Search engine optimization (SEO) is known for its mercurial and obscure guidelines. Since you need to appeal not only to your human customers but also to an audience of algorithmically driven automatons, effective SEO strategies can be difficult to learn and even harder to stay current with as search engines’ algorithms evolve.
Even worse, anyone can call themselves an SEO consultant — it can be challenging to tease what truly works from the tangle of advice online. If you want to break into SEO, try these nine tried-and-true tips.
1. Join an Agency
If you’re serious about SEO as a career, especially if you’re just starting along your career path, joining a reputable agency can accelerate your education. Agencies need to be adept at training and coaching less experienced team members in order to produce results for their clients.
Depending on where you are in your career path, though, starting over as an SEO specialist at an agency may not be feasible.
2. Read a How-to Guide
SEO professionals love to write how-to guides because they demonstrate skill and also act as link bait to increase their sites’ organic search rankings. Not all how-to guides can be trusted, however. These three are among the best:
- The Beginner’s Guide to SEO by MOZ — read it online or download the free PDF;
- Beginner SEO and Advanced SEO by Google.
3. Read Trusted SEO Blogs
Just like anyone can call themselves an SEO consultant, anyone can start a blog. When you’re just starting out, stick to the industry’s top blogs for news and tips. My four go-to blogs include:
4. Read an SEO Book
Industry standouts write many fine SEO books. Still, I recommend “The Art of SEO” for the simple reason that I contributed to it as a source of material and a peer editor for publisher O’Reilly Media.
5. Listen to Podcasts
You’ll find SEO advice in every digital medium, including podcasts. While some digital marketing podcasts also cover SEO, these four either specialize in or regularly discuss it.
6. Take a Class Online
If you’re disciplined enough to work self-paced, a virtual class can be an excellent way to learn SEO. There isn’t a universally recognized certification for SEO in the way that there is for paid search, but completing one of these programs can show that you’re committed to improving your skillset. Free digital marketing classes are available from Hubspot Academy, including one for SEO. Other course series can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. Coursera, LinkedIn Learning, and the Digital Marketing Institute are among those that offer paid courses on SEO, as do most online colleges and universities.
7. Attend a Search Conference
Digital and search marketing conferences abound, from vendor-specific events to pseudo-vacation junkets that include SEO lectures and workshops. Some of the best conferences include:
- SMX Conferences: Third Door Media, the publishers of Search Engine Land, holds in-person and virtual conferences under the Search Marketing Expo (SMX) brand.
- MozCon: Although SEO software vendor Moz runs it, MozCon sessions are generally tool-agnostic.
- Advanced Search Summit: The aforementioned conference junket, this year’s summit was held in Napa, CA. You get to rub elbows professionally and socially with some of the in-house and agency leaders of the search industry.
8. Start Your Own Blog
Get your fingers dirty: Start your own site or blog so that you can practice on something that’s not business-critical. Pick a topic you’re passionate about, and blog about it. Customizing your blog templates and getting everything set up the way you want will teach you about basic HTML and site management.
9. Try It on Your Own Site
Of course, using your new skills on your company’s site will be the ultimate test of your SEO knowledge. I highly recommend completing several of the previous options before diving into the site that drives your business, though.
No matter what type of learner you are — auditory, visual, or hands-on — you can use these nine tips to grow your skillset in search marketing. The best time to get started is today!