By Chuck Price
All of the SEO knowledge with NONE of the expense.
Online education is big business. That includes the digital marketing space. Scores of people are pushing online training programs promising to turn students into ‘SEO Rockstars’.
Here’s the good news. You can learn most, if not everything, taught in these courses for FREE. I’ll even share the ‘secret sauce’ that nobody ever tells you about. Here it is: Being successful online takes a LOT of HARD work. It requires having an understanding of how SEO works, then taking the time to develop and execute a strategy. On the plus side, most SEO skills are non-technical in nature. These skills can be acquired over time and at your own pace.
Following is a syllabus that I have created for the development of Organic Search Specialists at my own company, Measurable SEO. Individuals could use this knowledge to secure a job in SEO or to optimize their own website(s). Companies looking to develop an in house marketing team could also follow this plan.
Introduction to SEO
In the US, Google enjoys roughly double the market share of Bing and Yahoo combined. No one understands Google better than Google itself, so the best place to begin is by reading and understanding the 32 page Google SEO Starter Guide. This guide was originally developed as an internal document for Google employees and later released for the benefit of webmasters.
Some other good beginner guides:
- Moz’s The Beginner’s Guide to SEO
- Wordstream’s SEO Basics: Complete Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization
- Buffer’s The Complete Beginner’s Guide to SEO
Google has developed a Website Performance Optimization MOOC. In this short course, you’ll learn how to optimize any website for speed. The introduction of the accelerated mobile page project (AMP) and the use of website speed as a ranking factor are signals that speed is an increasingly important factor for achieving online success. Looking for a quick tutorial instead? Check out A Beginner’s Guide to Website Speed Optimization.
The User Experience for the Web (WebUX) MOOC provides an overview of the general principles of online user experience. Students will learn about the techniques and tools used to create a great UX and how user-centric design fits into the software development cycle.
For those interested in learning more about Mobile optimization, there is a UX Design for Mobile Developers course. Invest six hours per week to finish this course in approximately six weeks.
As mentioned previously, most SEO is non technical, but one cannot ignore the fact the web is a technical platform. There are certain rules and best practices to follow when building and auditing websites. This module, from Distilled U, explains how search engines interpret pages. This knowledge will help you in diagnosing problems and understanding how to improve websites. You will need to sign up for a Demo account, which permits you to experience up to three modules for free.
A Google search for the phrase ‘keyword research’ returns nearly 7 million results. This is probably the most written about topic in all of SEO, so where do you begin? In terms of a simple, yet comprehensive and effective approach, I like the 19 Step Keyword Research Process. This exercise is designed to help you find relevant and highly searched keyword phrases with low competition.
On Page Optimization
The basics are covered well in the Google Starter guide. A number of free tools are available to assist you. One ‘advanced’ optimization technique, marking up content with schema, is detailed in this Quick Start Guide . Once you’ve finished optimizing your site, analyze it using the free Microsoft SEO Toolkit.
Writing for the Web
This Writing for the Web course emphasizes the differences between online writing and print writing. Without understanding that difference, it is difficult to effectively communicate across the web. Due to the interactive nature of the internet, the course emphasizes the importance of user behavior. You will learn how web design, writing style, structure and search engine optimization can impact that behavior.
Creating an Effective Content Strategy for Your Website is an online course which teaches you how to develop a strategy that utilizes a variety of media (text, images, videos, and infographics) across multiple channels.
In this course, the instructor will show you how to transform an outdated, text heavy website into a multimedia powerhouse. Learning how to create a content inventory, gap analysis, and content matrix will help you form the foundation for a strategy. This will require signing up for a 10 day free trial at Lynda.com. Since the course is only two hours long, you should be able to easily complete it within the trial period.
If you prefer a written tutorial, as opposed to an online video, check these out:
- From Moz: A Content Strategy Template You Can Build On
- From Hubspot: How to Create a Content Strategy That Actually Drives Organic Traffic
There has been a lot of chatter on the web that links aren’t as important as they once were. I have written several articles explaining why that isn’t the case. The mere existence of the Penguin algorithm and manual link penalties sends a clear message that links still have a profound impact on search rankings. This was most recently confirmed on March 23, 2016 in a Google Q&A where the three most important ranking signals were revealed.
The key takeaway is to be in compliance with Google webmaster guidelines pertaining to link building and to stay away from link schemes. The follow guides will get you started:
- Beginner’s Guide to Link Building
- Link Building With Ahrefs: A How-To Guide
- The Essential Guide to Effective Link Building Outreach
- Link Building – How to Build Links for Free
Google Search Console
Formerly known as Webmaster Tools, the data, provided by Google, in the console, helps you monitor a website’s health and visibility within Google Search results. The search console offers insight as to how Google views a website and helps one optimize for peak performance in the SERPs. Learn about Search Console by navigating to Search Console Help
Many are intimidated by Google analytics, but there’s no need to be afraid when you can become a pro for free. Google teaches analytics via online courses at Analytics Academy. Choose from a wide array of self-study programs, including:
- Digital Analytics Fundamentals
- Ecommerce Analytics
- Google Analytics Platform Principles
- Google Tag Manager Fundamentals
- Mobile App Analytics Fundamentals
By taking these courses, you will learn the key principles of digital analytics and specifically how to get started with Google’s own Analytics.
Run a Digital Marketing Campaign
After you have studied all of this material, it will be time to run a digital marketing campaign. This course teaches you how to assemble and organize different online marketing channels into a cohesive, profitable campaign. This 10 hour course touches on everything from design and how it can influence customer decisions to calculating ROI, measuring marketing channels and knowing what to focus on.
Despite the overwhelming volume of digital marketing resources available on the web, much of it is outdated, or in some cases, really bad. If you study all the course material presented here, you will have a better understanding of SEO than many of the so called SEO rockstars.
Just keep in mind that digital marketing is very fluid and ever changing. The famed cinematographer Conrad Hall probably sums it up best, “You are always a student, never a master. You have to keep moving forward”.