Understanding search-engine optimization (SEO) can help you gauge what your online visitors are interested in—as well as what aspects of your website can be improved. But those three letters—SEO—tend to strike fear in the hearts of even the most skilled content writers.
If you’re already working with an expert or agency, they might be able to help you acquire a basic understanding of how SEO works, but it would be difficult for them to teach you everything there is to know. There are also online training courses (The SES conferences and seminars are good resources), but you have to have a lot of time on your hands—and sometimes a lot of money.
This leaves you with one choice: Teach it to yourself. Here are five tips, along with a few resources, to get you started:
1. Reading is fundamental. Although this might sound obvious, it’s crucial to learning SEO on your own. You would be surprised at just how many great articles are out there that can teach you the basics. However, it can also be incredibly overwhelming. Here are a couple of free guides that offer excellent primers: The Beginners Guide to SEO by SEOMoz and SEO: A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners by Kissmetrics.
2. Try Out SEO tools. There is no better way to learn something than to put it into practice. You can try the tools your company uses, download free ones or even use free trials of paid tools. Poke around at the different tabs and numbers the tools have to help you understand some of the options you have when it comes to SEO. And try working with different keywords and watching the numbers change to get a sense of what works.
If you don’t have access to paid tools, here are a couple of options I recommend: Google AdWords Keyword Tools for free and SEOMoz tools and Authority Labs tool for free trials.
3. Get active. Participating in the online SEO community provides you with insightful reading and allows you to keep up with the latest trends in the industry—and it’s easy to get involved. You can join groups via social media, online forums, etc., and subscribe to get relevant information sent directly to you. Visit LinkedIn and search for these groups: SEOmoz, Professional Bloggers, Social Media Marketing. Those are just a few of the hundreds that offer quality content.
4. Connect with an SEO professional. Not only does getting involved in the community help you build a name for yourself in the SEO world, but it also connects you with professionals who are often happy to answer questions and serve as a kind of mentor. People who love their job enjoy helping others, and several editors and SEO professionals helped me as I began teaching myself SEO. Having that type of mentor was crucial to my success.
5. Write to learn. Do your research on SEO, with the extra motivation of turning it into an article or blog post. That can provide two benefits(1) You are learning while you are putting together your post and (2) guest blogging is important for SEO link-building purposes.
Both learning about and doing SEO are about knowing what people search for. Use these resources as a primer to get you searching in the right places and help you become part of the SEO community.