SEO Blog - Internet marketing news and views  

Learning SEO

Written by David Harry   
Monday, 28 July 2008 10:07

What is the best way to learn SEO?

Today I launched this year’s version of my how to learn SEO over at one of my part time gigs at Site Reference. If yer looking for a mighty link fest of Site Reference SEO BlogSEO goodiness; go check it out!

How to learn SEO – theGypsy on Site Reference

As SEO evolves, so do the the ways one can learn it. And so I thought it might be interesting to reach out to some of the pros in the search world and see what they felt were the best ways to learn SEO.

What is most intriguing is that there was no two answers the same… seem we all have our own angle on the best way to learn SEO….

While experience is obviously the best way to go… what other approaches do the experts advise?

….here are some of the choice quips from the gang;

How to learn SEO

Steven Bradley – Van SEO Design

….. take a step back from it and see the bigger picture. SEO is only one aspect of marketing. Often if you do take search engines out of the equation things like links and keywords make more sense.

Another good thing for beginners is to stop looking at SEO as a quick fix and see it as a process that fits within a whole. I think the quick fix thought pattern leads people to things like meta keywords and agonizing and keyword density. Seeing SEO as an iterative process where you try what you think will work, measure the results, and try again leads to a better understanding.

Steven recommends -
Stoney’s Keyword research guide (PDF)
Word Tracker KW research guide
This is Jennifer Laycock's guide to starting an online business 
Seth Godin’s Idea Virus

Todd Mintz - Todd Mintz blog

…. reading, as great as it is, won’t teach you that much when it comes to the nuts & bolts of learning how to do SEO.  

Rather, this reading will “prime” your mind for being able to successfully engage with the SEO educational process.  I have pretty deep prejudices against learning SEO in a condensed period of time in a classroom setting.  Instead, I strongly believe that the learning process should be driven by the student and be done gradually over an extended period of time in conjunction with lots of reading and lots of “practice”. 

Todd suggests; Fill your RSS Reader with the obvious choices Sphinn Front Page Articles, SEOmoz, Search Engine Land, Search Engine Watch, Search Engine Guide, Search Engine Journal, etc.- plus the individual bloggers who you admire the most (Aaron Wall, John Andrews, Matt McGee, Lee Odden, Andy Beal and Adam Audette are my favorites)


Donna Fontenot (aka DazzlinDonna)

The best way is to find a good mentor, but of course, "good" is the key.  And if the person can't find someone to mentor them, then at least be an ardent follower of a "good seo".  So...pick any of the names from either your guide (the SEO Handbook) or mine (the roundup link below), and listen to much of what they say.  Although anyone listed in any of these resources may not get it right 100% of the time, it'll be close enough for a beginner to get their start.

Donna suggests; anything from this roundup


Dave Snyder – Snydey Sense - Search and Social

I have trained a few people on SEO and I always like to start with what I think are the most important bed rocks of knowledge; keyword research and analytics. No matter where our industry (SEO) goes a strong understanding of keyword research, that goes beyond simple tools, will always be a necessity.

The same can be said for a deep understanding analytics. User behaviour, and understanding what it means, will lead to a more focused content plan and link building system.

Also with search engines going further and further into the realm of data collection, it is wise that marketers mimic this practice to ensure an easy transition to more data based algorithms.”

Dave’s reading - For keyword research I really love myself as a source, god I am gross: Beyond keyword research ... those are four posts on how I like to go beyond the standard keyword research to exploit long tails, and conversion driven terms.

For analytics there is only one man to read, Avinash Kaushik


Jordan Kasteler - Utah SEO Pro

I wrote a  post regarding this same thing in February

It's not very in depth but I place a lot of emphasis on testing. Yes, this is the "hands-on" approach but testing is much more crucial than just implementing textbook SEO reptitively on sites.

Testing allows SEOs to come up with new things they haven't read about or test other's ideas in new ways. It allows SEOs to be innovative, unique, and creative.”


Li Evans – Search Marketing Gurus

People come from all different walks of life in business and in every day happenings, and something they’ve experienced something totally different than you and you can learn from those experiences they are sharing with you.

Get involved in the local groups around you.  Meetup and Yahoo’s upcoming are chalk full of great groups with monthly meetings of like minds.  Sometimes these groups even have experts from the search engines speaks.  If you are really out in the rural areas, then again go where the like minds are, but use your eyes (but you are listening!) by getting involved in the online communities like Cre8asite Forums, High Rankings, and Webmaster World.  These are a world of resources.


Brian Turner -

Personally, I think the only way to learn SEO to any proficiency is to oversee multiple websites, so that differences in performance of any particular site can be gauged in context with what is happening to the others. Without that, it is difficult to ascribe performance changes to any tweaks carried out without adequate points of reference, and misunderstandings can easily arise.

I would definitely advise anyone against taking forums too seriously for SEO advice. Simply put, most experienced SEO's do not have time to lounge around in forums chatting, so these places tend to be populated by those with hobbyist interests in SEO - ie, misunderstandings, misconceptions and plain misinformation abound. 

SEO blogs are also of limited value - experienced SEO's rarely reveal current competitive advantage or post real details or work, so if they do blog, they usually cover general industry news and cover beginner material that is often vague and generic. 

