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Not everybody is born an SEO prodigy. Most SEOs as kids did not envision search engine optimization as their future career (we obviously need to do a better job at glamorizing the profession). Because there are so many ways to fall into SEO, there are an equal number of ways to learn SEO and each is convinced that his way is the best way.

When asked, what do you tell people is the best way to learn SEO from scratch?

  1. Just DO it!
  2. Start a site and figure out what works
  3. Read SEO blogs
  4. Read an SEO book
  5. Watch SEO tutorials on YouTube
  6. Follow SEO experts on Twitter
  7. Go to SEO conferences
  8. Take online SEO courses
  9. Get active in SEO forums
  10. Find someone willing to teach you
  11. Some combination of the above

As an agency SEO, I have heard each of the following recommended to new employees. I’ll also add that telling someone to “just do SEO” is really disingenuous advice.


How I Learned SEO

I was lucky enough to be brought into an agency setting with next to no SEO background. There was no formalized training. I was instructed on specific SEO tasks and given more of the same to do. I was told to read SEO blogs and borrow a copy of SEOBook. I was told to start conversing on Digital Point forums.

What I actually did was quite different.

I went online and bought Search Engine Optimization For Dummies and read it cover-to-cover. My wife created quizzes for me from the chapters as I went so I would remember everything. In month 2, I went through Conversion University and passed the Google Analytics IQ test. In month 3, I bought my first domain and spent more time swapping out WordPress templates than writing actual content. Not ideal, but many of you can relate.

Now, whenever someone asks me how to learn SEO, I always recommend they read a book. Some SEOs I know will thrash me for this, but SEO has a lot of pieces and without having a foundational knowledge, none of the pieces will have any context. While I learned on SEO For Dummies, I now recommend Kris Jones’ book for its detail and breadth.


What’s Missing?

To me, the ideal way to learn SEO is 3-fold:

  1. Gain a foundational knowledge of SEO
  2. Apply the principles to a website with monetary goals
  3. Stay current by testing and reading industry literature

One of the biggest barriers to entry right now in SEO is the technical challenge of building a site worth optimizing. Many SEOs cut their teeth on a WordPress site or blog, but there’s nothing to optimize, so it’s really not the ideal workshop for learning and testing SEO. The big gap right now is that the skill disparity between building a good-looking, functional site (especially an ecommerce site) and doing SEO on that site is HUGE.

What the industry is missing is a turnkey ecommerce platform with the simplicity of many third party blogging platforms that comes pre-populated with good looking category and product pages and the ability to customize all of the SEO-critical information. Most of the “internet-business-in-a-box” solutions right now are either scams or too inflexible to be valuable.

eRetailers like Amazon.com have put a lot of resources into helping their affiliates sell products and have provided all of the functionality to embed products and code onto existing sites. Why not go a step further and create the actual platforms that would enable affiliates to sell products right out of the gate? Amazon could even partner with WordPress to create a basic hybrid system that would smooth entry into the ecommerce world and make them that much more money.

I know it’s wrong to hope for more competition, but I feel like having an ecommerce site that can go up as quickly as a blog (and look as normal) would be awesome for the industry.

  • Good SEOs would get even better.
  • New SEOs would get up-to-speed more quickly.
  • Search results would become more relevant (assuming an increase in unique content).

What do you think? How did you learn SEO and was it the right kind of training or do you wish it had been different?