Sarah Masters SEO: 12 Things I Learned Studying SEO on Day One

While planning to wow Web Talent Marketing with my ability to teach myself SEO, I reached out to Madeline for advice since she’s both my mentor and a professor who teaches SEO in the classroom. She explained to me that while she does cover it, she knows that students of the Pro Writing department aren’t able to enter to the work force and confidently claim that they know the ins and outs of SEO. When Matt from Web Talent Marketing asked me about the finer points of SEO, I had no clue what he was talking about for the most part. I had a general idea of how SEO works, but not how to work with algorithms or even really how search engines themselves worked.

Sarah Masters SEO Day One

In an effort to not only prove my dedication to getting this job at Web Talent Marketing, but also to create a tool that students can use to learn SEO before entering the “real world” and job market, I decided to start this series.  Both Matt from Web Talent Marketing and my friend Alyssa who currently works as an SEO specialist directed me to to begin my education.  As it turns out, Rand Fishkin is kind of the King of SEO. He founded, calls himself The Wizard of Moz, and evidently wears spiffy yellow sneakers.

Moz offers a few guides SEO, Social Media, and Link Building to help users get started. For my purposes, I began with the SEO guide and have been taking copious amounts of notes, making sure to reread each paragraph for the best possible understanding. I’m in the middle of the guide right now, but I want to share with you the basics I’ve learned thus far:

1.       Crawlers are search engines’ automated robots. They can also be called spiders.

2.       Your site ranks well or gets to the top of the list based on relevance and popularity.

3.       “The engines employ mathematical equations (algorithms) to sort wheat from the chaff (relevance), and then rank the wheat in order of quality (popularity).” For those of you who are more fashion savvy out there, I wanted to put this in terms that made more sense to me, particularly because I wasn’t quite sure what chaff was when I first read this. Pro tip: it’s the seed casings of cereal grains. Here’s my analogy. Sorting the shoes from the shirts is relevance. Popularity/ranking of quality is putting those shoes in order from the flip flops you get at Walmart to the skyscraping, one-of-a-kind Jimmy Choos.

4.       Empathy for your audience is essential when working with SEO. Which is particularly great for me since empathy is my super power as I talked about on my old blog. 

5.       Three types of Search Queries exist:

a.       “Do” Transactional: I want to do something. Moz uses the example of buying a ticket to a concert or listening to a specific song. Think of it like the time you heard Adele released a new song and you hastily started typing “hello adele” in your search bar.

b.      “Know” Informational: I need info. Moz’s example is a name of band or restaurants in NYC. I’ll be doing this kind of searching this weekend when I visit my friend Sandy in DC for brunch and mimosas. We're already scouring the internet for the best places in DC. 

c.       “Go” Navigation: I want to go to a particular place on the Internet. Moz’s example: looking to go on Facebook or the NFL Homepage. I often find myself forgetting that I can go directly to YouTube and searching it instead. 

6.      When you're writing digital content, think of it as an opportunity to provide clues that search engines can use to understand what your post is about.

7.      Crawlers can't complete online forms so they won't be able to access any info beyond the login page so that content won't be a viable way to increase your ranking. 

8.       If you post a video or audio, you should include a transcript so crawlers will be able to pick up keywords. When I read this, it dawned on me that this is the reason Shannon Ables', one of my favorite bloggers, always includes show notes as part of her weekly podcast.

9.       Check to see what your website looks through the “eyes” of crawlers such as Google Cache. The world of a crawler is a ugly thing with no graphics or fun web design.

10.   Pages that are built with Java or Flash can be nearly impossible to read for crawlers. This will leave you with poor rankings no matter how awesome your website might be because they'll be no keywords for the crawlers to pick up on.

11.   There are millions of smaller databases that center around a specific keyword. Moz uses the example of “dog.” So basically all the puppy pictures I plan to blast you all with on my blog in a few weeks about Pepper and Molly will wind up in this database. 

12.   You need to use keywords in titles, texts, and metadata. This is where the little crawler dudes are going to pick up your terms. 

I'm realizing now that this is only scratching the surface and I still have a ton more to learn, but I'm enjoying every second of it! I look forward to sharing with you what else I've learned tomorrow. 


Work WellSarah Walsh