How to Pass the Probation Period as a Junior SEO: Advice from 19 SEO Experts


A note from Kristina Azarenko, founder of MarketingSyrup: Anya reached out to me as she was excited about the valuable tips she received from the awesome SEO community. So I thought it will be great if Anya summarizes and posts them on my blog. Enjoy!

What is it like to be a junior SEO? It’s like drifting on a small sailboat in the middle of the ocean. There are tons of SEO guideless, tools, cases, and spreadsheets overboard and you lose focus every few minutes.

The good thing is that SEO unites awesome people all over the world. I experienced this firsthand when asked SEOs for advice, and got 35 answers via social media. The question was as follows, “What skills are important to show during the probation period in the position of junior SEO?

What skills are important for junior SEO?

Below are the most useful pieces of advice from industry experts. I do hope this info would help me and you to get through the probation period and become good SEO specialists.

Bill Slawski – Director of SEO Research at GoFishDigital

Bill Slawski

Resources to keep up with for news about SEO & the Industry:

Also, I wrote this about SEO Myths, and critical thinking to avoid that kind of myth. I hope you find it helpful!

Ric Rodriguez – a progressive SEO consultant, futurist, and speaker, Yext

Ric Rodriguez

Ask questions and learn as much as you can without being prompted – one to keep doing throughout your career.

If someone asks you about X and you know what it is, ask them to explain – and then research it.

SEO is a fascinating and diverse world to be a part of!

Alex Bilytskyi – entrepreneur, CEO/Co-Founder of Idea Digital Agency

Alex Bilytskyi

Junior SEO specialist should understand the SEO-basics (how search engines crawl and index sites, how to collect and cluster the semantic core and how to build internal/external linking structure).

Also, it’s important to respect your company’s rules and meet deadlines. Focus on choosing your aims and achieving results. Last but not least – don’t be afraid to ask questions!

Brian Kato – owner and digital strategist at fusionvine

Brian Kato
  • Question everything! 
  • Actively learn and conduct your own tests (obviously, not on client sites)
  • Learn basic coding
  • Familiarize yourself with GA and GSC

BJ Enoch – director of digital & demand gen at Opendorse

BJ Enoch
  • Competency with GA. Not just how to find metrics but what actions you can take from that data
  • Keyword research & understand intent
  • Problem solving/ critical thinking
  • Client empathy, communication & relationship building
  • Humility & willingness to learn
  • Not quoting Neil Patel

Ethan Lazuk – SEO at Bayshoresolutions

Ethan Lazuk

Learn the ins and outs of Google Search Console: interpreting coverage report and performance tab. Learn how to understand user intent. Read about how natural language processing has changed SEO content writing. Go to Search Engine Journal or similar and read often.

Erlé Alberton – Acquisition & Digital Performance Manager at Reezocar

Erlé Alberton
  • Curiosity, large scale analysis, basic html Seo rules respect
  • Advanced problematic understanding (hreflangs, load times & resources/servers mechanism, schema.org SERP display-oriented, internal linking comprehension, semantics intents research)
  • GSC/GA/Data Studio reporting

Diana Negroiu – web content specialist, focusing on organic SEO

Diana Negroiu
  • Get familiar with GSC and GA and DataStudio
  • Learn Excel at a high level
  • Ask questions and show that you’re always willing to learn
  • Keep up with changes (Twitter helps!)
  • Know WHY you’re doing what you’re doing (ie why are you doing keywords, why are you changing X to Y, etc)

Dominic Woodman – a senior Consultant at distilled, runs teflsearch

Dominic Woodman

I’d say distilled at the start were gonna judge far more on things like: attitude, communication, ability to take feedback, ability to learn

Sure knowing how to use Screaming Frog helps, but if you don’t know it, you can always learn it later.

Jonas Donbæk – lead specialist, SEO at s360

Jonas Donbæk

Eager to learn, good questions and deliveries on deadline.

Dan-Louis Kvalstad – SEO Manager

Dan-Louis Kvalstad

Identify the audience of your client to get a rough idea of what type of customers they are attracting. Identify the competitors of your clients and look at their audience. You now have a rough outline of supply and demand. Use that information to give your client competitors praise, while coming up with ideas for your team to help better serve your client doing a better job.

Do not be afraid of asking questions to gather intel, and never ever hesitate on asking their advice and proposals for different ideas and/or theoretical experiments.

