There are few things more exciting than growing your business to the point where you get to add a new team member. Hiring a seasoned SEO will result in an immediate contribution to the team, however, you will pay for this convenience. This isn’t a bad thing but depending on your budget an entry-level position might be a better fit.
This guide focuses on training junior team members who have minimal SEO knowledge. I’ll walk you through a proven method that has produced some of the brightest and most productive SEOs that I know.
Step 1: Assign a Mentor
This person plays a critical role in the development of your new team member. It works really well when this person can double as the new team member’s manager, but it isn’t required. Attributes of a successful mentor include:
- Proven success and strong knowledge of industry best practices
- Patience, availability, and willingness to put in extra time to answer a lot of questions
- Communication skills to explain and evaluate complex methodologies
- Provides clear, honest and productive feedback
- A desire to increase personal management skills
Mentoring a new team member is not easy. It takes a lot of extra time and forces you to work more efficiently. If a mentor is not willing to invest the time and effort then the new team member will struggle to succeed. Not everyone is suited to be a mentor. Mentorship can be a great opportunity for up and coming talent to gain experience in teaching, delegation and providing honest feedback.
Before any training begins, I set up time to clearly set expectations. I let new team members know that I’m available to ask questions and that we can schedule in as many dedicated blocks of time to answer all of their questions as needed. I encourage them to write down their questions and do some research online to find a solution that we can further discuss. Dedicating an hour per day for a few weeks (I’ll share a template later on) might seem like a lot of time but if you do this correctly this will easily be the best ROI on your time spent all year long.
What this step accomplishes:
✔ Identify up and coming talent to serve as a mentor (This might be you!)
✔ Set expectations for both participants
✔ Establish a working relationship between mentor and mentee
Step 2: Learning the Basics
Unlike ten years ago, we are fortunate enough now to have many resources for learning SEO. Some of my favorite resources that accomplish this are listed below:
Recently, RavenTools published a post regarding prerequisites to learning SEO. It’s something I haven’t yet been able to put a new team member through, but I see the value and have incorporated into my training. Both MOZ and Distilled U are both required readings for my new hires. After years of training new team members, I’ve gotten feedback that reading Moz’s guide first and then signing up for Distilled University is the best order. After the new team member is familiar with the concept of domain authority and inbound links, I ask them to read the Backlinko guide to link building.
RavenTools Prerequisites to Learning SEO
This resource is fairly new and I fell in love with it the second I read it. The best way to learn SEO is by doing it. This guide helps you understand the basics behind HTML, server configuration and many other pre-SEO components that will allow you to set up and learn SEO by actually doing it.
Moz Guide to Learning SEO
I like to have my new team members read this guide within one-to-two days. I recommend they write down their questions as they go through each section of the guide. These questions will serve as the content to be reviewed with them after they complete this reading. Often, the Moz guide is overwhelming. If you’ve done a good job encouraging new team members to be prepared with questions, you’ll have no shortage of topics to discuss. On the odd chance that they do not have any questions, it is a good time to test their knowledge and ask them to explain a few of the tougher concepts within the guide. Canonical tags, robots.txt file and value of links are a few topics that I tend to push to ensure their level of comprehension.
Do not get upset or become defeated if your new team member has a lot of questions or doesn’t “get it” after first reading this guide. A lot of information is being thrown their way and this is a big step in establishing your mentor/mentee relationship.
Distilled University serves as one of the most comprehensive resources for learning SEO. Unlike the Moz guide (free) Distilled charges a small monthly fee to leverage this resource. One reason I justify the cost is the fact that most of the modules come with a test. These tests are great for evaluating how someone comprehends a specific topic and allows for many productive conversations.
My personal approach to Distilled U is to set up a calendar in which I group several modules together. I ask the new team member to have their tests completed by specific due dates. I then sit down with them for 1-2 hours (depending on the size of modules) and go over their tests. Below is an example of a recent calendar I set up for two team members.
Backlinko’s Guide To Link Building
Ask any SEO and they’ll admit that acquiring inbound links is the most difficult aspect of SEO. In fact, many SEO service providers won’t even offer the service due to the level of manual work and difficulty to scale. This guide to link building is one of the better guides available.
I require new SEO team members to simply read this guide. I’m available for questions, but do not require a formal sit down. In my experience, link building is best learned by practice and time. Once you go through all these guides it’s time to acquire real-life experience.
What this step accomplishes
✔ Learning the fundamentals of SEO
✔ Set expectations for the knowledge needed to succeed
✔ Establish good habits in conducting research and asking questions
Step 3: Go Rank!
Finished? Congrats! Now you need to go rank something. New SEOs can read all day long, but building experience executing their new-found SEO knowledge is the true test. I wrote, about new SEOs starting off their journey by ranking for their name (SEO Career? Nick LeRoy States “Start by ranking your name.” 2016). To accomplish this, each new team member would build their own website.
By attempting to rank for your name, it will force you to better understand what it takes to stand up a website and implement the new SEO knowledge recently acquired. Alternatively, using existing community platforms such as Medium or even LinkedIn can provide a similar experience. Both of these are great examples of ways you can write, optimize and rank for various keywords. Start small by focusing on testing various hypotheses and techniques.
What this step accomplishes
✔ Learning by doing
✔ Opportunity to review data, think critically and test strategy
✔ Establishes the first opportunity for success
Step 4: Never Stop Learning
The best SEOs I know are ones that are actively pushing themselves to learn more each day. Search engines (and their algorithms) are always evolving. If you don’t keep up with the latest and greatest, you will find it more difficult to succeed. For me personally, I like to leverage newsletters, videos, podcasts and blogs to keep up with all the changes. Below are several recommendations within the industry.
- #SEOForLunch Newsletter (Nick LeRoy – Shameless Plug)
- Search News You Can Use (Marie Haynes)
- Moz Top 10 (Moz.com)
- Search Engine Land’s Daily Brief (SearchEngineLand.com)
SEO YouTube Channels
- Content Marketing Tips (Siege Media)
- Crawling Mondays (Aleyda Solis)
- Stone Temple Digital Marketing Advice (Eric Enge)
- Google Webmaster Help (Google)
- SEO/PPC/Digital from SEER Interactive (Seer team)
- Search Engine Nerds / Lauren Baker & Brent Csutoras (SEJ)
- Mozpod w/ Brian Childs (Moz.com)
- Experts on the Wire w/ Dan Shure (Evolving SEO)
What this step accomplishes
✔ Keeping up with industry updates
✔ Staying relevant
✔ Brainstorming and critical thinking
Grooming Your Next Six Figure Consultant
A talented and experienced SEO consultant can easily command a six-figure salary. For the right person, he/she can be worth every single penny. However, if your budget is lean or your looking to scale the size of your team, training from scratch can be the best path for you. You simply have to make the decision whether you’re going to invest your (or another team members) time or your money. Which approach has worked best for you? Let me know in the comments below.