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How do you break into SEO?

If you are in this business long enough, someone will come up and ask the question. To some of them, it is the most important question in their lives: “How do I break into SEO?” I honestly get this question several times a month.  And each person that asks me is ready for my answer. Some seem ready to take notes. They expect that I am going to rattle off some kind of canned answer that will unlock the secret to their future career. But I don’t, because it isn’t that easy.

Some people readily accept that it isn’t that easy. If it were easy, they wouldn’t need to ask.

In fact many folks ask a longer question. “How do I break into SEO, because I don’t have…”

  • …a technical background. This is one of the most common worries. People believe that they need to know how to program or at least code HTML or else they are doomed.
  • …a marketing background. Yeah, people who actually have a technical background worry that they need something else.

The truth is that almost no one breaks into SEO with both a marketing and a technical background. So, no matter who you are, you probably don’t have all the skills required to optimize for organic search.
English: seo block
But as SEO grows, you don’t really need all those skills anymore. There are plenty of jobs out there for folks who are specialists. They don’t know everything about SEO–they just know enough SEO, that when coupled with other skills make them employable.

That’s why when people ask me the magic question, I always ask them a question back. What do you already know?

People are always struck by this question because they don’t expect the magic formula to have anything to do with them. But it does:

  • If you have a background in direct marketing, you can learn search analytics.
  • If you came from PR, you can come up with social media ideas or write blog posts.
  • If you understand copy writing, you can do content optimization or paid search copy writing.
  • If you are a programmer, you can fix infrastructure problems.

You probably get the idea.

SEO is no longer some kind of monolithic profession. where you must know every part of it to get a job. If you have any skills that border on organic search marketing, adding SEO skills to that mix makes you far more employable.  And that is always the right way to break into SEO, by building on what you already know.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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