Harry Gardiner

Why Didn’t I Learn About SEO Sooner? Getting Schooled in Digital Marketing

20th Dec 2012 SEO Blog, Social Media 8 minutes to read

Tired StudentMy name’s Harry Gardiner, I’m the new Content Marketing Executive at Koozai, and this, ladies and gentlemen, is my first ever Koozai Blog post. I’m going to explain to you how it came to be that I finished University knowing nothing about SEO.

Having been here for just over 4 weeks now I’ve started really settling in properly, adapting to the new work environment and utilising my newly found skills. My first few weeks have been an exciting blur of SEO, PPC, Link-building and (most importantly) quality content writing. It’s like I was given a treasure chest full of knowledge I had previously never even knew existed.

Despite studying Advertising at University and getting a Certificate in Direct and Digital Marketing Principles, the world of SEO was still almost entirely new to me. Oh of course I’d read about it whilst researching for my digital marketing exam, and my tutors (all of whom were brilliantly inspirational) had briefly mentioned the topic in online marketing lectures, but my interests were more creatively orientated back then. I had merely skimmed the top of what has turned out to be a very deep pool of knowledge.


In many ways, at the time, SEO had no place on my course. The Advertising course was for those who have something to say or sell creatively, or who wanted to manage brand accounts. I tried to study a fair mix of accounts and creative, but I just so happened to lean a little further towards the creative side. Creatives had all fun; they got to deliver messages through stimulating media. I had something to say, I loved messing around with Photoshop (and still do), so surely I was the perfect fit for the creative pathway? Well it turned out I was; I embraced the creative side wholeheartedly and we got along swimmingly for almost two whole terms.

Change is in the Air

Over time though I had started to notice something; Twitter had fully taken off and everyone was BBMing each other, iPad’s had started taking the place of paper in lectures and in-class conversations between lecturers and student continued on Facebook after we’d left the lecture theatre. The world was shifting into a digital landscape, with networking at its heart. This both panicked and excited me; it’s brilliant to see new technology arise and to watch the internet get smarter, but what the hell were us Creatives doing about this social media boom? There was this whole new tool in our arsenal but no one was quite sure how to even use it. We’d built websites with social links before, and we’d even designed banner adverts, that we thought were ingenious at the time because they were animated, but nothing had quite compared to this. Bruce Mau, author of ‘Massive Change’ (amongst many other things) puts it best: “Now that we can do anything, what will we do?”

I was obviously worried. The usual process of creating 3 print ads with a storyboard for a TV advert suddenly seemed over-worn and unimpressive. Of course print and TV are still going strong as advertising media, but think how many of those utilise online connections now and you’ll no doubt understand my concerns. I finally acted upon my worries after two things happened:

  1. Antony Mayfield was a guest speaker at my university as part of an event called Leap into Digital, and I heard his talk about the importance of managing your digital presence and reputation. The entire event was a great success and incredibly informative, but that speech really stuck with me. It proved to me what I had already thought to be true; that having a strong and positive online presence is vital.
  2. The creative team found an entirely digital brief from Spotify, and we had to explain to our tutor what it was and why it was important. This is just a minor thing, but it had a massive impact upon me. It’s similar to the moment when as a child you first realised your parents don’t know everything. It’s not that this tutor wasn’t knowledgeable, because he’s highly commended in his field; the fact of the matter was that he wasn’t up to date.

Keeping up with the times

Before I go any further, please note that I am not in any way trying to slander my old course or any of my fantastic lecturers, who all do a fantastic job in educating and inspiring today’s youth. I do feel however that if you’re teaching a media based subject then you should most definitely be up to date with the current media affairs. It’s as simple as checking an RSS feed every morning just as you would do a newspaper on the way to work; except checking the news feed is easier because you don’t have to worry about pages flapping about.

