I’m trying out a new series where I put together the best resources on specific specializations of digital marketing. I know the Digital Marketing Resources section is a good start, but it only scratches the surface of each topic.

Rather than rehash SEO and try to teach it to you myself, I’m going to point you to the best SEO articles, guides, courses, videos, and podcasts available.


This study guide is meant to help you go from 0 knowledge to comfort in understanding what SEO is, how to do keyword research, the basics of on-page SEO, site structure, content marketing, and backlinks. You don’t need to pay $1000 for a course in this, everything is available online, it just takes time to sift through it all and pick out the best resources from the noise. It also takes practice! Just reading these articles and watching videos won’t help you get better at SEO, you have to put it into practice.

PS. If you’re interested check out the Content Marketing Study Guide and the Social Media Marketing Guide. If you want a more general overview of digital marketing, check out the Digital Marketing Resource Guide.

Table of Contents

My SEO Story

The Basics of Search Engines

SEO Case Studies

Designing Your Site with SEO in Mind

SEO Audit

Keyword Research

Creating Content

Local SEO

Link Building

Technical SEO

YouTube SEO

Amazon SEO

Tracking Your Progress

SEO Tools & Plugins

SEO Communities

Ways to Stay Up To Date

SEO Books

SEO YouTube Channels

MY SEO Story

The first time I stumbled upon SEO was while working at an agency. I was still an intern at the time, and they told me to add topics and categories to the WordPress.com blog I was writing “for SEO purposes”. Up until then, I had not ever heard about SEO, so I obliged.

Little did I know, this is not how you go about SEO. Most of the things the agency did were not good for optimization: Keyword stuffing, SEO focused blogs (“Memphis best plumber is here to help you with your needs”), and using outsourced companies to do backlinks (Even spamming my favorite site, Reddit!).

Well, it’s been a few years since then and I’m much wiser about above-board, white-hat SEO tactics. But even after all those years I’m still a novice. SEO is tricky. For some it’s a game, for others it’s a long-term strategy. Sure, you can use PBNs to improve your rankings, only until Google shuts them all down.

I tell this story to illustrate that SEO is not easy, and that you can’t trust all agencies that claim they are SEO “ninjas” (Don’t trust any company that calls their employees ninjas).  It takes effort creating great content, earning worthwhile backlinks, and researching valuable keywords. Do it right, and it can pay off, but you have to be willing to put in the effort.

The basics of search engines - Ultimate SEO Study Guide


Search engines may seem like a mystery box. You type in your query and magically get great results. But it’s all done through an algorithm that is constantly updated to prevent people from gaming the system and reward sites that have tons of authority and useful content.

Back in the early days of search engines, you could keyword stuff (put your keyword a ton of times on one page) and rank well. But Google (and the other search engines, though most SEOs focuses on Google), learns the strategies and updates their algorithm from time to time to punish sites that do these types of things.

Black hat SEO is the kind that uses underhanded tactics for ranking sites. The problem with using these is that although your site may rank for a keyword, you’re at the whim of Google and their algorithm updates which may penalize your site into page 20.

White hat SEO is the above-board kind. This type focuses on keyword research, understanding your audience, and creating useful content that gets linked to. The backlinks are crucial because they tell Google that your site’s content is valued by others. You wouldn’t link to a spam site.

This section will go over how search engines work and the algorithm updates you should know about.

How Search Works
Crawling, indexing, algorithm, fighting spam

How Search Works (Video 3’14”)
Matt Cutts- Google

How Search Engines Work
Owen Powis at WordTracker
Ranking algorithms, Google Algorithm, Indexing
Est. reading time: 10 minutes

Google Algorithm Change History

SEO Case studies - Ultimate SEO Study Guide


It’s not enough to read some strategies and tactics, you want to see them in action! These case studies will help show you step-by-step how top SEOs were able to walk the walk.

There’s too much BS out there in the marketing space, but really well done, well research case studies will always be great resources to help you learn and grow.

