What to learn in SEO? – A Complete Syllabus for the Beginners

People from third world countries like me usually face a lot of difficulties if s/he decide to build up career as SEO freelancer. The main reason is the lack of institutions where they can go and learn about search engine optimization.

So the only source is expert marketer’s blogs or YouTube channels. Now here they face different kind of challenges like what to learn first, second, third and so on. I am saying this because I face the same kind of problem.

When I started following a expert blogs, I found a lot of helpful articles where they mention the process or how to do a thing perfectly.

Instance, when I start following a blog and found a post about how to implement Rich Schema, I read and learn the technique. But I am not sure when this thing will be needed or before learning this technique if I shall learn any other things first!

Whenever I search for a complete outline or syllabus which I should follow to learn search engine optimization, honestly, I found none. That's the reason why I decide to write this post where the beginners can get the idea to learn the steps/stages to follow in order to learn SEO.

Why You should Learn SEO?

There are actually multiple segments of digital marketing i.e. search engine optimization, social media marketing, content marketing, PPC etc. So before planning to learn the skill on any particular area you must study which one has the most demand.

I always prefer working with digital marketing agencies over the direct client because marketing agencies can give continuous jobs. It is difficult to get direct client for freelancers who are located in third world countries because physical presence really matters when question comes to invest in services rendered to grow business.

So we hardly get client through our own website. Most of the time we need to rely on marketplaces like Upwork, Fiverr, PeoplePerHour etc. to get new leads.

To justify my effort behind learning SEO, I focus on the response and stats acquired from different digital marketing agencies. HubShout did a survey on Small Business Online Marketing Trends just before 2017 to get some real good information for freelancers like us.

They reveal many information which is particularly helpful for us to take some bold decision whether we should spend time behind learning SEO or not.

I am going to present just two stats from the HubShout post here which I believe good enough to take the final decision.

Digital Marketing Services Outsourcing Stats by Digital Marketing Companies - Freelancers HUB

Digital Marketing Agencis Plan for Outsourcing Services in 2017 - Freelancers HUB

Digital marketing agencies outsourcing priorities are always top for SEO in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Even they planned to outsource SEO services more compare to other digital marketing service types  in 2017. I believe, demand trend for 2018 will be not much different than 2017.

So let’s start to go to the syllabus for learning search engine optimization step by step.

Beginners Guide to to SEO - What to Learn?

I prepare the topic below priority wise. You should not skip one part and go to another because it may confuse you later on.

I divide the complete SEO course in to three major parts i.e. Basic on-page optimization, advanced on-page optimization and off-page optimization which are shown in below table:

Basic On-Page Optimization:

I include below optimization skills as basic because these are the most common things to focus for optimizing every website.If you’re reviewing a website without using any tool, then you have to manually check these things to understand whether the website is properly optimized or not.

URL Structure

This is the address of your web page or post where search crawlers first land and index in their database. So it’s the most vital part for optimization.

To make an URL search bot friendly and keyword optimized, you must use your target words here and avoid using stop words. Find a complete list of Stop Words here.

SEO Title

This is the second vital section for optimization. SEO title will be shown in the search result and when search bots crawl a webpage, this is the second thing they index in their database.

Using target keywords in this section help the search bots to identify important words for the page.

Here one thing must take as note that previously Google use to show maximum 50-60 characters of title tag in its search result, but from May 2016, Google start showing extended title tags in its search result. Now the maximum length is about 69-70 characters.

Meta Description

Meta description is the third vital page where search crawlers come after URL and title tags. It also shown in the organic search results. So you must consider incorporating your target keywords here.

Here another note you must take about its length. Google use to show maximum 155 to 160 characters in its search result from meta description, but from December 2017, Google updates its algorithm and now showing total 300-310 long meta description in its search result.

So while you write or re-write meta description for an web page or post, you must keep in mind the maximum length and use target keywords in it.

Meta Keywords

It is the next place where all search bots land except Google. Google now ignore meta keywords section and not indexing in their database.

However if you want to grab organic traffic from other major search engines like Yahoo, Bing, Yandex etc. then you must consider updating meta keywords section too.

Image ALT Tag

Search bots are not able to read any graphical properties. So you must need to help them to identify your graphical objects for your target words.

ALT tags are little description of the image which will be indexed by search bots. If you want to grab organic traffic from Image Search, then you must update all graphical properties on the website with proper ALT tags.

Header Tags

The most common mistake website owners usually do is to use Bold Text as sub-heading instead of using Header Tags.

Sub-heading of a page content is the fourth place where search bots usually crawl and identify the keywords for the page. So using proper keyword optimized header tags (H1-H6) help the page ranking for the target keywords.

Moz-SEO-Cheat-Sheet - Freelancers HUB

Interlinking

Creating links with the other pages from the page content help crawlers to understand that both pages are related so they give some additional credit to the linked pages in organic ranking.

