SEO marketing has been around for decades, but it’s still not taught in most colleges.
There are many backgrounds for SEO professionals. There are many backgrounds for search optimization professionals. Some are programmers and others are entrepreneurs. Others are traditional marketers and journalists.
I interview many candidates for open positions in SEO throughout the course of my career.
Although there is no one set of SEO skills that everyone needs, there are some things that I do look for depending on their experience and the position.
Simply put, I am looking for someone who can provide me with a solid foundation in development, marketing, content, and a data-driven, results-driven thought process.
This should be obvious if you have read the article on interviewing.
Let’s now talk about the most important skills to succeed in SEO.
This is not an exhaustive list and there are many people who have succeeded with these skills. But what fun would a list without controversy?
These are the eight most important skills I look for in an SEO.
This can be difficult to measure but small business marketing professionals need to be able distinguish between correlation and causation.
I need an SEO who can analyze data and determine the “3 Whats”
- What happened?
- What happened?
- How to deal with it.
Although there are many methods to do this, I don’t ask them to find the fastest way to cross a bridge using a shared flashlight.
Instead, I will ask hypothetical interview questions to gain insight into their thinking process.
Here are some sample interview questions: “Assume that you and the client disagree about what to do. Please walk me through the meeting and explain your approach.
Another is “Account just emailed to a client’s brand new website. They are interested in our SEO services. What are your first two priorities?
This can be measured by asking them what their biggest problem was, how they identified it and how they solved it.
These questions have no right or wrong answers, but they give me an insight into a candidate’s thinking process and how they approach problems.
I want them to understand the problem from all angles and use logic and data in their decision-making.
Speaking and Writing Skills
An online marketing professional can conduct their own keyword research and write content that includes them.
This isn’t about just writing articles or speaking at conferences.
An SEO must convince clients and internal teams to do the right things. This requires speaking at meetings, writing decks, case studies and other forms of communication. All of these require speaking and writing skills.
SEO requires confidence as well as the ability to simplify complex ideas into simple concepts that people who are not SEO experts can understand and use to make decisions.
Technical and Programming Skills
There will be much debate over this. It’s equally likely that there are tons of SEO professionals doing amazing work right now, even though they have no programming knowledge.
They could do even better with programming skills.
We make recommendations as SEO professionals about page speed, rendering and server side redirects.
These conversations are easier when you have the opportunity to speak with the developer, and give insights rather than making demands.
It is amazing helpful to understand the motivations of developers when they push back.
It is important to estimate the effort required versus the SEO impact.
SEO pros don’t need to know how to code. However, they must understand the implications of any changes they request and what this means for developers. They also need to understand common objections and mistakes, as well as how to overcome them.
An SEO professional cannot simply copy and paste a Google page speed report to developers. It is important to fully understand the changes, their implications for your site, and the effort required to make them.
Technical knowledge can also make your life easier, whether you’re writing a Python script to add hreflang automatically to your XML sitemap, or a scraper to collect data.
Search engines are evolving to incorporate more machine learning and NLP. There are many cool things that an SEO professional can do with the data sets we have and some python NLP libraries.
SEO programmers today are doing amazing work with code and data that is helping them gain insights and win more work.
Over drinks, a friend and me had one of the most profound conversations. We discussed how to code a search engine that uses only those ranking factors.
We looked at how to crawl these signals, how to index them, and how to use them for ranking. It was obvious which ones were impossible to work on site or query level.
We were able to understand the limitations and possibilities of information retrieval thanks to our programming skills and previous coursework. This is a huge advantage.
Many SEO professionals still make claims daily about how algorithms work. However, any computer scientist would be able to tell you that these claims are not true.
Through my career, I have made many great connections and learned so much by simply hanging out at conferences or socializing with other SEO professionals – even virtual.
However, to do this, you must not be a creep. You also need to be able socially to get along with others.
The best conversations take place in conference halls, meet and greets, and events. These events may involve alcohol.
You must keep your behavior under control if you decide to attend these events.
All of us have heard about the one person who is inappropriate. Be the opposite. Many smart SEO professionals have let their careers down by their actions at bars and on social media.
Remember: The conference or hotel bar is not the best place to search for a date.
This is a great forum to discuss SEO tactics and theory.
SEO professionals sometimes share tips and tricks in a private and relaxed setting without tweeting or live blogging.
The majority of people attending an SEO event don’t care about politics or hearing about the one problem that applies only to your site. It takes 10 minutes to explain it (unless you’re purchasing the food/drinks).
They will be delighted to hear about exciting and new things that you have done.
To be successful as a public-facing seo, do you need to attend conferences or other events? It’s not necessary. You can’t be rude if you do this stuff.
It is possible for SEO professionals to save time by logging into Google Analytics or Adobe Analytics and pulling their own data.
Proper SEO strategy requires a basic understanding of KPIs for businesses.
My teams have the option to become Adobe Analytics and Google Analytics certified. Even if they don’t pull the data, understanding is helpful. However, most of us end up pulling it.
You’re missing valuable insights if you can’t pull or segment data.
This section was called “excel skills” when I wrote it. But, it’s more than that.
It’s not enough to just pull the data. Sometimes, you have to modify the data a little to gain the insights that you want.
Many SEO professionals can’t even do simple tasks in Excel.
Every SEO professional should have a toolbox that includes Concatenates and Vlookups.
Over the course my career, I have created many Excel templates that solve everyday problems.
Excel excel is invaluable, whether it’s turning a Screaming Frog crawl in to an XML sitemap or measuring algorithm changes and how they impact GA/Adobe data. Excel can also be used to quickly bucket keywords from search console into brand/nonbrand or product groups.
Excel is no longer sufficient.
A true SEO professional can create dashboards in Data Studio, use different APIs to pull additional data (search console and google NLP), and be familiar enough with databases to do cool things with the data.
It is worth mentioning R, Python, and Tableau.
Math is also included in this category. There are still so many statistical analyses and correlation studies that don’t say what they claim.
An SEO can benefit from a basic understanding of statistical concepts to help determine what to measure and “how” to do it.
One example is: Looking at clicks monthly during a pandemic could tell a completely different story than looking at CTRs for the same period when demand fluctuates due to external forces.
Drive, motivation & adaptability
It’s not a job that ends at 5 p.m. That is what I love and hate about SEO
Marketing is not something you can leave behind at night. It lives in your brain.
You must have the inner drive to learn and excel in SEO.
There’s always something new to learn, whether it’s a new programming language or a brand new framework (WordPress, Angular, React, etc), a brand new standard for search engines like Schema, understanding machine learning, or a new programming language.
My top-ranked candidates are those who own their own websites or make their very own tools to solve problems.
Example: Use the webmaster tools API for data extraction and report formatting. That person was just hired.
SEO requires flexibility and thick skin. We have to change with the industry, so sometimes clients will need to accept that some of our old recommendations, such as directory submissions or PageRank sculpting, or link disavows are no longer relevant.
I’m looking for a candidate who will be willing to admit their mistakes and put aside their ego. It’s okay to be wrong. This doesn’t mean we are less knowledgeable or experts. This is how science works.
It’s all about the client’s goals – sometimes more than SEO revenue opportunities. (I promised you that I would start an argument in the tweets leading to this article.
A Sense Of Humor
There are many ups and downs within the SEO industry, and they happen often at a rapid pace.
Sometimes it’s helpful to take a step back, remember that we’re not saving lives. We’re simply marketing.
Although the job is stressful, it can usually be done tomorrow. Our jobs will be more enjoyable and productive if we have a sense of humor.