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10 Lessons I’ve Learned from My SEO Career

Hello everyone! I’m Zunaira Karim. I’m Powered by Search’s newest team member, and will be working in the capacity of  an SEO specialist and blog writing enthusiast extraordinaire.

I’m a default goal-setter. I set goals for everything in both my professional and personal life and writing for Powered by Search is certainly not out of that commitment. Although I have been playing behind the scenes of SEO for the past year, I always wanted to have a platform where I could contribute not just my own thoughts and efforts, but my team’s as well. I’m also keen on doing some research and providing stats to all of you as well. I hope that in discussing industry trends and keeping in touch with all of you, we’ll be able to come up with something extraordinary.

In other words, you’ll be hearing from me. A lot.  For now though, I have a story for you:

Three years ago, when I graduated in Advertising, my Interactive Studies professor walked up to me and asked me if I would even consider online marketing for a career. Intrigued by the wonders of television, print, radio, direct mail and coupons , I said, ‘Uh, probably not’. SEO and search marketing was something I stumbled upon (no pun intended) through my internship and I knew then, that I wasn’t going anywhere else. I was singing the Search Marketing tune.

Fast forward, a year later, I’ve managed multiple online accounts and campaigns, for both small and large businesses, and it has been one awesome journey and learning experience. So I’d like to share some of my past experiences with you and most importantly, I’d like share the ten lessons I’ve learned from my SEO career.

1. Manage clients’ expectations from the start.

Key rule. Accountability is a severe request in our industry and a good SEO company should never guarantee ranking, but emphasize on competition for keywords. Set out realistic goals with your clients with estimated time lines for achieving results.

2. An SEO Company Needs These People

Web Designer : Someone who can integrate a blog on a website, implement an urgent 301 redirect, add and design a call-to-action on the homepage – a talented web designer who understands SEO principles, creates eye-catching designs and has an irrefutable QA process can make a huge difference.

Link Builder : A person who can add value to a client’s website by building high page-rank, quality links to their website and their local maps listing.

Content Writer : Whether it’s for website content, articles or white paper projects, it’s crucial to have someone on board with writing skills. A wicked writer may be a key player in turning traffic into conversions.

CRM software (not exactly a person, but a relationship is built for sure) : Did you call so and so? Was this task completed? Who is this assigned to? Has this been sent yet? Organizing your campaigns’ Five W’s, Two H’s and a D through a project management system can keep you up – to – date, on track and even lower blood pressure. Try out a checklist system such as Active Collab or a project management system like Quickbase.

3. I Still Don’t Have A Straight Answer for “What Do You Do for a Living?”

I seriously don’t.

4. Know your Tools, Discover New Ones and USE Them

An SEO is only as good as the tools he or she is armed with. If you can’t track and analyze traffic coming to the website, do a thorough link analysis of the site as well as clients’ competitors and are unable to find accurate, or close to accurate statistics for your keywords, you’re losing the foundation and focus of your campaign. The classic keyword tool from Google and Advanced Web Ranking are some of my go-to campaign tools.

5. Clients Should Not Interfere with Their SEO/Local SEO Campaigns.

Period. I had a client who was enthused about his SEO campaign and determined to help me help him rank. He immediately made changes to his website without consulting me. Post making those changes and a discussion with me, he was surprised to find that writing your keywords over and over again, matching font color to the background color of your web pages was not a recommended SEO practice.

Hiring a professional? Let them do their job.

6.”Hello, Client. This is Your ROI Calling.”

It still surprises me, to this date, how clients are willing to invest a large portion of their advertising budget on traditional media, when search marketing is one of the best, if not, the best platforms to measure accountability and ROI. It’s a great part of my job – being able to show a client accurate campaign details, including success rate and campaign optimization processes. It really doesn’t get any better than that.

7. Invest in Taking Chances.

But be responsible! We’re part of a continually evolving industry where everyone has a chance to contribute a new discovery to the community and add to existing research. Invest in test websites and listings for a more accurate theories on ranking factors and optimal conversion rates and continually test yourself and better your campaign strategies.

8. Search Community – You are Awesome.

This is a small, highly competitive industry and yet we’re all able to share and discuss our ideas which, in turn, helps us with our clients. Blog topics from industry peers have probably been the biggest source of my education as I’m sure, it has been for many others. I love how this industry always keeps you on your toes for the next new thing.

9. “Here Comes the Ride.”

