What Skills Should a Full-Time SEO Have?

Jun 14, 2007 • 10:16 am | comments (5) by twitter | Filed Under SEO - Search Engine Optimization

As more and more companies acknowledge the importance of search engine optimization, they realize that having an in-house SEO is important. What should firms look for when they hire a full time SEO? A Search Engine Watch Forums thread discusses the job requirements.

  • Must be able to show at least two successfully optimized sites
  • Must be knowledgeable of SE algos and relevancy signals
  • Must possess keen knowledge coding and the ability to optimize coding for SEO purposes (HTML, XML, CSS, JavaScript, mod_rewrites, 301/302 redirects)
  • 5+ years of experience
  • Skillsets: creativity, marketing, and technical
  • Understanding of available SEO tools
  • Must be a team player

What about salary? Is five years of experience really set in stone? As moderator Marcia adds, "it depends."

A lot depends on the needs of the particular business, and whether it's a one-man show or there's a team or a few individuals who work on the site. For an in-house position, there would be tremendous differences in different geographic areas, which is a factor to consider. Then again, there are SEOs who make well into six figures running their own sites who wouldn't think of going in-house.

It isn't only a matter of time, there are people out there who have been at it for many, many years but their abilities are still limited. Then, there are some who excel after only a year or so if they have a natural bent for it.

Very true. Some people show excellent promise earlier than others. As far as salaries go, it also varies. We have posted a list of Search Engine Marketing salaries in the past which might be a useful guide.

Discussion continues at Search Engine Watch Forums.

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Michael Martinez

06/14/2007 03:36 pm

Any company requiring a minimum of 5 years experience in an SEO tech is hurting itself. They could be getting 5 years of bad habits and inept or mediocre performance. Any company requiring only the show of only 2 optimized Web sites is also hurting itself. In 5 years, most SEO techs should be able to put together a portfolio of domains they have optimized regardless of whether they are personal or client sites. I agree with the strong foundation in coding skills. They at least have to understand the basics of putting Web sites together, changing out URLs, and tracking down technical glitches that cause search engines to drop pages from indexes. Since the current offerings of publicly available SEO tool are pretty much useless, I wouldn't care too much about what an SEO tech knows about them. The "knowledgable about SE algorithms and relevancy signals" requirement is interesting. Perhaps Rand Fishkin's surveys on ranking factors have begun to turn on some lights where before there was only darkness. I would want to work with SEO techs who understand that it's not all about links. I don't see me hiring someone who can only "optimize" through links. That's not SEO, that's link building.

Ben Pfeiffer

06/14/2007 05:11 pm

Mike, can you explain your 5 year comment? How is this "really" hurting a company? What is the difference between someone with 7 years as opposed to 5 years? You don't make any sense. I know some 4 year old SEO's that are much better than any old timer I ever saw. I agree that many SEO tools are crap, but there are a "few" descent ones still. I think a really good SEO is not going to rely solely on tools to do his job, but use them to verify his opinions or do things you can't do without some serious tools.

Michael Martinez

06/14/2007 09:33 pm

5 years is Human Relations-speak for "We don't know anything about this field so we'll assume that anyone who has been around for 5 years must be able to do the job." I have known people who had been around for 20 years who could not get the job done, but they always managed to get a job. I would give someone with 2 years' field SEO experience the same consideration I would give to someone with 5 or 10 years' experience. In fact, I would be more interested in what they believe works today than in what they had done more than 2 years ago. As for the SEO tools, there are several popular ones out there, but none which ignore the Toolbar PR values. Until someone can get past that pitfall in SEO tool design, they're not likely to impress me. Other people's opinions may vary.

micahel b.

06/15/2007 08:23 pm

"Must possess keen knowledge coding and the ability to optimize coding for SEO purposes (HTML, XML, CSS, JavaScript, mod_rewrites, 301/302 redirects)" *Would you recommend one with a solid "foundation" of SEM, but still in the 'learning' stages, to take a programming class or two? If so, what would have the most immediate impact? thank you....


04/16/2008 11:27 am

There should be a portfolio of successful websites, especially if the person has been at it for as long as 5 years. I don't believe time is ever really a factor in IT. Results speak volumes. Coding knowledge is beneficial. No doubt about it, can you code a shopping cart checkout system? Or can you look at code and tell me if it's going to hurt the search engines? That's the real question. SEO tools! Most of them are rubbish. But more importantly there is a massive difference between available tools and beneficial tools. Definately have to be a team player. That said, by being a team player, creativity and the passion to succeed can often bypass any of the previous points.

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