What does my perfect SEO training scheme look like?

by Ben McKay November 24th, 2009 

I’ve been in the fortunate situation lately where Mediaedge:cia Manchester has been recruiting a number of SEO’s lately. On the back of this, we thought it best to formalise the training for each new-starter in order to aid the induction process and provide additional training. This way we can ensure that each SEO is provided with a consistent foundation of SEO – with more complex/subjective areas open for debate of course – and thus build the team’s capabilities on the back of this.

I know the term ‘best practice’ get’s flung about a fair bit online, sometimes in a way that disregards the idea that SEO is more of an art than a science…but really, the idea of providing a foundation for SEO development across the team can be designed.

All-in-all, if we compete in some of the most competitive niches then we need to acknowledge that the training, development and ambition of our SEO teams should be at the forefront of what we do. Hence, in my case, the recent launch of the MEC SEO Academy!

Building SEO Skills

I’ve previously covered-off, what I think about SEO accreditation, but SEO training is another kettle of dogs.  So, what does my ideal SEO training scheme look like

Daily SEO Reading

Who’s going to argue with me on this one? SEO seems to span far and wide, and is growing in reach it seems year-on-year. More departments of marketing and business are getting involved than ever before, and as such this requires a daily-fix of what’s happening in the news, and where new opportunities might be blooming for clients. With this in mind, I’d suggest that each and every SEO is actively encouraged to keep abreast of their reading.

SEO Mentor

This is one of my favourite areas of a training scheme – the idea that another member of staff (maybe not necessarily the line-manager) takes responsibility for another SEO’s professional development.

Learn & Lead

That mentor ensures that the right conversations and exposure to SEO occurs, ideally in a way that everyone in the team is empowered to promote the development of their other team mates. The aim of this is to provide longevity beyond the scheme itself and provide and impetus to keep each team member learning.

Provision of their own website

Nothing like keeping up appearances is there?! With their own website, each new starter can create a social media profile – helping them to integrate in to this excellent SEO community, and of course potentially raise the profile of the agency they work for. If they’re unfamiliar with CMS platforms, managing websites or simply wanting a testing-bed for then there’s nothing better than having your own websites (rather than a clients to test on!). This all comes at minimal cost too – just the price of a domain, hosting and some time to develop the site.

Developing a website in a niche helps them to see the true value of social media too. In doing this, they can learn firsthand the importance of adding value to an online community for true social media marketing.

The training would also bring in a level of conversation and reporting, giving each member of the SEO team a chance to show-off the improving performance of their website in that niche too. This might be where they’ve run some linkbait, built their subscriber-base, or improved behaviour / interaction factors with the site…

Training Content

Oh yeah, and that all important thing – the content of the actual SEO training. Needless to say, this needs to be absolutely top-notch, designed around the SEO basics and current hot topics / new technologies. Naturally, it needs to cover-off the SEO process, as it is carried out by the current team, but it should leave an open door for suggestions to better the process further – immediately valuing the input of the new team member and increasing the chances of buy-in.

The content of the training can be as broad as you like. For instance we’ve covered-off items that stretch into other digital marketing specialisms, in addition to offline-marketing inductions. I can’t provide any suggestions here other than design a programme to professionally develop your staff in ways to meet your business goals.

Document Progress

Each SEO mentor is empowered to encourage the development, but so too are they to help document / evidence this development.  This might be some sort of checklist to ensure thye have covered as many technical facets of SEO, presenting complex issues, or even attending SEO events.  The SEO mentor could then be charged with helping the trainee document their progress and highlight with clarity their development – making the whole progress something to be proud of.

SEO ‘Watchtower’

On the back of the induction period, let’s say 3 months, the SEO would choose a specialism (if they didn’t have one already). There are plenty of reasons for this, but one of the most convincing is simply to share the eyes and ears on the ground. This way each SEO needn’t be expected to know absolutely every single thing that is happening around them. Thus, providing the opportunity to wheel-out the specialist in that area for clients.

