Updated: July 1, 2023.
Learn how to become an SEO from A to Z (based on my 10+ years of experience in SEO).
I’m Olga Zarr, an SEO consultant who eats, breathes, and dreams SEO.
Over the course of my 10+ year career, I’ve worked in every corner of the SEO world – from multinational corporations to local businesses, as an in-house SEO expert, a freelancer, and even a director of SEO.
Now, I want to share my journey and insights with you, to help you kickstart your own journey in SEO.
In this article, we’ll delve into how to become an SEO, what it means to be an SEO specialist, the skills you’ll need, how to gain practical experience, and how to keep up with this fast-paced field.
Let’s jump in!
How to become an SEO: TL;DR
In a nutshell…
- Take online courses, get certified, read SEO blogs, and join communities.
- Gain hands-on experience through personal projects or freelancing.
- Master keyword research, on-page and off-page SEO, and SEO tools.
- Network with other professionals, stay analytical, and consider working in an agency.
- Stay updated, follow experts, and consider advanced certifications.
- Ultimately, start your own consultancy if desired.
How to become an SEO – From A to Z
Alright, let’s dive in and really get to the heart of what being an SEO specialist is all about.
It’s an interesting world, to say the least, and each day in SEO is unique!
Roles and responsibilities of an SEO specialist
As an SEO specialist, your primary goal is to improve the visibility and ranking of a website on search engine result pages.
Sounds simple, right? But there’s so much more to it.
Let’s take a quick look at the most essential responsibilities that fall under your umbrella:
- Keyword Research: Discovering and analyzing the best keywords for your content is crucial. It’s like learning the language of your audience and search engines.
- On-Page Optimization: This involves optimizing the elements on a website, like title tags, meta descriptions, images, and the content itself.
- Off-Page Optimization: Here, you’ll work on improving your site’s reputation and authority through backlinks.
- Technical SEO: This is about making a website faster, easier to crawl for search engines, and understanding the technical factors that influence ranking.
- Content Strategy: Crafting high-quality, engaging content is king in SEO. You need to plan and create content that adds value to your audience.
- Analytics and Reporting: You need to track, analyze and report on your SEO strategies to see what’s working and what needs tweaking.
Different types of SEO specialists
There are various ways you can wear the SEO specialist hat, and each one offers a unique set of challenges and rewards.
- In-House SEO: If you work as an in-house SEO, you’ll be focusing on one company’s website. You’ll be part of a bigger team and you’ll get to know the business inside out.
- Agency SEO: Here, you’ll likely work with multiple clients across different industries. It’s fast-paced, varied, and you’ll learn a lot in a short period of time.
- Freelance SEO: As a freelancer, you have the freedom to choose your projects and work on your own terms. It can be challenging, but also highly rewarding and flexible.
- SEO Consultant: As a consultant, like me, you advise businesses on their SEO strategies. It’s less hands-on, but you need a high level of expertise and experience.
Remember, there isn’t a ‘best’ way to be an SEO specialist.
It depends on your personal goals, working style, and where you are in your SEO journey.
What’s important is that you’re passionate about SEO and ready to keep learning every day. So, which path piques your interest the most?
Working at the SEO agency can be a good start
Jumping into the SEO world can be a bit overwhelming, and starting at an SEO agency can be a great first step. Why?
- Well, at an agency, you’re exposed to a wide range of clients and projects, which means you get hands-on experience with various industries, business models, and SEO strategies.
- It’s like a crash course in SEO! You learn fast and you learn a lot. Plus, you’re surrounded by other SEO professionals – a community that can guide you, challenge you, and inspire you.
- It’s an environment where you can learn from your colleagues, ask questions, and hone your skills.
INSIGHT: My journey into the realm of SEO started as a freelance website owner. However, it was not until I joined an SEO agency that I truly had the chance to delve into the world of real SEO practices, gaining a profound understanding along the way.
How to become an SEO – required skills & knowledge
Alright, let’s get into the meat and potatoes of SEO, that is the skills and knowledge you need to make a splash in this field.
SEO is not just about keywords and content; it’s about making websites that both users and search engines love. And to do that, you need to understand how websites are built and function.
Having a foundation in these web technologies is key:
- HTML: Helps you understand the structure of web pages.
- CSS: Important for understanding website design and layout.
Understanding of Search Engine Algorithms and How Search Engines Work
Search engines are the gatekeepers of the internet, and as an SEO specialist, you need to know how they operate.
Key areas of understanding include:
- Crawling: How search engines discover your pages.
- Indexing: How search engines store and retrieve your pages.
