By Miranda May 23, 2020 In Work

How to become an SEO expert?

The demand for SEO has skyrocketed in the past decade as companies of every kind have aspired to be found online, generating ‘free’ traffic which ultimately leads to more sales. But with all the information out there, it might be difficult to know where to start. This guide with an overview of free SEO courses will make your journey easier.

1) Increase your knowledge

To get a better understanding of SEO, online courses are a great way to start. The field of SEO can be broken down into three parts: content, technical and outreach (link building). With this in mind, I suggest starting with courses that give an overview of SEO, then diving into each of these three fields. First, watch this video to arm yourself with a short introduction to the world of SEO.

If you like reading, Google has created its own SEO Starter Guide with useful tips on how to structure and optimize for SEO. If you prefer watching videos, skip straight to the following free courses.

Courses about SEO

Here are some free courses that can build your knowledge of SEO:

Courses about content marketing

High-quality content is the biggest driver of traffic on a website, so content marketing skills can be a huge asset. A few free courses about content marketing are:

Courses about technical SEO

SEO specialists usually focus either on content and outreach or on technical SEO, as these fields require quite different skill sets. For people who are creative and like to write, content and outreach is usually a better fit. For the more tech-savvy who like coding, technical SEO is a very interesting field. But even if you have a preference for content and outreach, it would be good to have some knowledge of technical SEO, especially the essentials such as finding broken links and making sure your important pages can be indexed.

Courses about outreach

Link building, or outreach, is a part of SEO that must be treated with care. It’s here that Google will quickly give out penalties if it gets the impression you’re trying to manipulating the ranking. If you search on ‘link building’ on Google, you’ll come across plenty of old-fashioned spammy tactics you want to stay away from. Because of this, I prefer to use the term ‘outreach’ instead of link building, because the ultimate aim is to reach out to potential clients with interesting content so they get interested in the products or services your company offers.

This video gives some more insights about a site’s authority and a method to generate backlinks.

Finally, these paid courses provide some interesting insights about how to reach out with engaging content, which will get adopted more easily by a publisher.

2) The broader perspective of SEO

SEO is just one part of digital marketing, and to make sure your future recommendations and optimizations are in line with the overall digital marketing strategy, it’s worth learning more about the other aspects of digital marketing as well. Ultimately, we want to reach out to potential customers, so investing time in digital marketing helps you broaden your perspective. Also, when you share articles on social media, they might be picked up by other websites that link to your website; the result is that your site’s authority will grow.

Free courses in digital marketing

Having a solid understanding of digital marketing as a whole also makes your conversations easier with colleagues who are working on paid search, social media, and PR. When you establish good relationships with them and educate others about useful SEO practices, they might incorporate tactics that also benefit SEO performance into their everyday work.

3) Get hands-on experience

Once you have a better understanding of what SEO is and how to grow traffic, it’s best to try it out yourself and get that hands-on experience by building a website and creating content. To do this:

    1. Choose a topic you’re very interested in
    2. Think of a domain name and see if it’s still free on GoDaddy
    3. Choose a hosting company for your website. Although GoDaddy is fine for domain registration, I’m not a fan of their hosting services as they’re slow and have poor customer service. One company I prefer is SiteGround, but you should check online reviews for yourself
    4. Install WordPress (Siteground can do this for you)
    5. Choose a responsive theme from Themeforest to quickly build a website
    6. Import the demo site and read the instructions on editing the different parts of the site
    7. Install the Yoast SEO plugin
    8. Add the XML sitemap URL to the /robots.txt file
    9. Use keyword tools like UberSuggest to see what topics people are searching for
    10. Start writing content
    11. Remove the demo pages and images you’re not using

4) Smaller vs. larger employers

Realistically speaking, when you start your SEO career, you’ll start working at a smaller company that provides the opportunity to learn on the job. The reason is that large companies usually ask for a minimum amount of years of experience and are therefore harder to enter at the start of your career.

Working for a smaller company

Don’t worry if you find yourself working for a smaller company — it comes with a major benefit, namely that you get to work on the full SEO spectrum, from keyword research to site optimization to outreach. This helps you grow your knowledge along in different areas of SEO and identify which areas you enjoy the most. It’s also easier to see the impact of what you implement and therefore get a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t.

The downside of working for a smaller company is that usually you’re the only SEO specialist so you have no sparring partner or mentor. With that in mind, it’s important to stay eager for knowledge by reading information online and visiting conferences to network.

Working for a large company

When you start working for large companies with multiple SEO specialists, your work field usually gets smaller and more focused. This enables you to become an expert at one aspect of SEO. When you have SEO colleagues, you can also brainstorm, validate ideas and learn from each other. Working for established brands also makes SEO easier; when you begin to optimize, the strong authority of the brand means your work will show more immediate impact than when you work for a smaller company with a weaker site authority.

The downside of working for a large company is that multiple people are working on the same website. In this environment, it’s harder to tell whether an improvement is due to something you implemented or something someone else did.

5) Apply for SEO jobs

When you’re ready to start your first job in SEO, check out these websites:

Most of these job postings provide guidance on what skills are required. If you don’t feel confident in certain of those skills, this will tell you which areas you should brush up on.

6) Stay up to date

SEO has changed a lot and will continue to evolve every year. The reason Google makes regular updates to its algorithm is to provide better results to the user. Therefore, if you’re striving to provide in-depth and useful content to your readers, you’ll usually benefit from these updates.

As SEO changes continuously, you’ll sometimes find articles with outdated information and practices that can actually work against you if you implement them. When I search Google for SEO techniques, I change the settings to ‘past year’ to get freshly-produced content.

Here are some websites to keep an eye on for up-to-date SEO information:

7) Need any help?

I’ve been working with SEO since 2008 and have experience working on a wide variety of sites. If you have any questions about how SEO has evolved or how to handle certain tasks, feel free to reach out.