How to learn SEO: 7 tips for effective learning

SEO: they say it’s the key ingredient to online success. But if you’re a beginner, two questions might pop up in your mind: 1) Can you learn SEO (hint: you can) and 2) how do you learn it? Like most skills, you learn SEO by finding the right resources, setting goals, planning, using learning strategies, practicing and evaluating. Does that sound like a lot? Don’t worry! Here, we’ll give you some tips for a flying start in SEO.

Firstly, we’d like you to meet Maya. We’ll use her case to guide you through an effective learning journey!

Meet Maya

Maya is a culinary enthusiast who enjoys discovering restaurants and discussing the food with friends. Recently, her friend Nick suggested she should start a website and write restaurant reviews. Such a fun idea, Maya thought.

Nick makes websites for a living, and Maya’s heard him talk over and over about the importance of SEO. She figures it is quite important and decides to go online and learn more. A quick search is enough to flood her with information. So many sources, so much to read and go through. And on top of that, she’s beginning to realize that SEO is quite a layered topic. Where should she even begin? Should she order a book, read posts, or get a course? 

SEO courses: a great starting resource

When you’re starting with SEO, and you set out to search for knowledge, you may get overwhelmed. As a beginner, it is difficult to make sense of it on your own. To spare yourself the hardship, you could follow an online course. An online SEO course is a good beginner’s resource because: 

  • An online course typically contains bite-sized lessons that move from basic to more complex. That ensures you understand each concept before you move on to the next one. 
  • Ideally, a course is created by instructors whose goal is to make sure the material sticks in your memory. 
  • Following and completing a course is not only educational, but it can also bring satisfaction and increase motivation.

So, Maya could begin by following a course such as SEO for beginners. Wait a minute! Did you read through all of this just so that we can promote a (free) course to you? No! Although, we do think that, for a beginner, a course is the most logical choice. Still, it is up to you to choose your path. If you decide to use online resources, make sure they are trustworthy. Don’t forget to take a closer look at the source, what they say about it online, and perhaps check some ratings and reviews.

Whether you are using an online course, a book, or online posts, there are some strategies you can use to direct your learning.

Tips on how to learn SEO

1. Set goals

A successful learning journey begins with goals. Goals, especially challenging ones, are most likely to motivate you to persevere and reach the finish line. When setting goals, you should ask yourself a crucial question: What do I want to accomplish, and what goal will help me get there?

Maya wants to learn SEO, so she can apply it to her website and ensure good rankings. SEO is complex, and to master it, she will need to dive into all of these topics: 

Let’s assume that Maya decided to take the SEO for beginners’ course. Then, her main goal can be – Finish the SEO for beginners course. But, if she has very little time, perhaps this goal is too general. To make it more concrete and manageable, she can make a separate goal for each lesson. Ideally, her goals should be specific, meaningful, and attainable. For example, this can be her goal for the first lesson: 

I will complete the lesson on Search engines in the last week of March to understand how search engines work, which can help me make my site findable. 

Or,  for the Keyword research lesson, her goal can be:

I will complete the lesson on Keyword research in the first week of April, to be able to analyze my audience and my competition because that will help me decide which keywords to use in my first post. 

Knowing precisely what, when, and why she wants to accomplish something can keep her motivated. And, specific goals are easier to evaluate compared to more general ones. 

Now, you try it, use the same formula: I will [insert how and what you will do] in/by [insert time], because [insert reason].

2. Make a plan 

Goals are even more powerful when you make a plan on how to accomplish them. A helpful planning strategy is implementation intentions, which uses a simple If…then formula. Its purpose is to get you to think about the best time and the conditions that allow you to learn. In that way, you can set a realistic and concrete plan that should be easy to follow. 

Maya, for example, has a full-time job. Learning SEO will be something she will need to do in her free time. Lately, she has been doing yoga after coming home from work, and that energizes her. So, her implementation intention can look like this: If I am done with my yoga practice, I will dedicate two hours to SEO. 

What is your situation? Can you evaluate your schedule and decide when the best time for you to learn is? 

3. Don’t binge-learn

Most of us binge series. Streaming services have enabled us to. It can be tempting to also binge (or cram) learning. Get as much information as possible, as fast as possible. It’s fast, so it must work, right? Well, no. Learning needs to be slow and spaced. By spacing learning, you allow the material to get etched in your long-term memory. Later, when you encounter a problem or a new situation, you can summon the knowledge from your memory to come up with solutions. 

