Six skills you’ll need in your SEO team
From the technical on-page factors to creative and people skills, it takes a broad mix of talent to excel at SEO.
That means there are big decisions to face when seeking out an SEO expert. Should you choose to go with a consultant with a range of broad skills? Or should you go deep with a specialist for the SEO task at hand? Or is it possible to get the best of both worlds with an SEO agency?
In this article, we’ll explore the six skills that your new SEO expert or SEO agency will need to have. They are:
- A strategic mindset
- Fluency in data analysis
- Technical ability
- Content savvy
- An eye for design
- A way with people
Read on to discover the importance of each and why you’ll need them in your new SEO team.
1. Strategic thinking
Of course, it’s no surprise SEO takes a healthy dose of strategic thinking.
Building up a business through SEO requires a long-term mindset. Too many SEO campaigns are still focussed on short term tactics. Sure, there may be quick wins for your business along the way. But the best results from SEO come many months, if not years, down the track.
The rewards of a long term strategy are great. According to Google research, online information is the first source of product awareness for 58 per cent of consumers. And 80 per cent use search engines when looking for local businesses.
The businesses that take the top position in search results take a proportionally large share of customers. The number one position gets 33 per cent of search traffic, while second place receives almost half as much. Few users make it past the first page of results.
A good strategy starts with identifying business goals, understanding the competitive landscape, then putting together a plan to get there. For instance, your SEO strategy will need to consider:
- What are the most valuable keywords for your organisation?
- Who is your target audience and what are their interests?
- What informational content is the most valuable to produce?
- What partnerships will you need to develop?
The next step is to document these elements so you can measure, learn and iterate your strategy. And that’s where data analysis comes in.
2. Data analysis
Data analysis is an essential element of SEO. First, your team needs to build a strategy based on data – from keyword research and content performance to backlink and competitor analysis.
Second, your team needs to measure the progress of your SEO strategy. As the business, you need to know when your SEO strategy is working – and when it needs to change. To achieve this, your SEO team will need to know their way around the standard suite of analytics tools, plus any on the cutting edge.
Of course, the industry standard in web analytics is Google Analytics. But there are plenty of other SEO tools, such as SEMrush and Majestic SEO, which are helpful for understanding backlink profiles and performing competitor analysis.
Being able to analyse this data is one thing. But getting it together in the first place can be another.
Website conversion tracking and tagging are ways to get the most out your analysis and customising the level of insights you can get access to. And that means an understanding of tools like Google Tag Manager are vital in your SEO team.
Setting up these tools enters another key skill set in the SEO toolkit – technical web knowledge and coding skill.
3. Technical web knowledge
Most of those familiar with SEO will know about on-page technical optimisation. This is the structure and setup of web pages so they’re crawlable by search engines. And if pages can be easily read by search engines, they're more likely to be ranked.
This is an key part of SEO. Your experts need to dive into the content management system to check for page structure, errors, tags and tracking elements. Then they need to know how to fix problems when they arise.
But a deep level of technical knowledge goes further – it helps your SEO team communicate with web developers. Having this shared language with your developers is important. Developing a logical information architecture (IA), for instance, will require technical knowledge to communicate the SEO needs to the web development team.
And finally, the SEO team should have some technical knowledge in configuring web servers and domains. Everything from web redirects to SSL and security certificates – and knowing how to set these up – are all potential SEO problems your team will need to solve.
4. Copywriting and content savvy
While there is a heavy technical side to SEO, modern SEO also requires a creative flair.
At this stage, your team may have identified keywords and segmented your audience. They’ve worked with your developer to ensure your website has a logical sitemap, URL and page structure. Google Analytics, tagging and tracking have also been set up correctly.
Now, it's time to attract organic traffic.
But first, Google needs a reason to rank your website. And for that, you’ll need content and copywriting savvy. Producing effective web content will depend on the goal of the page and where it sits within the marketing funnel – that is, how close your web users are to making a purchase.
For prospects that are close to buying, sales copy on a product or service page will be the most effective tactic. This kind of writing is persuasive or ‘conversion’ driven. It often assumes that a reader is aware of their problem and offers a product or service as the solution.
Conversion copywriting works by conveying the benefits of the product or service while explaining various features when necessary. Once the copy has delivered the messages to the reader, the final trigger is the ‘call to action’ – the moment where the reader takes an action, such as accepting a unique offer.
But not every potential customer is ready to make a purchase. They may still be researching various solutions. Or they may not be fully aware of their problem. This is where the strengths of content marketing come into play – creating valuable, information content for users in the research phase. This kind of content could be educational, entertaining or inspiring and is often published on a company blog or resources section.
The reason this content is so effective for SEO is that the reader may not fully understand their problem or they may not be aware of the solution. The role here is to be 'discoverable' for keywords and queries as potential customers search the web, then educate them honest, reliable information.
With well-placed call-to-actions, your content marketing efforts should convince a portion of that traffic to take the next step, such as signing up to a direct marketing newsletter. And once they’re in the next step of the funnel, the sales messages can begin. And the work of SEO is done.
5. An eye for design
Isn’t SEO all about content, links and code? In short, no. Having an eye for design, as well as being familiar with tools such as Photoshop and content management systems (CMSs), are surprisingly essential for an SEO team.
Once you’ve invested in creating SEO content and optimising on-page technical elements, traffic will begin to flow to your website. But SEO isn’t just about getting the traffic. It’s getting the right traffic and enticing them to convert into customers.
That’s where design comes in.
To make web pages and content appealing for inbound traffic, there needs to be graphics, icons, imagery and well-styled typography and colours. Your business needs to inspire trust and credibility, or your organic traffic will bounce right off the page and head off to the competition.
Even just an eye for detail when formatting and publishing content goes a long way. Simply put, design is a critical element to making a great first impression and adding to the user's experience.
6. A way with people
Getting backlinks pointing to your website is one of the top SEO ranking factors. And acquiring top quality links requires working with people and identifying unique opportunities. That means a publicist's intuition on your SEO team will go a long way in driving business outcomes.
After all, most of ‘link building’ should be focussed on building great relationships and opening up new business opportunities. The ultimate goal of SEO is, after all, about building your business, not getting backlinks to your site.
That means your team has to see emerging opportunities and have the know-how to communicate with the right people.
What are the opportunities for building site authority? It may be coming across a new off-site editorial opportunity. Or it might be providing comment to the media about a news event. It could even be ensuring all your suppliers, partners and affiliations are linking back to your site.
With Google’s sophisticated algorithm measuring the quality of backlinks, these skills are more necessary than ever. And with these new relationships come new sources of traffic or potential business partnerships.
Finding the right skills in your SEO team
Simply put, SEO is a practice that requires a set of skills that are broad. And each area needs a certain level of specialisation to achieve truely expectional results. It's unlikely to find all the right skills with a single SEO specialist.
For businesses needing to take a serious step in SEO, it’s worth speaking with an SEO agency. The right SEO agency can offer both a broad set of skills combined with deep expertise and experience. Ask the right questions to ensure that they have the necessary mix of skills to help your business achieve its goals.