When setting up SEO training for your team, how do you decide what training to deliver and how to structure those training sessions?
That's what we're going to be discussing today with the self-called Danny DeVito of SEO. She talks about SEO so much that she's been given the job of running the R&D department at SALT agency. A warm welcome to the In Search SEO podcast, Billie Geena Hyde.
In this episode, Billie shares how to structure SEO training, including:
Picking the right SEO training for your team
Review your matrix
Face-to-face vs. self-taught
Billie: Hi, David. Thank you so much for having me on.
D: Thanks so much for coming on. You can find Billie over at SALT.agency. So Billie, how do you decide what SEO training needs to be delivered?
1. Picking the right SEO training for your team
B: There are multiple aspects in there as it’s such a broad question. The first thing you need to look out for is if you are an agency that's looking after a lot of staff who all have different training needs, are you in-house, and things like that. If we were speaking about an agency, how we work is we’ve created a 200 point metric matrix of skills that are essential for anyone that works in SEO. And we can see the entire company in a very clear view of where they are and where they're expected to be at various levels. And we can use that in line with business needs to identify what's coming up, what training is needed, and who's going to be working on that project. Because we want to challenge our team members.
A good way to ensure retention is to make sure that anyone in your team is feeling valued, and is also being challenged in what they do. What we might do is say, we've got migration coming up in six months, let's get this person who's never done one and this person who's worked on migration, but never led one to work together on that project. And we can work together to identify what that's going to look like, have a plan for it, and create an entire spectrum of training around that.
It's bespoke, and everyone's got the skills to complete what needs to happen. And then the next time they do this, they're ready to go on the next level of the matrix. You're able to see everything in a really granular view if you think about what's coming up, and how can we push a person to do something they've never done before. And I think the same goes with an in-house SEO operation. You know what works and what's feasible. You can create something really bespoke and provide that knowledge months in advance. And that's what my job is, to figure that out.
2. Review your matrix
D: So this matrix that you're talking about there with 200 items in it, is that something that stays fairly static, and it includes SEO skills that are relevant now and also for the longer term? Or is it something that needs to be revisited, as each month goes by?
B: It does need to be revisited. So the Arab co-founder, Reza recently did a presentation at Brighton SEO on this entire matrix in our plans. So you can see what that looks like a bit better. But we identify all the core skills. There’s client management in there, there's content management, there's strategic, there's technical, and everything in between. A lot of the core elements don't necessarily change but we add things we regularly up things and make sure that it's relevant to the search landscape and what SEOs are actually doing.
The only thing that comes to my head, at the moment, which is probably a bad example, headless SEO recently become a specific and popular topic. So that's something that we've had to add to that matrix. We make sure that everyone's got a baseline understanding and those that have had the opportunity to experience doing things around that are assisting with and leading how that training is going to look for the wider company.
It is being regularly updated, so it's really important that you stay up to date whether it's on Twitter or Mastodon or whatever happens with social media going forward. Make sure that you stay up to date with everything that people are arguing about. You can have that core knowledge to probably know what a client might ask about because we need training. You never know what's going to happen as an agency, you never know what our clients going to think about. So we need to make sure that everyone's clued up on everything all the time. It's a really difficult thing to do but it's so powerful.
3. Face-to-face vs. self-taught
D: So when you're identifying so many different elements that need to be learned, there are obviously different techniques to deliver training, and there are different learning styles that different individuals prefer as well. How do you identify what needs to be taught in different manners? So for instance, if you compare face-to-face training, compared with perhaps doing a course online, and perhaps self-learning, what would be an example of something that's best-delivered face-to-face versus something that's best self-taught?
B: A good example of something I think is good to be taught face to face is probably the things that are a bit drier to learn. Data analysis, yes, you need to actually go and play around and learn that stuff on your own but to be shown the best practice, that's probably best done in person because you can make it more engaging. You're not just watching a video that you can zone out from where they're talking about finding datasets. By creating a specific view, you can be live, you can show them, and you can make things more fun and engaging.
The same goes for things like indexing signals, they're not a fun topic. Who wants to sit and watch a video or read about indexing signals? I'm the fool, that's how I learned. But I never want to do that again. So if you can make that more interesting and engaging by doing that in person, the learner is going to get much more out of it.
However, there are some things that I think are more complex and have multiple answers. So they are probably best by having someone available to answer questions but to also manually delve into them yourself. So say, if he was teaching somebody to do a technical audit, or check core web vitals and audit, all the various aspects of that, they're going to learn more by doing but they're going to have a lot of questions to ask. You could create a scenario for them where they have to do that and look into it. And then present their information and learnings to somebody who's a subject matter expert, but also is available to ask questions to. And they're going to get more out of it that way.
4. Training non-SEOs
D: And what about training non-SEOs? What would be an example of a few SEO things to learn that are important for non-SEOs? I'm thinking content marketers, and other people within the organization who need to be aware of SEO and perhaps how it impacts what they do as well, but they don't need to get lost in the weeds of technical SEO. So what's good to cover?
