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Best Free Online SEO Training Courses in 2020

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Chuck Price


Almost daily, I stumble across someone online asking which course is best for learning SEO.

With Google regularly updating the core algorithm and accelerating the implementation of machine learning, the digital marketing landscape is changing rapidly.

That said, outdated tactics that worked 10-15 years ago are still promoted as best practices in a multitude of SEO groups and forums.

The days of tweaking one or two things to meaningfully improve organic search results for any length of time are over. Google’s John Mueller has said just that.

Today, in order to make it online, one needs to look at improving the whole website.

To many, that may seem daunting. Fortunately, when you break it down into manageable pieces, it really isn’t. The key is to focus on the parts of the algorithm that carry the most weight.

Moving forward, I think it’s reasonable to expect machine learning and AI will play a bigger role in the core algorithm. Introducing BERT, last fall, was just the latest move in that direction.

Best Free Online SEO Training Courses in 2020

According to U.S. News and World Report, an Online Masters Degree in Digital Marketing costs between $14,000 and $32,000 in tuition.

The good news is that the same level of knowledge is available for free – if you just know where to look. Better still, in the field of SEO, you can still crush it without a degree – if you have the knowledge.

As mentioned earlier, the most productive way to tackle this is by studying those areas with the biggest impact on organic search traffic. That includes the following.

Mobile First

Mobile search is the foundation of local SEO. A study by uberall revealed that a whopping 82% of shoppers perform “near me” searches on mobile devices.

It’s the logical starting point for anyone promoting a brick and mortar or professional service business.  Sharpen your skill set by investigating these courses and Guides

Courses

Beginner Local SEO | The Foundations of What Google Wants

This free Udemy course is designed for local business owners and digital marketing beginners that have little if any knowledge of Local SEO. It is designed to be the starting point for learning the fundamentals.

Upon graduation, the student will have a strong foundational understanding of local search and the knowledge base to excel in the next course.

Optimizing a Website for Search: Local SEO 

This UC Davis MOOC is available as a free trial through Coursera. The syllabus covers:

  • Why Local SEO is Important.
  • The History Local SEO.
  • The Current Local SEO Landscape.
  • Organic Search Versus Paid Advertising.
  • Google My Business.
  • Improving Your Local Visibility.
  • The Importance of Off-site Citations.
  • Quality Off-site Link Building.
  • The Importance of Customer Reviews.

Guides

A Comprehensive Guide to Local SEO in 2020

From Hubspot, this guide is a roadmap containing a series of both ongoing tasks and one-offs designed to boost visibility in local search results.

Local SEO: The Definitive Guide to Improve Your Local Search Rankings

Search Engine Journal’s ebook provides a strategic and targeted approach to winning at Local SEO. An approach distinctly different from general SEO.

Technical SEO

The umbrella of technical SEO covers any action designed to improve search results taken at the upper levels of the website or the server.

It refers, in particular, to actions that affect crawling, indexing and the rendering of web pages. The bottom line is to get as many valuable pages indexed and ranking as possible.

Courses

Introduction to Technical SEO

This is another UC Davis MOOC, available as a free trial through courser. The syllabus covers:

  • Introduction to Technical SEO.
  • Laying the Structural Foundation with Technical SEO.
  • HTML Sitemap vs. XML Sitemap.
  • The robots.txt File Protocol.
  • Overcoming Pesky Error Codes.
  • Redirects.
  • 404 Pages Best Practices.

Advanced SEO: Developing an SEO-Friendly Website 

This course from Lynda.com introduces a variety of technical SEO aspects. Lynda offers a one-month free trial.

Advanced Search Engine Optimization Strategies

This free course from Coursera connects and adds to the Lynda.com course above by going into detail on page-speed, key metrics, and data analysis.

Guides

Advanced Technical SEO: A Complete Guide

Beyond the fundamentals, this ebook from Search Engine Journal takes it up a notch with advanced tactics sure to give you a competitive technical advantage.

Search Engine Optimization for WordPress

With a 36% market share, no other CMS even comes close.

Sure WordPress is SEO-friendly right out of the box, but with so many people using it, that’s all the more reason to look for an edge.

This guide takes you from indexing thru translations and everything in between.

