Training and education in the SEM industry
I took a look from an “out of the box” perspective the other day, after explaining to a collegue the possible reasons for a website’s homepage to not have been crawled or indexed by Google, i just realised how the market has changed since i first started.
Initially just a writer for the company, and listening to my boss in the UK office explaining SEO back then for employment/recruitment industry was rather frustrating at the time, not being able to understand why and how it worked. The goal was to know what he knew, and to then know even more and be a key asset to the company in the future (personally i would be great and possibly a leader in the industry someday). Now it’s only been over 2 years, but the conversation i had made me think of what “newbie’s” to SEM get “thrown” in front of their screens when doing research compared to a few years ago when i was reading and learning.
My questions where more along the lines of “how does Google evaluate content?” / “how do search engines see links and work out the value of them?” “what is good content, what are good links, how should a site be structured, how does Google crawl a site?” etc etc, and the list goes on, basic knowledge looking at those questions now, but how the times have changed from forum questions of “what keyword density should i use?” to “how can i make viral content?”
I find myself in many situations within the day to day working environment making the assumption that team members are fully aware of the basics i have learnt over the years, that they would go through the same steps i did to understand what our market is, and how our service works, but as our company has grown, and we have “Sectioned” off parts of SEM into departments, i notice how link builders do not understand why copy writing for clients becomes time intensive and has so many steps to follow. The writers assuming that the link builders just go to any website and ask for a link, yet, all team members understand the need for each department and make some connection to what the outcome is a result of at the end of the day (it’s actually not as bad as it sounds, just using that as an example). Providing training documentation would be the first thought to anyone, and we supply our members with an arsenal to be reckoned with, but the amount of imformation supplied within the documentation does result in a information overload for “newbies”.
Frustrating at times, it is hard to constantly update documentation as the industry changes, which makes it exciting at first, as where else in any industry do techniques and offerings have to be adapted so often as the rules of the game change, and secondly time intensive. ensuring that everyone in the company is aware of changes, and how these changes effect the company and the clients outcome as well. The common basics that are applied, whereafter the art/creative spin is added makes the SEM industry. We should all know the common basics required to begin SEM for any client, but with all the options, SMO, link bait, universal search including images/news/video and paid search sometimes the basics are forgotten.
I know most of my team members get frustrated with me at times, when requesting them to ensure 300% quality, by checking, rechecking and going back to the start and ensure that nothing during the step they were tasked with has been forgotten. Ensuring that all documentation has been updated to reflect any changes during implementation is 1 area you can say i go a bit overboard with.
Practise, practise and more practise is the only way to learn, to pay attention to how each step is completed, and within the few months to monitor how those steps have come to fruition is something we sometimes miss. Rushing to complete an assignment, and missing a small step, down the line can result in a large problem that becomes exponential, making the adjustments that much harder and time consuming, which could have been avoided by that 10 minute review.
Link teams need to be constantly aware of the changes in search engines, and with the changes in the SERPS, monitoring what sites are indexed, what sites are popular, etc. Going after the holy grail of Toolbar PR can become an obsession for a company and their clients that can very well have no outcome on the results that are expected. Being able to see potential in a partner site, and basic checks can ensure the long term sustainability for any campaign/solution.
Copywriting is integral, without text for search engines/users to understand what the website is and offers a client could very well be lost inside the world wide web. Trying to integrate as many keywords into a page of copy as possible, destroys the copy, does not read well and very well might effect the client’s website performance when vistors arrive.
Looking at local companies still lost in the “dark times”, guaranteeing results, offering the cheapest costs for online promotion, and unforunately within our local SA market, price is always a concern for a client who does not understand the SEM industry. “Smaller” companies that use methods that deliver a result as a tried and tested method, however straddling the fence when it comes to ethical and unethical, could very well start seeing their demise as the daily ever changing industry evolves(not gunning for smaller companies here, we should have the clients best interest in mind). Long term strategy is better than short term gains, both for the client and for the SEM provider. Methods that worked a year ago, without staying in touch with the market changes, might not work within the coming year.
So what is the outcome? Basics are the foundation to everything, without the basics are we not simply building a home in the sand? No matter how extravagant the house may look inside or out, a change in wind or an unexpected wave could destroy everything. Start with the basics and then apply the creative. Our industry is lead by creative leaders, but let’s not forget that they also had to start with the basics.