B: Absolutely the basics, the what not to do definitely needs to be highlighted. I've seen a lot of companies that have in-house SEOs. I've recently heard from quite a few of them about bugbears they've had with content teams and marketing teams using depreciated SEO tactics. Like meta keywords that have not been around for at least a decade. And they're still dealing with that from their content writers. The content team, in particular, they don't need to be SEO experts, but they need to know the basics.
And as much as I hate third-party metrics, talk a little bit about spam scores. Meta keywords used to be a really important thing. But as SEO has grown, historically, that's died out. It's not a thing. And Google may actually view this as a spam tactic. You need to talk about SEO in the terms of history, depending on how long the content team has been there, and what kind of niche you're in. Definitely teach them about internal linking, that it is okay to link out, and a lot of things that seem basic tools that we wouldn't necessarily bother talking about. Those are the things that the other teams need to know.
D: I think what you touched on earlier there was great advice to train people on what not to do. A lot of content writers may have received SEO training 10 years ago, and they still might be doing things that used to be quite effective. But nowadays is either not effective at all or perhaps even negative on the success of what they're trying to do. So I think that's a great idea to research their current workflow, and what they're currently doing, and untrain them before you train them initially.
What about the repetition of training? We've touched upon the fact that maybe SEO training might have been delivered in the past. How often should SEO Training be delivered? And how much knowledge should you expect people to retain from a training session?
B: What I like to do is I'll run a training session multiple times throughout the year, but each time I run it, it'll be more advanced than the last time. So if we were running a training session for someone that's relatively new to the industry, let's say we're talking about indexing signals. I'd be teaching them about broken pages and redirects. And maybe I'd start wanting to challenge them to the things that might be more difficult. Maybe some rarer things that come up, or maybe canonicals, just so there's a little bit of intrigue and interest. But these aren’t things that might be a regular part of their workflow, because they're relatively new. So they're aware that there's more to it, but they've got the information that's core to them.
And then I might run a session for people that are more senior in the company. I can then speak to the people that have attended the session and say that we're doing another session, it's been a couple of months, we’re going more advanced, we're looking at everything in a much wider spectrum. And we're also going to be doing some activities about it. I know you're doing x, y, and z so I’ll tie it into things that you're doing. Come along. Some bits might be a bit advanced, but I really think you can rise to the challenge.
But then you can push them further. And we keep doing that. And eventually, you want the people that have attended these sessions to be able to run them or answer questions about them. We want to get them to a point where they've seen it on multiple levels. Each time, they won't remember everything. So you want to wait till they've had time to put things into practice, you can create scenarios for them, create activities, tests, or whatever. And then it'll get to a point where I feel like I'm getting to be that subject matter expert. I'm understanding this quite advanced. And each time you do it and get that more advanced, the less I have to work in the future. It's all about future-proofing your training. So you don't have to be the expert all the time, you've built the next set of experts.
Pareto Pickle - Create Supporting Pages
D: Superb. Let's finish off with the Pareto Pickle. Pareto says that you can get 80% of your results from 20% of your efforts. What's one SEO activity that you would recommend that provides incredible results for modest levels of effort?
B: I always recommend creating supporting pages for your key pages, almost like a Knowledge hub or a Content hub, however you want that to be. Yes, it's going to be a little bit of work, but you're building E-A-T. You're showing yourself as having a full understanding of whatever your core product or opportunity is, you've created an entire hub around it. And those pages from my experience tend to do better in search. It's just a little bit of additional work. You might be creating five pages instead of one. But if that information all supports that, you're going to get years of value out of it.
D: And just in terms of link structure, what does that look like? For instance, do you have your main/core piece of hub content and then maybe ten supporting pages all linking into your big hub piece of content, and your hub piece of content doesn't link out to the sub-pages?
B: It all would depend on the topic. But the most common way I see this being done is let's say its three pillars. The first pillar that's going to be your service, your core offering, and that's probably targeting those generic terms that are hard to rank for. You can then offer sub-pages that link to that. And those will be more specific to these offerings as they’re other products within the core offerings or additional information they need to know about the core thing that doesn't make sense to have in the core pillar. And then you could have a third pillar in that hub, which would link up, and this is where most of the pages would be to answer all the questions. Let's give every bit of information. What problems does this solve? Who is the end product for? Is this for an accounts team? Is it for a facilities team? Is it for the CEO? You can go really specific and link upwards to that core page. That's the way I have seen it done the most, but it can spiral off into a million different structures. For me, that's probably the cleanest.
D: That's good. Essentially, what you're saying is, to think about it from a user perspective, what makes sense logically, but then also come up with your plan and then just implement it. Get it done and don't make it too complicated.
B: Simple is always the best.
D: I've been your host, David Bain. Billie, thanks so much for being on the In Search SEO podcast.
B: No problem. Thank you.
D: And thank you for listening. Check out all the previous episodes and sign up for a free trial of the Rank Ranger platform over at https://www.rankranger.com/.