Prolegomenon to the Exordium
“It is customary to preface a work with an explanation of the author’s aim, why he wrote the book, and the relationship in which he believes it to stand to other earlier or contemporary treatises on the same subject.”
With the all the recent discussions of what an SEO is, or what an SEO does or should do, as an inbound marketing/SEO tyro I thought it would be helpful to provide a resource to others who are new to the field of SEO and inbound marketing.
Also, in the wake of recent algorithm changes, there seems to be a renewed emphasis on the fundamentals of search engine optimization. In this context, my guide may also be of use to seasoned SEOs looking to refresh their understandings of the basics, and perhaps to discover a few new ways in which the basics of SEO are currently being utilized to promote web properties.
This guide is in no way a canonical or comprehensive set of resources to everything you will ever need to know regarding our field of work. It should, however, provide ample guidance to those who are just now embarking on the wild waters of SEO in 2013.
Exordium to the Preface
“The preface to a philosophical work thus runs out of breath on the threshold of science. It is the site of a kind of chit-chat external to the very thing it appears to be talking about.”
Admittedly, I feel odd writing a post about SEO after starting only a few months ago; especially when so many SEOs have been doing this since at least 2006, if not earlier. My background is in Philosophy and Literature—two disciplines that respect silence, indeed require it from the newly initiated. The Pythagoreans, for example, required initiates to maintain a silent, pensive repose for a year before they were allowed to speak.
While it certainly hasn’t been a year, I’ve read enough recently to press a year’s worth of learning into a few months. During the time I have spent learning about SEO I have been consistently surprised about the community’s commitment to openness and the dissemination of insightful information.
Due to the charitable sharing of information, I was also surprised to encounter discussions pondering the need for formalized university classes in search engine optimization.
So if you’re new to SEO, where do you learn? Who do you learn from?
The situation, I would aver, is not unlike ancient Greece. Where did you go to learn “philosophy” when there wasn’t even an academic discipline called philosophy (and the “Academy” was still just a grove)? Where did you practice philosophy when philosophy was a new word, used by very few individuals?
You tried your thoughts and observations in the ultimate laboratory–life–and sometimes they worked and sometimes they didn’t. When you had created and tested enough hypotheses, you then shared them with anyone who was around to talk.
If possible, you traveled to a city to study with a philosopher and his pupils in order to learn about their ideas and the ideas of your fellow students. Often these philosophers got together for debates and to share their ideas with the pupils of other schools. Philosophers published books containing their thoughts on the nature of the world we live in and even speculated on the nature of the entire cosmos.
The general spirit was one of wonder and inquiry.
In our own epoch, we can attend SEOmoz Webinars, Google hang outs, Whiteboard Fridays, industry conferences, and, of course, read articles written by peers in our industry. Writing, after all, is the original technology.
Thus, while some may (understandably) yearn for a set of formalized courses offered by the academe, the community might also consider their absence to be quite propitious. There is a course—it’s offered on the Internet. It’s offered by your industry peers, positing and testing their ideas with a welcomed vigor familiar to any humanities student.
Preface to the Introduction
“The preface as such, the liberated preface, must then have no subject to treat but must deal with nothing, and insofar as it seems to discuss something and deal with something, this must nevertheless be an illusion and a fictitious motion.”
There are a lot of alluring voices in the SEO community, many saying different and conflicting things, many saying what has already been said (guilty), and all of them saying something exciting.
Introduction to the Beginning
“Prefaces are another source of abuses…talking of one’s work, of one’s sleepless nights, of the obstacles that had to be overcome; sharing with the public all the ideas one has had; not contenting oneself with a first preface but adding another to every book, to every chapter; giving the story all of the attempts made without success; indicating numerous means of resolving each question, when there is only one which can and will be used: this is the art of fattening a book to bore one’s reader. If everything useless were removed from these works, almost nothing would remain. It is as though these authors wanted to write only the prefaces to the subjects they have proposed to examine.”
I combed through over 1,000 links from many different individual SEO blogs, industry blogs, agency blogs, forum threads, Google Plus comments, and twitter feeds. I did this the old fashion way, by reading and following the trail of links and comments from sources I grew to trust. I now know, on a very small level, what it must feel like to be the caffeinated GoogleBot. Incidentally, it’s not too unlike being an over-caffeinated and under-slept graduate student.
The criteria for inclusion consisted of three factors. A very small amount of these articles focus on definitional issues, or supplying you with information such as “what an XML sitemap actually is.” The bulk of these selections focus on two factors: strategy and action. In some articles, what is important is the way the authors or contributors are thinking about certain things. In other articles, what is important is what actionable insights they offer that you can try while you are reading, or once you have completed reading the article.
