Last updated on August 24, 2021.
Wondering how long it will take you to learn SEO? How much time do you need to spend learning SEO to become an SEO specialist? Or to land your first job as an SEO?
Yes, these are the famous “it-depends” types of questions about SEO. Fortunately, thanks to many years of experience as an SEO, I can share with you a lot of useful insights and tips on learning SEO.
Ready? Let’s jump right into it!
How long does it take to learn SEO?
It may take you anywhere from 4-6 weeks up to 5-8 years to learn SEO depending on factors, such as the level you want to achieve, the amount of time you are willing to spend learning SEO, your current experience, how persistent you are, what resources you use, and more. Fortunately, practically all of these factors are within your full control.
Let’s now talk about each of these 10 factors.
#1: Your SEO goal
How long it will take you to learn SEO depends on your goal for SEO. Here are the questions to ask yourself.
Do you want to just learn the basics of SEO?
☝️ To learn the basics of SEO, you need to spend 4-6 weeks studying SEO every day for at least a couple of hours. Once you master the basics, you can decide whether this is the career path you want to follow.
Do you want to learn SEO to get a job as a junior SEO?
☝️ To get a job as a junior SEO, you need at least 3-6 months of learning both the theoretical and practical part of SEO every day. You need to have at least some practical experience.
The absolute best way to get practical experience is to set up your own website and make it visible for at least a bunch of phrases. You can also help your friend with their website by implementing some basic SEO optimizations.
Do you want to learn SEO to build an internet business that can replace your job?
☝️ Be ready to spend 3-5 or more years learning and experimenting with SEO before you can give up your job. It is very unlikely that your first SEO website will be a huge SEO success.
Be patient and be realistic.
Do you want to become an SEO expert?
This is a very ambitious goal that will require a lot of your time, energy, and effort.
☝️ To become an SEO expert you need both huge knowledge and lots of practical experience. You can reach that level in about 5-8 years of learning and doing SEO on a daily basis.
This is a lot of time but – believe me – there is nothing better than being recognized as a true expert in your field.
Generally the more ambitious your goal, the more time you will need to invest in its achievement. But that holds true for practically every goal in life, doesn’t it? SEO is no different in that respect.
#2: How tech-savvy you are
My experience shows that there are two types of people: those who are tech-savvy “by nature” and those who are not.
✔️ Group 1: The tech-savvy people simply have a “feel” for computers.
They are very quick to learn new things and complete new tasks usually through trial and error. They don’t need help and explanations with basic tasks. They are not afraid of experimenting and creatively looking for solutions. They easily see patterns. They usually won’t stop until they have solved a given technical problem.
❌ Group 2: The people who are not tech-savvy simply do not “feel” it.
They get irritated and frustrated very quickly if they don’t understand something. They often ask the same basic questions time and time again. They don’t see patterns, correlations, or causations. They are afraid of breaking things up. When faced with a technical problem, they give up quite easily.
What if you are tech-savvy? If you are in the first group, it will be much easier for you to learn SEO and you will do it more quickly than the folks from the second group.
What if you are not tech-savvy? This does not mean that if you are in the second group you should not do SEO or that you cannot be a good SEO. You can but you will probably need to put more time and effort into it.
If you want to learn SEO only because you heard that you can make a lot of money from it and that it is a very trendy profession, then don’t do it.
☝️ If you are not genuinely interested in SEO, the web and technology in general, doing SEO will become a chore that will quickly get you burned out.
You can usually find out whether SEO is for you after a couple of weeks of learning and experimenting.
#3: Your current experience
If you have some background in digital marketing or web development, it will be a lot easier for you to learn SEO.
- If you have any technical experience, then you are probably tech-savvy enough to do SEO and fall in love with it.
- If you don’t have any similar experience, then be ready to spend a couple of days or a week learning about digital marketing in general and how it works.
For example, it will be way easier for a web developer to transition to SEO than it would be for a physical worker who has absolutely no technical background.
