How Can I Learn SEO?

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Understanding SEO is useful for anyone pursuing a career in Internet marketing or having a business role that touches on SEO in one way or another. For some, it’s enough to learn SEO basics, but for others, to learn search engine optimization inside and out is going to be the goal.

Learn How to Do SEO — Free Online Resources

The good news is, there are many free online resources to learn SEO.

The bad news is, there are many free online resources to learn SEO. 

This is good and bad because you have to distinguish reliable online resources that will help you learn SEO marketing from those offering bad or outdated information that will teach you nothing — or even teach you methods that are incorrect and will hurt any SEO campaign with which you become involved.

The two most important things to look for in an online SEO resource are authority of the author and publication date of the material.   

  • Authoritative authors have proven experience and competence in SEO, or write for organizations that do. For instance, Moz is a highly regarded organization specializing in SEO; any article published on its website is likely to be reliable because they are selective about who writes for them and they edit material before publication. Our organization, Straight North, has similar credentials; our instructional articles on SEO are based on decades of experience and massive data collection/analysis.
  • Timeliness of what you are reading is also critical. When you are trying to learn Google SEO, you are trying to hit a rapidly moving target. Google changes its search algorithm (the complex formula Google uses to rank content) all the time, and makes other changes that affect how an SEO campaign should be executed. Advice that was spot-on three years ago could be completely out of date today. So, be careful if there is no date on the article you are reading. You may notice that some articles with an older publication date will inform you the material has been updated (on a more current date). If the publisher is advising readers of an update, it is likely to be a reliable learning resource.

The first step, then, is to identify solid SEO resources and start reading articles. If you are not sure a resource is credible: 

  • Read user reviews on SEO and general user review sites.
  • Check out the author/organization’s profiles on LinkedIn. Are a lot of people following them? Does the bio demonstrate competence and accomplishments?
  • Has the author/organization received awards or other industry recognition?
  • Look at the author/organization’s Twitter stream and bio. Lots of followers? Is there real engagement or discussion?

Google Answers the Question: How Can I Learn SEO?

Among the many free online SEO resources is none other than Google itself. Google Webmasters is a must-read resource for anyone who wants to learn how to do SEO. Google Webmasters publishes articles and videos that tell you point-blank, step by step, how to execute an SEO campaign. The information is obviously credible — Google’s share of organic search is enormous, and if your SEO execution works for Google, it will work for any search engine.

The only catch is, you can’t rely exclusively on Google Webmasters for your SEO education. Google does not reveal all the ins and outs of its algorithm — if it did, every business with a website would be trying to manipulate the Google system rather than produce excellent website content. Other publishers of SEO content (such as Moz and Straight North) follow Google’s guidelines, but take it a step further by explaining how best to execute various Google recommendations and identifying gaps between what Google wants website publishers to do and what is actually affecting rankings.

Segment Your Learning Focus

Another important consideration when thinking, “How can I learn SEO work,” is to break down the topic into bite-size pieces. If you try to absorb all the information about SEO in a massive jumble, you’ll probably get confused and never understand how all the pieces fit together. There are many ways to subdivide SEO — here is how we like to do it.

  • On-site SEO. This aspect of SEO considers things you do to your website to make it easier for Google to understand the content and rank it highly for searches for which your business wants to be found. 
  • Off-site SEO. This aspect of SEO deals with techniques for improving organic rankings of your web content using other websites. For instance, having articles published on relevant and authoritative websites, especially if they have links to your website, will improve rankings — if you do it correctly.

All other SEO specialties apply to on-site or off-site SEO, or in some cases, both. Important areas to concentrate on in your SEO education include:

  • Keyword research — The extremely complex process of identifying the correct type and number of search terms to target in your SEO campaign. 
  • Technical SEO — Issues with the “plumbing” of your website that affect Google’s ability to read, understand and properly rank your website content.
  • Link building — Having good inbound links to your website is a very important ranking factor, but obtaining them properly is a science unto itself.
  • Local SEO — Optimizing a website for a local business, or a national/global business interested in targeting a specific geographic area, requires specialized execution that is quite complex.
  • E-commerce and lead generation SEO — Although the SEO principles are similar, e-commerce SEO and lead generation SEO differ significantly in where the emphasis goes. E-commerce SEO has additional complications such as shopping cart optimization that require additional knowledge.
  • SEO copywriting and content development — To a great degree, an SEO campaign hinges on well-optimized and properly written on-site and off-site content.
  • Tracking and analytics — It is possible to collect all kinds of data from an SEO campaign. If you track the right things and know how to interpret the data, you can continually improve your SEO and bolster the quality and quantity of online leads or e-commerce revenue.

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