We are flattered when we are asked to present a workshop or class on SEO. And then our immediate reaction is, “We have only HOW much time to present?!” While SEO isn’t something that can be learned in one sitting, it IS something that business owners and marketers can grasp and work to their advantage. Here are some of the absolute best guides and tools to getting a handle on search engine optimization:

Intro to SEO

The Beginner’s Guide to SEO – SEOMoz
Rand Fishkin of SEOMoz is one of the original gurus (godfathers?) of SEO, and his sage and time-worn advice has proven itself again and again. He also has a great sense of humor. This is, in our opinion, the best introduction to SEO that we know of. Good stuff.

What is SEO? – Search Engine Land
Danny Sullivan’s Search Engine Land is one of THE original sources for all news and knowledge about the world of search engine marketing, which it’s been tracking since the late 90’s. The site’s “What is SEO?” section includes a ton of great education, including an introductory three-minute video and a cool “Periodic Table” of ranking factors.

Local Search Ranking Factors – David Mihm
How to get your local business, or any location, to rank on the first page of local Google listings (now known as Google Places for Business, formerly known as Google Local and before that Google Maps) remains for some one of the great mysteries, if not frustrations, of the SEO game. This is hands down the best, most thorough and well-researched guide for getting those local listings going.

Keyword Research and Ranking Tools

Market Samurai
Market Samurai is one of our keyword research tools of choice. A great and mostly intuitive system for conducting targeted keyword research (after you brainstorm all of your search terms with your team, of course!)

SEMRush
A great all-around Swiss Army Knife for the serious search marketer, SEMRush offers both organic (SEO) and paid (PPC) tools. Here, we point attention to its keyword research platform and also its competitive research feature, which lets you see what keywords your competitors are ranking for. (Note: not free, but it’s good stuff.)

SEOMoz
Yes, those guys again. In addition to offering up lots of great educational and “how to” content, SEOMoz also offers one of the best platforms for tracking the rank and placement of your chosen keywords. It also is a great way to keep track of your linkbuilding. Not free, but offers a 30-day trial.

Linkbuilding

Google Places for Business
There is a ton of advice any SEO will give you about linkbuilding. But the first and most important thing to do is to CLAIM your listing on Google Places for Business. This simply means building out a simple profile for your business. Anyone can and should do it. (NOTE: You should also claim your listings on the Bing and Yahoo! search engines, as well.)

A Beginner’s Guide to Unsuccessful Linkbuilding – Search Engine Journal
Search Engine Journal or SEJ is like Search Engine Land one of the primary watchdogs of the SEO industry. This relatively short post is a great way to approach linkbuilding and what NOT to do.

Analytics

Learning Google Analytics¬†–¬†Google
How do you know if you know if your SEO is working? To coin an old adage, you have to know where you’re starting from to get where you’re going. The best way for most small and medium businesses to do that is by installing Google Analytics. It’s totally free and easy to integrate into your site. Google itself offers plenty of great resources for adopting and using Google Analytics.

Occam’s Razor - Avinash Kaushik
Do you get kind of nerdy when it comes to digging into numbers like we do? Then you’ll want to check out the Occam’s Razor blog. It’s not really for beginner’s, but it’s a great snapshot at how analytics can and should be used.

General Resources

Matt Cutts
Matt Cutts is the head of Google’s Webspam team, but don’t let that somewhat abstract title fool you. Matt Cutts is probably Google’s most important public ambassador about how the Google search engine works, what it thinks and where it’s going. Most of his posts are pretty down to earth, and he is personable and funny.