Learning SEO – A Roadmap with Free Guides & Tools

Version 16
[Updated on Nov 28, 2021]

Do you want to start learning or expanding your Search Engine Optimization learning process to become or grow further as an SEO specialist and don’t know how? You’ve come to the right place! Learning SEO features a roadmap to learn SEO with free comprehensive guides, resources and tools. 

Start by taking a look at the SEO learning roadmap below, featuring the different areas, most common activities and phases of the SEO Process:  

Learning SEO Roadmap - With Free Guides and Tools

If you’re also looking for free reliable resources to follow this SEO learning roadmap, I’ve aggregated the best free guides, checklist and courses that you can use to learn, since there’s a lot of excellent free SEO information but also a lot of noise so it’s sometimes difficult to identify them: 

Learning SEO Cheat SheetAccess, Copy and Share these Free Resources in Google Sheets

In case you want to easily copy to use or share these free SEO resources listed above, I’ve also created a Google Sheet that you can copy here to use it as a reference while you learn SEO.

The Learning SEO Roadmap FAQs

In what order should you go through the SEO roadmap?

The first phase “Learn SEO Basics” and the second one “Learn to Execute an SEO Process” are fundamental to go through to have an “overview” of how the SEO process works, so I would highly recommend to start with these two if you want to start with the “building blocks” of SEO.

If you want to start executing an SEO campaign for hands-on experience for free or very little resources, take a look at the “Implement with Free SEO tools” section to obtain free tools to use in your first SEO processes. Also, if the site you’re working is using one of the most popular Web platforms, take a look at the “Implement SEO in your CMS“, to get hands-on advice to effectively implement SEO related best practices in them, leveraging these platforms functionalities.  

In parallel, I would recommend you to start following the latest SEO related updates and search industry news, to keep up with all what you’ve started to learn. Check out the “Keep up with SEO News” for that, listing reliable SEO publications, podcasts, newsletters, etc. that you can subscribe to. 

You might want to continue your SEO learnings process by expanding your SEO knowledge beyond the fundamentals of the building blocks and process execution. To learn more advanced topics, take a look at the “Deepen your SEO Knowledge” to get more in-depth SEO understanding. 

Depending on the type of company or industry you’re working for (or want to work at) you might want to decide to specialize and for that you can pick the specialization you’re interested about from the “Specialize within SEO” area. 

At this point, you would have already started with your SEO process implementation and seen there are very time consuming tasks that within your context they should be viable to automate and you already know (or willing to learn) some of the most popular programming/scripting languages to automate them. For that take a look at the “Automate SEO Tasks” section.

Finally, to complement your SEO knowledge and support your efforts through the execution of the SEO process, you can take a look at the “Complement your SEO Knowledge” section, listing resources of connected areas known to be useful for SEO projects success, although not SEO specific. 

Should you go through all the areas and resources of the SEO Roadmap to learn SEO? 

I’ve been also asked if I recommend to read all the SEO roadmap resources and go through all of the different areas to better learn SEO. As you can see in the answer I gave to the question above about “In what order should I go through the SEO roadmap”, there’s value in each one of these areas to become a well rounded SEO, although depending on what you want to specialize on, you might want to decide to go deeper in some of them and leave others for later on. 

Because of this, if you can, I would recommend to go through all of the areas and read at least a couple of the guides/resources listed in each, since I believe that it will allow you to better understand how each of these play a role within the SEO process, and how SEO works as a whole, even if you later decide to focus on a certain area (technical SEO, content SEO, link builder) instead of deciding to become an overall SEO specialist. Then if you decide to specialize on an area, you can then go through all of the resources listed within that area and related/connected topics. 

Tips from experienced SEO professionals when learning SEO

It’s always hard when you start learning something new, and SEO in particular can seem a complex topic at the start. Because of this, I asked over twitter about those top things experienced SEO professionals would have love to know when they started and would advice to new SEOs who are just learning!

