So you want to learn what all those techie-types are referring to when they talk about link building, anchor text, title tags and on-site optimization? Welcome to the SEO club!
Teaching yourself SEO can be a challenging process, but it’s not impossible. Take a look at the following step-by-step plan and then get started. Remember, SEO changes every day, so there’s no time like the present to get started learning!
Step #1 – Seek out beginner-level resources
Now, I’m assuming that you’re reading this article because you want to learn SEO on your own time, as a supplement to whatever else your full-time job may be. If you have the time or resources, there are plenty of great “all inclusive” training courses that’ll take you from beginner to advanced student in the shortest amount of time possible (for example, check out the SES series of conferences if you’ve got a few thousand dollars to invest in your education).
But if you’re doing this on your own, you’ll want to begin by seeking out well-regarded beginner-level resources. There are plenty of different training programs out there, though you’ll want to pay special attention to the following options:
- SEOMoz’s “Beginner’s Guide to SEO”
- SEO Book’s “SEO Training”
- Bruce Clay’s “Search Engine Optimization Tutorial”
Any of these resources will give you a solid background in the principles and techniques underpinning the practice of search engine optimization. Once you feel comfortable with the concepts covered in these beginner-level resources, begin to seek out more advanced training programs to refine your skills and understanding even further.
Step #2 – Put what you’ve learned into practice
As you begin your SEO training, you’ll encounter plenty of different tricks and techniques that will help your future web pages to perform well in the natural search results. However, keep in mind that learning SEO from an ebook is a lot like learning to drive from a book – there’s a pretty big difference between reading about the subject and actually putting it into practice!
If you really want to learn SEO, you can’t just read about the approaches taken by others. Instead, you need to practice implementing them on your own websites and measuring the impact that each change you make has on your site’s overall performance.
Don’t have a website? Well, there’s never been a better time to start one!
Your new website doesn’t need to be complex and you don’t need to have any business goals associated with it. It doesn’t have to be an expensive proposition either – in fact, it’ll take less than $100 to purchase the web hosting and domain needed to create your own static HTML or WordPress website.
What’s important is that you see – in real-time – how different SEO concepts are put into practice. While it’s one thing to read about techniques like optimizing your title tags or meta descriptions, carrying out these tasks in real time will give you a better understanding of how SEO functions overall, making you a more effective website optimizer in the long run.
Step #3 – Find a mentor
Of course, building a 5-page website on which to practice SEO isn’t nearly the same thing as optimizing a 1,000+ page ecommerce website!
With SEO, there’s a tremendous learning curve that separates SEO newbies from more advanced practitioners. So while you’ll certainly learn plenty by studying and implementing the practices you learn about on your own website, you’ll advance your skill set even further by finding an advanced SEO mentor who can give you helpful guidance on how to improve your techniques.
Finding a mentor can be a challenge, as many practitioners within the field are too busy with their own projects to offer suitable guidance to a beginner. Ask around at local business networking events, web forums or SEO groups, but don’t be surprised if it takes some time to find a mentor who’s both available to work with you and well-suited to your unique learning style. Keep searching until you find the right person and you’ll be amazed at how quickly your SEO skills can improve!
Step #4 – Join an SEO group
In addition to finding an SEO mentor, search your area for any in-person SEO meetup groups. Though smaller, more rural areas may not have established groups of this nature, most cities offer at least a handful of SEO or digital marketing meetups for participants of all skill levels.
To find these gatherings, try searching for your city on Meetup.com to view all existing local activities, or try entering the phrase, “SEO group + your city” or “digital marketing group + your city” into Google. If your search turns up multiple options, check them all out to determine which groups are the best fit for your skills, interests and personality.
Or, if you aren’t able to find information on any existing SEO groups, why not start your own? Services like Meetup.com make it easy to organize groups and promote your new organization to a wide variety of members. If you do decide to go this route, try partnering with any SEO or digital marketing professionals in your area to bring a more experienced viewpoint to your new group.
Step #5 – Monitor SEO news sites for industry updates
Finally, to really grow your SEO skills, you need to remain on top of the industry’s many changes. Think about it… If you select a single SEO training program from the list above to work off of and never change up your learning materials, you aren’t going to be informed on any changes that have occurred within the field of SEO since your materials were initially introduced.
As a result, it’s imperative that you set aside time every week to browse through SEO news websites. You can navigate directly to sites like Search Engine Journal or SEOMoz, or you can use aggregation services like Alltop’s SEO page or Inbound.org to get a quick overview of what’s hot within the field of digital marketing.
While browsing these pages, keep an eye out for trending topics that are covered in multiple articles or across multiple websites, as these subjects typically indicate issues you’ll want to be aware of. For example, if Google rolls out a change to one of its algorithms, you can bet you’ll see a handful of different articles about the specific update and its implications on every SEO news website out there. The fact that so many people have covered a given topic makes it one that you’ll definitely want to pay attention to!
Yes, it will take time to learn SEO. It’s a complicated field that few have mastered, so plan on putting in plenty of time hitting the books and looking up new terminology. But don’t let this discourage you! Remember that even the most advanced SEOs started out where you are today. Although you might feel overwhelmed right now, know that with consistent, dedicated studying, you’ll soon be talking web with the best of them!
Got a favorite SEO training resource you’d like to share? If there’s a particular book, website or course that’s helped you to master search engine optimization, share your recommendations in the comment section below:
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