A ride to the top, indeed. After my experience, I am now confident that each geographic location has the following 3 things established: Chamber/Institution of Commerce, Public Health and Safety and a wedding planner. There will always be stiff competition for the keyword ‘wedding planner (enter geographic location)‘.

10. And I…Will Always, SEO

You can throw viral video, social media, pay-per-click, email marketing, etc, any of those, at me – I’m still a devout SEO / Local SEO specialist. In it’s bare-bones theory, I’ve always admired and respected a marketing tactic that allows qualified users to come to you. You also have to admire how search engines can actually level the playing field between a small business and a large corporation.

Feel free to comment and share some of your lessons with me – I’d love to hear them! Please note, my article does not apply to each and every SEO consultant and are just my personal observations. Except the part about wedding planners.
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About the Author

Hired Gun of all things Internet Marketing & SEO. Founder at @PoweredbySearch. Local Search aficionado, and startup lover. I love fast cars & smart people.
  • http://www.Pangea-Collection.com Patricia

    As that professor in your story, I could not be more proud! You go girl! Keep learning and sharing.

  • http://TwistImage.com Tim Vickery

    Excellent article Zunaira – a very nice read. You forgot to mention ‘Time’ is the best friend or the worst enemy of SEO.


  • http://www.pageonebusiness.com Warner Carter

    Nice share, gave you a sphinn.

  • http://www.poweredbysearch.com Zunaira Karim

    @Patricia – Patricia, if it wasn’t for your teachings, I would still think that online marketing revolved around an irritating pop-up ad. Thanks for your support!

    @Tim – Glad you could have a read Tim! Ah, “time”, I definitely should have said something about that! I feel a new post coming on…

    @Warner – cheers for the sphinn, Warner. Come back soon, as the post says, I will be writing more. Thanks!

  • http://eblogcamp.com Mike

    @Zunaira Karim – If you are interested in CRM, try Karma CRM. I’m currently using it and it’s a best CRM so far that I have used :)

  • http://www.mysemexperts.com/blog Emma

    Great article! As a young SEO professional I am really inspired by your reflections here. I especially liked the last one and recently wrote a blog post about how SEO is here to stay despite what other say and what new technology arises: http://mysemexperts.com/why-seo-is-here-to-stay

  • http://twitter.com/mherman31 Michael Herman

    Good lessons. Well stated.

    My best answer to “What do you do for a living?” is…”I help the pages of a client’s website ranking higher in search engines.”

    There is no perfect answer (that I’ve heard), so I tend to modify the response above tailored to my audience. That means, at times, my answer is…”I do online marketing related to Google.”

    I’ve even answered (multiple times), “I’m not at liberty to say.”

  • http://www.poweredbysearch.com Zunaira Karim

    @Mike – KarmaCRM, will definitely have to check that out, I’m always looking for CRM systems out there. Thanks for the tip!

    @Emma – Thank you for your kind words, Emma. I’m happy there’s another SEO advocate on board :)

    @Michael – Thanks for your kind words. I’ve used the lines you have and people seem to be more confused by what I tell them! I must be hanging out with the wrong crowd…

  • http://pk.linkedin.com/in/sohaibtayyab Sohaib Tayyab

    HI’ Zunaira,
    Great Post. I really Like It. Its very Inspiring for the young Online marketing professionals. Kee It Up
    BTW, your story of joining SEO/SEM is very similar to mines :-)

  • http://www.marketingrush.net/ Catalin Trif

    Nice to see people who are passionate about SEO. Another one of my lessons is this: SEO is extremely different from industry to industry. It is important to catch the respective particularities of a niche right from the start.
    I find #3 to be very true. However, I believe that being an SEO will be officially recognized as a profession sometime in the next 5 years.

  • http://www.internetmarketingguruservice.com Gary Young

    I strongly don’t agree with your statement about a good SEO company doesn’t make guarantees about ranking! It is because SEO companies cannot promise results that they are often given a bad rap and in many cases deservedly so.

    I always give guarantees- because I analyse the keywords and competition who are currently on the first top places of search engines. I am then it a good position to determine whether I a win the ‘fight’ and what reasonable time frame I can do it in. I believe all SEO companies should do the same and promise some kind of results.
    I emphasize my point, if you would imagine taking your car to garage and a mechanic said “I can’t promise to fix it, but leave it with me for long period of time I will try – oh by the way make sure you my monthly invoices” Would you be happy?

  • http://www.seo-in-spain.com Louise Hartley

    Good post, I too agree with Dev Basu, most decent SEO’s can show their talents with a good portfolio and references from previous & current clients. Also your own website should reflect your skills.

