How to Learn SEO

how to learn seo

Want to get a job in the exciting, fast paced, super-growth industry of online marketing?

No, this isn’t a pitch for a ten thousand dollar digital marketing course which teaches outdated techniques and awards you with a shiny certificate you can print at home and present to potential employees.

This is my legitimate attempt at providing some advice and guidance to those looking to start a career in digital marketing.

The truth is, there is a major shortage of SEO/SEM talent in Australia. There are new jobs posted on Seek every week but no-one to fill them. I know this is a real dilemma for employers, having gone through the process of hiring new team members multiple times over the years.

So, let’s dive right in.

Let’s Learn Search Engine Optimisation!

Rule the first: Assume everything that comes from official Google channels is gospel.

This may not always be the case, but for the sake of starting on the right side of Google, implementing ‘white hat’ techniques (basically, not doing anything that could potentially harm a client’s website by getting them penalised) is a good start. It is beneficial to start with knowing what Google says is important, versus what actually moves the needle.

For SEO this means playing by Google’s own Search Engine Optimisation Starter Guide (yes, they have their own SEO guide!) is actually a decent guide on the foundations of good SEO. It does down-play external factors, such as the value of external links, and social, including G+, but don’t worry about that for now.

Tip: Don’t try to take shortcuts, ever. Don’t try buying 8.938 links on Fiverr.com or outsourcing dozens of crappy articles to post on crappier sites to build links. Don’t ever try to make Google look stupid, it doesn’t work out well.

O.K. So, you’ve read Google’s bible, and now you know all about optimising page titles, use of the “description” meta tag, site structure, URLs, the importance of unique and useful content etc etc.

Now, you also need to make sure you stay abreast of frequent algorithm and feature updates via sources such as:

You should also supplement your ‘Google SEO’ knowledge by reading third-party guides, such as http://moz.com/learn/seo

Rule the second: Get Familiar with some important tools.

Get to know Google Webmaster Tools intimately
Take her out for dinner, get to second base. Seriously though, this is Google’s direct line to website owners, this is where you can find out about crawl issues, sitemap issue, hacking and spam issues, manual penalties and much more. Neglect GWT at your own peril!

Fall in love with Google Analytics
It’s important to be able to measure results, and understand what is happening, in terms of traffic sources, trends, etc. You don’t need to know and review every single report. But, you do want to be familiar with setting up goals, reviewing traffic sources, and understanding trends and being able to create insightful reports.

You can get Google Analytics certified by taking these courses: https://analyticsacademy.withgoogle.com/course01, https://analyticsacademy.withgoogle.com/course02 – unfortunately these Google doesn’t update these as often as they should considering all of the feature and interface updates.

Once you’re comfortable with these must-know tools, start branching out. Look into keyword and competitor research tools, link research tools etc. Perhaps have a browse through the tools I recommend here.

Rule the third: Get some experience, noob.

Experience is crucial in learning anything, you need to get your hands dirty. You need to practice applying what you’ve learnt. You need to come across new issues and figure out how to resolve them. You need experience!

If you have to, create a new website. Install analytics tracking, apply the SEO, run a small ad campaign. This will give you a feel for each process, and you’ll likely encounter scenarios along the way which you’ll need to do some research to discover the solutions to. Personally, I like to have my own sites to play with and test things out on. This way you don’t have to worry about affecting someone elses site and business while your testing. This could be something you work on in your free time, most people start a blog on something that interests them and start working on how well they can get it ranking.

At this point you’ll probably begin to realise that ‘SEO’ is just one of many online marketing channels. And when someone wants SEO they probably need a lot more than that. They probably need a better looking and functioning website (user experience, conversion rate optimisation), they probably need better branding and more traffic sources (advertising, social, content marketing, email marketing, local optimisation) and they definitely need their Google Analytics config fixed, with goals setup etc etc.

OK, so, if you can do the above, you’d probably be better placed, in terms of effective SEO knowledge than many people already employed in the field.

Tip: There is probably no better place for your first SEO job than an agency. There are so many advantages to working in an agency environment, especially for a noob. These include being exposed to many different industries, business types and sizes. You’ll be part of a team whom you can bounce ideas of and learn from.

Rule the fourth: Don’t stress.

Now, if this all seems overwhelming, don’t stress. Obviously, I didn’t learn it all over a few days or weeks. But, then, you never really know it all, search algorithms, tools, and SEM platforms are always changing, there is always more to learn, which is good otherwise it’d probably get quite boring.

As I mentioned previously, start working on small DIY projects, get a job as a noob in an agency. Walk before your crawl and all that.

I wish you all the best recruit. Let me know if you have any questions at all.

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