As a beginner to SEO, it can be a quite overwhelming. There's an overload of information to filter through and can seem very technical and complicated at first.
The thing is, the basics of SEO are relatively simple: do keyword research, create link-worthy content, and optimize the website. You do not need to spend thousands of dollars on courses and conferences to learn the "SEO Secrets".
There are plenty of high-quality and free SEO tutorials online.
Whether you're looking to do SEO for your personal blog, trying to increase your value to employers, or you're looking to train employees in SEO, this article is all you need to get started.
Introduction to SEO
Google's search engine optimization starter guide is a good place to start. It begins by walking you through all of the on-page basics including setting proper title tags, meta descriptions, and so on.
The guide continues on to explain how to promote your website, what a no-follow link is, and touches on the importance of a mobile-friendly website. Given that SEO largely revolves around Google, it's a good idea to hear what they have to say about it and view as important factors.
Moz's Beginner's Guide to SEO is another good resource if you're looking for an introduction. It covers more topics than Google's version and talks about keyword research and some link building methods. Moz's guide gives a solid overview of SEO as a whole but doesn't dig too deep into any one subject.
Moz is also a great place to hang out if you're just starting out too. Get involved with the community and you'll learn a lot.
Keyword research is one of the most important parts of SEO. Even if you have the most powerful backlinks in the world - if nobody's searching for the keywords you're optimizing for - there's no hope for organic traffic. Good keyword research is a balance of picking profitable keywords with enough search volume and that you can actually compete for.
Brian Dean's blog is a goldmine of SEO tutorials. His guide to keyword research is a good place to start for keyword research. He provides a fantastic tutorial on using the keyword planner, which is useful for beginners. The guide then walks through clever ways to find long-tail keywords and how to evaluate commercial intent. If you're new to keyword research, there's no better guide to read.
Nick Eubanks is an expert in SEO world when it comes to keyword research. Meant for an intermediate to advanced SEO, the course is broken down into 13 clear sections. Nick's guide on keyword research is updated for SEO in 2020. He details his exact process and tools he uses, so you can follow his keyword research process step by step. He dives into determining search intent, a factor you can't forget during your research.
On-Page & Techincal SEO (Auditing)
On-page SEO is a big part of the equation in ranking successfully. While the basics are relatively simple – title tags, meta description, internal links – it can get complicated. If you're looking for tutorials for your personal WordPress website, Moz's Beginners Guide will suffice.
If you're looking to optimize enterprise websites with thousands (or millions) of pages you have some reading to do. Knowing how to deal with a website with four languages, duplicate content, tricky URL parameters, and a dev site that hasn't been blocked from SERPs is what separates an SEO expert from beginners.
This is a great blog post by Ryan Stewart on his process for auditing large scale websites. He gives you the complete list of tools he uses and walks you through the different steps he takes to complete the audits. It includes advanced technical SEO tactics like using video XML files and pagination. Ryan doesn't add any fluff - it's short and to the point – which is a good thing.
Full disclosure this guide and template isn't free (it costs $295), but it may be worth it if you plan on doing SEO audits in the near future. It's broken up into 19 sections with a whopping 197 checkpoints. Each check even has step-by-step instructions on addressing and fixing the issues. If you need advanced guidance on an SEO audit for a client, this is the template to get.
The importance of building links is still a common debate among SEOs. The truth of the matter is… anybody who disagrees that links are a part of the equation has likely never ranked a website for competitive terms before. Links help set yourself apart in the popularity contest happening on Google. There are hundreds of ways to build links and if you're a beginner it's best to get your hands dirty and see what works.
This is another useful SEO resource from Backlinko. It includes a sortable list with the time to execute, link value, and dependency on other sources. Whether you're stumped about where to start with a new site, or you're looking for ideas for a 15-year-old project, there's something here for you.
Want to learn everything you need to know about link building in one tutorial? David McSweeney outlined link building perfectly in a 6 chapter guide. It's written for a beginner but is packed with tips that even an experienced SEO will have a few take-aways. He walks through his link building process using Ahrefs as his tool of choice for link research. He covers all of the top strategies: link bait, ego bait, broken link building, guest blogging, and more.
