If a website is online but no one can find it on Google, does it really exist? This is a serious question for companies trying to use online searches to drive business to their website. Several studies have shown that more than 90% of all clicks that take place on Google happen on the very first page of search returns. The very first result listed after ads gets around 33% of all clicks. That means that if your business doesn’t turn up on page one for search terms related to your business, your site may as well not exist. An SEO consultant is the person who gets your website on page one.
SEO, or search engine optimization, is the art and science of making a website rise up the ranks of search engine results until it reaches the promised land of page one. Once, this was a fairly straightforward task that involved cramming a search word on web pages as many times as possible, but search engine algorithms have come a long way since then. How easy your website is to navigate, how recently new content has been added, what other websites are linked to it and how mobile-friendly a site is are all factors that determine how high it ranks in search engine results.
The SEO industry has seen incredible growth over the last decade, and it shows no signs of slowing. As search engines like Google and Bing continue to evolve ever more complex algorithms to rank search results, businesses need SEO specialists to help them adapt their websites to the online environment. Every time Google announces a major change in its search algorithm, websites can rise or fall dramatically. Without an SEO specialist to figure out what needs to change to lift them back up the ranks, a business can hemorrhage web traffic and profits.
What Does an SEO Consultant Do?
It used to be that one person could effectively carry out all the tasks of SEO. However, as SEO has become more complex, teams of specialists have become the industry standard. Even if you specialize in one area of SEO, it’s critical to understand all the components and how they work together so that you can communicate and work effectively with your teammates. Here is a brief summary of what SEO specialists do:
To help a business create an optimized site, it’s critical to understand the environment they’re part of. How do users search for these kinds of services? What words do they use? Who are the most trusted authorities in this particular marketplace? What types of questions do users have that relate to the products and services being offered? There is an incredible amount of data available to answer these questions, and an SEO specialist knows how to find, extract and use that data.
Search engines use a program called a spider, or web crawler, to retrieve websites for search results. Step one in having a well-optimized website is making sure it is structured in such a way that web crawlers can find everything they’re looking for. Poorly organized websites are at a serious disadvantage, no matter how good their content. Being able to restructure or design sites optimized for web searches is another important area of SEO.
While being mobile-friendly has replaced link-building as the most important aspect of SEO, link building is still critical. Search engines give preference to websites that have ‘authority.’ How do they decide which sites have the most authority? By who references them. Helping businesses cultivate relationships with institutions and brands that are widely known and trusted is a major strategy in SEO. Having links to your website on other sites big-name sites can have a huge impact on rank.
Informational blog posts, video tutorials or helpful worksheets and freebies are all things a website can provide to users that improve the site’s rank. That’s because web crawlers are looking for content that answers relevant questions and provides value to users. Good content, optimized for search engines, answers popular questions and provides real value.
Personality Traits of a Successful SEO Consultant
SEO is a fast-paced, ever-changing industry that’s half art, half science. While those who commit themselves to learning the right skills can get good at it, really outstanding SEO specialists are people who love the job and thrive in a certain type of environment. Here are some of the personality traits of the best in the industry:
Great SEO specialists are, above all, curious. They enjoy figuring out puzzles and solving complicated problems. Because search engines keep their exact algorithms a secret, there can be a fair amount of experimentation in SEO to see what actually works. If you’re someone who enjoys methodically picking apart mysteries and tinkering with details, you might have the potential to be one of the best.
In some industries, you learn all there is to know, and then you get to be the expert, the end. SEO is not one of those industries. Because the algorithms are always changing, best practices and effective strategies are also changing. The best SEO specialists don’t let their ego get in the way of being eternal students, continually learning to keep up with the evolving landscape.
If you love sticking to an established set of rules, SEO may not be right for you. You need to be someone who is totally comfortable with continual change and flexible enough to adapt.
In SEO, there’s a fair chance that you’re figuring out the answers as you go, and that means you have to be the type of person who’s interested in looking for answers. If you wait around for someone else to tell you the right way to do things, chances are good you’ll get left behind.
A People Person
From working with team members
and explaining your strategy to nervous as well as reluctant clients to
networking with colleagues at conferences and events, there is a lot of
communication necessary to be successful in SEO consulting. If you don’t like
working with people, this could be difficult for you.
Sense of Humor
SEO can be a challenging, frustrating field. Having a good sense of humor will make it easier to enjoy your work, get along with teammates and put your clients at ease.
Soft Skills an SEO Consultant Must Have
Soft skills are those abilities that you may not explicitly learn in a classroom, but that make you successful in the workplace. These are the most important soft skills in SEO:
Critical- and Analytic-Thinking
There are multiple potential answers to a problem, so how are you going to determine which one is the best solution? The ability to assess a problem, break it down into components and experiment until you find the best solution is the most important skill in SEO. Being a clear, methodical thinker will allow you to troubleshoot, even when the problem at hand is complex.
SEO as a field is always changing, and you have to change with it. This means reading industry blogs, taking online seminars and trying out new software all the time. Being good at learning things on your own is a critical skill in SEO. If you can’t keep up,
you can’t be an effective consultant for your clients.
Whether it’s a presentation to clients, an informal meeting with your teammates or an article for a client’s website, having strong communication skills is a must. This doesn’t just mean having the gift of gab, it means being able to explain technical or complicated ideas in clear, simple language. It also means having a good grasp of grammar and knowing how to organize your thoughts for others.
The ability to work well with others is a must. That means knowing how to give and receive negative feedback in a constructive way, when to compromise and how to be persuasive. It also means knowing how to take responsibility for your mistakes and putting the team goal ahead of your own ego. If you can do those things, you can be an
outstanding SEO consultant.
Technical SEO Skills
While your technical skill set is somewhat negotiable in SEO depending on what you specialize in, it’s important to have some familiarity with all the skills relevant to SEO. You may not be writing the code for the website, but you’re definitely going to have to work with a programmer. If you can understand some of the challenges and issues of programming, it will make finding solutions with your team a whole lot easier. It’s also helpful to get really good at one of the following technical skills.
How To Become an SEO Consultant
Believe it or not, there’s no one, clear path to becoming an SEO consultant. Because the field changes so quickly, formal degrees or certifications are of questionable value. A bachelor's degree in marketing, business, computer science or even psychology is a good place to start. It’s also helpful to spend a few years working in online marketing, which is a gateway to SEO. Ultimately, one of the best things you can do is find a website to optimize or build one yourself to work on. Once you’ve actually done SEO, you’ll know whether you’ve got what it takes to be outstanding at it.