What if the class had any questions about digital media that needed answering? would we have to consult the internet instead? In the end I think this is actually what a lot of students ended up doing. If we could learn this new information and pick up up-to date digital skills from the internet, why weren’t our tutors? There are plenty of seminars that cover all the current digital marketing topics, so if they want to be able to grasp the relevant know-how, universities should be sending their lecturers (and the students if they can) to these. I really didn’t want to come out of Uni knowing as much about digital marketing as when I went in.

It’s the lack of digital knowledge on the creative course which sent me into the knowing embrace of a more specific module within my course, direct and digital marketing. There, targeting and brand awareness were second nature. This was the kind of forward thinking know-how that I had been looking for all along. I was suddenly discovering all about CPT, Media objectives and planning, but alas still no real information on SEO. At that point though I never even knew it mattered. I was learning all these fancy new terms, but with no real place to utilise them many were slipping away as quickly as I learned them. We learnt the basics about paid search and social media marketing, and I thought this was all you needed to excel in the online marketing world. As is always the way in this digital age though, every time you think you know something, it evolves or something else appears ready to outdo it.

A Little Fish in a Gigantic Ocean

It’s worth noting that I’m a recent graduate, still fresh out of University, and that whilst at Uni I foolishly didn’t take anyone’s advice to seek out work experience. I had my student loan to support me, so this would have been a perfect time to do any unpaid summer internships; but I was young, reckless and most importantly a student. I managed to get a bit of freelancing in here and there, and did a lot of work with the University to benefit the course, but I had never had any experience of a proper marketing workplace. I’ll be honest with you, for some unknown reason I had imagined a Wall Street-esque, high-rise, open-plan office with lots of busy people in business suits shouting facts and figures over my head. You can only imagine my relief when I found out how wrong I was.

Regardless of this, I came out of university feeling slightly over-whelmed but incredibly sure of myself. I had learnt a large collection of skills from both sides of net; I was a digital creative with a marketing twist hidden nicely up my sleeve. I was ready to ride the waves of the digital landscape, and I’d be able to take whatever the World Wide Web hurled at me, or so I thought.

Creative LampRediscovering your skills

It was the wonderful Mildred Talabi that taught me to identify your true skills and not to just write them down on your CV, but to actually apply them to your job hunting process. With this in mind I re-tailored my CV using the creative marketing skills I had gained and sent it out to companies who would actually be interested in those sectors. When I landed the interview at Koozai I was over the moon, and then I did some research. They specialised in SEO…

What the hell did I know about SEO?!? I rifled through any Uni notes I had left but much to my dismay there was nothing concrete on SEO for me to learn from. I thought maybe this would be course specific, perhaps because my course was a general but insightful overview of Advertising we had missed out on SEO. I thought that my friends in Marketing courses would definitely know about SEO, after all it is a form of digital marketing; but no, they didn’t know much either. It seems digital marketing was not yet a fully understood topic at my university.

It’s not just mine however; take a look at some of the course descriptions available for marketing and digital marketing University courses across the UK. You’ll find that SEO isn’t tackled anywhere near as much as it should be, if at all, on nearly all of these courses. So why aren’t more places teaching SEO? Perhaps it’s because change happens so fast in this digital landscape that curriculums and courses can sometimes struggle to catch up. Perhaps it’s because the best SEOs out there don’t go into teaching but rather stay in the business (which is a great argument for having more industry professional guest speakers at schools).

Whatever the reason, I’m hopeful that over the next few years’ University marketing courses will focus much more on SEO. I got lucky, I was able to use the knowledge that Uni had loaded me with and combine this with the new skills that Koozai have patiently taught me. If you’re studying a marketing-related course in University, it’s definitely worth seeing what they have to offer you in terms of learning SEO though, as these skills will be invaluable to any industry.

Image Credits:

Tired Student from BigStock Photos
Dictionary Definition of Advertising from BigStock Photos
Creative Lamp from BigStock Photos

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Harry Gardiner

At a statuesque 98ft tall (or 6ft 7”, whatever) Harry’s head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to social media. He’s also got mad DJ skills and is a lover of Pugs, bacon and if you tell him you haven’t seen a certain movie, he will make you watch it. You’ve been warned.


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