SEO Process

How to Learn SEO Basics and Build a Career (Without Overwhelm)

Nick Eubanks
Last Updated: Mar. 21, 2024
How to Learn SEO

“How do I start learning SEO?” is one of the most common questions I hear from beginners who want to quickly build their SEO skills.

And I get it. There’s so much to learn about SEO that many beginners don’t know where to start! 

Like any profession or skill, it’s important to conquer the fundamentals and then move on to more advanced topics.

As you dive into SEO, you’ll come across various strategies, including on-page optimization, off-page tactics, keyword optimization, and technical SEO. 

But remember, expanding your SEO knowledge is a marathon, not a sprint — it takes time. However, if you keep at it, you’ll gain hands-on experience that will position you for a successful career in SEO.

In this article, I’ll share how to learn SEO without getting overwhelmed and what you can start doing right now to eventually become an SEO expert

3 Best Ways to Learn SEO

There are many ways to learn SEO. 

Some people master the fundamentals with free resources, like YouTube or blogs. Others, however, prefer learning from experts in SEO courses to save time and speed up the learning process. 

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what methods work best for you.

Since SEO is a dynamic field, you’ll have to constantly learn and practice new strategies to stay on track. Keep these three effective methods in mind as you start your journey.

1. Learn by Doing

The most effective way to learn SEO is to put your knowledge into practice. 

You can read various SEO books, but they’re not going to be able to replace priceless hands-on experience. 

Launch a blog if you want to learn all the ins and outs of website growth. Today, it’s easier than ever with platforms such as WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace.

Try to rank your website for multiple keywords to better understand keyword research, on-page, and off-page SEO strategies, and Google’s content quality standards.

Launching a blog is also an excellent way to nail essential SEO copywriting skills. No matter what SEO field you choose, knowing SEO copywriting is vital for sales and marketing. 

All the benefits of running a personal website don’t end here. A well-performing website can also help you land an SEO job since you’ll be ahead of most candidates. Furthermore, your website can become your side hustle with considerable monetization potential. Who knows, it might even replace your full-time job one day. 

2. Read SEO Blogs

If you are into reading, I recommend learning SEO through various search engine optimization tutorials and blogs. The web is full of SEO resources, so you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for.

SEO blogs provide a wealth of information, from beginner-friendly tutorials to advanced SEO best practices. By regularly reading reputable SEO blogs, you can gain a solid understanding of the fundamental concepts of SEO, including search intent, backlink analysis, and technical SEO, to name a few. 

Moreover, SEO blogs provide insights into the latest trends and algorithm updates, keeping you ahead of the competition. As SEO algorithms evolve, blogs often feature articles that analyze these changes and offer strategies to adapt your SEO approach accordingly.

I’ve recommended a few SEO blogs to bookmark later in this article. However, I want to highlight a few resources worth checking out. 

Our Traffic Think Tank blog is run by SEO experts with years of hands-on experience in various niches, so check out the TTT blog if you want to level up your SEO knowledge.

3. Take SEO Courses 

There are many insightful SEO courses available for free. 

For example, Semrush Academy offers over 30 free SEO and content marketing courses from SEO superstars like Brian Dean and Nathan Gotch. Moreover, Semrush’s courses are certified, which is an excellent addition to your CV. 

If you’re looking for a practical SEO course to jumpstart your career, I recommend TTT Academy’s course on How to build a successful career in SEO, taught by Kevin Indig. 

Kevin manages SEO departments for companies like Shopify, G2, and Atlassian. In the course, he’ll help you create and execute an achievable SEO career plan, build a professional network, and find a mentor. 

How to Get Started with SEO

Getting started with SEO is easy if you know what you want to achieve and have a step-by-step roadmap. 

If you’re new to SEO, I recommend reviewing the below-mentioned SEO fields. You must have hands-on experience in every SEO field before becoming a T-shaped SEO expert. 

SEO Fundamentals

If you’re wondering how to get started, learn basic SEO concepts first. It will help you understand how search engines work and how to get your content on Google. 

As an SEO specialist, you must ensure a Google bot can crawl and index your website without any 4xx errors. If your content isn’t indexed, it won’t rank. That’s why it’s an essential SEO concept to know about. 

How Search Engines Work

You’ll also need to understand how Google algorithms work.

It’s a lot, I know. However, every SEO specialist has to understand these concepts to run SEO audits and make data-driven decisions.

