Learning the search engine optimization (SEO) game is still an important part of the web marketing world. Large sums of money and time are readily sunk into the costs of software and training, everyone wants to learn SEO to at least a competent level. But much of what the in-the-trenches SEO professional learns on the job can be attained (mostly) for free. In this article, you’ll learn about some seemingly counter-intuitive strategies to learn SEO without spending a dime on software or training.
- Learn SEO One Step at a Time
- The Most Basic SEO Tutor Available: The Search Engines
- SEO Online Tutorials and Topic Discussion
- Go Back and Improve Older Content
Learn SEO One Step at a Time
There are so many facets of the SEO diamond that it can be overwhelming at the start. Here’s just a short list of starter topics:
- Keyword research
- On-page SEO
- Technical SEO
And just imagine that beneath each of these initial bullet points are hundreds of additional bullet points that expand on the topic.
Because there is so much to learn, it’s best to take it one topic at a time. Much of the work that you will do toward building better search results will have a delayed effect. This means that work you do today might only show improvements in your results a few months down the road — sometimes up to six months. So it is certainly best to start doing whatever improvements you can at the start, but bear in mind that your efforts down the road will tell you where you still need to improve.
Interesting Side Effects
While it would be nice to take credit for all of your best-performing pages, sometimes SEO surprises you. A piece of content that, at the time, didn’t seem to represent your best work crawled to position #1 in the search engine results pages (SERPs). These happy accidents remind you that the SEO game gives and takes in equal measure, but that’s part of the fun of it. And the reason you learn SEO is to better understand what habits and practices work best. The key is to try and isolate what you did right and repeat it.
As a side not, if you happen to use WordPress there are plugins you can install that will actually analyze your page for SEO improvements.
The Most Basic SEO Tutor Available: The Search Engines
It might seem counter-intuitive, but the best way to learn SEO for free is to use the search engines every day. Most people already use search engines daily to find goods, services, and information. All you need to do is extend your current SEO usage to encompass the searches relevant to your website. (Relevant meaning the searches that you think will lead people to your website.)
Just Start Searching
Start searching the web for the keyword queries that you believe should generate results for your website. This way you can learn SEO at your own pace, and keep an eye on your competitors.
But what are you looking for specifically?
Pick out the top ten search results for your queries, and ask yourself a series of questions:
- What kind of content is most represented on these pages? (Pure text, images, videos, slideshows, or all of the above?)
- Is the keyword in a level 2 (
H2) heading on the page?
- How much written content has the author dedicated to the topic?
- Is the information complete, authoritative, and easy to follow?
- If you were to land on this page, would you get all the information you needed?
- What’s lacking?
- If you were tasked to improve this page, what would you first set about improving?
It also wouldn’t hurt to open a word search box in your browser, and count how many times the keyword phrase is used in the body content.
Searching with the purpose of educating yourself can inform you about search habits. This is something often missed when first trying to learn SEO. The focus usually centers on on-page improvements and technical considerations — which are by no means unimportant —, but figuring out what the searcher intends with a certain phrase is much more difficult to pin down and more rewarding if you can develop a knack for it. And it’s something you can learn for free, because there’s no better way to learn it than by simply viewing results for various queries.
SEO Online Tutorials and Topic Discussion
Many of the best minds in the SEO world have shared their insights on YouTube. Companies like SEMRush and Ahrefs, who develop SEO software as a service, have published much of their insights and research to their various YouTube channels. If you happen to use these tools, which can be expensive, you can also learn how to use them better by watching these many YouTube videos.
Check Out “ExpertTube”
Like “expert Twitter,” YouTube experts are not shy about sharing their knowledge. Popular search engine news websites regularly publish interviews and interesting topic-heavy videos on their own YouTube channels. Much of the news in the SEO world circles back around on itself as new data and insights enter the debate. This is why it’s good to see what the experts are talking about today and allow your previous notions to be challenged. But, as always, take all information with a grain of salt. Not all expert data may apply to your circumstances.
Mind the Forums, Or Read The Blogs
SEOs are a technical bunch, and they can often be found shop-talking in various SEO forums sprinkled throughout the Internet. You can learn a lot for free just by reading through some of these online conversations. If you do not want to visit the forums yourself, the Search Engine Roundtable blog captures a lot of the highlights and provides them to you in digest form.
Go Back and Improve Older Content
One of the best ways to learn SEO is to do it every day. It might seem obvious, but you would be surprised how often a simple scan through older content reveals past missteps and opportunities for improvement. As your SEO knowledge grows over the years, you will want to routinely go back and polish older content. There’s always something to improve.
What To Look For During a Site Audit
A whole article about site audits would be more appropriate, for now we can cover the basics. As you’re scanning through older articles take note of the following:
- Is any content out of date or no longer applicable?
- Are there are any pages that could be improved for on-page optimization? (For example, putting the keyword in an H2 heading.)
- Are there are opportunities to expand some content? It’s always possible that new information can be added to augment an article, add context, and generally improve the efficacy and reach of the information being offered. With some topics, the more information the better.
You would be best advised to perform a site audit every few months.
Site-specific search is one of those little-known SEO techniques that always escapes detection. You can actually search the search engines for only your domain. This means you can see how your search queries are doing without using any additional tools. Not a perfect science, but it is a quick and easy to way to get some insights. All you have to do is plug this query into a search engine:
site:<example.com> <search query>
(Of course, replace
<example.com> with your domain and without the less than and greater than symbols. Likewise, replace
<search query> with your real query.)
What you will get is the search engine results pages that only apply to your domain. If all is well, the page you optimized for the given search query should come up in the top position. If it does not, then analyze the results and figure out why. Worse, if you get no results at all then that could be a sign of other issues. (For example, maybe your site is not reachable by crawl bots for some reason? If you’re hosted with us, and believe your site is not being crawled, you can always contact live support.) Or, it’s possible that the search engine sees no relation between that query and the page you expected to appear.
As a word of caution, be patient. It’s possible that if the page is relatively new on your site that the search engines have not crawled and stored the page content yet. The crawling process can take a little while. Remember, those search engine crawler bots are scanning the entire web.
So, as with everything else in the SEO world, be patient, persistent, and diligent, and you will start to see the fruits of your labor materializing.