Learn SEO like a pro: The 5 best books to get you started

Quick reads with expert insights.

Learn SEO like a pro: The 5 best books to get you started

I’ve spent the better part of the last 5 years learning SEO, and I still feel like I’m only scratching the surface.

Along the way, I’ve encountered a few resources that had an outsized impact on my growth. Five of those were SEO books — titles written by industry experts with tips and tricks that dramatically improved my marketing skills.

In this article, I want to share the names of these books along with my biggest takeaways from each one.

If you want additional SEO resources, such as articles, free online courses, and more, check out Learning Content.
  1. SEO 2023 by Adam Clarke
  2. Doing Content Right by Steph Smith
  3. They Ask, You Answer by Marcus Sheridan
  4. Product-Led SEO by Eli Schwartz
  5. The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout

SEO 2023

For the past decade, Adam Clarke has released a new edition of his book every year. This consistency has made it a staple in the industry, especially for beginners looking to break into the field.

This is the first book I recommend because it provides one of the most digestible overviews of the SEO landscape in a simple-to-understand format. There are plenty of images, definitions, and examples so that any reader can go from complete novice to informed beginner in just a few hours' time.

SEO terms like indexing, readability, load speed, SSL, and more all have unique importance within ranking techniques. And the sooner you understand what these words mean, the sooner you'll be able to piece together how organic growth works.

Biggest Takeaway: Learning the language of SEO will speed up your success.

Doing Content Right

I like to say that content and SEO go hand-in-hand like peanut butter and jelly. Search bots, the technology used to interpret what a page is about, need context. They rely on signals to influence their evaluation.

Great content delivers the right signals in the right order.

Doing Content Right

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Just like Adam Clarke's book is an excellent starting point for SEO language, Steph Smith's is the same for content marketing. In it, you'll learn how evergreen content works, the strategy to niching down effectively, why distribution is key, and how different types of content monetize best.

Even as someone who’s been getting paid to write online for almost 15 years, I learned something new in every chapter.

content marketing framework
Here's an example of the types of charts included in her book.
Biggest Takeaway: It’s not just what you write that matters. It’s writing it in a way your customers want to read it.

They Ask, You Answer

Before we dive into another SEO-only book, it’s worth recommending one more content-focused one.

They Ask You Answer

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As you develop your SEO and marketing skills, things will inevitably become more complex. You’ll see how multiple strategies could all work in a single situation or how the pros of one initiative could negate the impact of another.

At this point, people tend to fall into one of two traps. They either freeze up, stall their decision-making, and lose opportunities. Or they do the opposite and start to throw every piece of spaghetti they can find to see what sticks, and quickly burn through their energy and resources.

The answer is to create a filter. A guiding principle that will help you sort through what’s worth doing. For me, Marcus Sheridan’s book became that filter. His customer-centric approach to content taught me how to prioritize my efforts so that, at the end of the day, the customer would win.

Because even if that loses us a sale in the short term, the long-term trust it builds will always reap greater rewards.

Biggest Takeaway: The best content strategies are selfless. Help others win, and you’ll win in the process.

Product-Led SEO

Once you have the basics in place — such as SEO terminology and what factors make quality content — it's time to step to the next level.

Product-Led SEO

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Thus far, most of our reads have been tactical. They've helped us optimize web pages, articles, and adopt the mindset required for successful execution. The next stage is about putting all of these pieces together.

How does one choose what to optimize, build, or publish? And how do we know those actions will accomplish what the business needs (i.e., drive revenue)?

This is where Eli Schwartz comes in. With decades of experience as a consultant, he helps readers evolve from tactical precision to strategic prowess.

For me, this was the resource I needed to move from being a great individual contributor to someone who could formulate, communicate, and manage a long-term plan as a senior leader.

Biggest Takeaway: You need to see the 10,000-foot view of your SEO plan to achieve the 10x results that are available.

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing

My last recommendation may seem like a weird pick, but it has been my secret weapon as I grew into SEO leadership.

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing

See price on Amazon

Most SEO training and conversations happen downstream. Google and other search engines make changes, new best practices are announced, and professionals adjust accordingly.

But when you think about it, every search engine merely tries to replicate what a human thinks, feels, and desires when evaluating digital content. The better they do that, the better results they can deliver to users.

So, as an SEO, my ultimate guide isn't the search engine companies but the users they are trying to satisfy. And this is where our book comes in.

Al Ries and Jack Trout’s classic work on marketing introduces readers to the simple levers that influence people. In less than 150 pages, they offer one of the best libraries of persuasion anyone has ever put together. Integrating their principles into your marketing strategy will make all the difference.

Biggest Takeaway: Good SEOs study algorithms. Great SEOs study people.

SEO is a human discipline

Things are always moving at the speed of light on the internet. Which also makes it feel like you can never catch up.

Trust me; I've felt this too.

But as I developed my skills, I started seeing how much didn’t change. That's why I recommended the five books above. These will help you sort through the noise and carve out an SEO strategy that's solid, effective, and profitable.

One that acknowledges the shifting nature of technology while going all in on the unchanging needs of humans.