The SEO industry has long been lacking in educational resources. Because SEO has not yet been given a formal place in the academic curriculum at traditional institutions, the majority of SEOs are still riding through the search frontier as self-taught individuals who have arrived in the industry from a variety of far-flung vocations. But that is beginning to change.
A number of community resources have emerged over the past few years in the form of publishers, social media content, conference circuits, and SEO organizations that provide a space for SEOs to share information within the industry. And more recently, we’ve seen an influx of direct educational tools and channels geared more specifically toward providing introductory and continued education resources, but overall, SEO education is still in its infancy.
However, while there are more educational materials than there were a few years ago, SEO teams are also larger, more cross-functional, and better funded than ever before and need additional educational support. Most of the larger SEO budgets tend to focus on tactical tools, which are helpful, but they lack the depth and foundational skill sets that SEO education can provide across an enterprise.
Honing Educational Focus
Because of its nature as a predominantly self-taught industry, the SEO community has always been open and willing to share information amongst its members and educate each other. But now that SEO has permeated nearly every other aspect of organizations, the information that was once only shared between the SEO community needs to be repackaged and refocused in a way that treats SEO as a skillset to be learned within the context of other departments. SEO education materials must be specialized and taught to complement existing expertise in order to maximize their effectiveness.
There are a few resources available that have started trying to move SEO education in this direction. For example, learningseo.io does a good job aggregating pieces of already existing content into more task-oriented areas, but more educational leaders need to follow this model. A greater emphasis on taking SEO knowledge and tailoring it to different teams in a way that will achieve a greater resonance is critical to getting everyone on board and engaged with SEO. It will also elevate SEO knowledge beyond tactics. The more SEO education can leverage different types of learning tools, from podcasts to video materials to text-based community forums, and the more it can focus the scope of SEO toward specific teams, the faster SEO knowledge can be absorbed, retained, and mobilized.
A Bridge Too Far – When is SEO Education Too Much?
Now that we’ve talked about different ways materials and resources can be carved up, packaged, and delivered effectively, let’s talk about the limits of SEO education. As essential and ubiquitous as SEO has become across many facets of an organization, there must be a balance between educational efficacy and overload. There are certain scenarios where you can become too hyper-focused on SEO and treat it as though it is a magical book of spells that, once learned, can drive search traffic and conversions with a wave of a wand, but that is not the case. In fact, finding the right amount of SEO education to invest time and resources in is all about how you view SEO as an ingredient in a broader recipe. Like any ingredient, if appropriately introduced, it will interact with and enhance the other flavors in the dish, but too much of it can be overwhelming and defeat its purpose. SEO is not a shortcut or focal point to selling a product. It is only after a business has met goals in other areas that SEO can be a truly significant addition to its success.
Now, this doesn’t mean you need to hold back information, but that you control the flow of it. Rather than flooding teams with a mass of resources and materials and watching their eyes glaze over, SEO education is more effectively delivered in a steady but controlled stream. Incremental education brings people along without inundating them with unfamiliar knowledge. The result is higher retention and more frequent application across teams.
SEO, at its core, is about prioritization. For example, if you have a laundry list of problems with your content and Google has already deemed a number of your pages to be low quality, relegating them to obscurity, then fixing other aspects of the page before the content will not be a successful strategy until the content itself is fixed. The approach to SEO education must be similarly structured. Organizations need to identify and address their SEO education needs with the same level of prioritization so they can introduce and activate SEO learning in a series of strategic steps.
Creating a better structure for SEO education that is proactive rather than reactive will also free up bandwidth for your SEO team. Instead of answering similar-sounding SEO-related emails or slack messages all day, your SEO team can focus on innovation and strategy, which will improve performance. To do this successfully, you must first accurately assess the SEO education level of the people in your departments and create an SEO education program that fills the existing gaps of knowledge.
The bottom line? SEO education needs to be a focused effort to be successful. Identify the educational inventory of your organization, create short-term and long-term goals, craft courses and materials that fill those gaps, present material on a variety of platforms to increase engagement, and apply an incremental approach that allows team members to absorb and utilize knowledge as they go.