SEO basically started when more than 10 people created their websites on the same topic. It really took off when the first email spam touting SEO services hit the inboxes in the later part of the 1990s.
Seriously, it was the mid 90s when webmasters started to optimize their websites to show up in various search engines (remember LookSmart, Lycos, InfoSeek, AltaVista). We have come a long way since then. Nowadays, SEO has become a sophisticated field, a subset of internet marketing, which requires a multi-disciplinary, if not expertise, at least an understanding of the technical, web design, copy writing and general marketing. Check out the job requirements here.. SEO Jobs.
Think of the multi-disciplinary nature of SEO as an opportunity, and you will hear this from our team of successful, famous and established SEO professionals, backgrounds doesnt matter as much as the willingness to learn and understand all of them to be a successful SEO professional. The best part is, there is no 4 year degree (at least as far as I know), so everybody is starting at the same point. Its unique in that its relatively new, evolving and will continue to evolve as search engine changes but the need to be in the first page of search engine results will never go away.
Today we have a global panel of SEO professionals who are truly diverse in their geography, their background, when they started, how they started. This goes to show that SEO as a career does not have a pre-requisite other than an ability to learn, apply and persevere through the search engine idiosyncrasies. Its my pleasure to introduce our panel...
SEO has brought him fame, fortune and love, really, Aaron has built the #1 SEO training program (SEOBook), his "As Seen In" list includes MSNBC, PBS, Wall St Journal, Wired etc and he got his girl because of SEO. His would be wife started as his SEO customer. She was the inspiration behind the the #1 SEO training program.
Heather Angus Lee
A long time print media journalist, Heather started her business as a web writer and then incorporated SEO to provide added value to her creative services. For years she covered industrial automation/control, attending industry events in Canada, US and Europe. Heather s known for her industry know-how, her fire ball energy and continent wide connections. She is currently a blogger for Century 21 Canada and the owner of PROSocialMedia and WritingSEO.
The chief editor of Phoenix SEO blog, Gary is a well known and respected member of the SEO community. He has managed projects for blue chip companies such as Aventis and GSK and has his own SEO & Web Design company, Doublespark. His Phoenix SEO blog is a way for him to communicate the latest news in SEO and web design as well as informative SEO articles and tips. He is also the technical director of Titman Firth, a graphic design company.
Based in Tel-Aviv, David has been helping small businesses with internet marketing strategy, Pay Per Click and SEO. He strongly believes that there are no secrets with SEO & SEM, other than honesty, persistence, commitment, professionalism and a drive to help. He started out as an Audio Engineer, became an Ebay power seller before becoming a full fledged SEO consultant. His blog.
A Princeton guy, Kevin started off writing software to display NASA launch data, later worked in Oracle and then became a full fledged blogger. He incorporated SEO into his current venture Blog Traffic Exchange which, along with SEO uses chaos theory and relevancy algorithms to suggest other blog posts thereby increasing traffic by exchanging reader with other members.
An in-house SEO professional, Nisha provides SEO/SEM guidance, PPC campaign management and optimiation and viral marketing. She is currently involved with youtring.com, a calling, social networking with its own blogging and sharing platform.
When & how did you get started in search engine optimization?
Aaron: In 2003 I wanted to rank a thin rant website. That is what started my SEO career. And then I started chatting on forums, became a moderator at SearchGuild, wrote some popular articles, and began a blog. Around the time I started writing articles I got many client enquiries. My early client projects were successful and everything took off from there.
Heather: I was a B2B journalist for almost 20 years, before choosing to move into the world of online publishing. While at an Internet publishing company a few years back, I was lucky enough to be one of the site editors/writers trained by the best in the biz - Rand Fiskin, of SEOmoz fame, was flown up to our offices to train us in SEO best practices.
Gary: It is coming up to almost 10 years since I took a change in career direction (a complete reversal actually) and entered the online world. It was while cutting my teeth as a junior developer that I realised there was little point in building attractive, functional sites that nobody visited and my interest in all things search was born.
David: 3 years ago, after having a successful ebay store with a powerseller status, I wanted to expand and build my web store. Searching for providers I had been exposed to the SEO field and found my true destiny. I found a professional training program, sold my ebay store and devoted my self to develop my the search engine marketing skills.
