Search engine optimization (SEO) has been one of the most popular online marketing strategies for the past 20 years, and it’s in a position to remain popular for the indefinite future. If you’re interested in a career in marketing, or if you just want the power to support your own company’s visibility in search engines like Google, you’ll need to learn basic SEO skills to do it.
The question is, how can you learn those skills?
The High-Level View of SEO
Let’s start with a high-level overview of SEO. What exactly is it, and what skills will you need to learn?
Ultimately, SEO is about helping a website (yours or someone else’s) rank higher for user search queries relevant to that website. That typically means generating more inbound traffic, which in turn leads to more revenue generation.
Google (like most other search engines) ranks sites based on their relevance and authority, so your job as a search optimizer is increasing the relevance and authority of the pages of your site.
To do that, you’ll need to learn skills in a few main areas:
- Research and strategy. First, you’ll need to set a high-level strategy for your campaign, including selecting various keywords to target.
- Onsite, technical SEO. You’ll also need to learn how to adjust the code and structure of a site to be more technically favorable for SEO purposes.
- Onsite blogging. Onsite blog content is a huge variable in the success of an SEO strategy. You’ll need to learn how to write (or at least direct) it.
- External, offsite SEO. You’ll also need inbound links to boost your site’s authority. Learning how to build those links without seeming spammy is one of your highest priorities.
- Analysis. You’ll also need to be able to measure and analyze your results.
Classes and Certifications
You may be able to find all-in-one classes, courses, and seminars that teach you the basics of SEO. If you find these, make sure you understand the authority and experience level of the person teaching the class. While there are some good options out there, some paid “classes” are merely scams trying to get your money, and others are outdated. If you’re interested in a faster, less expensive route, you can probably learn SEO on your own.
Networking and Interactions
One strong option is to network with people who are already in the SEO field and talk to them about their careers. Where did they learn, and what resources do they recommend? If you’re lucky, you may even be able to find a mentor willing to guide you and teach you on your SEO education journey.
Here, your best bet is to start local. If you currently live in Long Island, try reaching out to a Long Island SEO company, or heading to local meetings in and around Long Island for search engine optimizers or marketers. You may also be able to find people on social media within your niche.
After that, one of your best options is to simply look online for educational resources dedicated to teaching you about SEO. Google itself has a number of guides for how it “sees” onsite content and offsite links. There are also countless whitepapers, articles, videos, and tutorials dedicated to helping people understand the basics (and the advanced strategies) of SEO. Keep looking and keep reading, and eventually it’s all going to click into place.
It would be impossible to simply read about how to play guitar and become a virtuoso from that acquisition of knowledge. Similarly, you’re not going to become an effective search optimizer unless you spend time practicing. Much of SEO is a trial-and-error process; you’ll need to experiment with different tactics for different websites, see what works, and adjust your strategies and expectations from there. You can practice on your own site, or on a secondary site. When you run into problems (as you will, inevitably), see what other people have to say on the subject and walk away with new knowledge.
Keep in mind that “learning SEO” isn’t a one-time thing. No matter how much you learn on a given track or with a given company, there will always be more to learn—both because SEO requires attention to a vast number of individual factors, and because search engines like Google are constantly updating their algorithms. Accordingly, if you want to become an SEO expert, you’ll need to be prepared to dedicate more of your time and effort to your own ongoing education.
Learning SEO isn’t exactly hard, but there is a lot you’ll have to discover if you want to become an effective optimizer. Fortunately, with the sheer number and accessibility of resources available today, it should be easier than ever.