Learn SEO

Two years ago, Rand Fishkin (the CEO and co-founder of SEOmoz) wrote an excellent post about learning SEO: 6 Ways to Learn SEO.

Many of the resources listed in that post are still extremely valuable; however, a lot has changed in two years. To help keep you current, I’m going to channel my inner Rand and give you an updated list of resources to learn SEO.

Free Online Guides

One of the fastest ways to learn SEO basics is through an online guide. The best guides contain a wealth of information, and they are updated regularly. But before we dive into a few examples, let’s watch Rand give us an overview of SEO:

For more introductory information, here are a few of the best free SEO guides:

(1) SEOmoz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO – This is one of the most popular (it’s been read over 1 million times) and most informative guides you’ll find. It’s broken into 10 chapters, and it covers topics such as how search engines operate, keyword research, basic link building, and how to measure the success of your SEO campaigns. Best of all, the guide was updated in May 2012.

(2) Rand’s Introduction to SEO – This presentation (shown below) is a little dated (August 2010), but it is still incredibly useful. It includes 150 slides, and as Rand explains, “It covers the search engine landscape, the SEO process, keyword research, link building and the emergence of social media as a ranking signal.”

(3) Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide – This is a great introductory guide with numerous best practices for accessibility, indexability, and on-page SEO.

(4) Search Engine Land’s What Is SEO / Search Engine Optimization? Guide – This “guide” is actually a collection of valuable resources, including an introductory video, The Periodic Table Of SEO Ranking Factors (shown below), a Guide To SEO that explains the periodic table, and a few of the site’s most popular articles.

Search Engine Land Periodic Table of SEO Ranking Factors

(5) HubSpot’s Learning SEO From the Experts: A Step-By-Step Guide – This free guide includes 27 pages that are dedicated to topics such as keyword research, on-page SEO, link building, and social media.

(6) Web Gnomes’ Getting Started with SEO: The Definitive Beginner’s Guide – Our free eBook covers a wide range of SEO topics, including how search engines work, on-page SEO, link building, social media, and measuring SEO success.

Published Books

Sometimes people just enjoy having a book in their hands, and if you fall into that category, there are plenty of solid introductory SEO books to choose from. Unfortunately, every book on this list is already outdated to a certain extent (that’s just the nature of the industry), but they’re still useful for learning SEO fundamentals.

Marketing in the Age of Google Marketing in the Age of Google: Your Online Strategy IS Your Business Strategy
Vanessa Fox
ISBN: 978-1118231937
May 2012
254 pages
Search Engine Optimization Secrets Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Secrets
Danny Dover and Erik Dafforn
ISBN: 978-0470554180
March 2011
456 pages
Art of SEO The Art of SEO: Mastering Search Engine Optimization
Eric Enge, Stephan Spencer, Rand Fishkin, and Jessie Stricchiola
ISBN: 978-0596518868
October 2009
608 pages
Web Analytics Web Analytics 2.0: The Art of Online Accountability and Science of Customer Centricity
Avinash Kaushik
ISBN: 978-0470529393
October 2009
475 pages
Inbound Marketing Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs
Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah
ISBN: 978-0470499313
October 2009
256 pages
Truth about Search Engine Optimization The Truth About Search Engine Optimization
Rebecca Lieb
ISBN: 978-0789738318
February 2009
224 pages
Don't Make Me Think Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability
Steve Krug
ISBN: 978-0321344755
August 2005
216 pages

Blogs, Articles, Videos, and Forums

Online guides and books are great for establishing a foundation of SEO knowledge, but for the latest and greatest insights from the community, you should spend some time every day (or at least every week) reading and interacting with industry blogs and forums.


Here are a few of the most established SEO blogs:

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but these blogs will help you learn SEO, and they’ll also introduce you to many of the thought leaders in the SEO industry.

For a more comprehensive list of SEO blogs, check out Alltop’s Top SEO list.


The blogs listed in the previous section are great for following new developments in the industry, but until you learn SEO fundamentals, they can be a bit overwhelming. To help speed up the SEO learning process, here are a few of the most useful articles that have been written about various SEO topics:

Keyword Research

  • The Ultimate Guide to Keyword Research – The title says it all. This is, in fact, the ultimate guide to keyword research. It covers the different types of keywords, how to find them, how to use them for blogging, and how to use them for affiliate marketing.
  • Keyword Research for Web Writers and Content Producers – This five-part guide to keyword research teaches you how to find a popular niche, how to find popular topics, and how to find profitable keywords.

On-Page SEO

Content Marketing

Link Building

  • Link Building Strategies – The Complete List – Once again, the title says it all. Jon Cooper’s list of link building strategies is one of the most comprehensive resources you will find on link building.
  • The Noob Guide to Link Building – In this article, Mike King outlines a six month link building action plan that is designed to help “noobs” (i.e., people that are new to the SEO game) attract links to their sites.

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

Local SEO

  • Local Search Ranking Factors – Every year, David Mihm releases a list of important ranking factors for local SEO (based on feedback from the best local SEO practitioners in the industry). It’s a must-read if you want to improve an organization’s local search ranking.
  • Local Search Data Providers in the U.S. and Canada – This is an excellent guide that illustrates the local search ecosystem in the U.S. and Canada.

