SEO - a Newbie's Point of View
By Marion Hirtzig - GoWales SEO placement.
Marion, the newest arrival in the Orantec office, shares her first experiences of working in Search Engine Optimisation:
My name is Marion and I am the latest addition to the Orantec team. I am here on a placement through GO Wales which offers the possibility to “taste” positions which I find an amazing opportunity. You still have to send out your resume and impress your future boss, but it is a placement so you are not expected to know everything about the position you apply for. Doing a placement with GO Wales also allows you to obtain a Professional Development Award – if you complete the weekly reflective logs and the reports they ask from you. I truly think it is a small price to pay to get a professional qualification and proper work experience.
I am curious by nature and I like to do different things that allow me to learn new stuff. Just look at my resume and you will realise it: I have a Master’s Degree in Technical and Judicial Translation which I used to become… Advisor/Salesperson for Tourist Information desks in Paris airports! Through hard work and persistence I became team leader for the aforementioned tourist information desks. After five years I decided that a change of scenery and some work experience abroad would be great and I moved to Cardiff.
If you haven’t guessed it already, finding a job as team leader of a tourist office in Cardiff proved tricky! Even with experience in Sales, in Management, in Customer Care and Organisation I couldn’t find any exciting job or convince employers that seeing my background I could succeed in a position even if I didn’t have proper experience in it. Their bad!
I had been looking for a job for a month or two when I found out by sheer chance that I could qualify for a placement. Search Engine Optimisation was not on my to-do list since to be honest I didn’t know the term two months ago, but it sounded great to me. During my Erasmus year at Bath University I had created a website thanks to Anil Herat’s web design training classes and I am kind of a geek so I like playing with IT – avert your eyes purists as I can be a bit barbaric when I deal with coding, ask my colleagues!
I think SEO is a very interesting mixture of IT skills and literate skills and that is the reason why I am here now. Well, the fact that Richard Griffiths agreed to take me in also played an important part!
SEO is about Search Engine ranking, and in a yeoman’s words, for a website to rank higher you need to make it relevant, and alive. You don’t just need a pretty face, you need an intelligent content. Since I arrived less than two weeks ago I haven’t had the chance to do everything yet. After two weeks I still have a lot to learn and discover, that is more than I could say for one of the jobs I had before! I have mostly been updating the websites of clients by writing blogs, by tweeting quite a lot on their behalf and by updating their Facebook pages.
Yesterday I did some “on-site optimisation” which consists in improving the content of a website to make sure the keywords that search engines target appear enough and in a clever way on every page. The time when you saw hundreds of keywords stuffed at the bottom of webpages is over now, you have to insert keywords properly and make real sentences if you want Google to like you. Software help you nowadays to see if your website is able to rank properly, by telling you if the keywords are well positioned. For instance if you think a keyword is really important try and put it in the title of a page, as it is easier to see not only for people but also for the robots that ‘run’ search engines. Once your website is ‘search-engine friendly’ you are on the right path but you still have some work to do because no one is alone on a market and you always have bigger and more famous brands/shops/companies that are more likely than you to attract people on their websites.
This is why another thing I have started to learn is link-building. It is great to write blogs and have an optimised website but it is even better if you link what you write to outside websites and to your own website. You also need to be friendly with lots of people that are relevant to the sector you work in since the more people/websites link to your website the better you rank. An amazing website with loads of great keywords, even if it were for, say, a multinational company, will tend to rank poorly if no one links to it. So imagine what happens to a company that isn’t among the 1,000 most powerful ones in the world. Our clients, big or small, always have bigger sharks they need to swim with so our work is to make sure they get public attention.
I would say if you work in SEO you also must like numbers at least a little because you need to understand rankings and evolution in ranking so that involves playing a bit with numbers. No calculations but still, you got quite a few numbers to look at and it can seem overwhelming but if you keep calm they will end up making sense to you.
To sum up I would say SEO is a (perfect?) marriage between literature and IT. Indeed, you use literature to improve the contents of a website and to blog/tweet, but you must also use software to put it all on-line so you need to feel comfortable with IT. And sometimes to add pictures, embed videos and so on changing the coding by hand can be helpful.
Well, here is what I can say as a newbie in SEO and thanks GO Wales (see, that’s a bit of link-building!) and Orantec for giving me this amazing opportunity.