Here you have some of the top advice to take into consideration through your SEO learning process: 

"There is no SEO that is an expert in everything, and that’s why it’s more than okay to ask for opinions or thoughts on a subject no matter how long you have been in the game."

"Try everything and then find and stick to your niche. Seo is too broad a field to be good at every aspect of it. It's okay to openly talk to your manager about this and ask to be "allowed" to specialise."

"Focus on the principles rather than just the tactics. What do Google want to serve their customers? Results that are.. Valuable, Relevant, Indexable, A positive User Experience. When in doubt, that should steer you well."

"I would tell myself to try things for yourself, build a site that doesn't have to be anything but a testing ground for you. Also, talk to others in the industry and outside it. Ask questions - stay curious and question your own assumptions to get outside your bubbles."

"SEO is a medium and not the ultimate goal. We as SEO's tend to get involved in getting things done that are sometimes not aligned with the business/marketing goals which leads to disparity! That's why we should focus on the ultimate goal using SEO as a medium."

"Half the battle is building relationships, earning buy-in and making sure you're in the loop. You need to sell yourself and the value of your recommendations if you want to succeed in SEO. Make friends with your writers, developers (in house or not), and even non marketing folks!"

"Almost everything you do should begin in the mind & experience of the searcher. It’s ok to push back on a client, it’s ok to hold a client accountable, it’s ok to say no to a client, it’s ok to fire a client."

"Surround yourself with smart people, but be confident in yourself. Talk to people at conferences, that's where I've learnt the best things! There's a ratio between mouths and ears for a reason tho, listen twice as much as you speak."

"Don’t ever think that you know everything. Things change far too quickly for you to ever possibly know EVERYTHING, even in your niche! Plus talk to people, network, surround yourself with people who are just as passionate about SEO as you are. That’s how you’ll grow."

"The one thing I wish I'd known earlier is to always be mindful of commercial goals. It doesn't matter how technical you are, if you can't track your tactics and strategy to the money and convey that connection to your stakeholders, your projects and ultimately, career will stall."

"I wish I found out earlier in my career that it's fine to say "I don't know" and to ask for help rather than trying to pretend I'm always on it, especially in my relationship with development."

".. Don't get caught up about other people "cheating". There's not a lot you can do, and don't expect G to take action. Instead - look for anything "good" they are doing/getting, and replicate/emulate that, and then move on. The goal is Not Rankings - that's only a metric.."

"Keep it simple. The industry can seem overwhelmingly overcomplicated when you start but as you gain more experience you realise it’s the simple things, the foundations of SEO if you will, that have the most impact."

"Doing X won't lead to the same amount of improvement for site B, as when you did it for site A. That's not because you failed, it's because you cannot control all the variables, no two sites are exactly the same this way. So be prepared to be flexible, and adjust your approach. Also a good reason not to look what successful sites are doing, emulate that and expect the same success. Those sites may well be ranking in spite of whatever tactic you are planning on replicating."

"Choose your tools wisely. Deeply learning and understanding a core set of pro-level SEO tools is far more valuable than chasing each new shiny thing. Bonus points if your tools play well together, but if not just brush up on manipulating spreadsheets to get the answers you need!"

"I would go back and tell myself that if you're just pushing pixels around the page (making small adjustments), you can't expect profound changes in performance. Also, not everyone cares about SEO as much as I do/did. Embrace TL;DR in communications."

"Use and try all the tools you can. Listen and learn from the global SEO community and let everyone around you know about it. Never assume you know everything about how to use a search engine. Learn to be comfortable when the honest answer to your bosses is *It Depends*"

"SEO is no black and white, and learning never stops. Learn what sources to trust: magazines, professionals, seo blogs, newsletters. Build your opinion the way researchers would to- collect different angles, case studies, test yourself and then be ready to implement."

