Your first question is surely “why do I need to bother teaching myself SEO if I don’t plan on being in charge of the company’s SEO efforts.” It’s a fair question because learning anything about SEO takes time and patience. There is a reason SEO is a full time job and something that requires a lot of training. However, learning even the basics of SEO is important for everyone in the company for a few different reasons:
- The basics of how SEO works really doesn’t take too much time if you’re committed to learning.
- SEO affects many different departments including sales, IT, and PR. I recommend checking out this article to learn more about how SEO is connected to these different parts of a business.
- If you’re going to hire an SEO agency or expert, it helps to know what to ask and what kinds of answers a real professional would give.
- Insights from SEO help you gauge what your online visitors want to see.
There are expensive and more formal ways to learn about SEO, such as talking with your current agency or participating in an online training course, but this can be tough for new businesses. If you’re really at the first stages of your business and your SEO understanding, the best way to learn SEO (in some cases your only option) is to teach it to yourself.
How to Teach Yourself SEO When You’re Just Getting Started
Below are different ways that I’ve taught myself SEO in the past along with resources to help you get going in order of how you’ll get the most benefit:
- Reading is essential. As always, reading should be your first move. Get comfortable with some of the things going on in the SEO industry by reading blogs and then by searching for “basic SEO guides.” As a warning, there is a lot of information out there about SEO. Don’t feel like you need to read everything, just find some trusted, basic guides.
- Practice with SEO tools. A huge part of SEO is using different tools to gather and analyze data, do keyword research, etc. If you don’t already have your free Google Webmaster Tools account setup, make this your first step. Many of the tools you can use are free, so I recommend downloading a few and checking out all of the different tabs and options. You might not know how to use everything at first, but getting your hands dirty is a good start and a good way to get ideas on what to try and read.
- Participate in online communities. There are tons of different SEO groups and forums out there that you can participate in once you get comfortable (including groups for people who are new). Take a look at what is being talked about and see if you can give any insight. These are definitely great places to learn new things and, even more so, ask your questions.
- Connect with SEO pros on social media. It can be difficult to connect with SEO professionals on social media if you don’t know them, but this shouldn’t scare you off. First, try to meet people in forums and online groups, and then send connection requests with a message about an article you read that they wrote or a group where you learned something from his/her post. This might help lead you into having a mentor, which is a great way to get your questions answered directly once you know a little bit more about the subject.
- Try writing about SEO. I personally find that writing about SEO is one of the best ways to really learn about a particular topic. It involves research and fact checking, which is just what a beginner needs, and trying to explain your ideas requires you complete your understanding of the subject. Publish the blog post on your website to show that you know your stuff and get feedback.
Tip: Topic ideas can be developed from current conversations you’re finding taking place in the SEO space, or by trying to fill the voids you noticed while gaining your SEO education.
As discussed above, teaching yourself SEO is going to be a long task, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t need to hire an expert. Hiring an SEO agency or someone to focus solely on SEO is important because of all the different responsibilities that fall under the SEO umbrella—content creation, social media marketing, keyword research, technical on-site optimization, guest publishing and blogging, etc. A basic understanding of SEO isn’t going to make you someone who can expertly develop and execute an SEO strategy, but your knowledge will facilitate a better partnership with whoever does your SEO and online marketing.
Have you taught yourself SEO in the past? What tactics worked for you? Are there any resources we missed? Let us know your story and your thoughts in the comments below.
Amanda DiSilvestro gives small business and entrepreneurs SEO advice ranging from keyword density to recovering from Panda and Penguin updates. She writes for HigherVisibility.com, one of the leading SEO firms in the United States.