How to Learn SEO

Comparing the best Free SEO Courses for Beginners

This is a fantastic time to learn SEO. Why? Digital marketing is growing rampantly. Gartner polled over 600 CMOs (Chief Marketing Officers) and according to their CMO Spend Survey 2018-2019, by 2024, digital marketing will take up 54% of all marketing spend for an average company. Much of that spend is dedicated to SEO.

But SEO isn't just for companies with a marketing team, dedicated budget, and a CMO.

Whether you're interested in SEO as a career or are looking to educate yourself in order to better market your own startup, side-hustle or small business, the benefits of having at least a foundational level of SEO knowledge are huge. Whatever your situation, I'm betting it got you asking yourself the question: Are there any good, free SEO courses for beginners? (I've literally had friends and family members ask me this more than a dozen times.)

Oh, boy! Have I got news for you!

Not only is the SEO community online really generous in providing high-quality blogs and free content, but there are some very legitimate online courses that you can work through from beginning to end in order to get a decent basic SEO understanding. I took the time to go through each of the available options in some depth and compile my findings below. You're welcome!

This has become something of a living list, so I'll try to keep it updated with new guides I come across, provided they add something to the conversation. Feel free to suggest your own additions in the comments below!

A Comparison of the Best Free SEO Courses

(The findings below are my un-sponsored opinions. At the time of this writing, I have no affiliation with any of these brands, other than taking advantage of their products at my own expense. These are my genuine thoughts on these tools that will help you learn SEO. I fully acknowledge that this is subjective but I have manually reviewed each, and these are my findings.)

SEO Resources for Beginners

Moz beginner's guide
to SEO
  • Comprehensiveness

    Breadth of Topics:
    5 Star Rating
    Depth of Information:
    5 Star Rating

    Word Count: 34,879

  • User Experience

    Ease of Use:
    5 Star Rating
    Content Quality:
    5 Star Rating
  • Certification?

    None. Moz does offer certification, but it is a separate course, and requires a payment. ($595)
  • Other Notes

    No Login Required.
    +1 Star Rating
    Also, Moz has compiled a pretty comprehensive glossary as the final chapter of this guide, which is really handy if you need something defined.
  • Best Feature: Best Overall, but requires some real time investment. Maybe a week of 1 chapter a day. You'll come away with a very reasonable foundation for learning SEO.


SEO Course for Newcomers

Learn SEO In 2019
With Mangools
  • Comprehensiveness

    Breadth of Topics:
    4 Star Rating
    Depth of Information:
    3 Star Rating

    Word Count: 9,910

  • User Experience

    Ease of Use:
    5 Star Rating
    Content Quality:
    4 Star Rating
  • Certification?

    There is a basic quiz, with a PDF certificate for passing. It's a nice touch, but the certificate doesn't look very reputable or authoritative. This PDF isn't landing you any SEO jobs.
    +1 Star Rating
  • Other Notes

    No Login Required.
    +1 Star Rating
  • Best Feature: Great for a crash-course in SEO. Nice looking and easy to use, and brief enough to digest in one longish session.


WordStream's - SEO Basics: Complete Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization

WordStream's - SEO Basics: Complete Beginner’s Guide
  • Comprehensiveness

    Breadth of Topics:
    5 Star Rating
    Depth of Information:
    3 Star Rating

    Word Count: 8,558

  • User Experience

    Ease of Use:
    3 Star Rating
    Content Quality:
    4 Star Rating
  • Certification?

    None
  • Other Notes

    No Login Required.
    +1 Star Rating
  • Best Feature: A good, businesslike introduction to SEO. Less anecdotal and more focused than some of the alternatives, making it a bit less enjoyable to read, but more efficient.


Backlinko - Learn SEO

Backlinko - How to
Learn SEO In 2019
  • Comprehensiveness

    Breadth of Topics:
    4 Star Rating
    Depth of Information:
    3 Star Rating

    Word Count: 2,693

  • User Experience

    Ease of Use:
    4 Star Rating
    Content Quality:
    3 Star Rating
  • Certification?

    None
  • Other Notes

    No Login Required.
    +1 Star Rating
  • Best Feature: This is maybe the best looking guide on this list, and is very easy reading. If you just need a quick intro, this is a really good option.


Neil Patel's SEO Course for Beginners

Neil Patel's SEO
Made Simple
  • Comprehensiveness

    Breadth of Topics:
    4 Star Rating
    Depth of Information:
    3 Star Rating

    Word Count: 10,210

  • User Experience

    Ease of Use:
    3 Star Rating
    Content Quality:
    4 Star Rating
  • Certification?

