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Training SEO: 3 Tips To Build Your Team’s Skills
Hiring a talented team is just the start. How to structure ongoing training to ensure your company's SEOs keep up with the latest developments in the space.
When building an SEO team, it’s important to have a clear training plan which allows your team to continually reassess and improve their skills after they’ve completed basic training.
Here are three key approaches that can ensure your team hits the SEO heights.
Tip 1: Brain Dump Starting Resources, Then Train How To Assess Sources
When a new hire is detailed to start a training program, we give them a list of starting points for their research. This includes the obvious items such as:
- Google Webmaster Guidelines
- Matt Cutts Webmaster Video “Short Cutts” (and Matt’s blog, though it’s less frequently updated these days)
- QueryClick’s SEO 101 Guidelines
- Bing Webmaster Guidelines
- Bill Slawski’s Blog, SEO By The Sea
- Moz’s SEO Guidelines
- Search Engine Land’s Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors
- An OPML of various community blog and forum feeds (pulled using Yahoo! Pipes where no feed exists)
- A list of Twitter profiles to follow.
- Walkthrough using Google AdWords & Google Trends
- Google Webmaster Hangouts (especially anything with John Mueller)
As this article is more focused on the theory behind good training, rather than a compiled, comprehensive list of training resources, I’ll leave the “Brain Dump” list to the limited selection above. If you’d like to nominate a top resource, do leave a note in the comments and I’ll include good sources in a future piece that goes into more detail on resources and tools.
At this stage, after the brain dump, I usually walk through the basics and pick out my seven key technical SEO items for training (see below). In the course of doing this, emphasise where your confidence in each different aspect being trained comes from.
For example, when discussing the importance of the meta description tag usage, explain why despite there being no direct algorithmic benefit to its use, the improved CTRs from a SERP snippet achieved by its careful usage can be powerful for SEO.
Consider, for example, that you can cover what the ideal meta description would be, including the page’s target keyphrase term in there to trigger usage of the description in the SERP (because, if it doesn’t feature, then Google would use plain text in-page instead, or indeed, possibly even build its own snippet using anchor text info, amongst other snippet building variations).
In walking through these points, refer back to factual statements by Google, and tested researched completed by the community. Point out that unless there is a good quality test (and ideally multiple test samples), then really it’s just theory that you’re dealing with and its impact needs to be assessed before you can turn it from theory to tested fact.
Tip 2: Pick A Test Site & Set Some Homework
Next up, we need to start applying some knowledge. In my experience, most people retain training best when they apply it practically. This is especially true for technical training as there’s often a fair amount of nuance involved in judging the best solution and that can only be appreciated by looking at issues live out in the world.
So, choose a site and then work through the top seven things (from QueryClick’s 101 guide, linked above) to check. We’re looking to cement these technical basics as the core of our training.
Top 7 Things:
- <title> (for onpage algo, also in the SERP snippet)
- <h1-3> (to support <title> and include synonyms)
- Meta Descriptions (important for SERP snippet CTRs)
- URL (for algo and SERP)
- Inbound Link Architecture (and for context, External Architecture Strength. Use OSE or HREFs when checking.)
- Internal Site Architecture
- Duplication (see my post on this)
As you are assessing the site, rate the site’s implementation out of 10. Ask yourself what the perfect implementation would be and compare that to actual implementation.
Try sorting the impact of poorly executed implementations of any of the above for your test site.
Is their duplication undermining their onpage? Do they have a very flat, wide site with a poor backlink profile – does that prevent their performance for top lever search terms?
Remember always, that technical SEO is a method of improving SEO efficiency and targeting, so although there is a black and white nature to if an issue is the case or not, the impact of that issue may vary quite significantly for a site, and assessing that impact is important to get your team to work on the most effective issues first: greatly improving your site’s speed of SEO improvement.
Tip 3: Get Editing A Tech SEO Roundup For The Team
What’s the best way to work out if your training to assess importance and accuracy has been effective? Ask your new start to curate a roundup from the web for SEO updates each week, add their own commentary and share it ’round the team. This should be an internal email, not an external newsletter: it’s not intended to be 100% accurate all the time; it’s a training tool.
This allows you to fine tune any misconceptions that may have crept in with self-supported learning undertaken after the initial brain dump, and also ensures you’re encouraging the uptake of new resources to share with the team and build knowledge.
You should now have an opportunity with your team to assess a few sites each month as part of ongoing training, with fine-tuning on technical an ongoing task. Next up on your training schedule should be the finer art of keyphrase research, marketing approaches to link building and advanced technical SEO.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.