#4: How much time you have
The amount of time you can spend learning SEO is probably the most important factor influencing how quickly you will master the art of SEO.
- If you have only a couple of hours per week, then you might need several months to grasp the basics of SEO and even up to a year to get your first job as an SEO.
- If you can learn SEO for a couple of hours every day, then you can master the basics of SEO within 4-8 weeks and land your first SEO job in 3-6 months.
- If you can learn SEO full-time, then you can master the basics even within 1-2 weeks.
Of course, the more time you have, the more quickly you will be learning SEO. However, if you choose to learn SEO full-time or almost full-time, make sure to take breaks from it for sanity’s sake. I usually recommend one free non-SEO day per week.
I personally have trouble taking the whole day off (there are always too many things to do and learn), so I consider it a success if I take half of the day off.
#5: How persistent you are
The first days of learning SEO are usually very easy and pleasurable. You are getting to know the most important concepts and trying to get the overall picture. You are reading about successful SEOs learning six figures a month and visualizing yourself do that in a couple of months. Everything is so exciting and interesting.
Be aware that when initial excitement disappears and first difficulties arise, your persistence will be put to a test. You can pass the test only if you persist and keep learning even if it does not feel so easy and pleasurable.
A few things are worth pointing out:
- This is the moment when 95% of people quit.
- This is what sets you apart from the crowd.
- This is when learning SEO for real begins.
- Knowing that the difficulties will come will help you persist.
- Taking short (every hour) and long (once a week) breaks will make it easier for you to persist in the long term.
And here is the quote by Calvin Coolidge that you should print out and stick on the wall:
“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and Determination alone are omnipotent.”
#6: What resources you use
Your SEO learning path is heavily influenced by the resources you use.
There are tons of SEO resources on the internet. Unfortunately, not all have been written by smart and experienced SEOs who really know what they are talking about and who genuinely want to share their knowledge with you.
❗ Just as there are lots of high-quality SEO blogs and websites, there are lots of pseudo SEO gurus or “experts” who spread worthless or even dangerous information about SEO. Their only goal is usually to make quick money off you.
Fortunately, my 8-year experience has taught me to distinguish between high-quality SEO resources and low-quality SEO scams.
These are the SEO resources you want to rely on in your SEO learning path:
- Documentation on the basics of SEO provided by Google. Reading the whole Google Search Central Documentation should be your first goal in your SEO learning journey.
- Reading the Search Quality Raters Guidelines. These are 170+ pages of SEO gold also provided by Google.
- Learning SEO – A Roadmap with Free Resources by Aleyda Solis. This is probably the most in-depth and complete list of all the different types of SEO learning resources. You need to absolutely check learningseo.io.
- SEO blogs and websites run by experienced SEOs. There are really a lot of awesome SEO blogs that contain tons of useful information. Some examples include my SEO blog, Marie Haynes, Brian Dean, Bruce Clay, Aleyda Solis, and many more. To stay up to date with SEO news, follow Barry Schwartz and read his Search Engine Roundtable.
- Online SEO courses created by famous SEO tool providers, such as Ahrefs, Semrush or Serpstat, or Majestic. In most cases, these courses are totally free of charge. They not only teach you SEO but also how to use a specific SEO tool in practice.
- Online SEO courses provided by universities or well-known educational platforms, such as Coursera. These are usually paid courses that end in an exam but you can usually access them for free if you do not need a certificate of completion.
- SEO podcasts run by experienced and well-known SEOs in the industry. My favorite SEO podcasts include Search off The Record Podcast, Search News You Can Use by Marie Haynes, Authority Hacker, Search with Candour, The Page 2 Podcast, or SEO 101.
- YouTube SEO channels providing expert SEO advice, lectures, and courses. My favorite YouTube channels for learning SEO include Google Search Central, Moz, Semrush Live, Ahrefs, and Authority Hacker. I recommend you check them out!