Let’s check back in with Maya and see what her spaced learning schedule for the SEO for beginners course looks like: 

Week 1 of the SEO for beginners course

Day 1: How search engines work (watch the videos and read the text)
Day 3: How search engines work (re-read the text and do the quizzes)
Day 5: Holistic SEO (watch the videos and read the text)
Day 7: Holistic SEO (re-read the text and do the quizzes) 

Week 2 of the SEO for beginners course

Day 1: Re-do the quizzes for the How search engines work and Holistic SEO lesson. Start the Yoast SEO plugin lesson. 
Day 3: Keyword research (watch the videos)
Day 5: Keyword research (read the texts and do the quizzes) 
Day 7: Keyword research (read the texts and try to apply the tips in practice) 

Could this approach work for you? Try it and find out!  

4. Actively ask yourself questions 

Self-explanation means pausing while learning and thinking about the topic. You can do that by simply asking yourself questions such as  “Why does this work this way?”. Then, instead of looking up the answer, try to answer it to yourself from memory. It may sound crazy, but it works!

Maya tried this strategy too. For example, when learning about keyword research, she asked herself – Why is keyword research necessary? And When should I do keyword research? By asking the questions, she prompted her mind to start organizing the information. That allowed her to make sense of it and made sure she understood the material. With that knowledge, she was able to apply keyword research in a breeze.

5. Use what you learn

Speaking of application, you probably know that no matter how much theory you learn, it will not mean a lot unless you start using it. So, as soon as you feel you’ve understood a concept, put it to the test. With SEO, there are many opportunities to get working straight away.

We go back to Maya, who has just learned the basics of copywriting and she went ahead and wrote a text. Then, she used Yoast SEO to check the quality of her writing. She immediately got feedback on readability, the use of voice, length of sentences, and subheading distribution, among other things. Such feedback helped her learn and improve immediately!

6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Feedback is a good way to learn. So ask for it! You can easily send your site to a friend or a colleague and ask them to give you their impression. Let them go through it and be the judges of your texts or your site structure. If you dare, you could even post the site on forums or social media to ask feedback from a more general audience.

7. Evaluate

When you feel that you have completed all your goals, it will be good to evaluate what went well and what could have gone better. Did you stick to your goals? Was your planning too ambitious? Could you apply what you learned? Did you need help, and did you ask for it? Learning about your learning in this way can help you improve and be even more effective next time! 

How did Maya do? By setting goals, planning, using learning strategies, and evaluating, she successfully finished the SEO for beginners course. She was also busy practicing while learning, so she is almost ready to launch her site. How exciting! 

Are you ready to get learning? If you are up for an adventure and you feel like you can do more, check out our Yoast academy training subscriptions and learn away! 

Read more: How to start with SEO »

Yoast training subscription

  • Get all 9 SEO courses to fully optimize your website & content
  • Get new courses for free!
  • Get access to exclusive Premium content
  • Save 60% with this training bundle!
More info

7 Responses to How to learn SEO: 7 tips for effective learning

  1. Ngidi Emmanuel
    Ngidi Emmanuel  • 1 month ago

    can a website get good traffic without SEO?

  2. Harmeet Singh
    Harmeet Singh  • 2 months ago

    With regards to SEO, there is a lot that goes into it. Figuring out how to do it right may require some investment, however, it is totally justified, despite all the trouble. In spite of the fact that SEO strategies require a significant stretch of time to get moving, it is the most ideal approach to help natural traffic.

  3. Smith
    Smith  • 2 months ago

    Thanks Yoast team for tips. Every day I learn more and more. Knowledge has no limits :)

  4. Hanneke
    Hanneke  • 2 months ago

    That’s right. Happy to hear this post was helpful to you. Good luck :)

  5. Ann Henry
    Ann Henry  • 2 months ago

    Well written. Clear and helpful. Thank you!

  6. Sean Goodwin
    Sean Goodwin  • 2 months ago

    I believe the best way to start is to apply what you learn. Start a blog of your own. Go through the entire process of setting it up. It comes in very handy later for technical optimizations especially.

  7. Nick Stamoulis
    Nick Stamoulis  • 2 months ago

    When it comes to SEO, there is a lot that goes into it. Learning how to do it right may take some time, but it is completely worth it. Although SEO tactics take a while to get going, it is the best way to boost organic traffic.