SEO Q&A – Questions I have been asked
This article is to share some SEO-related questions I was often asked in the past few years and my humble opinions. Please feel free to ask questions or discuss, I will keep updating.
Personal Competence And Career Planning Related
Q: I am interested in SEO, how can I start from?
Formal education on SEO is not commonly available, but there are numerous online and offline courses that offer an expedited introduction to the subject which you can start from. However, to truly become proficient in SEO, extensive self-study is essential. This is because a good SEO strategy considered different aspects like user behaviour, search intent, product design, content planning, etc. Short courses can only provide a surface-level understanding and issues that can’t be found in textbooks may arise during implementation. Therefore, it is important not to rely solely on courses if you are looking for long-term success in SEO.
For beginners, here are some online resources that I recommend:
- MOZ’s The Beginner’s Guide to SEO helps you get a basic understanding of SEO in a short amount of time.
- Google’s Search Central shares a lot of practical information, so it’s worth exploring when you encounter problems.
- Google Search Console Help is also a great useful resource.
- Of course, it’s also highly recommended to just use Google Search if you have a question.
To get the latest SEO news, an easy method is to rely on friends’ shares on social media, or you can also refer to:
In addition to the above, I highly recommend taking action and trying to optimize a website yourself. Learning by doing is the best way to learn!
Q: What are the core competencies to be a good SEO?
From my observation, it’s key to have below:
- Strong knowledge and expertise in SEO
- Effective communication and coordination
- Having at least one more expertise other than SEO
- Passion for optimisation (not just only for SEO)
SEO involves both technical and content-related strategies and requires collaboration with various stakeholders. And unless the SEO team is built on day one when the organisation is built, most of the time, you’ll need to plan SEO strategies based on the existing product structure and make adjustments based on the organization’s long-term plans or restrictions along the way. Therefore, the ability to adapt and think strategically (ie. resourcefulness) is crucial. And it’s important to be able to persuade stakeholders to buy into your ideas in a language they can understand. Even if you work as an in-house SEO, you still need to be like an SEO salesperson to pitch your ideas and make the deal. That’s why I believe that effective communication and coordination skills are so important.
Looking back at my own career, I had experience in various digital marketing roles beyond SEO such as performance marketing, affiliate marketing, data analysis, project management, and product management. This experience not only helped me better understand the digital marketing industry and company operations but also allowed me to be more efficient in collaborating with other teams. While this career path may not be suitable for everyone, taking the time to understand other teams can be very helpful in building the necessary skills mentioned above.
Since SEO involves so many aspects, many SEO experts I know are also good in one of the areas like product management, data analysis, advertising, marketing technology, or programming. And on their career progression, they usually move further and not just oversee SEO but also something else.
After reading through the above, I believe you already know why I mentioned having a strong passion for optimization. There are so many things to do!
Q: I want to quickly accumulate my SEO experience. Is it better to work in an agency or in-house?
If you work for the right boss, I believe it doesn’t matter about where you are. But in general, if you want to train your basic skills in a short period of time or learn how to do SEO for different industries, working in an agency would be more suitable for you. But if you want to sharpen your skill for a specific industry, doing in-house for two years or more (in the same company) can be very helpful.
Tools and Performance Evaluation Related
Q: How do you evaluate the effectiveness of SEO? What are the key performance indicators (KPIs)?
Traffic and conversions are my favourite KPIs. The importance of the 2 KPIs will be determined by business goals. However, since the effectiveness of SEO is not immediately visible like paid ads, sometime I would also set short-term indicators such as impressions, ranking, and click-through rate based on the project goal. But traffic and conversions are still the primary focus in the long term.
Q: Can SEO be A/B tested?
Personally, I find it difficult to be precise for A/B testing in SEO due to too many uncontrollable variables and difficulty in tracking. Therefore, I think a comparison of before and after will be more suitable for most people than A/B testing.
Q: Any recommended tools?
In addition to the fundamental tools like Google Analytics and search engine webmaster tools, you can consider tools like SEMrush, MOZ or ahrefs.com. The features they provide are similar, so it depends on which one you find more user-friendly and which one supports the search engine countries you need. Screaming Frog is also a very useful crawler software with powerful features that I highly recommend. For all channels’ website traffic estimation, you can try SimilarWeb.
Organisation And Strategy Related
Q: As the first SEO in the organization, how to earn trust and persuade my projects?
Usually, the SEO team is built after the organisation is relatively stable for some time. As the first SEO specialist, adjusting the existing framework to fulfil your strategy is challenging, usually resulting in resistance. However, it’s normal, so don’t get upset.
I recommend starting with a low-cost, high-impact project to demonstrate how powerful SEO can be. For example, for a non-SEO website, the traffic may increase significantly by simply changing the page title and description. This change doesn’t require too much time from engineers but it’s effective. Just remember to ensure proper data tracking before implementing so you can provide solid feedback on results to relevant colleagues.
Q: I don’t have much SEO experience yet. How can I prove that my plan is feasible? How to estimate the expected outcome?
SEO is a domain with general rules but no laws. That’s why every SEO has his/her own way to do it. If you don’t have solid personal experience to back you up, try to find external data and resources such as whitepapers, successful case studies, or even information from friends. And to have a more solid estimation, you can try competitor analysis.
Find a competitor who is strong in the search intent you are targeting. Do a site audit to understand the gaps in SEO strategy and outcome (ie. traffic or conversions). Then you can make a plan to take your site to the next level and estimate how much traffic you can “steal” from your competitors. SEO tools shared earlier are helpful for competitor analysis.
Q: Is SEO under marketing or product?
Based on my and my friend’s experience, SEO is usually under the marketing team. Personally, I think SEO belongs to the marketing team, but having a dedicated product manager who supports SEO can be more flexible. But to be honest, regardless of where it belongs, the most important thing is if you can have a holistic plan and get all the relative teams’ support.
Q: My business has just started, but I want to do SEO. How can I begin?
If your business has just started and your team and budget are limited, I suggest doing SEO with a relaxed approach. For example, ask an employee to start learning SEO and applying it to his/her daily routines such as adjusting the website structure or writing articles based on consumer needs without doing keyword research. Don’t invest heavily at the beginning because SEO takes time and may not solve the short-term growth needs of your company, so it’s better to focus resources on more efficient channels first. After all, we need to survive first before we can improve.
Q: How do I choose an SEO agency?
If there is no one in-house who knows SEO, I don’t recommend working with an agency directly unless it’s a company you trust. I have heard many cases where companies cannot find someone in-house who is able to be the bridge between internal and external parties but still rush for SEO with an agency resulting in failures due to the communication barriers between the outsourcing company and the company itself.
The agency can only provide basic recommendations or services due to information gaps, and the company cannot execute them properly. In the end, all the hard work from both sides became nothing. Therefore, if there is no one who understands SEO in the company, I suggest hiring or training someone for SEO first. Doing it on a small scale internally may be more appropriate than outsourcing hastily. If there are people within the company who have an understanding of SEO, then I believe you already have a clear idea of what you want to do and what kind of agency you are looking for.
These are the questions I can think of now, and I will add more if I have any new ones.
Hi! I am Wang wang, a Taiwanese girl living in Tokyo. I stayed in Singapore prior to Tokyo. This is the place for me to share my working and life experiences!
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