One of the most common questions we get asked is “What is the best way to learn SEO?” There are a few obvious places to start, I would in particular recommend the Moz blog (especially the community posts), Matt Cutt’s Google Webmaster Help videos, and (of course) the Wikimotive blog we write here daily. If you really want to get down into it though and learn how search engine optimization lives and breathes, I only have one recommendation.
Start a test website.
Seriously, there’s no better way to learn then by actually doing. You don’t want to cut your SEO teeth on your company website, it’s just too risky. Instead, do a little research and buy a domain for your most niche hobby, the more random the better. As you start the process, you’ll find it mandates research. What effect will the domain name have on SEO? What about the hosting? To even begin, you’ll need to study enough to find the answers to those two questions (and many more) and then you can begin in earnest.
For simplicity sake, I recommend you start with a WordPress install. After all, this isn’t an experiment to learn how to be a web developer (though you will learn a few dev skills as you progress in your SEO knowledge). Once you have a domain purchased and WordPress installed on the site, it’s time to get to work.
Start with a little keyword research. Find some competitive search terms in your targeted niche and some less competitive search terms. Do a little more research and theorize the best way to go about attacking these terms. Feel free to take chances and try things out, that’s the whole point of building a test site.
I understand that most of the people who read this blog already have jobs, but if you’re starting out and really want to get a handle on how SEO works, I can’t recommend the test site method enough.