How to Learn SEO
Whether you’re just getting started, figuring out how to fill in knowledge gaps, training your team on SEO fundamentals, this is the Whiteboard Friday episode for you! With over a decade of experience in the SEO space, Moz’s head of content, Jo Cameron, dives into her own learning journey and talks through everything from understanding your resources and your budget to strategies to keep you on track in real-world projects.
Hello, everyone, and welcome to this edition of Whiteboard Friday. I wanted to talk you through a topic that is close to my heart, which is how to learn SEO. I’m Jo. I’m the head of content here at Moz, and I feel like I’ve been learning SEO for the better part of a decade. So I feel like I can speak from experience, although I do know that everyone’s methods for learning new information, whatever it is, is different.
To get started, I’ll take you through how you might want to begin to learn SEO, whether you’re getting started from scratch or you’re already working in SEO and you’re figuring out how to fill in knowledge gaps. Or maybe you have a team and you would like to train them up and get them ramped up on some fundamental SEO topics.
So I’ll dive into my own learning journey when I was learning SEO and the fundamentals of SEO. I’ll also talk through understanding your resources and your budget so that you can achieve your goals in the time and budget available to you. I’ll also talk about a few additional strategies to keep you on track, including topic immersion and applying your learning knowledge to real-world projects.
Why learn SEO?
But first of all, I’ll start with why. Why would you want to learn SEO and start to fill in the knowledge gaps with core, fundamental SEO topics? Learning SEO can help you to build your business. It can help you get more traffic to your website, and it can also help you advance your career.
I began to learn SEO because I wanted to sell more jewelry that I was making on my own website. So my motivation was to get more traffic, and my focus was on what I could do to my website authority, understanding the fundamental knowledge of how search engines function so that I could create content that was exciting to my audience and was digestible for search engine bots at the same time.
So ultimately driving more traffic to increase my revenue was what started me on this journey. You may as well want to grow your knowledge in order to advance your career, or you may already be working in SEO and want to fill in some of those gaps so that you can achieve your professional business goals.
So whether you are currently running your own business, whether you’re working in-house, client-side, or building up a strong SEO team, developing tangible, fundamental, core SEO knowledge is a great way to help you achieve your goals.
Outline your learning journey
The thing I would recommend starting out with, whether it’s for you or your team, is to outline your learning journey.
The first thing to understand is what exactly you want to learn and within what time frame. So this can help you to set your own expectations and keep you on track.
Core SEO concepts
When I was discovering how to sell more jewelry, my learning pathway covered the following fundamental topics. I started out with the fundamental, core SEO concepts. So as part of this experience, I was searching a lot, I was reading a lot online, and I was just trying to digest the lingo. I wanted to understand how Google algorithms worked and what was changing with each update so that I could get a better understanding of how search engines function, how their bots function, and then building up that fundamental knowledge in that area.
That then led me into keyword research, exploring what exactly it involves and then trying to understand how I get in front of my audience, how do I create content that they’re searching for, and how do I meet that need. I also wanted to do my keyword research in an organized way, so understanding the strategy behind that, building out a comprehensive strategy that made sense with the time that I had available. Ultimately, what I was trying to get here is to understand and get better insights into the different language that my audience was using, so what people were searching for in my industry.
This then led me into page optimization. So this is all about the different page elements, and I was trying to understand which of these elements I could actually affect in the CMS that I was using at the time. I was also trying to understand how to create the structure in my content so that it was optimized not just for the bots but also for my human visitors so I could give them that great experience when they landed on the page.
Then I also started to explore link building because building my website authority was really important to me and I didn’t understand how to do that. This was quite a big learning curve. I did end up getting a little bit confused around the concept of building and how that worked, how you tread that line between creating content that people want to link to, creating good quality content, 10x content that’s impactful and interesting, and then the difference between that and the different link building strategies, and generally how do you build your website authority and how do I do that so that I could achieve my goals and drive more traffic and generate more revenue.
