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14 Essential Characteristics For The Modern SEO Professional

Oliver Ewbank

by Oliver Ewbank on 29th April 2013

Who Are YouIn the world of Search Engine Optimisation it’s very rare that you find two SEO’s that think exactly the same. Search professionals come in all shapes and sizes with a range of different techniques and tactics. That said there is no denying that we all have similar characteristics. This blog post will look at the common characteristics of a rounded SEO and how they are applied to an SEO campaign.

Opportunist 

“One who takes advantage of any opportunity to achieve an end.” (Source)

All SEO’s have one very similar characteristic in common. We are opportunists. We want to get the most out of every online occurrence. If we spot a brand citation we want to turn it into a link. If we spot a link we want to tweak it. If there’s a news story we could get coverage on we leap on it. It would be no exaggeration to say that the average SEO will always have the opportunist thought ‘How can I get a link out of this’?

Persuasive

“Convincing, compelling, forceful.” (Source)

To work in SEO you need to be persuasive. Why? We are constantly selling. Selling products, ideas and tactics is part of the day to day duties of an SEO. Not only do we have to be persuasive in person but we also have to be persuasive in text.

A good Meta description always tends to have a persuasive undertone. Similarly good content should be designed to convert users’ needs and sell the benefits of the product or service.

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Analytical

Using or skilled in using analysis. (Source)

SEO is analytical by nature and we constantly make informed decisions on the data we analyse. It’s very rare you will find an SEO that doesn’t have an analytical trait. We look at traffic data, keyword data, financial data, backlink data and technical data (to name a few). SEO’s love to make informed decisions and by being analytical we can justify our choices.

Foresight

“The ability to predict or plan for the future.” (Source)

Foresight is essential in our industry and any good SEO will have stacks of the stuff. Keeping ahead of imminent algorithm updates will stop you suffering from a Google penalty. You don’t have to be an oracle to work in SEO but you do need to be proactive. Add the Google Webmaster Guidelines to your RSS feed so you are immediately updated if they tweak their guidelines. Following influential people on Twitter and running in-house tests is another useful way to stay ahead of the curve.

Competitive

“Inclined to compete. Determined by Rivalry” (Source)

All top SEO’s are fiercely competitive. They are naturally competing with  thousands (or even millions) of results for a taste of the top spot on Google. Search marketers also tend to be very self competitive by putting pressure on themselves to constantly improve their skillset.

Aggressive

“Behaviour or a disposition, that is forceful, hostile or attacking.” (Source)

While a search professional is never likely to be aggressive, an industry can sometimes prompt aggressive tactics. We often hear the term ‘aggressive link building’  which can be common in a competitive industry like Poker. Overly aggressive tactics will often fall under black hat techniques and negative SEO but ultimately all SEO is slightly aggressive in that we are trying to improve our own results and are not sitting idly waiting to get ranked.

Patience

“Patience is the state of endurance under difficult circumstances.” (Source)

There is no doubting that you need a great deal of patience to work in SEO. The rewards are not instant (like Google AdWords) and to achieve sustainable results you often have to play the long game. A comprehensive SEO strategy should be at least 6 months long and you often have to play the waiting game.  In SEO, patience is a virtue and if you plan your strategy you will reap the rewards.

Patience

Resilience

“An individual’s tendency to cope with stress and adversity.” (Source)

A typical SEO will never like to be beaten. In many SEO campaigns you will need to jump through hoops to keep designers, editorial and companies happy. Resilience coupled with persistence will make sure that you always have SEO at the forefront of your clients mind.

Adaptable

“Capable of adapting or of being adapted.” (Source)

SEO has gone through radical changes over recent years and the need to adopt new tactics is essential. If you can be receptive to change and embrace new algorithm updates you will excel in the industry.  Penguin and Panda updates are just a few examples where Google have forced internet marketers to change their approach to online marketing.

Inquisitive

“Inclined to investigate; eager for knowledge.” (Source)

Top SEO’s are extremely inquisitive. They want to know how and why things work while still looking at the bigger picture. We want to investigate new techniques and are keen to learn from others. A typical SEO always recognises there is a new tactic to test.