How To Go Viral: 2 Step-by-Step Case Studies
David McSweeney at Ahrefs
Using infographics to get press and links
Est. reading time: 14 minutes

white hat seo

White Hat SEO Case Study: How To Get a #1 Ranking
Brian Dean at Backlinko
Using syscraper technique to generate 41,992 pageviews, #1 ranking, $100k in MRR
Est. reading time: 16 minutes

SEO Campaign Case Study: From 126 to 121,883 Unique Visitors in Under 6 Months
Gustav Palm at Ahrefs
Using content marketing, keyword research, monitoring, optimization to grow traffic
Est. reading time: 17 minutes

The Complete SEO Strategy That Increased Our Blog’s Search Traffic by 89% (in 3 months)
David McSweeney at Ahrefs
Removed lots of low quality content, did a content audit, 6 month keyword/content strategy, said no to many guest post pitches
Est. reading time: 18 minutes

Designing your site with SEO in mind - Ultimate SEO Study Guide


Ahh, the art of creating a search engine friendly site (or is it a science?). This section will show you how to build your site structure, create a WordPress site that is SEO friendly, and on-page factors you need to keep in mind.

Using a tool like Yoast on your WordPress site will help you optimize for keywords, create meta descriptions (the ones that show up on the search pages, and titles). Very useful tool for beginners.

Intelligent site structure for better SEO
Joost de Valk at Yoast
Creating site structure, internal link structure, URLs
Est. reading time: 10 minutes

The Basics of Search Engine Friendly Design & Development
Technical aspects of building web pages structure for both search engines and visitors
Est. reading time: 25 minutes

On-Page SEO: Anatomy of a Perfectly Optimized Page (2016 Update)
Brian Dean at Backlinko
16 key on-page SEO factores that search engines and users love
Est. reading time: 9 minutes

Ultimate WordPress SEO Guide for Beginners (Step by Step)
How to optimize your WordPress site
Est. reading time: 18 minutes

Google’s 200 Ranking Factors: The Complete List
A HUGE list of factors that Google cares about for search rank
Est. reading time: 29 minutes

SEO audit - Ultimate SEO Study Guide


An audit is key to creating a great SEO strategy for an existing site, whether it’s your own or a client’s. These articles below will walk through an audit process, what happens when a company analyzes their own SEO, and there’s also a detailed audit checklist from the awesome Annie Cushing.

A 16-Step SEO Audit Process To Boost Your Google Rankings
David McSweeney at Ahrefs
A literal walk through of an SEO audit and the necessary tools 
Est. reading time: 24 minutes

[SEO Audit] We Analyzed Our SEO. Here’s What We Learned:
Michael Taylor at Ladder.io
An SEO audit of Ladder.io’s site
Est. reading time: 45 minutes


Annie Cushing’s Audit Checklist
Annie Cushing at Annielytics
A comprehensive guide to doing your own site audit

keyword research - Ultimate SEO Study Guide


You need to understand what keywords your audience is looking for when it comes to creating content, writing ads for AdWords, etc.

Check out the resources below to learn the best ways to identify keywords that rank and are also within your limits (That means you shouldn’t try ranking for Shoes).

The Beginner’s Guide to SEO: Keyword Research
Identifying keywords that not only rank, but are useful to your visitors, long tail keywords,  difficulty
Est. reading time: 6 minutes

Keyword Research for SEO: The Definitive Guide
Brian Dean at Backlinko
Using Google Keyword Planner, long tail keywords, competition, research tools, SEO content
Est. reading time: 65 minutes

How to Do Keyword Research for SEO – Ahrefs’ Guide
Tim Soulo at Ahrefs
Keyword ideas, metrics, grouping, prioritizing
Est. reading time: 21 minutes

Creating content - Ultimate SEO Study Guide


You want to rank for specific keywords but you don’t want to make your content literally all about the keyword like How Best Austin Plumber Fixes Clogged Sink. Let’s face it, who wants to read that?

Check out the articles below to see how to make really great content that also does well on the search engines.

SEO Content Strategy: How to Skyrocket Your Traffic By 594%
Nathan Ellering at CoSchedule
Keyword research, quality content, linking, content freshness
Est. reading time: 21 minutes

How To Create Targeted Viral Posts that Drive HUGE Traffic (even in boring niches)
Sean Falconer on Ahrefs
Using content marketing to create valuable content in boring niches
Est. reading time: 18 minutes

The Non-Writer’s Guide To Creating “BIG” Blog Content
John Stevens on Ahrefs
Using the skyscraper technique to create in-depth content
Est. reading time: 19 minutes

How to Create an Ecommerce Content Strategy for SEO
Nick Eubanks of From the Future Agency
Who says eCommerce stores can’t have a good content strategy?
Est. reading time: 6 minutes

LOCAL SEO - Ultimate SEO Study Guide

Local SEO is still a necessary part of the modern search engine optimizer’s toolkit. It’s likely that in the beginning of your career you may be working with a local business or two. Learn how to navigate the local SEO world from Google Maps and Business to link building.


