Search engine optimization (SEO) is not mysticism.
But to be fair, there are a lot of components to consider when learning SEO.
Even with the more than 200 ranking factors weighed by Google when calculating search engine rankings, learning SEO is much easier than most amateurs think.
And you don’t need a college degree, enrollment in a specific course, or years of apprenticeship to do it (but they couldn’t help).
SEO beginners can become proficient in technical SEO, but it will take time.
Here we’ll show you:
- how to learn SEO on your own and
- where to look to find the best learning resources for becoming proficient
All of this is provided with the understanding that because search engine optimization is tied to technology, it’s a changing science and there will be a need for continuing education.
Let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
Is SEO Easy to Learn?
Let’s start by confronting the elephant in the room.
While you can learn SEO on your own, it isn’t necessarily “easy” to learn. I’d wager that any novice, regardless of current SEO knowledge or past experience, can pick up the basics of SEO in just a few days. Within a few months, you can get the hang of the practice.
But no matter what, you’re likely to face some obstacles along the way.
These are some of the core issues associated with learning SEO:
- Sheer breadth. There’s a lot to learn about SEO. You’ll have to study more than 200 different ranking factors. You’ll need to know how the Google search engine algorithms works. You’ll need to understand your competition and your target demographics. You’ll have to master many strategies, including content writing and link building. And on top of that, you’ll have to keep up with ongoing changes. In terms of volume, you’ll have to absorb the equivalent of several books’ worth of information.
- Changing information. This information doesn’t remain stagnant, either. It’s always changing. SEO in 2000 was radically different than SEO in 2010. SEO in 2010 is dissimilar to SEO today. And every few weeks, it seems like there’s something new, whether it’s an SERP facelift, an search algorithms update, or a new strategy that’s become commonplace.
- Technical complexity. Some SEO fundamental are conceptual; it’s easy to understand that you have to write great content to rank highly in google search results. Others are much more technically complex. At some point, you’re going to have to tinker with the backend code of your site. It’s nothing unlearnable, but it can be intimidating to newcomers.
- Conflicting information. You won’t have to look far before you find two SEO “experts” with polar opposite opinions on what constitutes a best practice. Since there’s room for different opinions and different approaches, and since Google doesn’t formally publish its ranking algorithm, these contradictions can reasonably exist. It’s hard to ferret out what the “right” thing to do is on any given topic.
- Niche questions. As you get deeper into learning about SEO, you may have a question that’s literally unanswered. For example, you might be unsure about the best way to handle a specific competitive situation your business faces. In situations like these, experienced SEO practitioners simply experiment to figure out what works – but as a novice, you may consider this a brick wall that impedes your progress.
- Troubleshooting. Lots of little things can go wrong with search engine optimization . Fortunately, there’s a lot of “troubleshooting” advice content out there. But it’s not always easy to find exactly the right article exactly when you need it – mostly because it may be difficult to articulate exactly what type of problem you’re facing.
Still, if you can overcome these obstacles (and we’re about to teach you how), you can learn SEO relatively easily.
Learning SEO on Your Own
Note that learning SEO and practicing SEO are two entirely different concepts.
You may understand that you need to write compelling, detailed, articulate content on a regular basis to rank, but are you a good enough writer to actually do it?
You may know that “bad” links can get you penalized while “good” links will boost your authority, but do you have existing publisher relationships to help you earn those good links?
You may be familiar with some of the things that can limit a campaign’s progress, but could you recognize them in a live environment?
For most newcomers, the answer is no.
That’s why, even after learning the basics of SEO, you should be prepared to hire a professional SEO agency to help you execute the work.
Want to see how easy it is to learn Search Engine Optimization (SEO?
We’ll teach you the basic fundamentals right now, in less than 10 minutes of your time (even if you’re a slow reader).
- The concept. SEO is all about increasing your visibility in search engines. That means making changes to your website and engaging in offsite tactics to accomplish this. Google ultimately selects and orders websites in its search engine results pages (SERPs) based on relevance and authority. Relevance is how closely your content matches search intent. Authority is a measure of how trustworthy your site is. Most SEO tactics focus on increasing your relevance (with keyword optimization) or your authority (by making your site more trustworthy) or both.
- Research and analysis. The first phase of any SEO campaign is research. You have to look at your competition, study your target audience, and select keyword research/keyword research tool and phrases most likely to bring you success.
- Technical onsite SEO. Google preferentially ranks sites with good technical SEO. All your content should load properly on all devices, and it needs to be fast. You’ll also need to consider how your site “appears” to search engine marketing/search engine crawlers crawlers, tweaking the code to get you more favorable results.
- Onsite content development. Your internal pages need to have detailed, well-written content. On top of that, you’ll need to have an ongoing onsite content writing strategy; for most websites, this means a regular onsite blog.
- Offsite content and link building. The best way to increase your website’s authority is with the help of offsite link building; these links “pass” PageRank from one site to another, serving as a kind of vote of confidence from other publishers and authorities. However, you can’t build these links mindlessly or without a strategy; you have to earn them or build them in a way that’s valuable to web users. Otherwise, you could face a penalty. Greater detail on the subject is available in our comprehensive link building guide for SEO.
Of course, these meta descriptions only scratch the surface. You’ll need to take a deeper dive to learn more.
Don’t worry – we’ve got a section for that.
Great Sources to Learn SEO
Ready to learn more about SEO?
There are many online sources that can help you. These are some of our favorites.
