What skills are crucial to be a good SEO?


No offense intended to anyone but I nearly laughed out loud when I read this thread-starter:

So my question is, what skills are most important to becoming a proficient SEO? Programming before design? And if so, what programming language?

Not a reply, but earlier this week, from Rand:

Honestly, at this point in the SEO game, it pays to be a great business strategist, a creative content developer and a phenomenal marketer far more than an analyzer of algorithms (and this is coming from the guy who spent nearly the whole of summer '05 reading nothing but patent apps and IR documents).

And John:

Build a community, a web-based service, a blog, or an affiliate sales site and you will succeed if you work hard and pay attention to only what matters, not allowing yourself to be distracted.

IMHO the top SEO skills now include: Business strategy, usability and link baiting. (The latter can be a combination of different skills, or could just be one relatively rare skill -- e.g. AJAX programming.) A lot of otherwise really sharp SEOs never quite get the 'business strategy' part down.

Top personality trait? workaholism.



I dont get seo =( or the infatuation with it.

I cant even get hacked without someone going OMG SHOEMONEY IS TEH KING OF LINK BAIT OMG LINKBAIT SEO SCUM

I think your right on the money about workaholism.

If I am a "SEO" then I would say my #1 tip is just to build a quality site and work your balls off on it.

Of course that is not the get rich overnight secret answer everyone is looking for... so thats not really popular.

> or the infatuation with it.

Free traffic baby. That's what got me in and keeps me in.

Top SEO Skill

seeing the big picture.

Free traffic baby

it's anything but "free".

Free traffic baby

Free traffic baby

That's what got me into this game back in 1996. LOL

The SEOs of the future are the teens of today--or at least those that can network and use the social networking tools properly.

SEO of the future is one part business strategy, one part "creating content", one part "social networking".

Big Difference

There's a difference between a good SEO for his/her own site (or network of sites) and a good SEO consultant or a good SEO business - reliant on doing work for clients. I know it's been a tough battle for us to balance the two sides in terms of time management and expertise/personnel.

If you were going to identify traits, I think you'd have to categorize by what the SEO's job is :)

Creativity, language skills and a sense of humor

Link baiting and viral marketing are mostly about creativity and humor.
Especially in this emerging era of natural language search, it all starts with creative writing.

The strategic parts are important, but off topic link building and traffic building can be more powerful than on target strategies that don't have enough mass appeal to get links.

Programming part of the mix

Understanding programming or having someone in your development cycle who does is a crucial element. Design the best app with great usability, and link bait till you get gobs of traffic. If you're code looks like it was written on prince spaghetti night you'll have a highly trafficed site that's slower than molasses through a sieve during an Alaskan winter.

That said having the best code on a site that gets 30 people a month isn't going to do you much good, so it's a secondary consideration, but still an important one.

Top skills? 1. Problem

Top skills?

1. Problem solving
2. Initiative

The internet is so dynamic that problem-solving on the fly is essential, whether it be in development, design, marketing, etc.

However, it takes initiative in the first place to identify potential problems before they appear, and to seek lateral solutions to them where possible.


I'd put initiative at the

I'd put initiative at the top of the list IMHO.

S and N

>>SEO of the future is one part business strategy, one part "creating content", one part "social networking".

That seemed to make a great deal of sense, then I thought about it for a bit - maybe social networking is given too much of credence. Sure, for some sites it may constitute even 100% of SEO but there must be businesses out there for whom quality and qualification of traffic is more important that the flotsam and jetsam from the SN. No?

But maybe I'm just coming up with excuses to avoid going to myspace today :)

I can relate... I was once

I can relate... I was once told that as SEO is a technical discipline, I should learn Curl, so I could write my own damn spider, instead of pestering the tech team to do it for me. It was at that moment I realised that no-one in the whole company understood what I did, or more to the point what I *should* have been doing.

>> Understanding programming or having someone in your development cycle who does is a crucial element.

Yup. But, in my case at least, there's a big gap between having a grasp of how programming works, thus being able to assess whether what you want is even possible, and being able to sit down and turn out the code.

