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How to become a professional SEO expert

Article Highlights

Why should you become an SEO expert?
Why should you become a professional SEO?

SEO KPIs
SEO KPIs

How to become an SEO strategist in 9 steps
How to become an SEO expert in 9 steps

Summary
Summary

Understanding and executing SEO at a strategic level is a goal that every marketer should have in mind. 49% of marketers report that organic search has the best ROI of any marketing channel (Search Engine Journal), with 68% of online experiences beginning with a search engine (BrightEdge). Learn how to create engaging, search engine-friendly content that delivers a valuable, unique, and easy-to-consume experience, and you’re part way there. If content is King, then links are the Queen and you’ll need to learn about good and bad linking practices, finally, master Technical SEO and you’ll be well underway to becoming a professional SEO expert. Knowing where to start can be tricky, but we’ve used our many years of experience here at Blue Array to create this invaluable guide to working your way towards becoming an SEO expert.

Why should you become an SEO expert?

SEO is a highly rewarding profession and well skilled strategists are always in high demand (just do a search on any job listing website). To some degree it’s also a recession proof business, or rather, one that is the first to receive marketing budget following businesses releasing cash again into marketing (this is the experience of SEO following the financial crisis of 2007–2008 and the COVID-19 global pandemic of 2020).

Further, there’s really no ceiling to where you can go with SEO and for many companies it’s such a high value marketing channel you can find yourself part of the C-Suite.

Becoming an SEO expert gives you the power to connect the most relevant searches to your business – the searches that will lead to more leads, sales, and revenue – to your website and your brand. Rising the search engine results page ranks and increasing your visibility for the search terms that matter increases brand awareness and, when done well, will bring high-quality visitors to your content in the moment of their intent. This can also reduce or remove the costs of other marketing acquisition channels.

Mastering SEO means being able to capitalise on searches made by people who are looking for the products or services you sell. It will take time, effort, and a proactive approach to learning to become an SEO expert, because there is a lot of technical understanding involved and the search engines are forever changing their algorithms. It’s a fast-paced, dynamic and ever changing channel that is well worth the investment and commitment of your time to learning. You might feel overwhelmed or daunted at the thought of getting started with learning SEO, but we can assure you that once you get the ball rolling, you’ll find it difficult to stop. 

Getting started

Now you’ve made the commitment to becoming a professional SEO expert, it’s time to get started. First, it’s important that you understand how SEO works in its simplest form and what the key performance indicators are. Search engines – like Google and Bing use robots (sometimes just called ‘bots’) to crawl pages on the internet. They move from website to website, collecting information about the pages they crawl and putting it into an index. Once the information is indexed, algorithms analyse these pages based on hundreds of ranking factors or signals – these factors determine the order pages should appear in the search results for a given query. SEO is the opposite of paid search, where you can bid on the top advertising spots for your target keywords typically within an auction model. With SEO, you must earn your place and show Google and the other search engines that they can trust you and you are worthy of ranking in the best positions. 

Some of the key ranking factors include having a secure and accessible website, having a mobile-friendly website, optimised content including page titles, technical SEO including internal linking, links to the website from other authoritative websites with high editorial integrity, and effective keyword targeting.

Once you get started with SEO, you know you’re doing a good job when you start to see wins across these KPIs:

  • Website rankings (rankings help click through rate)
  • Band awareness
  • Search engine visibility and traffic to your website
  • High-quality leads
  • Conversion rates and sales
  • User experience and website performance
  • Mobile-friendliness and loading speed
  • Market share
  • Visit to your physical store (if applicable)

With this basic understanding of SEO in hand, it’s now time to get started on our step-by-step education path towards becoming an SEO expert.

Your step-by-step education path

Step 1

Google currently has 86.86% of the search engine market (Statista), so your first step on your education path should be with them. Google’s starter guide for SEO is the perfect learning tool for beginners who want to nail the fundamentals of search engine optimisation. Their guide includes a handy glossary, insights into best practice, practical advice on creating SEO content, the importance of website hierarchy, and much more. Google also provides lots of free and short online courses via their Google Digital Garage, which has been created with beginners in mind. They’re perfect for getting to grips with the fundamentals of digital marketing, content, and customer behaviour.

