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What is SEO? Why should you consider it as a career? And what skills will be most beneficial to you as a college student getting started in the industry?

What is SEO? Why should you consider it as a career? And what skills will be most beneficial to you as a college student getting started in the industry?


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A Look Into Search Engine Optimization

  1. 1. A Look Into Search Engine Optimization Stephanie Wallace Director, Search Engine Optimization @SBenhart
  2. 2. WE ARE A HUMAN-CENTERED DIGITAL AGENCY. We believe that great work comes from understanding the needs, wants and perceptions of your audience. This human-centered approach informs everything we do. It's why our work does more than just win awards. It generates results. This presentation includes an overview of our capabilities and highlights what makes us truly unique as a company within our industry.
  4. 4. SEO Industry
  5. 5. History of SEO
  6. 6. Operators
  7. 7. Phone Book
  8. 8. The Internet
  9. 9. AltaVista
  10. 10. Over 3.5 billion searches per day on Google
  11. 11. Google has identified more than 30 trillion unique URLs
  12. 12. Google bots crawl 20 billion sites per day
  13. 13. There’s also a New Buyer Journey
  14. 14. Modern Buyer Journey
  15. 15. Digital Interaction
  16. 16. How Search Engines Work
  17. 17. Crawling & Indexing Search engines send SPIDERS out to crawl the web. The SPIDERS analyze your website content, semantic markup, and trust signals to determine what your site about and relative authority. The SPIDERS consolidate the webpages and parse that index each time a user searches. Quality & relevance determine where your website appears in SERPs.
  18. 18. Providing Answers • The more popular & relevant a site, page or document, the more valuable the information must be
  19. 19. Ranking Factors • Google evaluates over 200 ranking factors, each weighted differently Source:
  20. 20. What is SEO?
  21. 21. What is SEO? • The process of optimizing a website to appear naturally in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) • Non-paid listings • Sustainable results
  22. 22. On-Page SEO Off-Page SEO & Digital PR In-Page & Technical SEO
  23. 23. In-Page • Technical & architecture issues: • Crawlability • Indexation • Site Hierarchy • URL Construction • Link Structure
  24. 24. On-Page • Optimizing the content within the site based on keyword themes that convey relevance & authority
  25. 25. Off-Page • Every link and reference online counts as an endorsement for your website and brand • More endorsements lead to greater perceived authority
  26. 26. SEO vs. SEM • SEM refers to the combined marketing tactics of paid search and SEO • Also referred to as CPC (cost per click) or PPC (pay per click)
  27. 27. SEO Best Practices
  28. 28. Why do we always refer to best practices rather than make concrete guarantees about our strategies?
  29. 29. Search Engines Change…
  30. 30. A LOT.
  31. 31. What should work doesn’t always work.
  32. 32. What works for one website may not work for another.
  33. 33. What SEO Isn’t
  34. 34. SEO is Not About Keywords & Links
  35. 35. It’s About Increasing Your Shelf Space & Brand Trust
  36. 36. SEO Myths Debunked
  37. 37. Snake Oil Salesman
  38. 38. TINSTAAFL
  39. 39. SEO Takes Time
  40. 40. Where do you even start?
  41. 41. Fundamental Skills
  42. 42. Web Development • Understand the basic principles of web development • Working knowledge of HTML and a variety of CMS
  43. 43. Writing • Write coherent and compelling content
  44. 44. Read Up on SEO & Practice
  45. 45. Moz Beginners Guide to SEO
  46. 46. Google SEO Starter Guide
  47. 47. Practice
  48. 48. Practice • Learn the fundamentals of link building and work to get endorsements for your new site We share relevant information that will benefit our users. Will you link to me? Your website looks authoritative! Sure, I’ll add a link to you!
  49. 49. Test Some Industry Tools
  50. 50. Google Analytics
  51. 51. Google Webmaster Tools
  52. 52. AdWords Keyword Planner • Conduct keyword research and find search volume, competitiveness, and new ideas
  53. 53. Start Applying!
  54. 54. Resume • Attend resume critique events • Attend recruiting events • Keep LinkedIn profile up to date
  55. 55. The Interview • Do your homework and send thank you letters
  56. 56. Questions?
  57. 57. TO LEARN MORE OR FOR ANY QUESTIONS, PLEASE CONTACT: Stephanie Wallace Director, Search Engine Optimization 404.885.1201 Thank You

Editor's Notes

  • Hi, welcome to all of you and thank you for having me tonight. I’m excited to talk to you guys about SEO.
    My name is Stephanie Wallace, and I’m the director of SEO at Nebo, a digital marketing agency in Atlanta.
  • First, just a little bit about Nebo so you have some background on our company and what we do. We are a full service digital agency. That means have a team of experts in everything digital from SEO to Paid Media, Digital PR, Design, Development, and so forth.

