Top 15 SEO Resources for SEO Beginners
From time to time I've come across a brand new digital marketer, very early on in their career and the most popular question, after “how do I start an SEO career?” is this“I graduated from a university where they didn’t teach us jackshit about SEO. Now I’m in my first real marketing job and I want to do really well - but I have no idea where to start or find the best quality SEO resources.”
So here for you SEO beginner, I have put together a list of the top 15 Best SEO Learnings for SEO Beginners.
Be forewarned - most of these links are NOT what every other SEO has published about “how to learn SEO in 20XX” blah, blah, blah.
Here you’ll learn all about how Google, and other search engines crawl your site. Find out what the difference is between on-site and off-site SEO.
Just to help provide some context to how to learn SEO, you should realize that there are three core pillars to your SEO work.
PILLAR 1: TECHNICAL SEO
The technical aspects of SEO, or technical SEO, includes things like creating a robots.txt file, or making sure your redirects are 301 permanent. In some cases working with your developers to managing implementing those recommendations. Technical site audits are always part of this pillar.
PILLAR 2: CONTENT OR SITE-SIDE
This is the content within your site. What kind of content exists there?
Here, you’ll conduct a content audit to determine the gaps and opportunities within the existing content. Is it “thin content” meaning less than 500 words on a page?
During this phase of your work, you should develop a content strategy, understand the personas you're trying to attract and what their user intent or buying journey looks like.
PILLAR 3: OFF SITE
Off site includes those signals Google uses to find your site or how to associate your site with.
This usually requires managing and monitoring your links that link into your site, and the conversation that occurs about your brand off site. Here you’ll manage the amplification of your brand in other external publisher sites.
OK - Now onto the very valuable, extremely helpful and unique SEO stuff you likely didn’t know they even existed.
Make sure to bookmark these - and to help organize them into which pillar they belong in, I’ve included a bracket to show you where or how these fit within the above named pillars. There may be one or two considered [General], and that just means it covers all pillars likely.
SEO LEARNINGS FOR SEO BEGINNERS....
- Conductor Academy - [General] Conductor has its own academy or learning resources that, whether you use their Searchlight software or not, you can find something you can learn and apply right now.
- Google’s SEO Starter Guide - [General + ALL 3 Pillars] From “help Google find your content” to “analyze your search performance” and many important areas in between.
- Ahrefs - Simple 7 Step SEO Tutorial - [Pillar 1 Technical] Once you read this - then move onto making reading their blog once a week a habit. Another really great tool, but has super helpful insight included in many of their blog posts.
- SEORoundTable - [General + All 3 Pillars] One of the very first blogs I started reading back in 2008. Barry Schwartz a long time blogger. His site’s purpose is report on the most interesting threads, conversations and all things taking place within SEO. BTW: He has a great Vlog on YouTube too! Dig in every now and then and learn about the most trending topics in search.
- Moz’s On-Site SEO - [Pillar 2 ] What is on-site SEO? Learn the difference between on-site and off-site SEO - Moz is a great resource for the beginner, through advanced SEO.
- Attend Search Marketing Conferences - [General + All 3 Pillars] I created a nice list of the best search conferences every SEO should attend - or at least the ones you should consider if you had to choose one this year. For all new SEOs, I highly recommend Conductor’s C3 conference, or SearchLove from Distilled. If you are curious and courageous, definitely get to SMX Advanced.
- How Search Works - Matt Cutts - [Pillar 1 & Pillar 2] an oldie but a goodie. Matt Cutts no longer works for Google, but his work still holds relevance here.
- Keyword Research for beginners - [Pillar 2] From the creators of Yoast, the SEO WordPress Plugin creator.
- Google Search Console - [Pillar 1] Part of your Technical SEO focus should be to learn and understand what Google Search Console is, and what its purpose is - hint, there are many. I highly recommend, if you haven’t already, build your own website, add Google Search Console and Google Analytics, so that you get the full scope of the power of Search Console.
- Beginners Guide to Mobile SEO - [Pillar 1] Backlinko does a really great job of breaking up what you need to know in 5 chapters. Mobile optimization of your site is critical in 2019. Page speed and making sure that site loads fast for your mobile visitors is also crucial.
