It happened again the other day. An email came that just made my week:
“Your training has taken me so far in my career in a very short time. I feel like it is by far the best training I have ever had on SEO.”
– Tye Odom, an in-house SEO manager who also commented on LinkedIn
Our SEOToolSet® training is not your typical SEO training course.
By the numbers, we cover a massive binder of material, or two, depending on which course you take. And more than 5,000 people so far have attended our classes worldwide.
What’s harder to quantify is how the classroom becomes a place where friendships and business collaborations are formed.
For three years, I’ve had the privilege of watching relationships grow from the front of the room, as a co-trainer with none other than Bruce Clay.
I love training people. You’re probably thinking, “You have to love training, you’re the trainer.” But it’s more than that.
In my role as SEO trainer, I get to help all sorts of people — whether it’s a business owner who’s tired of being taken advantage of, a spammer who’s ready to reform his black-hat ways, or even an occasional attendee who hasn’t a clue what search engine optimization is.
Training enables all of these people to transform their businesses and move ahead in their careers.
Let me give you a glimpse of what I’ve seen in our classes.
A Week in the Life: SEO Training Begins
Day 1 – A roomful of strangers
Standard training goes from Monday through Wednesday.
Mondays are my favorite day of our SEOToolSet Training course. I arrive excited, anticipating who will be sharing the classroom for the next few days.
Each attendee is greeted by Reyn (our amazingly organized receptionist) and by me. I confess I probably seem a little too enthusiastic at 8:30 a.m., especially as we pile a massive training binder and several large books into their arms.
Once the attendees are situated, the fresh coffee and breakfast spread seem to restore their smiles.
After some preliminaries and a couple of corny jokes to break the ice, I get to my favorite part: introductions.
As we go around the room introducing ourselves, I’m always glad to see a diverse group of people in terms of location, backgrounds and job titles — with a variety of reasons for coming to training.
Take the business owner I’ll call Pat. She was tired of being taken advantage of by people claiming to know SEO, so she signed up for our three-day Standard training. On the third morning, Pat came in early and found me by the buffet table, steeping a cup of tea.
“I’m blown away by all that goes into SEO,” she said, and asked if she could stay two more days to take the Advanced class, a Thursday and Friday morning extension.
Pat subsequently sent four of her staff to attend the SEOToolSet course. Training helped her understand the value of SEO for her business, and she embraced the knowledge.
Day 2 – SEO training and learning go deeper
On the second day of Standard, the foundation has been laid. Everyone now grasps the basic concepts of search engine optimization. Training from the ground up is crucial because, even if someone has experience in SEO, it could be self-taught knowledge, a different interpretation or just wrong.
The exciting part of Day 2 is that people are starting to apply these SEO concepts to their own websites. We plan that with the Monday night homework assignment: All attendees get to log in to the full SEOToolSet and start analyzing their own domains. So by Tuesday morning, everyone is pumped for more learning and usually full of questions.
There’s lots of opportunity for Q&A in a class setting that’s limited to about 30 people, and lunches and breaks provide opportunities for discussion. By Tuesday, everyone is starting to get to know each other.
A student we’ll call Anton stood out because of the questions he asked, which leaned more toward exploitation than improvement.
“How would Google REALLLY know you paid for links?”
“How do I optimize for the ‘dark web’?”
“After Google gives you several manual actions, how long will it take to recover?”
These were just a few of the questions he raised in those first days of training. Over plates of Mexican food at lunch on Day 2, he smilingly admitted that he’d been doing black hat link building for years, claiming that in his industry, “it’s the only way to stand out.”
Anton became one of my favorite success stories, as you’ll soon see.
Usually, I get questions about spidering, indexing and optimization that second morning. After we move through the questions, we jump right into the material. In this one day alone, I show everyone how to use our SEO tools; cover HTML components, on-page optimization and linking; and end with siloing.
Siloing is the last session of the day and tends to be the quietest. Why? Because many people are thinking, “Shoot, I’ve structured my website completely wrong!”
That night, homework is to read a detailed article to solidify the siloing concepts. Then it’s on to Day 3.
Day 3 — Trained, ready, and strangers no more
By the time Wednesday rolls around, it is apparent that many students are starting to build relationships with each other — from strategic business alliances to friendships. They eat lunch together during the week and some even go out after class.
Midweek also marks the final day of our Standard training. It’s great to see students start to put the concepts and methodologies into action.
I remember one attendee I’ll call Sam, a manager who’d been sent by his company to our SEO training course.
I could see it on his face the first day of class — he had no clue what search engine optimization was all about. I made sure to talk to him at breaks and clarify anything he needed. By Wednesday, he was speaking up in class and his entire demeanor had changed.
We end the day with a lab that allows students to apply everything they have learned. The lab is structured around a website checklist that can be used after training to audit a website’s SEO health. Sam participated with his group and understood the concepts. He left armed with knowledge and ready to take it back to his company.
Day 4 – Let the Advanced training begin
Thursday is our first day of Advanced training, and our students get a whole new training manual with hundreds of pages.
Typically, about half of the students who were in Standard stay for Advanced, and others often choose to take Advanced at a later date. The course is definitely designed for those who want to take their SEO knowledge to a deeper level.
Advanced SEOToolSet training takes some of the concepts from Standard and gets more into the tools and processes needed to analyze and optimize.
Throughout the day, we cover technical aspects of SEO, such as server issues, redirects, 404 errors, dynamic content and directory structures. It is very much a combination of tactics and strategy, as I teach students how to apply wisdom to all of the data they are presented with.
The questions during Advanced are more complex. We provide many real-world examples to illustrate the answers and have plenty of stories to share.
As a matter of fact, people are frequently shocked at how much information we give away, including things we have tested and implemented as well as our own internal processes and techniques.
Day 5 – Wrapping up the SEO training (in a to-go box)
Friday is a bittersweet day. It is the last day of training, meaning the class will part ways. However, it is also rewarding, as I witness a change in a lot of the students.
Our friend Anton, for example, decided to give up his black-hat ways. Google gets some of the credit for his change of heart, certainly, but I actually witnessed the transformation.
Through the week, the questions he asked began to change. He started to talk about how he could implement what he was learning when he got back home. And a month after the training, he sent me an email to say, “I just want to tell you, I changed. … I’ve switched to white hat, period. :)”
After learning the remaining material, finishing the lab and having the final Q&A session, we all say goodbye to each other and begin making plans for the next time we’ll be in training together. As I mentioned earlier, a lot of lasting relationships are formed. I know I have made a lot of great friends through training along the way.
Do you want to become part of the SEOToolSet training community? If so, sign up for one of our upcoming SEO training classes. Our next class is just around the corner: the week of March 14 in Southern California. Click to register.