SEO can be daunting; especially for a small business owner or young professional just starting out.
To make matters worse, there are millions of pages of outdated information, misinformation, or just plain bad information about how to properly implement an SEO strategy.
The key, of course, is to know what’s important and then invest the time necessary to master those things. That doesn’t mean that you need to be a pro in hundreds of areas. You just need to tackle the essential website optimization items.
What follows are the top factors for optimizing a website in 2019 and places to find free courses to master each.
Technical SEO refers to those actions taken at the website or server level designed to improve search results. More specifically, those actions which affect crawling, indexing and rendering of webpages.
The end goal is to get as many high-value pages indexed and ranking as possible.
Here are some courses and guides that are certain to boost your technical SEO skills:
- Advanced SEO: Developing an SEO-Friendly Website: This Lynda.com course covers a wide range of technical SEO factors, including content optimization, web crawling, indexation, rendering, site structure, structured data, and more.
- Advanced Search Engine Optimization Strategies: This Coursera course complements the Lynda.com course above by providing insights into page-speed, key metrics, and data analysis.
- Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide: Google has literally written the book on best practices for on-site optimization. This 32-page guide was originally intended to be used as an internal document, but was later released as a webmaster resource. Don’t have time to read 32 pages? No problem. Hubspot has published a two-page, tl;dr version here.
- Search Engine Optimization for WordPress: With a market share of 33 percent, it pays to know a little something about the best practices for optimizing a WordPress site. This knowledge could also come in handy the next time your SEO plugin breaks.
“Great content” is no longer a luxury, but a necessity to ensure any measure of organic success.
As one of three confirmed Google ranking factors, you better have a solid understanding of the kind of content that appeals to both users and the Google algorithm.
These courses and guides will put you on the right path:
- The Strategy of Content Marketing: This Coursera course is a partnership between Copyblogger, and UC Davis. Students learn how to plan, organize, develop and implement a content marketing strategy. Equally important, the course teaches students how to analyze and measure the effectiveness of a content marketing campaign.
- HubSpot Content Marketing Certification: In this course, students learn how to implement scalable processes for creating and promoting a content marketing program that will build traffic and convert leads.
- What Works in Content Marketing: Search Engine Journal’s FREE ebook. This guide includes Case Studies and Tools for Content Marketing Success.
- Content Marketing 101: A Free Guide for Beginners or Pros: This free Udemy guide combines video and downloadable resources. Students will learn Content marketing fundamentals and strategies designed to increase traffic, sales and revenues.
Schema markup, is a form of microdata. It creates an enhanced description (a.k.a., rich snippet), which then appears in search results.
Schema provides added context to a page which can be useful to both users and search engines. Schema often provides context to a page which may otherwise be ambiguous.
It doesn’t appear as though anyone is offering a free course on schema, however there are several useful guides on the topic, including:
- Getting started with schema.org using Microdata: This Schema.org guide focuses on Microdata, showing examples in both RDFa and JSON-LD . The logic used is relevant beyond Microdata alone.
- Understand how structured data works: This Google codelab explains how to add different types of structured data to a simple HTML page. This includes where to place the microdata and how to validate it.
- How to Use Schema Markup for SEO: This WordStream guide promises to teach you how to make your site easy to find for stupid machines
Google is working hard to understand the context of search queries. Their goal is to return search results aligned with searcher intent.
If your website doesn’t conform to Google’s understanding of intent for a particular keyword, there is nothing you can do to reach the top of the SERPs.
For that reason, it’s critically important to convert any traffic that you do manage to drive to your page. The following courses and guides will help you maximize the ROI on the traffic that does come to your site:
- Learning Conversion Rate Optimization: In this Lynda.com course, topics include: Debunking CRO myths, identifying goals, understanding your target audience, prioritizing pages for optimization, creating test hypotheses, testing your value proposition, setting up tests, and analyzing the results.
- Conversion Rate Optimization Courses: This Hubspot course teaches a system for prompting web visitors to take a desired action on a webpage, in order to increase conversions.
