Getting into search engine optimization (SEO) can be difficult. There is so much to know, much of it technical and much of it subject to constant change. Often, the information is overwhelming, far too much for one person to digest. Lucky for you, I have compiled a short list of all the sites that you really should know if you are going to learn SEO.

Google

Too obvious to note? Too integral to skip. It’s called search engine optimization and Google is THE search engine. Google is so huge that there is no point in even mentioning optimization practices for other search engines. Bing, large as it might be, follows Google’s lead in so many areas that you can ignore them and not see any ramifications in your traffic.

  • Google Search – This is the beginning and end of search engine optimization. Plug in your keywords and test if your site is ranking, find out how you stack up against the competition, do your SEO market research, test how results change based upon your geographic information, and the list goes on and on. No matter how deep you go into your content development, on-site optimization practices, link-building, etc., never lose site of the end goal: ranking on Google Search.
  • Google Trends – Move over Twitter Trending Topics, Google Trends tells you what people are searching for. Feel like newsjacking with a quick blog? Look no further. Even more importantly, you can use Trends for your keyword research. Find out the most popular variants of keywords and phrases that you want to rank for by checking their historical search stats against each other. Sort the stats by location. See what keyword variants are on the rise. And the best part: it’s totally free to use.
  • Google AdWords – Google used to have a separate place to do your keyword research called Google Keyword Tool, but now all of this has migrated within AdWords to the Keyword Planner. Don’t be afraid, it’s still very easy to use and you don’t have to pay to create an AdWords account. Just log in, click on the Tools tab, and select Keyword Planner to get statistics on the monthly searches of a keyword, suggestions for related keywords, and stats on the keyword’s competitiveness. Keep in mind, however, the competition statistic is for Google’s pay-per-click ads, but usually, competition over a paid keyword is similar to the organic competition.
  • Google+ – I’m trying not to touch on social networks in this blog, but Google says that Google+ is not a social network (LOL) so I guess that means I can include it. Google+ is worth mentioning above other social networks anyway because +1s have such a high correlation with search engine ranking. So if you are trying to boost your rankings, be sure to include Google+ in your strategy.

News

There’s a number of ways to keep abreast of what’s going on in the SEO world. Twitter is my personal favorite because of its real-time nature. The following sites will keep you up to date as well, plus you can follow them on Twitter where they are constantly tweeting and retweeting industry news.

  • Search Engine Land – Search Engine Land helps keep you on top of the latest and greatest in SEO, search engine marketing (SEM), social media, and more.
  • Search Engine Watch – Very similar to Search Engine Land, if you stay on top of both of these news feeds, you are not likely to miss much.
  • Search Engine Roundtable – Another great SEO news hub, Search Engine Roundtable summarizes the most interesting and relevant discussions in SEO and SEM.

Tools

  • Moz.com – Moz is a treasure trove of information on SEO. Their blog is full of helpful articles about all aspects of SEO, for beginners and experts alike. They offer a series of tools and services, both paid and unpaid. We’ll stick to the free ones since everyone loves free stuff.
    • Getlisted.org – This Moz site helps you by checking popular online location databases like Yelp, FourSquare, Google+, Bing, Facebook, etc. for your business. It also facilitates claiming or creating your listings so that you can control the way your business is presented on these sites.
    • Open Site Explorer – Head over here and put your URL in the search bar to see free stats on links pointing to your site, Domain and Page Authority. It gives you a snapshot of your inbound link profile and what anchor text people are using to link to your site. A lot of the stats given are only previews to what you could see with the pro version, but still, it’s valuable information. ahrefs.com and Majestic SEO offer two other valuable and similar tools in this same vein. Like Open Site Explorer, they offer a limited but still valuable amount of information before asking you to upgrade for access to their full data.
    • MozBar – This is actually an extension that you can add to your browser. Click it when you are on any web page to see many of the same stats you saw in the Open Site Explorer. This tool helps you quickly judge the strength of a website with a single click.
  • SEMrush.com – A great site for keyword research (see my other blog about keyword research for more on the subject), SEMrush provides you with a glimpse (or the full view if you pay for it) of what your competitors are spending their SEM budget on. So if you need a starting point for keyword research, why not take a look at what the other guys are doing?
  • Points Group LLC – Not only are we SEO experts that you can sign on to help your business, but we consistently provide the community with helpful and totally free information on SEO through our blog. Check out posts by Adam Wormann and myself to see more SEO-related information.

This list is by no means comprehensive and is meant as a starting point for your SEO research. If you have other sites that you think are worth adding to the list, feel free to add them below in the comments.

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