As the editor of Search Engine Watch forums, I see a lot of one-sentence requests for help on how to learn various aspects of search marketing. The specific ones show a little knowledge on the part of the questioner and are much easier to answer.
The other day, one poster asked for guidance learning AdWords. Before I got there, our AdWords Rep jumped in and gave a very insightful answer -- that the question was too broad because Google's Help Center has more than 3,000 pages dedicated to the answer.
This reminded me why I left psychology before completing my Master's or Ph.D. The more I advanced in the subject, the more funneled my perspective became. To gain a higher degree, it was necessary to become narrower and narrower -- an expert on just one aspect of a subject I enjoyed more in broad strokes.
The search industry seems to have the same spiral. People tend to become more specialized as they become more proficient in search. There are a handful of friends I turn to if I have a question about organic search. Then when I have a question about social media, paid search, analytics, or widgets, I ask a different group of people.
I try to let the newbies who come into our field know that it takes a high level of commitment to become an expert. We're a friendly lot and enjoy talking about our industry.
Most of my time at SES San Jose last week involved talking to the people in our industry. Old friends and new acquaintances helped me pick up new insights and details of areas I'm not an expert in.
Tips for New Marketers
Start by reading so your initial questions have some substance. You don't necessarily have to spend a fortune at Amazon, as most of the good up-to-date reading is found in forums and blogs.
Asking about on-page factors is better than asking, "How do I optimize?" Read the information inside Google's numerous help areas to gain some familiarity with the terminology and start you thinking in a way people can better help you.
Resources for New Marketers
Subscribe to a wide cross-section of blogs. Search Engine Watch Experts columns are a solid place to start. Also, don't overlook the help you can get on AdSense from Jen Slegg, the keys to affiliate marketing from Jeremy Shoemaker or Rae Hoffman, and the fun of social media from Brent Csutoras, Chris Winfield or Neil Patel. As you look into a given area of search marketing, it will soon become apparent who some of the experts are in that particular niche.
The community of people at Rand Fishkin's SEOmoz is another great resource -- the banter between the posters on their blog reflect the camaraderie most of us share in this industry.
Sign up for as many newsletters as you come across. Some will end up being useless and you can unsubscribe, but give everyone a shot until you figure out what you enjoy reading.
Join Social Networks
Join Twitter and start following people. Click on the links they offer -- some are informative, while others are just fun. Plus, you'll get to see the huge varying interests we have beyond search, as well as insights into real-time changes.
Mike Gray (a.k.a. Graywolf) is a perfect example. He shares new things he learns, and also makes us aware of his love of Disney and his children. But whatever you do, don't let him hustle you into bowling for money!
It's not an overnight thing. As our AdWords Rep points out: "the best approach is to make use of all available resources, including this forum - and then expect to spend quite a bit of time and energy in the process."
Good luck and welcome to all the new people joining our space. I look forward to helping you on the forums very soon.
Chris Boggs Fires Back
I owe much of my success to my participation and subsequent moderating role (and now sub-head-muckety-muck under your highness, Aussie) in the SEW Forums. Although I've dropped from my days of 50 to 60 posts a month, I still frequent the forums. Unfortunately, most of the time I'm getting rid of spam.
There are two main scourges to un-moderated blog comment areas and search forums these days: link-droppers and buffoons.
Link droppers typically range from blatant to more crafty. Blatant linkers either start a thread or enter a discussion with "check out example.com -- I think it's great!" The not-as-smart-as-they-think "crafty" linkers start a thread and then come back from the same IP -- yes we can see that as moderators -- four hours later to post an "insightful" answer under a different name, and typically link to an amateur SEM site.
The sad spammers are buffoons who think they're advanced SEMs. In one post they ask a basic question like, "what is use of robot text tag (sic)?" In the next thread, they offer advice to a complex problem by paraphrasing something they read on another forum. These are also the ones who read one inflammatory attack on an accepted tactic and gushingly thank the original poster for his "wisdom." All in all, forums and threads are still the way to go, as long as you have a strong B.S. detector.
The best way to learn search these days is to read articles by the people working in the trenches, and to connect and network with engineers like Matt Cutts at conferences or online in their habitats. Google Groups is an excellent source of great content these days. Typically when Cutts ventures out, like he did a couple weeks ago in response to your Google Knol accusations, we can learn a lot from the comments.