Website Speed

Page speed has a massive impact on both traffic and conversions. According to Google:

“The average time it takes to fully load a mobile landing page is 22 seconds… yet 53 percent of mobile site visitors leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load.”

In short, a fast page speed equals a good user experience, a happy user that will (hopefully) return to your site again and again.

Google now uses page speed as one of its ranking factors, so it’s essential to learn how to keep your page fast and furious.

Courses

Website Performance Optimization by Google 

This Udacity course will help you optimize a website for speed and explore how mobile and desktop browsers render pages.

Browser Rendering Optimization by Google

Another Udacity course, this one focuses on how to build web applications that react quickly and render smoothly.

Guides

GitHub’s curated list of Web Performance Optimization Materials

This is an invaluable resource filled with links to articles, blogs, books, docs, events, people and talks relating to Web Performance Optimization.

PageSpeed Tools

Analyze and optimize your website. An interactive “guide” that provides suggestions for your specific website to make it faster.

On-Page Optimization

On-page optimization includes all activities performed directly on a website that have demonstrated the ability to improve organic search rankings.

Examples include optimizing content and meta tags. It also includes the use of microdata, like schema, which adds context to a page

Courses

Optimizing a Website for Search

A UC Davis MOOC, available through coursera. The syllabus covers on-page optimization, optimizing for local and global searchers, how to conduct a website audit and how to align SEO strategies with business strategies.

SEMrush Fundamentals Course

Module 4: On-Page Signals in this series promises to walk you the entire SEO on-page optimization process – starting with keyword research on through optimizing key page elements.

Guides

Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide

This guide was originally written as an internal resource for Googlers, but was later released for public use. It acts as an introduction to the fundamentals of SEO. If you don’t have time to read the full 32 pages, Hubspot has you covered, with a two-page cheat sheet.

Getting Started With Schema.Org Using Microdata

From Schema.org themselves, focussing on microdata in both RDFa and JSON-LD.

Understand How Structured Data Works 

A Google codelab guide details methods for adding different types of structured data to an HTML page.

What Is Schema? Beginner’s Guide to Structured Data

Provided by SEMrush, this guide gets into detail on Schema with examples.

User Intent

Since the introduction of the Hummingbird Update, Google has been working to better understand the context of search queries. The plan is to serve up results that more closely match searcher intent.

That means, if your web page doesn’t satisfy the search intent for a particular keyword, there is little (if any) hope of your website reaching the top of the SERPs for that phrase.

This shift makes it more important than ever before to convert the users that do land on your site.

Courses

Learning Conversion Rate Optimization

This course from Lynda.com covers topics including:

  • How focusing too much on CRO can actually hurt sales.
  • How to identify which business goals CRO testing is most effective for.
  • Predicting which type of pages you can test quickly and which have the largest impact on your business.

Conversion Rate Optimization Courses

From Hubspot, this course teaches you how to test and analyze aspects of your website with the goal of increasing the percentage of visitors that convert, by completing an action after landing on a webpage.

Guides

The Beginner’s Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

This Hubspot Guide is an introduction to CRO; why you need do it, what it can achieve and the best practices for execution.

The Definitive How-To Guide For Conversion Rate Optimization

From Moz, you will find a structured process for CRO which includes a series of helpful checklists.

User Experience

User experience (UX) design is the process a design team uses for developing things that create positive experiences for users.

This involves designing an entire process for integrating all aspects of design, usability, function, and branding.

Courses

Introduction to Learning UX Design

Springboard offers a mix of UX Design courses, videos, and resources from across the web, organized so that even a beginner can easily follow.

User Experience (UX) Design: Human Factors and Culture in Design

This edX course explains how to create exceptional user experience designs.

Guides

Google has created a series of playbooks, (guides) for optimizing UX for the following six niches:

Content Marketing

Content marketing focuses on creating and distributing useful, relevant, and high-quality content for the purpose of attracting and retaining a targeted audience.

Ultimately, the goal is to convince your audience to take profitable action.

Courses

The Strategy of Content Marketing

Coursera provides another great course, a partnership between Copyblogger and UC Davis.

In this course, you will discover the key tactics that content marketers use for acquiring and retaining customers.

Specifically, you will learn how to develop a content marketing strategy, analyze the effectiveness of your campaign and learn how to write compelling copy.

