1. Understand the basics of SEO
  2. Build your own websites
  3. Learn WordPress
  4. Learn more about Google Analytics and the Google Search Console
  5. Read more about SEO every day
  6. Understand how search engines work
  7. Read Google's quality rating guidelines
  8. Take a look at the SERPs
  9. Learn more about technical SEO
  10. Learn more about content strategy, creation, optimization and advertising
  11. Use link building tactics that actually work
  12. Don't develop a checklist mentality
  13. Join Facebook groups
  14. Follow SEO experts on Twitter
  15. Attend SEO & Marketing Conferences
  16. Listen to podcasts
  17. Expand your personal network
  18. Take advantage of free courses
  19. Keep learning and expanding your skills
  20. Learn from your mistakes and repeat your successes
  21. Be patient
  22. Summary

So you want to become an SEO expert.

I can totally understand why.

There are so many reasons to love SEO.

SEO is fascinating.

SEO is a fast-paced, sought-after field with a lot of longevity.

But that also means that SEO also attracts people who see it as simply stealing money or a work-from-home job.

You read some blogs here and there, learn the terminology, and voila! They change their title to "SEO Expert" on LinkedIn.

After just a few days.

Or worse, a matter of hours.

🤦

It's like reading some medical books and calling yourself a doctor.

That's not how it works.

SEO expertise, like any other field, requires time, commitment, and experience.

You can't just declare yourself an SEO expert.

It is no longer a young field.

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There are experts who have been doing SEO for decades.

Ready to follow in their footsteps?

Here are 21 things you need to know in order to become an SEO expert.

1. Understand the basics of SEO

Start with the basics to become an expert. You need to understand how audiences and search engines interact and what you can do to optimize content effectively.

Learning the basics consists of three core components:

  • The types of content users want, expect, or need. It's all about the user's intent.
  • The inner workings of how search engines really work.
  • The tools and techniques used to optimize websites.

Without this background, you may be able to explain the "what" but not the "why".

As someone who has been in this industry for 15 years and knows why it makes you stand out.

As you dig into more advanced aspects of search engine optimization, knowing why things are the way they are can help you become more effective.

In the Search Engine Journal we created an e-book that covers the basics of SEO.

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2. Create your own websites

Once you understand the basics of SEO, it's time to apply them.

Most pros will tell you that they learned the most by building construction sites and breaking things.

Razorfish's Ryan Jones put it well when I interviewed him on the Search Engine Journal Show:

Don't just start doing SEO for big brands. Start doing SEO for yourself. Do something. Whether it's a blog, an affiliate website, or an app – do it yourself and improve your skills that way. "

Learn HTML. Learn all the tags. Exam.

Play around with the content and see how it manifests itself in SERPs.

Pick a topic that you are interested in. This makes content creation easier.

You want to spend more time creating and tweaking content instead of writing it.

3. Learn WordPress

A third of the websites are created with WordPress.

So, if you want to be an SEO expert, you have to know it well.

Not only is it ubiquitous, it's also the best CMS for SEO.

WordPress is perfect for features that directly (e.g., metadata) and indirectly (e.g., UX) affect SEO performance.

Get your WordPress education started with this awesome list of resources from Kinsta.

4. Get to know Google Analytics and Google Search Console

SEO professionals use a variety of tools to optimize content and analyze its effectiveness.

Google Analytics and Google Search Console are essential to any SEO command center.

Google Analytics is all about measurement and reporting.

You can use the Google Search Console to optimize your website.

SEO know-how requires mastery of both.

5. Read more about SEO every day

Do you remember mentioning engagement?

You need to have the determination to read about SEO on a daily basis.

The major search engines make changes every day and you never know what impact this will have on your ranking.

Your colleagues, customers and superiors expect answers from you.

You need to have the determination to read about SEO on a daily basis.

Keeping up with SEO content on a daily basis will keep you updated.

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Not sure where to start? First, try this list of 25 reliable resources.

6. Understand how search engines work

It can feel like much of your fate is in the hands of the search engines.

And it does.

This is why you need to be familiar with crawlers.

These bots make decisions about the quality and relevance of your content.

Several key factors determine these decisions.