    What sets Nebo apart is that we believe that great work comes from truly understanding your audience and crafting a strategy that doesn’t just sell to them, but that works to solve their problems and inspire trust. We take a very human centered approach to every campaign or project we take on.

    This approach has worked very well for us, especially in terms of our SEO engagements.

  • We’ve been lucky enough to receive over 100 awards in the past 2 years. And 3 of the past 4 Years we have been honored to win the AMY award for best SEO campaign – which is one of the most prestigious digital marketing awards
  • We have also worked with a lot of great clients – both b2b and b2c, and small startups to fortune 5000 companies.
  • But enough about me & Nebo! I would assume you all have varying levels of understanding what SEO is and means. So can anyone here tell me what they think SEO is? So some of you know more than others, and that’s fine! That’s why you’re all here tonight
    So we’ll talk about the industry and why it’s worth your consideration as well as the history of seo and what is SEO exactly, and more importantly what it’s not. Lastly we’ll touch on how you can get involved now and where to get started to jump into a career in SEO.
    Also, I may use some acronyms or phrases that you guys aren’t familiar with, it’s a bad habit of SEOs in general, so feel free to stop me & ask questions along the way.
    Especially with a group this size, we can keep it more conversational
  • Why consider a career in SEO? Finding an experienced SEO specialist that is good at what they do and looking for a job is like finding a Unicorn!
    No one has any experience in SEO and the industry as a whole is growing exponentially each year from client budgets being allocated to SEO to the size of the workforce so there is really unlimited opportunity in the industry right now.
    Towards the end we’ll talk about how can you get involved and get a job but this really is one of those industries where we are primarily hiring people with little to no experience and training them. So if you have experience or some basic skills that we’ll touch on, you’re almost guaranteed that an agency will want to hire you.
    If you have experience from an Internship then the likelihood you’ll get a job upon graduation increases even more – and there are a lot of agencies in Atlanta and they all offer internships.
  • So what would you even do all day? I love SEO because it’s a really healthy mix of technical stuff, research and creativity. You have to be part data scientist – part creative artist

    But we also get to make a huge impact for the companies we work with. For example, PURETALK USA is no contract cell phone company – so as you can imagine it’s a very competitive market place. With our SEO campaigns we helped them through the the launching of a new website and helped establish a brand voice through a targeted content strategy. As a result, we were able to increase transactions & revenue from organic traffic over 98% year over year in 2014. SO what we do really impacts bottom lines.
  • SEOs also have one of the best work life balances according a 2014 study by Business Insider
    Data scientists ranked the highest – but that sounds boring - and SEOs were a close second.

    I may be a little biased, but I am certainly not surprised! I think you have to love what you do to excel in the SEO industry so that means being satisfied and motivated are par for the course.
  • The history of SEO
  • Before computers and the internet, before any of us were even born, how did people find things?
    In the early 1900s, we used the telephone, spoke to the switchboard operator, and asked to be connected to a doctor, or a pharmacy, or a general store.
    These switchboard operators were, in a way, the original search engines.
  • And as they grew obsolete, they were replaced with phone books.
    We would find plumbers, electricians, etc. by looking through this alphabetized book.
    We conducted the search ourselves and had little insight into the trustworthiness or quality of the companies listed.
  • And as technologies evolved and the internet emerged we were faced with a need for a new way to find and categorize the wealth of information that was now readily available

  • Which led to the birth of Search Engines – Alta Vista being one of the first
    when AltaVista launched it had the capability to crawl and categorize more webpages than were believed to even exist at the time.
  • And now…there are Over 3.5 billion searches everyday on Google
  • Google has identified more than 30 trillion unique pages on the web
  • Google bots crawl on average 20 billion sites per day And this is just one search engine – there are thousands of different search engines in existence
  • Along with this transformation in the way we find what we’re looking, there’s also a new buyer journey
  • people don’t come in the top and out the bottom anymore, we move through an ongoing set of touchpoints before, during, and after a purchase.
  • And in this new buyer journey 67% of of research and brand interaction is done digitally. That’s what makes digital marketing so important. Businesses have to consider digital and what strategies will work best for them if they want to succeed.
  • At their core, how do search engines function?
  • Each search engine has spiders or bots that crawl the web through links – internal links within websites and across multiple websites.

    These spiders analyze each website and evaluate things like content, link quality, and semantic markup to determine what your website is about and how trusted and authoritative it is.