I recommend starting with Google’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Starter Guide. It’s a go-to source for beginners and SEO experts to learn about up-to-date Google strategies. 

Keyword Research 

If you don’t optimize your content for any keywords, it won’t rank. 

Regardless of what people say on the web, Google still pays attention to keywords in the metadata and on the page to better understand your page. 

Here’s what John Mueller, Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst and Search Relations team lead at Google, says:

“So headings on a page help us to better understand the content on the page.

“Headings on the page are not the only ranking factor that we have.

“We look at the content on its own as well.

“But sometimes having a clear heading on a page gives us a little bit more information on what that section is about.”

If your goal is to grow your website’s organic traffic, keyword research should be an essential part of your SEO strategy and the first step of your content creation process. 

If your website is new or has a low domain authority, I recommend targeting long-tail keywords, as they have less competition and a higher conversion rate.

TTT has an excellent course on “How to find untapped keyword opportunities,” where Nik Ranger, a technical SEO expert, teaches you how to conduct keyword research.

On-Page SEO

On-page SEO is about optimizing your web page’s content to improve rankings. 

In a nutshell, on-page SEO is about:

  • Content: Creating content that aligns with user search intent and target keywords.
  • Title tags: Crafting compelling title tags that accurately reflect your content and include relevant keywords.
  • Meta descriptions: Writing concise and informative meta descriptions that accurately summarize your page’s content and encourage users to click.
  • URLs: Creating short and clear URLs with relevant keywords.
  • Headers H1, H2, H3: Using header tags appropriately to organize and highlight critical information on your page.
  • Internal linking: Strategically linking to other relevant pages on your website to improve navigation and page authority.
  • Image optimization: Optimizing image file names, alt tags, and sizes to reduce page loading speed and improve image search rankings.

These elements help Google better understand your content and rank it for your target keywords. 

Off-Page SEO

If on-page SEO is anything you can do on your web page, then off-page SEO includes activities done off your website. Common strategies include link-building and PR activities, to name a few. 

Off-page SEO is important because backlinks are still among the top Google ranking factors. Simply put, the more high-quality backlinks your website has, the more authoritative it is in Google’s eyes.

So, if you focus on off-page SEO, your main tasks will be backlink audit, link building, outreach, and guest posting. 

Based on my experience, off-page SEO is much more challenging to control than on-page SEO. 

That’s because Google is against sponsored backlinks and building high-quality backlinks requires persistence and patience. Some website owners often get impatient and utilize black hat SEO strategies, such as PBN backlink networks. But the recovery period will be long and painful if your website gets a Google penalty.

Even if you build links from reputable websites, it’s not guaranteed that your websites’ domain authority (DA) will grow and rankings will improve.

Nevertheless, every full-stack SEO should know how to build backlinks. TTT Academy has more than 20 lessons on link building with proven-to-work strategies from SEO experts.

On-page vs Off-page SEO

Technical SEO

Technical SEO helps search engine bots discover, crawl, and index your website pages. The primary goal of technical SEO is to ensure the crucial pages on your website are indexed while other pages are excluded from the Google index. 

If you want to start with tech SEO, here are a few common tasks you’ll perform:

  • Page speed optimization 
  • Creating sitemaps
  • Fixing issues associated with Core Web Vitals 
  • Making your website mobile-friendly 
  • Updating broken pages 

Luckily, Semrush and other SEO tools can help you discover many technical issues on your website. However, you’ll still have to understand what causes them, how to prioritize issues with the highest impact, and how to fix them. 

SEO Tools

SEO is easy when you know which tools to use.

I recommend starting with Google Search Console (GSC), Google Analytics (GA), and Google Tag Manager (GTM). These are free tools for website performance tracking and analysis. 

Google Tag Manager is a free tag management system that lets you easily add, edit, and remove tracking tags from your website without touching a line code. You can use GTM to add tracking tags to your website, including GA, Meta Pixel (former Facebook Pixel), Hotjar, or Google AdSense tracking code.

Google Analytics is the most accurate tool for tracking website traffic and user behavior. 

Google Search Console will help you track your website’s performance in organic search results and whether any technical errors occur. 

Google Skillshop offers free beginner courses to learn the latest generation of Google Analytics. 

GAv4

Google’s tools are suitable if you work on your website only. However, if you want to spy on your competitors and analyze their strategies, you must utilize professional SEO tools like Semrush. 

Semrush is an all-in-one, powerful digital marketing toolkit with more than 55 different tools and reports.

