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In praise of the University of Google

Written by Rob Johnson | Sep 23, 2015 5:46:54 AM

THREE THINGS YOU’LL GET FROM THIS ARTICLE

1.The best websites to learn about search engine optimisation

2.The best websites to learn about content marketing

3.The best websites to learn about writing

 

I have teachers in my family, and for a short period I did some teaching. And for as long as I can remember, teachers have been complaining about the university of Google. Students today, they grumble, just Google things rather than doing in-depth research. I appreciate their point. But I have found the university of Google to be very useful. And I think those people knocking it are missing the point.

 

If you want to learn a new skill or craft, there has never been a better time to do so. In the past, continuing education meant a commitment to a timetable and spare time. That’s not possible if you’re running a busy practice, or juggling a family with work. But nowadays if you want to learn something, what’s the first thing you do?

 

You Google it.

 

If you want to learn how to do anything nowadays, one of the best places to start is with the university of Google.

 

I can understand that if someone has said to you, ‘Let’s get a blog on our website’, it can be pretty intimidating. Where do you start? Is there a ‘blogging for dummies’ book you can buy (there is, by the way). If you start Googling, you’ll find there’s a world of advice available.

 

The real challenge is knowing where to start. If you’re at the starting point of digital marketing, these are some of the resources we used to get up to speed. Hopefully they'll work for you.

 

How to learn about SEO

One of the first places to go is Neil Patel’s Quicksprout blog. He has written some comprehensive posts on search engine optimisation and how web crawlers index pages. Don't try to find his first posts. Start with more recent posts like this one. Even though you’re diving into the deep end, SEO changes so quickly that reading old information will just confuse you.

 

Another SEO expert you should pay attention to is Rand Fishkin, founder of moz.com. His blog (at https://moz.com/blog) will always be useful. I like his Whiteboard Friday videos, where Rand posts a video explaining some aspect of search engine cleverness.

 

Finally, you should always read the Google Webmaster blog (at http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com.au). Google aren’t going to tell you everything about how their algorithm works, but they’ll tell you all they think you need to know. So at least you’ll have the basics down, and not be spooked by some of the misinformation out there.

 

How to learn about content marketing

You might have heard a bit of buzz about content marketing. Content marketing is using content (like blogs, or podcasts, or videos) to build an audience for your thoughts and opinions. That audience becomes loyal to you, and more willing to buy your stuff, because they feel they already know and trust you.

 

Content marketing has been around for hundreds of years, but nowadays it’s much cheaper and easier to do than ever before. The popularity of Mobile phones makes distribution of your thoughts easy. Digital content is also easy to measure. As long as you have goals in the first place, you can figure out if you’re meeting them.

 

To educate yourself about content marketing, go to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI). Set up by Joe Pulizzi in the US 15 years ago, his aim was to educate large organisations about the power of writing and telling stories. This year Pulizzi published Content Inc., a how-to guide for smaller businesses. And in typical CMI fashion, it’s not just a book, but a blog, a podcast, and probably a t-shirt too. Check it out here.

 

One of my favourite blogs about content marketing is by Jay Acunzo and is called Sorry for Marketing. His blog and newsletter focuses on the creative side of content marketing, and is full of sensible, down-to-earth advice from someone who understands the bullshit that surrounds a lot of technology and marketing hype.

 

There’s a few huge US companies who make their money by selling you ‘Software as a service’ or SaaS platforms. These are things like WordPress, where the software is hosted elsewhere and you log in over the web to use it. If you’re going to be doing digital marketing, you will most likely be either wanting to use some SaaS products at some stage.

 

Three leaders in this field who sell to content marketers are HubSpot, Contently and Copyblogger (or Rainmaker, I’m a little unsure what name they’re using this week). All of them have fantastic, regularly updated blogs that you can subscribe to and get a wealth of content marketing advice from.

And for something local, we write every week about content marketing over at our own website here. We also send out a free monthly email telling you what new content is on the site, so it’s worth signing up for that.

 

How to learn about writing

Expressing yourself well in prose is a must-have for content marketers. The less eloquent you appear in print, the less impressed your customers will be. But which skill set do you need? Do you write like a copywriter, who writes to persuade? Or like a journalist, who writes to inform and entertain? Do you edit your own writing, or get someone else to do it?

 

When it comes to expertise in copywriting, it's hard to go past the folk at Copyblogger. Copyblogger was set up to teach the skills of advertising copywriters to business bloggers. Many of the blogs they publish are well worth your time. Damian Farnsworth's Rough Draft podcast and blog is a great starting point. You can either listen, or read the full transcript of episodes at http://rainmaker.fm/series/draft/.

 

Another U.S based writing resource is Ann Handley. She is the author of Everybody Writes, a bestselling book for marketers who weren't confident in their writing abilities. It gives them a blueprint of how and why to approach content in their marketing. She's also a  witty and engaging writer in her own right, which makes her work a pleasure to read. Her work crosses between copywriting and storytelling.

 

One of the skill sets that serves you well if you are writing a lot of content is journalism. That's the background of the people behind the Your Blog Posts site and newsletter. Journalism skills adapted for the digital world help you be more efficient as a writer and more effective as a storyteller. One of the reasons we started this blog was the belief that there weren't any local blogs giving good advice in this area. For monthly updates on ways to use journalism and publishing skills in your blog, sign up to our newsletter here.

 

Where to go next

Once you've started to educate yourself in the broad skills around how you should blog, you might want a reminder of why you should. We covered that topic in depth in this post, which explains the next steps in building your content plan.

 

You should also look at what information and what skills you have before deciding how much of this job you want to take on, and how much you want to outsource. It's never been easier to buy the skills you need to achieve your content objectives.

 

And finally, if you want to stay up to date with our monthly newsletter covering all this, don't forget to sign up by filing out the form in the bottom right hand corner of this page.