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SEO Required Skillset for Search Engine Optimization Professionals

Link Development:

Most assuredly, Google’s rising fortunes using link analysis as part of its algorithm is going to increase the importance of link development, as other search engines are sure to follow suit. A background in or thorough knowledge of Internet marketing has been added to the skills a search engine marketer should possess.

This was very true when it was originally written, however, Googles’ algorithms and SERP components have reduced the importance of link building as links have a smaller share of the ranking factor pie as more ranking factors and signals are added to the ranking algorithm. Not to mention Adwords, Universal Search (Google News, Shopping, Video, Local and Image search verticals) RankBrain and the role of entities and the knowledgegraph in the SERP pushing traditional #1 rankings well below the fold on page 1 of the Google results!

Reciprocal linking was a service many search engine optimization practitioners didn’t do. In an agency it was done by a different person or department. The reason being that optimization is a very technical skill, rooted in manipulation of HTML attributes, page design and site architecture whereas link development definitely involves marketing skills. Marketing requires highly honed organizational and language/communication skills. Link analysis in a search engine’s algorithm is not based on just having a large number of links to the site. The quality (ie: links to that site, quality of content) of the site is important. The search engines’ ability to evaluate the relevancy and the value of a link has increased dramatically over the last few years.

Currently most of the traditional low level sources of links like reciprocal linking, general directories, article marketing and other foundational link building was killed by the sites hosting the activity being hit by the Panda/Quality updates that Google started in 2011. These sites were completely obliterated by Penguin which targeted poor link quality and unnatural linking and deep linking thresholds being a secondary target.

While a small portion of a site’s total link profile can still be traditional foundational links (provided they are highly relevant, in the same niche), linking has taken on much less importance in modern link-building strategies. Too many can actually create problems for the site. Since this means the sites in the highest positions have the highest content quality the search engine marketer should be providing a list of the top sites to be used in the linking campaign. Why? Because that list should be part of the activity and search engine monitoring report and you should know where your site is being marketed. That list will also make it easy for another SEO company manage the links if you decide to change agencies or SEO consultants.

The Personalization of Google Search has made identifying the role of Local Search in the SERP an important part of determining SEO and link strategy. Traditional link sources like professional and niche directories are good sources for local citations and links. It is recommended that general directories and most foundational link with no narrow niche focus be avoided.

Keywords Strategy:

A strategy is just a long term plan. A plan is implementation of the strategy. There are search engine optimization consultants who will ask you “What are your keywords?” or something similar. If a search engine optimization consultant or company doesn’t include keyword list development, than they may be a company to avoid. What you may think are your keywords may not be the phrases and words that users actually use most often (if at all) on the search engines. There are resources on the net that provide this information for free and some that charge. The list compiled using these resources for related terms should be the basis of the keywords strategy. Why? No point being number one for mayonnaise if 3 times as many people use mayo when querying the search engine. The keywords list is the foundation of any good search engine optimization strategy.

To some degree the shift in determining relevance has changed “traditional keyword research” from prioritizing keywords phrases to identifying the entities in a SERP and the concepts that appear in rich snippets and questions. So keyword research is still important, however, what is prioritized may not be determined solely by keyword phrases and the number of queries.

Knowledge of HTML:

I repeat, don’t mistake design for HTML knowledge. HTML knowledge is a big part of search engine optimization. In fact, for the best of both worlds, a search engine consultant should be part of the development team. Many development companies claim this, but few really have a search engine marketing specialist.

  • Ask if the person doing the optimization has other duties.
  • Ask for a link to the last SEO article they read and how they found it. Chances are this will tell lots about the time spent on SEO and what is spent on other duties as well as SEO techniques. If they haven’t read something in the last week you may want to avoid them.

This is probably the reason why there are few data driven sites at the top of the rankings. The programmer didn’t account for some search engines not following URLs with a ? in them. Then they come to search engine optimization consultants wondering why they can’t be found on search engines. Frames are another issue, in and of itself! They are a definite problem for some search engines to index.

