I often write about the various jobs, skills and talents that go into optimizing a website for search engines. As the owner of a firm that specializes in website marketing strategy and leader of an awesome team of talented people, I’m quite biased as to the need and value of having such a team working on all the aspects of marketing your website.
Yet, optimizing a site isn’t terribly difficult. Anybody can be taught the basics, which many already know and are implementing on their websites right now. But SEO is more than basic implementation of strategies you’ve read about online or on Twitter. SEO is much bigger the sum of its parts.
There are hundreds of “parts” that can play a role in an effective optimization campaign. Google looks at more than 200 “signals” alone, each with varying degrees of value and necessity. Most people who start out doing SEO soon realize there is a lot to keep up with, and it’s better passed on to more capable hands.
So, just who do these capable hands belong to? Well, that depends on who you talk to. Everybody believes there is a certain level of knowledge and know-how that pre-qualifies you as an SEO. Sometimes it’s fun to see what certain bottom line “requirements” are. In light of that, I put together this list of things you absolutely, certainly, necessarily or quite possibly need to know in order to qualify as an SEO.
You’re not an SEO unless…
…you know HTML code
HTML is pretty much as basic as basic SEO gets. But guess what, you really don’t need to know every bit of HTML to SEO a site. Does it help? Absolutely! You do need a considerable amount of HTML knowledge, but don’t let anyone tell you that if you can’t code an entire site by hand, you’re not an SEO.
…you monitor the search engine algorithms.
SEOs need to know what the search engines are doing, but how much “monitoring” is really required? Some SEOs have almost a religious dedication to documenting, analyzing and testing every detail of an algorithm and then doing it all again when Google makes a change. Others take a big picture approach, looking at long-term SEO strategies that are not affected by every algorithm whim. Just because you don’t monitor algorithms as much as someone else doesn’t mean you’re not an SEO.
…you read search engine patents.
I admire those who can read search engine patents and makes sense of them. These individuals have their pulse on what is possibly coming to a search engine near you. But, only possibly. Not all patents actually result in something being incorporated into the algorithm. They help you keep an eye on a possible future, but not necessarily the destined future. Just because you don’t read search engine patents doesn’t mean you’re not an SEO.
…you build links.
Every SEO should know how to build links, but some are far better at it than others. Link building is like sales. Some people just have the gift. Every SEO should understand both basic and advanced link-building concepts and their corresponding strategies, but just because you don’t do actual link building doesn’t mean you’re not an SEO.
…you know analytics.
Analytics is the best way to prove the value of your SEO efforts. But analytics itself isn’t SEO. It’s simply the reporting method. If you want to know how well your SEO is really doing, you need to learn analytics or, better yet, employ someone who can in order to analyze your website traffic data. But if you can’t, that doesn’t mean you’re not an SEO.
…you follow search engine guidelines.
The search engine guidelines are just that: guidelines. It’s smart to be sure your SEO strategies don’t violate any policies that might get your site dinged. On the other hand, some of the guidelines propagated by the search engines are entirely self-serving. Being good at SEO doesn’t even require that you know the guidelines, so not knowing them doesn’t mean you’re not an SEO.
…you can initiate “black hat” SEO strategies.
In some industries, it’s very difficult to get good results unless you invest in black hat SEO strategies. If you’re not in those industries, then you don’t need to worry about it. And not knowing how to implement these type of strategies certainly doesn’t mean you’re not an SEO.
…you’re a copywriter.
Copywriting skills are a must… for copywriters, not necessarily SEOs. While SEOs work with copy and should be able to craft a decent sentence and fiddle around with keyword additions into the text, the SEO can pass the job of actual copywriting to a copywriter. Not having the gift of copywriting doesn’t mean you’re not an SEO.
…you are a conversion optimizer.
Conversion optimization is good for SEO and necessary for a strong marketing campaign, but this isn’t, strictly speaking, SEO. I’d definitely want an SEO that understands usability and persuasion before letting them make changes to my site, but not understanding conversion optimization doesn’t mean you’re not an SEO.
You’re not an SEO unless you read this conclusion
All of the factors above help make SEO valuable. But not having any one or two of them doesn’t disqualify you from being an SEO any more than not knowing how to weld a pipe precludes you from being a plumber. Valuable, but not strictly necessary.
But make no mistake, these are important, and to the degree a person has knowledge, understanding and skills in these areas is a factor into how valuable they can be as an SEO. Any one of these, however, is not a defining factor. SEOs are often best judged on the results they get. If you don’t get results, then you’re not an SEO.