How to Teach Yourself SEO

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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!

SEO Self Learning 101

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:

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 webpages 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 five-page website on which to practice SEO isn’t nearly the same thing as optimizing a 1,000+ page e-commerce 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 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 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 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 has helped you to master SEO, share your recommendations in the comment section below.

Photo credits: SEO Learning – courtesy © kotoyamagami –

Sujan Patel
Sujan Patel has over 12 years of digital marketing experience and has helped hundreds of clients increase web traffic, boost user acquisition, and grow their... Read Full Bio
Sujan Patel
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  • Nick Stamoulis

    I just want to point out to SEO beginners that Step 1 can take a lot longer than you might think! On the surface SEO might not seem all that hard, but it’s a lot more complicated than most people realize. There is a big jump between reading and understanding and actually implementing. If you are trying to learn SEO for yourself I applaud you but just like anything else it takes time to learn well.

  • Giriraj Ranawat

    SEO tutorials in a Nutshell..
    A definitive guide to learning SEO.
    Thanks a lot….

  • Sushil

    Hi there..
    I am beginner of SEO Learnings and already following the abov mentioned web resources (SEOMOZ). I have a 2 questions
    1.Does it possible to implement all the basic seo steps there, on a blogspot based blog that i am running?
    2.Have you ever found a book on SEO that can help a self learner beginner to advance level at a considerable extent.


  • Rohit

    SEOMoz beginners guide and whiteboard friday works best

  • Chris Irwin

    Thanks Sujan.

    Seomoz forms combined with the beginners guide works well. Distilled u education by Distilled is also a great interactive way to get going

  • Steven Hughes

    Some good info here…SEO is shifting from technical tricks and methods to Content and Social. Penguin, Panda, and EDM have hurt some , and warned the rest of us.

  • Matt Giovanisci

    Finding a mentor is extremely hard. I work out of my lonely condo in a small town in New Jersey. I basically bury myself in my work and no one I know has a similar interest in what I do – mainly website design/SEO/content creation.

    I do have a good resource for SEO – It’s a blog about gaining traffic by writing epic content. I feel that 80% of SEO these days is based on content and 20% on how well Google can read that content or the links back to your content.

  • Angela R Beasley

    Finding mentors is extremely hard, especially if you live in certain cities or states. However Danny Dover’s – SEO Secrets is great, has a couple of great tutorials and I read everything I can online.

  • Asa Shatkin

    Creating a focused keyword list and creating content with those keywords in mind (on a regular basis) are keys to SEO. If businesses can master those two aspects, they can generate good, targeted traffic.

  • Nathan

    Putting the theory into practice is definitely the key. There is an overwhelming amount of information on SEO and how it should be done to decipher and work out for yourself. You quickly realise what works and what doesn’t and figure out 80% of what people say about SEO is either outdated, plain bad, or a complete waste of time.

  • John Millen

    Sujan, thanks for the helpful article. I’ve wanted to set up a teach site to practice but felt unsure about it. You’ve motivated me to start. It’s easier to think of it as a lab to experiment on and learn SEO.

  • Alex Dumpfree

    Everyone can learn about SEO just he or she need to follow up some steps like Seek out beginner-level resources, Put what you’ve learned into practice, Find a mentor, Join an SEO group, Monitor SEO news sites for industry updates. I highly recommend getting your hands dirty in order to try to understand how things work.

  • Saqib Javed

    I am beginner in SEO, but want to have my carrer in this field . I always looking for the material and the about new trandes of the Industry form the best resource , I have ever find like Search Engine Journeal, SEOmoz and Search Engine watch.

  • Thomas

    On Feb 3, 2002, Brett Tabke wrote the now famous “Webmaster World” post entitled:

    “A Successful Site in 12 Months with Google Alone”

    10 years have passed since then, but it’s still incredibly relevant for those embarking on a career in SEO/inbound marketing.

  • Roye

    Great article, lots of useful tips for those willing to put in the time to learn SEO. I must add that the journey to learning SEO is quite a long one, and requires persistence and a relentless desire to master it. So if you are thinking of acquiring SEO skills make sure you keep at it and don’t get discouraged when things get tough, because they will.

