How long does it take to learn SEO? ( Honest Truth )

Knowing how to correctly search engine optimize your website is the first step for getting organic traffic. A lot of beginners jump on the bandwagon of learning SEO, which is a good idea, however, most beginners only think of SEO as a form of link building. SEO is extremely complex, you can simply not learn a couple of vague concepts and run with it. There are basically two kinds of search engine optimization, on-page, and off-page.

Generally speaking, it will take you around 8-12 months to learn SEO this can be more or less longer due to the constant updates, no set of rules, too much misinformation, outdated online courses, limited amount of tests, working in the dark, not knowing who to trust, not being able to rely on logic, the vague rules do not apply for everyone and due to the bugs and glitches in the Google algorithm.

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The on-page optimization is the work you put in on your website, while off-page optimization is everything you do off your website. The problem is that a lot of beginners start with off-page optimization, and this makes learning SEO extremely difficult. The main reason why a lot of people start with off-page SEO is that everybody is telling them that they need backlinks, which for the most part is true but building backlinks is almost a form of art than anything else.

SEO is always evolving, what worked yesterday might penalize your website today. Google is constantly updating the ranking algorithm, and there is no magic ingredient that will rank your website. These constant updates make it extremely hard for beginners to learn SEO, and a lot of them simply give up. There are a lot of different ways on how you can rank on google, the problem is that it takes a lot of time to see any results.

Learning SEO can take a long time if you are not focusing on the right things, there are so many SEO courses and techniques that are simply outdated and using them today will not get you any results. The SEO industry is big business, and a lot of people who are teaching SEO actually rely on marketing to get traffic, and what works for them will not work for a brand new website. If you want to outsource SEO or content writing then you have to know what you are doing, for more information check out my recent article When to start outsourcing content? ( The 6 Steps ).

Constant updates

One of the main reasons why it takes a long time to learn SEO is because google is constantly updating their algorithm. Now there is nothing wrong with updating a product to make it better, but if that product is essentially deciding which website gets traffic than it can be problematic. You are always one update away from having your website destroyed by an update, this will happen no matter if you are using white hat or black hat SEO.

With the constant updates the rules will also change frequently, basically, you will be walking on eggshells for the first year of your SEO campaign. Doing good SEO takes a long time until you see any results, however, if you make a couple of mistakes than the negative results will come in a matter of days. The frequent updates can increase the sandbox period in some niches, for more information check out my recent article How to get out of Google sandbox? ( In 8 Steps ).

No set of rules

Simply put there are no set of rules which you can follow when it comes to SEO, and this is why a lot of beginners never learn or even attempt to learn SEO. Learning SEO is not like learning a new skill, there are no rules set in stone and they constantly change. Generally speaking, you will always hear that you need high-quality content in order to rank on Google, which is true for the most part, but far too often you will see websites ranking on Google with extremely low-quality content.

A couple of years ago Google was favoring websites that posted frequently, basically, they were ranking fresh content over the old content. What happened is that a lot of blogs popped up posting 200-300 word articles every day, and most of it was spam or scraped content. Fast forward a couple of years later and Google now has implemented a sandbox period for each post, and they no longer rank posts with 200-300 words.

Too much misinformation

SEO is big business and everybody who is selling SEO related methods, tools or backlinks will preach that their method works. What ends up happening is that you get bombarded with a lot of misinformation, and you won’t know how to filter out the noise from the real important stuff. There are a lot of social media gurus out there, all teaching the same stuff more or less, but what they are not telling you is that social media platforms are extremely stingy with their traffic.

The main reason why they don’t tell you this is because they are the social media guru and how else would they make a profit if they would tell you that what they are teaching no longer works. This is exactly the same in the SEO world, a lot of snake oil salesman promising big results and delivering nothing.

Outdated online courses

There are a lot of online courses that you can take to learn SEO, although most of them are overpriced and they will only teach the basics of SEO. The basics of SEO are simply how to make good on-page SEO and how to build backlinks, these are pieces of information which you can get for free. The problem with online courses is that they are extremely vague, and they have to be by design. If somebody makes an online course in 2020 than he has to be able to sell it in 2022 also.