Step 2

Once you’re feeling confident that you’ve mastered the fundamentals of SEO and the role it plays in digital marketing and the wider customer experience, it’s time to push your learning further. The Blue Array Academy offers training and support for anyone wanting to take the next step in their SEO education. It weaves together the many years of experience from the team of experts at Blue Array – including their proven tactics and strategies for real-world success – into a learning experience that meets the highest industry standards. You can choose from a variety of courses to suit your learning goals and status, and you’ll make progress with your CPD points too.

Step 3

This step should run alongside steps 1 and 2. The best way to practice what you’re learning is to launch your own website. It doesn’t really matter what the website is about, although it’s better to choose a topic that you’re interested in and are ready to write about on a regular basis. One of the most popular website CMSs is WordPress, so invest time in learning as much as you can using a resource like Kinsta. Once you have your website built and ready to go, take everything you’ve learned so far and get practising. Learn about HTML and tweak the content on your website to see how it affects the search engine results. 

Step 4

Track your progress with digital tools such as Google Analytics, Google Search Console, SEMrush, and Screaming Frog. All these tools are invaluable for measuring SEO performance and the KPIs we listed above. You cannot do SEO well without having a strong grasp of the data. Numbers and metrics are your key to becoming a professional SEO expert and understanding how people behave on your site, what interests them, and how your SEO efforts are impacting your overall business success.

If you choose one platform to start with, it should be Google Analytics. It will help you to uncover and understand behaviour patterns, your demographics, and where you need to improve to boost success. The Google Analytics Academy is an important asset in the learning path to becoming an SEO expert. The lessons taught here will help you gain a better grasp of SEO metrics and how you can use numbers to create more efficient, effective SEO campaigns.

Step 5

Keep your learning going by reading about SEO every day. Sign up for the Blue Array newsletter, we curate all the news that matters in the world of SEO and you’ll soon start to learn which blogs, publishers and sources are worth reading. The newsletter releases every Sunday at 20:00 GMT..

Publications we recommend reading on a regular basis are Search Engine Watch, Search Engine Land, and Marketing Land.

A few experts on Twitter we recommend following are Barry Schwartz, Glenn Gabe, Lily Ray, Marie Haynes, Aleyda Solis, Eric Enge and most importantly from Google, John Mueller and Danny Sullivan. Twitter is without a doubt the best social network for keeping up to date on SEO. Finally, if you have a small business Claire Carlile gives great advice related to ‘Local SEO’.

Search engine algorithms can change at any time, often unannounced, so keeping abreast of the latest changes and staying on top of news and trends will help you become a smarter SEO expert.  Keep a calendar of upcoming SEO events and webinars to attend, so that you can surround yourself with like-minded people and be part of challenging conversations with SEO thought leaders.

Step 6

Study Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines religiously. Google hires people to rate websites and this guide covers the factors they’re told to look for. There is a handy simplified version that is aimed at beginners and intermediate SEOs, known as E-A-T:

  • Expertise.
  • Authoritativeness.
  • Trustworthiness.

However, if you’re set on becoming an SEO expert, it’s important to read the whole document.

Step 7

It’s important to integrate flexibility and creativity into your learning, steering clear of checklists. Checklist mentality is when you’re so focused on following a series of steps that you become inflexible and unaware of when the regime no longer works. You need to be adaptable to meet the ever-changing requirements of the search engines, and a checklist mentality means simply walking through your checklist with blinders on. Your list can become outdated and irrelevant quickly, and if you’re not aware of this, your results will take a hit. Be outcome orientated, challenge yourself to think differently every day, and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you feel stuck. The SEO community is a friendly and collaborative one, with peers ready and waiting to offer advice and creative solutions to problems you might be facing. 