  • Dan

    SEOmoz’s way of doing SEO is bull.. Sure it works, but there are much easier ways to do SEO.. SEOmoz seems to talk very bad about all the SEO techniques that actually work. All you have to do is reverse engineer a site that is ranking well and do exactly what their doing… I find that when I reverse engineer a site, all the techniques that SEOmoz says don’t work, are what all the highly ranked websites are doing.. This is why I don’t care to much for SEOmoz..

  • Guido Zecckine

    I’m a “newbie” myself, but I can tell you from doing SEO for my own site(s) and domains, that nothing can compare to actually doing SEO and analyzing the results of your own efforts. Use whatever tools and learning resources that are available, and keep learning. You may or may not find a mentor, but don’t worry about that, just use SOEBook, SEOMoz, and anything else you can find, and like Nike says… “Just Do It”.

    SEO is not that easy to learn, and surely takes a considerable amount of time and practice, but if you start with the basics, and learn local SEO first, you’ll be spot on.

    I use any tools I can that are free, and analyze and compare the results and go from there. I concentrate on what works, what works fast, and what gets you to front page Google and Bing. (Facebook uses Bing, not Google)

  • Hemanth Malli

    Hi Sujan

    This is very helpful article for the Newbies like me.Thanks for the in-depth analysis & providing various useful links on different SEO aspects. I will definitely start utilizing some of these links !!
    Anyone trying to get top on the web can benefit from a little SEO loving ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Joel Katona

    The best part about learning SEO is, Google still offers up on a plate the top 10 sites for you to draw up your own conclusion about how they were selected. It’s up to you dig deeper to find out the how and why. Just sit down with a good content and backlink analysis tool, do your own diligence and make your SEO road map in your own niche or market.

    Of course the tougher the niche you are in, the less the analysis is going to help since the players in markets like finance, insurance, travel, real estate etc. are trenched in their position for many years now and we’ll be almost impossible to nudge them.
    There are still huge opportunities in emerging trends and local search.

  • Amy

    Distilled U is the best. I started learning SEO through SEOMoz and still continue to use it, in addition to Distilled U. Those guys over there rock!

  • nate

    Who needs to learn SEO, if you are providing top quality content that is shared around the web. Let real people do the organic backlinking for you and watch your kingdom grow ;).

  • Andrew D.

    Learning seo by yourself isn’t easy. I’ve been trying for a few months and still have a lot to learn. It takes time testing what works and what doesn’t. Just because you read it in a forum or popular blog doesn’t mean it’s right or still up to date.

  • Martin’s Discounts

    Thanks for the beginning level resources, very helpful for the “newbies”, I will put it to good use. Step # 3 is also very important, I recently began looking myself. It does get complicated when you have an e-commerce/webmall site when you are on a social media platform!

  • Vishal Taragi

    Well, I am a self taught SEO practioner and I went through a lot of SEO training materials, forums, Blogs but the ones who kept me interested were the materials from Alex Clenthous and Bruce Clay.

  • Terry Martine

    It seems like every time I learn a little about SEO the rules change.

  • Tiyo Kamtiyono

    The key to learn something is READ and PRACTICE. Never stop to try to use new tool and implement new tricks. I learn SEO from any source, but learning from Yoast SEO plugin is the best way to get to know about on page SEO.

    Nice, simple post, thanks Sujan Patel ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Olivia Brown

    Most useful and informative article for a beginner. There is more about researching in SEO than practicing. When you start practicing anything, an update occurs and everything is gone. So a in-depth is always required to practice anything.

  • Martin

    Dear Sujan,

    I wish to thank you for your article, because I found it very useful!

    I like the way you describe the most important SEO factors and to provide us so much interesting links I already bookmarked them and I will store them for future works.

    I understand that getting very good ranking in SERPs is becoming harder and harder, but your suggestions are good and I hope to apply them to my projects.

    Best regards,

  • Anuj

    It is a good article but can you please tell me that how can I promote a wordpress blog and an e-commerce website. Well for mentors, the good ones are rare to find and the one you finds is not that good. For me till now the SEJ is the best source of knowledge about SEO and related topics, so I can say that it is one the best mentors one can have.