There’s no shortage of websites, tutorials, and videos on the internet that show you how to do a variety of things. Just two decades ago, you would have had to go to the public library and read up on the topics yourself. There wasn’t as much of a community either where you could instantly get insights from experts who know their stuff when it comes to SEO, digital marketing, and content marketing. All of this sounds great, but is it worth it in 2018 to attempt to learn SEO on your own?

The answer to the question would depend on how much time you have available to devote to not only learning the basics but actively applying the knowledge you gain to real projects. Anyone can go on Moz and read some of their tutorials or read up on Neil Patel’s latest posts about content marketing.

However, a lot of the information you’re going to see on these sites is geared towards a general audience, or merely the basics are covered. SEO changes each year, so what you learned on these sites a year or two ago may not apply to what’s going on in the industry now.

If you still want to go ahead and get familiar with SEO, here’s how you would do it, and what the challenges of going solo would be.

Why is SEO So Tricky to Learn?

The reason that SEO has a steep learning curve for the uninitiated is that new changes are coming out all the time. Google updates its search algorithm hundreds of times in a year, and even the biggest SEO experts aren’t always sure about what truly works. Worse, many people claim to be SEO experts when they’re using a lot of black-hat tactics to game the system, so they aren’t the most trustworthy sources to turn to.

Becoming good at SEO takes time and practice. You need to expose yourself to clients with a myriad of needs. SEO for a construction company is going to be vastly different from working on a dentist website or a lawyer website.

However, this isn’t such a bad thing because you could also specialize in SEO for one of these industries. Become an expert at helping these industry sites rank well in local search results, and being successful in the field. What you should keep in mind too is that SEO is a multi-disciplinary field.

You have to be good at content writing and marketing, but also know how to perform competitor and keyword analysis. There’s a ton of strategy and planning involved in SEO and learning about how audiences tick. Then, there’s learning how to interpret data in Google Analytics and keep track of what’s happening in Google Search Console.

On top of all this, basic web development knowledge, mainly in HTML, will make a huge difference. Now, do you see why SEO isn’t something you can learn in one day? It’s like trying to learn how a car engine works all at once. There are so many components that you have to study piece by piece before you can develop a higher level of understanding of what’s going on.

When our team was learning about Moodle, a PHP-based CMS learning system, it was impossible to learn everything at once. We spent much time reading the documentation and experimenting with all the tools before we felt comfortable working with the platform. That’s the same approach you should take if you’re going to learn SEO on your own.

SEO in 2018: The Basics and What It Takes to Rank Well on Search Engines

SEO comes with several components, all varying in difficulty as far as how quickly you could learn them. We’ll start with the easiest ones and progress to the more complex SEO topics.

Keyword Research

Before starting any new SEO campaign, great care must be placed on keyword research. Usually what you’re doing is using a tool like SEMRush or Google Keyword Planner and finding relevant keywords about your industry, products, and services. You’re finding keywords that receive a considerable amount of search volume, while still being easy to rank for. In keyword research, you want to find the most profitable keywords with the lowest competition. Long-tail keywords are well suited for creating blog content, while you can focus the rest of your website on higher traffic keywords. Understanding search engine user intent is also a must.

This will take some additional market research and going on competitor sites to see what’s working for them. Mostly, you’re gathering information and executing on a long-term strategy where you’ll make changes and adjustments. Nothing too complicated here so far.

On-Page Search Engine Optimization

Most of on-page SEO isn’t too difficult to grasp, especially if you’re creating a new website in WordPress. WordPress has a lot of useful plugins and tools that expedite the SEO process, namely with Yoast SEO. With good content, most of on-page SEO will involve creating meta descriptions, title tags, and forming a sensible heading structure for each landing page on the site using mostly H1, H2, and H3 tags to organize the topic, much as what you’d see on a Wikipedia article.

