Putting SEO Training First

White hat SEO techniques are complex and take time to acquire.

Kim and I teach our in-house Audience Development Workshop 10 or more times per year. And yet every time I sign a new audience development consulting client, Kim needs to remind me to schedule the workshop.

I am both a journalist and engineer by training and tend to focus on the mechanics of what needs to be done. I’m all about getting the keyword research started that will form the website taxonomy and guide the editors content generation, headline writing, and tagging on a day-to-day basis. I know I’m in this for long haul with the client, whether we’re tuning up an existing website or starting from scratch, it’s going to take years to make white hat SEO as natural as good spelling and grammar.

Maybe because I know it’s a long haul, I put less emphasis on the classroom side of the training program. Kim being a bit analytic herself whacked me with some data the other day that really got my attention. Over the past 10 years we on-boarded more than 100 clients. The point of Kim’s data was simple: the sooner they go through basic training the faster their website reaches a moderate level of Google visibility. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, especially me.

Putting people first

The mechanics of building keyword taxonomies and Google friendly websites is no longer a mystery. Panda, Penguin and their successors will no doubt keep us on our toes, but the truth about good white hat SEO is this: if you create great content, format it and file it correctly, Google will send you traffic. Sure there are some false hits where good websites get penalized for the wrong reasons, but these challenges are part of the game and usually pretty easy to fix.

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The hardest part of what we do is training the people. It’s not enough that the audience development editors I spend my time with teaching every day understand their domain. They also must understand how Google works, their competitive environment, and the mechanics of SEO. It’s also helpful if they don’t try any funny stuff that borders on black hat SEO or even gray at SEO for that matter. It’s also helpful if they understand the larger concepts around content marketing, open website architecture, email newsletter publishing and the other key elements and concepts that drive a successful open content marketing system, or what we call a Mequoda System. Whatever the platform, whatever the software, whatever the topic, great editors will create great content which will earn high visibility. Anything less, generates less than the desired response.

Training is key

However you get the training done, start soon and do it often. Just like good spelling and good grammar, writing findable content is a learned skill. We’re beginning to see a few journalists these days fresh from school that have some clue. With that said, I’ve yet to meet one who understands the concepts of the keyword universe, Google visibility, and cluster-based keyword targeting and reporting. Perhaps it’s just hard to find great writers who are also good analysts. Perhaps it’s also no surprise that we’ve had such tremendous success with websites like TechRepublic and MorningStar because the writers are analysts by nature. Some editorial topics attract writers with a strong analytical streak, and unsurprisingly the same folks are often good at creating and formatting content that gets found.

Setting expectations

I’ve helped hire dozens of audience development editors over the past 10 years. Finding the right people for the job will put you ahead of the game. With that said, many publishers have the Herculean task of retraining legacy writers, editors, and journalists into successful online content producers. Some will be really good at it, some will get by, and some will get out. Make SEO training part of your core editorial training and performance evaluation.

If there’s anything we can do to help, drop us an email or give us a call at (866) 713-1005.


    Hi KIM,

    I have always found this SEO thing a difficult subject to unravel and reading that you have successfully trained people on SEO, amazes me.

    But I strongly recommend SEO to people even though I don’t bother much about my attempts and efforts.


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