“Learning” On The Job – SEO Ninja Training

How do you feel when someone accuses you, an SEO, of “learning on the job?”

What if they top off the accusation with “and so-and-so said they saw you reading!” (Oh me. Oh my. Oh no!!)

It’s like you’ve been accused of cheating, being “green,” or a neophyte not deserving of an SEO Karate white belt.

You may be prompted to write a “Dear Ignoramus” letter to the accuser if you hadn’t already given them a Karate sidekick. As an SEO, you may realize the idiocy of such comments and decide not to waste your energy.

Monica Wright - SEO Ninja, Training

SEO Ninja always training - Monica Wright

SEO is like Karate. It’s a martial art. Serious SEO ninjas never stop training.

SEO Experience

Let’s make it clear…

No matter what stage of experience you are in SEO – white belt, brown belt, black belt or Sensei, you’d better be reading, researching, testing, and “learning on the job” regularly!

I’m not advocating you ignore the need for billable hours or meeting client needs. However, if you work at an agency or on your own, you’d better schedule time training on the SEO dojo floor to perfect your search marketing skills. There is no level of “attainment” in which you rest on the laurels of the color of your SEO belt. Your clients need you to be a Master.

I don’t yet know the demographics of readers on Search Marketing Wisdom. I imagine, however, that most of you who practice SEO and search marketing break down into the following as practitioners:

  • Freelance
  • Partner
  • Agency employee
  • In-House SEO
  • Owner/Operator of your own retail or lead-gen sites

Each one of you (correction) Each one of us has a pressing, dire, need to stay on top of what is happening in search. It doesn’t matter how many site audits, competitive analyses, information architectures, optimized pages of content and links we have under our belts. We live in a constantly-changing, metamorphosing world of search.

Rapid-Fire SEO

“Rapid-fire SEO” is the first adjective that comes to mind when thinking
about SEO the past few years.

Matt Cutts in an interview with Virginia Nussey on interview on SEM Synergy, said that in 2008 Google had approximately 450 algorithm changes.

Did you pick up on that?

That means Google changed the way they index, rank, and display results FOUR HUNDRED & FIFTY times in one year. That was 2008.

2009 brought an influx of universal results and personalization. The rapid-fire changes to search algorithms continues. Matt Cutts, in a Google Webmaster video answered the question, “How many changes did Google make to their primary search algorithm in 2009?” He explains Google averages 350-400 per year, averaging 1 change per day overall.

Chop. Chop. Hiya!

Do you remember December 8, 2009 when Google launched Twitter Real-Time results in their SERPs? The ramification on what it meant for spam in search results was tremendous. If you weren’t paying attention, you wouldn’t have informed clients of the resulting opportunity (or missed opportunity) to participate as well.

Enter and exit 2010.

You’ve heard the adage…

“Don’t blink or you’ll miss it.”

Yes, Google changes faster than you can blink.

What about the other search engines? If you blinked too long, you were not prepared for one Bing and Yahoo! index. Or you may have missed Blekko.

Alan Bleiweiss recapped the continual “gifts” we received in 2010 in his Search Engine Journal post, “An Epic Year for SEO.”

SEOs who were not constantly reading, researching and testing would not have been responsive to help clients with Google Caffeine, May Day and the rising influence of social media and mobile. If you were not learning on the job, you would have missed:

  • September 8 when Google Instant was unleashed, changing the way we search and the way we instantly access sites deemed relevant to our queries.
  • October 27 when Google Places changed the game of local SEO, placing significant emphasis on citations and reviews and changing SERP layout and real estate. If your target query has a geo-related modifier, the way you optimize for that phrase has changed. At PubCon Las Vegas, Greg Boser called October 27, 2010 “Black Wednesday” for SEOs.

Earned your black belt yet?

What about 2011?

SEOs have another hugely significant “learning opportunity” that affects all Internet marketing strategies… Facebook.

Remember, Facebook IS a place where people search and look for stuff! Will it ever be a search engine? Search Engine Land reported on 1/3/11 that Facebook has raised $500 million from Goldman Sachs. As the article ponders, is a Facebook search engine inevitable?

Time for Learning, R&D

How will you be keeping up on the latest in 2011 and the rapid-fire changes in search? Will you be learning on the job? Heck, you’d better get caught in the act often!!

Not everyone reads and studies search and Google patents like David Harry, SEO Sensei behind the SEO Dojo. David constantly reads with his ear to the search ground. Ask Dave one of the “changes” of 2010 that’s significant for 2011 and beyond, and he may tell you Google’s purchase of Metaweb. Dave calls the need to be in constant study, “research and development.” It’s essential to anticipate for what’s coming!

Creative Commons Share Alike credit to JadeXJustice on Flickr, Danae Hurst

SEOs need to wax on, wax off.

A highly-regarded SEO friend told me he spends about 3 hours/day in the SEO Book forums – studying and “keeping up with the latest.” Constant study is a necessity for any skilled marketing Ninja.

If you’re a search marketer, no matter the color of your belt, you had better be “learning on the job” – watching, sharing, testing, evaluating AND reading. If you get “caught” doing so, you’re on your way to black belt. And if your SEO skills are already at the black-belt level, you’ll need to study to retain your belt and become Sensei to teach others.

“Wax on. Wax off. Breath in. Breath out.”

How many hours a week do you spend sharpening your skills?

About Dana Lookadoo

Dana Lookadoo is a search marketer who works with select clients, often as an in-house SEO consultant and trainer to help companies plan and develop their search engagement efforts. The slogan for Dana's agency, Yo! Yo! SEO, is "Word-of-Mouth SEO." She focuses on helping organizations attain visibility by optimizing their website and online conversations for search engines, social media, and audience engagement. She entered the Internet field in 1996, because it provided the ideal confluence for her passions of technology, writing and people.

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