Search marketing: What skillset is required for today’s SEO expert? iProspect, Marin Software, Greenlight and others discuss

By Katie McQuater | Magazine Editor

September 27, 2013 | 4 min read

As SEO converges with social media and PR, and content becomes ever more crucial to the success of search marketing strategies, The Drum asks a cross-section of industry insiders how the skillset of today's SEO expert has changed.

Katy Howell, CEO, Immediate Future Every person in social media needs to have a deep understanding of search. In the flipside, those in SEO need a better understanding of the wider marketing context. That means capabilities in branding, content and copy production, development and multichannel integration.

Jimmy McCann, head of SEO, Search Laboratory The modern-day ‘SEO expert’ has to have a wide understanding of digital and online, but also traditional marketing principles, to be successful. The key skill an SEO should have is communication. The modern-day SEO has to educate, inform, manipulate and mediate across a number of stakeholders within an organisation. For example they need to be friends with the web developer, the designer, the head of marketing, the PR, the social media exec and the intern. All of those people play a vital part in the overall success of an SEO strategy. In short, you can’t do it on your own – you have to ingrain/intertwine SEO in all of your marketing and PR efforts across a business.

Ben Austin, CEO, Absolute Digital Media Thanks to this increasingly integrated approach to digital marketing, today’s SEO expert needs a wider base of knowledge across different marketing channels. They should have an understanding of the search engines, content development and the various different social networks, but most importantly, experience of how to make these work together to deliver a campaign with the most impact.

It is also becoming more important for SEO specialists to spend time understanding and analysing the target audience as the search engines are looking for websites that are optimised primarily for the user.

Jon Myers, VP and managing director EMEA, Marin Software From a technical perspective, much the same on-page optimisation skills that they’ve always needed. Also, as always, SEO experts need an inquisitive mind which drives them to try and understand Google’s algorithm, and predict what changes might be coming. The only addition is the ability to successfully drive press coverage and awareness of a brand or website. The best SEO campaigns I’ve seen run recently have been those which have combined people who have traditional technical SEO skills with those who have the PR and promotional skills. However, each side needs to have an understanding of the nuances of the other’s role.

Neilson Hall, head of owned media, iProspect UK There has definitely been a shift from highly technical analytics geeks right through to creative directors – it's all about balance. Technical SEO will also be a key component of any search strategy, but now the effective seeding of great content must also be considered.

Matthew Hayford, head of SEO, Greenlight SEO used to be a very siloed skill that involved geeky coders who could manipulate their websites which in turn could manipulate the search engines. Then it became the turn of the link builders who didn’t need to know anything about coding, but could acquire the correct links to get their site ranking. We then moved into a period that merged the two together into an all-rounder – great technical ability to make the website perfect and off-page knowledge to get strong links.

That all-rounder has now evolved one step further to incorporate outreach marketing and content marketing. The three fundamentals of a website remain the same as they have always been – technical, content and links – but now these fundamentals are very closely aligned and like a chair, it won’t stand very well when it loses a leg.

This feature is published as part of The Drum's latest Search supplement.

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immediate future

Brands come to us when they are serious about social.

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Search Laboratory

Driven by evidence and led by transparency, we search for the truth in data.

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Marin Software

Marin Software is an online advertising company headquartered in San Francisco.

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Greenlight (now part of Brave Bison)

Greenlight has lived and breathed digital since 2001, when we started as three people in an old North London print shop. Today, we’re a full-service digital and commerce agency made up of 170 people, with a reputation for producing integrated, transformational strategies across the entire digital space.

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