Local Business SEO: How To Drive More Leads by Optimizing for the Entire Page
Garrett Mehrguth on Ahrefs
Optimizing web pages for local search
Est. reading time: 8 minutes

Local SEO: White Hat(ish) Link Building For Businesses On A Budget
Ryan Stewart on Ahrefs
Using citations, directories, local blog outreach, and guest posting for local SEO
Est. reading time: 10 minutes

2017 local search factors

2018 Local Search Ranking Factors
Which factors affect the ranking of local sites
Est. reading time: Very long, don’t need to read the entire thing

Local SEO Guides
Multiple local SEO guides including optimizing Google My Business, ranking higher on Maps, and more.

Link building - Ultimate SEO Study Guide


Probably the most important part of SEO is proper link building, whether you want to go white hat and do guest posts, content outreach, etc. or if you want to go grey/black hat and use PBNs.

Learn about the different methods of proper link building with the articles and case studies below.

The Noob Friendly Guide to Link Building
David McSweeney at Ahrefs
Link building theory, skills and tactics, tools, tutorials
Est. reading time: 39 minutes

An In-Depth Look at Guest Blogging in 2016 (Case Studies, Data & Tips)
David McSweeney at Ahrefs
Using guest blogs to get backlinks and traffic
Est. reading time: 21 minutes

How to Build Backlinks and Get Press Using HARO [Case Study]
Christopher Gimmer on Ahrefs
Using PR site HARO to get backlinks
Est. reading time: 6 minutes

Link Building Case Study: How I Increased My Search Traffic by 110% in 14 Days
Brian Dean at Backlinko
Using the skyscraper technique to create amazing content that gets backlinks
Est. reading time: 7 minutes

I Just Deleted Your Outreach Email Without Reading. And NO, I Don’t Feel Sorry
Tim Soulo at Ahrefs
How to improve your blog outreach
Est. reading time: 16 minutes

An In-Depth Guide to Link Quality, Link Penalties and “Bad Links”
David McSweeney at Ahrefs
Not all backlinks are created equal, how to determine “good links”
Est. reading time: 21 minutes

A Data Driven Guide To Anchor Text (And Its Impact On SEO)
David McSweeney at Ahrefs
What anchor text is, how it influences rankings, how to use them correctly
Est. reading time: 12 minutes

The Best Link Building Guide Ever Created
Charles Floate
Link building strategies from white hat to black hat
Est. reading time: 83 minutes

Beginners to Advanced Guide to Building a Private Blog Network
Lion Zeal
Curious about PBNs, see how they work and how to use them
Est. reading time: 44 minutes
* Note, just because I post this doesn’t mean I condone PBNs. It’s up to you, I just want to provide you with the best information possible. 

Technical seo - Ultimate SEO Study Guide


Ready to move past the basics? Time for some more technical aspects of SEO. Learn about Search Console, XML sitemaps, HTTP v HTTPS, and get a technical SEO checklist.

HTTP vs. HTTPS for SEO: What You Need to Know to Stay in Google’s Good Graces
Michael Hernandez on Ahrefs
What to know about the difference between HTTP and HTTPS and its impact on SEO
Est. reading time: 8 minutes

Technical SEO Checklist
Mark Nunney on Wordtracker
URLs, indexing, code, tracking

200+ Actionable SEO Tips in One “Noob Friendly” Guide
David McSweeney at Ahrefs
Technical SEO tips to help boost your rankings
Est. reading time: 70 minutes

XML Sitemaps: The Most Misunderstood Tool in the SEO’s Toolbox
Michael Cottam on Moz
Using XML sitemaps the right way
Est. reading time: 11 minutes

A Beginner’s Guide to Google Search Console
Angela Petteys on Moz
Using Google Search Console for SEO
Est. reading time: 15 minutes

youtube seo- Ultimate SEO Study Guide


YouTube SEO is in its infancy. Brian Dean from Backlinko is great at all kinds of SEO including YouTube. Check out the research he’s done into this topic.

We Analyzed 1.3 Million YouTube Videos. Here’s What We Learned About YouTube SEO
Brian Dean at Backlinko
YouTube ranking factors 
Est. reading time: 12 minutes

AMAZON seo - Ultimate SEO Study Guide


Interested in optimizing a product page? Do you do Amazon FBA? Have a client needing help with ranking on Amazon? Here are some articles to help get products ranking higher on the internet’s largest store.

