TLDR. The best approach for learning SEO is to make a website, take online courses, and follow people on social media to keep up with industry trends.

For someone new to SEO, learning SEO and the SEO industry as a whole can be overwhelming. There are hundreds of people that others recommend you follow on Twitter or LinkedIn, podcasts galore, constant news updates to be aware of, way too many SEO guides out there, and an abundance of sub-fields that you can specialize in such as Python SEO, news SEO, local SEO, and e-commerce SEO just to name a few.

Due to the complexity of the discipline, I decided to create a straightforward, actionable guide that a beginner can use to learn SEO. With this article, I also try to answer common questions that someone new to the industry may have surrounding SEO.

This guide contains a compilation of resources that I believe are useful for educating you on your SEO journey. These resources range from paid and free courses, podcasts, newsletters, and a short list of people to follow spanning different sub-fields of SEO.

You can use these resources in any order that you see fit, although keep in mind that I have structured these resources in a particular order so you can use the SEO fundamentals from these resources as a foundation to better understand the topics that others are writing about/sharing.

The secondary purpose of this guide, which I don’t think is mentioned enough in our industry, is to help someone new to SEO avoid information overload. There are many brilliant people in the SEO industry and tons of exceptional guides to learn SEO. However, so as not to overwhelm someone at the beginning of their SEO journey, I have purposefully chosen to condense my list of resources to make it as easy to follow and digest as possible.

Content

The best way to learn SEO

First and foremost, the best way to learn SEO is to create your website. By creating a website you can get firsthand experience in designing a website and maintaining it. Think of your website as your playground, you can try yours or other people’s strategies to see what works and what doesn’t. Also, there’s no pressure to get on Google’s first page or any serious repercussions if you accidentally blow up your site.

While creating your website and getting it to rank on Google is the best way to learn SEO, you also need to be aware of the steps you can take that will provide SEO value, bad SEO practices, and actions that will provide no value for your website. There’s a common saying that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something.

This is where taking an SEO course comes in handy. Before taking a deep dive into your website, you can learn what steps will benefit your site and what practices are useless so you can hit the ground running instead of wasting hours doing something that has no real benefit.

There are many SEO courses available on the web, and lots to think about. You may ask questions like how affordable is the course? Are the team or individuals teaching the course reputable? Is the information relevant and accurate?

It’s hard to have the answer to all of these questions without taking an SEO course firsthand, this is why I have compiled a list of three SEO courses that I believe provide the most value for learning SEO. These courses range from free to paid, and I’ll be providing a list of pros and cons and why I believe you should take these courses.

Side note, I have also included an online web developer Bootcamp in this list of courses which I will explain my reasoning in the following section.

Blue Array Academy’s Technical SEO Certification

Blue Array Academy's Technical SEO certification course details

The Technical SEO Certification is taught by Blue Array. They’re an SEO agency based out of the UK. Blue Array are the European Search Awards 2022 winner and in 2021, they won the Best Employee Development Programme. These people know what they’re talking about when it comes to SEO.

The Technical SEO certification is a little over seven and a half hours worth of course material. This course covers how a search engine works (crawling, indexing, rendering, and ranking), how to do on-page SEO, and page experience among other topics. They also cover tools from Google and Bing, third-party tools and plugins that someone new to SEO can use to audit your site for technical SEO issues. The best part is this course is free if you finish it in the allotted time that they give you, don’t worry I had no issue with finishing the course as I could only work on it during evenings and weekends.

Blue Array Academy stands out with its lessons on accessibility and the environmental impacts of search. They also provide an on-page and technical SEO checklist you can download and use on your website. These are useful for someone new to SEO.

My only critique of this course is that I wish there are more real-world examples and demonstrations. In their internal linking section, they provide examples of sites that demonstrate strong internal linking; these examples reinforce their teachings on internal linking and help illustrate their points. Their other units would benefit from this kind of teaching to help reinforce the concepts by showing real-world implications.

Mark Williams-Cook’s The Complete SEO Course From Beginner to Professional

A bio for Mark Williams-Cook. The creator of The Complete SEO Course From Beginner to Professional on Udemy.

