10 Essential SEO Skills You Need To Succeed


Becoming an SEO Specialist is a pretty awesome career choice.

You can use organic search to promote your personal brand online, do freelance SEO projects for customers around the world, work at a SaaS SEO company doing SEO for their clients, or join an in-house marketing team at a major corporation. You can perform your job from anywhere in the world, and there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the work-life balance that comes with working 100% remotely.

Before you can make the career change and become a successful SEO expert, you’ll need to spend some time developing your SEO skills. These are the skills that you’ll use each day to support your optimization activities and increase the organic search visibility of the brands you represent. 

To help you get started, we’ve put together a list of the 10 essential SEO skills that you need to succeed. As you read through the list, do a self-assessment, and rate your level of experience with each skill from one to ten. By the end, you’ll know exactly what you need to work on to expand your search engine optimizer skill set.

10 Essential SEO Skills You Need To Succeed

Content Marketing

Overview: Content marketing is a set of strategies for creating content (articles, eBooks, videos, infographics, etc.) that promotes your products or services while delivering genuine value and addressing the problems of the target audience.

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Why It’s Important: Search engines are more likely to feature pages that generate a lot of backlinks in their results pages. An effective content marketing strategy generates shares and engagement that translate to better rankings in the SERPs and increase traffic.

Technical SEO

Overview: Technical SEO is a set of skills for analyzing and improving the technical functioning of a website. 

Why It’s Important: The highest-ranking websites in the search engine results pages (SERPs) are fast to load, easy to navigate, error-free, well-secured, and provide a great experience for both human users and search engine web crawlers. SEO experts use technical SEO skills to ensure that their websites are easy for crawlers to index and meet the performance expectations of users.

Link Building

Overview: Link building includes all of the activities that digital marketers undertake to generate more backlinks to their best content and most important pages.

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Why It’s Important: Search engines award higher rankings to pages that receive more backlinks from other trusted and authoritative websites. SEO experts use a variety of different tactics to build links, including writing guest blog posts for other websites (cross-promotion) and promoting content through email outreach.

On-Page SEO

Overview: On-page SEO is the process of optimizing individual web pages to increase their organic search traffic or rank for a specific keyword. 

Why It’s Important: Effective on-page SEO ensures that search engine web crawlers can accurately interpret the subject matter and contents of a web page and index it correctly for inclusion in the SERPs. SEO specialists carefully optimize each page to rank for a specific keyword or set of keywords.

Website Administration

Overview: Website administration is a skill set that includes the installation, configuration, and maintenance of websites. SEOs also need to work with and manage the organization’s content management system (CMS), which could be WordPress, Drupal, or something else.

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Why It’s Important: SEO specialists with website administration skills understand how to implement technical changes and optimizations without causing unacceptable website downtime or exposing sensitive data. They can install plugins to improve website functioning or add new capabilities, and they feel comfortable working with CMS software tools to publish and optimize content.


Overview: HTML5 and CSS are the mark-up languages used to format the contents of a web page. HTML provides the structure and contents of the website, while the CSS file contains information on style and format for each element on the page.

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Why It’s Important: SEO specialists that work in content management systems usually don’t have to code web pages in HTML, but knowing how to read HTML files, how HTML tags work, and how they’re formatted are all essential SEO skills. 

HTML title tags, meta tags, head tags, image alt tags, anchor text tags, and canonical tags are all potential optimization targets for SEO specialists with HTML skills.

Conversion Rate Optimization

Overview: Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the process of performing content experiments to identify high-performing page variants that correlate with better user experience on a web page.

Why It’s Important: SEO specialists spend a lot of time reviewing Google Analytics and analyzing the performance of published content. As a result, they’re usually the first ones to notice when specific pages are failing to reach their performance targets. An SEO expert with CRO skills is uniquely positioned to recommend and implement strategies for improving user experience and conversions on both paid and organic landing pages.

Copywriting/Content Creation

Overview: For an SEO, the content creation process is all about creating search engine optimized content that is genuinely valuable to audiences and promotes their organization’s products and services.

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Why It’s Important: Search engines prefer to award higher rankings to websites that frequently publish high-quality content. SEO specialists are usually in charge of managing the content creation and publication processes within their organizations. They may write content on their own, or perform keyword research and outsource the writing task to a freelancer or another team member. Either way, they must be able to effectively plan and deliver content on a regular basis that increases their organization’s organic search visibility.

Project Management

Overview: SEO campaigns are project-based. They have a scope, a schedule, a budget, and intended goals. Project management is a set of organizational skills for delivering a campaign and achieving the intended campaign objectives within the specified budget and time frame.

Why It’s Important: SEO specialists in all employment situations – self-employed, agency-employed, and in-house – use project management skills on a regular basis to manage customer expectations, clearly define the scope of work, align campaign activities with business objectives, and measure success over time. Project management also includes techniques and working methods to ensure that marketers learn something from every campaign – regardless of its success or failure.

Client Relationship Management

Overview: Client relationship management is a skill set that includes communication, responsiveness, managing customer expectations, aligning campaign activities with customer objectives to maximize outcomes, and accurately reporting campaign outcomes.

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Why It’s Important: Search engine optimization is a customer-focused business. Unless you’re promoting your own website, becoming an SEO means that you’ll be working to generate organic traffic for someone else. It could be your employer’s website or your client’s site, but either way, your success depends on making them happy through effective relationship management (and getting results).

How to Acquire Essential SEO Skills

Did you complete your self-assessment?

Which SEO skill is your strongest one today? Which one is your weakest?

Focusing on developing your skills is the fastest way to become a successful SEO. 

Some SEO skills like project management and customer relationship management can only be properly developed in a professional environment. You’ll need to gain experience working on SEO projects with real customers who have realistic expectations for success.

For skills like on-page SEO optimization, technical SEO, and link building, you can increase your skills quickly by learning and applying a proven process through our SEO course at Directive Institute. You’ll also learn how to do keyword research investigate your competitors and build a winning SEO strategy from scratch.

We hope this article inspires you to level up your SEO skill set on your way to becoming an awesome digital marketer.

Garrett Mehrguth is the CEO and co-founder of Directive Consulting – a global search marketing agency headquartered in Southern California specializing in comprehensive search marketing campaigns for B2B and enterprise companies.

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