5 Disciplines and Skills All SEOs Should Learn

November 5, 2014

As SEOs, we wear many different hats in managing clients’ various web properties. We are content strategists. We are link builders. We are outreach coordinators, as well as data analysts. Sometimes we are even developers. At last month’s C3 Conference, Brian McDowell, Director of Search Intelligence for Conductor, discussed an overall shift in the perception of SEO from siloed search engine optimization to web presence management.

Web presence management, a more holistic approach to web marketing, encompasses multiple disciplines working together to power a brand from a variety of channels—paid search, social media, SEO, and more. Web presence management is “not a one man task”, says McDowell, but the effort of a team comprised of talented people from different backgrounds, with a diverse range of skillsets.

While managing a brand is not a one man task, being familiar, at least at a cursory level, with other web marketing disciplines, can strengthen your own skills as an SEO. If you work for an agency or an in-house team, exposure to these other disciplines is often encouraged. If you are a consultant, then having an understanding of other disciplines is important to guiding your strategy and identifying additional areas of need for your client. Here are five other disciplines that can make you a better SEO.

[Tweet “While managing a brand is not a one man task, being familiar with other disciplines can strengthen your skills as an SEO”]

1. Social Media

While social media has always been important to increasing brand awareness, there is an increasing trend in the relevance of social media to search. In their efforts to further emphasize user intent, Google is placing greater importance on social media, integrating activity on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and other channels into its ranking signals.

It’s becoming more important to harness traffic driven to your site through social channels for ranking purposes. Learning social media enables you to take advantage of this trend, helping you identify opportunities across social channels and interacting with their networks in engaging ways that drive them back to your site. You can acquire new customers directly through your increased social presence, and the activity will be a boost to your rankings.

2. Paid Search

Paid search, or Search Engine Marketing (SEM), involves gaining traffic by purchasing ads on search engines. SEO targets keywords organically where SEM places bids on high-volume keywords for the paid advertisements to appear in those searches. While these may be different approaches, they can still inform one another. Experience with SEM can give you keener insight into keywords, as analyzing the performance of paid keywords can inform your organic keyword strategy.

3. HTML Coding

Many experts agree that learning HTML is one of the most essential technical skills for SEOs to have. Even more than HTML, however, is a working knowledge—if not fluency—in more advanced coding, such as CSS. Codes are the language in which the internet is written, and in order to properly optimize websites, SEOs should be familiar with the way their sites are coded and structured. Much can be done in SEO without a technical knowledge of coding, but certain key components—such as Meta tags and the XML site map—depend on you being comfortable with HTML. You will be able to directly optimize sites on a much more structured level, without relying on a webmaster to carry out SEO recommendations.

[Tweet “Learning the basics of HTML is one of the most essential technical skills for SEOs to have.”]

4. Programming

PHP, JavaScript, JQuery, and other programming languages dictate the behavior and functionality of websites. They are far more involved (though can be integrated with) HTML code, and for SEOs, being able to interpret and manipulate this coding expands your ability to test and experiment. Create a more engaging user experience by serving content based on IP address, browser, language, and other personalized factors.

Responsive design and a website’s adaptability to different devices are all made possible through these codes. While much of this falls out of your domain, an understanding of JavaScript or PHP can help you work more closely with a web developer, and keeps you involved in the development process.

5. Analytics

It’s not enough to simply strategy and implement site optimizations. A good SEO is responsible for monitoring the performance of their sites, tracking changes and analyzing trends from before and after. While you may be working with other people solely dedicated to data analysis, it will help you cultivate your own strategy if you take ownership of that data. An SEO should be able to utilize different tools, such as Google Analytics,  Webmaster Tools, Conductor, or BrightEdge, to thoroughly mine the data for pages and analyze how their optimizations are performing. Site traffic, conversion rate, rankings, and other key metrics are crucial to determining what is working and what you need to refine.

It’s not necessary to become an expert in all things web marketing. Your area of expertise is SEO, and that is what you bring to the table. But it never hurts to expand your knowledge—to diversify your skill set. Exposing yourself to these other fields can give you a better understanding of your own, and makes it easier to work with others on a team. After all, with the way our industry changes on an almost daily basis, adaptability is a prerequisite for the job!