The Complete SEO Course From Beginner to Professional is taught by Mark Williams-Cook who is the marketing director at Candour Marketing. Mark is a veteran in the SEO industry who has had clients such as SEM Rush, Expedia, and Groupon. You can find his course on Udemy and when I last checked Udemy it was listed for $14.99.

After taking Mark’s course, I can confidently say that this course is worth every penny. Currently, The Complete SEO Course From Beginner to Professional has 10 hours and 49 minutes worth of content broken up into 15 sections and 70 lectures. 

In Mark’s course, you’ll learn the anatomy of search results, what is robots.txt and how to use it, canonical tags, hreflang, HTTP response codes and an in-depth explanation of redirects. These are only some of the many topics that Mark covers. 

He also covers how to use tools such as Screaming Frog, Sitebulb and Google Search Console which are industry go-to’s for doing SEO. A bonus of this course is that you’ll be provided with plugins that Mark uses to do technical SEO and he’ll walk you through how to use them.

The best part about Mark’s course is his teaching style. Mark takes complicated topics and breaks them down so that it’s easy to follow and understand. He ties these concepts with lots of real-world examples and provides you with relevant scenarios to help with your understanding of the material. Throughout the course, Mark provides additional readings so you can further dive into each topic. 

My only caveat with the course is that he has not finished it yet and he will be adding more sections and lectures. I am eagerly waiting.

Kristina Azarenko’s Tech SEO Pro course

Description of Tech SEO Pro course.

Full disclosure, I have not taken Kristina Azarenko’s Tech SEO Pro course. However, she is highly respected in the SEO industry and many people have praised her course so I decided to include it. Since I haven’t personally taken this course, I reached out to Kristina with a few questions and here are her answers.

Q1. What are some of the learning outcomes that you want your students to take away from your course?

“The main learning outcome that my students achieve after completing the Tech SEO Pro course is to confidently provide SEO recommendations, prioritize them, and get them implemented.

Students will see what parts technical SEO consists of and how they as SEOs can influence these parts to achieve the main goal – help businesses succeed. They’ll learn all specifics like indexing vs crawling, how to debug JavaScript-related issues and much more.”

Q2. What do you believe are the most challenging aspects of technical SEO and how do you help your students overcome them?

“I see that one of the most challenging aspects is to understand the fundamental difference between crawling and indexing and how to use robots.txt and meta robots to control them.

Plus, many students are initially confused about JavaScript SEO and how to debug JavaScript-related issues. So in the course, I give a 3-step framework to do it, plus I share a lot of practical examples and walkthroughs. Here’s what one of the TSP students, Giovanni D’Anna, said about it:”

“I had no idea where to start when it was about JavaScript, and finding random information online on random sites was just adding more confusion in my brains.

Now I feel I can debug every damn site❤️

I’m basically revolutioning the site I work for, the boss is shocked by the amount of things that I found out in the last weeks, and a promotion is just around the corner thanks to YOU Kristina!!”

Q3. What are some areas where Technical SEO Pro stands out compared to other courses?

“There are 2 things that I always hear from my students about my course:

  1. I explain complex things easily so that they understand them.
  2. The course is super practical.

That’s exactly what I love and am proud of. Most courses fail to tie theory to real life. I, on the other hand, teach real-life examples and add theory so that students can find solutions in different situations themselves.

And one more thing I’d add – Tech SEO Pro is the first course on Technical SEO I know created by a female, and we have 49% of female students inside (which I love!)”

Q4. What can students expect while they’re taking Technical SEO Pro?

  • “Lots of practical examples.
  • Lots of fun as I’m not a boring teacher and always come up with fun ways to explain things (like in a lesson about HTTP status codes I explain them as if they’re restaurant signs). I find that knowledge sticks much better if taught through a story or an interesting example.
  • Side effects of the course are: increasing the salary, finding a better SEO job and being more confident overall.”

Colt Steele’s The Web Developer Bootcamp 2022

Colt Steele's Web Developer Bootcamp course preview.

