How to Become an SEO Specialist
Is SEO Hard to Learn?
SEO is not that hard to learn, if you’re willing to put in the time and effort to learn the wide range of SEO concepts and tactics commonly used. To fully understand everything involved with SEO means learning about a long list of individual strategies, which can feel a bit like adding new weapons to your arsenal as you learn how to wield them. Total mastery requires not just this long list of technical skills, but also a deep understanding of the digital landscape and its trends, as well as a head for strategic thinking.
What Skills Do I Need to Become an SEO Expert?
To be a truly effective SEO Specialist, you’ll need to be strong in at least four different areas.
Technical SEO Skills
SEO Specialists use a number of technical tactics to boost their pageviews, including improving page loading times, optimizing HTML tags, metadata and microdata, and more. It goes without saying that, as an SEO Specialist, your first priority should be to get comfortable with the techniques and tools it takes to do the job.
But, as mentioned above, you don’t need to know them all before you begin trying things out. With even a single strategy in mind, you can begin dabbling in SEO, making changes and seeing what effect they have. It might take time to learn every SEO technique—they can often be simple in concept and difficult to execute—but if you think of SEO as a palette, it’s possible to begin painting right away, using as few or as many colors as you have available to you.
As your technical expertise grows over time, you’ll be able to do things like audit your ad click-throughs for fraud, or fine-tune the microdata in your HTML tags, or find ways to boost your page loading times. All of these techniques will give your SEO an edge—and there’s always something new to learn.
Analytical and Strategic Thinking
SEO is part art, part science. And, at least when it comes to the science side, it helps to have strong analytical skills—to be able to look at the data in front of you and understand what it means. As you continue to make tiny adjustments to your SEO, what’s working and what’s not? How might further changes have a stronger effect? What areas of interest are worth focusing on, and which trends are worth building on?
In many cases, the data will point the way—if you know how to read it. Analytics tools can help you do A/B testing, or see where your traffic is coming from. But often, the question of how you respond to that information has no clear answer. You’ll need to think critically about what techniques are appropriate and effective, and think strategically about how to apply your resources toward seeing the largest gains.
Communication and Interpersonal Skills
Working in SEO almost by definition means working as part of a team. For that reason, the same communication and interpersonal skills you’d need in any collaborative role are also valued in SEO Specialists. When you work in this field, leading team meetings, talking to clients, and giving presentations to other stakeholders are all par for the course.
But SEO Specialists also work hands-on with textual content. Connecting with an audience is a major part of the role, so knowing how to communicate well isn’t just an asset; it’s a necessity. Even if you’re not writing a website’s content yourself, you’ll very likely be finessing other writers’ work to boost specific keywords—not to mention writing headlines, abstracts, snippets, and captions—so your strong writing skills will definitely come into play.
Organization and Administrative Skills
There’s no escaping Excel. Given how research-intensive SEO is and how many different variables SEO Specialists weigh, excellent organization skills are a huge advantage. Even simple tasks like managing your budget will require at least basic administrative skills.
As you get deeper into research—including A/B testing, or conducting long-term analysis on the way your SEO strategy is affecting your traffic flows—keeping things organized becomes even more crucial. A knack for keeping your information in good order is a must, especially if you’re managing a team, or are responsible for oversight of the various activities you’re carrying out and the innumerable variables at play.
There are a few other attributes good SEO Specialists should have—creativity and an intuitive sense of what your audience wants, for example, as well as a thick skin (failure is a big part of the SEO process). But if you can demonstrate the technical expertise, a good head for strategy and analysis, and sound communication and organization skills, you’re already well on your way to becoming an SEO guru.
Kick-Start Your SEO Specialist Career
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