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How to Upskill Yourself in SEO


Sara Taher

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SEO is one of the most demanding roles in the marketing industry. It’s ironic, since in the past, SEOs were often considered non-essential roles inside corporations. But today, most marketers and business leaders are aware - finally - of how important and impactful SEO can be. But in order to make an impact and drive results in this ever-changing ecosystem, the skill sets required for SEOs are evolving faster than ever and we need to keep up!

People often ask me about how to go about upskilling and further developing their SEO knowledge. Maybe you’ve learned the basics, done keyword research, a few technical audits, even executed link-building campaigns, but still feel like there’s a lot to learn. You’re right there is, but before I tell you how to cover those knowledge gaps and keep up with the industry, there are two things you need if you want to be successful in your SEO career (and probably any career you’re looking to grow in): a plan, and the discipline to see it through.

1# A Plan

I think the biggest misconception about growing in your career (or learning anything new) is thinking there’s a hack, a shortcut, or a workaround. Well, there isn’t. To upskill yourself in SEO you need to have a solid plan. 

Here’s how I do it:

  • Block out specific times in your calendar for learning. Don’t leave learning to chance. 

  • Decide what you want to learn in this blocked time. This might be the industry's latest trends and developments; a new course you’re taking; practising Python; etc. Make a decision. 

  • When you block out time, make sure you are being realistic rather than overly optimistic. You want a plan that you can stick to. If you plan in too many learning slots, one of two things can happen: either you will stick to it and get burned out very quickly, or you won’t stick to it, and get demotivated - and in both cases, you’ll likely drop your growth plan altogether! We don’t want that to happen.

  • Bonus tip: discuss with your manager/employer the possibility of dedicating an hour every week to learning during your work hours. This makes sense since your new skills will be utilised in your day-to-day work. This will also help reduce your work outside office hours and/or on the weekends.

2# Discipline

Motivation is nonsense! If you’re going to wait until you feel motivated you may well be waiting forever. Discipline is required to deliver what you said you’d do, when you said you’d do it - regardless of whether you feel like it or not. 

But how do you develop this discipline? For me, the key has been to develop “growth habits”; an idea I discovered via James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits. I highly recommend you read Atomic Habits yourself, but for now, here’s a quick primer on creating new habits:

The development of any habit proceeds through four stages: cue, craving, response, and reward.

  1. Cue:
    Identify a trigger that will remind you to perform the habit. This could be a specific time of day, a location, or an action that you do regularly. This can also be a reminder on your phone.

  2. Craving:
    Create a desire or craving for the habit. This could be achieved by visualising the benefits of the habit or associating it with a positive feeling. Use sticky notes to remind yourself why you are doing this. You can also couple your learning time with something else you really like - e.g. drinking your favourite coffee, or by spending your learning time in a nearby cafe that you love.

  3. Response:
    Make it as easy as possible to consistently perform this habit by removing any barriers or obstacles that might get in the way. 

  4. Reward:
    Reward yourself for completing the habit. This could be a small treat or a positive affirmation. The reward should be something that reinforces the habit and makes you want to do it again.

Here’s what I do: 

  1. Cue:
    I’ve  assigned a specific time of the day that I dedicate to learning and catching up with SEO trends and news. 

  2. Craving:
    I remind myself of how useful this time is for me and how much I get out of it - for instance, it’s often the case that during this time I pick up new things that I use later in my projects. I also tie this time to when I have my morning tea, so I get to have tea while I’m learning new things.

  3. Response:
    I set up my workspace, notebook, and everything I need to be ready for me when it's learning time. I also know what I’m going to be doing beforehand, so when learning time comes, all I need to do is sit down and start.

  4. Reward:
    For me, sharing is the greatest reward - I like to share what I’ve learned with others in my company, and/or my SEO friends. There are tons of Slack groups where you can share the new things you’ve picked up!

Now, let's start building out your plan.

In addition to setting aside dedicated time for learning new skills, I also like to spend a little time consuming content to keep me up-to-date with the latest developments in the industry. Here’s what I like to do: 

Weekly SEO Industry Catch-Up

  • I dedicate some time at the beginning of my week (15 minutes max) to check out the weekly video recaps by Barry Schwarz. They are a great way to catch up, especially if you’ve been away on vacation and want to quickly find out what happened last week in search. 

