Learn SEO from zero (Part I)

On taking the challenge to learn a technical skill (SEO)

When I first started my career, I barely understood what digital marketing was about. That is, despite working for a tech start-up and then a workflow automation software company. In both instances, I was involved in sales, and somewhat felt useless when it came to lead generation.

Lead generation is a crucial element in sales

A lead is a business or a person that may eventually become a client.

This activity is usually taken care of by a department (marketing, sales, or both) and can mainly be distinguished by two parts:

  • Outbound lead generation = reaching out to people and businesses (e.g. you reach out to a professional out of the blue). 🤺
  • Inbound lead generation= attracting people and businesses to you (e.g. you create content online that professionals will find through search). 🏹

Given the rise of inbound lead generation and my frustration in waiting for proper leads, I took action and decided to learn how to do it myself.

With SEO, you can work to rank your website, e-commerce site, podcast or any online asset in a search engine, in order to generate leads, convert them into clients, and increase revenue. I decided to educate myself in this area and surprisingly got hooked. Since then, I have been reading about SEO, watching webinars, listening to podcasts and deciphering technical artifacts; yet, have not put such knowledge into practice.

And so, I am launching a blog and a podcast within a few weeks with two sharp web developers, Seif and Aouss. There can no longer be excuses. They are in charge of web development, and I am in charge of SEO, hence this series. 💻

What is the purpose and structure of this series?

The aim is to explore how to harmoniously work with two developers, learn and test tools, demonstrate both failures and successes, and receive feedback from you.

My projects are the following:

  • The blog: it will contain a variety of content (web development, marketing, energy, economics, data science, and so on); hence, it will be challenging to fall within one category in the eyes of Googlebot. This asset is a learning ground for website architecture, content freshness, and keyword planning.
  • The podcast: of course, podcasts are delivered vocally, but we will be publishing show notes and transcripts to create the opportunity to rank for certain topics. This asset is a learning ground for ranking podcasts on platforms outside of Google Search (e.g. on iTunes or Spotify too).
  • The professional website: my mother is a dentist in Casablanca, and we’ll launch a website for her. Frankly, I am very curious about how this one will work. From what I have heard, SEO is not that hard in non-English speaking countries. The website will be in French, and eventually in Arabic, so this is good practice to learn more about TLDs (top-level domains), non-English SEO, and local listings. And hey, if you need your teeth to look good, you’ll know where to go if you’re around Casablanca :)

The tools I will be learning to use are:

  • Google Search Console: to track the performance of organic results, and if search engines come across potential crawling errors, site issues and more.
  • Google Analytics: to monitor how visitors are using the websites, and to track KPIs.
  • Google My Business: to improve local listings.
  • Google Keyword Planner: to search for keywords.
  • Google Tag Manager: to manage JS and HTML tags.
  • Google Structured Data Testing Tool (SDTT): test structured data to create rich results (Schema).
  • Google Structured Data Markup Helper: to add structured data markup to a page.
  • Saney: to see Google SERP previews.
  • Screaming frog: to crawl websites. 🕷️

And, a few others, which are not yet on my priority list:

  • Chrome Web Dev Tools.
  • Google Data Studio.
  • Google Optimize.
  • Google Image Content Analysis (Cloud API).
  • Google SERP Snippet Optimization Tool.

As I move forward, my priorities and the list itself will change. If you have any remark or suggestion, do not hesitate to share your opinion. 🧠

As for the objectives, these are to:

  • Learn SEO and its technical aspects.
  • Do link building, troubleshooting, learn website performance, understand the basics of programming languages (HTML, CSS, JS).
  • Keep up with the trends, industry news and most demanded SEO skills.
  • Understand how the web works — a few months ago I did not know what these meant: HTTP codes, HTML, CSS, JS frameworks, DOM, OMCSS, CDN, TLD, caching, rendering, hosting, migration, and plenty of other gobbledygook (and I still don’t 😂).
  • Understand how JavaScript works with SEOAouss and Seif will be using React, and I don’t know how that would impact us in SERPs; here is a great guide from Tomasz on Elephate.
  • Share my experience working with developers, who are new to SEO as well.
  • Deliver results (evidently, otherwise this would all be nullified).
  • Experiment with other search engines (iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, LinkedIn, anything with a search bar).

What are the obstacles we’ve faced?

Funnily enough, we faced challenges before we even created online assets.

First, I did not know much about website creation a few months back and naturally, asked Seif to build a Wordpress or Squarespace website. He categorically refused (thank you for that), and decide to handcraft it instead. At the end of the day, we have two developers involved in this project, so why use such platforms?

By creating our own websites, we have more control and are not stuck with plug-ins that will lower performance. In fact, Seif’s websites are blazing fast. Stay tuned for some screenshots (thank you, Gatsby). 🎆

Second, both developers and I have no strong sense of SEO, so this is absolutely new to us. As we move forward, I can foresee steep ups and downs.

Ironically, I talk about obstacles we faced without getting started with the projects, while a friend of mine, who used to work for a digital agency, told me that SEO is dead simple, “you just put the right keywords in the URL, a proper meta description and put internal links — hoopla! it’s done”.

C’mon dude, it can’t that be easy. 😂

At that time I did not know much but was sure that the SEO realm was definitely wider than what he claimed it to be.

What can you connect SEO with?

Learning SEO per se will indeed be a fun experience, and one I am looking forward to. But what is more interesting, is correlating this topic with another that I am involved with at this stage.

I am working for a consumer insights company, developing a sophisticated brand performance tracking tool with my team that will allow companies to measure metrics (e.g. awareness, consideration). It measures with unparalleled precision (low margin of error), allows you to track changes in niche audiences (by combining multiple variables e.g. top cities, lifestyle preferences, car ownership) and benchmark against other competitors.

My goal is to explore how both SEO and brand are connected at a deeper level. In a previous piece, I scratched the surface of this topic. But as I move forward, I will be able to extract more value and share more valuable insights with you.

What’s next?

Número uno: one piece per month, for the foreseeable future (if such a thing exists).

Número dos: receive your feedback, and tailor the content accordingly.

Número tres: share with you the knowledge I accumulate -and the mistakes, too, so you don’t have to go through those.

Follow this Medium account to get notified about my next piece. 🦏

Big thank you to Mario Lambertucci, Izzi, Aouss, Seif Ghezala 🇩🇿, Hussam and Joy.