Now you may be asking yourself, “why did you include an online web developer Bootcamp? I don’t want to learn how to be a developer. I only want to learn SEO.” And my answer to this question is a little controversial.

In the SEO industry, there are two camps regarding coding in SEO. The first camp believes that to do great technical SEO, you should be able to code, while the second camp believes that you don’t need to code to be great at technical SEO.

In my opinion, you can be great at technical SEO without knowing how to code. But having the ability to write code and having a developer’s understanding of topics like how JavaScript and servers work will make it easier for you to understand technical SEO and diagnose technical issues.

If you take Colt Steele’s The Web Developer Bootcamp, you’ll learn everything I mentioned above and more. As you would expect, Colt’s course covers the fundamentals of front-end web development such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, but it doesn’t stop there. He will also teach you the DOM, AJAX, and JSON. These are all concepts that are involved in technical SEO. When I last checked Udemy, you can buy his course for $27.99.

When it comes to taking these courses, it’s alright if you don’t take Colt Steele’s Web Developer Bootcamp. However, I would highly recommend that you take all three of the SEO courses that I mentioned, but if finances are an issue at least take the first two courses.

When learning SEO, you should treat your learning like you’re attending college or university. In college and university, you’re often required to take multiple courses whose material overlaps with each other. Why they do this is to constantly reinforce the basics so they’re more likely to stick. It also helps to have different people explain the same concept as someone might explain a topic better than another or you may resonate more with one person’s teaching style versus someone else’s teaching style.

SEOs you should follow on social media

Now that you have a strong grasp on the fundamentals of on-page and technical SEO, how search works and can solve more advanced technical SEO problems. It’s time to branch out your knowledge and follow people who work in the SEO industry on social media. The benefits of following other SEOs in the industry is that oftentimes they’ll provide tips that may not be covered in your course and you’ll get the latest news in SEO.

There are a lot of experts in the SEO industry that you can follow. If you were to follow every expert in the industry, you can easily follow hundreds of people, and that’s a lot of information flown your way. That’s why I have narrowed it down to five people who I believe provide actionable information for someone new to SEO.

SEO news

Barry Schwartz contributing editor bio.

If you check social media every day for the latest SEO news, you’ll see people talking about potential new Google features, broken Google features and Google’s algorithm updates. This is a lot to take in and hard to keep track of all of it. 

This is where Barry Schwartz steps in. Barry is the news editor at Search Engine Land, an SEO publication, and he writes for his personal website SERoundtable which he founded in 2003. Anything related to SEO news, Barry will cover it, all in a timely manner. If you follow Barry, you won’t have to worry about finding and keeping track of everything that’s going on in SEO as it is quite time-consuming. 

Algorithm updates

Dr. Marie Haynes and Alan Kent discussing tips for e-commerce.

Algorithm updates can be sudden, confusing and a little scary, it helps to know someone that can give you actionable tips for how to weather the storm and come out on top after an algorithm update there’s no better person to turn to than Dr. Marie Haynes. Dr. Marie Haynes is the founder of Marie Haynes Consulting Inc and rose to prominence for her analysis and guidance on Google’s Penguin algorithm update. 

Today, she covers Google’s algorithm updates along with E-E-A-T, which is a metric used by Google to assess whether a site and its content show experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. Dr. Haynes is the perfect person for breaking down Google algorithm updates and giving advice you can use to create high-quality content that your users can trust.

Technical SEO

Chris Long explaining a common mistake with canonical tags.

For actionable technical SEO tips that are easy to use and understand, look no further than Chris Long, the VP of Digital Marketing at Go Fish Digital. From my time following Chris, I have learned useful tips like finding out your site’s crawl budget and why redirect chains are a problem, all of these are relevant to my day-to-day tasks as an SEO. 

The best part about Chris Long’s content is that it’s all actionable. Often you’ll read a piece of content and think it’s a great idea, but you have no idea what the first step is or even how to execute it. Chris’ advice is different. When he explains how to do something, he gives you a step-by-step process on how to do it and visuals to help explain it.

Local SEO

Joy Hawkins explaining how to deal with duplicate content listings.

