19 Feb 2012

Some Tips on Learning SEO for Newbies

While surfing the Net I found an interesting post by Bill Slawski (Founder and President of SEO by the Sea). Thought to share it. (I have also added the additional view of other Experts on the Subject).

1. Start a blog on a subject that you enjoy enough to write regularly that isn't critical to the success and failure of your business. Use it as a testing ground, and experiment with plugins, with the layout, with the graphics, with themes, with different styles of blog posts, and more. Optimize your blog, install Google Analytics and verify it at Google Webmaster Tools.

2. Read everything you can from the Search Engines on their help pages, their corporate pages, their blogs, their patents and whitepapers and more. Don't limit yourself to Google, but look at other search engines as well, including Yahoo, Bing, Blekko, Duck Duck Go, WolframAlpha, etc. Do the same with social networks such as Facebook, Stumbleupon, Twitter, Google Plus. Watch the video tutorials from Google on Google Analytics, on Adwords, etc. Look at these as primary sources, but try to understand the motivations behind what they share and why.

3. Visit the Google Webmaster Central Help forums (http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Webmasters?hl=en) everyday and learn about the problems and issues that site owners have, and see if you can figure out solutions for those problems. You don't necessarily have to post responses or solutions or suggestions to the people who bring their problems to the forums, but you can if you want to.

4. Study successful sites, or sites that you think are successful. Try to understand why they are. Why does Wikipedia tend to rank so well in search results for instance? What positive or negative things are sites like Huffington Post or Sears or Dell doing? Think critically about their designs, their usability, their methods of communication, their use of social networks, how they optimize their pages. Do they use robots.txt files? Do they seem to focus upon specific keyword phrases for different pages? Do they have unique URLs for each page on their site?

5. Try out and get involved with other online services such as Google Mapmaker and Google Earth, Wikipedia, Hacker News, Facebook, Google Plus, and others. Learn as much as you can about how they work, what their rules and policies are, and how and why people use them.

6. Find tutorials on HTML, CSS, PHP, Perl, and other web-based technologies. Search for [tutorial css] for example, to find some. You can often find some good ones on .edu sites, so try a search for something like [site:edu tutorial css]. Visit lots of sites and look at the source code for those pages to see how they do what they do.

7. Visit Webdesign, SEO, and Technology forums, and read, but with a critical eye. Lurk for a fair while before you participate in any of them, and learn about the people who are participating at those. Take just about everything you read with some rational skepticism and an with an intent to test and try things out on your own. Maintain a civil and polite presence on those, follow their rules, and avoid arguments. It's OK to "agree to disagree" with someone. Don't believe everything you read/hear. Look at "where" you are finding this "information". Is it reputable, is it trustworthy, is it well writen etc. Further - look for Dates/Times - see if you can identify just how old the information may be. Sometimes, even reputable, informed and knowledgable people get it wrong.

We all have to start somewhere. With SEO, doing some hands-on things like starting a blog or editing Wikipedia pages or setting up reports in Google Analytics or attempting to diagnose problems at the Webmaster Central Help forums can help more than reading a book or some articles about SEO. Learning to think like an SEO, so that you can analyze sites, create great user experiences, and solve potential problems is a large part of what SEOs do.

Think things through. Ask yourself solid questions such as:

Why would that count?
How would that benefit searchers/readers/users?
How can G verify/confirm/utilise that data?
How easily can that be misused/abused/faked?

If you cannot figure those sorts of questions out fairly quickly - then you may want to take it with a pinch of salt.

Don't jump to conclusions, make assumptions are think that X=Y just because you saw it once. If at all possible, come up with your theory, then figure ways to test it and prove it wrong. Only upon several failures should you believe you may be onto something

Take whatever advantages you can get.

Some forums (such as GWC) get the occassional Googler, or people in contact with them. It's worth reading and asking and listening. Then there are Hangouts - where you may get direct access to a Googler (very helpful!). There are also numerous videos by Matt Cutts (and possibly others?) ... watch and listen.

Rather not for beginners but for more sophisticated users:

Dive into different cultural/geographic areas and find out what they do different or better e.g. baidu, yandex etc.

Understand strategies these companies have and how they might implement them (against each other). React accordingly.

In this manner also watch acquisitions of companies/patents closely and ask yourself why they were done.

Build your own (simple) crawler and understand the problems of indexing, e.g. DOM tree manipulation, XHR, third party artifacts (ActionScript, Browsercache etc.) and low latency networks.

Understand how information is processed within data centers to leverage onsite keyword selection, i.e. stemming, ETL process etc.

Any other suggestions?


  1. I do agree with the above mentioned tips and I also tell people to start a blog of their own firstly to have a hands on experience and follow learning by experiencing approach.

    Try starting a blog where your interest lies (as initially coding knowledge is not required). But many a times, I have seen that after creating a blog the interest dies and the blog remains just there with only few starting posts for the first few days only.

    I have also started a series for beginners to web promotion which could be accessed at: http://blog.kunals.com/how-to-promote-a-website-guide-ideas-steps-tips-and-tricks/