Learning SEO: What I Wish I Knew Then

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Learn more about our Intro to SEO Class312 Digital is hosting a full day SEO class on March 20th in downtown Chicago. If you can learn more about the course or register online by clicking the “Learn More” button below!

11 days from today, 312 Digital is hosting our Introduction to Digital Marketing course at the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. It’s a full day of digital marketing learning and we couldn’t be more excited!

One of the topics we’re covering that day is SEO (a topic near and dear to my heart, since I led one of the largest SEO teams in the country from 2006-2009). SEO is such an important topic and generates so much unnecessary confusion, we’ve decided to devote a whole day to the subject on March 20th. For more details about our Introduction to SEO course, you’ll find all the info on our registration page.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. SEO. As I’m sure you already know, SEO stands for search engine optimization and is the art and science of making sure your digital assets (web pages, videos, images and more) get found in search engines.



As I’ve done with some of the other topics we’re covering in our January course, I asked my Facebook friends and connections about their experience with SEO – specifically asking them about the one thing they wish they knew about SEO earlier in their career – the one thing that would have made them better marketers.

Here is the exact question I asked them:

What’s the one thing you wish you knew about SEO earlier in your career? The thing that would have helped you most as a marketer?

And here is what they had to say.

Seth Weissman How it changes ALL the time

Sandra Schwock March I would like a better grasp of it NOW; earlier in my career there was no such thing.

Tom Webster I would have been smarter about creating content around the relevant search queries that led people to our site, rather than just content around the keywords I thought we should have. Low hanging fruit.

Nancy Davis I would have loved knowing that writing posts with repetitive keywords is not just useless, it is plain old spammy.

Michael Weiss The tech part of it all. H1 and H2 tags and all that jazz. As a writer I didn’t pay attention to it….As Phil Hartman said as a caveman on SNL: “Your ways confuse me…I am just a simple caveman.”

Kim Phillips Earlier in my career, there was no such thing as SEO. (I’m a geezer, obviously.)

Steve Birkett That trying to chase trends in SEO theory is far less efficient than simply focusing on who it is you’re writing for, providing content of value and weaving in a few magic keywords. Don’t try to game Google, be one with the big G.

Don F Perkins That SEO is useless unless it is part of a holistic marketing effort. Great SEO only frustrates searchers unless the rest of their experience meets their needs and expectations at the time and place they are at in their buying cycle.

Cassie Allinger There are a lot of quacks out there. Aside from those quacks, there are so many different types and levels of SEOs, so take everything you’re told/taught with a grain of salt. Research, experiment, and discuss your theories with others. Oh, and there’s no such thing as a guarantee!

312digital word cloudNicole Bodem From the SEO perspective: Driving quality traffic to a website is a team sport no doubt. That being said; The SEO, web developer and designer relationship is VERY important. Competing against one another rather than working towards building a synergy is completely ineffective and will bring you nothing but frustration on all sides.

Taking the time to understand where each side is coming from and learning how to communicate rather dictate is the key to building a successful online web presence and keeping your sanity.

Ben Taylor User experience on the website. User experience is as much a part of SEO as link building, content development and etc. You can drive all the traffic you want, but if the site’s UE is not up to par with weak calls to action, the rest of your SEO efforts are worthless.

Joel Libava I wish I had learned about linking to past blog posts. Internal links with good anchor text really helps the search engines find relevant content on your blog. (As of this writing, SEO experts recommend varying that anchor text a lot.) One more thing: I wish that I would have invested some money submitting my blogs and websites to high quality web directories.

Ian Cleary Effective keyword research. If you don’t research properly you could’ve targeting keywords that you won’t rank for or keywords that will drive traffic that doesn’t convert!

Michele Price To take of wholistic view, starting with good writing, then pay attention to keywords second. A strong story gets read and acted upon better than just an article with some education with keywords in it. When you focus on long term you win the race.

Ric Dragon One of the biggest, and perhaps most surprising things, is that when any piece of content is really given the proper attention – not just in the writing, but in the keyword research, – the result is usually proportionally larger than the effort. In other words, something given 10 hours, may easily have more than 10X the effect of a piece of content written in an hour. Keyword research isn’t about trying to game the system, it’s about understanding your topic in a wider context of human understanding. OK: got me wound up before my coffee….

Tim McDonald The basics of meta titles and descriptions. How to make sure photos and videos are indexed by Google and now that I read Ric Dragon‘s comment, YES!

Jonathan Brewer As a marketer, I wish early on I understood that SEO is not something you should take on because you learn what meta tags are. Like most things, you can use an expert or two in your building or at least in your network of partners. Then, make sure that the “basics” are taught throughout the organisation to everyone touching content.

Shonali Burke Oh boy, where to begin… first, I think a lot of us “non-web” type of people got intimidated, and we shouldn’t have been. Second, using anchor text correctly makes absolute sense intuitively, but is a lot harder to put into practice (I still don’t get it right a lot of the times). Third, of course SEO is important but some of my most popular posts/the ones that have had the most impact (as in comments and shares, but also people emailing me, clients (current/future) mentioning them to me, etc.) were the ones where I paid little-to-no attention to SEO, but wrote from the heart/spent an excruciating amount of time putting the posts together, on a subject I really cared/was fired up about. So kinda what Ric Dragon was saying.

Taedra Kogan I wish I got in the habit earlier to consistently add new content to my site. One page a week and i would have a monster site by now. Time flies and for some reason, it falls to the back burner – even though I know it’s the most important thing I can do.

Eric Pratum One big thing – I wish I had realized that, while the technical skills are important, your main goal should be to create an end-to-end alignment between what the searcher wants, what the search engine displays as results, and what your landing page provides. Don’t work on your SEO if your intention is simply to get more traffic. Focus on getting more relevant traffic.

Two small things – Keyword stuffing is so easy to spot that it’s funny, but almost everyone that starts thinking about SEO begins with keyword stuffing. Just don’t do it. Be intentional about your target phrases, but don’t fit in every variation and related term you can in the smallest area possible. Also, link juice only passes through the first link to a destination on a page, so if you link to your company with the company name as your anchor text in your bio at the top of a guest post, there’s no point in dropping a keyword relevant anchor text link into the post body in an effort to get yourself to rank for “marketing analyst” or “social media specialist” or whatever. You used up your juice in your bio.

What would you add? What one thing about SEO do you wish you knew earlier in your career?

PS: Don’t forget to check out our in-depth training courses linked at the top of this post. You can also find more detail about 312 Digital and our classes in the navigational menu at the top of this page.

Sean McGinnis

Sean McGinnis is founder of 312 Digital, full service digital agency based in Chicago, Illinois. 312 digital provides high performing websites, SEO, content marketing and other online marketing services to small and medium sized businesses across the US. He speaks and blogs about SEO, content creation, social media and a number of other digital topics. Sean has been involved in Internet Marketing since 1998. You can find him on .

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  1. [...] the Chicagoland area and want more of Sean’s wisdom, be sure and check out his January class, Introduction to Digital Marketing, which will feature great speakers, lots of actionable information and strategies that you can put [...]

  2. [...] I was going to take a course I would probably look at what Sean McGinnis  is doing at 312 Digital or someone else who showed me they understand how to communicate and write for [...]

  3. […] I was going to take a course I would probably look at what Sean McGinnis  is doing at 312 Digital or someone else who showed me they understand how to communicate and write for […]

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