Social Media

  • The Beginner’s Guide to Social Media – This guide actually consists of 5 individual guides that discuss how to use the following social networking communities: Tumblr, LinkedIn, Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter.
  • The Ultimate Google+ SEO Guide – In this article, A.J. Kohn provides the definitive guide to Google+ SEO. If you have any questions about Google+, this is the first resource you should consult.

Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising

SEO Tools


  • A Stalker’s Guide to Competitive Research – In this article, Selena Narayanasamy provides a comprehensive approach to competitive research. If you want to investigate a competitor’s strategy (and you should), this is the first post you should read.
  • How to Perform the World’s Greatest SEO Audit – This is an excellent guide that illustrates many of the important components for an effective SEO audit. It’s one of my favorite articles, but I’m obviously biased ;-) .
  • Search Engine Ranking Factors – This is an excellent resource that helps quantify the relative importance of various signals (e.g., number of unique linking root domains, number of social shares, etc.) for ranking in the search engines.
  • The New SEO Process (Quit Being Kanye) – In this article, Mike King describes the old SEO process (in which SEO is incorrectly treated like it exists in a vacuum) and provides a new process that embraces the expanded role of SEO and its integration into the overall marketing mix.
  • Dealing With The Increasing Complexity and Volume of SEO Tasks – This is an incredibly in-depth discussion of the ever-expanding list of tasks that fall under the SEO umbrella. It describes numerous topics (e.g., brand building, social integration, local SEO, etc.), and it offers many helpful resources for each of those topics.
For even more articles, be sure to check out the community-curated content at Inbound.org.


I enjoy reading as much as the next guy, but it’s usually more fun to learn SEO by watching videos. With that in mind, here are a few popular video collections:

We can’t have a section on videos without actually showing a video so here’s a popular Whiteboard Friday video about SEO myths:


After you’ve read a few articles and watched a few videos, you’ll probably have a few lingering SEO questions. Fortunately, there are a number of forums that will allow you to ask those questions and interact with other SEO enthusiasts.

Here are a few of the most popular SEO forums:

SEOing Your Own Sites

Once you know the SEO best practices, it’s time to start applying that knowledge and experimenting with your own websites. You can’t truly learn SEO unless you actually do SEO.

One of the best guides for starting this process is still The Beginner’s Checklist for Learning SEO by Danny Dover.

Using this checklist, Danny guides you through the process of creating a website (and getting it hosted), identifying keywords, performing basic on-page and off-page SEO, and monitoring your efforts. Combine Danny’s step-by-step approach with the resources above, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a full-fledged SEO!

Social Media

As you continue to expand your theoretical and practical SEO knowledge, it’s important to begin participating in the SEO conversation taking place through social media.

Social media has become a critical component of this industry, and it offers at least 3 benefits:

  1. Relationship Building – We all know the value of strong industry relationships, and social media helps facilitate the creation of those relationships, regardless of geographic location.
  2. Information Sharing – The SEO community is incredibly helpful and openly willing to answer questions and exchange ideas.
  3. Knowledge Leadership – Once you begin making your own contributions to the SEO knowledge base, social media is an excellent forum for promoting those contributions and establishing yourself as an industry leader.

For a massive list of people in the SEO industry to follow on Twitter (or encircle on Google+), check out this list of 101 Internet marketers on Twitter & Google+.

If that list is too overwhelming, here’s the Mount Rushmore of SEO (based on popularity, influence, and seniority):

SEO Mount Rushmore

From left to right, here’s more information about the guys found on the mountain:

Danny Sullivan Danny Sullivan
Twitter: @dannysullivan
Google+: Danny Sullivan
Twitter Bio: Editor of SearchEngineLand.com, covering Google, SEO, PPC and all aspects of search engines and search marketing.
Matt Cutts Matt Cutts
Twitter: @mattcutts
Google+: Matt Cutts
Twitter Bio: I’m the head of the webspam team at Google.
Aaron Wall Aaron Wall
Twitter: @seobook
Google+: Aaron Wall
Twitter Bio: We cover the SEO and search marketing space as well as general changes to the web.
Rand Fishkin Rand Fishkin
Twitter: @randfish
Google+: Rand Fishkin
Twitter Bio: CEO + founder of SEOmoz. I tweet 50-75X/week primarily on inbound marketing, SEO, startups & entrepreneurship.

Conferences and Events

Now that you’ve learned the SEO basics and built some amazing online relationships, it’s time to take your SEO learning into the real world.

Conferences are a great way to learn from the biggest names in the industry, and they provide an incredible venue for networking with like-minded individuals.

Here are a few of the most popular SEO conferences:

If you’re not ready to attend an SEO conference just yet, you still have options that are closer to home. For example, most major cities have at least one SEO-related Meetup group.

I encourage you to search for Meetups in your local area, but here is a list of the most popular Search Engine Optimization Meetup groups.

You can also find local SEO events by contacting your local Chamber of Commerce.


Obviously, there are many different ways to learn SEO. You can read online guides and blogs. You can watch educational videos. You can exchange ideas through social media or in the real world.

No matter how you decide to learn, the important thing is that you actually start learning… and don’t stop. Like most technology-based industries, the world of SEO is constantly evolving, and it requires ongoing education.

With that in mind, I’d love to hear how you learned SEO. What helped you the most, and what advice do you have for SEO newbies?

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