’s SEO Book, and Jennifer Laycock’s Small Business Guide to Search Engine Marketing.
In a previous in-house column in Search Engine Land, Duane Forrester did an excellent job discussing how an in-house SEM can build both their internal and external networks, so I’m not going to reprise that here.
So, now that you have all of that education, what are you going to do with it? Well, obviously you’re going to apply it to your job. But here’s another thing that you should do. You should now turn around and become an educator yourself. Take the knowledge that you’ve gained, and spread it around your company. Obviously, other members of your team should be trained up, so that they get the benefit of everything that you’ve picked up that’s pertinent to the job. You should also give upper management overviews of what you’ve learned, and how it’s going to benefit the company when applied. You should take the opportunity to pull in team leaders from other departments, and let them know what you’re doing and why. Let the IT group know why you’re going to be pushing for certain architectural changes on the site. Let corporate communications know why you’re going to recommend particular changes to the press release process flow, etc. If you can get the organization on your side up front, then you’ll have a much easier task the next time the budget is being discussed, or even at corporate task prioritization time.
Simon Heseltine worked as an in-house search marketer for a medium sized Virginia company before moving over to work as Director of Search for RedBoots Consulting. He also organizes the Virginia SEM meetup group. The In House column appears on Wednesdays at Search Engine Land.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.