    The spiders then consolidate all of these webpages into an index. And every time someone searches on Google the engine runs algorithms that parse through their entire index and decide what pages to show for that search query. Quality & relevance are the key factors in determining which website appears in search results pages.
    It’s interesting when people learn how a search engine actually functions it’s like a light bulb goes off. Like we just grew up thinking it was magic.
  • But if you think about, every time we go to a search engine we’re essentially asking a question – and Google’s mission is to provide the best answers to our questions.
    So Google runs this relevancy based algorithm and the more popular a site is and the more relevant a site is to your query or question, the more valuable the information is perceived in providing the best answer
  • So what are these trust & relevancy signals google evaluates to determine where a site ranks exactly?

    There are over 200 ranking factors, each weighted differently. No two websites are the same, nor are any two websites evaluated the same by search engines.

    Unfortunately, Google keeps the specific information top secret. Through general information they provide we know that certain things like content and quality of links are very important and Things like keyword usage and pagerank are obvious factors. And we also know that search engines look at things like social signals, clean html code and content markup, even user engagement metrics.

  • Now that we know how search engines function - What is Search Engine Optimization exactly?
  • SEO is the process of optimizing and promoting a website to appear higher, naturally, in the non-paid listings of Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)

    Organic results garner 75% of clicks – Think about how many people choose not click on the ads simply b/c they know they are paid ads
  • There are 3 main tenants of SEO: In-Page, On-Page and Off-Page. And each aspect has a different set of Best Practices to consider.
  • At a high level In-Page makes up the technical aspect of SEO – it’s about making sure there is a technically strong foundation in place so that the website is easily crawlable by the search engines. This will ensure they can find and index all of the content on a website.

    So Technical Best Practices include looking at the backend and development aspects of a website. But the goal of technical SEO is to ensure that the site is built well, uses clean code, and pages we want search engine spiders to find and index are accessible. We also want to ensure we don’t have any low quality pages on the site that should not be included in Google’s index.

    Listed here are some of the specific elements we do look at such as hierarchy, URL and link structures, but this is really more granular than we’ll discuss tonight.
  • Second, On-Page SEO is about optimizing the website and the content on the website. On-page SEO includes everything done to the individual pages of the site so that Google understands what the page is all about.

    This starts with Keyword Research which the most important, valuable, and high return aspect of SEO. Best practices tell us that you need to show relevancy for the right target keywords for your site or business. So we do research to determine the best phrases that will drive conversions that we can rank well for, given the competitiveness of the market. And a conversion may be a purchase but it could also be a contact form or email signup or something like that. It’s essentially whatever action you want people to take on the website.

    But these keywords are then used to update content within the site such as titles and headings.
  • The third pillar of SEO - Off-page SEO - is the process of gaining links from other websites that are both relevant to our industry and strong or authoritative websites.
    These links to your website are perceived by search engines as endorsements for your company or brand. They see it as this website telling it’s users – and search engines – that they would recommend the site they are linking to.

    The more quality, relevant links – endorsements – your website has the stronger it is considered by search engines. And that increased strength in turn, is what helps our website rank better in organic search engine results.

    Off-Page Best Practices really vary widely by client and industry – it’s whatever makes the most sense for each unique situation. But the most important thing to remember is that links are not weighted in terms of quantity, they are weighted in terms of quality. So 1 link from will be much more beneficial than 20 links from And that’s because New York Times has one of the strongest websites.
  • I also wanted to touch on SEO vs. SEM – SEM mostly refers to the combined activities of paid search campaigns AND SEO campaigns. So it’s more of an all inclusive term.
    and you can see in the example where the ads are specifically called out in search results pages above organic and to the right side. And you may also hear Paid campaigns referred to as CPC or PPC
  • Any questions so far?

    So I’ve probably said it a few times so far – best practices state that this is best, or best practices say to do that.
  • But why do we always refer to best practices instead of making concrete statements and guarantees about our strategies?
  • Search Engines Change…
  • A LOT
  • What should work doesn’t always work.
  • What works for one website may not work for another.
  • Best practices are considered the most effective SEO tactics and strategies that demonstrate positiveoutcomes – today.

    But these are always evolving and changing and there is no one-fits-all framework.
  • It’s also important to talk about what SEO isn’t because there are a lot of misconceptions about what it is we do exactly and the industry as a whole.
  • It’s not just about keywords and links. Obviously these play a part in SEO strategies but there’s more to it than that.
    There was a time when you could include the phrase “atlanta marketing” on your website 1000 times and rank #1 just because of that. Search engines are smart and they’re looking for quality content to deliver to users.
  • It’s about increasing your shelf space with organic visibility and growing your brand trust with consumers.

  • There are some common SEO myths you may hear people reference
  • SEO as an industry is often compared to the snake oil salesman of the wild west – they’ll promise you anything to get your money., You want to rank #1 for “cars”? Sure! We can do that!
    But SEO is not a way to gain the system – there is a perception that SEO is about manipulation but it’s really about effectively speaking to your audience.
  • TINSTAAFL - there is no such thing as a free lunch.

