Looking back on the last 8 years of my career I see many different stages of learning. I am so glad that I learned along the way and the funny thing is that what I do now is so totally different than what I did in the beginning of my time in the SEO realm. I wouldn’t be doing the work I love now if I hadn’t worked hard to expand my skillsets and knowledge. I have always been a big believer in learning as much as you can about everything and that no one knows everything. Learning should never stop.
Knowing Enough About All Aspects of Search
When Loren Baker approached me about being the Editor at Search Engine Journal in 2011 I was very glad I had been paying attention to as many aspects of search as I could because an editor is responsible for publishing that is correct. This knowledge helped me when I starting editing at Moz at the end of 2012 as well. To know what is correct you have to study and learn on a daily basis.
You don’t know where your career is going to take you in the next few years, so my advice is to learn as much as you can.
Five years ago if you had told me I would be an editor anywhere I would have laughed in your face, but here I am and in the past few years I have declined way more articles than I have approved due to inaccurate and false information. When I don’t know if something is correct I contact someone that does and I ask, and the answers I receive I learn from. Don’t ever be afraid or embarrassed to ask.
What scares me is the amount of bad and inaccurate advice being written out there. If people believe it enough to write about it they are offering this advice to clients!
If you are offering advice to businesses YOU MUST know what is true and what isn’t. You need to know more so you can help clients and point out the false information. I started out in this industry writing for websites, but it evolved and snowballed in a massive way. To be good at this job you have to learn more and more.
Why Any of This Matters to Agencies or Consultants
As an agency or a consultant you need to be able to give quality advice and recommendations to your client. If your agency focuses on PPC and social media that is all good, but you still MUST know about web design, content management systems, WordPress (for sure), mobile marketing and much more. To create trust with clients they must be able to depend on your advice.
MORE IMPORTANTLY – You need to be able to see the BIG picture and understand how all aspects of online marketing work and function together, the right way.
If you understand the enmeshment of the various forms of online marketing you will be ahead. You want to be someone valuable that clients don’t want to lose; you need to be able to help and refer. To be good at what you do, to grow in the long-term and to be effective you MUST know more than the other guy!
Knowing About Different Aspects of Search Doesn’t Mean You Offer Every Service
Offer what you know well and collect friends and people that can provide quality services for subjects you are not an expert in. You can’t be an expert at everything and the truth is your brain is most likely going to think some things are boring. Focus on the things you know, are good at and enjoy! Referring people to quality vendors is a good thing.
I started out with crappy websites and I made money with them (it wasn’t great money, but I made money). It was a mistake; clients needed more than I could give. Later, I learned so much from my partner in many projects, Diane Kinney. She taught me so much about websites and coding and what is effective and what isn’t. I learned from her because I listened, I observed and I tested. I don’t code and I don’t do web design, but I know a lot because I bothered to pay attention.
How to Learn More: Get Out of Your Comfort Zone!
Take some time to learn about things you don’t know by reading the blogs you typically do not read. I don’t do PPC and I don’t really like it, but I am forcing myself to read blogs that are focused on it and reading articles about it. You can also attend conference sessions or Meetups that are outside of your realm of specialities.
I recently took two of the self-paced classes at Market Motive; one on PPC and one on Mobile Marketing. I don’t offer these services and I will not offer them, however I now have more knowledge for clients and for editing purposes. It was worth investment and time and I learned a lot. I am actually shocked how many times the things I learned in the mobile marketing class have come up in the last 3 weeks and I am beyond thankful I took the time to learn more.
YOU Are in an Constant Changing Industry
If you are in the search industry you are in an industry that will never stop changing and you need a large knowledge base to continue in this industry for the long-term. Knowledge will turn into skill in different aspects of your work.
You need to know about all forms of online marketing, content marketing, SEO, PPC, mobile, social, web design coding, hosting, and many types of content management systems. I also think you need to know a lot about WordPress and plugins. You need to know which plugins cause website issues and which can hurt a website. You don’t need to know 100% about everything, but you need to know at least 40-50% about each aspect of this industry.
Keep working and learning and testing; later you will be glad you took the time. Good luck! [FYI, this was brain dump; sorry for any typos I may have missed.]