What kind of skills do search engine optimizers need to succeed in today’s marketplace? Should SEOs be siloed into doing just SEO and close themselves out from other marketing skills? Or should the new kind of SEO should be jack of all trades and also the master of all trades?
The modern day SEO should be an integrated SEO digital marketer – one who knows about on-page SEO and other integrated tactics.
Whether you're considering working in the SEO industry, or you're looking to hire an SEO, there are five must-have SEO skills. Let’s run through these five skills one by one and discuss why they are important.
If you think SEO is all about keyword research and then wordsmithing (think stuffing) them on a page, then you’re in for a surprise. That’s not what it’s all about.
SEO is about making websites better at both the page and server level in a structured way to enhance their chances of being found on search engines, with the eventual goal of generating traffic and conversion.
Yes, knowing on-page optimization (e.g., title tags, alt tags, H1, copy optimization) is helpful but it's more critical to understand the technical side of SEO, such as code. You can win your IT battles easily if you’re well-versed with technical SEO.
Go ahead and learn everything related to technical SEO, including server-side settings, sitemaps, server response codes, rewrites, and more.
Understanding both page-level optimization and server-level optimization is what makes a rounded SEO practitioner.
Social Media Marketing
Does a day go by when you don't hear about social media? Not in this wired world.
Social media skills shouldn't be limited to maintaining accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, but actually driving traffic from social sites. Traffic generating exercises that can help you develop into a well-rounded SEO include creating fan acquisition strategies, working on building Twitter followers, and optimizing videos on YouTube.
Yes, leveraging social media tactics for link building is critical, but the modern SEO needs to generate traffic and acquire customers through social media. Increasingly, we're seeing synergies between SEO and social media and this integration is only increasing. I had also written about ways SEO can start working with social media managers here.
Create an action plan around this skill and start working on it today.
With the rise in social media platforms over the past few years the opportunities to build links has increased tremendously.
Now we have traditional (legitimate) ways of building links like good old-fashioned directories, association sites, credible high PR sites, and so on. These links are also known as permanent links with a longer “shelf life” than say temporal type of links acquired through social media channels (e.g., content syndication, blogs, Twitter, bookmarking).
The other side is internal link optimization – not just on your own properties but also on social media platforms such as your Facebook page. With so much content created by your internal social media team, internal link optimization could be the low-hanging fruit you want to go after.
It's critical for SEOs to be skilled in both external link building and internal link optimization.
Usability & Information Architecture
SEOs should value the importance of good site usability. Site usability implies how your objects are placed on your page and if the information you provide on your site is useful for the users and if your site is easy to use and navigate.
Learning about information architecture is critical as well since it’s all about how you organize content on your site, decide on your folder structure, and how you label elements on your site. This is often an area where SEOs make mistakes especially when they take a keyword approach to IA.
Again, as competition increases and attention span of users decreases, it's important to not let your visitors drop off your site.
This skill is critical for SEOs to learn and make that part of their arsenal. Good resources to learn on this topic is Peter Morville’s Information Architecture for the Modern Web and my interview with Shari Thurow on information architecture and SEO
Content is really what engages users and is a great way to get visitors into your marketing funnel, so it's essential as an SEO you possess this skill. Content marketing can be divided into two main tasks: content creation and content distribution.
An SEO need to be well versed with both pieces of content marketing strategy, especially content creation. You may come across situations when there will be lots of excitement in your company to create content – from bizarre content creation ideas ("Let’s create 1 million new pages!") to ideas that have keyword stuffing written all over it.
As an SEO, it's your job to act as a gatekeeper and support content ideas that can add value to search engines and users. Basic skills like keyword research, finding content gaps, and distributing your content will come in handy.
SEO as an industry has matured. There is an increased focus on results and ROI.
A deep understanding of web analytics and metrics is a given. But the above listed skills are few must-haves for any SEO or would-be SEO.
It’s your turn now, which other skills would you add to the list?
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!