Understanding search intent, relevance, content quality, links, and ease of use can help you better understand why the algorithms work the way they do.

Search engines are a black box – they don't reveal the secret sauce behind their products.

However, you can take advantage of these well-known factors to optimize your website and throw yourself up.

If you want to dig into Google's patents, check out Bill Slawski's SEO by the Sea blog.

Or, dive in deep by reading our e-book: How Search Engines Work.

7. Read Google's Quality Rating Guidelines

Read Google's Quality Rater Guidelines for an even more detailed look behind the scenes.

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Google hires employees to evaluate websites. This guide covers the factors you should look for.

It is not a brief read.

You may be familiar with the simplified version of the content called E-A-T:

  • Expertise.
  • Authority.
  • Trustworthiness.

The simplified version is useful when you are just starting out or even at the intermediate level. However, to become an expert you have to read the whole thing.

The reviewers are not SEO professionals – they are normal people.

Much like the search engine bots, these reviewers affect your website's performance.

8. Look at the SERPs

Here's all the action.

Take a look at the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

  • How are they composed?
  • What content are they showing?
  • Who does it well?

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Notice how the results change as you search for different types of queries.

Check out how this "How to Make Alfredo Sauce" search differs from "Alfredo Sauce".

You can see these featured recipes cutouts as I asked a question in the search box.

You can see these featured recipes cutouts as I asked a question in the search box.

Then you will see the knowledge window here on the right.

Here you can see the knowledge window on the right.

Google makes decisions about the intent behind these queries and delivers content in a format that it believes users want most.

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So take a look at the SERPs.

A lot of.

9. Learn more about technical SEO

Technical SEO is anything you do to make it easy to crawl and index your website.

Technical SEO encompasses mobile usability, website speed, structured data, JavaScript and all the mechanisms that affect the way a website works.

These factors play a role in a site's ranking in the SERPs.

You can have amazing content, but a slow or buggy website will slow your performance.

With so much content to compete with, a website with a solid foundation of technical SEO can execute or break your strategy.

Learn more in our technical SEO guide.

10. Learn about content strategy, creation, optimization and advertising

While technical search engine optimization helps search engines crawl and index your website more effectively, understanding content will help you improve user experience, time on site, links, and more.

Gone are the days when content was created with a keyword-first strategy.

Since the Hummingbird update and RankBrain came out, content has to be created in a user-first strategy.

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Just because you've published content doesn't mean users will find it.

Content needs to be tweaked to add context to the content so that search engines understand how to categorize it.

This content must also be supported by an advertising strategy.

SEO alone is not enough – other marketing channels (e.g. social media, email) contribute to the success or failure of your content.

11. Use link building tactics that actually work

Link building is one of the first things you learn while studying SEO.

And it is also one of the subjects with the most dubious advice.

To benefit from link building, you need good quality links, not just quantity.

Getting there takes a mix of good reporting and relationship building.

Relationships are very important for link building. I was asked to contribute to this post on PointVisible and that resulted in a nice link back to SEJ.

Relationships are very important for link building.

If you're a beginner, get started with our Beginner Link Building eBook.

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If you're a little further afield, check out our more in-depth link building guide.

12. Don't develop a checklist mentality

Checklist mentality is when you focus so much on following a regiment that you become inflexible and no longer know when that routine has stopped working.

Search engines are constantly changing.

You have to be adaptable, and a checklist mentality means going blindly through a to-do list.

Over time, the items in this task list will become out of date or will not consider new updates.

Ultimately, the checklist mentality will negatively affect your results.

Instead, be open-minded and results-oriented.

If your ranking has gone down despite following your checklist, think creatively.

Ask for help.

Be ready to change.

Just don't let your checklist get you caught.

The following tips point you to good resources to support you in your continuous development.

13. Join Facebook groups

Facebook is full of active, helpful groups for SEO professionals. Here are just a few:

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Global SEO network

Global SEO network

Questions about digital marketing

Questions about digital marketing

SEO tips, tricks & tools

SEO tips, tricks & tools

With Facebook groups, you have access to a pre-built network of colleagues.

In addition to searching for SEO groups, look for groups that include marketers, content creators, and social media professionals.