Presenting SEO

It’s one of those things that people love or hate. Delivering a presentation is not typically needed across all levels of SEO, but what is required is the ability to clearly and articulately communicate SEO, search technologies, tools, approaches and its fit into other areas of marketing.

Presenting SEO

If each member of the SEO team is encouraged to present internally on a regular basis, then it offers the opportunity to train on a deeper level – capitalising on the knowledge gained by each SEO’s area of specialist interest.

Training and Development Outputs

What do you want to achieve from the training? Naturally the best training scheme can only be the best if it achieves what it aims to. Looking for specialists – then how does this scheme funnel those people down different areas of SEO? Wanting to see their interest grow – how does this training scheme prompt (as close as possible to) scientific enquiry for instance? Do you require client-facing SEO’s, then how do you develop them across your team…inter-team training, company-wide training, shadowing client meetings? I haven’t made my desired outputs clear in this case, but it’s often effective to work-out what you require as outputs from staff, and then work backwards to decide on how best you can get there.

And of course, any SEO training must be driven by a passion to share knowledge and the passion itself to compete online amongst the best there is…how can you communicate this in the training scheme?

Benefits of a SEO Training Scheme

Just a few of the benefits include the reassurance that all members of the team have shared the same foundation of training. Training of a relatively subjective art form can of course generate debate too – great for developing people’s inquisitive and analytical mindset around the approach to each SEO process.

And, most importantly, a huge benefit of the MEC SEO Academy is that it has prompted me to write about a great topic on the wonderful SEO Scoop.

Anyway, there are lots you can do regarding SEO training, but what would your perfect training scheme look like?

About Ben McKay

Ben McKay is a SEO Manager at Mediaedge:cia, and a Manchester SEO blogger and writer for greensplash web design.  Say hello to Ben on Twitter.

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9 Responses to “What does my perfect SEO training scheme look like?”

  1. SEO training is important, but do you have any tips or can recommend some articles by other authors how to scale your SEO team and keep decent quality of your SEO services?

  2. Mike Wilton says:

    I think you've got a solid outline here Ben. The company I work for is currently looking at way to better integrate training and education into our search marketing department and I think this is a pretty solid foundation that runs along the same lines as what I was thinking myself. Great read and great suggestions!

  3. Ben McKay says:

    Hi Mike,

    Pleased you found it helpful! It's geared-up to an agency model, but could quite easily be moulded to in-house training too…e.g. even in-house guys have to present their plans and results to their senior managers at times.

    Would be good to build-out specific models for each to see how they differ…

    Cheers Mike,

    Ben

  4. I think most people, especially beginners get more confused the more they read about it. I only go on information that I have tried and tested myself with a number of websites I own, and document the results. Only then can you be sure of what works and what doesn't.

  5. Drake says:

    This is so informative! Would you recommend putting your own scheme together, or would you recommend using a search marketing expert or SEM Specialist to do this for you?

  6. Ben McKay says:

    Hi Alex,

    In response to: "SEO training is important, but do you have any tips or can recommend some articles by other authors how to scale your SEO team and keep decent quality of your SEO services?"

    Scaling an SEO team whilst retaining a quality is tough. Sadly there aren't many posts that spring to mind but would certainly make a great post. There is this one from Richard Baxter, SEO Gadget: http://seogadget.co.uk/build-a-great-seo-team/

    Other than that, I can't think of others but have made a note to document any learnings of the process that I'm going through right now.

    I hope that will help for now!

    Ben

  7. Ben McKay says:

    Hi Drake,

    I'd suggest working with a specialist to ensure that bad habits are passed on. I'd also suggest going with someone recommend via word-of-mouth.

    Cheers,

    Ben

  8. [...] love this idea.  I’ve previously shared what we work to deliver as part of our SEO training academy over on SEP, and one of the key items we raised here was in nurturing people’s analytical and inquisitive [...]

  9. [...] throughout. I love this idea.  I’ve previously shared what we work to deliver as part of our SEO training academy over on SEP, and one of the key items we raised here was in nurturing people’s analytical and inquisitive [...]