Reading these is where the wise noob (and experienced sage) stay up to date with SEO news and tips.
- Distilled’s Blog
- SEOmoz Blog
- Whiteboard Friday Index
- SEER Interactive’s Blog
- Internet Marketing Ninjas Blog
- Koozai’s Blog
- SEO Gadget’s Blog
- Siege Media
- KISS Metrics
- Search Engine Land
- Search Engine Journal
- Search Engine Watch
- Avinash Kaushik
- Ross Hudgens’ Blog
- Kaiser the Sage
- John F. Doherty
- Webmaster World
- Google Algorithm Change History
“The beginning is the most important part of any work.”
- How Search Works
- Learn How Google Works: in Gory Detail
- The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine
“Great SEO is a process, not just a project.”
The guides from Quicksprout and SEOMoz are great and thorough. I list Niel and Sujan Patel’s for its completeness; it is no doubt too advanced for your first brush with SEO. I also list it for its UX (User Experience): part of me just wants to scroll without any regard to reading because they constructed the flow of information so well. The SEOMoz guide is staple reading, and the “Craziest Audit Checklist on the Internet” ties it all together. As you are able to work through the site audit with greater facility, the more you will have learned about SEO in general.
- The Advanced Guide to SEO
- Beginner’s Guide to SEO [Updated in 2012]
- Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide
- Craziest Audit Checklist on the Internet
“Understanding the basics about how to put together a user friendly information architecture can really help you with the user interactions with your site.”
This is going to be naturally thinner than the rest of the sections. A robust understanding of the more technical elements of SEO almost certainly differentiates those new to SEO from those who have been doing SEO for a longer period of time.
- A Technical SEO Guide to Crawling, Indexing and Ranking
- Webmaster Guidelines: Best practices to help Google find, crawl, and index your site
- How To Create An Effective 404 Error Page
- The Ultimate Guide to XML Sitemaps
- A Primer On How To Get The Most Out Of Sitemaps
“Doing keyword research is to search marketing as pouring concrete foundations is to building a house. It’s messy, hard work, and nobody wants to do it, but the success of the entire project depends on it.”
You need to know these before you can write page titles, URLs, and create content. There were many guides that went extremely deep into the keyword research process, with elaborate overviews of tools and methods. I was tempted to include those, but opted for two simple but helpful guides to keyword research.
On Page SEO
“There will only be conversions where there are visitors. The true secret to killer landing pages isn’t just design elements and nifty CTAs. You have to have traffic. And the best way to get more traffic is with high search engine rankings.”
You already read the SEOmoz guide right? What more could you need to know? SEOMoz does a great job for instilling the proper principles and is generally very informative, but things can get complex.
You will need to optimize page titles, meta descriptions, headers, images, videos, add schema.org markup, and be wary of how you are directing page flow throughout the web properties you have been tasked with helping. And you can’t simply optimize for traffic, you will need to pay attention to conversions as well.
- The Ultimate On-Site SEO Guide
- How To Create Landing Pages that Convert & Rank Well in Search
- How to Write Title Tags For Search Engine Optimization
- On Page methods Still Valid in 2013
- Internal Linking: How to Create Content Clusters
- 18 Meta Tags Every Webpage Should Have In 2013
- Five Steps to SEO-Friendly Site URL Structure
- Time to Long Click
- 10 Image Optimization Tips for Local SEO 
SEO for Google Plus
“With Google+ the future of Google is already here.”
Google Plus: because the minuses of not using it are too big. But really, they are.
- 8 Reasons Why You Need to Establish Yourself as an Authority on Google+
- Google Plus SEO: Everybody Talks About It—How Do You DO It?
- Your Google Plus Network Is More Powerful Than You Know
- Get Up and Running with Google+ Interactive Posts
The unmissable Ultimate Local SEO guide really provides everything you could want to learn starting out in local SEO.
- How To Show Up Higher On Google (The Ultimate Local SEO Guide)
- Barnacle Reviews on Google+ Local
- The Best U.S. Citation Sources by Category
- The Ultimate Guide to Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder
Newbie tip: one word: consistency.
“Let the right linking people know what you created and why.”
I’ve added quotation marks around the phrase since it’s definition is in flux—just like most things SEO related. It goes without saying that thousands of articles have been written on this subject, and by the time I finished typing this sentence, another thousand were written. Which ones should you read when starting out?
