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In-House Training: The Plan Versus Reality
As part of your job managing in-house search marketing, you’ve no doubt created a training plan. At some point, you either have delivered training, or will need to. Whether it is natural search optimization, paid search management, social media, link building or any of the other disciplines that orbit around the world of search, training happens.
Now, for those who have already delivered training, I want you to think back. Ask yourself this question: “Did it work?”
If you’re inclined to simply say yes, and feel you’re a rock star because you held up your end of the deal (you did the training) – think again. Unless every single person left your session and immediately changed their work habits to incorporate the suggestions you made in the training session, your work is far from done.
In fact, this might just serve as a wakeup call, offering insight into all those people around you. Pay attention. If someone takes your training, then does not change how they work, either they weren’t paying attention, or you were ineffective.
I’m not talking about them changing their habits the very next day either. I’m talking longer term. You need to see that the training had enough impact to get people to change enough of what they do that the product changes and the results can be tracked. In short, is there a direct path from your training session to the bottom line results?
In many cases, people will sign up to attend training sessions because they want the cookie. They know training is valuable and if they go, it breaks up their daily routine. It also looks good to attend training sessions. There’s nothing malicious in this thinking either, it’s a common rut many people fall into. Sadly, those people being in that rut can lead to your training failing to generate successful actions in the real world.
Changing the course of SEM training
It is critical that before you embark on any search marketing training session, you set clear goals for that training. If it is simply to raise awareness of the topic, then you have an easy goal. If the goal is tied to a numerical result or KPI, things get more complicated. The end result, though, should be that each training session has attached goals. You’ll learn by doing, so start today following this line of thinking.
An important point to note is that having goals attached makes planning training more complicated. You will undoubtedly need input or signoff from others in the company to accomplish many goals you might attach to a training session, so before you announce the session, you’d better get signoffs in place.
In such a case, having the signoff in place sets the tone for the training; namely, that those attending are expected to learn a new skill and implement it. Tracking will be in place, and results are expected. Creating and sharing this message before the training session will help ensure those attending do so in an active manner. At the very least, this will dissuade those simply looking to claim a cookie from attending.
Evaluating your training sessions
The next most logical step, therefore, is to monitor the results. I’ll pause here to mention one small, but important fact you will discover. That is, do not expect this entire process to be seamless or easy to manage. As with any training, you’ll need to do follow up with people and answer random questions as people try to implement their new knowledge.
Expect after the training ends to field emails, calls and drop-ins while people gain confidence. You will need to be friend, coach and task-master to move people through their new work items in a speedy manner. During this entire time, you’ll also be keeping an eye on your metrics to track actual results. Early on, you should start seeing indicators either positive or negative.
Assuming things go well, and work follows training and positive results stem from this, even now your work is not done.
Like many skills, people become complacent with them. You’ll need to factor this into your training schedule to offer refresher courses. This is especially true when people move between jobs or even when the engines make algorithmic changes. Is once a year enough of a schedule to drive positive results on an ongoing basis, or do you need to offer quarterly refresher training?
Never assume that people, once active on doing work your way, will just always continue to follow your pattern. And be ready for push back around taking too much time for training. If you have your Executives behind you in terms of supporting your overall organic search program, then you’ll have their backing as you explain how your training has to mirror changes in the industry.
If an engine changes their algorithm a week after your training session, it’s no good waiting another 11 months for your once a year training session to update, alert and retrain the folks making SEO happen on your website.
Just make sure everyone understands the transient nature of changes in search marketing and they’ll understand your need to do training on a higher frequency.
The bottom line with all of this is that you need to perform training on an ongoing basis, often with the same faces in the room, multiple times. By ensuring your training is fresh, you maximize the chances of people performing search optimization in the correct way.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.