Should You Buy an SEO Course to Learn SEO?
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably been searching on this topic for quite some time and, even more probable, is that you came up with many of the same answers. Most of which are redundant and not really valuable.
What Is the Best Way to Really Learn SEO?
There’s tons of free SEO courses. (Many of which are created by people who’ve developed a blog a few years ago, bought some links and BAM! Just like that they’re an “SEO guru”).
I’m not saying every course is that way, but there’s too many that look like that.
There’s thousands of YouTube videos showing you how you can learn SEO.
There’s years worth of the stuff written in many other blogs over the last decade plus.
My Professional Recommendation
Buy an SEO Course ONLY If The Following Criteria Are Met:
Learning SEO requires modeling something. You have to know where to start. In many cases you’d be hard pressed to understand any sort of SEO workflow from a course that starts with “Time to go find links”
There needs to be instruction on a learned process and organization to your SEO program. There just never seems to be anything out there that even talks about the SEO process necessary to start, and progress through a full end to end program.
Can I Learn SEO on my own?
Anyone can learn anything on their own. So, can you learn SEO on your own? Sure. But understand you don’t know what you don’t know. This is often the best place to get started in SEO, and I recommend it to a point.
I was advised by my mentor and manager back in 2006 to just build your own website from scratch, from the ground up. You will learn much about what technical SEO is. You’ll learn the process a page goes through from publish to crawl, rendering, and then indexed. Learn about search engine crawl errors, how to fix a page that once got traffic, and suddenly doesn’t any longer.
You learn SEO best when making mistakes and trying new things.
We all learn differently though.
Some are visual learners, and some prefer audio or reading text.
I prefer a course with video and downloadable worksheets, and templates. But, like with most things, you get what you pay for. If the course you buy is sold for $97 and doesn’t include any live coaching time, I’d say you’re missing out on a critical aspect of understanding how SEO works.
Similarly to anything you eventually become really good at is through some type of instruction, or guidance from those who have more experience. Search Engine Optimization is a process of many steps through periods of phases over the course of many months and years.
SEO is not choosing a set of keywords, telling your client you’ll rank those #1 within 3 months and walking away. That is where those freelancers charging $500 a month for SEO get into massive trouble. That’s a commodity and that’s not a service you should ever offer any business. That’s also one of the many reasons SEO gets a bad rap.
It evolves and changes as your business or customers change. Searcher behavior changes. The search algorithm changes. Ecommerce SEO has a set of nuances that are different from Local SEO, which is different from International SEO.
Do you know there’s specializations within each? There is.
Here’s my next question.
Why do you want to learn SEO?
Are You A Business Owner?
Are you a business owner and simply can’t afford to hire a six figure a month consultant to manage SEO for your business?
Maybe learning the basics of SEO, then with every blog post or new page being built, you can apply some level of SEO best practice to those areas. Maybe that might be the only reason I’d give that business owner a pass and say, sure, go learn SEO.
But, if you're in the business of selling six figure video studio projects to Netflix or SNL, you probably shouldn’t bother learning SEO. If you have a florist shop in the center of a major US city and your primary business is weddings, you probably should be booking meetings with brides, not researching keywords.
Here’s an example of the business owner I think should be the ONLY one managing their own SEO. They are a solopreneur, the only one in their business. They make less than $300,000 a year revenue, and are just getting started. They know they need to create quality content regularly, to bring in new customers, and don’t yet have the funds to spend on paid advertising.
The primary key there is they have more time than money right now, so taking some time to learn basic SEO for their own business in the very early stages of building the business is a great option for them.
Does that make sense?
SEO is marketing through search engines. It’s marketing. Should you be doing all your marketing yourself? Are you a marketing expert?
And more importantly do you even have the time?
Are You Interested in A Professional Career in SEO?
Are you considering making a career change and want to become professional at SEO? If so, are you considering offering your services through your own agency or working for an employer in-house? Or are you already an SEO and just need to increase your knowledge and up your game to the next level?
