Experience or Knowledge
There wasn't much information available about search marketing in the early days of the Internet. So, some smart people decided to experiment. Look what happened.
Over time, a set of search marketing best practices emerged as some of these experiments worked out. This information was shared with friends for the most part, but there was no real formal body of knowledge.
After a while, some of this information was found in books. The majority, however, was surfacing through word of mouth and networking in forums to solve problems. As more search marketers tried out these new tips, they learned what worked and what didn't.
It's challenging to learn search marketing. The rules are made by the search engines and their algorithms. All we can do is try the tactics we learn from others and learn for ourselves what works and what doesn't.
We often find that what works for one Web site doesn't necessarily work for another. Once we go through this process and learn for ourselves what works, then we can start to be called an expert.
Once you read or are taught about search, you have some knowledge. Experience will make all the difference. You'll also need to a network of resources to tap when you hit a roadblock.
Staying Up To Date
A prospective client recently asked me to look at redesigning his Web site. I asked if he was planning to implement a search campaign.
"Oh," he said. "All I plan to do is fill out the meta tags on the home page. That should do it."
People often hear a single tip or trick that worked in the past, but those won't necessarily work today. While meta data still has a place today, it doesn't carry nearly the same amount of weight as it did in the late '90s.
The search engines are continuing to update and change their algorithms in an effort to deliver their users to the right pages. We, as search practitioners, need to continue learning what's working and what's not.
Where to Learn SEO Today
One of the most common questions prospects ask me is, "Where do you go to learn about search marketing?" Many sources have risen to the top in the past few years.
Events, such as Search Engine Strategies conferences, provide opportunities to learn from the experts. Many Web sites are dedicated to search. Formal courses, like SEMPO Institute, also offer a certificate of completion.
These are all great places to establish a foundation of knowledge on search marketing and help you stay up to date. Remember: this knowledge is as only good as your hands-on experience.
So, if you own a domain or a small business, go out there and join the ranks of SEO practitioners and start optimizing and marketing the sites you have influence over. Learn what works for you and maybe you'll find a niche that will make you the next SEO expert.