Ipshita Basu Guha (Ph. D.)
If You Want to Learn Basic SEO, ONLY Read These 5 Blog Posts
You Must Learn SEO As you Start Developing Content
Embedded Image Credit: Photo by Lukas Hartmann from Pexels
If you are a content creator or marketer you might have often wondered why some people always succeed in ranking their content and market it effectively driving insane results? They rapidly grow their subscriber base and digital equity.
Why many others (maybe you too) keep struggling to raise their content visibility and waste precious time without getting any results?
Let me lay it out for you – The ones who succeed are those who invest time in learning the basics of SEO as a building block and embed it in their content marketing process.
I am one of those guilty of not learning SEO before I started writing on different online platforms. I was foolish enough to believe that if my content is good, educative, informative, and simple it will automatically drive traffic by the hordes. Sadly, nothing like that ever happened. And of course, I mused, wasn’t SEO the job of the specialists to create some technical magic?
This was the phase when I was making a transition from academic writing to content marketing. It is all writing, isn’t it? How different or difficult could it be?
One afternoon I bored a content marketer friend and guide about my dilemma. She politely advised me to take a break from writing and invest some time in reading about SEO and level up.
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.”
This blog post is all about my “learning SEO” misadventure, how I found my way through, and a recommended list of 5 good “ABC’s of SEO” blog posts to help you get a solid head start in your content writing and marketing expedition without making the same mistakes that I did.
Content marketing is a different ball game. There are some ground rules which you must follow if you want to be even a tiny bit effective. Learning and incorporating aspects of SEO in your writing is the most critical rule for online media.
I was happy and pumped up about the suggestion to learn SEO and then I committed my next mistake.
I went ahead and typed “SEO+Beginner+Learn” on Google’s Search engine and hoped to be showered with a downpour of knowledge in a jiffy.
What I was instead showered with were a whole bunch of blog posts on SEO. Each one looked unique, informative, valuable, better than the other, and more fulfilling. I clicked on the first one and the second and the third skimming through each of them while trying to read and retain. But the surge of information and creative posts sent my efforts scattering all over the place.
I am not sure if you can relate to this but some of you probably would. You click on one post and halfway through it there is a link that you click on and move to some other page and from there to another. Suddenly you realize 120 minutes have passed and you are reading something that’s narrow and ultra-specific (and unable to appreciate) instead of learning the basics of SEO which you had set out to do at the beginning.
Having spent days reading half or quarter of each blog post and flitting from one to another I realized that this is not going to work.
I am not making any progress and need to change tack as a way out of this insanity. Wasn’t it Einstein who said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
I needed a complete change of plans, to reorganize my approach and do it all over again.
This is what I did.
1. MY OBJECTIVE
First, I settled on an objective. It was to read and learn the basics of SEO.
I needed to get a lay of the land. In the beginning, all I wanted to learn was the elements of SEO, the different parts to it, and prioritize them for adoption and implementation.
I wanted to become conversant with the terminology and incorporate each element at different stages of writing and publishing the content to make my output effective.
For example: Using different header tags is easy and must be implemented in the content. The result or effect is immediately visible. Optimizing images may come later.
Since the objective was awareness and education, I decided to restrict myself to just 5 detailed blog posts on the basics of SEO.
2. MY LEARNING STRATEGY
I had allocated a fortnight’s time to read those 5 posts.
It was my Learn SEO Fortnight. You can try it too.
I refrained from any other activity in those 15 days except doing the usual ton of household work and managing the demands of my day job.
It was a struggle. I constantly tried to calm my monkey mind and center it back to the task at hand.
It was tough but I am glad that I did it.
Eliminating distractions is the most important thing because we can easily get carried away by 100 other equally impressive posts vying for our attention.
Believe me when I say that SEO often feels like an endless abyss (in the good sense). There is so much we can do to improve and enhance the results. And you want to gobble up all the intelligent stuff thrown your way.
If you also suffer from FOMO (like me) then a simple solution could be to bookmark every other link or interesting post that comes your way to check later.
Another thing that I did while learning SEO is to take hand notes.
Yes, using a proper notebook and pen.