Investing in a quality SEO program or course is a smart way to go if you are an up and coming SEO or just need to learn more to remain competitive.
Start by finding a mentor or a good SEO course, created by an actual SEO who’s been there and can answer your questions in real time is worth whatever the cost of the course.
In just about any Facebook SEO Group you can find mentors who are there ready to help you.
Here’s a few of my favorites:
Strategic SEO Management (I actually manage this one, want to join? c’mon in!)
How Long Will it Take Me to Learn SEO?
You will never fully be done learning SEO.
I’m still learning 16 years later.
SEO is ever changing, always evolving, and not ever complete. You will learn new things every day. That’s one of the really fascinating things about this career.
Could you take an 8 week SEO course and learn SEO? Sure. Again it depends, does it include the criteria I outlined above? If so, you’ll get a real good understanding and be off to a great start.
I have been asked by several clients to come into their office and instruct their SEO team lead, or help establish an SEO program within their business. In this way, I’ve developed a full 6 month program to walk that SEO through every single thing you could possibly ever know about leading and managing an SEO program in-house. Things like reporting, what’s that look like, how often should it be shared, or what to measure, what to prioritize and establish a solid process of where to start, how to manage your year, define SEO strategy for your organization and tons more.
I began my SEO career in 2004 by reading a lot on the topic and participated in an in person workshop for advanced SEO in 2006. Yes, there was SEO back then, but it was so primitive and very much in the early days where if you bolded words or loaded pages up with all kinds of keywords you could rank anything.
Hardly the sophistication of the current Google algorithm we are more familiar with today.
Today it is so much simpler to learn SEO, because so many have written on the topic, including myself. The difficulty though is how to know who to trust?
There are so many publishers, bloggers, and “gurus” who either try to teach or speak about SEO, and you might have a real difficult time trying to figure out who or which of these is speaking from genuine experience?
Can I Learn SEO at Home?
As I answer this question, we are currently living through a global health crisis, where we’re all sequestered at home. So, yes, you can learn SEO at home.
What resources can you trust?
Back in 2008 I signed up for Distilled University. It was in beta form and they were rolling out their online SEO education. Distilled is a legitimate and really smart SEO organization. I am not an affiliate of theirs, but I did see value in their offering.
Moz has for so many years been providing really good educational content. When I’m asked where to go to start learning, I almost always point to Moz Whiteboard Friday. You could watch hours and learn so much. Then there’s beginner mini courses over at Moz as well. All that is free, and good to digest at least weekly.
Should You Learn SEO For Free?
What you won’t find in the myriad choices of “learn SEO for free” is how to actually start, lead and manage SEO. If you just want to become familiar with SEO, then yes there’s tons of free SEO (like I mentioned in the above through Moz).
Sure you can learn all about title tags, and even what mobile optimization looks like and time to first paint, but you won’t learn a process. You will not learn what many SEOs do on a day to day basis, or should be doing.
If you are seriously considering a career in SEO you must learn how to step in on day one and manage the program.
CAUTION....You will NEVER learn that for free.
Unless, you suddenly get a job in-house and figure it all out on your employer's dime of course (which is exactly what I had done when I was working for an employer). Except, I had already learned the tactics while working in an agency prior to that global in-house SEO position.
The Final Word on SEO Certification
I’ve read so many questions asking how can I become SEO Certified?
Here’s the simple answer to that never ending question… No, there is no such thing as “being SEO certified”
The unofficial certification for SEO is obtained by doing.
Real life experience of actually performing SEO. That’s all that will be said on this topic.
How Can I Help You?
Whether your a business owner just trying to learn the basics or need help in how to hire and interview an SEO or if you’re new to SEO and really want to learn this, and become absolutely awesome and expert - then go check out my SEO Playbook or book a Free SEO Career Strategy Session with me!
UPDATE: If you're interested in learning the basics of what you need to know right now in SEO, which does include process and reporting out your performance - check out my mini course Kickstart SEO Roadmap - you'll learn exactly what you need to know at a basic level. It's meant to get you up and running in your SEO knowledge fast.