- The Definitive How-to Guide for Conversion Rate Optimization: A Moz guide which presents a clear and defined process for conversion rate optimization along with checklists to help manage the process.
- The Complete A/B Testing Kit: Kissmetrics and HubSpot have put together a package with everything one needs to start running A/B tests right away.
Page speed can impact both traffic and conversions.
According to Google, “the average time it takes to fully load a mobile landing page is 22 seconds… yet 53 percent of mobile site visitors leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load.”
In short, fast page speed equals a good user experience. Slow page speed equals a poor user experience.
For that reason, Google now uses page speed as a ranking factor. If you have a need for speed, check out these courses and guides:
- Website Performance Optimization by Google: This Udacity course teaches students how to optimize a website for speed exploring how mobile and desktop browsers render pages.
- Browser Rendering Optimization by Google: This Udacity course teaches students how to build web applications that react quickly and render smoothly.
- A beginner’s guide to website optimization: This freeCodeCamp guide walks users thru the basics of page speed optimization and how to improve a website’s speed score
- A curated list of Web Performance Optimization Materials: A GitHub resource filled with links to articles, blogs, books, docs, events people and talks related to Web Performance Optimization
To be clear, I’m referring to the types of links that conform to Google webmaster guidelines. Not links that are acquired or paid for by using various link schemes.
Check out these guides for and courses for successful link building techniques
- SEO Link Building Basics: This Udemy course offers an introduction to link building, focusing on fundamentals and link prospecting.
- Backlink Training: This Monitor Backlinks tutorial covers all of the basics regarding backlinks, why they are important, and how to build them.
- Illustrated Guide to Link Building: Search Engine Journal has compiled a comprehensive guide that illustrates how to execute different link building technique to achieve optimal results.
- The Noob Friendly Guide to LinkBuilding: This guide, by Ahrefs, goes beyond theory and teaches actionable, link building skills.
Know this: mobile search is local search. Fifty percent of all mobile searches have a local intent. Winning at Local SEO requires a unique skill set. Hone your skills by checking out these courses and guides:
- Beginner Local SEO | The Foundations of What Google Wants: This Udemy course teaches students Local SEO basics. In the end, he or she should have a firm foundational knowledge of Local SEO.
- Local SEO Course: 10x Your Local Customers: This Udemy course teaches on page optimization, citation building, and other techniques to rank higher on Google.
- The Ultimate Guide to Local SEO Ranking: A large part of Local SEO involves doing the fundamentals right. This guide explains how to do just that.
- Where to Get Citations: Citations, are the lifeblood of local search. This guide by Moz outlines a plan for identifying and building these references.
User experience (UX) is all about understanding users; their needs, values, abilities, and limitations. Good UX also takes into consideration the goals and objectives of the business.
The best UX practices improve the quality of a user’s experience. If you are interested in providing a better user experience, then look into:
- Introduction to Learning UX Design: Presented by Springboard, this course offers a mix of UX Design courses, videos and resources from across the web. These resources are organized in such a way that even a beginner can easily follow.
- User Experience (UX) Design: Human Factors and Culture in Design: This edX course teaches students how to create exceptional user experience (UX) designs
Guides: A Collection of UX Guides Created by Google for Select Industries
- UX Playbook for Finance
- UX Playbook for Lead Gen
- UX Playbook for News & Content Sites
- UX Playbook for Real Estate
- UX Playbook for Retail
- UX Playbook for Travel
It will never be easier to execute a winning SEO strategy than it is today. Take advantage of it. Arm yourself with the knowledge to succeed. You won’t regret it.
Disclaimer: Some of these courses are free, but contingent upon completion within a limited time (trial period). Others are free, if you choose to audit a course and forgo a certificate. Select guides may require submitting an email prior to downloading.
- A Complete Guide to SEO: What You Need to Know in 2019
- SEO 101: Learn the Basics of Search Engine Optimization
- The 25 Best SEO Blogs & Resources to Learn SEO