  • Throughout the week, I use my personal Twitter account to bookmark any articles and posts I want to check out during my learning time. Each week I dedicate 10 minutes to reading anything (SEO-related) I bookmarked during the previous week. 

  • And of course, I read the following newsletters:

Special SEO Skills/Gaps to Fill 

Make a list of the top skills or areas you want to learn more about. You can also include courses you’ve seen people recommend on social media, or courses on LinkedIn Learning if you have access to them.

You won’t be able to do everything all at once- you’ll need to prioritise.

Ask yourself:
what is the one skill or area of development that would make the biggest difference for you, and start with that.

Now that you have an idea of “what” you want to learn, it’s time to execute!

Weekly Power Hour (Learning Hour)

As I mentioned earlier, I recommend dedicating one hour per week to learning new skills.  (You can work up from there if you feel you have the capacity and energy for more, but the key here is to build a consistent habit - one hour per week, every week, is better than five hours per week for a week or two before you abandon the habit altogether).

The thing about learning is that

the goal is not to go through as much material as you can. The goal is to process what you learn in a way that you can use it.
This takes time. So, after one hour of pure learning, you’ll probably need the rest of the week to process those new concepts and let them “sink in” sufficiently in order to be able to use them in your day-to-day work.


  • Pick a day and a time. It does not have to be at the beginning of your day, maybe you want to do learning at the end of your day. This is a good idea if you don’t have many personal/family commitments at this time. Block that time out in your calendar, and protect it.

  • I regret every time I listened to something for educational purposes and did not take notes. Take notes, always take notes. Note taking helps you absorb the new information, and it means you’ve something to refer back to at a later date. 

  • Your power hour might be spent as follows:

    • 30 minutes for industry news/trends

    • 30 minutes learning something new (e.g. working through a video course).

This is simple, yet very effective in my opinion. Remember, less is more.

  • At the end of each power hour, ask yourself what tactics you learned today that you will be using. This is very important. SEO is a hands-on field of work and you need to translate your learning into action.

    So make sure at the end of each power hour, that you have at least one actionable thing for you to try out in the coming week.

Some Mistakes I Made, So (Hopefully) You Don’t Have To! 

  • Trying to do too many things all at once. You will see courses, blog posts, podcasts and so much great content that you’ll want to consume and you’ll get excited about all of this.

    But you need to focus and narrow down what you are working on at any given time.
    Don’t spread yourself too thinly by working on a bunch of different courses at the same time. Focusing on one key area at a time is so much better. Also, all these new things you want to learn will still be there when you’re ready for more!

  • Not having a realistic plan. When I started learning Python, I dedicated one hour every day. While this worked for a while and helped me pick things up quickly, it was not sustainable.

    Having a realistic, and sustainable plan which you can stick to will help you continue following it.

  • Find a study buddy. I wouldn’t call this a mistake, but I don’t have a study buddy. Having someone to connect with - even via chat - and reflect/discuss what you learned, or just to keep each other accountable is helpful.

General Productivity Tips

  • If you’re struggling to manage your time, and it’s stressing you out, it likely means you’re trying to squeeze too much in. Take a step back and analyse what’s going on - have you over-committed yourself, or been unrealistic about the amount of time you can reasonably devote? 

  • Understand when your energy levels are high, and when they’re not. Some people have more energy and focus in the morning, and some people are better able to focus late at night. Most people experience peak alertness before noon, an energy dip after lunch, and a second wind in the late afternoon [source]. Block your power hour around the time you have the most energy. 

  • Avoid interruptions and distractions. Don’t bring your phone with you to your power hour. Don’t check your email, or do anything that is not part of your learning plan. Focus, focus, focus.

Hope you found this useful. Thanks for reading and happy learning!

Sara Taher

Sara Taher - SEO Manager, Workleap

Sara Taher is an SEO Consultant based in Canada. She has been doing SEO since 2014. She's an SEO speaker and author and, previously, a startup founder. Sara specializes in enterprise, SaaS, and ecommerce SEO.

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