As the dog days of summer yield to the beginnings of fall, schools reopen and my mind turns to the classroom and thoughts on education and learning. I recently considered how the education and training of search marketers, particularly those of us who are SEO practitioners, has evolved. In the early 1990s when the Web was young, there were no established “best practices,” no body of knowledge to consult, and many more search engines to target with each vying for the supremacy now won by Google. In this environment, early search marketers essentially made it up as they went. There was a lot of experimentation, and numerous strategies and tactics both good and bad were developed and employed. Some were later decried; others became the basis of today’s best practices. SEOs learned from each other. Online publications and conferences like SES and PubCon were the lifeline for practitioners wanting to learn from their peers.
There were no colleges and universities teaching search engine marketing. These came later as digital marketing became a legitimate discipline, and search became a vital component of any digital marketing plan. The learning opportunities for SEO also grew hand-in-hand with the demand for skilled practitioners. Today, there exists a dizzying array of educational opportunities for those wanting to enter or segue into search and other areas of digital marketing. As a seasoned practitioner, read old-timer, I am sometimes asked: “Do I need actual training to be a search marketer?” Most who ask this question assume that because I never took any specialized training that I will suggest a do-it-yourself approach. On the contrary, an organized, well-thought out curriculum would have offered me a nice jump-start.
If I make the point that training is necessary, then the follow-up question is the difficult one: “Where, how and what should I take to become a search marketer?” As a former educator, I am convinced that there is no one-size-fits-all approach for education or training. Today, with so many educational opportunities available, the would-be SEO can easily find just the right level of training that will be needed to gain entrance or advancement. It is a matter of shopping and matching current skills and knowledge with desired skills and knowledge.
SEO Calls for Lifetime Learning
With search, as with any technology-based discipline, the learning never ends. Even after two decades, I find myself still studying and learning. As a matter of course, I set aside roughly six to eight hours per week for continuous learning. Yes! There is that much to learn and absorb in search. Today, I still rely on do-it-yourself learning to enhance my personal storehouse of knowledge. I doubt that I will ever stop seeking new information and learning. One example should suffice as to why I believe this to be true. Search marketing is deeply tied to marketing and the study of human behavior. A few short years ago, no one shopped online or used a mobile device for search. Today, online shopping and mobile e-commerce are familiar watchwords. As we adapt and interact with new technologies, so too must the search marketer learn how to respond. This means that anyone coming into search must be prepared to be a lifelong learner and a keen observer of human behavior. Maybe like this seasoned SEO, you too watch the season change and find your thoughts turning to how you might enhance your knowledge of the fascinating discipline of search.