    None
  • Other Notes

    No Login Required.
    +1 Star Rating
  • Best Feature: Easy reading anecdotal nature of the guide, along with slightly more content volume make this a good introduction with a little more meat on it's bones than some of the shorter guides.


Learn SEO with Yoast

Yoast Academy - SEO
Training For Beginners
  • Comprehensiveness

    Breadth of Topics:
    3 Star Rating
    Depth of Information:
    4 Star Rating

    Word Count: n/a (video)

  • User Experience

    Ease of Use:
    3 Star Rating
    Content Quality:
    3 Star Rating
  • Certification?

    Upon completing the course, you receive a PDF certificate that looks pretty good.
    +2 Star Rating
    You also get an embeddable widget for your site.
    Jonathan successfully completed the SEO for beginners course!
  • Other Notes

    Login Required.
    Content mainly in video format with PDF transcripts available.
  • Best Feature: Video based content, if you prefer audio-visual learning. Probably the nicest certificate, and a bonus embeddable badge.


Learning SEO with Search Console

Google Search Console's
SEO Starter Guide
  • Comprehensiveness

    Breadth of Topics:
    3 Star Rating
    Depth of Information:
    3 Star Rating

    Word Count: 8,653

  • User Experience

    Ease of Use:
    5 Star Rating
    Content Quality:
    3 Star Rating
  • Certification?

    There is no certification associated with this course. You could definitely go ahead with the Analytics, Ads, etc. certifications that Google DOES offer, but those aren't SEO Fundamentals certifications.
  • Other Notes

    No Login Required.
    +1 Star Rating
  • Best Feature: Very reliable info "straight from the horses mouth". Course can be completed in one solid session.


SEO Training for Beginners

HubSpot's SEO
Training Course
  • Comprehensiveness

    Breadth of Topics:
    2 Star Rating
    Depth of Information:
    4 Star Rating

    Word Count: N/A (Video)

  • User Experience

    Ease of Use:
    4 Star Rating
    Content Quality:
    4 Star Rating
  • Certification?

    There is no certification associated with this course. There ARE mini quizzes which are helpful in assessing how well you've digested the information, but no certifications.
  • Other Notes

    Free Account and Login required.

    The course doesn't seem 100% finished yet. It's covers a lot less ground than some of the others, and gets sidetracked with actual SEO/SEM techniques and strategies, which are great, but maybe don't belong in a fundamentals course.
  • Best Feature: Maybe the nicest videos from a production standpoint, and some very useful tips and strategies.


So, what are the best free resources for Learning SEO?

Read A more thorough review of each resource below.

1. Moz beginner's guide to SEO

Best Feature:
As you might expect from one of the industry's thought leaders, Moz's "Beginners Guide to SEO" is a fantastic resource. At more than 3x the length of the next most wordy course, it is absolutely the most comprehensive of the SEO courses on review in this post. This can be a downside for anyone looking for a quick and basic understanding of SEO, but for most, it's an absolute win.

SEO Resources for Beginners

Comprehensiveness:

As mentioned above, Moz' Beginners Guide to SEO is a pretty gargantuan course. It covers a huge breadth of topics and goes into each one at some depth. It's also less reliant on links to 3rd parties for explanations etc. making a more all-in-one type experience. This may be either a good or bad thing, as it means they've opted to reinvent the wheel on some occasions where another great resource already exists. They've done a good job of it though, so I can't complain much.

Going through the full guide will take some time, definitely not something you'll do in one sitting. I'd recommend knocking out a chapter or two per day and tackling it in a week.

Moz Word Count:

User Experience / Ease of Use

The Beginners Guide to SEO chapters are long-form pages, and they've gone to great lengths to provide detailed and helpful information. There's a table of contents on the intro page that lets you jump to a specific topic, and there are "Previous Chapter" and "Next Chapter links at the foot of the page to make progressing through the chapters easy. There's also a slide-out table of contents on each page which makes navigation a snap.

Bonus Feature:
Moz has compiled a pretty comprehensive glossary as the final chapter of this guide, which is really handy if you need something defined.

2. Learn SEO in 2019 with Mangools

Best Feature:
Great looking and easy to use!

Mangools' (Pronounced Man-Ghouls) SEO Academy for Beginners is a nicely presented intro into SEO from a birds-eye view. You could read through their 9 chapter guide in a few hours if you were pretty motivated, but it covers a lot of ground and you'd have at least been introduced to the foundational concepts of SEO.

SEO Course for Newcomers

Comprehensiveness:

Short enough to be digested in one sitting, but still pretty substantial, this post is a great length for someone who wants to gain a basic understanding of SEO in one solid study session. It covers a wide variety of topics at a surface level.

