[OPINION] Every SEO Needs A Side Project

Every hour of every other day, someone around the world decides to become a full-time SEO consultant. Wide-eyed and confused, they publicly post on multiple forums about their decision, accosting others about what “SEO course” they should buy, in order to learn the ropes relatively quickly and start making their millions ASAP.

My advice has always been the same. I tell SEO beginners and hopefuls to do a few things:

  1. Pick an industry
  2. Pick a business model
  3. Register a domain
  4. Get some hosting
  5. Invest in tools
  6. Build content
  7. Experiment
  8. Experiment
  9. Experiment

This is the ideal, proven path to expertise in the realm of SEO — in my opinion. No course will hold a candle to what you can gain from building a real site and seeing how the robots react to it, how they crawl and re-crawl it, what the search console decides to display, what pages rank well, and which ones never seem to get off the ground. No course or individual can teach you the patience and perseverance you need to be a resilient, detailed, industrious search consultant.

You need to prove you’re a legitimate SEO. It’s fine to know the terminology, the jargon and the “famous” personalities that are held on some faux pedestal for some unknown reason. But, where do you stand in the world of search? Why aren’t you celebrated or being thronged for new business the same way other consultants are?

People don’t like risk. They want as little of it as possible. And with SEO, there is PLENTY of risk to go around. With that in mind, one thing that puts potential clients at ease, is some proof that you’ve done this before. That it wasn’t a fluke — they want to see you’ve done it multiple times. Unfortunately, some clients with have you under NDA, so you are actually unable to share results with others. In such cases, you need a workaround.

This is where building a website of your own comes in. Call it a side project. Call it an experiment. It doesn’t matter. All that matters, is that you have one, or multiple, and that you use it to prove to others and yourself that you know what you’re doing. That you are different from the lazy, fly-by-night SEO guys that spam our inboxes and LinkedIn or simply want to talk **** on the forums without having to lift a finger or make a contribution of their own to the industry.

If you can’t successfully apply your proposed digital marketing strategies on yourself, how can you convince anyone else to? Why should anyone even consider working with you?

There are too many fake marketers out there, giving the rest of us a bad name. Don’t be one of those guys. If you’re serious about SEO, having sites of your own is key to learning on the fly, communicating with confidence to your clients and understanding the difference between what the search engine news websites say, and how the algorithm actually behaves. The lazy, irrelevant SEOs are the ones constantly bombarding Google employees on Twitter with questions about what practices are most optimal, and what scenario would be ideal for their personal situation(s). Please, resist the temptation to stoop to such lows. We can (and should) rise above such nonsense!

With that in mind, I think it only fair I share my journey on creating a new side project of my own. I can’t call myself a SEO if I can’t eat my own dog food, and so I am about to embark on a quest to create a nutritional review site.

Why a nutritional review site?

  • I love analyzing the science of supplements and nutrition.
  • I still don’t know which dietary supplements are actually good.
  • I don’t trust other review sites out there, as they’re made for profit via affiliate marketing.
  • I don’t need to be an expert to provide a personal review for a supplement.
  • From what I can see, the competition isn’t as strong compared to other niches.
  • There is almost a never-ending supply of content I can create.

Obviously, I have other websites that I own and experiment on, but none in this niche and none that are strictly made for reviewing products. It’s a good idea to diversify your experiments, which will help you see if some industries are affected by certain content or algorithms as opposed to others. The more sites you can play with, the quicker and better a SEO you can potentially become. It all depends on your curiosity and determination.

While I am currently searching for the ideal domain name, I will conduct a follow up post with our SEO strategy, which may give you an idea of our SEO methodology and how it can help you develop your own.

Until then, get experimenting!

About the author

Sebastian Hovv

Sebastian is the founder of SEO 101, a SEO agency for startups. He is also the author of "The Little White Book of SEO" and curates a weekly marketing newsletter just for fun.