Essential SEO Skills for the Future of Online Marketing


The best way to date yourself in SEO is to stand still. If you are not racing ahead, you are behind. Heck, even the pacesetters are trying to keep up. That makes hiring a static team in our dynamic industry extremely difficult. Today’s required skill is tomorrow’s outdated one. Not to mention, the diversity of modern SEO makes it impossible to find one person with everything.

But what if it was not impossible?

During a trailer spiral last week, The Wolverine got me thinking about SEO—a good sign that I need new hobbies. What if there was a secret SEO bunker to build the perfect online marketer? Which qualities would be the most important and would we even want one person to have them all?

The perfect SEO is something like wolverine

Perfect SEO Candidate

SEO job descriptions call for an unrealistic blend of Internet marketing skills and experience that range from data analysis to technical prowess to sociological intuition. We are essentially searching for an extraverted statistician whose hobbies include building websites, writing short fiction and participating in tedious highly collaborative projects.

Can you spot the contradictions? (If not, and all of those qualities described you wonderfully, you are very special and not alone.)

An overview of important SEO skills was posted on several years ago and is still extremely relevant. A few of the skills (or mentalities) worth repeating include:

  • An analytical mind that asks questions and welcomes the challenge of searching for answers.
  • Knowledge of the Internet and how a site operates within it. That includes an understanding of search engines and how they crawl, index and promote content.
  • Public speaking and the ability to communicate clearly under pressure. Not every client meeting requires a campaign pitch to the C-suite, but most people do not understand the work we do and need to believe in the project manager more than the specific recommendations.
  • Stubbornness to do what is best for the client and its online marketing goals because there is always a shortcut or backburner or majority opinion. Great SEOs abandon their introversion and non-confrontational tendencies to stand up to their clients for their clients.

Since the list is a few years old, there are several additions for modern SEO and the future of Internet marketing. Three must-haves include:

  • An educational mentality that strives for inclusion. I have talked about the value of teaching clients about SEO and rarely see success from siloed SEO efforts.
  • An understanding of social media as a tool for online marketers, not a stand-alone skillset. Be able to see the bigger picture.
  • A desire to specialize in one aspect of SEO. Every agency wants an expert in local, international, mobile, e-commerce, etc.

A genuine interest in specializing is a lost quality in the era of generalists, something any agency can appreciate. We can’t be everything to everyone. At some point, we have to focus, even at an agency level, to produce truly great work. So often, online marketing agencies strive for the centroid between generalist and specialist, the perfect position that provides opportunity while honoring expertise. But it is a challenge to maintain such a broad offering—a convenient one-stop-shop for clients—without spreading too thin and losing the authority and efficiency of their competitive advantage.

The same is true for SEO professionals. As individuals, there are only so many hours in the day to hone a craft, especially if it is a broad one, like online marketing. The best SEOs I’ve met know something about everything and everything about something. If you are trying to advance your career, or want to hire someone to advance your business, consider a specializing for the future of online marketing.

Or visit the bunker and build the perfect SEO.

I would love to start a discussion in the comments about the qualities that you think are important for the future of SEO. What are you investing in?  

Andrew Garberson is the Director of the Digital Marketing Strategy department. He has led digital marketing efforts in a variety of settings, including agency, entrepreneurial and nonprofit environments, and has master's degrees in business administration and mass communications. An Iowan at heart and Pittsburgher in spirit, Andrew commutes on his 10-speed most days between March and December -- after all, he's only human.

  • Hey Andrew, Thanks for the great POST! Such post always helps newbies in the field to get knowledge versed. SEO is really an exciting field and one always needs to be in race.

  • Nice indeed Andrew, In addition I would like feature one more point. Before hiring any do some social research for their own profiles which will give you even more insight about their psychology and interest. What you think?

  • Andrew Garberson

    Sure, a broad knowledge is important, especially as the industry evolves. With regard to stalking new hires, I leave that to HR… and the NSA.

  • Thank you for mentioning public speaking. It’s crucial – and not just in SEO. If you spend your day behind a computer looking at data and never talking to people about it, your presentation skills will suffer!

  • Great idea for a post Andrew. These things are all important but I would try to squeeze in a couple more.

    Creativity – The ability to continually come up with unique and original content ideas and be able to craft then in a timely and engaging fashion.

    A Thirst For Knowledge – An eagerness to constantly learn new things. Reading is a key part of an SEO’s job and without an eagerness to learn more it is very difficult to keep up with the constant changes.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Andrew Garberson

    @Chris Thirst for knowledge and passion should probably be #1 on the list. Being a successful SEO would be difficult without a curiosity and passion for the work. Great addition!

  • Great article.Andrew. I strongly agree that seo needs to specialize as there are too much to learn at internet marketing.our time is not enough

  • Andrew Garberson

    Exactly. There are only so many hours in the day.

  • What about SEO in top MNC. I dont think that SEO is useful for big brand like Yahoo, Accenture.

    SEO services only based on small business is this right?


  • Andrew Garberson

    Pratik, I think there are many people who would disagree–including this one.

Contact Us.

Follow Us



We'll get back to you
in ONE business day.
Our Locations
THE FOUNDRY [map] LunaMetrics

24 S. 18th Street
Suite 100

Pittsburgh, PA 15203


4115 N. Ravenswood
Suite 101
Chicago, IL 60613


2100 Manchester Rd.
Building C, Suite 1750
Wheaton, IL 60187