Here you should consider anchoring your target keywords while creating link for which you want to rank the other page in organic search. However you must maintain the natural look and anchoring keywords must not look unnatural.

So you must use your common sense while optimizing these anchor text for interlinking.

Sitemap.xml File Creation

The sitemap is a structured format where a website’s all URLs are listed. It is particularly created for the search bots so that they can understand which URLs they should crawl.

You can use a free tool to create Sitemap.xml file and upload to the root directory. Once you upload the file in root directory, you can find it on browser by typing “website address”+sitemap.xml

However, in this method, whenever you update your site with new blog posts or add new pages, you must update the sitemap and submit to Google Webmaster Tool account.

Alternative way is to use plugins to create this file which can automatically update the Google search console.

Robots.txt File Creation

This is another file which you need learn how to create and upload to the root directory. It gives instruction to the search engines which URLs of the website they are allowed to crawl and which are not.

Once you upload the Robots.txt file in the root directory, you can also find it in the browser by typing “website address”+robots.txt

Canonical Tags

This tags usually use for avoiding duplicate content issue. Mostly it used for ecommerce websites where same product description are being used for same kind of products with different size.

On the other hand, you may consider syndicating your web page content on the other platforms for off-site marketing. If you’re not using Canonical Tag on your web page or post, then the syndicated content on other platform can cause the duplicate content issue.

301 Redirection

It’s a technique to redirect web visitor to the new URL from the old URL.

When you optimize and restructure existing web page or post URL with target keywords and if the old URL is already indexed in search engine database, then there is a possibility that organic visitor can land on the old URL and see a 404 Not Found error.

So after optimizing the URL, you must 301 Redirect the old URL to the new one.

404 Error Fixing

404 Errors refers to a “Not Found” notification. It usually shown to the visitors when the page or post is permanently removed from the website or if any changes made in the URL.

Once you learn how to do 301 Redirect, you can fix the 404 Errors. The challenge you may face is to identify the old URLs which are returning 404 errors.

You can easily find these problematic URLs from the website’s Google Webmaster Tools account or using a desktop software namely Screaming Frog.

Breadcrumb

This particularly not bring some extra benefit in SEO sense. However it can present the website in smart way in the organic search result. Below is a image showing the difference of using and not using Breadcrumb.

AMP Page

AMP pages means Accelerated Mobile Pages. It is now particularly important because from November 04, 2016 Google start indexing AMP pages separately to facilitate the mobile searchers.

So you must learn how to implement AMP pages of your own or your client’s website so that you can grab organic traffic from mobile users.

Structured DataSample website with Well Structured data - Freelancers HUB

Structured data is piece of code written in a specific format advised by Google to tell the search engines about the highlighted portion of your web page. It increase the chance to show your rich snippets in the organic search results.

Rich Snippets

Rich snippets are another piece of codes used to present some additional information of your web page content which can be picked up and shown by the search engines in their organic search result.

This image shown the exact outcome of using perfect structured data and rich snippets on that website

Advanced On Page Optimization

Most of the expert marketers usually put below mentioned things in their overall on-page optimization. But I category them as “Advanced Part” because they need to perform with extra care and you may need to invest a lot of time to learn them.

Keyword Research

This is in fact, you have to do before start on page optimization work if your client doesn’t have the selected key terms to optimize their website.

You have to collect the seed keywords from your client or from the client’s website or even from the competitor’s ranked keywords. You need to use your common sense and also use some tools plus methods to perform the keyword research.

As I am considering you as the beginner, so you probably not have access to any premium SEO tools which are considered as best in the market. So, I suggest you to through the post in detail to learn how to do keyword research with free tools. It can help you to learn some tricks to find out the best possible keywords until you manage premium access to some paid SEO tools like Semrush, Ahref or Spyfu.

Google Webmaster Account Setup

You must learn how to setup Google Webmaster Account for your client’s website. You need to learn below things;

  • How to add property to GWT account;

  • How to install the meta code in the website;

  • How to verify the property;

  • How to read the reports;

  • How to submit sitemap;

  • How to check robots.txt file;

  • How to add and remove user with different permission;

  • In case if your using you own Google account then how to transfer the ownership;

Google Tag Manager Account Setup

You can initially avoid using Google Tag Manager, but I suggest you to learn about this. It has many benefits like you can use GTM not only installing Google Analytics tracking code but also use for installing tracking codes from third party platforms like Facebook, Twitter etc.

To get familiar with Google Tag Manager account, you must consider learning below things;

  • How to install GTM container codes in the website;

  • How to Install Google Analytics tracking code;

  • How to Install Facebook tracking code;

  • How to Install Google Twitter tracking code;

  • How to Install Google AdWords tracking code;

  • How to install tags that can track different events like button click, link click etc.

  • How to add and remove user;

Google Analytic Account Setup

Google Analytics is the best tool to gather all information about the website overall performance. Based on its report the client can even measure the overall SEO performance.