Mangools Word Count:

User Experience / Ease of Use:

One of the best user experiences on this list. The full guide lives on one very (long) page, which means you never have to navigate anywhere, you could theoretically scroll all the way through.

Everything looks great and the super handy floating table-of-contents sidebar that makes it super easy to navigate around from topic to topic.

Bonus Feature:
Mangools offers a quiz (20 questions) that lets you test yourself after completing the course, and there is even a fun little PDF certificate you can download once you've passed. Shout it from the rooftops! "<insert your name here> has passed Mangools SEO Academy for Beginners!"

3. WordStream's - SEO Basics: Complete Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization

Best Feature:
Less anecdotal, more business-like and efficient. WordStream's guide communicates a bit more in fewer words than some of the alternatives. This is a bit subjective, but if you're looking for a more intensive course, this may be the one for you!

SEO Basics - Complete Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization

Comprehensiveness:

WordStream is best known for their PPC tool suite, so it might come as a surprise to find that they have a very legitimate SEO beginners guide that features on this list. The guide is fairly businesslike and dense, but it does make use of helpful images, graphs, infographics, etc. in order to make the information a little easier to digest.

Wordstream's Word Count:

User Experience / Ease of Use

The guide seems pretty organized and is made easier to navigate through the use of a reasonably detailed table of contents. This is unfortunately unavailable once you've scrolled down at all, so it only helps if you know what section of the page you'd like to read upon arrival.

Also, there are a couple of portions of the post that seem a little dated (One image shows a pie chart of data from a 2013 survey), although the post does appear to have last been updated much more recently, so it's hard to know how up-to-date all of the information is. Despite the constantly shifting nature of the industry, much of the content is pretty evergreen, so I'm confident this guide would still provide a great introduction to any newcomer to online marketing.

4. Backlinko - How to Learn SEO In 2019

Best feature:
Fantastic looking and great user experience.

Backlinko's article is probably the nicest looking on this list and is packed full of good content. The page looks significantly longer than it actually is, due to 1. a lengthy thread of comments and responses, and 2. to the highly visual layout, with numerous infographic-ish elements, and lots of white space.

How to Learn SEO in Record Time

Comprehensiveness

As mentioned above, the post appears far longer than it is due to the lengthy comments section and tasteful, spacious layout. It actually clocks in at under 3000 words and as such is the shortest of our SEO courses, but it seems to cover a very good amount of ground in that time.

It shares having a lengthy comment section and slightly more anecdotal nature with the guide by Neil Patel, as you'll see in our review of that course.

Backlinko Word Count:

Portions of the post do feel a bit like a glossary of other helpful resources, so instead of an explanation, you get a title and a link. I totally understand it, there's no point reinventing the wheel, especially when there are some really amazing resources out there that comprehensively cover individual topics, like Keyword research. I think the end result here is actually helpful. I'd rather have a good guide that compiles some of the best content on the internet than a post that does a poor job recreating that content.

User Experience & Ease of Use

If this guide was a cake it would definitely be one of those "too pretty to eat" cakes! The aesthetic quality of the post and the fact that it's peppered with actionable SEO pointers make it a very useful quick skim guide. I think it might be my favorite "concise" option on this list. If you're just trying to establish a very basic understanding of SEO, this guide doesn't beat around the bush and is very easily digested.

5. Neil Patel's SEO Made Simple: A Step-by-Step Guide

Best Feature:
A fun-reading anecdotal writing style and pleasant visuals

Neil Patel is a well-known figure in the online marketing space and has worked hard to make his addition to this list conversational and easy to read.

SEO Made Simple: A Step-by-Step Guide

Comprehensiveness:

At first glance, it looks like the mammoth page is going to require days of reading, but actually, about 3/4s of the scroll-length of the page is made up of comments and responses. That's not intended to take anything away from the content in terms of depth or comprehensiveness.

It doesn't skim across the surface like some of the more brief SEO guides on this list, but it's also not as intensive of a deep-dive as some of the more in-depth options, despite being similar in length. The conversational and anecdotal nature of the guide means that it takes a little more text to deliver the same amount of information. I really like the fact that Neil links to some really great resources as he goes, meaning that you get the basic understanding, but can also really dive deeply into a topic if you're curious.

Neil Patel's Word Count:

User Experience / Ease of Use:

The course isn't as well organized or easy to navigate as some of the options on this list, with a mini table of contents breaking down what is a really significant amount of content into 5 sections. Once you've started scrolling, though, that table of contents gets lost in the distant past, and you're basically committed.

I think this is one of the only failings of this content, as it's a lot to try to digest in one sitting, and it's not broken up well enough or easy enough to navigate to make picking up again later a simple matter.