- Ranking: How search engines determine the order of search results.
- Algorithm Updates: Staying informed about the ever-changing rules of SEO.
Check these guides:
On-page SEO & Off-page SEO Knowledge
As an SEO pro, you need to be a master of both on-page and off-page SEO.
- On-page SEO includes optimizing title tags, meta descriptions, headers, URLs, and your actual content.
- Off-page SEO, on the other hand, focuses on building your website’s credibility through backlinks and social signals.
Knowledge of SEO Tools and Analytics
Knowing how to navigate through tools like Google Search Console (GSC) and Google Analytics (GA) is essential.
- Google Search Console (GSC): Helps monitor and troubleshoot your website’s presence in Google Search results.
- Google Analytics (GA): Offers insights into website traffic and user behavior.
Also, keep in mind that Artificial Intelligence is the new frontier in SEO. Understanding large language models, like ChatGPT, is essential so that you can use them to improve content creation processes, analyses, automation, productivity, and more.
You can check my favorite SEO tools here.
Critical SEO Mind
SEO is not a one-size-fits-all field. What works for one website may not work for another. That’s why you need a critical mind to analyze, test, and adjust your SEO strategies based on the data you collect.
A critical mindset in SEO involves:
- Analysis: Assessing your website’s performance and identifying areas for improvement.
- Testing: Applying different strategies and measuring their effectiveness.
- Adjusting: Modifying your approach based on data and outcomes.
Genuine Interest in SEO and Websites Overall
SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time and lots of tinkering to see SEO results. Having a genuine interest in SEO, websites, and the magic of connecting people with the information they need is what will keep you going and make you successful.
Passion and curiosity drive success in SEO:
- Continual Learning: SEO is always changing, and your knowledge should too.
- Experimentation: Be ready to test new strategies and learn from the results.
- Patience: SEO is a long-term game. Your passion will fuel your perseverance.
Remember, becoming a proficient SEO specialist requires a mix of technical skills, analytical thinking, creativity, and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge.
Educational Background and Training of an SEO
Ready to expand your knowledge and get on the road to becoming an SEO pro? Perfect!
Let’s talk about where to start your learning journey.
Relevant Fields of Study to Become An SEO
While there’s no official degree to become an SEO specialist, certain fields of study can be particularly helpful. These include:
- Computer Science: Understanding how web technologies work can give you a head start.
- Marketing: SEO is essentially a form of digital marketing, so knowledge in this area is highly beneficial.
- Communications: Creating engaging content is a big part of SEO, making communication studies relevant.
- Business: Especially if you’re planning to work with corporate clients or run your own agency, a business background can be invaluable.
Importance of Self-Learning for An SEO
If there’s one thing I want to emphasize, it’s this: SEO is a constantly evolving field. You have to be ready to learn on your own and stay updated with the latest trends and changes.
Being proactive and inquisitive is a must in this industry!
Check this: How Long Does It Take To Learn SEO?
Online Courses and Certifications to Become An SEO
There’s a wealth of online resources available to help you grow your SEO knowledge. Some notable ones include:
- Google’s SEO Starter Guide: It’s free, thorough, and comes straight from the horse’s mouth!
- Courses on platforms like Coursera, Udemy, and LinkedIn Learning: These offer comprehensive lessons on SEO from the basics to more advanced concepts.
- Certifications from Google, MOZ, Semrush, and Yoast: These well-known SEO tools offer certifications that not only educate you but also lend credibility to your skills.
Learning from SEO Blogs, Podcasts, Newsletters, and YouTube Channels
The SEO community is full of experts eager to share their knowledge.
Here are some ways to tap into that:
- Blogs: Sites like SEOSLY (my very own!), LearningSEO.io, Search Engine Roundtable, Moz, Google Search Central, Search Engine Land, and Search Engine Journal are gold mines of information.
- Podcasts: SEO podcasts can be a great way to learn on the go. Try mine, the SEO Podcast by #SEOSLY, or check my list of 40+ best SEO podcasts.
- Newsletters: Sign up for newsletters like my SEOSLY SEO newsletter, Aleyda Solis’ #SEOFOMO or Marie Haynes Search News You Can Use for updates and insights delivered right to your inbox.
- YouTube Channels: Learning from video content can be super engaging. Check out my SEO YouTube channel or check the list of 40+ best SEO YouTube channels I created for you.
- Twitter and LinkedIn: Follow top SEO experts on Twitter and LinkedIn. Awesome discussions are happening on those platforms.
Remember, learning SEO is a continuous journey, and the key to success is staying curious and hungry for knowledge.