"SEO tools are great and they are getting better. But it's easy to get blinded by them. Sometimes you just need to look through a website - not wait for an error to be flagged by a tool. Step back and look at a website, not base your success on getting top marks by a tool."

"Like many things in marketing, it should start with a goal and strategy in mind. We cannot be pushing changes by being reactive to algo updates. Beyond on page and off page techniques - best serve quality content, build your brand and make your site user friendly!"

"At start I always tried to just check a lot of boxes with known ranking factors in mind. Now we put everything that is seen, consumed & interacted with by the users first & work on the tech and co. after that. So the first question is always are we providing a good exp. for users"

"Build for users, but with Google in mind. (Cheers @SEOMalc). Simple phrase that steered me right. That and Business Reasons > SEO reasons. There may be a good reason it’s a sub domain rather than a subfolder. Ask or risk getting ripped apart by a client in a boardroom..."

"A good checklist of actions prioritized for cost/effectiveness is more valuable than a cerebral audit of 100 pages."

"Don't treat SEO and SEO efforts as an isolated channel. SEO should be part of a more 360 strategy from the begining both technical/website foundations and overall company's online marketing strategy related"

"Best practices are good but don’t just spout them without first looking at the constraints of the CMS, budget, staff, time, and internal/political/brand pressure. The ultimate best practices are the ones that improve the bottom line."

"Stop watching graphs going up or down; watch the tickets getting done. If your strategy is focusing on serving user intent the best way possible, instead of shady short-term practices, focus on that instead of hastily analysing every single suspected Google update."

"Understand the business goals, and remember that it not all about traffic, traffic costs money...the right traffic makes you money..."

"When I was in-house I wished I had known how to express that all the SEO and blogging we were doing was pointless without a strategy."

"You can specialise in one area and you can hire expertise in the other areas, you don't need to know everything on your own."

"Future-proof your SEO: don't waste your time chasing hype - keep your efforts focused on what search engines want long-term, even if there's a small loophole being exploited by some at the moment."

"SEO really requires pushing back against perfectionism. You can’t fix everything - there’s no “perfect” site. Over time I’ve learned to focus on the bigger picture. Get crystal clear on your client’s goals & tackle the 3-5 highest priority items that can get them there."

"3 Things: Think about your target audience and their needs, try to serve them what they are looking for. This is exactly what Google is doing for its audience. Don't fear Google updates, SEO principles will remain same."

"Don't chase the wrong thing. When you're tracking your progress using metrics - sometimes you forget what that metric leads back to. And you end up focusing on wins and fails that have no real value, and lose opportunities that would have contributed to success."

"Best practices aren’t always the best answer... you can spend a lot of time chasing them and never find success. While it’s always a good idea to implement best practices, learning how to identify and set the best priorities should be your main focus."

"How to prioritise better. I started in an ecom business and was being pulled all over the place - would've loved to say "this isn't a priority" when I was being pushed to do a load of work that wouldn't move the SEO needle"

"- You are not alone: there is an awesome SEO community out there, so contribute to it. And if you don't see one, build it. - Try not to stress out so much. Keep a healthy perspective on what you are doing. Learn how to negotiate. Be part of the solution & listen to other depts"

"How SEO fits into the larger landscape of the particular business you're in. Interaction with other channels, how to place it in an overall strategy and how much weight to give it, and what area of SEO that will move the needle based on that."

"I wish I had known how valuable it was learning from building my own project websites. You can experiment to your heart's desire with your own site and you dont need anyone else's buy in!"

"Build. A. Test. Site. So many SEOs have never done the simple process of buying a domain, setting up hosting, and dogfooding their own tactics. You'll learn more getting a site from zero to $50/mo than nearly anything else."

"SEO in theory, is very different to SEO in practice. There's very rarely 'an' answer, just lots of different shades of grey. What works in one scenario, might not work in another. Plus, it's all meaningless without business perspective."

Take a look at more tips/advice when learning SEO in the answers to this tweet.