Are you trying to learn SEO? Here are 5 things you should be doing to become a search engine optimisation specialist.
1. Read About How Search Engines Work
There are many good, free resources available on the Web if you want to learn about SEO. In a recent post we’ve mentioned a few that we have used ourselves in the past (and in some cases still continue to use).
The best thing about learning through reading is that you can quickly get a decent overview of both basic and complex subjects. You can learn from other people’s experience which will save you time and give you the opportunity to learn from the best SEOs out there – some are simply brilliant and they give away a lot of their knowledge for free. The downside of spending too much time simply reading about SEO is that it’s not possible to get the experience you need just from consuming SEO theory.
2. Learn From Those Who Are Doing It Right
Learn from those who are already doing well in the search engines. Pick a competitive keyword in your niche and see who is ranking at the top. What should you be looking at? First of all have a look at what words your competitor is using in their copy and titles. Are they using keywords that you should be using too? Are they using more or less keywords in their copy than you are? Where on the page are they placing keywords?
What else can you learn from your competitors? Link-building. Tools such as Open Site Explorer and Majestic SEO will give you a peek into what other websites have been up to. Since inbound links are an essential component of a good Google ranking, the more high quality links you can obtain for your site, the better you can expect your rankings to be.
One word of caution when learning SEO this way. Remember that some websites might be ranking well despite certain types of SEO activity and not because of it. Don’t blindly copy what other websites are doing if it goes against common sense or what you already know about SEO best practices.
3. Learn From Those Who Are Doing It Wrong
Watching competing websites closely will allow you not only to pick up good SEO practices that you can implement on your site, but can also help you avoid errors that others are making. As an exercise, compare the websites that are ranking well in the search results with those that aren’t. What sets them apart? Are there clear differences in how keywords are used, or in how internal links are structured? Perhaps you will notice a difference in the quality or quantity of incoming links?
Keep watching and comparing what others are doing and you can learn from both successful and unsuccessful websites.
Arguably, the best way to learn SEO is to do SEO. Especially if you have the opportunity to work on several websites at once, you’ll be able to notice patterns and perform tests that will give you further insight.
What if you’re working on just one website? While you can learn a lot from managing, planning and executing link-building and content strategies for a single website there is an enormous benefit in working on several websites at once. Why? Well, it’s a great opportunity to do things a bit differently and further test some of the assumptions you have about how search engines work. So if you’re an in-house SEO and there are no other websites you need to look after, find some. Run a hobby website or help out a friend or two in optimising their websites. You’ll gain valuable experience that will help you become a better SEO.
While day-to-day SEO work on a number of websites will give you plenty of opportunity to learn, sometimes you want to check a theory without risking your ranking. This is where building a test website can be a step worth taking. The best tests are those that are run in parallel on several websites as they give you the opportunity of split testing and comparing results. A well-executed test will usually require spending a good deal of time and resources, so make sure that whatever you’re testing is worth the effort and hasn’t yet been sufficiently proven by others. To be fair, creating test sites is an advanced way of learning SEO and while it can be a great source of competitive SEO knowledge, be careful with the conclusions you draw from any single experiment. It’s easy to misinterpret results, especially if you’re biased towards a specific outcome.
Are there alternative ways to learn SEO? Sure. Participating in SEO training courses, attending conferences or finding an experienced SEO who can guide you are all great ways of learning even more. However, if you want to learn something on your own, try doing the five things outlined above. Stick to them and you will get better and better at ranking websites in the search engines.