Don’t be afraid to dive into different resources and learn from various perspectives. Your SEO skills are like a puzzle, and every bit of knowledge you gain is a piece that brings you closer to completing the picture.
So, are you ready to start putting those pieces together? I’m excited for you!
How to gain experience as an SEO
Let’s shift gears and talk about rolling up your sleeves and diving into the practical side of SEO.
Knowledge is power, but without application, it remains dormant. So let’s wake it up!
Importance of Hands-on Experience
Just like you can’t learn to swim by reading about it, you can’t fully grasp SEO without getting your hands dirty.
Real-life application lets you test theories, make SEO mistakes, learn from them, and hone your skills. It’s in the doing that you become an SEO pro.
Starting with Your Own Projects/Websites & Testing
Creating your own website is the perfect playground for testing and learning SEO.
Here, you can experiment without fear, explore the impact of different SEO strategies, and really understand what drives traffic and rankings:
- Experiment: Play around with different SEO techniques and see what works best.
- Performance tracking: Use analytics to understand how your SEO strategies are performing.
- Impact understanding: Observe how changes affect SEO and user experience.
Check this out: How To Practice SEO
Offering Free Advice in Communities Like Google Help Forum or Reddit
Engaging in online communities is a two-way street of learning. As you contribute your knowledge, you also absorb new ideas, strategies, and perspectives. Plus, teaching others is a proven way to solidify your own understanding:
- Engage and learn: Participate in discussions, answer queries, and learn from different viewpoints.
- Knowledge sharing: Hone your skills and reinforce your understanding by explaining concepts to others.
- Networking: Connect with other SEO enthusiasts and professionals.
I started building my authority for spending hours in the Google Search Central Help Community and I really learned a ton there. I wish I had more time to do it now.
Moving forward, offering free advice in this way is also super useful if you want to get SEO clients.
Internships and Entry-Level Jobs in SEO
Internships or entry-level jobs at SEO agencies provide a professional environment to learn and grow.
Here, you get to see SEO in action across different industries, learn from experienced professionals, and understand the operational side of SEO:
- Witness and partake in professional SEO strategies and operations.
- Be part of a team of SEO professionals and gain from their experience.
- Understand the unique SEO challenges and solutions across different industries.
- Places like Remorters or SEO Jobs are great.
How to stay updated with SEO as an SEO
As we dive into the final section, I want to emphasize one key point: SEO is a journey, not a destination.
The landscape of SEO continually evolves, and if you want to stay ahead of the game, you must evolve with it.
This involves being a life-long learner, so let’s dig into how you can ensure that you’re always in the know.
Importance of Continuous Learning in SEO
SEO isn’t static.
Google updates its algorithms constantly, and new techniques and strategies emerge frequently. Being successful in this field requires adaptability and a commitment to continuous learning:
- Keep up with the latest changes to ensure your SEO strategies remain effective.
- Learn to quickly incorporate new techniques and approaches into your practice.
- Recognize that SEO’s dynamic nature is a part of its charm!
Follow Reliable SEO News Sources
Just like any field, there are trusted news sources in SEO that will keep you informed about the latest changes and trends.
Some of my favorites include the above-mentioned Search Engine Roundtable, Search Engine Land, and Search Engine Journal:
- These sites provide valuable updates and analysis of the latest SEO trends and changes.
- They often feature articles and insights from leading SEO experts.
- Commenting and engaging with the content can help you connect with others in the industry.
Follow SEO Experts
Much like following reliable news sources, keeping an eye on the leading voices in the SEO world can help keep your knowledge sharp.
SEO experts like Aleyda Solis, Areej AbuAli, John Mueller form Google, Maries Haynes, Lili Ray, Glenn Gabe, Mordy Oberstein, Barry Schwartz, and even yours truly, Olga Zarr, share insights and perspectives worth exploring:
- Their insights and tips can provide valuable guidance.
- They often share the latest news and developments in the field.
- Following them on social media platforms allows for interaction and networking opportunities.
Here is a good list of 202 SEO experts to follow.
Attend SEO Webinars, Workshops, and Conferences
There’s no better way to learn and connect with other SEO enthusiasts than attending webinars, workshops, and conferences (like BrithtonSEO).
They’re the perfect blend of learning and networking:
- Stay updated: These events often focus on the latest developments and techniques in SEO.
- Learn from experts: Speakers at these events are typically industry leaders with a wealth of experience.
- Networking: Connect with like-minded individuals and potentially form valuable professional relationships.
Staying updated isn’t just about keeping your SEO skills sharp; it’s also about remaining passionate, inspired, and engaged with the SEO community.