Joy Hawkins is a Google My Business Product Expert and the founder of Sterling Sky Inc, an SEO agency that focuses on local SEO. If you want to learn about local SEO, reading Joy’s and Sterling Sky’s publications is a must. Want to learn about “how to get images in mobile search results?” or “does the length of a Google review matter?” Joy answers these topics and more with articles that are easy to follow and get straight to the point.

General SEO knowledge

Sara Taher explaining how to run a content audit in 2023.

For general SEO knowledge, the first person I turn to is Sara Taher, an SEO consultant based out of Toronto. From my time following Sara, I learned how Google uses entities, finding a keyword’s difficulty without relying on tools and many more topics that solidify my understanding of SEO.

The cherry on top of Sara’s content is her SEO Riddler series. On LinkedIn, she’ll post riddles like “is it okay to create a 301 or 302 redirect from a .ca to .com (or vice versa) based on user IP?” and “is hreflang case sensitive or not?” Questions like these make me think and test my knowledge. 

If you subscribe to her SEO Riddler newsletter, she’ll teach you topics like “how to do a JavaScript audit for SEO” and you’ll also get a template that you can use to reinforce these concepts. This is gold!

Podcasts you should listen to

SERPs Up

SERPS up podcast episode 20 display.

If you’re looking to reinforce SEO basics and have a chuckle or two, SERPs Up is the podcast for you. SERPs up is hosted by Crystal Carter and Mordy Oberstein of Wix. The two of them do a fantastic job of teaching SEO fundamentals in a way that is easy to digest regardless of your knowledge of SEO. They also include featured guests who cover a variety of topics in each of their episodes.

Edge of the Web

Edge of the Web podcast episode talking about digital marketing news.

For the latest news in digital marketing, you’ll want to listen to Edge of the Web, hosted by Erin Sparks and features Mordy Oberstein. Their primary focus is on SEO, but they’ll also talk about current events on the internet and other areas of digital marketing like PPC. Edge of the Web also includes industry experts that provide their knowledge on a wide variety of SEO topics. Episodes you should check out include Krista Seiden on Google Analytics 4 and Olga Zarr on top SEO mistakes.

Search off the Record

Search Off the Record episode 55 where they talk about the Search Console Help Center.

Search off the Record is hosted by Google’s Search Relations team. This is the perfect place to learn the ins and outs of how Google works. They’ll break down topics like core web vitals, rendering, and Google’s indexation system known as Caffeine. 

There’s a lot of misinformation on social media, and the SEO industry is no different. That’s why it’s important to get reliable information from people that you trust so you can make informed decisions when working on your client’s websites. I can think of nobody more trustworthy than people who work at Google.

Can I teach myself SEO?

Yes, you can teach yourself SEO by creating a website and testing what works and what doesn’t. This is a great way to see firsthand how the changes you make on your website affect your visibility on Google. Although, it’s harder and more time-consuming to learn SEO on your own by trial and error on your own website without using any resources.

This is why I recommend taking an SEO course. Whether it’s paid or free, both are useful. These courses will save you a lot of time by teaching fundamentals you can use so people can find your website instead of having to learn these on your own and wasting too much time trying to learn the basics. These courses can also teach you what not to do so you won’t accidentally tank your site’s visibility on Google.

How long does it take to learn SEO?

You can learn SEO basics in a month if you devote a few hours each day. However, you’ll only know the basics, for a career in SEO you need more than just the basics. To be good at SEO, you’re looking at at least three years in the industry.

During your first year in the industry, you should understand the fundamentals of SEO and have a good grasp of on-page SEO. At this point, you should be trying to get your website to rank on Google and aim to have more users visit your website.

In terms of jobs in the SEO industry, you should look for internships. Ideally, aim for internships at agencies versus being in-house as you’ll have more learning opportunities and more chances to get your hands dirty.

In your second year of SEO, your website should be healthy from a technical standpoint. You should also be able to crawl a website and identify technical issues with a website and provide recommendations for how to fix these issues.

Your third year of SEO is when you should look at learning a specialty within SEO. Areas to specialize in include analytics, e-commerce, and local SEO to name a few.