Google is the ultimate authority when it comes to search engines. But they’re not always clear about how their search engine algorithm works. That said, they can be an abundant source of information on how to manage your website and better serve your users.
There are tons of resources from Google to explore.
Google Search Console is going to be your best friend — specifically the help section. Google Search Console is completely free to use and it’s packed with features that will make your life as a webmaster easier. In the help section, you can explore some of the main topics that will help you be a better webmaster or search for something specific you want to know more about.
The Google Webmaster Guidelines are also an awesome source of information. It’s a bit of a read, with hundreds of on page SEO to go through, but it will tell you everything you need to know about how to make a website compliant with Google’s standards. For a short and concise version, check out this article titled Steps to a Google-Friendly Site.
Google is usually pretty tight-lipped when it comes to SEO; they don’t want to encourage webmasters to manipulate the algorithm they’ve worked so hard to build. But they do offer a Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide that you can use to educate yourself on how search engines work.
Finally, make sure you check out the Google Developers blog and the Google Search Central blog. There, you’ll find an ongoing release schedule of new articles and new information. They’re some of the first places you’ll hear about new algorithm updates.
Okay, so maybe we’re a bit biased, but we’ve worked hard to bring you the most up-to-date information in the SEO industry – it’s even in our name. Whether you want to learn how to build a strategy step by step or discover more about one niche topic related to SEO, our blog is full of valuable information. We also have free SEO training videos, which we are adding to regularly.
Moz has long been a leading authority in the SEO world. They offer dozens of different tools to search optimizers, many of which are free, designed to help you with everything from researching keyword research to analyzing your backlink profile. But even better, they have a blog that’s always full of interesting insights and hot takes on SEO matters – not to mention recommendations and tutorials for newcomers.
Search Engine Watch/ Search Engine Journals / Search Engine Land
I’m listing Search Engine Watch, Search Engine Journal, and Search Engine Land together because they serve a similar purpose, though they’re separate entities. On each of these sites, you’ll find a constantly updated, fresh list of articles written by SEO experts and other contributors in the field of digital marketing. These range from details about new algorithm updates to contributors sharing stories about how they tripled organic traffic on their websites.
QuickSprout provides information to help you make a website successful, from creating and hosting your first website to nurturing it with the power of SEO and digital marketing. There’s so much good content here, it’s almost overwhelming.
Ahrefs offers a fantastic set of SEO tools you can use to build your campaign from scratch, but these seo tools also have a robust blog (and it’s free). Check it out if you’re looking for more tips on link building, increasing domain authority, and remaining competitive in the SEO space.
Talking to Other SEO Experts
Reading is a great way to learn new information, but it’s also a good idea to spend time talking to other SEO experts. Ask questions. Explain your understanding of a topic and see if they agree with your assessment.
Because there’s a qualitative, subjective aspect to SEO, you’re likely to find people with differing opinions this way. You’ll get direct guidance and insights from the people you contact and eventually, you’ll come to a much better understanding of how SEO works. Plus, if you run into issues on your own, you might be able to hit them up for some help.
Throughout your SEO research, you’re almost certainly going to encounter contradictions between one expert and another. This can be frustrating, but there are a few questions that can usually help you resolve these contradictions:
- Is this a real contradiction? Some things may seem like they contradict each other, but they don’t. For example, one expert may swear by a tactic like leaning on video content while another encourages prioritizing written content. These are different ideas, but they may each work well for different types of businesses.
- When was this opinion stated? SEO changes quickly. What worked in 2014 may not work as well today. Check to see when the content you’re reading was written.
- Who is saying this? Trust Google’s Webmaster blog more than you trust a random dude on Twitter with a pet theory about how search engines work.
- Can you find other sources to back up either claim? Look around to see if you can find any other authoritative sources backing up one opinion or the other.
- Can you test it? Once you get more experienced, you may be able to test each idea yourself – and determine for a fact whether it can work for you.
How to Structure Your SEO Education
Don’t overwhelm yourself by thinking that you have to learn SEO all at once.
Instead, break down your SEO education into bite-sized, manageable goals.
- The first day. Congratulations, you’ve already started! Your first day, try to learn the absolute basics. Find a few sites you can consult for further information and put together a plan. If you’ve read this article start to finish, you’re almost there!
- The first week. Each day in your first week, try to learn the general principles of a new topic. For example, on Tuesday, you can dive into learning about writing content. On Wednesday, you can focus on link building. Just try to get a basic understanding of each element of SEO.
- The first month. Once you get the basics, spend your first month regularly reading new blog posts by people in the industry. Some of the topics will go over your head, but don’t worry – once you’re immersed, you’ll absorb the information faster. This is also the point where you should start planning and executing a campaign of your own.
- The first year. Throughout your first year, you can nurture your own campaign and find out firsthand how your strategy is faring. You’ll also want to keep consulting new and old sources alike to expand your knowledge further.
- Ongoing education. Again, SEO changes frequently. Make sure you remain committed to ongoing education so you’re always up-to-date.
Your digital marketing SEO education journey will never be complete – at least not fully. That’s because search engines like Google are constantly evolving and user needs are constantly changing.
It’s tough to keep up with the latest changes in SEO. Then again, it’s tough to do anything in SEO all by yourself. That’s why most businesses interested in higher search rankings and more traffic enlist the help of an SEO agency like SEO.co.
Are you ready to learn more about SEO strategies? Do you need help with keyword research, content writing, link building, or any other aspect of SEO? Contact SEO.co today for a free review of your current strategy!