Kevin: I got started in SEO as a blogger. Trying to get my blog to rank. As the Editor-in-Chief of the Prosper blog this became even more important. In fact, my current startup (Blog Traffic Exchange) was a direct consequence of of both my SEO work and my blogging.
Nisha: In 2006, I was searching for some training that very few of them knew or were undergoing. Suddenly, I got to know about SEO and found it interesting. Just joined it to beat the Google rankings...
If you were hiring an SEO expert, what would you look for?
Aaron: For most small businesses I would suggest they learn to do SEO on their own websites. The traditional pattern is to hold back due to uncertainty, and hire at the lower end of the market, which ends up setting in a market for lemons effect when hiring consultants.
If you are hiring an SEO to provide services to others it is important to hire someone who can also pull in leads. This gives speakers working the conference circuit a strong premium over other similarly competent SEOs.
If you are hiring an in house SEO then they need to fit in with your company culture. Some companies like to keep their SEO efforts hush hush, while other companies (like VintageTub) benefit by sharing their SEO war stories and networking.
Examples of actual page ranking results from past work.
Professional references of customers.
Ethics : A signed commitment to not servicing your competitors with same keywords
Gary: The most important qualities when hiring are personality and loyalty, after these then you need to look at skillsets and communication ability. Most young people have a natural affinity with the Internet but there are also many grey-heads who combine traditional education and knowledge with a hunger to learn and progress their online skills.
Fire in the eyes
Good level of documentation
Steady methodical attitude
Kevin: Cost. Ability. Past projects. Backlink proposal.
Nisha: I would ask him how he would generate traffic to a particular brand or website and what he has achieved in his SEO experience.
What do you do in a typical day?
Aaron: Most of my time is spent working on our SEO Community forums that comes with our SEO training program.
Heather: Research keywords; writing landing page copy; meet with clients; check my RSS feeds of SEO blogs/sites.
Gary: I usually get up at 5am and start writing SEO content as soon as I've had a cup of tea. What I like about SEO work is that I am always learning about something new, whether it's how diamonds are formed or plastic surgery, and the fact that I am having to continually develop my own online skills every day.
David: - Managing and Tasking my virtual team - Going over clients accounts in my webmastertool, analytics and the MCC dashboards. - 1 hour of self business marketing (ppc, articles, social media, etc.) - Customers support - Leads follow-ups
Nisha: Plan the activities/tasks or things that need to done, prioritize them, schedule them and manage them accordingly.
Any interesting/funny experience regarding search engines that you can share?
Aaron: My first real substantial income from SEO on my own websites came from me being a bad speller. I was 1 of only 2 matches in the Yahoo! Search database for the misspelled version of an online casino back when online gaming was legal. I got checks for thousands of dollars only because I was not good at spelling. Search engines are much more aggressive with spell correction tools so that opportunity is no longer as strong, but new opportunities open as old ones close.
Heather: I'm loving how the presumed monopoly of Google is being challenged these days by none other than Microsoft (Bing has awesome features) and by the likes of Hakia and other beta "semantic" search engines.
Gary: Search is a serious business but as fascinating as the technology is, it?s people that make the internet such a wonderful resource. On a mundane level, misspellings always throw up some amusing search findings such as mixing up steal and steel. In fact, typical misspellings should always be considered when optimizing websites but without making the sites look as though they are written by someone who cannot spell. Of course, search engines have brought people together in amusing ways who would never have been able to find each other even five years ago. Of course, meeting up with a past amour may not always be laugh out loud funny, especially for the current partner!
David: Search engine changed my life. It is a true second career for me. One I did not think I can find.
Kevin: Not publicly.
Nisha: Might not be interesting but..... We had 15 in-house domains related to mobile industry and we were all targeting them with the same keywords...with only few efforts we all were ranking from position 1 to 15 :-)
Advice that you have for beginners: on where to start, how to learn, and become a successful search engine optimization professional?
Aaron: This is perhaps a bit self-serving, but our SEO training program is a great place to start. If you are in a rush for a quick free primer then our SEO Basics Knol is a great starting point. Leading conferences like SES, SMX, and Pubcon also are a good way to immerse yourself in the topic.
