I graduated from university in the summer of 2017 and like many people when they graduate, still had no idea what I really wanted to do. I was a complete digital marketing beginner but it’s something I’d always had an interest in, and after months of temping was put in contact with Ian, a director at Boom. In the space of a couple of weeks, I had my interview and assessment and was offered a six-week internship – my career in marketing was born.
In January 2018, I joined the team at Boom Online and threw myself into the world of digital marketing. I didn’t know what to expect as this was my first ‘proper’ job, so I’m going to share with you a few tips that I’ve learnt in the past couple months and hopefully you’ll be able to use them on your own SEO journey.
My Initial Worries & Training
I have some experience in social media marketing from a music collective I co-manage in my spare time. However, upon researching digital marketing before the interview and my first day, I saw terms like PPC and instantly feared that meant creating those horrible clickbait articles you see everywhere now, ‘If you like X, you won’t BELIEVE Y’ and so on. SEO was a brand-new term to me but I kept an open mind and I’m very glad I did.
I was set up on DistilledU, an online training resource for SEO and digital marketing which allayed my fears of what I was getting myself into on the first day. I was relieved to see that those kind of marketing tactics I was thinking of are frowned upon and even more relieved to see that a significant portion of SEO is making genuinely good, shareable content. I also didn’t expect to find it quite as interesting as I did (and still do!).
DistilledU was great for picking up the basics. They have interactive modules, module tests and they constantly define key terms throughout the resource. I found that particularly useful because as someone who was approaching this with next to no prior knowledge, there’s a semantic field around digital marketing and search engines that once you pick up, makes everything easier to understand.
I was also pointed in the direction of Moz’s beginners guide to SEO. This was another great resource. It’s split into ten chapters and presented really well. There’s a lot of information to take on board but Moz have broken it down with real-life examples of what they’re talking about (also done in DistilledU) and with good visualisation of SEO concepts. They are now in the process of updating this guide too, ensuring you remain at the top of your game.
What I’ve Enjoyed About Digital Marketing
One of the things that I learned quickly about digital marketing that piqued my interest, was that it’s constantly changing and that it isn’t a cutthroat industry for that reason. The Moz blog and other sites have people sharing loads of information about how they’ve done well with their SEO, helpful tips and the results of experiments and tests that would take a while to replicate. I learnt that 25% of all advertising is done online and that good SEO practice can make your business a boat load of money.
The internet and search engines aren’t going anywhere soon, so this made me confident that this is a dynamic industry that’s here to stay (No matter how many articles are out there suggesting SEO is dead!). I also enjoyed reading about how people have had to completely rethink tactics after a new Google update ruined their traffic. That might sound bad, but it’s the fact that it’s changing constantly and in line with how we use the internet. That dynamism and thinking on your feet really appealed to me and I was being reeled in even further.
I forgot to mention one part of the job advert that struck fear into my heart: Web Analysis.
Now, maths hasn’t been one of my strong points and I had very basic IT knowledge and skills so those words were like alarm bells to me. I thought I would be exposed as a fraud and would rue the day for taking a digital marketing internship with basic IT skills. Again, I was delighted to be proven wrong. This aspect of the job, actually ended up drawing much closer when I got to know a bit more about it.
I was given a crash course in Google Analytics, keyword research and all the different metrics and tools that are used and was stunned and pleasantly surprised to realise that this made more sense to me than I initially thought it would, ultimately reinforcing my interest in digital marketing where I thought I might fall flat. Once I saw the tools that are available to SEOs for analysing data, it made things much less scary for a numberphobe like me. I really liked the idea of playing around with data sets, conducting tests and experiments to see how it affects rankings. The competition aspect of comparing your SEO to a rival’s and seeing how you can improve on that really works if you have a little bit of a competitive streak in you too.
Where I’ve Struggled
One aspect where I have struggled is the technical SEO side. The terminology, code and concepts can be quite intimidating at first. Code, in particular, was something that I thought I’d never really be able to understand. I still don’t understand most of it, but DistilledU was great for identifying which aspects of code are particularly relevant to SEO and it wasn’t long before I found myself looking at the source code of websites without feeling dizzy.
Tips for SEO Newbies
The internship went better than I ever could’ve imagined, and I feel extremely lucky to stumble into an area of work that I’m genuinely interested in and enjoy. I’m still learning lots of new stuff every day and although I’m still a fledgling, I would like to share some useful tips if you’re a newbie to SEO like me:
- Be Inquisitive – Fortunately, I’ve had the luxury of being surrounded by people who have years of experience in SEO, so sage wisdom has never been too far away for me. However, I was afraid to ask questions at first for fear of sounding stupid, but I quickly realised that it was more stupid to not ask. If you’re coming at this with little to no prior knowledge like me, lots of questions will pop into your head, if you have someone you can ask then ask them. If not, I’ve seen plenty of SEOs engage with commenters on their blog posts and answer their questions well. By not being afraid to ask questions, I found I wasn’t dithering in my head whether I actually understood the concept, I asked, got an answer and then could move on in a productive way.
- Play Around – As there are loads of online resources for information on SEO, it’s easy to see how the concepts and tactics you’re reading about are implemented in a real life scenario. For instance, when I was learning about code, it’s easy to just go on any website, look at the code and try and identify what you’ve just read. I felt like actually looking and being explorative helped a lot. Another example would be playing around with tools, luckily I’ve had access to full versions of tools through the company but there are free trials and free versions of tools like MozBar and SEMRush that you can have a go and get to grips with.
- Read – There’s a wealth of articles and blog posts online about digital marketing and SEO. I’ve found the Moz blog really helpful in my learning. You can filter their blog posts by subject which is great for drilling down when you need something specific. For instance, I’ve been trying to read more technical SEO posts to try and wrap my head round it and that’s really easily done. I’ve found this to be a really good way to learn. New concepts crop up in your reading that you can then research and familiarise yourself with, so even if you start on one blog post, there might be three mentions of something you didn’t know about. There’s probably links to articles and other resources within the one you’re reading that refer to these ‘new’ concepts. Whilst reading those, you likely find more and more, so for me it’s easy to go down a kind of SEO rabbit hole on the Moz blog, but I found that to be really helpful. Working this way, you’re not trying to force a subject into your head, you can bounce around which keeps it fresh as there’s a lot of information to absorb. Just sitting and reading about one thing for hours can start to test your patience.
I’m thrilled that all my reservations about the job were instantly quelled and I’m still getting used to the feeling of finding my work interesting, a completely alien feeling after my previous jobs of working in factories, behind a bar and temping during my studies.
I’m also very grateful that Boom gave me an opportunity so soon out of university and eventually turned my internship into a permanent role. They could obviously tell I had some potential, which is encouraging! I’m looking forward to getting more involved and to keep on learning. I hope my tips come in handy for any newbies and if you have any similar fears of digital marketing like I had, I would urge you to keep on open mind and to keep on trucking!