HubSpot Content Marketing Certification

This free certification explains how a framework is created for producing content on a regular basis, how to repurpose content and how to become a strategic content marketer

Guides

The Ultimate Guide to Content Marketing Strategy in 2020

This SEMrush guide explains the four core element of a successful content marketing plan: business case, value proposition, positioning and strategic plan. Next, they describe how to implement each one.

What Works in Content Marketing

A Search Engine Journal free ebook, this explains what content marketing is, why you need it, how it has evolved and what types of goals you should be focused on.

As a bonus, you will find tools to make your job easier as well as  case studies that underscore the effectiveness of a properly executed campaign.

Link Building

As long as links remain an important factor in search rankings, link building should be a regular part of your digital marketing efforts.

Links that are legitimately earned and relevant still move the dial.

Despite the proliferation of paid guest posting and other link schemes, you must avoid the temptation to cheat now, unless you are prepared to pay for it later with a Google penalty.

Courses

SEO Link Building Basics

This course from Udemy covers the basics:

  • Why links matter.
  • How to analyze a link.
  • Link building mistakes.
  • Link building myths.
  • How to build links.

SEO: Link Building in Depth

This course from Lynda.com covers a number of link building topics, including:

  • Link popularity.
  • Page ranking.
  • Search-related link components.
  • Perfecting links.
  • Avoiding problematic links.
  • Analyzing incoming links to a website.
  • Using local pages and directories.
  • Working with bloggers.
  • Social networking links.
  • Getting more links.
  • Paying for links vs. buying links.

Lynda offers a one-month free trial.

Guides

Link Building in 2020: How to Acquire & Earn Links That Boost Your SEO

This is a HUGE resource – 39 chapters to be precise. This guide from Search Engine Journal shows how to leverage proven link building tactics for yourself, the benefits of different types of link building, which tools make the job easier, and so much more.

The Noob Friendly Guide to LinkBuilding

From Ahrefs, this guide covers link building theory, skills, tactics, tools and resources.

The Takeaway

Expect to see an acceleration in the rollout of Google core algorithm updates over the next year and beyond.

Understand where Google is heading and optimize for tomorrow. Take advantage of these resources and you will be successful.

Disclaimer: Some of these courses are free, but contingent upon completion within a limited time (trial period). Others are free if you choose to audit a course and forgo a certificate. Select guides may require submitting an email prior to downloading.

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Featured Image: Clker-Free-Vector-Images  / Pixabay
In-Post Images: jerrykimbrell10 / Pixabay



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Are Blog Comments Useless for Link Building?

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Shelly Fagin


Editor’s note: “Ask an SEO” is a weekly column by technical SEO experts Shelly Fagin, Ryan Jones, Adam Riemer, and Tony Wright. Come up with your hardest SEO question and fill out our form. You might see your answer in the next #AskanSEO post!


This week for Ask An SEO, we have a question from Ed in Memphis. He asks:

“Are blog comments useless for link building?”

If you run or manage a WordPress site today, especially one that hasn’t activated Akismet for spam protection, you know all too well that people love to try and comment on blog posts purely for the sole purpose of dropping a link in the comments.

I can see how it might lead some to wonder whether this tactic is an effective form of link building today.

To answer your question, Ed, blog commenting is a useless form of link building today.

In fact, Search Engine Journal’s Roger Montti listed blog commenting as one of 18 link building tactics to avoid.

The Rise & Fall of Blog Commenting for Links

Blog comments were a popular link building tactic many years ago.

You might come across lots of older information that suggests using this tactic because it once worked extremely well.

Please hear me when I say this tactic used to work.

It does not anymore – and hasn’t for a long time.

Like many other popular link building techniques, this one was quickly abused.

Gone were the insightful comments from people who took the time to read the articles and comment thoughtfully.

Instead, blog posts quickly became overrun with spammy, incoherent, generic comments left for the sole purpose of building links with keyword-rich anchor text.

Eventually, spammers developed tools to automate this process, and the spammy comments quickly caused significant problems for site owners.

Most blogging platforms and other content management systems that allow users to submit comments started implementing the nofollow attribute on all links added by site visitors’ comments.

The nofollow tag was announced by Google in 2005 to help site owners combat spam and for publishers to use on sponsored links and advertising sold on their websites.

When applied to an outgoing link, we are telling search engines that we do not endorse the website that this link is pointed to, and no value should be passed within that outgoing link.