Learn SEO with Yoast

6. Yoast Academy - Free SEO Training for Beginners

Yoast's SEO for Beginners guide is an introductory video series that does a good job of explaining what SEO is in a fairly comprehensive manner.

Be warned, this is probably the most self-promotional of the classes in our list. The course does require a free account and pushes Yoast's other, more advanced, paid course quite heavily. Also, sections of the course are dedicated to features of their tool, and how to use it.

If you're a strictly audiovisual learner, this may be a good option for you. The videos are quite thorough, but if you want a text version of the session you've got to download a PDF, so reviewing a particular point involves a lot of searching through video clips, etc, which for me is a slight negative. In an ideal world, I'd love a text version of the lesson I can skim to see if the video is likely to be beneficial to me.

Each section of the course is followed by a quiz that is perhaps a little more rigorous than what we've seen from most of the alternatives, and upon completion, you can download a PDF certificate or the snippet for an embeddable badge, which is a nice touch.

(Word Count: N/A as the content was in the form of video)

7. Google Search Console's SEO Starter Guide

Best feature:
Straight from the horse's mouth!

Google provides its own SEO learning resource in the form of this very unassuming SEO Starter Guide. Since most of us are primarily concerned with ranking in Google, this information comes directly from the most authoritative possible source.

Learning SEO with Search Console

Comprehensiveness:

The guide is definitely just an introduction and skims over the top of more complex elements of online marketing, but it does provide very useful best practices that you can be very confident about since, again, it's straight from Google.

It also doesn't go into the same depth as the Moz "Beginner's Guide to SEO" for example, but you can read through the full page in a single (fairly intense!) sitting and come away with a passable understanding of what is involved in SEO.

Google Search Console's Word Count:

User Experience / Ease of Use:

The information is formatted cleanly, and with helpful images when necessary for illustrating a point, but it doesn't have the pizzaz or visual appeal of many of the alternatives.

No frills, certificates or quizzes, but a solid addition to the list none-the-less!

SEO Training for Beginners

8. HubSpot's SEO Training Course

If you're an audiovisual learner, HubSpot might be a good starting point for you. Their "SEO Training Course" is a video series that is well presented and easy to use.

I feel the range of topics covered is a little more limited than some of the more thorough guides we're looking at in this post and the absence of a written post makes it a little trickier to follow along or skim back to a point you missed earlier, etc. Note: They do have a link to download a transcript of the video in the "Resources" section, but that's a PDF you have to download for each video. Definitely not as convenient as content on the page.

Hubspot has mini quizzes along the way in order to make sure you've got a good handle on the topics covered thus far, and these are well worded and provide instant feedback.

Pros and cons:

  • The course requires that you sign up for a (free) account in order to access the content.
  • The course includes some strategic tips that are a bit more advanced and could be implemented on active SEO campaigns. This is great because these are very actionable and helpful. On the other hand, I think they stray a little from the goal of providing fundamentals training for SEO.
  • The course covers less ground than the alternatives. It's possible that the course is still being expanded upon so it may be more comprehensive down the road.

(Word Count: N/A as the content was in the form of video)

Honorable Mention: SEO Fundamentals Course with Greg Gifford

Note: This course is NOT free unless you've got access to a paid SEMRush account, but deserves an honorable mention. This is a comprehensive, very well-presented course, and as a bonus, you can take their mildly challenging 20-question exam and earn a very official looking PDF Certificate!

Share YOUR favorite free SEO resources!

So, if these free courses aren't enough to help you Learn SEO, don't worry. I'll try to keep the content coming on my blog and in my upcoming Youtube videos.

Right now, for example, you can learn all about how to accurately measure and lower the bounce rate on your blog posts. It's a good post! Check it out.

Otherwise, please feel free to comment below. I read every comment and will typically respond. I'd love for this post to become a lively discussion of what other great free SEO resources are out there. Let me know what I've missed!

2 Comments

  1. Website Reviewer on May 28, 2019 at 8:12 pm

    Hi there I am so thrilled I found your website, I really found you by mistake, while I used to be browsing on Yahoo for another thing, Anyhow I am here now and would just like to say thanks a lot for a significant post and a all round exciting blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to go through everything at the minute but I’ve saved it and also added in your RSS feeds, so when I’ve time I am back to read more, Please do keep up the awesome job.

    • jonathan@loftyrankings.com on May 28, 2019 at 8:43 pm

      Hey there. Thanks for the feedback! Just FYI, Links from WordPress comments are NoFollow and don’t carry any value. (at least theoretically). Also, I removed the link before approving it. No hard feelings 🙂

      I do appreciate the positive thoughts and since I published this post just a few minutes ago, I don’t see any harm in leaving it approved. (At least until such a point that it is detracting from any more constructive dialogue.)

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