My name is Lucas Laporta and I’ve been interning at Toronto’s web design agency Awesome Web Designs since May 1, 2019. I’ve been responsible for writing copy on the AWD site and executing our SEO strategy. I’ve written all the blog posts over the last few months, and I also wrote all of our case study entries. My academic background is in journalism, so I’ve found that copywriting comes easily to me.
I’ve also spent a lot of time finding people to conduct link exchanges with. I’ve gotten several new links for the site in my short time working here, and I’ve spoken to over 40 people about how we can go about swapping links in a productive manner.
In all, I’ve done quite a bit of work with Awesome Web Designs. This internship has been an excellent growth opportunity for me and I’ve learned a lot from it. My time interning with AWD will be coming to an end this August. While my time here may be up, I would like to take this opportunity to share a little bit about my experience doing SEO for the first time and what it’s like to jump into this whole new industry with almost no prior experience.
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Entering The Alien World Of SEO
Before I began working for Awesome Web Designs, I had a vague knowledge of SEO. I knew from a brief class in school that it involved improving a page’s search results through on-site practices such as optimizing text and image formats. I was more aware of things not to do than I was of ways to use SEO to your advantage.
I now know a lot more about SEO. Starting with the most relevant aspect of my field of study, I’ve learned a few tricks to getting a page to rank better in Google search queries. The biggest thing I’ve learned in that regard is the importance of keyword research, which is how you can get into your audience’s head and predict their Google searches in order to deliver your content to them.
I haven’t gotten that much experience with keyword research, but I understand it better now and I’m confident I can incorporate keywords into my writing in the future. For a journalist, getting boosted by Google is important exposure. Funding has been tight in the industry for a while now. Publishers are becoming increasingly more dependent on ad revenue in order to survive, meaning they need more people to visit their site in order to make money, just to keep their business afloat. It also means most publications don’t hire many people full time, instead of relying on freelancers to fill out their daily newsfeed.
SEO trained journalists are a hot commodity these days. Most journalists are capable of adapting to the 24-hour news cycle and covering stories in a timely manner, but if you can pair that with the promise that your stories will get consistently more exposure as compared to your peers, you’ll have no problem making friends with your editor.
It’s actually the entire reason I decided to take this internship opportunity. When I interviewed for AWD, I had already secured an editorial internship for a high-end Cannabis magazine, but I turned it down because I saw a greater professional benefit to me here.
It was challenging at first. I expected to be learning a few new things here, but when I first started, it was something of a trial by fire. I made some mistakes early on, but I expected as much. I knew that it would be a bit tricky learning a whole new set of skills in the beginning, but after a week or two, I wasn’t having any more problems performing my SEO duties.
That’s not to say I stopped messing up. No, there will always be mistakes to make aplenty, I just stopped making nearly as many of them in my day to day work.
The Day To Day Grind
The main focus of my SEO work has been link-exchange. I find I usually spend anywhere between thirty minutes and two hours every day looking for people to exchange links with. I spend my time on Facebook trawling dedicated link exchange groups to find people who want to swap links in my niche, though I’m not always successful.
I’ve found that dry spells are common with this approach because you rely heavily on meeting new people to work with. If there haven’t been many new people who have entered your exchange groups in a while, you probably won’t be getting many exchanges. Regardless, I post every Monday or Tuesday calling out for links. Even in a dry spell, people will get back to you.
I’ve found it’s best to post early in the week because you’re likely to get responses over the next several days. I don’t like getting a bunch of responses just as I leave for the weekend because I usually leave them unanswered until Monday, leaving me with much more SEO work to do for the day. As it is, Mondays are longer SEO days because I have to catch up with the past weekend of people making their own link exchange posts.
I’ve learned it pays to be picky when it comes to link exchange. You want to exchange with higher authority sites with little to no spam score. Anything else is a waste of your time because they aren’t directly benefitting you in the immediate future.
However, I’ve also learned a domain can become more authoritative quite rapidly. In just the few months since I started working on SEO at Awesome Web Designs, our score went from fourteen to eighteen. I’m pretty proud of that, and I feel responsible for almost getting us up to twenty.
Thinking back to when I started, if I saw a site that looked like ours, I wouldn’t have bothered going through a link exchange, but now I would absolutely want to exchange with our site. Maybe in this last month of SEO for me, I’ll be more open to exchanging with lower authority sites, because now I’ve seen firsthand how a domain can improve in a short period of time.
My Takeaway From This Internship
When I think about all the SEO work I’ve done that isn’t directly relevant to my field, I can’t help but ask myself how it benefited me at all. I’m not a web designer, I don’t see myself putting any of this link building expertise into practice in the future. It almost seems like I’ve cultivated more useless skills than I have useful ones.
But that’s a very close-minded way of looking at this internship. The way I see it, I now have a set of skills in my tool kit that can only benefit me in the future. If I ever find myself out of work, I can get in touch with an agency such as Awesome Web Designs and offer my services in SEO and copywriting.
On top of that, the things I learned that don’t directly relate to journalism are still ancillary to applying SEO to that field. For example, I know that high quality, relevant links improve a page’s authority. It’s great having people link to you to increase visibility, but Google also values pages that link elsewhere a lot too. Including relevant, high-quality links in a story won’t necessarily boost your domains SEO as a whole, but it contributes to greater page authority, which is a good way to get your page ranked in Google search results.
It’s practical things like this that I believe can only come from some form of professional experience. The whole purpose of an internship is to take the time to have those experiences in an educative setting. To this end, my time with Awesome Web Designs has been very productive.
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Looking To The Future With Hope
In the end, I think it was very fortuitous that I discovered this internship opportunity. The things I’ve learned by diving into this new field will serve as invaluable points of reference to me in the future, and I couldn’t have gotten them any other way.
As a whole, I really do value the things I’ve learned working at AWD, even if they might not directly benefit me in my chosen field of study. Everything I’ve learned will go on to inform my professional development in the future. That alone is all the benefit I need from this experience.
Of course, knowledge doesn’t pay the bills. Fortunately, my work here hasn’t gone unappreciated. I’ve been signed on as a subcontractor to write copy for a site that we’re building for the end of the summer. Much of the work will take place after my internship has ended, and the end product will go live in September, but it means I’ll be getting paid for my efforts.
I expect my experience working with Awesome Web Designs professionally as a business partner will be just as enlightening as my time as an intern. With it, there will be new challenges to overcome and learn from.
An internship is more than just a learning experience. It’s the opportunity to grow, both professionally and personally. If I were to give any advice to someone shopping around for an internship now, I would tell them not to be afraid to branch into an internship outside of their field. The only way to get any new experience is by doing something new and an internship is the perfect opportunity to do just that.
We only become better by challenging ourselves. Don’t be afraid to take the leap.