Whenever you join discussions where jobs are mentioned, the term “specialist” always seems to lend more weight to a particular designation. Additionally, jobs that are generally seen as specializations are somehow regarded more highly than regular jobs. Take surgeons, for example. It seems instinctive in people to afford more respect to them than to general practitioners.
Even in the world of Internet marketing, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) professionals have taken to calling themselves SEO “specialists.” But is SEO really as specialized as you believe it to be? Are the skills needed to become a truly great SEO professional focused solely on optimization, or are there skills commonly associated with other fields you need to develop as well? Is it really a good idea to adopt a specialist approach to SEO, or would you be better served by taking a more generalist approach?
If you take a close look at the working environment of today, regardless of the field, you will notice that there has recently been a gradual and subtle shift towards combining general and specialized knowledge in order to truly excel in a given field. In SEO, the fields of marketing and programming are bound to intersect. And even if they don’t actually meet, their interaction in whatever form will always be essential to SEO success. As an SEO professional, therefore, you will have to embrace certain skills associated with both programming and marketing.
To better understand why you need a healthy combination of both programming and marketing skills in order to succeed in SEO, it pays to first understand what SEO is all about. Simply put, SEO is the embodiment of the marketing strategies and techniques you use to increase your online conversions by maximizing the web traffic you get from organic searches. When you do SEO, you are generally trying to rank well for non-branded keywords so people who are not yet aware of your existence will get the chance to learn about you.
The more web traffic you get from organic searches as a result of ranking well for non-branded keywords, the higher brand awareness is likely to be. And the higher brand awareness is, the higher the chances are of increasing online conversions. The more conversions you get, the higher the demand is likely going to be for your brand. This is indeed good news for your business because it strengthens your brand and does much to help grow your business.
Must-Have Skills for SEO Professionals
Now let’s talk about what specific skills an SEO professional must have in order to succeed in the field. As mentioned earlier, you cannot rely solely on online marketing skills. You also need to acquire some technical skills commonly found in programmers if you really want to benefit fully from your SEO efforts. Here are the top 7 traits and skills you should develop in order to ensure success in SEO:
- An Analytical Mind
This may not strictly be a technical trait or skill, but it is a fundamental requirement for successful SEO. Remember that in every aspect of Internet marketing—SEO included—there is a need to periodically measure your accomplishments so you’ll know if your strategies are working or not. You have to be able to prove to all stakeholders that your SEO efforts are resulting in a significant ROI.
More importantly, when things don’t turn out as expected, you have to be able to sift through all the data available and determine exactly what went wrong and how you can fix it for future campaigns. No matter how good you are at content creation and coding, at the end of the day, your success will hinge on your ability to solve problems.
- Excel Usage
As mentioned above, there is plenty of data you need to analyze, especially if you plan to use SEO as part of your long-term online marketing strategy. While there are many tools that can help in making data-analysis easier, at the very least you should learn how to use Microsoft Excel to your advantage. Although you don’t necessarily have to be an Excel expert, you should at least know how to use such functions as pivot tables, graphics, lookup, and logical functions.
A familiarity with Excel allows you to easily filter and group the data you gather so you can quickly lookup specific pieces of information from huge data streams. It will also help you identify exceptions and trends, compare data strings, and manipulate text as needed. Being adept at Excel is definitely very useful for analyzing data for SEO and online marketing.
- Web Hosting
One of the most important factors that affect the ranking of your website is the web hosting provider you choose. A reliable provider helps your website rank well whereas the wrong choice of web hosting provider can compromise even your best optimization efforts. When you choose your web hosting provider, make sure you consider downtime because you wouldn’t want your site to always be inaccessible when Google’s spiders crawl it.
Remember that there is no such thing as a hundred percent uptime. There will always be times when your website will be inaccessible due to hosting server problems. What’s important is for you to constantly monitor it and learn how to make the necessary changes whenever you notice percentages dropping significantly. This is why you need to gain at least some basic understanding of web hosting.
- HTML CodingSure, quality content is perhaps the most important aspect of SEO these days considering the recent updates in search engine algorithms and changes in online user preferences. No matter how good your content is, however, it won’t do you any good unless it gets seen by search engines and presented to your target audience. This is where your knowledge in HTML coding comes into play. It helps you make your site more accessible to users and search engines alike.In the early days of online marketing, SEO professionals were primarily technical people. These days, they are more content creators and marketers. But this doesn’t mean you have to forgo technical skills completely. In fact, you need to know more about codes and understand the syntax in order to make sure your website is truly marketable. You don’t have to be a coding expert, but you have to at least be able to communicate well with the right people.
- Information Architecture
Just as you need to make your website more accessible through proper HTML coding, you also have to make it easier to use. You need to learn how to arrange objects (text, images, videos, action buttons, etc.) on your site such that visitors find it easy to navigate and consume information. Note that when we say “visitors,” we refer not only to the people who visit your site for information, but also to search engine bots that visit your site for evaluation and ranking purposes.
A clean and simple information architecture makes your site easier to browse through. When search engine bots visit the site, they will then view it as a well-organized site that’s free of unnecessary clutter. Developing your skill in information architecture considerably aids your other SEO efforts and helps ensure high ranking for your site.
- Server Side Configuration
This isn’t really a required skill for SEO professionals, but it is certainly very useful to have. Server-side configuration means a site is configured such that requests don’t get executed on the computer of the person who requested access to the page, but on the computer where the page comes from. The primary advantage of configuring pages in this manner is that it gives you the ability to customize responses based on user requirements, queries into data stores, or access rights.
Server-side scripts can also be used to automatically redirect from certain pages and make database information more easily accessible. Other advantages of server side configuration include a better understanding of website security, easy tracking of broken pages, and easy fixes for possible log-in problems. This configuration is also very helpful in diagnosing a variety of problems.
As for PHP, you can integrate it in HTML code so you can restrict access to certain parts of your website, auto-generate files, encrypt data, and get easy access to a wide range of databases. Furthermore, PHP allows you to offer a different set off content to various users based on their IP address, browser, and date and time, among other characteristics. With knowledge and skills in PHP, you should be able to make your site not only more accessible, but also more useful and creative.
There is indeed so much you can do to make your SEO campaigns successful even without technical knowledge and skills. Imagine what more you can do if you had these skills!