Image Credit: Photo by Artem Podrez from Pexels
This is important for learning, absorption, and retention.
As you read and write the stuff, you make a better sense of things. Brian Goodwin's article Research Matters/ The Magic of Writing Stuff Down concludes that "Note-taking is an effective memory and learning aid because it prompts students to think about their learning"
I drew mindmaps, conceptual diagrams, noted the critical inputs, pitfalls, and tried the recommended tools to see how the stuff works. It helped me immensely.
By the end of the 5 posts, I could compile my own working notes on SEO to guide me forward including what to read next.
3. MY LIST OF 5 BLOG POSTS ON
BASICS OF SEO
Before we go ahead with the list, I would love to make a few things clear.
This list is made up of nominal numbers. They are simply there for identification and not rank or rate the posts in any way.
The choice of the posts is personal and they appealed to me as a learner. These posts are basically legends in the SEO space. And they are simply meant to get you out of your inertia.
They will act like synapses, embolden you to seek out more posts around this topic to expand your knowledge-base.
If you have ever read Howard Gardener’s Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences you will connect with my learning strategy and choice of posts. I am more of a visual (spatial) and verbal (linguistics-based) learner.
The 5 SEO posts that I chose were based on –
The structure of information (the teaching style)
The simplicity of the posts (appealing to certain types of learners)
#1 – SEMrush
SEMRUSH’s post begins with an explanation of how search engines work specifically Google before getting into SEO. The blog adopts a “demonstrator” type of teaching SEO.
The language is simple and easy flowing. You do not need prior knowledge or skills to grasp the contents.
And, if you do not like reading long-text then this blog has a lot of small videos to help you.
The top reason for recommending this post is the videos. It jumpstarts learning and you make quick strides.
I loved the descriptive nature of the post and the fact that it had less focus on technical aspects and algorithms.
Frankly, if we toss too much tech in the beginning, readers get overwhelmed and may totally skip it.
A bright spot of this post is the links to various tools to improve your productivity. It is like hybrid teaching where you say what needs to be done and provide links to try out those actions. This gives you a practical feel.
Believe me when I say that you will feel a surge of endorphins as you go through this post.
#2 – Ahrefs
Ahrefs has two wonderful posts on the SEO guide for beginners. I would recommend this one and once you are done with all 5 to come back for the other.
The content delivery is uncomplicated. And like SEMRUSH, this one too first goes through the in and out of search engines and the omnipresent – how Google search engine works.
Why do I need to know how a search engine works while learning SEO?
To appreciate the importance of SEO in relation to what and how people search for information and the fundamental reason why you need to learn and implement SEO.
That way you do not waste precious time refreshing and rewriting your content. And get it right the first time.
This Ahrefs blog does go into a bit of the technical side so if you find it overwhelming skip those parts and circle back later. The tone at times gets authoritative but then they ARE an authority on SEO.
Here too like SEMRUSH, you have the option of some brilliant videos (one of which is linked above) if you are more of a visual - aural learner.
What I particularly like about this post is the section on how to optimize websites.
The tone is prescriptive and direct, but very conversational.
Towards the end of the post, Ahrefs tells you how to get started. People can teach all kinds of things but to nudge you into action with a simple roadmap is priceless.
It is classic empowerment.
#3 – Neil Patel
Reading Neil Patel’s blogs is always a pleasure. I started considering content marketing seriously after reading some of his incredible posts.
His posts have a copious amount of images, videos, and screenshots to drive home the point. And the language probably gets an easy 65 on the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Meter.
Like the previous 2 posts, Neil Patel’s post goes into the inner workings of a search engine and probably goes in little too deep. He liberally uses analogies to get across his point to newbies.
The post is long and you should read it in segments. Do not try to consume it in one sitting. That does not mean the post is daunting. It is full of information so you might need time to absorb.
He has described on-page SEO with considerable illustrations and goes into loads of technical SEO. The third part of his post is devoted to off-page SEO. A virtual treat for verbal and visual learners.
Here’s the thing, you may not be able to get it (technical SEO) all in and that’s okay. You will anyway be reading the post again in the future. I still do.