If you're going to do any serious link building you're going to have to use one, or both, of Majestic or Ahrefs. These are tools that allow you to discover backlinks to any website which can help tremendously for link building efforts.
This guide by Ken McGaffin gives a great introduction to building links and using Majestic as a helper. He walks you through building a simple link building process, analyzing & replicating competitors, and understanding key link metrics. It's far from the end-all-be-all of link building guides, but is a useful resource for people unacquainted with these backlink discovery tools.
Local SEO is the practice of optimizing a website for searches based on a user's current location. If a company is geo-specific at all (ex. coffee shop in Toronto), they can most likely benefit from Local SEO. It can help businesses rank for local search terms and move them up the list on Google Maps.
I think this guide does a great job at explaining the foundations of Local SEO. It's succinct and gets to the point by explaining the importance of a proper Google My Business listing, citations, reviews, and links. The author also provides some good link building techniques and explains how to implement Schema.org on a website. Local SEO isn't overly complicated, you just need to do a few things properly, and Matthew explains them well.
Although this isn't a tutorial, it's a useful resource for anybody looking to do Local SEO. It's basically a checklist you can go through when running a Local SEO campaign which includes: setting clean URLs, picking the right category on Google My Business and adding a CTA to the website. It's a great place to double-check that you've ticked all the Local SEO boxes.
Page speed is an important search ranking factor (at least with Google), although it affects much more than that. Having a slow website can increase your bounce rate and page load speed heavily impacts a website's overall conversion rate.
Kinsta has put together an in-depth 6 chapter guide on website speed optimization. They cover everything a beginner needs to know when optimizing page speed: the importance of having a fast website and its impact on conversions & SEO, how to test website speed, and how to improve it for your own or client websites. It is very WordPress focused, but all the points they teach are relevant to any website. I'm only listing one guide in page speed because this is the only one you need.
Starting in 2015, Google began using mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor and later announced that they will switch to a mobile-first index during 2018. Seeing as mobile web usage has now eclipsed desktop you need to be optimized for mobile anyway.
Builtvisible's guide to mobile SEO does a great job of explaining the importance of being mobile-optimized and gives a thorough explanation of how to make it happen. This guide walks you through configuring a website to be mobile-friendly, indexing & promoting apps, and developing mobile content. It's easy to follow along as they give visual and code examples for every point made. If you're looking to go mobile this is a great place to start.
Google Penalties & Cleanup
Google penalties are something that all SEOs should be aware of and be able to identify. Whether you're hit for unnatural link building, thin content, or any of the other penalties, they can be a frightening event to wake up to. The good thing is, most of them can be remedied if dealt with properly.
This guide walks you through an intro to Google penalties, identifying if a website has one, steps to fixing the issue, and reconsideration requests. WebpageFX even throws in a few case studies of some of the penalties they've fixed for good measure. Getting a Google penalty can be a nightmare, but this guide can help you remedy the situation.
In this case study, Matt Diggity discusses how to repair algorithmic penalty problems, safe link building strategies, and more. The result of this particular client was an increase in traffic by 9,109%, so it's certainly worth learning from.
If you're going to take SEO seriously you can't avoid using the tools available to you. They can save you or your employee's tons of time and some are simply necessary to do the job. There are free tools available but some paid tools are well worth the money. Brian Dean has put together a thorough list of SEO tools broken down into six sections: link building, technical SEO, keyword research, rank tracking, content optimization, and backlink analysis. Browse them and find the right ones for you!
Don't want to trust one man's opinion alone on the best SEO tools? Robbie Richards asked 137 professionals in the industry if you could only use 3 tools for keyword research, which 3 would you choose?
He tallied up the answers for a leaderboard, but you can see each response too. Some of the experts serve up great tips on how they make the most of their favorite tools. It's a nice mix of both free and paid tools you need to succeed at SEO.
That's it for our list of SEO tutorials.
If you want to go beyond SEO and learn about paid search, check out our guide on 21 Free Google Ads tutorials.