Then all tied in with that also is understanding that whole spectrum of PR and how it intersects with link building, also more core technical link building strategies and outreach along with broken link building and how you go about putting that into process in a way that makes sense with the time that I had available.
Then I also wanted to explore how to show the impact of my results, so understanding reporting, what to report on, how to track results. This is important whether it’s for yourself or for your client and how do you know what you have achieved and whether it has achieved the desired effect.
So undoubtedly there is a vast amount of information available online that covers these topics. But if you do find that overwhelming and you would like a more clearly defined learning pathway outlined for you, there is the Moz Academy SEO Essentials Certification. We cover all of these fundamental topics, and they’re all neatly wrapped up in a six-hour course. So if you’re wanting to display your knowledge, you can also link up your certification badge with your LinkedIn profile to demonstrate your skills there. The course covers all of those topics. It starts with understanding how search engines determine a site’s value, how you identify good keywords and map them to semantic topic groups, along with how SEO fits in with the sales funnel, how to prioritize SEO tasks which is really important when you’re time-strapped, how to determine your most valuable content which is great for your website or if you’re working with a client who currently already has a bit of content there, and then understanding how to evaluate links, and then, of course, that all-important reporting in order to measure the impact of SEO.
I would have been super excited to take this course when I was learning, and I know it would have saved me a ton of time so that I could have just ingested all of that fundamental information, covered the essential topics when I was getting started.
Understand your resources and budget
So now that you have outlined the topics that you’re wanting to cover, I would then recommend getting started understanding your resources that you have available to you. The first one is obviously time. How much time do you have in a day, in a week, and when do you want to get this learning experience completed, whether it’s a particular topic or more broadly speaking?
The second one is, of course, budget. So do you have any professional development budget available to you? Is this something that you can potentially build into your current role? Maybe there’s a stretch assignment in there. Are there people available to you in your current network that can potentially assist you in understanding what you need to learn and then help you to figure out how you’re going to learn it?
Now that you have outlined the topics you want to cover, let’s explore the resources you have available to you. The first big one is obviously time, and the second one is your available budget. So how much time do you have available in a day, in a week, and then also how long do you have available for you to get this learning experience completed? Then also, can you build this into your current role, maybe as a stretch assignment, and how do you have that conversation with your peers? Then exploring whether you do have a professional development budget available to you.
Now the good news is that there is a learning pathway for everyone whatever your budget. If you’re still exploring what exactly it is that you want to learn, then the best place to get started is the Beginner’s Guide to SEO, which is available on the Moz Learn Center. This is a fantastic piece of content that has helped people learn SEO for nearly a decade now. It was refreshed quite recently by the wonderful Britney Muller. You can take yourself through and teach yourself the fundamentals at your own pace. Honestly, so many professional SEOs tell us that they learned SEO from Moz, and this is often the place they start out. So you’ll be treading a path many have walked before you.
But, of course, if you do have a bit of budget and your timeline is kind of tight and you want to put some guardrails around it and you want to keep yourself on track or you want to keep your team accountable, then you would want to look at the courses available on the Moz Academy. The SEO Essentials Certification, which I have mentioned previously, is key for building up fundamental knowledge. We do also have the Technical SEO Certification. So if you want to just launch your knowledge into this next stratosphere, this is becoming more critical as topics like Core Web Vitals bring the world of SEOs and developers closer together. Then, of course, if you’re wanting to better understand your industry’s competitive landscape, we also have the Competitive Analysis Certification.
With each of these certifications, we have gathered together all of the core fundamentals of each of these topics, and we’ve supercharged them with unique learning methodologies and you’ll be able to engage with on-demand educational videos, quizzes, and task lessons so you can also keep track of your progress as you learn. So if you’re finding it a bit of a hard time keeping on track or if you want to speed up your learning or the learning of your team that you’re training, then this is a really great place to start.
