Search Engine Academy Instructor

Thomas W. Petty - Search Engine Academy Instructor

I’m an instructor in search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) here in the San Francisco Bay Area at the Bay Area Search Engine Academy. Yup, that’s me on the right.

  • What’s it like to teach an advanced topic such as search engine optimization?
  • What are my classes like?
  • Do my students have to be a geek or “technical” to “get it”?

Let me back up a little. I’ve been in the technology arena for a long time – probably close to 25 years now. I’ve designed and taught many types of classes, both at the corporate level, to people I support, and now, as a “career”. I actually love teaching people, either individually or in groups.

Interestingly, there is a lot of mystery and misconception around SEO and how to get listed on the search engines like Google. Many people “have an idea” about how it works. Some have pieces of it right, but many people have never been taught what you have to do to be successful in getting ahead of their competitors. There is an awful lot of misinformation out “there” too – stuff that’s just plain wrong, and other stuff that’s, well…sort of right…maybe.

But that’s what’s kind of cool about being an instructor – when my students say “Aha! I get it!” or “Oh that’s why they do that!” Then you can see the excitement in their eyes as they think about how it can be applied to their own situation. Having lots of examples to demonstrate is important. Having your own computer in the room to work on your own problems is also key, because my students can practice the concepts right in the room.

Is It Right For Me?

Different people wonder whether my classes are appropriate for them. I teach a lot of business people who aren’t “technical” and may not have a good strong foundation in hypertext markup language (html). That’s OK. The beginner “Essentials” SEO class is perfect for them. We don’t teach nor require heavy html knowledge. We’re teaching instead, a simple six-step process that anyone can apply to their Web sites or for their clients (if they’re a Web designer for instance). We teach how to do the keyword research first, THEN worry about what to do with it.

On the other hand, the three-day Advanced SEO class (or in combination with the Essentials class – the Master SEO level workshop), we get into much more technical discussions. This is where the more advanced or professional Web folks might consider spending their time. There is a LOT of detail and a lot of material to get through in those three days.  It can be a bit daunting, but that’s where the challenge comes in.

We teach concepts that are harder to grasp, and a challenge to teach sometimes. We also teach things that most people are completely unaware of or have never heard of the concept. That’s where it get fun too, as my students say, “Wow, I never knew that existed!”

What? I Have To Take A TEST?

My goal is always to make sure that my students “get” it. After all, there is an exam at the end – you have to prove you understand before you get your certificate of mastery! I don’t teach to the test at all. My belief is that if someone doesn’t pass the test, that’s not a reflection on them. It means I haven’t done my job properly.

Anyone can learn this material, and so far, almost all of my students have passed with flying colors. It takes a certain type of person who can take some technical and difficult concepts, and break them down into understandable chunks. But I have to be sure that I’m not “dumbing” it down and wasting everyone’s time.

In the end, I hope I’m the type of teacher who inspires my students, gives them some information that they can directly apply to their own business, and makes them go away feeling like they really learned some new, cool stuff that will make a difference!