I probably could learn to be a programmer, but I don't think it would be a good investment of my time, at least right now. I think I'd be far better off spending some time learing how to game MySpace.

One skill that often gets overlooked, I think, is being able to communicate some fairly complex SEO theory to clueless clients. If they don't understand what you think they need to do, they are unlikely to pay you for it. Being a good teacher can have many benefits

Business/MarketingSkills > Tech Skills

I believe business and marketing skills are more important for SEO than technical skills. It wouldn't be too hard to show a good marketer who is new to the web how important social media sites are to viral marketing. Getting the word out about your site through social media sites would bring in a lot of backlinks, which would lead to better rankings. A tech-ignorant marketer might not even know that backlinks are that important, but might get good rankings anyway because he focused mainly on just getting the word out. Someone that were more technical but less business savvy might focus too much time on "optimizing" his site and trying to figure out the search engines when he could have been promoting his site. I do believe being strong in both marketing and technical skills is imortant for SEO but if I had to choose just one it would be marketing.


It wasn't that long ago that at least 50% of the posts in a thread like this would have said something like "Getting top rankings is the SEO's only job. The rest is for the marketing people."

hired gun vs lone ranger

Rand is spot on when it comes to defining the job. What I do for myself can be substantially different than what I do for certain clients. I'll make the assumption that its that difference that Shoe gets hung up on.

Good SEO

Do you need to be good at SEO? Why are you/ we trying to please a bot? An understanding of the needs, wants and aspirations of web users is (nearly) all you need. Too put it bluntly - What do the punters want! When you've found that then you can work on the technical bits.

One of the great paradoxes of the web is that when you give people what they want the SE become redundant! All we really need is for a few thousand surfers to hit the favorties button and tell thier mates. And then sell out to a SE with deep pockets! Easy really! All IMHO of course!

Absolutely. If it is your


If it is your business or your site then you will have to wear many hats: biz dev, optimizing for conversions & usability, link building/baiting, traffic building, etc.

If you are an in-house SEO, then qwerty is right, your primary job and goal is to gain top rankings and traffic. Everything else is secondary.

And I don't buy in to the social networking bit. That may play a factor in a site's overall success and traffic, but not SEO and rankings.

I think SEO is a label, and

I think SEO is a label, and a good one. It has a history of success, and defines a niche that everyone with an interest in the success of a website understands. Plus it is elusive to ownership claims by virtually anyone else in any other discipline.

The label "SEO" garners attention in a crowded web services market (from clients, peers, and seasoned professionals). We practitioners put that to work. It's a smart thing to do.

But it's really competitive webmastering. Is any web designer out there willing to admit they are a non-competitive web designer?

"My pages look way cool, but load slowly, are incomprehensible to search bots, and will only rank for this site uses frames."

Of course not. Instead they sell an add-on package for "SEO services".

I think good web design firms are fun to work with. I love to work with great designers, coders, and creatives. i wish that was all I did.

Cliched but true

I think it is essential that you can constantly and easily change your approach and constantly try new ideas/methods and be able to implement them (nice long sentence there). Look around and you will see people still doing the same exact things that they were doing 2 years ago - you will never be effective with this mindset.

Yeh, of course, SEO is all

Yeh, of course, SEO is all about programming!

foreach (@site){
if (&search_engine_rank_checker($_) eq "luck"){
$luck = "Labour Under Correct Knowledge";
$print "Site ".$_." ranks because of ".$luck."\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n";
$print "oh, and a helluva lot of links!\n";

JasonD left out...

Im pretty sure if you paste the following into any web page, you will get top notch rankings fast! There was just 1 line of code JasonD left out...

foreach (@site){
if (&search_engine_rank_checker($_) eq "luck"){
$luck = "Labour Under Correct Knowledge";
$print "Site ".$_." ranks because of ".$luck\n";
$print "oh, and a helluva of a lot of links!\n";


echo "SEO";


You forgot another line or two of code :)

foreach (@site){
if (&search_engine_rank_checker($_) eq "luck"){
$luck = "Labour Under Correct Knowledge";
$print "Site ".$_." ranks because of ".$luck\n";
$print "oh, and a helluva of a lot of links!\n";
$print "oh, and buy your viagra here!\n";
$print "Lowest Prices for Home Mortages\n";
$print "Make her happy!\n";


echo "SEO";

kidding ;)

Not one or the other

The great thing about SEO is that it has been and I think always will be, a combination of tech skills and marketing skills -- not just one or the other.