When creating content, you should focus most on readability to keep people continually engaged as they read what you to say. Use active voice as much as you can and try to keep your posts and language simple enough for most people to get.

The most tricky part about on-page SEO lies more on the technical side where page load speed and minifying JavaScript, HTML, and CSS files becomes super important.

Here, most beginners would have an incredibly difficult time because these parts require some prior understanding of web development, web design, and programming. Hence why SEO is often a team effort at many SEO agencies and companies. In those settings, you have content marketers, SEO professionals, web designers, and web developers working together on client websites.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is also a major factor in successful SEO campaigns. Where a lot of people get content wrong is they believe that it’s a one-time deal. Getting a new website built and with strong content from the beginning will help, but it’s all about what you do after to build your brand authority.

A big focus will be on blogging and social media, and both of those take a lot of consistency to become an expert. Being able to create one blog and one social media post one time is not going to cut it. You must learn about the basics of copywriting and how to make your content profitable.

There’s tons of content produced every day, but not as much of it that actually sells or that people will actually read. Learning how to combine content marketing with best search engine optimization practices will set you apart from the average content writer.

Off-Page SEO and Link Building

After you have all these elements on your website, off-page SEO becomes the focus. Off-page SEO isn’t as simple as reaching out to someone and asking them to feature your website. In 2018, it involves many different pieces. How strong is your Google My Business presence? Do you have testimonials on Facebook, Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc.? Have you submitted your website to local directories and citation websites?

When you look at off-page SEO, you realize that there’s a steeper learning curve. Link building is touted as a way you can get more authoritative backlinks, but there’s a price to be paid there, especially if you do it the wrong way.

We recommend focusing on promoting your content on social media, where you’ll likely have people share what you write and post it onto their websites. Offer as much value as you can by commenting on blogs and giving your expertise. Many blog owners won’t allow blatant advertising or self-promotion, so that’s why the off-page SEO process can also take a while.

There are no easy shortcuts with off-page SEO, only time, consistency, quality, and patience.

Interpreting SEO Data and Trends

Finally, you can start monitoring what’s happening with your SEO campaigns through Google Analytics and Google Search Console. This part will separate the amateurs from the professionals because you have to set well-defined goals from the start. SEO is not a race; it’s a marathon where you have to prepare in advance.

You also have to know about several important SEO KPIs to see whether your SEO campaign is working or not. These include:
• Click-through-rates
• Average position
• Search queries
• Exit rates
• Website speed
• Traffic percentage

Ask yourself how much time you have to learn about these KPIs in depth and familiarize yourself with Google Analytics. There are even certifications you should study for, like the Google Analytics Individual IQ Certification.

Can I Learn SEO From Books? Other Resources You Should Try Instead

Because SEO is continually changing and evolving, the information you’ll likely get from reading books will be outdated quite soon. That’s why we’ve compiled a short list of helpful websites and resources where you can get to speed on the latest SEO trends if you choose:

Search Engine Land
Search Engine Journal
Yoast SEO Blog
HubSpot
Official Google Webmaster Blog

These resources will help you stay updated on what’s happening in the industry, so you aren’t wasting time going through information no longer applicable in 2018, 2019, or beyond.

Summary

SEO is far from dead with more businesses devoting their resources towards it. It’s understandable why you’d want to learn SEO yourself, but it’s not always the easiest road to travel. It takes a combination of creativity and technical know-how and problem-solving to become successful at SEO, and who knows how SEO will be ten years down the line with all the new changes coming out.

Again, how much time are you willing to allocate towards learning SEO, especially with other commitments you might have? It’s also easy to make a ton of mistakes when you’re starting out with SEO or any new field. Is it worth the risk of accidentally destroying your SEO over a mistake like altering permalink structures or falling prey to a negative SEO campaign?

For these reasons, you might want to consult with an SEO agency first. Call our SEO experts at Viridian Geeks at 470-440-3434 or email [email protected] for more information. We offer a free SEO audit to help you get started!

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