How to learn SEO: A guide for all backgrounds

How to learn SEO: A guide for all backgrounds
How to learn SEO: A guide for all backgrounds

How to learn SEO: A guide for all backgrounds

How to learn SEO: A guide for all backgrounds

Do you want to learn SEO? Good for you! There are loads of resources to choose from, so we’ve put together this guide to help you navigate all the options. Find out about the different aspects of SEO, which parts you’re likely to need, and how to get started. In addition, check out our top tips for learning SEO effectively!

Anyone can learn the SEO basics!

Learning the basic elements of SEO (search engine optimization) is something anyone can do – whether you’re a small business owner, part of a digital marketing team, an aspiring SEO specialist or just plain old curious. All kinds of people can benefit from knowing how search engines work and how to optimize content to reach the right audiences!

When you’re starting with SEO, and you set out to search for knowledge, you may get overwhelmed. Of course, as a beginner, it is difficult to make sense of it on your own. To spare yourself the hardship, you could follow an online course. An online SEO course is a good beginner’s resource because: 

  • Firstly, an online course typically contains bite-sized lessons that move from basic to more complex. That ensures you understand each concept before you move on to the next one. 
  • Ideally, a course is created by instructors whose goal is to make sure the material sticks in your memory. 
  • Following and completing a course is not only educational, but it can also bring satisfaction and increase motivation.

You can start learning SEO for free with our SEO for beginners training or read our SEO tutorial for beginners. After that there’s still loads more to learn, if you want to!

Pro tip: Get the Yoast SEO Premium plugin for WordPress to make loads of SEO tasks easier — PLUS enjoy complimentary access to all our SEO courses too!

What to learn next

There’s a lot more going on beyond the SEO basics! What you need to know more about depends on why you’re learning SEO in the first place. For some people, just knowing the foundations will be enough. But if you need to do SEO for your work, or if you want a career doing it, then you may need to learn about SEO in more depth. However, which topics you need to know about depends on what you plan to do:

Content SEO

If you’re copywriting for SEO or managing content for a website, there’s a lot more you can learn about topics like keywords, audience research, readability, search appearance, site structure, internal links and duplicate content. These topics will help you to make great content that supports the goals you’re aiming for. Besides these SEO topics, you’ll probably need to know how to work with content in a CMS (content management system) such as WordPress. At the very least, it will certainly help if you know how to draft and publish blog posts and pages.

SEO academy courses Reading material
SEO copywriting
Keyword research
Site structure
The ultimate guide to Content SEO
Site structure: the ultimate guide
SEO copywriting: the ultimate guide
Blogging: the ultimate guide

Technical SEO

If you want to work in web development or technical SEO, that requires more technical skills. These kind of SEO experts usually already know how to build websites using languages like HTML or JavaScript, or are advanced CMS users. On top of those foundations, you’ll need to learn about topics like HTTP status codes and HTTPS, crawlability and indexing, structured data, XML sitemaps, and redirects, to name a few specifics. In general, you should develop a good understanding of how to configure a website in a way that makes it fast to load and easy for Google to ‘read’.

SEO academy courses Reading material
Technical SEO
Structured data for beginners
Understanding structured data
Ecommerce SEO
The ultimate guide to robots.txt
The ultimate guide to the meta robots tag
Structured data: the ultimate guide
Mobile SEO: the ultimate guide
Ecommerce usability: the ultimate guide
Image SEO: optimizing images for search engines

All-around (holistic) SEO

Some people need to have all-around SEO skills, covering both content and technical aspects. However, the amount you need to know about these topics can vary a lot.

For instance, you would probably expect an SEO consultant to have good knowledge of all the factors influencing SEO. If you want to become a real SEO expert, eventually you’ll want to know about everything mentioned here (and more).

On the other hand, a small business owner or SEO freelancer might need to create or maintain a website on their own, so by default all of the SEO considerations fall to them — however, they don’t need to know every aspect inside-out. The suggested learning materials below can help you cover all your bases without needing to become an expert.

SEO academy courses Reading material
All-around SEO
Local SEO
Structured data for beginners
What makes a good website?
What’s technical SEO? 8 aspects you should know
How to start a blog
Small business SEO and local search
Everyday website optimization: 6 daily SEO tasks

How will you learn SEO? Choosing a learning format

There are loads of different ways to learn SEO! It’s really up to you to choose which route you take, and you’re not limited to choosing one way. The best way to learn SEO will probably include a combination of learning methods, both theoretical and practical. And even if you complete a course now, you’ll need to keep refreshing your knowledge to keep up with all the latest changes, because SEO changes over time.

SEO courses and SEO certification

While lots of SEO courses cost money to join, there are plenty of free SEO courses available too (especially if you only need basic knowledge). Some SEO courses might have a tutor or coach to deliver information or give feedback, but there are lots of online courses you can use to learn SEO on your own too. In Yoast SEO academy you can find free courses about SEO and WordPress, and we have even more courses available for our Premium users too!

