The Skill Set of a Search Engine Optimisation Specialist

Most jobs in the majority of industries require a specific skill set. Actors need to be able to act, while particle physicists require a scientific, analytical mind. Brick layers need to be able to work outdoors, but also think logically and artists must, for the most part, be able to draw. But what about a Search Engine Optimisation specialist?

Let’s start by going through a quick list of tasks that a top class SEO will be involved in and the skills that will be needed:

  • Competitor Analysis (Analytics)
  • On page optimisation (HTML and technical proficiency)
  • Outreach (Creative writing and social skills)
  • Creation of Link Bait (Design and creative conceptualisation)
  • Content Creation (Creative and technical writing)
  • Client and Team management (Social and management skills)

So, essentially this tells us that we’re looking for a mathematician who is keen on data analysis. At the same time they’re a web designer and developer who are able to do basic site updates and, when required, have the know-how to manage a developer and ensure they make any required changes. They’ll also be an excellent writer at a technical and creative level, but also have an understand of the psychology of site owners and be able to use this to write fantastic outreach emails – something I’ve had to do a huge amount recently when building links to the dog coats section of Pet365.

While all this is going on this person will be able to come up with ideas for things like infographics, research and analyse the facts that are needed, and be able to tell a designer exactly what it is that they need. This all goes on whilst working within a team, coming up with new ideas and, most importantly of all, managing at least one (but probably multiple) client(s).

That’s quite vast. In fact, when you think about it, this is a very rare set of skills indeed.

Maybe that’s why a good SEO is so hard to come by. Yes, there are hundreds of people that you can outsource some of these tasks to, but for someone to add true long term value they’ll need to get involved in every aspect of the optimisation process. Whether it be building a brand or generating leads for an e-commerce site, search engine optimisation is a long term and time consuming task. There are loads of shortcuts, many of which with risks far too high to be worth taking.

Let’s take link building as an example. The mental stamina required to build link after link, day after day, is simply immense. You’re talking to site owners, coming up with ideas on how to get them to link to you, sweet talking and designing content that you just know (hope) they’ll love. Then you get the link. You celebrate. You start all over again.

SEO is a new industry that’s changing at an incredibly fast rate. There are those out there trying to make an honest living from it, and there are those trying to manipulate the system. As time goes one the latter will die out and, for the most part, we’ll be left with the talent that is currently driving the industry. Do you have the skills to hack it?

Matt Beswick runs a number of e-commerce sites, distributes brands like Hamish McBeth throughout the UK, and loves to blog about all things SEO.

3 thoughts on “The Skill Set of a Search Engine Optimisation Specialist

  1. Thanks for the refreshing article. Very spot on. A broad skill set is definitely needed. I’m always learning and keeping up with SEO trends.

  2. I’d add Creativity as a major skill too. As is said, it’s an incredibly fast changing industry. A good SEO has to not only have an eye for the new tools, but how to use them in new ways.

  3. Yeah too bad that only 1 in 10 SEO “specialists” actually have these skills. It amazes me how often people lie about their qualifications because most clients don’t understand the first thing about SEO. That’s why communicating your value add is so important.

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