Elite digital marketing
Author: Oliver Sissons published:
Nov 18th 2020
last updated:
Nov 20th 2020
Real SEO nerd - can be found checking rankings and talking about SEO at parties
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How to Teach Yourself SEO (the Student's Guide)

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If you are in school, college or university and interested in teaching yourself SEO, there really is no better time. You likely have the most time that you will ever have to dedicate to an online project and develop your skills. Also, any work you carry out and skills that you pick up can go straight on your CV to help with your future job hunt(s).

So, below you will find some steps to take which will help you start teaching yourself SEO.

Start an SEO Project

Depending on how you found this post, you might already have your SEO project up and running and are now looking to get it ranking in the search results. If this is the case, you can skip to the next section.

If you haven’t already got something that you are actively working on, then setting up a basic blog or website should be one of the first things that you do. If you are stuck for ideas on what this might be, why not create something related to your course/area of study? This is likely something that you are already interested in and knowledgeable about.

There is no better way to put into practise what you are learning and measure your SEO success than with your own website or blog. If all goes well and you find yourself looking for a job in the industry (or a related one), you will also have some measurable results to add as an example of your skills.

You will find loads of great guides online on how to create your first blog or website and, for the purposes of learning the basics of SEO, I suggest using WordPress.

Explore The Top SEO Blogs & Resources

Next, you should start reading some of the top SEO blogs and resources (and make a regular habit of doing so). Google and their algorithms change periodically so regularly visiting these online publications can help you stay on top of industry news, trends and changes.

Some of the above are more technical than others so read what you’re comfortable with. Despite common misconceptions, you don’t need to be a computer programmer to understand and work in the SEO industry.

Avoid Misinformation

Avoiding misinformation is something that we see mentioned less often which is a huge part of learning SEO.

By sticking to tried and tested strategies, following advice from respected and trusted experts in the industry and checking that any claims are backed up by actual experience, results and testing, you should be able to avoid the bulk of SEO misinformation out there.

In general, you should be more sceptical when the information and claims being presented are provided by someone trying to sell you on their particular SEO course or package.

Another good question to ask yourself about a potential strategy and/or technique is “would I be happy explaining what I am doing to a member of Google’s search quality team?”. If the answer is no, you will want to proceed with caution and explore why you wouldn’t want to do so and if this is really the best strategy for your website/blog.

Test SEO Tools

Once you start learning about SEO, you’ll soon start getting to grips with the jargon and acronyms used throughout the industry (check out our SEO dictionary now for definitions of some of the most common terms). A great way to speed this process up whilst developing your skills is to start playing around with some of the free SEO tools available.

Many of the popular SEO tools offer free trial periods and even limited free use. The data and information that they offer can help you develop your website and its content whilst helping you better understand many of the core SEO principles like keyword research and competitor analysis.

SEO Tools To Try

If only using the free trial, remember to cancel your subscription before you are charged.

As your SEO skills develop, you might consider paying for some or all of these tools because of the useful data and insights that they provide.

In any case, having a play with some of them will help you get more comfortable working with data related to your website's and your competitors SEO performance.

Analyse the Search Results

Day-to-day, when you are searching for things in your everyday life, try to start analysing the search results.

When searching on Google, ask yourself questions like:

  • Why might this page/website rank higher than the other results below it? For example, check if the content is more detailed and comprehensive, or if the website is easier to use, or if the author and/or publisher is more credible and well-known than the other options.
  • What might users like about this website? Maybe it is better designed than other options, really fast, or providing content and insights unique to their brand.
  • What might Google like about this website? For example, it might be immediately clear what the page is about, or they might like the fact that there are no errors or warnings on the site.
  • How can I tell that this website is a trustworthy, reliable source of information? Perhaps they have thousands of independent reviews, or maybe they have won plenty of awards.
  • Did this webpage fully cover what I was searching for? Perhaps not because you needed to click back to the search results and try one of the other results to get an accurate answer/meet your needs, or perhaps yes because it fully answered and/or covered what you had searched for.

The more you make this a habit, the quicker you will pick up and understand why some websites rank higher than others.

Run Your Own SEO Experiments

Testing what you are learning is one of the fastest ways to develop your SEO and online marketing knowledge. This is one of the reasons why starting your own SEO project was the first step in this guide.

Not only will running your own SEO experiments help you and your website or blog, but it will be appreciated by the wider internet marketing community if you choose to share your results.

At first, your tests can be as simple as trying out a new content writing approach. Over time, even quick and small tests can build your confidence and develop your knowledge.

You can see some of our own SEO experiments here.

Follow People on Twitter

The SEO community is perhaps most active on Twitter. It is a good idea to follow some people from the industry there to get up-to-date reports on any changes, Google updates, news or new ideas.

There is loads of great SEO related content published on Twitter everyday. You will also have the opportunity to ask any questions you have there and (hopefully) get a useful, usable answer.

Read Agency Case Studies

Want to know what some of the sharpest, most switched-on people in the industry are doing to rank websites that they’re working on? Read agency case studies!

Any good agency will be proud of the work that they do and be shouting about how they’ve helped clients improve their SEO performance. Often, they will write about exactly how they did it.

Whilst you might be able to replicate their strategy exactly (time and resources won’t always be on your side), you can learn a lot by finding out why they followed a certain strategy and those lessons could be applied to your own website or blog.

You can find our case studies here.

Find a Mentor and/or Work in the Industry

I know that this post is about how to teach yourself SEO but it wouldn’t be complete without advising you to find a mentor or try working in the industry. These really are one of the quickest ways to learn.

By working with, alongside or for someone with years of experience ranking websites, you can pick up the skills that you need much quicker.

More importantly, you will come to know how they think about the strategies and techniques that they implement.

Also, you can learn from the mistakes that they would have already made previously in following the wrong strategy and/or being a bit too aggressive with a new technique.

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