One of the really great things about the SEO industry is the community. Because of the nature of SEO — frequent algorithm updates, a variety of opinions of how to do it “right,” and the many different parts and pieces of SEO — most SEO professionals depend on each other to bounce ideas off, ask questions, and share advice.
Some of us come from content and editorial backgrounds, some from technical/coding backgrounds, some from marketing and sales, and some from completely unrelated industries. I fall into the first category. This background variety was an interesting concept to me, so when it was my turn to host #SEOChat on Twitter (held every Thursday at 1pm), I decided to go with this angle to jumpstart a conversation.
Once I had my topic, I needed to come up with some questions that would help to facilitate the conversation. These are the questions I came up with, although I didn’t end up having time to ask them all!
Q1) How long have you been in SEO and/or marketing? #SEOChat
Q2) What is your background — what did you study, and what jobs led you to the place you are now? #SEOChat
Q3) Did you jump straight into SEO/marketing or did you take a more scenic route? #SEOChat
Q4) What skills were most helpful to you in getting into SEO? #SEOChat
Q5) What has changed since then (Q3)? Are the skills required the same or is there something specific new SEOs should try to learn beforehand? #SEOChat
Q6) What do you wish you had known when you first started in this industry? #SEOChat
Q7) What fantastic mistakes did you make early on? #SEOChat
Q8) What is the best decision you’ve made in your career, specific to your SEO career or not? #SEOChat
Q9) If you weren’t in SEO, what is the most likely career path you’d have taken instead? #SEOChat
Some of the answers were surprising! There were quite a few from English/writing backgrounds, but also SEOs with backgrounds in law, graphic design/UX, music, politics, philosophy, foreign languages, social media, art history, and writing comic strips. To say that SEOs are a diverse crowd is a bit of an understatement, but I was surprised to see so many with backgrounds from the humanities!
I also appreciated the answers for most valuable skills (even if not SEO-related). It’s amazing what skills that you may think are insignificant may play a role in your career later on. Learning how to speak in front of people, how other departments (like engineering) think and work best, how to tell stories, and how to write analytically were some top lessons learned by our group.
Many people felt that their careers have benefited from knowing when to move on, let go, say no, change directions, or cut ties. It’s one of the lessons that can be especially difficult when you’re young in your career to say “no” to a potential client or a career opportunity. I remember thinking I wanted to be a writer, probably a freelance writer, when I was in college. I worked at WebMD at the time and I went to lunch with one of the senior staff writers to ask questions. When I asked him what advice he would give me, he said (and I will never forget this), “If you can do anything else besides write and be happy, do something else.”
That may not sound like the most encouraging advice, but I took it to heart! I knew I could do other things and be happy, and I was not DRIVEN to write, so I changed plans. I’m so glad I did! Now that I am an SEO director and project manager and work with a large pool of freelance writers, I really understand how difficult it can be to find a gig that reliably pays the bills and at the same time is interesting and enjoyable to you.
If you’re interested in SEO topics, feel free to join us every week on Thursdays at 1pm using #SEOChat to participate or lurk. And if you’re in another industry, look for Twitter chats where you can connect with others. It’s a great way to make friends, improve your skills, and share your favorite gifs!
If you’re so inclined, feel free to follow me on Twitter. I tweet about 50% SEO-related things and 50% Sci-Fi things. @LauraLeeSEO