Commercial

“Able to yield or make a profit.” (Source)

A huge misconception is that SEO is a free source of marketing. A top SEO needs to be commercially aware of the time they are investing in a project. Time is money and SEO professionals constantly have to evaluate the ROI of the activity that is being undertaken on a project. Top SEO’s will constantly evaluate the impact of inbound marketing and the impact it is having on a campaign.

Educator

“A person who educates.” (Source)

As an SEO you are constantly thinking of new ways of generating traffic and backlinks. More often than not you will need to educate marketing managers and stakeholders on the benefits of your actions. An SEO strategy will need to be justified and the best way  to do this is to educate the decision makers of the benefits.

Tech Savvy

“Knowledgeable of the technological world.” (Source)

SEO can naturally attract self-confessed geeks and tech savvy students. You don’t need to be a computer engineer to succeed but a rough understanding of HTML, CSS and other popular technologies is common. Communicating on page edits to web developers is in important part of being an SE,O as is unwravelling technical issues with the way websites have been built.

Networker

“To recognize, create, or act upon business opportunities.” (Source)

Top SEO’s and savvy content marketers are both huge fans of networking. Content marketers will constantly be outreaching to find new sources for credible content. It’s an important task for SEO’s as more often than not a quality link will need to be earned through some form of communication.

Conclusion

There you have it.  SEO is a very inclusive industry and it attracts all sorts of characteristics. The ones I have listed above tend to be common in the majority of search professionals. Can you think of any I have missed? Which characteristic do you think is most common in an SEO? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Image Credits

Who Are You from Bigstock
Patience from Bigstock

Oliver Ewbank

Oliver Ewbank

Working in new media for over 8 years, Oliver Ewbank has worked for a range of brands including eBay and SportBusiness.com on SEO, PPC and Social Media Management. He has won awards for his SEO work and been featured in a number of publications, including Virgin online.

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9 Comments

  • Matt Antonino 29th April 2013

    It’s funny that some are almost opposites – aggression in linkbuilding and not waiting to rank. Followed by patience and not being hyper-aggressive and messing it all up! :)

    My favorite characteristics when hiring would be consistency, commitment and competitive. I want to hire people who are going to work hard everyday, doing the right things, and trying to push forward and do more today than yesterday.

    Reply to this comment

  • Oliver Ewbank

    Oliver Ewbank 29th April 2013

    Thanks for your comment Matt.

    SEO can certainly prompt conflicting characteristics.

    I think in our industry you have to be competitive – it’s the nature of the beast!

    Commitment is another good one to add to the list.

    Reply to this comment

  • Keith 29th April 2013

    Wow nailed it! These are all things that I see in myself and attempt to hire in others on my team. Being adaptive, competitive, and passionate are traits that seldom come together in an analytical mind, but when they do… #winning

    Reply to this comment

  • Steve MacDonald 30th April 2013

    Hey Oliver, I cannot think of any more characteristic as I believe you have mentioned it all. For me, strategy is more important than technique because if you have the strategy you will go a very long way in SEO.

    Reply to this comment

  • Oliver Ewbank

    Oliver Ewbank 30th April 2013

    Thanks for your comment Keith,

    Passionate is another good one to add to the list.

    Reply to this comment

  • Reid Bandremer 30th April 2013

    Nice read.

    My 2cents:
    1. Lifelong learner
    2. Word Lover
    3. Data Lover
    4. Strategist
    5. Initiative taker

    There’s a lot of different sub-fields within SEO, so a lot of different people can get at the specialties, but they all have to be able to constantly self-teach, understand semantics, identify opportunities in the midst of a million metrics, and be able to make things happen when there is no established protocol.

    Reply to this comment

  • Nazito 30th April 2013

    As a novice this is the perfect inspirational content. Is worth sharing it.

    Reply to this comment

  • Oliver Ewbank

    Oliver Ewbank 1st May 2013

    Thanks for your comment Steve,

    Strategic thinking is another good one to add to the list. This is similar to foresight and patience as you need to put together a solid strategy to get sustainable results.

    Reply to this comment

  • Oliver Ewbank

    Oliver Ewbank 1st May 2013

    Hi Reid,

    Thanks for contributing.

    I think initiative is another good one to add to the pile. Similar to the opportunist you need initiative to seek out new ideas and tactics.

    Reply to this comment

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