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Exam Results Day Help: A Career in SEO?

SEO is an acronym for ‘search engine optimisation’, a practise which aims to improve the visibility of a website and its various pages in search engines’ natural (unpaid) search results. When entering a query into a search engine such as Google, users will rarely look past the first page of results, hence the reason why businesses will compete to be in the top ten search results.

Even websites which are fantastic in regard to user experience and aesthetics can fail miserably in the search engine results pages (SERPs) if they don’t have effective SEO in place. This is why all good digital marketing agencies employ knowledgeable SEO experts – not doing so dilutes all other efforts behind the digital marketing of a company or brand.

In the latest post of our digital marketing careers advice series, we find out more about working in SEO. If you are interested in pursuing a career in SEO, our interview with Fresh Egg SEO engineer, Ryan Ogilvie, will provide lots of advice as to how to enter this stimulating industry.

Describe the industry of SEO in as few words as possible

I would describe SEO as one of the most challenging industries out there because it is ever-evolving and engulfed by a certain degree of mystery. More specifically, SEO is the art of informing search engines that a site deserves to rank for specific search terms. This can be achieved via onsite content strategies, SEO-friendly web development, link building campaigns and seeking inspiration from competing websites through back link analysis.

What is SEO?
Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What path did you follow to become an SEO engineer?

I was fortunate enough to have several members of my family already working at Fresh Egg and as such, I was offered a one day per week work experience placement while completing my A Levels (Business, Law, English Literature and History) at Worthing College. I was quickly offered a full time SEO position in September 2009 and have been employed at the company ever since.

I spent a lot of my spare time blogging (well, ranting) about a variety of subjects before and during this placement, which was definitely helpful for familiarising myself with SEO practises, and securing the position.

What does a typical day in your role an SEO engineer at Fresh Egg involve?

Each day can see me doing anything from checking the key term rankings and overall health of client websites, to conducting assessments of competitors’ backlinks, planning and implementing link building campaigns, client meetings and calls, and more besides. I also spend some of my time reading the latest SEO news and interacting with other SEO engineers on Twitter, which is one of the best places to discover the latest happenings in the industry.

Oh, and drinking Costa coffee and playing Xbox in the Fresh Egg den during lunch times!

Are there any recognised courses a wannabe or practising SEO should complete?

During interviews for SEO roles, candidates are nearly always asked “What have [you] done” in regards to industry practises. This means the portfolio of an interviewee far outweighs any SEO-based qualification they may have (which could be rendered ‘out of date’ quickly anyway).

Fresh Egg does pride itself on many members of its team being Google Analytics certified, but this is an accolade which requires the passing of an annual examination, meaning it is a mark of recent aptitude in data analysis.

Ensuring you have plenty of vocational experience before applying for any SEO-related role will serve you well, as will demonstrating great knowledge and experience of a variety of online platforms. A good grasp of the English language is crucial too, since you will need to clearly explain the work you are undertaking – and the results of such efforts – in monthly/weekly client reports. Experience with Microsoft Excel will also prove useful when it comes to both data collation and analysis.

Could you share three top tips for anyone wanting to enter the industry of search engine optimisation?

  • Create your own website and/or blog, on which you can experiment with SEO practises. I experiment with my own website topfloridaguide.co.uk: a blog discussing Florida, and more specifically, the Disneyworld resort. Like all respectable SEO engineers, I can’t reveal exactly what SEO practises I have employed on the site. The point is, Google’s ranking algorithm is constantly changing and so the optimisation methods you use must do so also
  • Learning to use various coding languages (such as HTML and PHP) is useful, but a basic ability to understand what each section of web code represents in order to spot site/SEO errors is a MUST. Therefore, I recommend familiarising yourself with elementary web code
  • Training yourself to assess risk is also important. The involved level of risk will help you to determine current and future link building and optimisation strategies. Taking too many risks could see the aims of an SEO campaign quickly go awry!

Do you have any other advice to give?

I previously mentioned that those interested in a career in search engine optimisation should keep up with the latest industry news and developments. There are plenty of SEO blogs out there, but these are the sites I make a special effort to read regularly:

SEOmoz

Google Webmaster Central blog

Bing Webmaster Center blog

SEO By The Sea

Search Engine Journal

Aside from reading the entries on these blogs, would-be optimisers will need to learn to spot when the information presented is not actually useful – SEO figureheads have an awful habit of saying everything and nothing in the same breath!

I would also recommend that aspiring SEOs follow Rishi Lakhani (@rishil) on Twitter, since he is considered with high authority in the industry. Bing (@UKBing) is also noteworthy for always responding to queries quickly.

It is also important to note that those seeking a career in SEO will need to harness excellent people skills. Such skills develop with practise, but remaining polite in the interim is a must!

If you are interested in Ryan’s Florida and Disneyworld-related blogging exploits, take a look at his Top Florida Guide blog.

Tomorrow's post: a career in web design.



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