Overall, I would wholeheartedly recommend to learn SEO:

  1. Oversee multiple websites - for control and comparison;
  2. Subscribe to Aaron Wall's - one of the most clued up marketers on the internet
  3. Read search engine patents - to learn what concepts search engines have considered applying, how, and why;
  4. Tweak websites and observe - to provide live data and context to learn from.

I would also strongly recommend anyone against viewing SEO in complete isolation - ie, looking at SEO as just a way to control the delivery of information to search engines - SEO is a specialist marketing channel, therefore I think it's important to have a wider understanding of marketing and how SEO works within an overall marketing strategy.  


Steve Gerencser – Metal Monster Marketing

Unfortunately for (those) new (to) SEO, it's really not easy to learn without doing.. And since almost every website is unique, the SEO campaign needs to be tooled for that specific site.. What works for me in the jewellery industry may not work for someone in the ring tones industry..

My place of choice is the forums.. The information tends to be very up to date, and the experienced SEOs out there willing to help tend to have a clue.. Obviously there are exceptions and there are topics the always generate a huge argument/debates.

The biggest mistake I see happen all the time is a lack of documentation.. No one seems to write anything that they do down.. So when a big change happens they don't know why.. Document everything.. Everything you do. Everything that happens.. Everything that doesn't happen.. Before you know it you won't need these sites and people will be coming to you for help..

Steve's picks; Blogs are great.. They can have up to date info but they only have one voice.. So for info I like the "group" blogs.. SEOMoz, Marketing Pilgrim, and Search Engine Land ...


James Duthie – Online Marketing Banter

I have to agree with learning by doing. As a non-SEO one of the reasons I started my blog was to get some practical experience with SEO. So my recommendations for fellow peeps who aren’t SEO’s by profession is to start their own blog so that they can actually begin practicing.

Aside from that, I like SEOmoz’s white board Friday concept – aka learning through video. To me, reading a lot of SEO content can become monotonous, especially when you’re following a whole heap of blogs. So watching a vid can be more a lot absorbing and easier to consume.


Nick James - Essence SEO

I must say that when I started out, I read a lot of crap. I researched off the internet through the search engines, and obviously I was being delivered old information because of (authority scoring), as opposed to the latest stuff hot off the presses.

Even though I'm no longer participating there as I once did (almost to point of your good self in cutting it loose entirely), I have to say that the early days of Sphinn were a godsend. Even as close a few months back they were the place to find the posts that were actually relevant to SEO, and to any dabbling into social media. I learnt a helluva lot from Sphinn's early days, moreso than Google SERPs could ever teach me.

Nick Reads -

The Fire Horse Trail - I Don't think you need the link to this, do you sir? It was one of the first blogs I happened upon through Sphinn (I remember the Thursday beer breaks), and one I've stuck with for my updates on sound info ever since. I know I don't participate much on the commenting side over at chez huomah, but I'm reading every post through my feed.

Search Engine People - Jeff was one of the first to friend me, and indeed promote one of my posts, and I've learnt a lot off of him and the good lady, Jenn. Plus you've got the rest of the team there (Ruud and Tom) providing top drawer stuff.

SEO CO - A fellow Brit and always worth a look. David Eaves puts some posts up. He makes it feel like anybody can be succesful in website promotion, just by the fact that he's using old school tactics (directories, articles, as well as linkbait) and getting success from it.

Cornwall SEO - Once again, it might be something to do with the Brit factor, but I enjoy learning about his baiting escapades. Hell, he might not be the best writer in the world, but at the end of the day he gets results.


Brian Carter – Fuel Interactive

(Dave’s notes - I had to trim the list to fit – here’s my favs)

  1. Learn the basics of related technologies, platforms, standards... HTML, CSS, PHP, RSS, domain hosting, DNS, and server set-up tasks, google and yahoo search parameters, boolean logic, semantics (one of my favorite things about SEO is it's unlikely you'll ever get a response like "let's not argue semantics"), WordPress, Firefox, GreaseMonkey, and so on.
  2. Start several of your own sites and blogs.  Whatever you have an interest in, try to break into those niches.
  3. Start creating a step by step process for SEO- doesn't have to be original, but can you create a process for new sites, and one for existing sites, what about for huge dynamic CMS sites?
  4. Make a list of the SEO skills you feel confident in and the ones you feel less sure about- figure out how to learn or fix the latter
  5. Make a list of the SEO tactics that you know get sites penalized and banned.
  6. Know that most of what you hear about SEO is hypothesis.  Take every blog post with a grain of salt.  Separate what seems to be certain from what is guesswork. 
  7. Ask yourself what you know has worked already for you in SEO, what you can do to make the biggest difference for a website NOW.
  8. Don't limit yourself to SEO.  Learning about social media, pay per click, media placement, programming, and other nearby disciplines will help you expand your SEO skills and think in new ways about SEO.
  9. Wear graph paper shirts.

Brian’s recommendations - Read the search ranking factors (SEOmoz) and local ranking factors (David Mihm).


As you can see beyond the fact that hands-on experience is the greatest teacher, opinions varied as to the best ways to go about learning/teaching SEO…. What do you think? Is there a method that you find works best? Do tell… ..leave a comment

(and join the discussion on the SR boards)



Search the Site

SEO Training

Tools of the Trade


On Twitter

Follow me on Twitter

Site Designed by Verve Developments.