Another great way to learn about online marketing and SEO is to start a blog about topics you are passionate about and actively market it. Seeing what ideas spread (and learning why they spread) in one market helps position you better to be able to work in other markets. You do not need to be perfect or polished to start. You are better off starting rough and gaining experience today.
Heather: Read everything you can, especially from leaders like seomoz.org and SearchEngineLand.com (and for latest in social media, read expert sites like mashable.com). Don't be afraid to try new things; ie. Local SEO, video SEO, image SEO. Always write for the humans, not just the bots. Push blogging, blogging and more blogging to clients - fresh, relevant, original content is Google's favourite SEO variable right now.
Gary: My advice for anyone wanting to use the Internet for promotion is to understand that it is changing all the time. SEO content has moved on from the days of simple key word stuffing and now goes hand in hand with good original copy. Keywords will always be important but there are bound to be new ways of searching the internet just waiting to be developed.
There is no doubt that trying to figure out how marketing on the Internet works takes quite a lot of work. The best approach is not to struggle to take it all in at once but to chip away at it bit by bit.
Read the right info!
Find a mentor.
Find a proper training program develop by an SEO pro and not a ghost writer in elance.
Take the first step using freelance sites like get a coder, elance and guru.com
Kevin: Start blogging. Read all you can. Follow the experts. Join the Blog Traffic Exchange.
Start: would suggest to understand what exactly does optimization means as many SEO experts still are not clear to what is optimization.
Learn: suggest to have a clear understanding about the basic search engine terms and implement them (may be through blogs or registering a new domain for implementation)
once he or she has hold on the seo techniques and strategies, he can become a professional.
What do you think is the best career path - freelancing, marketing agencies, or in-house corporate jobs?
Aaron: This largely depends on the individual. Some people need to be around others, and other people get along well on their own.
As far as producing massive cash-flow, I think the way to do that best is to own your own websites which you invest in and grow to market leading publications. Affiliate marketers get paid much closer to their true market value than employees typically do. But affiliate marketing can be feast or famine, and it can be pretty risky to branch out on your own, especially if you do not have much savings.
It is hard to make a lot of money freelancing unless you establish a brand that lets you charge premium rates and/or focus on a specific niche or vertical.
Many successful SEOs do a combination of freelancing and traditional jobs to build cash-flow and knowledge, while investing some of that into growing their own websites. Depending on factors like how confident you are in your SEO skills and how many people are relying on you one can determine when to make the shift away from being an employee to building their own sites full time.
Heather: I think whatever you can get in this crummy economy is the best path! When times are good again, I think developing a strong freelance career is a great path to choose re: versatility and being nimble in keeping up with fast changing SEO trends. Bigger companies and agencies don't always make that as easy to do.
Gary: None of the above. Start early while your earning requirements are lower. Build your own sites and SEO those rather than perform SEO for others. This is the best career path and the way to make true $$$$.
David: All depend on the offer you get. If you have the mentality for self marketing and you posses some sales skills then work for your self. If you get a position in a big agencies where you can experience the wide array of search marketing skills then this is a good option, but i wouldn't recommend to take a steady job as a buzzer...
In house is all about the organisation market. If the work involve a tight market where you will need to sweat out your ranking then go for it. That will be a grate opportunity for you. However, if you are working for an organisation where SEO is something that is cool to have with no management decision that search marketing success is a goal then you are about to have a very boring day to day professional life.
Kevin: Freelancing or agencies.
Nisha: For me its in-house corporate jobs because as much as we can learn in house projects we can not learn in others. The strategies and techniques that we can use for in house cannot be put on marketing agencies nor in freelancing as they are limited to particular slot of work and activities. We can work and implement all the activities, do experimentation and branding as per in our minds for in-house as they are own company undertakings...according to me...
Thank you Aaron, Heather, Gary, David, Kevin and Nisha for sharing your experience, knowledge and insight. It was a pleasure hosting you all.
Anybody who reached the end, actually reading and not by blind
scrolling, give a pat on your back, you have what it takes to be a
successful SEO professional - patience, an ability to read lengthy
posts (trust me, you need this when you have a problem and you are
searching for a solution) and a desire to learn.