#7: How much you experiment
SEO experiments are what lets you gain invaluable SEO experience which will ultimately determine your SEO success.
Learning the theory behind SEO is crucial to understanding how SEO works and understanding its basic concepts. However, this knowledge will be useless if you do not back it up with practice.
☝️ The more you experiment, the more quickly you will gain the necessary understanding of how SEO works.
- Once you grasp the basic SEO concepts, you should start experimenting. The sooner, the better.
- I usually advise starting your first SEO experiments as early as after 1-2 weeks of learning the theory.
- The best way to get real-life experience is to set up your own website purely for the purposes of learning SEO.
- Once you get a little experience, you can offer your non-SEO friend help with the SEO of their website.
Remember that it is highly unlikely that your first website (or probably even a couple of your first websites) will not become an overnight SEO success that will let you give up your job.
Be ready to spend even a couple of years learning and experimenting on the side before trying to make SEO your daily high-paying job.
#8: Access to SEO tools
To be able to learn, practice, and measure SEO, you need to use SEO tools. You cannot learn SEO without using at least a bunch of different SEO tools.
The most popular SEO tools are premium tools that usually cost a couple of hundreds of dollars a month. Fortunately, there are a lot of good free SEO tools and most premium tools offer a free trial or have some free modules.
Wondering what tools you should start with? Here are the tools you might start from:
- Google Analytics (that lets you analyze the traffic and the audience to your site)
- Google Search Console (that lets you analyze the performance of your site in search)
- Google Trends (to see what topics are trending)
- Semrush (to analyze your website and other websites, to check backlinks, do keyword research, and much more)
- Ahrefs (to do keyword research, check the domain visibility, do competitive research, and more)
- AnswerThePublic (to get to know the questions that people asked about the topic you are interested in)
- AlsoAsked.com (to see the questions that pop up in the “People Also Ask” section on Google)
- WP Rocket (to quickly improve the speed of a WordPress site)
- Rank Math (an SEO plugin for WordPress)
⚡ There is also a great system called Solo Built It! (SBI!) or SBI! for WP (for WordPress) that will teach you SEO from scratch and at the same time instruct you how to create a successful SEO website. This is how I started SEO and what let me get my first job in SEO.
#9: Your SEO mentor
Another crucial factor determining your SEO learning path is having a mentor who will help you when you get stuck or will indicate the right direction for you. This can also simply be the person who you will model and follow.
Here are a few ideas that might help:
- You can personally reach out to an SEO expert you admire and learn from.
You can offer them free assistance or ask for an SEO consultation. Depending on the expert and their time availability, they may offer you either free or paid mentoring. They may also not find time to help you in which case you simply need to reach out to a different person.
2. You can join one of many SEO groups or communities.
There are lots of experts who are willing to help and answer your questions. The most popular SEO communities include:
- Women in Tech SEO (if you are a woman, just must join this wonderful community)
- You can simply focus on thoroughly studying all of the SEO materials provided by your favorite SEO expert. This might include reading their blog cover to cover, reading all their books, watching all of their YouTube videos, and listening to all of their podcasts. This is what I always liked to do before reaching out to any SEO expert.
I am putting the money factor at the end of the list because I consider it to be of the least importance, especially at the beginning of your SEO journey.
The number of free SEO resources, websites, books, videos, or podcasts is so huge that you really do not need to spend any money to learn SEO and to be a great SEO (at least at the beginning).
Of course, it is awesome if you have lots of money to spend on SEO courses, books, or mentoring but money alone will not make you a great SEO. It is even better if you have redundancy money you can use and commit to learning SEO full-time for several months or even a year.
However, that is not how the majority of successful SEOs started.
???? Most SEOs started having little or no money to invest. All they could invest was a portion of their TIME on a daily or weekly basis.
That is how I started and that is all you need. Time and persistence.