Search engine optimization also should be part of the design phase. A search engine friendly design ( search engine indexing can be manipulated using HTML ) and the added relevance for headings, which most designers dislike (they prefer a graphic), and opportunities for embedding links and other optimization techniques means that the search engine marketer should have input sooner rather than later. If not, task redundancy has become part of your development regimen, slowing down the entire development process.

None of the above statements have changed beyond the fact that they are all more true today then ever. Structured Data Markup is an important part of optimizing content for the knowledgegraph and rich snippets that continue to take above the fold real estate from traditional SERP elements including Universal Search elements. The complexity of Search Engine Friendly design of web pages is through the roof compared to any time in the past.

Language Skills:

It should be a given that strong communication skills and understanding of the language of the target audience are skills a search engine optimization consultant should possess. A big part of optimizing a page and developing a keywords list is language related. Skillful writing of search engine and marketing copy is important. Marketing copy is superlatives based because it is trying to create a call to action whereas search engine copy is keywords based.

If you notice in this article I seldom refer to a search engine consultant as he/she or a search engine as it or search engines as them. He, she, it and them on most engines are stop words meaning they are not important. The keywords are! Remember this when you retain a search engine consultant and the marketing department or developer treats their copy like it came from the pen of William Shakespeare. Simple changes similar to my demonstration throughout should suffice.

Once again although these statements are truer now then ever consider that Google’s ability to understand language has never been greater! With this increased knowledge came a paradigm shift from “phrase matched” relevance to entity and concept based relevance.

Knowledge of Search Engine Optimization Boosters:

Search engine algorithms put different relevancy to each HTML element on the page, those with a heavier weighting in the algorithms are called optimization boosters. A search engine optimization consultant’s knowledge of boosters is not easily determined and is seldom immediately reflected in the positions achieved. As search engine algorithms have evolved the ease with which they could be manipulated has diminished. Search engines now use elements outside of the page itself. Link analysis discussed above would be a good example.

The boosters above are still working, however, Google looks at so many more signals now that these seem ineffective. Just like links these boosters just have a smaller piece of the ranking pie, but they are still boosters. More important then the ranking boost is most of these boosters increase the ability for users to see important elements on the page.

Submission Strategies, Planning and Budgeting:

Hand submission and/or Inclusion are absolutely the only sure fire way to ensure that your site has been submitted properly. As mentioned in the search engine Optimization Services to be avoided list many search engines do not index sites submitted via remote technology. Three of the most important portals are directories (do not index sites) and using submission programs are a recipe for disaster.

Most of the original copy was removed from this section because for the most part link development has changed to such a degree most of it was no longer relevant. Content strategy and outreach have replaced these traditional link development activities. Concepts and topics with outreach to quality sites have replaced the traditional keyword match driven strategies that placed very little importance on site quality, instead, choosing to target SEO metrics like Page Rank!

Tracking Link development:

What URLs were submitted to what search engines and when? Tracking should include:

  • pages that were submitted by the SEO
  • a list of URLs that have been indexed (verified by logs or position monitoring tools)
  • a submission schedule for future submissions of pages not indexed or found by the search engines ( a separate list for each engine ).

Most of the above is only true of Local citations and links. Your SEO/content marketer should provide some reporting on where they placed content. A good report would also include a few SEO metrics demonstrating the success of the activity.

Conclusions

As you can see a search engine optimization consultant or marketer should have many skills, not just SEO skills, in order to be able to optimize your site for the highest visibility on all the search engines.

It should be mentioned that at this point in history the SEO Industry is increasingly becoming an industry of specialists. Techical SEO, Content Marketers and Local SEO specialists are 3 prominent types, but, the list of specialists grows with the complexity of Search Engine Algorithms and SERP elements demanding more and more specialization in order to rank. Today it is important that you completely understand what your site requires to move its rankings and if necessary seek specialists in each of those areas.

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