I’m always asked, “How do I learn about search engine optimization?” And I always have to clarify to the questioners that it doesn’t happen overnight. Learning SEO optimization is an ongoing process.
Different people learn in different ways, so there’s probably no “right” answer to the question. The following, though, is what I believe is an effective approach for anyone wanting to learn about SEO.
Learning search engine optimization requires building a solid foundation.
The process of learning SEO is like learning math. You can’t learn calculus without first mastering algebra and geometry, so it’s with search engine optimization. You have to master the basics first before moving on to more advanced optimization techniques.
The best way to build a good foundation of SEO skills is to read a book or two on the subject. Others will say, “There is no need for a book to be published. Just read SEO forums and blogs for free, and you’ll learn. “While that may sound like a logical approach on the surface, it’s not a realistic IMO and certainly not the most effective way to learn about search engine optimization.
The number one reason why I say read a book or two first is that, unlike forums and blogs, books are almost always structured in a logical sequence. There is a well-considered order in which words and definitions are introduced to the reader, which is usually dependent on previous knowledge. In other words, books tend to start with the fundamentals and move on to more complex topics once the basics have been clarified.
Another reason why I say read a book or two first is that I’d estimate 99 + percent of people who post on SEO forums and blogs give terrible advice. They just know enough to be dangerous. Without basic knowledge of optimizing the search engine, you are likely to follow a lot of bad suggestions. Having basic SEO knowledge will help you determine who knows what they’re talking about and who’s talking on their back end. It will also help you to clarify any SEO-related issues you may have.
There are several good books on search engine optimization in the bookshops these days and they are also available online. Almost any of them will teach you the basics and help you develop the SEO knowledge base you need. Even for Dummies, Search Engine Optimization will be adequate. Nonetheless, I would advise you to stick to books written in the last year or two, because SEO is an ever-changing field.
Going through forums and blogs about SEO
Once a basic foundation of SEO knowledge has been created, you can move on to the next phase–forum and blog trolling. There are a lot of great tools online to help you in your quest to acquire more knowledge. At first, stick to the highly reputable search engine optimization pages. Some of my favorite guys are:
These are all very good resources to learn about SEO. There are many other industry leaders who run blogs as well. Take the time to find out who the experts in the SEO industry are and follow them online.
There are indeed millions of search engine optimization forums and blogs on the web. The further you go beyond the genuine blogs and forums run by industry leaders, such as the ones above, the more misinformation you’ll find. So, only stick to the information you get from authentic SEO experts.
Many of these random SEO forums and blogs may be of benefit to those seeking knowledge, but the bits of information that can be gleamed from such sites are small compared to all the effort you need to go through to find them. And avoid them until you believe that you have reached the level of ability to tell the difference.
Experimenting with search engine optimization
In general, we can say that learning is good, but keep in mind that there is no substitute for experience. Reading about search engine optimization is a necessary thing if you are just getting started learning about SEO. However, putting what you have read to use on a real site will help to put it all together. So, don’t wait and start your own web site and/or blog today, so that you have a playground to experiment with what you’ve learned.
An ideal SEO expert is like a scientist. Based on observations and the knowledge, he hypothesizes (makes educated guesses) about how the crawlers and bots might view and rank pages. Once he has a hypothesis, he might come up with and execute controlled experiments and then observe what happens as a result. Having your own site (s) with which to experiment is crucial to the learning process.
While search engine optimization is a fairly secretive field, there are a few informative conferences worth mentioning if you have the funds to attend. These are not only a great way to get crash courses and knowledge about various aspects of SEO, but they are also invaluable as a networking opportunity to build relationships with top SEO professionals as well as others like yourself.
My SEO conference of choice is Pubcon. It is put on each year by WebmasterWorld.com and provides several learning tracks, including SEO, affiliate marketing, social networking, etc. I highly recommend it.
Two others which I have not yet had the opportunity to attend are the Search Marketing Expo (SMX) and Search Engine Strategies (SES). I have heard good things about both.
Learning search engine optimization is a continuous process.
Something you will soon realize is that the field of SEO is constantly evolving. What works today may not work like that tomorrow. It is an ever changing phenomenon, so remaining updated is a must. Set aside time every day to continue learning about search engine optimization.