Pro tips on how to learn SEO more quickly
You now know all the factors that influence how long it will take you to learn SEO. Here are my own pro tips that can help you speed up your SEO learning process a lot.
I personally apply all of these tips in my daily life. If you also add these five actions to your daily routine, you will be making insane progress. Believe me!
#1: Read about SEO
Reading is key to learning and fully understanding a given topic. The more SEO stuff you will be reading, the smarter SEO you will become.
But how do you do that on a consistent basis?
- Ideally, you should spend 1-2 hours reading SEO resources and materials every day.
- If the above is not possible, allocate at least 30 minutes.
- You can also set a daily goal of reading at least 1 article about SEO.
- It can even be as little as 10 minutes a day! You will find 10 minutes a day, won’t you?
The key is to do it on a daily basis. And your SEO knowledge will accumulate.
#2: Listen to SEO podcasts
Another awesome and highly-effective way to learn SEO is through listening. I am addicted to listening to SEO podcasts. I listen to them for 1-2 hours every day. I invite you to do the same.
A great thing about listening to SEO podcasts is that you can do other activities at the same time. I usually listen to podcasts while running, cycling, walking my dog, or even cooking. Try it for yourself and you will get addicted just like I have!
#3: Watch videos about SEO
If you are a visual person, you should definitely learn SEO by watching. There are tons of invaluable SEO resources on YouTube.
I set it as my daily goal to watch at least one video about SEO every day. Depending on how much time I have, I either choose a long video (an hour or more) or a short one (a couple of minutes).
You will learn and remember any SEO concept more quickly if you read about it and then watch or listen to someone talking about that concept as well.
#4: Experiment with SEO
Running SEO experiments is essential if you want to make progress and succeed as an SEO.
The single best way to learn SEO the practical way is to set up your own website just for the purpose of learning SEO. You can even set up a few different sites and use each one to test different things.
- Be ready to “sacrifice” your first website to gain the necessary SEO experience and insights.
- It is best to build at least a couple of different websites and use them to test your SEO knowledge in practice.
I literally needed to build (and destroy) tens of different websites before really learning how SEO works and understanding what a job as an SEO actually involves.
#5: Ask other SEO experts
Asking questions is one of the best ways to learn new things and better understand what you are doing.
Do not be afraid of asking questions. And remember that there are no stupid questions. There are only stupid answers.
- You can personally reach out to some SEO experts.
- You can use the SEO thread on Reddit or participate in some SEO groups on Facebook.
- You can also ask questions on Twitter or Google Search Central Help Community.
- You can also jump into the Google SEO office hours and directly ask John Mueller a question.
And do not hesitate to reach out to me.
#6: Have SEO fun
You can also gather new knowledge about SEO or reinforce what you have learned so far by using some fun tools or being present in some SEO fun places.
What do I mean exactly? Check these out!
- Twitter is the place where all SEOs are and share not only SEO knowledge but also tons of fun stuff.
- Type “Google in 1998” to Google to see how Google looked in 1998.
- Check the seoasked.com website that archives the tweets and answers about SEO given by Googlers.
If you know any other fun SEO sites or tools, share them with me.
Here are some beginner SEO guides you might like:
- How to find organic traffic in Google Analytics (in a few seconds)
- How to access robots.txt in WordPress (in 4 simple ways)
- How to add a user in Google Search Console (and how to remove users)
- How to verify Google Search Console via WordPress (in 3 simple ways)
- SEO glossary (130+ SEO terms and terminologies you should know)
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Olga Zarzeczna is a senior SEO specialist with 8+ years of experience. She has been doing SEO for both the biggest brands in the world and small businesses. She has done more than 150+ SEO audits so far. Olga has completed SEO courses and degrees at universities, such as UC Davis, University of Michigan, and Johns Hopkins University. She also completed Moz Academy! And, of course, has Google certifications. She keeps learning SEO and loves it. Olga is also a Google Product Expert specializing in areas, such as Google Search and Google Webmasters.