If you’re a solo SEO professional, then training is easy.
The only thing needed is your commitment to learning new things on a regular basis.
However, as soon as you hire one more person to help with your SEO efforts, you have a team, and transferrable training becomes a necessity.
And if you’re managing an SEO team for an enterprise site but have no system set up for training your team, you’re already in trouble.
Because you already have plenty to do as a busy SEO professional, your training program needs to be:
- Easy to implement.
- Scalable as your teams and site needs grow.
This guide will give you a way to start an effective and easy-to-expand training program for onboarding new team members and improving the skills of your existing team.
Why You Need an SEO Training Program
Over the course of my career in several different agencies and now with a major SEO platform, I’ve observed that many SEO teams – even some at the biggest brands in the world – don’t have systematic training programs.
I suspect the biggest reason by far is time.
SEO professionals are already so busy that setting up a training program is just one more task.
It’s also harder to link to the things on which they will be evaluated.
So why should SEO team managers invest in building a training program?
- Success in SEO is directly proportional to not only the skills but the knowledge of the SEO practitioners.
- SEO changes rapidly – your team needs to be kept up to date.
- A programmatic approach to training ensures uniformity of knowledge and standard procedures across your team.
- You’re almost certainly doing training anyway, just not efficiently.
In short, training your SEO team is not optional.
It’s about how efficiently and effectively you’re doing it.
Here’s how to build an efficient and effective SEO training program while still having time to actually do SEO.
Step 1: Outline Training Essentials
Before you start creating or implementing an SEO training program, you need a plan to make sure you’ve covered all the essentials in a logical order.
At this point, your plan doesn’t need to be more than an outline.
Simply map out all the elements of SEO and your organization’s approach to it that you consider must-know for your team.
I want to emphasize that your plan should include both SEO knowledge, as well as your unique philosophy and standard operating procedures.
The latter should not be skipped because how your team does SEO is just as important as what they do.
What that outline contains will vary from one SEO manager to another, but here’s an example of a suggested course outline:
- Introduction to SEO: Necessary only if you are hiring newbies or those less-experienced at doing SEO for your team.
- Understanding success: What does successful SEO look like for your organization? What are your chief goals?
- Fundamentals of SEO:
- Keyword and topic research
- Content planning
- On-page and technical SEO
- SEO audits
- Site structure
- Links (external and internal)
- Standard operating procedures
- Regular workflows: Operations that are carried out regularly, such as reporting, rank analyzing, site health monitoring, etc.
As you develop your training program you can flesh out the details of that outline more.
Step 2: Decide Your Training Medium
There are many different ways you can present your training to your team.
Which is best will depend on your own style and how you think your team learns best.
Here are some options.
This is close to the traditional classroom approach.
Set up a schedule of regular team meetings devoted to training, either in person or remote by video conferencing.
As the manager (and presumably most experienced SEO pro on your team), you’ll probably lead most of the early sessions.
Over time, it is wise to assign sessions to other team members.
This lessens your burden and also serves as a great learning experience for others since the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else.
Keep each session tightly focused on one main point.
People remember only a fraction of what they hear, so don’t try to cram too much into any one lesson.
If you use a deck to present each lesson, be sure to send it out to the team afterward for future reference or designate a central location where the decks are available for everyone.
Record each session.
Along with the presentation decks, these recordings become the basis of an ongoing training program that new hires can work through on their own.
In fact, that’s a big advantage of the live session approach: you’re building a reusable training library as you go, rather than having to build an entire course in advance.
If you’re a bit more ambitious, you could make use of an LMS (Learning Management System) to build a self-guided course of lessons available online.
The advantages of this approach are it’s easier to create more structured lessons and to update them as needed.
Also, learning can be self-paced with little further use of your time.
- A big time investment in upfront work to design the course.
- A lack of interaction with learners.
The “quick and dirty” way to build a training program is using documentation you’ve already created and stringing it together in a course of study.
This only works if you’ve been creating and updating content about SEO on a regular basis.
(You could also make use of third-party content, as long as your confident of its quality and fit for your organization.)
The idea here is to set up a course outline and have each lesson link to relevant blog posts, videos, decks, or other content.
The student clicks through and reads or views the relevant material.
Your only other investment here might be to set up quizzes and tests or other evaluative mechanisms if you want some accountability for what has been taught.
Step 3: Start a Regular Training Schedule
No matter which of the methods above you decide to employ, I highly recommend setting up a schedule for the training course and requiring your team to stick to it.
Otherwise it’s far too easy for the normal busyness of everyday SEO to cause procrastination and delay of training completion.
A session or lesson per week is probably sufficient for the live sessions approach.
For the online course or existing documentation approaches, set a series of deadlines, but allow the students to self-pace within those deadlines.
Step 4: Establish Evaluation & Accountability
While not absolutely necessary, having some mechanism for evaluation and accountability will help increase the effectiveness of your training program.
There are several approaches you can take.
Tests & Quizzes
This is the most traditional approach.
I suggest using non-graded quizzes immediately after each lesson to help reinforce and correct learning, with periodic tests to establish how much the learning has stuck.
Advantage: Immediate feedback and relatively easy to set up.
Disadvantage: Unless very well designed, tests do not always correlate with real-world applicable knowledge.
Design either simulated or “real world” projects where the student has to demonstrate application of the lesson.
For example, after a keyword research lesson the student has to find ten new keywords a site should be targeting and explain why.
Advantage: Intensely practical.
Disadvantage: A lot of work to set up and evaluate.
For some period of time after a given lesson, monitor the work of the team mate that relates to the lesson and look for signs of implementation of the principles learned.
Be sure to meet with the student periodically for feedback.
Advantage: Totally real-world demonstration of actual learning.
Disadvantage: Time consuming and less quantitative than other methods.
Whichever evaluation method you choose, make sure your approach is toward reinforcing learning, not a “gotcha” to find out who did poorly.
Place the emphasis on practical application, not just memorization of vocabulary and facts.
Be sure to have a plan to follow up on learning and reinforce where necessary.
Make the training and its effective application a part of an employees regular review process.