training wheels

Maintaining a successful web presence is hard work. 

It helps if you're a juggler, because you need to work on multiple fronts concurrently. And even if you pay someone to do the heavy lifting for you, an understanding of the basics can help you be sure you’re not wasting your money. 

With so much to cover, which learning curve should you tackle first?

Technical SEO

SEO is a huge part of online marketing, and it's constantly changing. Fortunately, those changes tend to favor naturally good content — which frees you from worrying (as much) about keyword optimization, so you can focus on keeping your website working properly. 

Most simple issues can be fixed without involving your web developer, but only if you know they’re there.

Free crawler tools like Screaming Frog help identify:

  • 404s
  • Pages with long titles
  • Low-content pages
  • URLs with long load times
  • Broken internal links
  • Orphan pages with few in-links

Which brings us to: 

Internal Linking

"Both Users and the Googlebot navigate your website via internal links," writes Jordan Koene, Chief Evangelist for Searchmetrics. "If a website is internally linked like a labyrinth — or completely overwhelmed with links — users and The Googlebot will get lost. It is hard to recognize what is important, as there is no clear structure and visitors will bounce." 

No one wants that. 

If you want to distribute contextual link juice to relevant pages, you've got to establish a hierarchy. Follow Kissmetrics “seven commandments of internal linking for top-notch SEO” to show search engines how different pages are related to each other. 

So, how do you get started, specifically? It’s simple: If you mention “content strategy” on a page about online marketing, and you have a page dedicated to content strategy, link to it using “content strategy” as the anchor text. Make sure all key pages are linked in your navigation, and you’ve got the basics covered. 

But there’s more to it than that. If you have time, start mapping out user journeys, identifying key pieces of content, and directing visitors accordingly.   

Social Listening

As a brand, it’s essential that you know what consumers are saying about you online. Forget Googling yourself — numerous platforms offer advanced social media monitoring tools so you can drill down into the thoughts and feelings of your audience. 

But it’s not all about you. Find out what consumers have to say about competitors, current events and culture — and use this to form the basis of your social media marketing campaigns. Once you’ve grasped the basics, you can level up to managing your reputation, growing your community and engaging meaningfully with different segments of your audience.  

Mobile Optimization

If “Mobilegeddon” means nothing to you, start researching mobile optimization immediately. Mobile search has overtaken desktop, and with Google now favoring mobile-friendly sites in mobile search, you need to make sure you’re in the clear

Analytics

Google Analytics might seem confusing at first, but — like many things online — it starts to make sense quickly. If you don’t know how users are interacting with your site, how can you improve their experience? 

Fortunately, Google has lots of great resources on the topic, and Analytics training courses are easy to come by. If you’re paying someone to manage your SEO, get a basic understanding of Analytics and Search Console to make sure that person is helping, not harming, your business.

HTML/CSS

Programming is terrifying if you don’t get it — but with sites like Code Academy offering free, detailed and engaging courses on the topic, there’s no excuse not to learn. A basic grasp of HTML and CSS will help you fix minor issues on your website, format your posts and insert code like Tag Manager onto your site without breaking it. 

Of course, these are just the essentials. Depending on your industry, you'll want to cover other basics. How about financial technology, or user verification? Paid search marketing? Content strategy? While you don’t need to become an expert, killing the online learning curve is essential to making informed decisions about your business. 

What parts of the online world do you find most challenging? Let us know in the comments — and share your plan for leveling up!

Title image "zoom again" (CC BY 2.0) by  Richo.Fan