Google recently released new attributes, rel=” UGC” and rel=” sponsored” as a way of allowing us to qualify our outgoing links further. (UGC stands for User Generated Content.)

The UGC rel attribute is for sites that allow outside visitors to contribute content or post a response to site content.

Another good example would be web forums.

Soon after, WordPress announced they would be adapting the UGC rel attribute and applying it to WordPress comment links.

Are Blog Comments Useful at All?

Even though blog commenting is useless for link building, when utilized properly, it can potentially result in an increase in traffic to your website.

Within the blogging community, it’s a common way to help gain exposure and form blogger-to-blogger relationships when you engage with others in your niche by posting value-added commentary and support to other bloggers.

As a site owner, user comments on your content can help improve your rankings.

Lots of comments left on a post will not only signal that your content is highly engaging, but it can also provide additional valuable and indexable content that’s a supplement to your own.

Users’ comments can provide additional insights into the topic of that page and typically are rich with targeted keywords used naturally in phrasing.

In particular niches, such as food blogs, the comments on recipes commonly also include the ability to allow visitors to leave a rating on the recipe, a highly valuable functionality.

So please do not use blog commenting as a way to build links to your website.

If you are looking to gain exposure within your niche, I would instead only consider commenting on relevant blog posts where you can add valuable and helpful commentary based on your expertise on the subject.

You might find that other readers will come across your comment, find it informative, and visit your site as well.

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How to Optimize AMP Stories for Google Search Results

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Matt Southern


An official set of recommendations concerning SEO for AMP stories is now available from the AMP Open Source Project.

AMP stories are similar to stories on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. The key difference is they can be indexed and displayed in Google Search results.

See: AMP Stories Now Have a Dedicated Section in Google Search Results

AMP stories are just like other web pages in the sense that they have a URL on your web server, they are linkable, and they can link out to other web pages.

Flavio Palandri Antonelli, a Software Engineer at Google, states:

“In particular, just like other pages on your site, make sure your Stories are linked from within your website so that your users and bots can actually discover them. If you are using a sitemap, make sure to include your Stories in that sitemap. If you are posting your regular web pages to social media, post your Stories as well. We could go on here, but the gist really comes down to: Follow the best practices you’re already applying to the rest of your website.”

See: Official AMP Plugin for WordPress Now Supports AMP Stories

AMP stories should be optimized like any other page on your website. What works for regular web pages will also work for AMP stories

With that said, there are some SEO tactics specific to AMP stories that can be utilized as well.

Specific SEO Tactics for AMP Stories

Here are the SEO tactics specific to AMP stories. Keep in mind these tactics aren’t comprehensive and should be utilized in conjunction with the standard SEO work being done for your web pages.

  • Metadata: AMP stories have a built-in mechanism to attach metadata to a story. This ensures maximum compatibility with search engines and other discovery features that take advantage of metadata.
  • Internal linking: Site owners should generously link to AMP stories from other pages, such as linking to them from the homepage or category pages where applicable.
  • URL format: There is no need to indicate in the URL of a story that it is using the AMP stories format. Follow the same URL format as other web pages on your site.
  • Page attachments: Page attachments can be used to present additional information in classic article form alongside your story.
  • Image descriptions: Use meaningful alt text where appropriate.
  • Video subtitles: Consider providing subtitles and/or captions for the videos in your Stories.

Source: blog.amp.dev



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How Hackers May Be Hurting Your SEO

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Natalie Hoben


It is oftentimes rather easy to sometimes grow complacent as an SEO when it comes to site security, or put all of the responsibility on I.T. departments when it comes to any form of cybersecurity or hacking prevention practices.

It’s a debatable topic amongst many, however, this is defiantly true:

Website security, or the absence of it, can directly and critically impact a site, and that includes the site’s organic performance.

For this reason, website security should not be ignored when it comes to digital marketing plans.

But first, let’s gain a deeper understanding of what hacking, it itself, is, in order to connect the dots on why it should not be neglected.

What Is Hacking?

Hacking occurs when an individual gains access to a specific website or computer network, sans permission.

Unwarranted hacking most often occurs when people are trying to gain access to sensitive or private information, or to redirect users to a specific hacker’s website.

What Are Some Common Tools Utilized by Hackers?