You’re on a savage path to learning everything and nothing in between and will find yourself losing focus every 10 minutes. All this while focus is paramount to get shit done. Find a way to “wax on – wax off”, as in, don’t be afraid of completing – nor asking for time/space to complete a task.

It doesn’t help me that you’re doing 17 different things at a 95% completion rate, before jumping the gun on the next task if you’re not disciplined enough to go back and do the remaining 5%, leaving “potholes” that will eventually become setbacks or delays.

Tobias Willmann – head of SEO at Blick and Ringier

Tobias Willmann

GA, GSC, Handling some crawlers e.g. Screaming Frog, try to develop an understanding of what SEO can do and what SEO can’t do for clients within the given timeframe.

Charles Meaden – managing director and senior consultant at Digitalnation

Charles Meaden

The desire to really poke into data from crawls, GSC, analytics and the SERPs to find interesting and  actionable patterns

Lyndon NA (Darth Autocrat) –  ex-Google webmaster.

Lyndon NA

It depends entirely on the type of work you are going to be doing. Are you handling the backend or frontend? Are you touching the content, the code, or getting links? Are you allowed to look at the data and do audits?

SEO is broad, with overlaps into other sectors (UX/CRO etc.) So sit back and have a think about what skills/knowledge/abilities you have, what is transferable etc. Then see if you can start in a zone/doing a task you are comfortable with/most equipped to handle, then work outwards from there. Best of luck!

Elijah-Blue Vieau – Director of Digital Marketing at The Influence Agency

Elijah-Blue Vieau

Problem-solving, competitor analysis, and really solid writing skills are what I would be looking at.

Yurii Koriak – freelance SEO

Yurii Koriak

Focus on reliable White hat SEO techniques instead of black hat SEO methods. SEO is not only about being experienced in specific practices and tools, but also about the ability to get along with sites’ owners and webmasters. Don’t focus only on junior SEO responsibilities, try to absorb as much knowledge as possible.

John Chung – SEO Manager at Weedmaps

John Chung

The foundational skills is what you want to improve on: google analytics reading and navigating, content outlining with KW research and mapping, how the web works, how Googlebot crawls, how to scrape KWs, learning tools. These are the things I would look for in a new SEO.

Chris Lever – SEO Manager at PushON

Chris Lever

Be confident, be vocal in meetings. Double-check your work for consistency and mistakes.

Kristina Azarenko – eCommerce & Technical SEO Consultant, founder of MarketingSyrup

Kristina Azarenko

Stay curious and always learn someting new!

  • Google Search Console reports
  • Technical SEO
  • Google Analytics reports (GA has become a vital part of being an SEO)

Final Thoughts + Summary

Bonus for those who get to the end of the article.

Without doubts, it’s important for a Junior SEO specialist to be technically sharp and know how to extract meaningful data from the top SEO tools. What is even more important is being curious and not afraid to ask questions when you are stuck at work or don’t understand something. During the probation period, a junior SEO is expected to explore the specificity of work as thoroughly as possible. You will meet this expectation only if you ask your colleagues about unknown aspects.

SEO experts recommend mastering Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Google Data Studio and website SEO crawlers as soon as possible. Also, it’s important to figure out how to conduct and get data from SEO experiments, how to do keyword research and understand the intent of the targeted audience. Don’t forget to find reliable sources of SEO-industry news and follow them on a regular basis. Last but not least – respect your team deadlines so as not to cause project delay.

On a personal note, I would like to add: don’t hesitate to ask SEO experts for advice. All famous SEO nerds once were in newbie’s shoes and had misconceptions, and they are often ready to share their experience with juniors. I do hope all pieces of advice will help me and all juniors to get through the prohibition period and become a part of the wonderful SEO world. Good luck to me and you, fellows!


Note from Kristina Azarenko:

I’m very happy for Anya and wish all the best to her and all the people out there considering to join the SEO community.

I’ve coached many junior SEOs throughout my career and I created the SEO Challenge eCourse to help them (you!) to learn SEO properly. It includes all the aspects mentioned in the post and much more.

In the SEO Challenge Course You’ll Learn:

  • About Google algorithms and ranking factors
  • What’s user intent and how to understand it 
  • How to do keyword research properly and align keywords with user intent
  • Internal site structure: how to do it right
  • How to install and read Google Analytics
  • Ins and outs of Google Search Console
  • The technical SEO part, including how to use Screaming Frog to audit a website
  • Data Studio reporting with a ready-to-use template
  • Resources to stay up-to-date with the SEO news and updates


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