  • http://www.thunderseo.com @garydrinksd

    Great post, Zunaira! As a fellow semi-newcomer (2 years) in the SEO industry, I can relate a lot with most of your 10 lessons. The best thing about being in this industry is that the learning just doesn’t stop. That’s what makes it so exciting and rewarding for me. Just when you think you know what it takes to rank a site, you go to a conference like the most recent SEOmoz Pro Training Seminar, and get tons of new tips and tactics to come back and implement on your clients’ campaigns. I look forward to seeing more from you around the internet!

  • http://www.internetmarketingguruservice.com Gary Young

    Sorry – I have to correct you . I never said SEO companies should guarantee the no.1 spot in Google. What I meant was any SEO that is worth their ‘salt’ can be sure with a high rate of confidence that they can achieve the 1st page on Google – meaning in top ten position. Now that is a lot better than saying – oh I can’t give any guarantees at all because I don’t have a hot line to Google. We all know that nobody does. We are all second guessing, but are guessing must come with some degree of confidence that we be successful(results in the top 10) then nothing at all.

  • Pingback: 10 Lessons I’ve Learned From My SEO Career | Eeden Labs()

  • http://www.weballways.com Deepika

    Yes, if one could manage all the things at a time; there is nothing to stop the success of SEO professional or SEO company.

  • Arnold

    Great article. It’s good to learn lessons from other SEO experiences.

  • http://santamonicabailbonds.jerrysbailbonds.com Jerry Kra

    Coming from both sides of the Marketing world, offline/online, I agree with you completely Zunaira. SEO forever.
    I’ve also been on both sides of the table for SEO, client/constultant. I’ve had many discussions with Web Development companies touting their SEO services, meanwhile trying to sell you a flash only site.
    I’ve had the SEO companies promising the 100% guarantee top 3 or better spot and a month later they’ve disappeared.
    This type of criminal activity is ripe for a market that is still very new to 70% of the business owners out there and its very difficult to quickly educate millions of business owners, especially if they are 60-70 years old and their next generation, 30 somethings, haven’t taken over yet.

    By the way, Zunaira, are they hiring there??

  • http://www.poweredbysearch.com Zunaira Karim

    @Sohaib Tayyab – glad you found the article inspiring, Sohaib. I think that would be another interesting story to hear from other SEO professionals – how they got into the SEO field in the first place. Cheers!

    @Catalin Trif – interesting point on SEO in various industries. Although general SEO principles remain the same, I feel it’s important to check out what competitors in your industry are involved with, especially when it comes to link building. Thanks for bringing this up!

    @Gary Young – see Dev :)

    @Louise Hartley – I’m glad you brought up the point on portfolios, I still see some websites who don’t mention the clients they’ve worked with or have testimonials.

    @garydrinksd – Happy to know that you relate to the ‘learning’ part! I think that’s something many people find troublesome in their jobs after awhile – the lack of challenges they come across eventually, and as mentioned in the post, we’re definitely kept on our toes as SEO’s! You’ll definitely be seeing more from me – glad to know you’ll be sticking around!

    @Jerry Kra – I was a part of offline marketing too! Amen to SEO forever. I think it’s interesting that you also have a client’s perspective of SEO as well – the most I’ve gotten are link building requests! What you’ve mentioned is probably the reason why I’m not appreciative of ‘guaranteed positions’. In regards to hiring, we’re always looking for good people!

  • http://www.imkazu.com imKazu

    solid points,
    sometimes being honest and looking less attractive, in terms of what you offer (compared to some SEOs out there) goes a long way … people are getting accustomed to those “get your site on page one in xx days” type tagline I think

  • http://www.poweredbysearch.com Zunaira Karim

    @imKazu – cheers, for stopping by. About the point you made, I agree, that’s actually why talking to clients about SEO can be a challenge at times, due to those ‘taglines’. A ‘Statement of Results’ tends to be more attractive to client, especially if they don’t have a grasp on the concept of SEO, it’s all they have to fall back on.

  • http://www.eminenz.in Nitin

    Its very basic and to the point stuff you have provided.
    A lot of us sometimes forget the basics.


  • Val

    Great post Zunaira! Very well written and fun to read :) Very true on your many points

  • http://mohulghosh.com Mohul

    A very practical and to-the-fact post.. especially awesome as it is being said by a newly hired SEO professional.. I liked the candid facts represented.. kudos!