Learning the principles of SEO and using SEO tools well can be daunting for beginners. The alphabet soup of acronyms and industry jargon alone can take months, if not years, to understand. In addition to the learning curve associated with all the terminology, a beginner SEO needs to be careful to fill their tool belt with fundamental readings and tools. I’ve laid out some of the resources I made ample use of in my first couple years of work. I’ve often revisited the readings, and still make use of many of the tools daily.

Here are what I consider to be the essential readings and tools for learning SEO, in order of value:

Free Resources

SEOMoz Beginner’s Guide to SEO

My first boss had me read this guide several times before I was allowed to work on even the smallest site elements. Though written several years ago, SEOmoz has kept this one up to date. You can stick to perusing the guide online, or request a downloadable copy to be printed and read at your leisure.

After I read the guide above, I was expected to read the featured Moz blog post every day. After a week or two I was expected to be able to partake in commenting and discussing the latest with the authors and other community members.

The White Board Friday video posts are fun.

Among most digital marketing professionals I’ve spoken with, SEOmoz can do little wrong in the industry. I feel that the love for Moz stems from their open-book treatment of SEO strategy. They give away a lot of tactics that agencies might keep to themselves and openly strive to promote white-hat tactics.

Geoff Kenyon’s Technical Site Audit Checklist

This is a great tool checklist to use when performing site audits, or even just keeping track of best-practice tasks that need to continue through the life of a site. When I was freelancing, I might have used this in a white labeled format to present to clients my findings regarding the overall health of their sites.

w3schools HTML Tutorial

I consider this to be my favorite resource for html for those who are learning or need a refresher. Many SEOs today seem to have to learn HTML as they go, rather than have an understanding of it before they take on positions in digital departments. This is a great tutorial and will also provide a bunch of easy-to-reference “cheat sheets.” This particular link is for HTML basics, but w3schools has guides for all web design.

Screaming Frog

I used Screaming Frog and another similar tool, Xenu Link Sleuth, to create reports and benchmarks before I had access to other paid software and services. Now there are some enterprise level tools that do most of the scans and diagnostic checks automatically, but I still use Screaming Frog to manually dig through crawl errors, title tags, and other essential pieces of my sites.

TIP: Screaming Frog is a great resource for a beginner to do a single scan of a site and save it for reference. Use the results of this one scan to provide contextual reference when you learn new SEO terminology. When you are studying how to write better titles and descriptions, make sure to reference the scan of the property you are working on so you have a frame of reference in regard to what you are learning.

I say a single scan because if you make the rookie mistake of scanning a sight too many times in quick succession, it’s possible to set off security protocols that bog down your site’s performance — even trigger a distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS attack) on your own site.

Google Adwords Tool

Sure, this is designed to build keyword lists for PPC, but can also be a great quick easy tool for some top-level keyword research for SEO. Adwords keyword tool can help you gain relevant data relating to the amount of searches for a given term, as well as how many sites are targeting it.

Paid Resources

Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules by Mike Moran

This was one of the first print resources I purchased on the subject of digital marketing. It provides a great high-level look at the function of all the pieces of digital marketing(SEO, Paid Search, Social Media) and how they interplay. It also provides a great frame of mind in how to cope with successes and failures, learning from both in the process, and moving forward.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Secrets by Danny Dover and Erik Dafforn

This one is a fantastic guide written by SEOmoz former lead SEO. It’s easily accessible to beginners, but also provides some great know-how for the intermediate, or even expert, SEO.

With every profession, the key is always continuing your education. If you’re a beginner SEO, then start your education with this great set of resources to study and make use of while you work and learn.