When it comes to learning SEO, there are tons of different ways that you can cut it. In this article, I’m going to tell you the five skills that I think are most essential to being good at SEO this year.
By the end of this article, you’re going to know exactly what you need to prioritize in your SEO education.
Skill #1: On Page Fundamentals
So the first skill that I would recommend that you really prioritize when it comes to learning SEO is your on page fundamentals. It’s really important that you understand what it takes in order to rank for a post on page one of Google since that’s the entire spirit of search engine optimization. So what exactly does that mean learning on page fundamentals?
Well, what I mean by this is learning things like what makes an effective title or meta description. Sure. These days Google has been automatically replacing more titles and meta descriptions than before, but it’s still a relevant skill to understand exactly why people might be clicking on something more than other things in the search results.
Aside from titles and meta descriptions, you’ll also want to learn about just how to design a page for SEO content. Exactly how do you want to use headers and subheaders to structure your content in a way that is incredibly useful for your reader? Aside from understanding page layout, it’s equally as important to understand how to drive people to a clear call-to-action.
Having effective calls-to-action can be crucial when it comes to getting to that key conversion point. Say for example, that you’ve created a blog post on how to get more leads for your small business. When actually you want to have a clear call-to-action for people to then get into some form of your marketing funnel, whether that’s some sort of freebie or getting them to reach out to you to learn more about your services.
The two other core principles to on page fundamentals that I encourage you to learn are image optimizations in terms of what it takes to compress an image, and then get that to deliver a faster page speed on your site.
And then the second thing is to take a look at the importance of internal linking. It is really important for you as you’re designing your websites to essentially show Google the relationship between different pages of your website. That way they can understand your authority in your niche.
Skill #2: Off Page Fundamentals
So assuming that you’ve gone ahead and already learned all about the on page fundamentals, that naturally leads me to the second skillset that you really want to tackle to be good at SEO this year, which is off page fundamentals.
There are tons of things behind off page fundamentals, including an entire world of technical SEO. But I think that it really boils down to a few key principles. The three things that I would really encourage you to look into when you’re first learning off page fundamentals is number one backlinking and the importance of backlinking.
The reason why backlinks are so important is because if you don’t have other people linking to your website, it’s very unlikely that Google is going to trust your website. Sometimes you’ll naturally start to get backlinks because you’ve published enough content and people recognize that and start linking back to your site.
But early on, you’re going to need to reach out to different folks oftentimes in order to get those first few links to your site. The two other sides of off page fundamentals that I would encourage you to check out are things related to social media outreach, or just in general community building sort of efforts.
This is where you might leave comments on different pages or just have different posts and places to share the content that you’ve been releasing on your blog. That way you can just expand the content distribution of the resources that you’re creating. And then the other thing that I would encourage you to do, which connects back to backlinks is understanding how to build a guest post process.
This is something where you’re going to want to be posting on different websites to then build links back to your site, as well as cultivate new relationships in your industry so that people can start to understand what you’re all about and start to work with you in a long term relationship.
This can also sometimes include podcast outreach because podcasts can be a great way for you to also build links to your site. But at the core of it off page fundamentals are all about supporting the on page efforts that you’re doing and making sure that you’re really getting the distribution and reach that your articles deserve and to help Google understand that your content is worth linking to.
Skill #3: Search intent comprehension
The third skill set when it comes to really understanding SEO and getting good at it is improving your search intent comprehension. A few months ago, I shared an article where I taught you exactly how to better understand the intent of what search engines are looking for and you can check that out after this video. But the premise of this skill is to really understand that when you search for a particular phrase, you understand exactly what sort of content the search engine is looking to feature at the top few spots.
The reason why that’s so important is because if you understand that long tail phrase A is looking more for video content, as opposed to text content, well, then you should prioritize creating video content as opposed to creating another long form article. By understanding what the search engines are looking for, you have a better understanding of exactly how to approach your content strategy.
Skill #4: Basic data analysis
The fourth skill that you really need to have to be effective at SEO is just basic data analysis. You need to understand how to intake a lot of different pieces of data from different SEO tools, such as Ahrefs, SEMRush, Google Search Console, as well as Keywords Everywhere, or whatever SEO tool you’re using.
Oftentimes, in digital marketing and in SEO work, you’re going to need to intake tons of different sources of data, and then try to piece out what is most valuable to you. This means being able to parse out, for example, what’s a low competition phrase, as opposed to a medium or high competition phrase. It also means being able to look at a list of 25 different content ideas and know how to prioritize which ones to tackle.
Part of the skillset of basic data analysis is also understanding some fundamentals of Excel. It’s learning keyboard shortcuts, as well as some basic analysis skills that you can run, like creating pivot tables, as well as just doing things like calculating averages sums and things like that.
The key things that I would tell you to ask yourself when it comes to whether or not you have what it takes for basic data analysis is do you quickly understand exactly which keyword phrases you should be targeting? Do you understand what is driving the most traffic for your competitors and how you can compete with them? And also, do you have a clear understanding of how you’re going to use that data to prioritize which content pieces you’re going to pursue?
Skill #5: Pattern recognition
And then the fifth skill that I tell you that is really important to being good at SEO is simply pattern recognition. This means being able to recognize what is working and what is not working for you, and then doubling down on the content that is working.
Once you start to get traction on this particular type of post or piece of content, it’s time to double down on that sort of content. This means really thinking about how you can scale that sort of content further. If for example, you wrote a post on the seven secrets in your particular industry and you saw that it got a lot of traction, well, then what you should be thinking about is how you can create more secrets posts or thinking about exactly how you can repurpose that content that you just released to get as far of a distribution as possible.
Part of pattern recognition is also keeping a close pulse on what is working in your space. If you notice some sort of trending topic, then it’s something in which you probably want to jump on that topic as well. Checking out sites or resources like exploding topics or Google trends can be a great way for you to understand exactly what might be popping off.
For example, in the time period of around 2014 to 2018 or so, there was a real rise in the trend of the phrase growth hacking. So creating content around growth hacking at that time in marketing was a great way for you to get new impressions and visitors to your website.
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