SEO is tough to learn. It’s a hugely diverse and sturdy topic with a lot of blog posts, books and other resources, but how can you determine which ones are going to provide the most value?
The purpose of this post is to outline some of the key resources that can help you in your quest to master SEO. I will outline the pros and cons of each and what they are particularly useful for. I also welcome comments, feedback or any other recommendations of resources you feel should be included in this post.
Learning in the Workplace
In January I started work at a company in Birmingham, UK called Bowler Hat, where I am training to be an SEO consultant and working on real client projects. This is an excellent opportunity to put all the theoretical elements that I have learnt so far into practice.
If like me, you are serious about having a career in SEO, you need to identify solid learning resources that will give you a head start. You also need to be very committed and enjoy the learning aspect of the industry- because it continues to rapidly change. Since I’ve been working in SEO, I’ve learnt that it’s a constant moving target where strategies and practices can quickly become outdated.
My Top 5 Resources for Learning SEO
There is a lot of content about SEO out there, no doubt about it, so it’s hard to even know where to start. Here are my top 5 essential resources that have greatly developed my understanding:
The Beginner’s Guide to SEO was recommended to me when I first became interested in the whole concept of entering a career in the industry. It has ten chapters that really get down to a granular level and cover a variety of things from what a search engine is and how it works, to why search marketing is important and keyword research. The list goes on and on.
My favourite chapter is chapter nine, which highlights the myths and common misconceptions about search engines. Here, issues such as manipulative linking, spam, cloaking, low-value pages and trustworthiness are explained thoroughly. Of course, being an SEO, it’s crucial to differentiate between SEO strategies that have been done well and those that have broken the guidelines and caused a penalty.
Pros: Moz is good at giving you the back-to-back basics, so it’s a great starting point to get an in-depth overview of SEO.
Cons: The information it provides is not terribly actionable beyond providing an overview. It’s a good guide to learning the basics, but apart from this, that’s all it really provides.
I like Search Engine Land because it’s very news-based, so it’s regularly updated with all the things that are going on in the world of search. Some of the digital marketing industry’s top thought leaders post on the site, making it a very trustworthy and valuable platform for expanding your knowledge.
Pros: Search Engine Land provides an up-to-date overview of what is happening in the fast-paced SEO environment, which is important because the latest changes and developments can affect the way you work.
Cons: It’s a news-based resource which means that depending on which part of SEO you specialise in, you might not necessarily be able to utilise the topics they talk about when you’re working on client projects. For example, it lacks quite a lot of technical SEO content, so if this is your speciality it may not be that valuable to you.
Before reading this I wasn’t all that familiar with local SEO. I may have read a few articles here and there, but I hadn’t gone into a great deal of depth with it. It was actually recommended that I read Phil Rozek’s guide as part of an assignment before starting work at Bowler Hat.
From early on in the guide, it is clear that this guy knows his stuff about local search. He has a brutally honest attitude which, in my personal opinion, gives you a better understanding. It’s so easy for people to say to small businesses, ‘yeah, local SEO is simple, we can get you ranking in weeks’, but it’s much better to be completely honest and educate your clients, rather than give them false expectations.
Local SEO (along with all aspects of SEO) is an area that requires solid learning as you won’t just learn it overnight. A guide like this is very useful for explaining what local SEO is in an understandable and simple language, but at the same time addresses the complexity of it.
Pros: It provides a structured guide on how to rank businesses in local search. The strategies for this are thoroughly explained in a lot of detail, as are the factors which can affect it.
Cons: The content Phil provides is specific to local businesses that have a physical location and address, so it would not be useful to companies whose business is solely online.
I’m currently using a textbook called Learning Google Adwords and Analytics. I’m continuing to read through this and it’s helping me to understand the Google Adwords platform and all the elements that are part of the advertising model.
I like how Benjamin brings together Adwords and Analytics in one book. This makes it a lot easier to understand as you can see how they correlate, and how Analytics measures Adwords data. It gives you back-to-back information from the planning stages of an Adwords campaign right up to its analysis.
Pros: In contrast to being a digital resource, it’s a very well-written textbook that covers Google Adwords and Google Analytics. I’d recommend this if you haven’t used Adwords before, as it covers everything you need to know about the topic.
Cons: The downside to this is that it may end up going out of date quickly because Adwords and Analytics are always evolving.
I have recently started the DistilledU course, which I am finding very handy to learn from. It’s relatively interactive, and if you have a visual style of learning you can watch videos and then answer questions about the topics you’ve been learning about. I find that they cover a lot of technical SEO basics which is great, as this can be fairly tricky to get your head around when you’re new to SEO. You can do three modules as a demo, or pay for the full account which is $40.00 with a monthly plan or $33.00 with an annual plan.
Pros: Digestible breakdowns of content that don’t overwhelm the reader. There is no time limit as to when you need to pass the course by, so you can do it whenever you like.
Cons: This is a paid resource, so unless you pay you can only access a trial which may not be as valuable because the content is limited.
As I mentioned earlier on in the post, SEO is hard to learn as it is a moving target, so it is important that you find resources that give you an in-depth and honest understanding. Another thing I have learnt since being in my job is to reach out to the professionals in the industry, share content and don’t be afraid to comment on things or get involved in discussions. I’d love to know what resources help you, so feel free to leave a comment or Tweet me @katie_grimason.