With Semrush, you can analyze website domains, check competitors’ top-performing pages, see their top-performing keywords, and explore their traffic acquisition sources. You can learn more about the tool in my Semrush review.

SEMrush domain overview

SEO for Content Management Systems (CMSs)

WordPress is the most popular content management system (CMS), which lets you launch a website and publish content without coding skills. 

Websites powered by CMSs also need to be optimized to rank on Google. However, your SEO approach should be slightly different in this case. Platforms like WordPress have multiple plugins, such as Yoast SEO and All-in-One SEO, specifically designed to help optimize your site.

Since many CMSs are intuitive and don’t require developer help, you can implement various technical SEO improvements to your website. For example, you can implement structured data, create a sitemap, edit a robots.txt file, implement 301 redirects, and reduce image file sizes, to name a few. 

Check this in-depth WordPress SEO guide to learn more about optimization strategies for content management systems.

4 SEO Blogs You Should Bookmark

Like SEO podcasts, blogs are a great way to stay up-to-date with the latest SEO trends. In my experience, it’s one of the best ways to learn SEO. Also, it’s free. 

But if you’ve ever tried to sort through SEO recommendations online, you’ll know how hard it is to find genuinely helpful information.

So, here’s my list of four sites worth checking out, because they’re managed by industry leaders and top SEO experts.

1. Traffic Think Tank

Let me start with our Traffic Think Tank blog. We’ve invited prominent industry experts to share their experiences and exclusive insights about SEO. 

For example, my fellow TTT founders, Matthew Howells-Barby (former Hubspot Vice President of Marketing) and Ian Howells (Head of SEO at The Grit Group) regularly share their insights on this blog. 

If you’re more into video courses, check out our TTT Academy, where 40+ industry experts share everything they’ve learned about SEO over the years. 

2. Search Engine Journal

Search Engine Journal shares news, guides, and expert opinions on SEO-related topics, as well as daily insights about Google, Bing, and other search engines. 

It monitors John Mueller’s interviews and social media activity to regularly update SEOs on various SEO-related issues. Moreover, their expert opinion on Google algorithm updates and SEO trends is also worth following.

Reading Search Engine Land is essential to keep up with the rapid changes in search technology.

3. Backlinko

Brian Dean started Backlinko with your SEO questions in mind. The blog provides actionable SEO tips, strategies, and case studies.

4. Semrush

Last but not least on my list is the Semrush blog. It’s a go-to website for learning about various digital marketing topics, including SEO, pay-per-click (PPC), content marketing, email marketing, and social media marketing (SMM). 

Frequently Asked Questions about Getting Started with SEO

Now that you’re equipped with the best resources to start learning SEO, I’ve collected a few more popular questions about learning SEO that might interest you. 

How can I start learning SEO?

Get started with basic SEO concepts like keyword research, on-page optimization, and backlink analysis. 

Many online resources, such as SEO blogs, guides, and tutorials, are available for free. Some resources worth checking out include Traffic Think Tank, Backlinko, Semrush, and Search Engine Journal, to name a few. 

Is SEO easy to learn?

You can grasp SEO basics relatively quickly if you regularly study various online resources, such as expert SEO blogs. 

However, becoming an SEO specialist will require gaining hands-on experience, understanding how to do SEO for different websites and niches, and keeping track of the latest SEO updates. It’s a challenging but exciting journey. 

Is it possible to self-learn SEO?

Yes, you can self-learn SEO using various online resources. I recommend ​​practicing what you’ve learned by applying SEO techniques to your website or client projects. This hands-on experience will strengthen your SEO knowledge and help you identify areas for improvement. 

How long does it take to learn SEO?

Learning the SEO basics can take a few weeks to a few months. However, SEO is an ever-evolving field that requires curiosity, constant learning, and practice. You’ll gain decent SEO experience and confidence within a year or two of consistent hands-on training.

How to Learn SEO and Build the Career You Want 

It’s time to skip the guesswork and accelerate your career by learning from top professionals who live and breathe SEO. 

You can start today with TTT Academy’s course: How to build a successful career in SEO.

TTT Academy offers an extensive library of SEO courses created by 40+ experts. Inside your membership, you’ll find more than 200 hours of SEO content and monthly Q&A sessions.

And when you sign up for The Full Accelerator plan, you get access to an exclusive Slack community that’s ready to help you through any SEO challenge. 

Learn more about joining TTT Academy today!