All too many of us don’t really know what search engine optimization really entails, or what SEO consultants do. So whether you are an SEO specialist and just wanted to see if you have these essential skills, or you’re looking to hire an SEO for your own company, I think this is a good checklist to start off with:
1. Thorough Understanding of the Internet & Search Engines
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first. To be successful in any field, you have to have a thorough understanding of the overall industry. In the case of SEO, that means understanding how popular search engines such as Google and Bing work.
Moreover, it’s important to have a good grasp on on-page optimization (title tags, alt tags, H1, etc.), as well as the technical side too. I’m talking code like html, sitemaps, redirects, all that good stuff. If you’re not too comfortable with coding and such, I suggest taking a course from Codeacademy. It’s a great, easy to use, and extremely helpful site that teaches HTML, CSS, PHP, and much more.
2. Clear & Concise Communication
This may sound surprising, but a good part of doing SEO is spent creating high-quality content. It may come in the form of blog posts, whitepapers, infographics, etc. If you’re anything like me, I used to stereotype SEO and all things tech-related to be run by - excuse my language - nerds behind a computer with little to no writing skill. Boy, was I proven wrong! Rather, a big part of SEO work is about being creative – constantly coming up with engaging and relevant content that would appeal to the audience.
3. Social Media Skills
On top of creating the content, you then need to distribute it. One of the best ways to do so is to share your content through other social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+. Now distributing content may sound pretty straightforward – with a click of a button you’ll reach thousands! Au contraire. At the end of the day, SEO is about building lasting relationships as much as it is for traditional marketing. It’s not enough to simply post up content and expect your followers or fans to like, comment, and share it. For that to happen, you need to interact and engage with your following on a regular basis to build trust in the hope that they will become useful leads in the future.
4. Patience and Perseverance
You have to understand that at the end of the day, as much hard work, sweat, and effort you may put into a client may not result in the way you had hoped for due to external factors that are in no means your fault. As mentioned, SEO is an industry that is constantly changing. Just take a quick look at the ever-changing Google algorithm history of this past year! SEO experts must be able to deal with the fact that tactics and tricks that once worked a year, a month, or even a day ago may not work today. Rankings tend to fluctuate, or worse yet, seem to stay static and resistant to move despite all the optimization you’ve tried to implement. Regardless, as an SEO, you must press on in hopes that sooner or later, things will look up, literally.
5. Ability to Teach and Educate Others about SEO
Many people still don’t know or understand the importance of SEO. Many of who may very well be your potential clients. On the same line of being able to communicate effectively through your content, a successful SEO person must be able to teach others about SEO in terms that are digestible by common, everyday, folk. If you haven’t done so already, try to explain what SEO is to your family and friends and see how well they understood your teaching. After all, practice makes perfect, right?
More than simply being the head of Google’s Webspam team, Matt Cutts also educates Google users on a regular basis via tutorial-style videos. To answer some FAQs sent in by audiences, he takes what could have been a very technical concept into an easily understandable one through the use of visuals and demonstrations.
6. Thirst for Knowledge
Last, but certainly not least, a continual thirst for knowledge. This is the case for any industry, not just SEO. All too common, we undermine the importance of passion towards one’s work. It would be beyond difficult to possess any of the above-mentioned skills if you don’t truly believe in what you do. Imagine how dreadful it would be to have to come up with new content on topics you had absolutely no interest in? Or how would you teach others about something you’re not an expert in? The world of SEO is dynamic and constantly changing. And so it would be in your best interest to always be on the ball about the latest and greatest updates.