I think it's pretty hilarious how everyone is saying it's all marketing now, when it used to be that they were saying it was all programming.

It was and is BOTH. If you forget that (or don't have both skills), you'll most likely not be the best SEO...

Programming & Marketing - What Are They?

I dont know how to do either but I blunder around with a scattergun and still make a living.
I know of a few self proclaimed 'experts' in both fields who just can't cut it.

I do think that there's a lot of bullshit talk when it comes to SEO.
You don't need a PhD in rocket science to make money in this game.
Just a little common sense will do the trick.

Big Picture and Focus

Mainly focus. Need to know a little about every element, enough to run staff anyway. But the main one is simply damn hard work.

>combination of tech skills and marketing skills

Spot on Jill - the demand is created by the communication gap between the two imo.

Anybody who's ever tried to watch a techie and a marketing guy talk about a project can appreciate this fully.

I think there is a talent to

I think there is a talent to being able to look at traffic and being able to understand how to make the most money with it.

I think that is where the real successful SEO's are.

"It was and is BOTH. " Hurrah, Jill.

General SEM abilities/skills:

1. intelligence, imagination, initiative.
2. high problem identification/analysis/solving skills.
3. high cross-functional ((strategic, tactical, and operational)/(computer and web, marketing and business)) understanding.

Client/Corporate SEM abilities/skills:

1. high social ability and communication skills - must play well with others.
2. high leadership ability and presentation skills - must lead all equus asinus stakeholders to, and have them accept, your proposals.
3. high language ability and business writing skills - decisions will be biased on the quality of your spoken and written word - plus greed and fear.

Entrepeneur SEM abilities/skills:

1. high personal motivation - no one to blame but one's self.
2. high planning and implementation skills - a team of one.
3. no like, no do - it's hard long work so best you enjoy it.

Tycoon SEM abilities/skills:

1. high personal and writing charisma - sell yourself, you sleasy, easy conference slut.
2. high BS into blog content skill - sell yourself, you sleasy, easy link slut.
3. high illusionist skills - sell SEM as a a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma (apologies to Sir Winston) to justify web-way robbery rates. Honourable mention to the SEs for assisting so ably.

Note: much as I tried I just couldn't work in any link-monkeys, marketing-by-monkeys, or web-wankers; perhaps next time.

definitely common sense too

Just a little common sense will do the trick.

I don't think "just" common sense, but it is quite amazing how far it will take you. It's also a lot rarer than those of us with it, realize.

Social Engineering

If you're not exploiting software/server weaknesses or snatching up trusted sites it's most fun to just work on linkbait and passive-agressively pushing out widgets that are really cleverly disguised link schemes.

I don't think "just" common

I don't think "just" common sense, but it is quite amazing how far it will take you. It's also a lot rarer than those of us with it, realize.

Hmm... even with very competitive markets (travel) there are still opportunities and if you see them, it's easy to go after them. Does that mean it's "common sense"? Yeah, I guess so for those opportunities. But what if you don't see an opening, and simply have to make a shot. What then?

Links. Yawn. Or be absofreakinlutely brilliant. Cue the comparison to pro sports...


knowing what the search engines want and giving it to them.. so hard they fucking bleed :)

real money taking a site with a conversion ratio 1 in 100 too 2 in 100,

Drop the token keyword and finding the money keyword, too many people get hung up on that stupid single keyword, I agree that some industries there is only that stupid single keyword.


The bottom 100

>>Drop the token keyword and finding the money keyword.
Thats where I fish and the bottom 100 is a lot easier than the top 10.

Best Quote Ever

SEO...knowing what the search engines want and giving it to them.. so hard they fucking bleed :)

I almost spit coffee on the keyboard.

>> I almost spit coffee on

>> I almost spit coffee on the keyboard.

You should have done it. How else are you going to get that oaken patina?


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