How to Become an SEO Expert

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 16 January 2023

Published 19 July 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a process used to improve a website's visibility to search engines. Experts in this field use this process to bring more web traffic to a particular site and, therefore, more business to a company. Learning about this process equips you for a role in web design, social media marketing or content creation. In this article, we discuss what an SEO expert is, their job duties, important skills and how to become one.

Related: Technical Skills: Definitions and Examples

What is SEO?

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a web-based process of bringing user traffic to a particular webpage. It includes many practices and strategies to further increase traffic. It helps broaden a company's online audience, generate business and increase brand visibility. Since web design is a general need for businesses, companies in an array of industries utilise the knowledge of specialists to improve sales.

This optimisation is the increase of a webpage's rankings in search engine algorithms, which affects the number of users that visit that site. The highest-ranking sites appear at the very top of a search engine after a user makes a search. Using these processes incorporates a variety of factors, such as:

  • Accessibility: Webpages that are simple and easy to understand might receive higher rankings.

  • Technical accuracy: Along with the overall appearance of the webpage, the technical side of the site should be thoughtfully designed.

  • Common language: The site should include language that users would include in a search, such as familiar phrases or the most used words in the industry.

  • User experience: Webpages that engage the user and provide a seamless experience have the potential to receive higher rankings in a search.

Related: What is an SEO specialist?

Why is SEO important?

Search engine optimisation is important because it increases the amount of business a company gets. Achieving a high ranking on a site boosts it closer to the top of the search engine results page (SERP), raising the number of clicks, sales and engagements the site receives. With such a tangible impact on sales, businesses benefit from tailoring their webpages.

Since the search engine ranks sites based on several important factors, searching puts the most effective and trustworthy sites at the top of the SERP. This reduces the ability of brands to control results, leading to a fair process. Therefore, it serves a company well to hire a specialist to create content that ranks high in the algorithm.

What do SEO experts do?

Professionals and experts in this field complete a range of tasks to tailor websites for optimisation. There may be some variation, dependent on the specific industry that you work in, but overall, many experts complete a similar set of tasks. Some typical job duties may include to:

  • Analyse competitors' web presences

  • Create, manage and update social media channels to increase user engagement

  • Develop new marketing initiatives

  • Follow best practices

  • Identify and implement link-building opportunities

  • Implement and maintain title and meta tags within the content

  • Monitor webmaster tools

  • Negotiate contracts with clients and vendors

  • Optimise copy and landing pages for search engines

  • Perform consistent keyword discovery and expansion projects

  • Recommend changes to content, linking and website structure to improve rankings

  • Research the latest trends

  • Track, report and analyse data for campaigns

Related: Technical Skills: Definitions and Examples

How to become an SEO expert

Follow these steps to become an SEO expert:

1. Consider a university degree

Consider earning a bachelor's degree to learn important skills that can help you become an expert. Few specific programmes exist but consider studying in a related discipline such as marketing, communications or computer science. Some universities may offer joint honours or certificate programmes in combination with degree programmes. Completing a bachelor's degree may take about three to four years and often include internship opportunities in a related field. Some course offerings may include:

  • Analysis and optimisation of digital media

  • Communications strategy and new media

  • Content marketing

  • Digital analytics and marketing metrics

  • Digital consumer behaviour

  • Digital consumer search and marketing

  • Digital promotions

  • Direct and interactive marketing

  • Fundamentals of mobile technology

  • Search engine marketing analytics

  • Strategy

  • Social, legal and ethical issues of digital data

Related:

  • How to become a digital marketing analyst (with skills)

  • GCSE Equivalent Qualifications

2. Consider a certification programme

Whether or not you complete an undergraduate degree, consider going through a search engine optimisation certification programme. Schools, companies and other organisations offer certification in marketing, analytics, computer programming and other related fields. Some programmes offer training courses to help you complete the certification requirements.

Another option is to get a certification in a specific search engine, so you have a specialised skill set. The cost of a certification programme depends on the one you choose to take.

Related: What You Need to Know About Professional Qualifications

3. Understand principles and basics

Even if you gain certification, it's helpful to research the principles and basics on your own time. Learn how audiences interact with search engines or take time to study the technical aspects of web design. This might include coding, site speed or mobile usability. There are different types of optimisation, such as:

  • Keyword research: Identifying relevant user keyword searches alerts you of which words to include in your own website or content.

  • Link building: Including links from other websites boosts organic traffic on a search engine by showing that your site has some credibility.

  • On-page optimisation: Optimising webpages for improved rankings relates specifically to the look and feel of the page.

  • Technical optimisation: Optimising websites for crawl, index and a user-friendly experience relate to the back end of web design, like the HTML code.

Related: What does an SEO analyst do? (With skills and duties)

4. Learn how search engines work

Research how each search engine runs to better understand what practices to incorporate into your work. There are a few key features of a webpage that an engine might look at. These features are:

  • Authority: This measures how legitimate a website is.

  • Relevance: This measures how well the information on a page matches a user's query.

  • Utility: This measures how useful a result may be in relation to a user's query.

Related: What is a web crawler? (Plus definition and importance)

5. Consider specialising in one industry

After gaining a broad knowledge of best practices, consider applying your skills to one specific industry. This helps you learn the most effective strategies, with a focus on one niche market. For example, become an expert in creating sites for technology companies. Then, all of your work revolves around one industry, rather than moving through sites across many fields.

6. Practice building websites

The best way to master a skill is by practising frequently. Whether you're employed as a web designer or you create websites in your free time, further develop your knowledge of what types of practices and strategies work. Try out techniques or unique skills to implement what you learn through research. For example, test if tagging certain keywords raises or lowers the pages' location in SERPs. Once you change the keywords, conduct a search to see where your page sits on the SERP.

7. Learn how to use tools and analytics programmes

To become an expert, you must learn how to use industry-specific tools and analytics programs. These tools and programs sharpen the quality of work you do while providing helpful feedback along the way based on metrics, clicks or visits to a webpage. While you might analyse a page's success without them, the ease and effectiveness make the tools and programs worthwhile.

8. Seek professional development

Best practices might change daily as search engines change their algorithms or update the entire system. To stay current with these changes, read about search engines regularly, listen to an industry podcast or consider attending a professional conference. Knowing about potential changes prepares you to edit webpages to maintain rankings.

9. Study data

Run your own user queries through various search engines to observe sites that rank high in the SERP. These sites are examples of successful practices, so explore a few to assess what keywords, user experience or other practices contributed to its success.

10. Build connections

As with many professional roles, building connections is a vital part of making progress. Use social media as a tool to join industry-specific groups or follow experts in the field. Build your own network of connections outside of social media as well. This might include friends, coworkers, clients, business partners or anyone else who could help you find a job or more deeply explore the SEO industry.

11. Develop a portfolio

Consider creating a portfolio to display the projects you completed. Include metrics of success to further quantify your knowledge of best practices. Use this to show potential employers what skills you've gained to continue growing in the search engine optimisation industry.

12. Be patient

Research, tracking data and testing new methods are just a few of the time-consuming tasks included in becoming an expert. It also takes time to see success when testing out an SEO practice on your webpage. Be patient with yourself as you learn new skills and implement them into your work.

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