Advice From the Pros

What Does an SEO Specialist Do?

This role is an integral part of the marketing strategy and team

If you’re not getting a ton of hits on your website, you may need to step up your search engine optimization (SEO) game. No game? No problem. An SEO specialist can help.

These keyword kings can generate more traffic than downtown rush hour. Read on to find out more about the job and what it takes to get the job done.

What exactly does an SEO specialist do?
A search engine optimization (SEO) specialist improves website rankings on major search engines, such as Google, Yahoo! and Bing.

The specialist ensures on-page optimization to produce relevant search results and a positive user experience, growing site traffic, lead volume and brand awareness.

“The primary purpose of an SEO specialist is the same as any marketer: Create more sales for the company,” says Brett Bastello, SEO manager at Inseev Interactive, a digital marketing agency in San Diego.

By employing smart on-page tactics—keywords tag, internal linking, clean URLs, etc.—“an SEO specialist is able to increase the website’s visibility within the search engines, which ultimately results in increased traffic and more sales.”

Other duties include implementing and maintaining title and meta tags, URL redirects and 404 errors; analyzing competitors’ web presence; monitoring Google Search Console and similar webmaster tools; identifying link-building opportunities; and negotiating contracts with agencies and vendors.

Some also work closely with members of marketing and creative teams to develop new initiatives and update or manage social media accounts to increase user engagement.

SEO is an integral part of search engine marketing (SEM). Knowledge of SEM is essential to SEO specialists of course, but it’s also beneficial to anyone from marketers to freelance writers.

What skills does an SEO specialist need?
Communication skills are everything. If a client hires you to grow his site, you have to be able to articulate the best course of action and explain why it’s best for him.

“They have to conceptualize what you’re doing so they can own it and feel confident that you’re making wise decisions for their company,” offers Chris Horton, head consultant at Dr. Rankwell, an SEO consultancy based in Lawrenceville, Ga.

Assessing risks—“knowing the difference between changes that can greatly damage a website’s progress and changes that can move the needle forward”—and forecasting trends and how they’ll affect future traffic are also important, Horton says.

You’ll need to know Google Analytics (or another web analytics tool), of course, as well as SEO tools such as SEMrush and Moz.

Who is an SEO specialist’s supervisor?
It depends on the company and its structure. As the owner and head consultant, Horton reports directly to his clients. Others may report to an SEO or marketing director.

Are there any jobs similar to this one?
Nope, says Horton. “It is a very specific skill set that requires a lot of detailed focus.”

“This job is really soup to nuts,” adds Bastello. “Oftentimes when I’m trying to explain my job to others, I just say ‘digital PR.’”

How can someone break into this field?
A degree in marketing is helpful, but because SEO is so specific, there aren’t a lot of college classes that’ll give you the skills you need, explains Horton. He recommends studying the abundance of material available online.

To get started, try Google’s or Bing’s online certifications or community resources and industry keynotes at sites like QuickSprout and AHrefs.

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