Malware

Malware is specifically designed to damage or disable a specific network, with the goal usually being a data breach.

The potential after-effects of a malware attack can be great, including extensive financial losses for an organization.

Spamming

Website spamming usually occurs when a hacker adds hypertext to a webpage that, when clicked on by a user, will link to the hacker’s chosen destination.

Adding spammy links to a hacker’s website on websites that have a high amount of traffic to them has a chance of increasing search engine rankings.

It is essentially a way to shortcut the system of solidified, ethical SEO work.

Effects of Hacking

The ramifications of hacking can be significant and far-reaching. There are a few more common things that can happen when a website is hacked.

SEO Spam

GoDadddy conducted a study a few years ago where they concluded that over 73% of hacked websites were hacked due to SEO spam reasons.

Something like this could be planned and deliberate, or an attempt to scrape a website that is authoritative and capitalize on strong rankings and visibility.

In most cases, legitimate sites are ultimately turned into link farms and visitors are tricked with phishing or malware links.

Hackers may also employ that use of SQL injections, where a site will be turned over with spam and recovery may be very difficult.

Malicious Code

This can potentially put your website in the sandbox if Google detects it.

If detected, Google will display a warning message when users try to navigate to the site, and therefore encouraging them to stay away.

It can also potentially result in the complete removal of a site from search engines in an effort to safeguard users.

This will both, directly and indirectly, influence SEO value:

  • Visits: Overall organic site traffic will most likely drop significantly.
  • Engagement metrics: Metrics such as time on site, pages per session, and bounce rate will most likely be negatively affected, which will send negative signals to Google in terms of user experience factors.
  • Mistrust: Users who know that your site may be less enticed to visit again if they know that your site has had one or multiple security issues, thus also affecting your traffic, and ultimately, your bottom line.

Unplanned Redirects

Oftentimes, hackers will implement redirects when a website is hacked.

These will send users to a different website than the one that they navigated to initially.

When users are directed to this separate web address, they will usually find that the site contains:

  • Malicious forms of content such as duplicate content that isn’t true.
  • Other types of scams like phishing where users are enticed to click on a spammy link and ultimately reveal sensitive information.

If Google follows your site that has been redirected and sees that it contains questionable content, it may severely hurt overall organic visibility in search.

Backlinks

Search engines carefully assess the overall reputation and value of domains and links that link to one another.

During a hack, links will oftentimes be added to a site, and most likely ones with low value, which can negatively affect SEO efforts.

Your website may ultimately be flooded with backlinks from questionable sources, which will most likely decrease the level of trust Google or other search engines has in a site.

Blacklisting

Being hacked can put a site at a serious detriment in Google’s eyes. This can affect a site’s presence in SERPs and also result in potentially several manual actions in Search Console if Google flags it.

The kicker is, is that oftentimes they do not. This usually only leads to more attacks, such as via malware, without the webmaster knowing, and puts the site at risk for an even greater loss, both from a visibility and revenue standpoint.

This creates a bit of a conundrum. Being flagged or blacklisted for malware essentially depletes your site’s visibility across the board, at least until the site is analyzed and cleaned and penalties removed.

Yet, not getting flagged when your site contains malware can result in greater risk and penalization.

Common Risks & How to Prevent Attacks

There are a few more common things that put your site at a greater risk of getting hacked:

Installing Plugins or Other Tools From Untrusted Sources or Not Updating Them

Many plugins, such as those used in a CMS such as WordPress, are not all secure.

Hackers are consistently searching for sites that use insecure or outdated plugins and then finding ways to exploit the site.

As a best practice, it is recommended to research a plugin and read reviews before installing it on your site.

Sharing a Server May Also Pose a Risk in Terms of Site Security

This is because someone could easily upload a spammy or malicious file, or even grant access to other hackers.

Non-Secure Credentials May Also Pose a Risk for Data Security

It is recommended that secure passwords are created for online accounts and make them difficult to guess.

Another more advanced method to prevent an attack is through penetration testing. This analyzes and tests your network’s security and any potential vulnerabilities within it.

Conclusion

Everyone is affected by web security. When building a partnership with a website or client, SEOs should be able to provide some advice when it terms to overall security.

If you’re responsible for the SEO effectiveness of a site, part of your role is to ensure that there are security measures in place to protect it.

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