Remember, your SEO journey is one of constant discovery. So, keep exploring, keep learning, and most importantly, keep enjoying the ride! It’s exhilarating!
Career advancement in SEO
Now, let’s talk about the beautiful journey that awaits you once you’ve built a solid foundation in SEO.
Your SEO career is a vast, expansive highway with many roads to explore.
Let’s dive into the exciting possibilities!
Different Career Paths For An SEO
As you embark on your journey in SEO, you will find that this field is not a one-size-fits-all kind of industry.
There are diverse paths that cater to varying interests, strengths, and lifestyles.
Here’s a deeper dive into some roles you could consider:
- In-house SEO Specialist: As an in-house SEO specialist, your focus will be on optimizing your company’s website(s) and online presence. This is a great role if you like seeing the direct impact of your work on a company you’re deeply connected with.
- What you’ll do: You’ll work on improving organic search rankings, implementing SEO strategies, analyzing website performance, and coordinating with different teams like content, design, and marketing to ensure a unified SEO approach.
- Pros: A more stable work schedule, deeper understanding of the brand, and the ability to witness the direct impact of your strategies.
- Cons: Might have less variety as you’re focusing on one brand.
- SEO Agency Professional: If you want a taste of different industries, working for an SEO agency might be the path for you. Here, you’ll have the opportunity to work with multiple clients, which offers diversity and a wide range of experiences.
- What you’ll do: Your tasks will vary depending on the clients’ needs but could include keyword research, on-page optimization, link building, and reporting on performance metrics.
- Pros: Variety of projects, opportunities to learn about different industries, working with a team of SEO professionals.
- Cons: Might face high-pressure environments due to managing multiple client accounts.
- SEO Freelancer: If flexibility and independence are high on your priority list, becoming an SEO freelancer might be the right fit. As a freelancer, you’ll choose the projects that interest you.
- What you’ll do: Similar to an agency role, your tasks will be dictated by client needs. You could be doing anything from local SEO for a small business to a complete SEO audit for a multinational corporation.
- Pros: Freedom to choose projects, flexible working hours, potential for higher earnings.
- Cons: Less job security, potential lack of a support team, and the need to constantly find new clients.
- SEO Consultant: If you love strategic thinking and want to make a significant impact, consider becoming an SEO consultant like me. It’s a challenging but rewarding path, allowing you to provide strategic advice based on your expertise.
- What you’ll do: As a consultant, you’ll analyze your client’s website, identify areas for improvement, and provide strategic recommendations to improve their organic search rankings. You might also be involved in training their team and implementing the SEO strategies.
- Pros: Higher degree of influence, diversity of work, potential for higher earnings.
- Cons: Requires a high level of expertise, intense workload, and high expectations from clients.
Also check this: How to Find a Good SEO Consultant
Remember, there is no “best” path in SEO. It’s all about finding the one that aligns with your personal interests, goals, and lifestyle.
Each path has its own unique set of challenges and rewards, so consider these carefully as you take your next steps in your SEO journey!
Advanced SEO Certifications and Courses For SEOs
As you become more engrossed in your SEO career, you may find yourself hungry for more – more knowledge, more skills, and more opportunities to stand out from the crowd.
That’s where advanced SEO certifications and courses come in.
These resources can help you delve deeper into SEO’s various facets, enriching your skillset, and making you an even more compelling SEO professional.
Show your SEO expertise
Certifications act as a testament to your dedication and competence in SEO. They go beyond mere interest; they show that you’ve taken the time and effort to master specific aspects of the field.
Here’s how you can leverage them:
- Choose wisely: Look for reputable certifications. These could be from established SEO tools like Semrush or MOZ, or digital marketing institutions like HubSpot or Google’s own Digital Garage.
- Showcase them: Add your certifications to your LinkedIn profile, personal website, or CV to demonstrate your proficiency to potential employers or clients.
- Update them: Some certifications may need to be renewed periodically to stay current with industry changes. Make sure to keep them updated!
Expand your SEO learning
Advanced SEO courses can provide a more profound understanding of complex SEO topics. They allow you to explore specific areas of interest more comprehensively:
- Depending on your interest, opt for courses that offer a broad overview of advanced topics or delve into a specialized area, like technical SEO, local SEO, or e-commerce SEO.
- Look for courses that provide hands-on learning experiences. Applying your knowledge to real-life scenarios will help cement your understanding.
- One of practical hands-on SEO courses I’ve recently fallen in love is TestedSEOTraining.com.