Usually what tends to happen is that they rebrand their online course and sell you the exact same course like a couple of years ago. This is true even for the biggest SEO gurus in the industry, just take a look at their youtube videos, video uploaded in 2018 and the title will be something like “how to rank on google in 2020”. I have called out one of these SEO gurus once and he ended up deleting the old video and reuploading the same video, and people were praising him… for giving them information which is no longer viable or valuable. One of the most outdated methods of building backlinks is by doing link wheels, for more information check out my recent article What is a link wheel? ( Does it work? ).

Limited amount of tests

A lot of people who learn SEO tend to test their knowledge with their own site. The problem with this approach is that one method doesn’t apply for all websites or for all niches. Google ranks websites based on the niche which they are targeting, basically, the rules are different for every niche. People who are relying on SEO to make a full-time income tend to test a lot of theories out, most of the tests will fail but the ones that are successful can have a massive earning potential.

Now I am not saying that you have to have hundreds of websites in order to test out a couple of SEO related theories, but you should test out new stuff constantly. The Google algorithm is so complex that I am starting to think that not even Google knows how to rank on google. You can see this every time google makes a core update, the search results are all over the place, mostly filled with spam and with parasite websites.

Working in the dark

Learning SEO takes a long time, and even if you know the basic concepts and what it takes to rank on google that still doesn’t mean that you will be able to rank your website with that knowledge. The main problem with SEO is that you will be constantly working in the dark, even if you do everything according to the Google guidelines, it will still take you around 8 months to see any results. This is why a lot of people simply give up, as very few people work on something for months on end without any results.

Imagine if you would go to work for a company and they will only pay you once you rank the website, and even then they will pay you the amount which the website makes. You will be basically working for 3-4 months to write 100 articles, optimize them, build backlinks, and so on and after 8 months you will get $1, and that is in the best-case scenario. This is why I always say beginners not to go all-in with SEO if you have a steady job then keep it, once you have hit it big with SEO and you will earn more if you can dedicate more time to it than in that case you can do full-time SEO.

Not knowing who to trust

When it comes to learning SEO it is extremely difficult to know who to trust, there are a lot of snake oil salesmen out there, and google only makes the problem worse. Google is a massive company, and everything they say is a public relations move, this is why google constantly contradicts themselves or simply claim that everything is working as intended. Sometimes google does give valuable information, although in the past few years they have started to give less and less information.

Can’t rely on logic

There are a lot of skills in life which you can learn by simply thinking logically, however, this is not the case with SEO. Sometimes google works logically while other times it simply makes no sense why a certain website is ranking. You have probably already heard that content is the king, but google often ranks websites like Pinterest for a lot of search queries, and the content on Pinterest is an image with 100 words at best.

The rules do not apply for everyone

The vague rules which SEO has simply don’t apply the same way to everybody. Every niche, website, and domain is different, what works for some will not work for others. Google tends to favor authority above anything else, and high authority websites can get away with a lot of. If you have a website and you write a couple of spammy posts than you might get a sitewide penalty, but if high authority websites do the same then they will rank for the targeted keyword.

There are a lot of news related websites online, and in the non-English news related niches rankings on google can be instant. There was a case of a big news related website in Turkey, they were basically making hundreds of new posts every day with a title that was targeting a keyword and the article was unreadable copy-pasted or scraped content.

Bugs and glitches

You will have an extremely difficult time learning SEO due to the bugs and the glitches which are in the algorithm. Basically, even if you do everything correctly, you might still not see any results due to a bug in google. Currently, there is an indexing bug in the search console, basically, the search console will tell you that your posts are indexed but when you search with site:mysite.com/post than it won’t show up.

Although Google has claimed that it has fixed this bug, this is far from the truth, I personally can see the same problem on most of my sites 6 months after they have claimed that the indexing bug has been fixed, and I am not the only one in this position.

In conclusion

Learning SEO is not an easy task, the rules are constantly changing and you will have to learn new stuff every year. If you learn SEO and you get some success, and you are able to do it full time then you will most likely spend the rest of your life learning SEO. There are constantly new things popping up in the SEO world and this is probably one of the most volatile industries in the world.

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