Pro tip: Want to learn all about SEO? Enjoy access to our full range of certified SEO courses with Yoast SEO Premium. You’ll also get loads of awesome tools and features to help put what you learn into practice!

When it comes to SEO certification, this can be nice to have, but it’s not always essential! There isn’t a standard system of SEO certification in place (yet), so it can be hard for employers to judge exactly what each certificate means, especially if it’s from a company they’ve never heard of. However, when your SEO certification is from a company with a good reputation like Google or Yoast, it can still be great way to show off your knowledge. Make sure to choose a quality SEO course people will recognize and value.

Read more: 4 ways you could benefit from a Yoast SEO training certification »

Learn SEO on your own with self-study

If you prefer, you can learn about SEO on your own by reading books and online articles, or listening to podcasts and watching videos. There are loads of free resources out there to cover all kinds of SEO topics and needs! However, as with anything online, be careful about which sources you get your information from, as not all sources are accurate and reliable. And regardless of how reliable your source is, pay attention to when your chosen resources are published, too! A few years is a long time in the SEO world, so it’s important to make sure your information isn’t old and outdated.

Keep reading: Find loads of articles about SEO topics in the Yoast blog »

Learn SEO by doing it

Theoretical knowledge is a great foundation, but it’s no substitute for real experience doing SEO! If SEO is part of your work, then you already have opportunities to put what you learn into practice. If you don’t have a website to practice on, then you should seriously consider making one. Actually doing SEO can help to understand what you’ve read about and remember it better. Plus once you start building your site and writing content, you might find new questions arising that you hadn’t thought about before! Really doing SEO for yourself is a great way to learn, and keep learning.

Read on: How to make a WordPress website »

Tips for learning SEO

Whether you are using an online course, a book, or online posts, there are some strategies you can use to direct your learning.

1. Set goals

A successful learning journey begins with goals. Goals, especially challenging ones, are most likely to motivate you to persevere and reach the finish line. When setting goals, you should ask yourself a crucial question: What do I want to accomplish, and what goal will help me get there?

Knowing precisely what, when, and why you want to accomplish something can keep you motivated. And, specific goals are easier to evaluate compared to more general ones. 

Now, you try it, use this formula: I will [insert how and what you will do] in/by [insert time], because [insert reason].

2. Make a plan 

Goals are even more powerful when you make a plan on how to accomplish them. A helpful planning strategy is implementation intentions, which uses a simple If…then formula. Its purpose is to get you to think about the best time and the conditions that allow you to learn. In that way, you can set a realistic and concrete plan that should be easy to follow. 

What is your situation? Can you evaluate your schedule and decide when the best time for you to learn is? 

3. Don’t binge-learn

Most of us binge series. Streaming services have enabled us to. It can be tempting to also binge (or cram) learning. Get as much information as possible, as fast as possible. It’s fast, so it must work, right? Well, no. In short, learning needs to be slow and spaced. By spacing learning, you allow the material to get etched in your long-term memory. Later, when you encounter a problem or a new situation, you can summon the knowledge from your memory to come up with solutions. 

4. Actively ask yourself questions 

Self-explanation means pausing while learning and thinking about the topic. You can do that by simply asking yourself questions such as  “Why does this work this way?”. Then, instead of looking up the answer, try to answer it to yourself from memory. It may sound crazy, but it works!

5. Use what you learn

Speaking of application, you probably know that no matter how much theory you learn, it will not mean a lot unless you start using it. So, as soon as you feel you’ve understood a concept, put it to the test. With SEO, there are many opportunities to get working straight away.

6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Feedback is a good way to learn. So ask for it! You can easily send your site to a friend or a colleague and ask them to give you their impression. Let them go through it and be the judges of your texts or your site structure. In addition, if you dare, you could even post the site on forums or social media to ask feedback from a more general audience.

7. Evaluate

When you feel that you have completed all your goals, it will be good to evaluate what went well and what could have gone better. Did you stick to your goals? Was your planning too ambitious? Could you apply what you learned? Did you need help, and did you ask for it? Learning about your learning in this way can help you improve and be even more effective next time! 

Can you do SEO without learning SEO?

The answer to this question is “yes and no”. If you use one of our Yoast SEO plugins, you’ll get access to loads of handy optimization features. Moreover, after some basic configuration the plugin will automically take care of lots of important behind-the-scenes technical SEO stuff too. So using the plugins means you can avoid learning a lot of aspects for yourself, especially when it comes to the technical parts. However, the plugins can’t do everything, so you really need to learn about SEO to get the best results!

Get access to all Yoast SEO academy courses

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Keep on reading: How to start with SEO »

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Maggi Pier

Maggi Pier

Avid gardener, artist, writer, web designer, video creator, and Google my Business local marketing pro!