If you're interested in e-commerce or B2B marketing, look for groups with these areas of focus.

The sheer breadth of the network that you can access on Facebook is unmatched.

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14. Follow SEO experts on Twitter

Sometimes you need a break from your typical blogs and news sites.

If you follow SEO experts on Twitter, you still have a way to access their wealth of knowledge.

Use Twitter to keep up with the latest news, join conversations, and get opinions on non-black and white SEO topics.

First, follow other SEO experts who are already being followed by top SEO blogs.

Following the right people on Twitter will sharpen your SEO knowledge and connect you to opportunities that you may not have heard of before.

I've put together a list of experts to get you started.

15. Attend SEO and Marketing Conferences

Another way to improve your skills is by attending events.

Conferences and webinars are great resources for learning more about certain aspects of content marketing.

In-person events may be suspended for the time being, but there are still many virtual conferences going on.

The presentations provide expert guidance on the topics that are most important to most SEO professionals.

Attend SEO & Marketing Conferences

They can be expensive, but a great conference is well worth the investment.

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Attending events gives you the opportunity to hear directly from industry experts, an opportunity you may not otherwise get.

Here is a list of great events to see this year and next.

16. Listen to podcasts

When you need a break from reading and watching, try listening.

Podcasts have exploded in the past few years, and that includes podcasts that deal with SEO.

Listen on your way to work or while you cook or exercise.

Podcasts are the best way to get your brain fed while multitasking.

You can find any number of formats, show lengths, and hosts to suit your needs.

While I'm biased, the Search Engine Journal Show has lots of great insights and tips from some of the best minds in search engine optimization today.

17. Expand your personal network

You don't know everything

You don't have all the answers.

And in search engine optimization, you probably never will.

But that's okay!

Some SEO pros who are absolute experts in JavaScript SEO know next to nothing about link building.

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Other people in our industry are amazing at content strategy and advertising, but terrible at some technical aspect of SEO.

At some point, you are going to need help from someone else in the industry.

So start building connections.

Use social media to build relationships.

Platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn make this pretty easy.

The best way to connect and expand your network is to be ready to share information.

Don't just take and take.

Give and take.

Remember, relationships are a one-way street.

Share your own experience and expertise.

The idea is to keep in touch and develop a relationship with people all the time.

In time, these connections will see you as an expert.

Also share and comment on content that others have shared.

After all, you want to build a trusted network of people with whom you can fix bugs, share ideas, and share tips, strategies, and other insights.

18. Take advantage of free courses

One of the great things about learning SEO is the wealth of free information that is available to you.

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Sure, there is a lot of garbage to filter through.

But there are also plenty of free courses from highly regarded companies and trainers.

For example, you can use Moz to search for topics:

There are also plenty of free courses from highly regarded companies and trainers.

You can also find free courses from SEMrush and free trials on Lynda.com.

19. Keep learning and expanding your skills

There is no end point to becoming an expert.

Aside from SEO, there are many other skills that will make you more effective.

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Study web development, copywriting, or even graphic design.

Familiarize yourself with a particular industry or specialize in a certain type of content.

The continuous expansion of your skills will deepen your expertise and make you a knowledgeable resource.

And it also makes YOU more valuable – so you can earn more or ask for more.

20. Learn from your mistakes and repeat your successes

SEO is not an exact science, and experts learn a lot from trial and error.

Mistakes are inevitable.

Learn from them and move on.

On the other hand, if you're doing something that works, make a note of it.

Do it again

Until it doesn't work.

Then it becomes a mistake to learn from.

The point: never stop learning and improving.

21. Be patient

As I said at the beginning of this post, it takes time to become an SEO expert.

Ride on the wave of algorithm changes.

Don't be put off by updates to search tools.

Build your community.

None of these things can be rushed.

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But when you're passionate about it, paying off is a rewarding, in-demand career.

Summary

Being an SEO expert opens up a world of possibilities.

They can play an important role in starting a startup.

You can improve the online presence of a 50 year old company.

They can help a solo preneur reach new audiences.

You can help a retailer meet their sales goals.

There are many skills that you need to develop in order to become this trusted resource.

But it all starts with patience, integrity and a thirst for learning.

Selected image source: Paulo Bobita

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