Why Students Should Learn SEO

Netvantage started over four years ago now, and one thing I’ve realized in this time is that for the average business person SEO is still almost a complete mystery. What people do know tends to be out of date or just plain wrong. We’ve had over 20 interns come and go through our offices and one thing we’ve always told them is that this is a unique valuable skill that you’re learning. If a student has a solid understanding of SEO and some of the many toolsets that come with it, at the very least you’ll be able to differentiate yourself from other marketing candidates and at best you may be able to land yourself a job that most likely will make your fellow graduates jealous.

Valuable you say?

Indeed. In 2011 the good folks at SEOmoz put together a post on salaries for SEOs. You can read all the details here, but after parsing through it I’d say here are the types of positions and salary ranges that a graduating student with a solid year of work at an SEO internship would be qualified for:

  • SEO Specialist (Links, Content and/or KW Research) $45,000 – $85,000
  • Link Builder $35,000 – $100,000
  • Content Writer $35,000 – $75,000
  • SEO Researcher $30,000 – $60,000

Not a bad starting salary, eh? Not to mention, it’s a highly specific skill where there’s going to be less competition as an entry level marketing job seeker. In all seriousness, if you’re a student in college right now start asking your friends and classmates how many of them know anything about SEO. Chances are, the answer is zero. I spoke at my alma mater this past week and while all of the students were well versed in using search engines, they didn’t have a clue as to how it worked. This, students, is opportunity.

So how do you get started?

First off, you need to get an idea of what you’re doing. Here are some excellent resources for getting acclimated to how SEO really works: Once you have a foundational understanding of what SEO is, you’ll want to have some polished skills to bring to the table. I’d recommend this before you even think about landing an internship. If you have the opportunity to do so in advance, use some of your credits to take a class in basic web design. I wish I had done this, because having a basic understanding of web design and development will make your web work substantially easier, as one way or another you’ll be dealing with website changes. You’ll likely be working through programmers and designers, and having an idea of how to speak their language will help, but in some instances you may need to make some changes yourself and I can’t stress enough how useful this will be. Other skills that will be useful are strong writing skills. Creative writing courses or some journalism classes will help you get a strong writing background and this is also a very big deal. If you’ll be working with the content team, the value of strong writing skills is obvious. If you’re going to be more of a jack of all trades or working in outreach, you’ll be sending more emails than you’d think is humanly possible. Having strong written skills will help you here as well as you build relationships and promote content for link building.

Educating Yourself

So you have some pertinent skills for going into SEO, but how will you use these skills? Here’s a rundown of some resources that will help you gain a foundational understanding of how SEO works.

  1. SEOmoz’s beginner’s guide to SEO – this is pretty all encompassing, and largely written in simple enough terms for a noob to gain a solid footing.
  2. DIY SEO tips & tactics – from Shaun Anderson at Hobo SEO in the UK. Solid advice from a good guy. When I was even less of a nobody than I am now he was a great guy to bounce ideas off of and he puts out some great advice.
  3. Point Blank SEO link building course – Yep, this one costs a few bucks $70 last time I checked, but if you’re serious about getting into SEO, it’s well worth it. No joking, this is the most comprehensive collection of knowledge and resources available on the web. Not only that, the guide actually gives you places you can start using to your advantage RIGHT NOW. To my knowledge, no one else offers anything close to this.
  4. SEO Book – Aaron Wall’s collection of SEO goodies is one of the oldest and most respected on the web. There are various levels of membership from free to paid to unlock the various levels of knowledge available within. Regardless, there’s a lot to be learned from one of the early risers in the game.
  5. Occam’s Razor – While not exactly SEO related, Avinash Kaushik’s blog on Google Analytics has many useful parallels for SEOs. You can’t go wrong with figuring out how to measure and quantify your success, and few people can tell you more (and in more entertaining fashion) than Avinash.

I’m sure there are a million other resources, but the truth is you really just need to find some respected up to date sources and glue yourself to the latest and greatest to get yourself a head start. If you’re even more motivated, start your own website, or at the least start up a free blog on blogger or wordpress and start practicing your newfound skills to see if you can put some of this knowledge in play. If you manage that, your interview will be a snap once you can show you’ve already successfully executed an SEO campaign.

Adam Henige

Adam Henige is Managing Partner of Netvantage Marketing, an online marketing company specializing in SEO, PPC and social media. Adam heads the SEO and link building efforts for Netvantage and has been a contributing blogger for industry publications like Search Engine Journal and SEOmoz.

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