How to Master Amazon SEO and Move Your Products up the Search Rankings
Brian Bowman on Big Commerce
Amazon’s ranking algorithm, product optimization, performance optimization
Est. reading time: 12 minutes

Amazon SEO: The Complete Guide to Ranking Higher
Amazon algorithm, keyword research, improving conversions
Est. reading time: 17 minutes

SEO youtube channels- Ultimate SEO Study Guide


SEO is no good unless you have some data to back up your efforts. Learn how to use Google Anlaytics to track the progress you’ve made through SEO. See what’s working and what’s not.

Beginner’s Guide to SEO: Measuring & Tracking Success
Metrics, analytics software, applying the data
Est. reading time: 16 minutes

10 Ways to Prove SEO Value in Google Analytics
Jeff Sauer on YouMoz
Metrics to look for in Google Analytics when analyzing SEO progress
Est. reading time: 15 minutes

Google Analytics Academy
Do these videos and you’ll be set for the certification. It’s really a great way to get the basics down for GA. Don’t just assume because you’ve used Analytics that you understand it. 

SEO Tools and plugins- Ultimate SEO Study Guide


Every great SEO has an arsenal of their favorite tools and plugins. Here is a big ol’ list of a bunch of different tools. Sign up, play around with them, see what you like best. A favorite tool of one person may not be great for your needs.

Google Tag Manager
Lets you manage and track tags without pasting them all into your website
Free- Must Have

Google Analytics
Free- Must Have

Google Search Console
Web tools
Free- Must Have

SEO Tools, starts at $99/mo
Review (From Authority Hacker)

Yoast SEO
SEO WordPress Plugin
Free Version Available- Must Have

Reports, keyword tools, research, starts at $99.95/mo
Review & Walkthrough (Not me but I trust Richard at ABLS)
Free 7 Day Pro Trial
G2Crowd Reviews

Tool to find long tail keywords
Review (From Authority Hacker)


Research competitors’ keywords and ads
G2Crowd Reviews

Competitive link analysis

Long Tail Pro
Keyword research tool

Link Prospector
Link building tool that helps you find where to get links (Like guest posts, link pages, directories, etc)

Pitch Box
Outreach tool

Screaming Frog SEO Spider
Website crawling tool
G2Crowd Reviews

Content marketing tool
G2Crowd Reviews


Find email addresses

Influencer discovery and outreach tool
G2Crowd Reviews

Jungle Scout
Amazon SEO tool

Domain name registrars I’ve used and recommend

1 & 1 (Google “1&1” promo codes as a first time buyer)
GoDaddy (Google “GoDaddy” promo codes as a first time buyer)

Hosting I’ve used and recommend

A Small Orange (Using it 4 years or so, no problems, great customer service)

SEO communities- Ultimate SEO Study Guide


Interested in getting deeper into the SEO world? Join these communities to talk to fellow SEOs and learn from them.

Moz Community

SEO Subreddit

Ways to stay up to date - Ultimate SEO Study Guide


SEO is constantly changing (just as any specialty of digital marketing is). Here are some sites to help you stay up to date with the latest search engine changes.

Webmaster Central Blog
Official news on crawling and indexing sites for the Google index

Search Engine Journal

Moz Blog

SEO books- Ultimate SEO Study Guide


I have not come across any great SEO books yet. Any recommendations? The field is changing too much, I think a book is a poor way to convey up to date info. Instead, I added a few PDFs below that may be of some use.

Search Engine Optimization Study Guide (PDF from 2010 but it’s by Google and still useful)

A Beginner’s Guide – Hobo UK Seo (Free PDF)

SEO youtube channels- Ultimate SEO Study Guide


We all love consuming content on YouTube, now it’s time to make this viewing time more productive. Learn about SEO from some great channels.

The BEST **2017** SEO Complete Course – YOU can rank on THIS!
Josh Bachynski

Brian Dean from Backlinko

Webris YouTube Channel

Wow! You made it to the bottom! Congrats 🙂

Click below to tweet this SEO study guide if you got some value out of it. If we ever meet in person I’ll give you a high five for sharing this.

Tweet: I just finished The Ultimate SEO Study Guide by @habitlauren. Every resource you need to learn SEO https://ctt.ec/ceRT5+

Am I missing anything? Email me at Lauren (at) themissionmarketer (dot) com

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