Long-term learning strategies
So once you’ve figured out what it is you want to learn, what resources you have available to you, your timeline, I think it’s interesting to better understand and explore some long-term learning strategies. So something that we have found quite important, when we build out the SEO certification, is the concept of learning, digesting that theoretical information, confirming it with a quiz, and then being able to apply it, so whether that is within a toolset or in addition to with your own project, whether that’s your own website or a client’s website.
Apply your knowledge
So when I was starting to learn SEO fundamentals, with each of those topics that I learned about above, I explored how I could apply this to the work that I was doing. I wanted to keep on track with my primary goal, which was to drive more traffic and generate more revenue. By doing this, it helped me understand how much effort it took, and over time I got a better understanding of the impact and roughly how long it took to see results.
So this is a methodology that we apply as part of the Moz Academy certifications. With this combination of theoretical information, educational videos, being able to confirm it with the quizzes and task lessons, you’ll be able to flex your recently acquired knowledge.
Now, obviously, the pro tip here that I don’t want to skip over is that no matter which pathway you take, you’re really looking to apply this to your real-life projects. Whether it’s your own website that you have set up on WordPress or you’re working with a client, applying this knowledge is key to better understanding how it works, the time it takes to implement, and also better understand the potential outcomes for your site.
Of course, if you are new to Moz, I would also recommend starting the Moz Pro free trial so that you can get stuck into building keyword lists, track your site’s performance or your client’s site’s performance, better understand your site’s authority as well as your competitors, and much, much more.
Top up regularly
The other thing that’s interesting to understand is that you may be involved in learning something intensely as part of a certification or engaging in free content, and as you go, you’ll find that you’ll just be topping up on that information. You may not be as focused on a learning pathway. You’ll just be topping up. This is something that people will be doing long term. Even if you are working professionally in SEO, you may find that there are changes in the industry or there’s a gap in your knowledge that you want to fill. This is a different experience for everyone. So there’s nothing new here that I can offer you that hasn’t been said before, but spending a little bit of time engaging with blogs, the latest news, following folks on Twitter, and so on is a great way to help you top up on your knowledge and keep on top of any changes going on in the industry.
Connect and engage
The next level to that is turning that social connection and finding a way to engage, so whether that’s virtually or in real life. So following industry folks and influencers on Twitter is a really great starting place. But if, like me, you’re finding it can become a little bit unruly and you’re easily distracted, then it can help to use the social media connections to identify events, whether they’re virtual or real life meetups or conferences, so that you can find a way to turn that connection into an opportunity to network and gather more information. Some of the biggest advances in my knowledge have come from engaging in events. I’ve been fortunate enough to go to a few of those in my time, and I always come away feeling very inspired and have a renewed drive to try new things. Don’t forget that we do have MozCon coming up this year in Seattle, and we have some incredible speakers joining us, which I know are going to be very inspirational.
Then the other thing to consider is topic immersion. Of course, learning does not happen in isolation. So you may find that you spend a dedicated amount of time actually learning, understanding the fundamentals, ramping up on the lingo, and then that is a great way for you to immerse yourself. Then, ongoing, find a strategy or a way that you can continue to be engaged in that topic.
So whether you are following a more free-flow approach by digesting content that’s available online or you want to follow a structured learning track with the Moz Academy, I would advise finding a way that works for you to immerse yourself in the topic regularly. For you, it may look like a couple of minutes a week reading the Moz blog, what we published lately. You could visit the Learn Center and dive into a particular topic. Or you can jump on Twitter and catch up with the latest from Dr. Pete on his featured snippets research.
Whatever that looks like, look back at your goals and what you’re hoping to achieve and then identify a way that you can continually immerse yourself in this topic and familiarize yourself with it in a long-term way that is sustainable for you. Remember to check back in and see how you’re performing and keep yourself on track.
Best of luck with your learning journey. Whether you are topping up knowledge or learning something new, I hope this has been helpful. Bye for now.