How Long Does It Take To Learn SEO?
- 1 What is SEO?
- 2 The Average Time It Takes To Learn SEO
- 3 How Long Does It Take To Learn SEO? 6 Things To Consider
- 4 A Basic Roadmap to Learning SEO
- 5 How to Speed Up the Process of Learning SEO
- 6 Final Thoughts
Whether you’re about to launch your own website or you’re hoping to land a job with a marketing agency, learning SEO is probably on your must-do list. But how much time will it take to learn SEO, and at what point will you be an expert?
So much of the answer depends on factors like your current level of experience, the reasons why you want to learn SEO, and how much time and money you’re willing to invest. Let’s get into it!
What is SEO?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a broad term for the various ways that you can optimize a website to rank highly in search results, boost traffic and increase conversions.
There are several components to SEO, from the keywords you use in blog posts to the technicalities of how your website is set up behind the scenes to how popular your site is with other influencers in your field.
For a thorough overview of everything SEO entails, check out our Ultimate Free SEO Checklist for New Websites.
Is Learning SEO Worth It?
If you have a website or you’re running one for a friend or client, you’ll absolutely want to understand how SEO works. According to a survey from BrightEdge, organic search is the biggest source of web traffic, which means that the lion’s share of your time should be spent on SEO instead of, say, social media.
Also, you may have heard that understanding SEO is lucrative, whether you’re working for yourself or offering those skills to an employer. And that’s true. Considering how valuable SEO is for website traffic, it’s obvious why SEO positions are highly regarded and well-compensated.
However, if you’re only in it for the money and either dislike or struggle with it otherwise, it may not be a worthwhile pursuit for you. SEO is tedious, technical and, at times, frustrating. If you don’t have some type of genuine interest in it, there are probably career paths out there that you’re better suited for.
Is SEO Hard To Learn?
Whether or not SEO is hard to learn depends on the individual. A person who’s already familiar with creating copy for the web or running a website won’t find SEO as difficult to learn as someone who’s never had a computer job.
In general, SEO isn’t difficult for a tech-savvy person to learn if they put in the time and effort. There’s a ton of information out there, so if you’re dedicated and patient, learning SEO is a question of “when” instead of “if.”
Also, consider this: It’s much harder and more frustrating to get web traffic to a non-optimized website than to take the time to learn SEO and apply those tactics.
The Average Time It Takes To Learn SEO
It can take anywhere from 4 weeks to 8 years to learn SEO. The time it takes you is based on considerations like your SEO goals and how fast-paced your learning strategy is.
While everyone will be different, here’s a general overview of the time it will take to learn SEO. Note that these time frames are with studying and researching SEO tactics daily for a couple of hours or more.
1 to 3 Months: Learn the Basics
Whether you only care about SEO 101 or you hope to learn all there is to know, you have to start with the basics (unless you’re already familiar with the basics, of course).
3 to 6 Months: Qualify for a Beginner SEO Job
If you’re after a junior-level SEO position, you should have a grasp of SEO theory and tactics when applying. It’s also useful if you have hands-on experience with SEO strategy, like showing your own optimized website’s performance.
6 Months to 1 Year: Lay a Solid Foundation of SEO Knowhow
After about a year of regular SEO study and practice, whether or not you work for a company in an SEO position, you can polish your skills. This gives you an excellent jumping-off point to go even deeper into SEO technique, if that’s what you’re interested in.
3 to 5 Years: Start Your Own SEO Business
Before you quit your job and launch your own SEO business, you’ll need lots of experience over a few years. Not only do you need to learn about SEO during this time, but you need plenty of hands-on experience and experimenting before you can rely on those skills to support you.
5 to 8 Years: Reach SEO Expert Level
For others in your industry to recognize you as a top-tier SEO expert, you’ll need several years of experience behind you.
How Long Does It Take To Learn SEO? 6 Things To Consider
Let’s go over the factors that will impact how quickly you can learn SEO.
Ask yourself why you want to learn SEO. For example:
- Do you need to know just the basics of SEO as you get a website up and running?
- Are you a content writer who needs to know how to incorporate SEO in copy, but you don’t need to learn keyword research methods?
- Are you interested in the topic and want to learn as much as you can?
The loftier your goal, the longer it will take to learn SEO. However, you’ll be able to create a strong base of SEO knowledge if you dedicate yourself to regular study every day or several days a week for a month or two.
Level of Expertise
How tech-savvy you are and whether or not you’re already familiar with SEO will impact how long it takes you to learn it.
Tech-savvy people, whether they’re familiar with SEO or not, have a way with computers and technology that straightens out the learning curve somewhat. You may not know how to use SEO research tools or what it takes to optimize a website, but you know enough about computers and software that you’ll catch on as you go.
On the other hand, if you’re not tech-savvy, it’ll take longer to learn SEO because you’ll be learning how to work online along with it. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t embark on this goal, only to expect it to take you longer than it might take others.
Time and Budget Constraints
How much you’re willing to invest, both with your time and money, will impact that speed at which you can learn SEO.
If you can learn and experiment with SEO for 2 or more hours daily, you’ll learn the basics within a month or so. And if you’re able to clear time for full-time study, you can trim that time down to just 1 or 2 weeks.
However, if you can only contribute a couple of hours per week to learning SEO, it could take you the better part of a year to have working knowledge of the basics. You’ll still get there, it’ll just take you longer.
When you start learning SEO, you probably won’t have to spend much, if any, money on anything. There are so many free resources out there, as well as free trials and demos of SEO tools, that there won’t be any reason for an upfront investment.