Here you need to learn below things;

  • How to install Google Analytics tracking code with or without using GTM;

  • How to verify if the tracking code is recording data or not;

  • How to read the reports;

  • How to generate custom reports;

  • How to set up Goals;

  • How to filter spam traffic and search bots;

  • How to connect the Google Analytics with AdWords and Webmaster Tool;

  • How to add and remove users with different permission.

Content Research

Google prefer the websites which are regularly updating with fresh contents. So blog on every website is a requirement now. It is, in fact, the best way to educate people about the business and attract organic visitors by covering different types of keywords.

However, the main challenge the website owners usually face is to find out the right kind of trending topic. You have to learn the skill to find out the trending topic for your client’s business.

You must be able to do extensive research about your client business, find out the problems their customers are usually facing and then create a topic that can deliver them a solution. You have to use your common sense and also some tools like Buzzsumo, Google Trend, Quora etc.

Off Page Optimization

Off-Page optimization refers to the marketing activities which usually done on different other online platforms. Here you must read thoroughly the Google Webmaster Guideline and learn the their compliance.

Nowadays off-page optimization is called in different names like content marketing, link building or relationship building.The ultimate goal of off-site optimization is to build brand image for your client’s business and build backlinks for his website.

It’s kind of endless work and you have to update yourself on a regular basis to learn new tricks to perform off-site marketing effectively. Here I am giving few techniques which you can consider learning one by one and use them for your marketing.

Citation Building

Citation building campaign is particularly for local business SEO. The main objective of citation building is to enlist your client’s business to major local business directories which includes directories like Google, Yahoo, Bing, Yelp and Foursquare.

You need to have a country wise and category wise local citation sites list ready in hand of to launch citation building campaign on behalf of your client’s business.. For this purpose you can use WhiteSpark Country wise Citation Sources and WhiteSpark Category wise Citation sources. You can also consider top 100 international citation sites on Brightlocal for you citation building campaign.

While building citation, you must need to maintain same NAP information everywhere. NAP refers to the Client’s Business Name, Address (City, State and Zipcode) and Phone Number.

Two-Layer Format Link BuiIding Technique

It’s a technique first introduced by renowned professional online marketer Neil Patel in his blog post, “How to Build High Quality Backlinks in a Scalable Way”.

It’s a two-layer format link building strategy where all below methods are being used to build self-owned or controlled backlinks.

  • Web 2.0 blogs;

  • Articles;

  • Press Release;

  • Video;

  • Powerpoint Presentation;

  • Podcast;

  • Directory Submission;

  • Social bookmarking;

  • Social Sharing;

  • Blog Commenting;

  • Forum Posting;

  • Profile Creation;

  • Edu Profiles;

To learn the technique I suggest to go through in details of Neil Patel’s blog post.

Skyscraper Technique

This link building technique first introduced by renowned marketer Brian Dean in one of his posts on Backlinko. It includes three step of works but every step involves a lot of research, huge effort of content creation and outreach activities.

If you want to learn this technique in more detail, then read about the Skyscraper Technique explained by Brian Dean on his post. However, you may also feel interested to learn a case study written by Olga Mykhoparkina on Search Engine Journal who tried this Skyscraper Technique for her company’s backlink building campaign.

Moving Man Link Building Technique

This is another three step technique nicely explained by Brian Dean in his Backlinko blog. It’s very much similar to broken link building.

In this backlink building method, you have to find the websites with your target keywords on which there are outbound link that returns 404 error. If you have similar resource on your client’s website, then you can outreach to the website owner and request to replace the broken link with your advised source.

I suggest to through every details of Brian Dean’s post on Moving Man Method and learn this great technique.

These are in fact now most popular white hat offsite SEO marketing techniques. However, few white hat link building methods are also there like broken link building, blogger outreach, influencer marketing and guest posting.

If you go through the details of these three popular link building techniques, you can ultimately become master of other kinds of link building methods.

Conclusion

Search engine optimization is not a difficult thing to learn. Anyone with less technical background can easily learn how to don on-page optimization, research keywords and content topics and also how to launch a effective off-site marketing.

The main thing you have to have is absolute patience and eagerness to learn. You have to put a lot of effort and must have a curious mind to find solution for any problem you face.

As there is no or very few digital marketing institutions in third world countries where you can go and learn, so it’s better you buy a domain and hosting and setup your own website. This website could be your portfolio website or anything. Whenever you learn anything, try to implement it on your own website so that if anything goes wrong, there will be no one who can blame you.

This will not only help you to learn instantly and in effective way but also give you the practical experience and you can able to deal your clients more professionally.

Shovon Joarder

Shovon Joarder has been working as Freelance Digital Marketing Manager for over three years and manage a team of efficient internet marketing professionals on Upwork Freelancers HUB agency. He provides customized search marketing services to business website owners to get ranking in Google organic search.

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