    As I say we’re not snake oil salesman, there are still a lot out there giving us a bad name. It’s extremely common for a company to get spammy emails from someone promising number one rankings in Google for only $100.

    But chances are any actual SEO work they would do would be black hat, or what’s considered manipulation tactics. And like I said Google is smart. They do catch on and they do penalize websites for taking shortcuts.
  • And, maybe most importantly, SEO takes time. There’s a misconception that you can do SEO once and be done with it.

    But there is no such thing as “set it and forget it” – SEO is an ongoing, iterative process and it’s a constantly changing. This is a fast paced industry. What works today may not work next month or next year. Google made over 500 algorithm updates last year alone and that’s up from 300 the year before. So you have to stay on top of those changes.
  • Where do you start to get a career in SEO?
  • There are some fundamental skills you can familiarize yourself with to set you apart form the thousands of applications agencies receive.
  • Gain an understanding of the basic principles of web development & HTML. That’s not to say you should be able to code an entire website. I like to say that I can’t exactly write code, but I can manipulate code. I can change basic functionality and appearance.
    Also get experience with a variety of Content Management Systems = Wordpress, joomla, and magento are a few of the more common ones.
  • You have to be able to write. This is a fundamental skill for any career really but we do ask for a writing sample before we hire anyone at Nebo.
  • Moz’s Beginners Guide to SEO is an in-depth tutorial on how search engines work and optimization best practices. It provides pretty comprehensive information on fundamental strategies for making websites search engine friendly. This is available online for FREE and as a downloadable PDF.
  • This is valuable because it’s straight from the source. Google is telling you what you can do to help your site rank higher in organic search results.

    Google provides a detailed overview of search engine optimization basics and best practices and how to improve your site’s interaction with both users and search engines. This is also free and you download the PDF online.
  • Put some of what you’re learning into practice. Build a WordPress blog - it’s free, so why not.
    This will give you a place to test SEO tactics and strategies
  • You can also learn the fundamentals of link building and practice building links to your new wordpress site. Think of it as doing PR for your website – now that you have this site with great content that you wrote you want to promote it. So you work to find other websites that are related and that may benefit from telling their users about the great content on your Wordpress site. Then you reach out and explain to that website owner why your site is awesome and ask for a link.
    It may sound silly but the first time you actually get a link – it’s one of the most exciting and satisfying things to ever happen.
  • Is anyone here familiar with Google Analytics? It’s a FREE website statistics tool that tracks visitors to your site and their engagement with the site. Their approach is to show high-level, dashboard-type data for the casual user, as well as more in-depth data if you want to dig into the report set.
    It is FREE as I mentioned so you can also set it up when you build your Wordpress site and familiarize yourself with it. This isn’t something you need to be an expert in by any means to get a job, but being familiar with it – knowing what it is, maybe knowing your favorite report, will really set you apart in the interview process.
  • Google Webmaster Tools is another FREE statistics tool from Google that provides detailed reports on indexation status and visibility within Google’s search results.
    This tool is essential for SEOs – so again being familiar with it can really help you stand out among in interviews. Given that it’s also free you can set it up with your worpdress site and play around in it. It has tools that allow you to do everything from submit a sitemap to Google directly to seeing what keyword searches people are typing into Google when your site is appearing.
  • Lastly, you should familiarize yourself with the Google Adwords Keyword Planner. This is a keyword research tool that provides a list of potential keywords related to a specific website or keyword idea. It is a free tool and it should be the first thing you use when you start practicing on-page SEO on your new site because it will help you define your keyword themes and essentially what you should be optimizing your site for.
  • Chances are I won’t tell you anything new about how to write your resume. But I do have a few key thoughts as someone responsible for selecting resumes and interviewing candidates – First - Customize your resume AND cover letter for the job you’re applying for. You won’t get in the door without doing so.
    Also, Social Media is not a skill. My grandmother managers her own Facebook profile too. It’s not something to include on your resume.
    Make sure your linked in profile is up to date. This is the first place I go to see more about a candidate if I like the resume.

    I will also say go to the resume review events or mock interview or recruiting events your school hosts. Nebo attends them regularly, mostly at at GA Tech and GA State, but it’s a way to find new talent.
  • Once you get the interview make sure you do your homework on the company – do you have an understanding of all of the services we off? Do you understand the company's philosophies? have you read recent blog posts?
    And Send thank you letters! I am constantly surprised at how few thank yous I receive. Not just from recent grads either, seasoned professionals forget. And at Nebo you do not get a 2nd interview if you don’t send one.
  • And lastly - remember the Unicorn! There is really unlimited opportunity in the SEO industry and if you put into practice some of the things we discussed I can almost guarantee you a killer job as a fresh college graduate.