One thing you will love is the links to some good keyword planner tools which I have since bookmarked. I use them quite often.
The strong point of this post is an in-depth section of on-page SEO, insights, and examples.
Interestingly, if you are reading Neil’s post after the first two then you will be nodding at his words.
You will probably read through faster since you are already “woke” with the basics of SEO and conversant. Give yourself a pat!
#4 – Moz
Image Source: Screenshot of Beginner's Guide to SEO Blog from Moz.com
If there is one blog on SEO that is comparable to Gray’s Anatomy then it is The Beginner’s Guide to SEO by Moz.
The content is served through 9 instructional chapters. Reading this is like attending a masterclass especially the 7th chapter.
This is a blog post that I read “front to back” as recommended by Moz. You should too. I have marked it in Pocket for ready reference.
By now you will see a pattern. All the posts invest a fair amount of content on how search engines work. Moz’s post is however mainly devoted to on-page and technical SEO and not so much on off-page SEO.
Dividing the content into chapters is very helpful for verbal and visual learners. I love the structure. You can soak up the topic seamlessly.
The post has very little links to keep distraction at the minimum. I would say that this post uses a facilitator style of teaching because it wants the readers to read and learn on their own by giving them the building blocks of SEO as edible bits.
#5 - Searchenginejournal
Image Source: Screenshot of Searchenginejournal's post SEO 101
SEO is vast. This is the first takeaway from the epic Searchenginejournal’s post SEO 101. The content is spread across 19 chapters!!! And most of the chapters are justified.
The message is loud and clear – learn SEO step-by-step, one chapter at a time.
The content is beautifully organized, descriptive and strongly appealing to verbal learners.
They have presented this in a beautiful eBook format. I have this blockbuster downloaded and saved.
My favorite part of this post is the section on “Why content is important for SEO”. I have a printed copy of this. Because after reading these 5 and many other posts I have concluded that it all pivots on the power of the content. Everything else comes later.
SEJ will tell you all about content types in the on-page SEO section, how search engines work in the technical section, and how to promote your website in the off-page SEO segment. And if you think you know all this by now, you are mistaken. This post (eBook) is a treasure trove of knowledge.
The chapters are beautifully structured and detailed going from basics of search to links of remarkable free-tools. They also give you a whole bunch of sites for going deeper into SEO. But that is for later. Do not forget to bookmark the section.
If you ask me is one thing that was bothersome in the post, I would say the Ads. But I looked past them.
For all the first-timers, you can leave out chapters 16, 17, 18.
You will draw serious parallels with the Moz blog.
Content is everywhere. We are surrounded by it in many forms and consuming it knowingly and unknowingly. It is now in our constant reach through mobile devices. When 4 million blog posts are published every day, the struggle to stand out and be seen is a humongous challenge. That is why we need SEO.
My purpose in writing this post is to help readers like you to avoid making the same mistakes that I made. I am an average learner and the blogs recommended by me in this post worked for me. And that is why I believe that many of you might benefit from this list and the signposts.
Each blog has its distinctive style of message delivery and technique of explaining a concept. That’s one more reason why I have highlighted the aspects of these posts
I know you may counter that all of us are unique. We do not process information in the same way. Our style of learning varies which is why certain blog posts appeal to us more than others. What worked for you may not work for me.
But, instead of aimlessly spending days on multiple blog posts on the basics of SEO it will be wise on your part to invest time on these 5. At the very least, you will get a fair idea and then make better decisions on what else to read or leave in the near future.
There is of course the chance that you might like some more than the others but that is cool. Because at the end of it, you will have some killer skills and become highly conversant on all things SEO.
The goal of this post is to give my readers like you a head start. To go from 0 to 30 if not 60. It is meant to be an external force that acts on you to nudge you out of your state of inertia into motion.
It is pretty amazing how our writing and quality of content improves as we insert the elements of SEO at each stage of the creative process.
Have a go at it, follow the guidelines, and you will be delighted with the results.
Oh and in case you have not read Howard Gardener’s Frames of Mind, you might want to try it. It can help you write better.
Onward and upward!
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