Within a few weeks, though, that’ll change. Whether or not you spend money on in-depth courses is up to you. Some courses may make learning SEO faster, while others may cover topics you already know, which means you could lose momentum temporarily.
Also, be prepared to spend money on SEO tools once you reach that point in your learning. SEO tools have a range of prices, but you probably won’t be able to spend less than $50 or $60 per month for a reliable SEO tool. (There are a few exceptions, like Google Analytics, which is free.) If you need multiple tools or an entire SEO suite, it’s going to cost a lot more than that.
Dedication to Learning SEO
At first, learning pretty much anything is fun. Educating yourself on bigger SEO concepts will probably feel easy and entertaining. You’ll feel excited that you’re picking it up so fast.
And then you’ll start diving into more detailed SEO topics. Inevitably, you’ll find something that you can’t wrap your head around. It’ll take you a while to get unstuck and finally understand it.
Whether or not you push through those moments is up to you. Your dedication to learning SEO and your willingness to ride out the times when studying is a pain will determine how quickly you’ll move through the process — and if you complete the process at all.
Resources and SEO Tools
The resources and SEO tools you choose can either speed up or slow down the process.
If you go with reputable sources that explain things clearly for the layman, you’ll be in good shape.
There are a lot of low-quality and out-of-date resources out there, though. Those should be avoided so you don’t learn bad habits or waste your time.
Plus, there are tons of SEO gurus who offer little value while trying to get you to buy whatever they’re selling. The more you research SEO, the more those untrustworthy offers will pop up on your screen. They’re tempting, too, promising a quick fix to mastering SEO and earning a six-figure income in no time.
Neil Patel, a well-respected expert in the SEO field, has an article with 58 SEO resources that can help you get started.
You won’t be able to learn or use SEO without a handful of tools. Unfortunately, SEO tools don’t come cheap. Even ones that have a free version often require payment to upgrade, and features will be seriously limited until you do. Those free trials or free versions can help you decide which tools are worth the investment, though.
Check out our article with 35 of the best SEO tools to get started.
Trial and Error
Reading about SEO isn’t enough; you have to experiment with it, too. The best way to learn SEO is through trial and error — and yes, that includes some failures along the way. Sometimes, knowing where you went wrong and how to fix it is more valuable than doing everything right from the beginning (which is impossible, BTW).
Don’t wait to get started experimenting. Once you have a solid week or two of SEO theory behind you, jump in and practice. Create a website that you use for SEO experimentation.
A Basic Roadmap to Learning SEO
In this section, we’ll give you a bird’s-eye view of how to learn SEO and build on your skills as you go.
Learn the Fundamentals First
Whether you only want to learn the fundamentals or you’ll build from there, this is the place to start. Google offers an SEO Starter Guide that’s an excellent resource for newbies. After all, Google is the search engine you want to impress the most with your optimization efforts. When you’re ready for more advanced research, check out Google’s Search Quality Rating guidelines.
Apply What You Know
Now it’s time to put what you’ve learned into action. It’s smart to focus on the high-level SEO techniques that are the easiest to apply and will give you relatively big results.
For example, conduct keyword research, create optimized posts and add internal links. You’ll practice applying SEO cornerstones that will have a bigger impact than some of the smaller, more technical tweaks you make later on.
This is also a good time to conduct an SEO audit and make any pertinent changes. Here’s an article from Semrush about how to conduct an SEO audit, and we have an article about running an internal link audit.
Slowly Learn Advanced SEO Tactics
Now that you’ve got the basics covered, you can start to learn about and apply more advanced SEO techniques. These include fixing duplicate content issues, getting backlinks, keyword mapping to find what competitors are missing, etc.
Don’t rush through this stage. These techniques are harder to learn, understand and apply, so you want to take your time here. SEO is an ongoing process, not a one-time fix. You’ll revisit these strategies again and again, so getting them right from the start will pay off.
Analyze Your Performance
What good is an SEO strategy if you have no idea how it’s performing? A huge part of SEO is monitoring your efforts. Your best option is to conduct a website audit each month and carefully go over the reports to see where you need to improve.
Improve Your Strategy Based On Your Findings
Take what you’ve learned while studying SEO and combine that with your audit results to make decisions about what to do next. For tactics that are showing great results, continue doing what you’re doing or do more of it. For tactics that aren’t performing well, consider where you can make the biggest change and apply it.
Stay On Top of SEO Trends
As search engines change their algorithms and audiences change their preferences, the field of SEO shifts. Also, everything from the seasons to the latest news headlines can affect SEO trends. Keep an eye on what’s going on in the industry so you can adjust your strategy as needed.
How to Speed Up the Process of Learning SEO
There’s a lot that you can do to learn SEO fast. Here are a few tips:
- Listen to SEO podcasts. This is a great way to learn about SEO while you multitask. Ahrefs has a list of 15 SEO-related podcasts here.
- Reach out to SEO experts to ask questions. You can email them directly or see if they’re holding an AMA on social media.
- Read about SEO daily, whether that’s 1 article per day or you’re making your way through a stack of books.
- Take a course and get certified. Here are 8 certification courses recommended by Semrush.
- Watch SEO videos on YouTube. Here’s a list of over 40 SEO-related YouTube channels.
Becoming an SEO expert is ambitious, and it’ll take a lot of time to get there. Learning SEO can be overwhelming at times, especially if you come across a topic that’s harder for you to grasp than others — we all have our SEO blind spots.
So long as you have the necessary soft skills (curiosity, perseverance, reasoning), learning the technical skills is a matter of education and practice, two things that you can clear time for.
SEO forecasting is one of the strategies you’ll learn about when studying SEO. If you want to get started early, check out our article about it here.