How Long Does It Take to Learn SEO?

So you want to learn SEO. That’s great! But you might be intimidated. After all, SEO’s this big, scary strategy that you probably need a PhD to fully understand, right? Oh no! What have you gotten yourself into?

Most SEO newcomers are overwhelmed by the nature of the strategy, but it’s really not as complicated as most people make it out to be. That being said, you’re busy, and you don’t exactly have time to dedicate to mastering yet another crucial skill—so how long does it actually take to “learn” SEO?

Not that long, but…

My short answer is this: a week or two to learn the basics, but months to years of practice to master everything else, and a lifetime to keep up with ongoing changes.

The basics aren’t that hard to understand or master, which is why entry into the field is so straightforward and forgiving. Some of the technical components and advanced troubleshooting may give you problems if you’re not already well-versed in these areas, but they’re something you can pick up as you go along. The real trick is keeping up with all the industry changes that Google and other trendsetters will be throwing your way—probably forever.

The Basics

Let’s take a look at the basics—and I can teach you the basics of the basics in just a minute (maybe less if you read fast):

  • Onsite SEO. Onsite SEO means making sure Google and other search engines can “see” your site, optimizing page titles and descriptions so they accurately describe your pages and appeal to your target demographics, and writing content that your audience likes that falls in line with your niche.
  • Offsite SEO. Offsite SEO means writing guest posts that link back to your site on authoritative publishers, posting on social media, and building a reputation so that your site appears more authoritative in the eyes of search engines.
  • Peripheral Considerations. The goal here is to increase in rankings for keywords that are relevant to your brand, heavily searched for, and non-competitive. Finding these keywords is a third of the battle, and optimizing your site for them is another third, and improving your reputation and authority is the final third. Everything else comes down to refinements in these three areas (for the most part).

Painless, right? I only scratched the surface here, obviously, but this should be proof that SEO isn’t nearly as complicated as most people make it out to be.

Technical SEO

There are, however, some more advanced SEO tactics that do take a long time to learn:

  • Most modern CMS systems make it so you can implement SEO-related changes without digging into your website’s source code, but it’s still a good idea to have some programming knowledge. This is especially true for advanced tactics like modifying your robots.txt file or implementing microformatting.
  • What happens if something goes wrong? If Google can’t see your site? If your rankings aren’t climbing even though you’re doing everything right? Being able to troubleshoot takes months to years of experience to do efficiently, but in the meantime, there are dozens of online articles that can help you out of a jam.
  • Similarly, when you look at your first Google Analytics report, you’ll probably be overwhelmed. It takes a long time to learn how to conduct a proper analysis of your SEO efforts.
  • There are hundreds of tiny things that affect your search rankings, including the speed of your site and your site’s security. You can rank without these, but they’re something you’ll want to learn eventually.

Quality and Evolution

The most complicated part of “learning” SEO is understanding your specific niche, and being able to respond to changes as they arise. It’s more about being adaptable, critical, and insightful than it is having a steady bank of knowledge. For example:

  • The only way to write better content is to listen to your audience’s feedback and adjust your efforts accordingly. You’ll become a better writer naturally over time.
  • Google often releases updates that changes how it evaluates certain factors, such as links or content. You need to read the news to stay on top of these.
  • Competition and audience. Your competition level and your audience’s needs will evolve over time. Pay attention so you can evolve with them.

What Did I Say?

Everything in this article points back to what I originally said—it’s easy to learn the basics of SEO, but the intricacies of the strategy take at least months to master, and ongoing attention to perfect. Of course, if you aren’t interested in doing things the hard way, you could always enlist the services of a professional who already has the experience—contact me at dopplepop if you’re interested how I can help your site rank higher for your target audience’s most common searches.


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