The importance of networking in SEO
As an SEO professional, you’re not an island. You’re part of a vibrant, global community of people who share your passion and curiosity.
Networking can open up a whole new world of possibilities. I know I have already touched upon that a bit but this is really crucial so let’s revisit the most important parts of networking in SEO.
Learn from other SEOs
Being part of the SEO community gives you access to a wealth of knowledge. Take every opportunity to learn from others by actively participating in discussions, forums, and online communities:
- Join SEO forums and communities: Websites like Warrior Forum, Google Search Central Help Community, Women in Tech SEO (if you are a woman) and subreddits like r/SEO are great places to start. Ask questions, share your insights, and engage with other SEO professionals.
- Participate in LinkedIn groups: LinkedIn groups like SEO Professionals and Search Engine Land are a fantastic way to connect with other SEO professionals and join meaningful discussions. I also invite you to join the SEO Cash Flow LinkedIn group.
- Follow SEO experts on social media: Platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn are excellent for following SEO experts and keeping up with their insights and updates.
Networking isn’t just about learning. It’s also about creating opportunities for yourself and others. Engaging with the SEO community can open doors to new possibilities:
- Job opportunities: Knowing the right people can often lead to job opportunities that you might not find on job boards.
- Collaboration opportunities: Networking can lead to partnerships and collaborations, where you can work with other experts to achieve common goals.
- Referrals: As you build relationships within the community, other SEO professionals may refer work to you that they cannot accommodate.
Lastly, being part of the SEO community gives you a sense of belonging. It can provide the support and inspiration you need to thrive in your career:
- Support: Whether it’s a tricky client situation or a confusing algorithm update, having a community to turn to for advice and support can be invaluable.
- Inspiration: Seeing what others in your field are achieving can motivate you to strive for more in your own career.
- Belonging: Knowing you’re part of a global community of people who share your passion can help you feel more connected and engaged with your work.
Networking is not just a career strategy; it’s an essential part of being an SEO professional.
It enriches your work experience, provides opportunities for growth, and makes your journey in the world of SEO a lot more enjoyable.
So start connecting and see where it takes you!
Becoming an Independent SEO Consultant
As a final note, remember that becoming an independent SEO consultant, like myself, is not the only valid end goal.
Everyone’s journey in the world of SEO is unique, and many find immense satisfaction and success in in-house or agency roles.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to success in SEO; it all depends on your personal and professional goals, and what makes you happiest.
Now, if you’re dreaming about becoming an independent SEO consultant, I’ll be the first to tell you, it’s one of the most rewarding paths you can choose.
It’s challenging, indeed, but the freedom and influence it provides make it incredibly fulfilling.
- Freedom to Choose: With the liberty to pick projects and clients that resonate with your professional and personal interests, you can craft a career path that’s uniquely yours.
- Providing Influence and Strategic Direction: As an SEO consultant, you’ll play a pivotal role in shaping your clients’ success. Your expertise and strategies can propel their businesses forward in a meaningful way.
- Experiencing the Reward: Finally, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of seeing your clients’ websites climb up in SERPs thanks to your strategies. It’s a testament to your skills and hard work.
But, becoming an independent SEO consultant is a dream I had, and I absolutely love it!
That said, it’s essential to know that not everyone will have the same aspirations, and that’s okay.
Whether you want to work in-house, for an agency, as a freelancer, or become an independent consultant, there is a place for you in the vast, evolving world of SEO.
The beauty of SEO is that it offers different paths to different people, all united by a common love for this dynamic field.
So, carve out your own path, at your own pace, and in your own way. The world of SEO is rich with possibilities.
No matter where your journey takes you, I’ll be cheering for you every step of the way!
If you need help in your SEO career, you may check the SEO mentorship I offer.
Final thoughts on how to become an SEO
To all of you aspiring SEO professionals out there, let me leave you with this:
You’re about to step into a world that’s constantly evolving, filled with continuous learning and endless possibilities. Embrace it. Dive deep into the sea of SEO knowledge and emerge as an expert. Remember, your interest in SEO and curiosity is your most powerful tool.
Don’t fear mistakes or setbacks—they’re a crucial part of your growth process. Learn from them, and turn them into stepping stones towards your success. Every challenge is an opportunity for learning, and every mistake is a lesson in disguise.
Keep your passion for SEO alive. Stay engaged, stay curious, and most importantly, stay hungry for knowledge.
Always remember that SEO isn’t just a job—it’s a journey of continuous learning and growth.
Frequently Asked Questions on becoming an SEO
Hundreds of people approach me asking me how to become an SEO.
Here are the most often asked questions and my answers.