- Learn SEO for Ecommerce - [General - Mostly Pillar 1] No matter what site you optimize for, most of the general tactical SEO elements will apply, Title tag, Meta Description, H1, Alt Image, etc - but for an ecommerce platform - you should be familiar with the nuances involved. Think of any product site, like this site, Nike’s online store - look at the URL, the sub-directory folders in particular, us/en_us/pw/womens-running-shoes/7ptZ8yzZoi3. Very generally, you can see loads of geo focus up front in the “us/en_us/, for that, I usually work with the IT team to see if we can come up with a shorter URL path so that we get to what’s important, which is “womens-running-shoes” - the last part that looks less important could be product level pages within their content management system. You always want to make sure the folder structure of the site, is in a logical, close to the root domain as possible - and easy for visitors and search engines to interpret and access quickly.
Optimizing for an ecommerce site can take on a whole other direction and would include being very zeroed in on what platform is being used, and how optimized or not it is. There are a few platforms like Sitecore, ATG, Adobe AEM - most large ecommerce sites will use to house their hundreds or thousands of products. You could quite literally become a very specialized ecommerce SEO, because there is so much riding on organic search to these online retailers sites.
- Learn all about the search algorithms - [General] The Google search algorithm has evolved so much over the last 5 years. The point here is to learn about them, understand what machine learning and AI, or artificial intelligence is and become familiar with how they play a role in what search results appear. Need a very clean, concise place to refer to all the Google algo updates? Check this out - found it here at sitechecker - everything from Panda to Fred. Pro Tip: Avoid pinning all your efforts on these, but you should be familiar with them to know how to position what you decide to optimize for and align with the best practices within the industry.
- What Mobile First Indexation is - [Pillar 1] As Google states in its developers site - “Mobile-first indexing means Google will predominantly use the mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking. Historically, the index primarily used the desktop version of a page's content when evaluating the relevance of a page to a user's query.” Learn about the various types of mobile configurations - which is preferred by Google (hint: its responsive) and which to avoid and why. You might have a client or employer who is set on keeping their m.site - but you need to arm yourself with the justification to help them make the right choice based on search industry standards and best practices. Of course user experience also plays a huge role and that is considered in how Google thinks about mobile first. The Google Webmaster Blog article that was posted last March 26th 2018, officially rolls out Mobile First .
- Google Webmaster Blog - [General] Setting aside time each week to read, learn and absorb everything going on in the world of search should be something you add to your weekly schedule. I would spend time here of course, because I will always have the most current resources for all SEOs, especially beginners. I would also be very judicious with where you allocate your time - avoid the BS wanna be SEO sites - and keep to a few blogs or places to learn from. The links I’ve included in this post and anything I link to are considered safe and reliable places. I’ve known many of these for years or decades, but you should be sure to avoid anything that appears somewhat suspect or rolls on about nonsensical SEO stuff that has no way to back any of it up.
- Become a Strategic & Consultative SEO - [General] This one does not come with a link referencing any site but it is an important soft skill in SEO. Why? Because writing title tags, pushing out meta descriptions, and sharing keyword rank reports does not an SEO make. To be a successful SEO today you must do your clients, internal teams, or boss a favor and provide consultative and strategic SEO value - day in and day out. Whether the site moves through a major migration (most especially here) or a new product line concept is unveiled.
This is the hard stuff - digging in and uncovering the deep technical connections of what that code or redirect or mobile experience decision impact could have on your site’s traffic and rankings is your job. It’s not easy and it doesn't come spelled out in some book somewhere.
This is, and has been, what differentiates the outstanding SEO with the lackluster, junior typical large scale agency.
In order to be the expert, you must think ahead, be proactive, in determining how something will change or impact the site? What the development team might be planning? How can you help educate them as to what to do or not, and how best to proceed?
SEO Governance is something you should become familiar with - having an understanding as to how to plan and manage your in-house SEO efforts is something that will come with time.
In order to help you speed up that time - go check out the framework I put together for most of my clients. That model has been used for many large enterprise organizations to help them organize their SEO efforts and get the most accomplished leveraging their internal teams.