- Patty Moogan’s Big-Ass List of Link Building Resources
- Bucketing Link Prospects for Link Outreach
- 44 Creative and Innovative Link Building Experts and Their Strategies
- Distilled’s SEO Guide to Creating Viral Linkbait and Infographics 
- 101 Ways to Build Link Popularity 
- Point Blank SEO’s great guide: Link Building Strategies – The Complete List
- The Noob Guide to Link Building
- 131 (Legitimate) Link Building Strategies
- 23787 Ways to Build Links
- 9 Tangible Linkable Asset Ideas and How To Build Links to Them
- 7 Tips for Finding your Competitors Linkable Assets and RCS
- SEO Link Building Best Practices for 2013: Interview with Neil Patel
- Ken Lyons’s Link Building: Get Rich or Die Trying
- The Definitive Guide to Conceptualizing Designing and Promoting Your Own Infographic
- 19 Warning Signs Your Infographic Stinks
- 4 Outside-the-Box Link Building Tactics
- 3 Scalable Link Building Tactics That Won’t Leave a Foot Print
- Link Building Strategies: 2013 Edition
- How Valuable Are NoFollow Links?
Newbie Tip: Block out time for research. Eric Ward suggested 2 hours. I like to conduct this activity in the morning, with a coffee.
“Search engines should never be your target audience–people should be!”
As the worlds of “link building” and “content promotion” rapidly converge, a new emphasis on social media has been created. Whether you reach out through well-wrought emails, twitter, facebook, or Google + make sure not to over-advertise.
- Content Strategy: How to Find Your Target Audience
- Content Marketing: How to Promote Your Content to Your Target Audience
- Throw Away Your Form Letters (or Five Principles to Better Outreach Link Building)
- The Ultimate Guest Blogger’s Guide for 2013
- 9 Networks You Can Use for Guest Blogging and Blogger Outreach
Newbie tip: Content isn’t king. The messenger is.
“The single biggest mistake web analysts make is working without purpose.”
- The Small Business Guide to Google Analytics
- 50 Resources for Getting the Most Out of Google Analytics 
- Google Analytics Tips: 10 Data Analysis Strategies That Pay Off Big!
- Top 10 Most Important Google Analytics Reports—Keyword Rankings Need Not Apply
- How To Unlock Your ‘Not Provided’ Keywords in Google Analytics
- 3 Key Google Analytics Features
- Dashboards, Advanced Segments, and Custom Reports for your Business Needs
- The Google Analytics Conversion Funnel Survival Guide
- 16 Marketers on the Metrics that Matter
- Marketing Voices Part II: The Changing Metrics of SEO
Newbie Tip: there are tons of amazing custom dashboards and advanced segments that your fellow analysts have created. Do a little digging and find the best one for your needs.
SEOs have created a tool for everything. I haven’t exhausted every tool in the quiver, but I have certainly found one’s I can’t live without.
- Yoast SEO WordPress Plugin
- Hundreds of Tools for Marketers
- 10 Must-Have Tools for Your SEO Supremacy Kit
- 6 Free Google Docs Every SEO Needs to Have
- 10 Tools for Creating Infographic Visualizations
- Microsoft Excel for SEOs
- SEO Book’s Firefox Rank Checker
- The Raven Tools Schema Creator
- Screaming Frog
- SEM Rush
- 86 Billion Free Tools: Why Your Brain Is The Best Tool Of All
Newbie tip: human ingenuity is the ultimate tool.
Prelude to Future Beginnings
“It is indeed ludicrous to treat everything as completed then to say at the end that the conclusion is lacking. In other words, if the conclusion is lacking at the end, it is also lacking at the beginning. This should therefore have been said at the beginning.”
There are, no doubt, other articles and blogs that could have been included here. Social Media Examiner was linked until the penultimate version of this guide, as were some particularly active Local SEO forum communities. The keyword research section and the technical SEO section are the thinnest. By contrast, the Link Building, Content Promotion, and On Page SEO can never be full enough. So I was hoping that across the vast SEO community we might be able to generate another 99 links, either through twitter or in the comments below, consisting of articles blogs etc that you found most helpful when learning SEO. If there is enough interest, I’ll round those up into a second post of 99 links.
Finally, I return to the earlier theme of Ancient Greece. The Greeks distinguished between knowledge that was public, and knowledge that was considered to be private (esoteric). There are, no doubt, a great number of things that individuals and agencies are not sharing. So how do you access the sacred teachings, the knowledgenot available to the public? Knowledge that is shared only between the initiates?
Well, now that you know something, do what humankind has been doing for thousands of years: question it.