Step 8

Prepare yourself to learn from your mistakes – you will face challenges and unexpected results, so it’s important to take a mental note of how you dealt with the mistake. This makes it less likely to happen again. Learn from your successes too. There is no exact science to SEO and it’s much more of an art, especially in the face of algorithm and ranking factor changes, but you should be mindful of actions you take that have positive results. 

Step 9

As you learn, aim to keep the bigger picture in mind. SEO is a fantastic digital marketing channel that will bring in great results. It works best when used as part of an integrated digital marketing plan, where you bring all the channels together to support and complement each other. Remind yourself that your website users’ journeys don’t start and end with a Google search followed by a website visit. What if they’re not ready to convert then and there? What if they require nurturing with relevant content, or retargeting with testimonials to build brand trust? Put yourself in their shoes and map out the touchpoints they take between first learning about the brand through to becoming a customer. Once you understand that journey and how SEO fits in, you’re in a much better position to optimise your work and drive results.

How long will it take to become a professional SEO expert?

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is learning SEO – especially if you want to become an expert strategist. There are lots of intricacies to SEO that you can only learn with time and experience. Our step-by-step learning path will give you a strong foundation and core education about SEO, but you will find that even as an accomplished SEO expert you are still learning something new all the time. SEO keeps you on your toes, so be prepared to commit to career-long learning and always striving to be better. When you’ve completed your learning path, push yourself to find new resources or challenges to take on. You should also be prepared to embrace patience – with your learning, and with your SEO work as you start to implement strategies. SEO isn’t a quick fix, especially when done right, so be ready to commit to the long game and invest yourself in both your career development and your SEO results.

How to stay sharp as an SEO expert

The world of SEO is always changing. Fluctuations in the search engine results are normal, but when an unannounced algorithm change takes place, it can really knock your ranking positions and website traffic unless you’re being proactive. Take what we’ve advised in step 5 of your learning path and use it alongside other best practices to stay on top of the search engine results.. Keep an eye on any notable changes, be that competitors rising in the ranks or new Google features. Spend as much time as you can in the SERPs, looking for opportunities or updates that will help push your website ahead of your competitors. 

Summary

We often hear people saying that SEO should be left to the experts. But all those experts started out somewhere, and they’ve progressed to the expert level by putting time, commitment, and passion into their learning. If you do the same, you’ll take strides towards becoming an SEO expert. Much like SEO itself, which takes time to pick up speed and garner results, it’s not a quick specialism to pick up. But this shouldn’t put you off following your SEO dream. Follow our step-by-step learning path to build your SEO knowledge up from basic to expert, leaning on support from Google, Blue Array, and the SEO community as you progress. 

SEO is a multifaceted discipline, from technical SEO through to on-page SEO, content marketing, and link building. Manage your expectations and those of your colleagues. Share your education path with them and set learning goals against a schedule. If you have a question, reach out to your peers and other SEO professionals for inspiration and help. At the end of the day, even the most seasoned SEO expert is dealing with the unpredictable nature of the search engines – as SEOs, we’re all in the same boat. The mark of an excellent SEO expert is being unafraid to ask questions, solve problems, think creatively, and offer advice. 

Take advantage of as many learning opportunities as you can, from the basics with Google through to expert-level learning with Blue Array and hold yourself accountable for your education. Use your own website to practice what you learn and test out ideas, theories, and processes. Take what you learn there and apply it to your company’s website, or that of others if you’re considering freelance working. Arm yourself with data and metrics from Google Analytics, Search Console, and other top SEO platforms, so that you’re never caught out by an algorithm change or questions from your employer. Tracking your SEO performance and those of your competitors closely will enable you to spot successes, failures and opportunities.

Learning any new specialism is exciting and a great experience but can also feel overwhelming at times. This guide has been designed to walk you through how to become an SEO expert, and how to stay current and on top of your game when you get there. SEOs around the world agree that one of the best things about search engine optimisation is the fact that it can deliver fantastic results whilst pushing strategists to work harder and smarter, all the time. Give your education time and devotion, and before you know it, you’ll be driving high-quality traffic to your website that is bringing leads, sales, and revenue to your business. It’ll be worth the investment, we promise.

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