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Can I Learn SEO on My Own?
The short answer is yes! Many, many, many SEOs (like me) are self-taught. Others learn search engine optimization (SEO) from on-the-job training. But with enough discipline, you can learn SEO on your own. Today, I’ll be briefly reviewing the skills you could learn to become adept at SEO and the ways I’ve found the most helpful to learn SEO on my own.
What SEO Skills Should I Learn?
When it comes to SEO, there are many aspects to consider. SEO works best from a holistic approach. If you implement some areas of SEO but ignore others, your SEO campaigns may not be successful. Here are some of the main parts of SEO that you should learn about.
- Technical SEO
- Local SEO
- Link Building
- Tracking & Reporting
How to Teach Yourself SEO
I’ve found there are a few approaches that work best for learning SEO on your own. Here’s what worked for me:
Read Up on SEO
Many SEOs write about search engine optimization. They share tutorials, case studies, and reveal their favorite SEO tactics. Some even record podcasts or lead courses to share their knowledge. What I did to learn SEO was follow the smartest people in the industry by reading their articles and joining their email lists. Here are the people that I learned SEO from (and am still learning from). Each delves into the various aspects of SEO you need to know, from the technical skills to on-page optimization to off-site optimization:
These are SEO news sites that I follow to keep up with changes in the SEO industry.
Oh, and make sure to follow Google’s official webmaster blog so that you can hear SEO news directly from them.
Practice Makes Perfect
After reading a lot about SEO, I started putting what I’d learned into practice by testing out SEO on a few websites that I had built. After that, I asked a few friends if I could do their SEO for free in exchange for me being able to have that hands-on experience with their sites.
You can do the same by putting together your own website then optimizing it. Let’s explore both of those fundamentals next.
Practice Building a Website
If you want to learn SEO on your own, then one of your first steps will need to be to build a website yourself. For the purposes of this beginners guide, I’ll be using WordPress as an example for the steps taken.
Step 1: Signup for Hosting & Setup WordPress
There are many plans available for those just getting started. Select a hosting plan that works with your budget. Many top hosting providers offer a one-click installation service for WordPress as well. Take advantage of this and setup WordPress. It should only take a few minutes.
Step 2: Customize Your Website
Select a WordPress theme that suits your needs. Customize the colors, fonts, and layout as you see fit. Next, install any plugins that make sense for you. Popular plugins for managing SEO in WordPress include Yoast SEO. From there, you’ll need to add the pages you want to feature on your website. Most sites have a Home page, About page, and a Contact page. Including a blog is also a great idea as it gives you a place to build dynamic content for online marketing super easily.
You should definitely add Google Analytics or another analytics plugin to your site as this point to make tracking your SEO progress later easier. This can often be accomplished through inserting a bit of HTML code.
Step 3: Create Content
You won’t get very far with your effort to build good SEO unless you invest some time in content marketing. In fact, all white hat efforts for page optimization begin with a healthy selection of content to work with.
Now, you don’t have to dive in head-first, but you should create at least a few blog posts or cornerstone content pages to work with.
Optimize the Website for SEO
Before you can begin on website optimizations (with the goal of getting higher search engine rankings in the SERPs and building organic traffic) you’ll need to conduct some keyword research. Many SEO experts rely on SEO tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush for this. But you can also get pretty far using the Google Suggest feature and Google Keyword Planner which are both free. You may also wish to consider browsing through question and answer forums and social media to see what people in your niche are asking about the most.
Look for relevant keywords for your niche that don’t have a ton of competition. It might be tricky at first, but with a bit of grit and determination, you should be able to land on a set of keywords that speak to your target audience and will appeal to the Google algorithm, too.
From there, you can begin to implement your SEO strategy for on-page SEO tactics, which includes many elements, but a few to consider are:
- Meta titles and descriptions
- Use your keyword at the beginning of the page title
- Use your keyword in headings
- URL slug
- Image alt tags
- Optimized (compressed) images
- Use of long-tail keywords
- Use internal and external links
- Fix website errors
- Scan for broken links and images
There’s obviously a lot more to on page optimization than just these aspects, but the above detail the basics of SEO you should know about.
You will also need to learn off-page SEO strategies like building backlinks, considering metrics, and familiarizing yourself with the way web crawlers work. And for these more in-depth subjects, taking a course can help, but learning by experience is best.
Take an SEO Course
One way I’ve found to really dive into the details of SEO is to take online courses that provide techniques that you can try out on your own website. Following an SEO guide or tutorial is great and all, but sometimes you really need the course environment to learn more complex SEO techniques. When you take a course taught by an SEO specialist, you get the benefit of learning from their experiences and mistakes.
You’ll also get to see hands-on demonstrations of technical SEO, general digital marketing tactics, and various strategies for getting backlinks. Some courses offer instruction in how to use specific tools like Google Search Console, too. Starting at the very beginning with an introductory course will ensure you don’t miss anything important as you progress through the SEO ranks.
In the end, there’s no better teacher than experience! So get reading a variety of starter guides and start trying SEO tactics now!
Looking for SEO training? Check out “Bring Home the Bacon“.