Businesses are relying on search engine optimization (SEO) to drive traffic to their websites and improve their online visibility.

As a result, the demand for SEO experts, also called SEO specialists, has skyrocketed in recent years and despite the saying “SEO is dead”, it is still a lucrative and in-demand career path for those interested in the digital marketing industry.

But how does one become an SEO specialist, and what skills and knowledge are required to succeed in this field?

Whether you are just starting or looking to improve your skills, this guide will inform you on how to become an SEO expert.

Here’s a video breakdown:

Do You Want to Be an SEO Expert?

Before we dive into the steps to becoming an SEO specialist, let me share a bit of my journey. Having been an SEO Specialist for the last 8 years, I’ve experienced firsthand the challenges and triumphs

I’ve grown an SEO agency from 3 to 50 SEO specialists.

We have a saying: “You have to earn your stripes” before you can call yourself one, and once you’re “there” maintain your skills them through tackling more challenging SEO projects, to be a constant practitioner of SEO is the key.

Now, let’s explore how you can embark on this rewarding path and what it takes to succeed.

What is an SEO expert?

An SEO expert works to improve the ranking of a website in search engine results pages (SERPs).

Includes conducting keyword research, analyzing website metrics, and creating and executing a successful SEO strategy.

SEO specialists make sure that websites are easy to use, easy to find, and have useful information for their target audience.

I’ve written a more detailed article about what SEO specialists do to explain this further, or a breakdown in the day in the life of an SEO Specialist too.

What does an SEO expert do?

An SEO expert enhances online visibility and search engine ranking through various tasks:

  • Algorithm analysis and adaptation.
  • Technical SEO troubleshooting.
  • Insightful use of analytics tools.
  • Strategy development and execution.
  • SEO integration with broader marketing initiatives.
  • Continuous learning to stay abreast of SEO trends.

SEO Key Performance Indicators (SEO KPIs)

For any SEO expert, there need to be an measurement of success to signify such a title,

Success in SEO isn’t nebulous; it’s quantifiable through KPIs:

  1. Search Engine Rankings: The bread and butter of SEO—higher rankings equate to expertise.
  2. Click-Through Rates (CTR): Engaging content translates to higher CTRs.
  3. Organic Results: The ultimate goal—driving traffic, leads, and sales through SEO.

Now we’ve learned about what they do, the KPIs, what’s the steps on skilling up to become a battle-hardened SEO expert?

Steps to Becoming an SEO Expert:

Gain a Deep Understanding of SEO

The first step to becoming an SEO specialist is to gain a deep understanding of the field.

You can start by reading SEO blogs and books, attending industry conferences and webinars, and taking online courses.

Get certified in SEO

Consider getting a certificate, there’s endless courses and certifications to get to become an SEO expert:

Develop Your Technical SEO Skills

To succeed as an SEO specialist, you must have a strong understanding of technical SEO.

Technical SEO skills include analyzing websites, identifying technical issues, and implementing solutions to improve search engine rankings.

You can develop your technical skills by learning HTML and CSS and programming languages such as JavaScript and Python.

It would help if you also understood web analytics and tracking tools, such as Google Analytics and Google Search Console.

Learn How to Do Proper Keyword Research

It’s vital to have a reliable method to do keyword research as an SEO specialist.

You need to be quickly able to see a website, find its niche, it’s low hanging fruit keywords, and what head terms they need to rank for to be successful in SEO.

Understand Google’s Algorithm

It would be best if you built a sense of Google’s algorithm, what it likes to see, and what it values to gain placement on search engine results pages (SERPs).

Google’s search involves:

Crawling: Automated crawlers find new or updated webpages, adding them to a list by following links.

Indexing: Google analyzes the content of these pages and stores the information in a massive database.

Serving Results: For search queries, Google delivers the most relevant results, influenced by factors like location and device, without accepting payment for rankings.

The process is as simple as identifying the search intent by clicking through competitors ranking in organic search results at the top.

Get to Know Key SEO Tools to Use

As an SEO expert, it’s essential to be familiar with the critical tools of the trade.

From keyword analysis and research to website optimization, numerous resources can help you get your job done quickly and efficiently.

Make sure you know the basics of each tool so you can maximize their potential – from keyword generators to content analyzers and backlink checkers; having a good understanding of these will help make your work more effective.

In current day there’s an emergence of using AI tools such as Jasper AI for content, or ChatGPT prompts for SEO tasks as part of the toolkit of an SEO specialist that is key to learn too.

Understand SEO strategies and how to execute them.

SEO strategies and tactics are essential for success online.

They help ensure that when people search for your business, products, or services, they’ll find you on the first page of search engine result.

SEO strategy involves:

  • Optimizing content with keywords.
  • Creating backlinks to authoritative websites.
  • Making sure pages are mobile-friendly.
  • Content marketing skills
  • Creative with keyword research
  • Data analytics and how they impact the bottom line

All these steps work together to improve a website’s ranking on search engine result pages (SERPs). When done correctly, they can make all the difference between being buried at the bottom of SERP results or appearing prominently at the top.

Gain practical experience, and build an SEO case study.

The best way to learn SEO is by doing it.

Start by optimizing your website or a friend’s or volunteering to work on small-scale SEO projects.

Showcasing your SEO work is a great way to demonstrate your knowledge and skills. Creating a portfolio of projects will give potential employers an insight into your expertise in this field.

Consider building a website or blog that showcases relevant case studies, success stories, and data-driven insights from past campaigns.

Additionally, make sure to include concrete examples of metrics that prove the effectiveness of your strategies, such as organic search traffic increases or improved keyword rankings over time.

Specialising in SEO for Career Growth

Carving out a niche can be a game-changer for your career. Specialization allows you to focus on a specific area of expertise, making you the go-to expert in that domain.

Whether it’s mastering the nuances of local SEO for small businesses or diving deep into the technical aspects for large e-commerce sites, finding your specialty can set you apart in the job market.

Types of Specialisation in SEO

  • Local SEO: Optimizing for local business visibility in search engines.
  • Technical SEO: Focusing on website infrastructure to improve search rankings.
  • Content SEO: Crafting content strategies to attract and engage audiences.
  • E-commerce SEO: Driving traffic and sales for online retailers.
  • Link Building: Developing a strategy to acquire quality backlinks.
  • SEO Dat Analytics: Analyzing data to inform SEO strategies.
  • International SEO: Tailoring SEO strategies for different geographic markets.

Specialists often move up the career ladder more quickly.

With a track record of success in a specific area, you’re well-positioned to take on senior roles like SEO Manager, Head of SEO, Director of SEO, or even Chief Marketing Officer.

SEO is constantly evolving, and SEO specialists must stay up-to-date with the latest industry trends and best practices.

This includes monitoring changes to search algorithms, following industry blogs and forums, and attending conferences and events.

By staying informed about the latest developments in the field, you can ensure that your optimization strategies are practical and in line with industry standards.

Proven Results in SEO

When you want to become an SEO expert, you can’t get around getting hands-on experience.

You can get the skills and knowledge you need to do well in your field by doing internships, freelance work, or working for a company full-time.

Getting your feet wet in SEO might sound like an intimidating prospect, but it doesn’t have to be.

Working on an SEO client puts all your knowledge to the test.

From personal experience working on campaigns built up my expertise in SEO to be able to call myself an expert when it comes to opitmising a website:

For example, my first client was a massage clinic.

After a bad experience with another SEO agency, I provided him with the knowledge and tools to carry out technical on-site fixes and optimise for search engines himself too.

A key action that moved the needle was actually “de-optimising pages” from keyword stuffing and removing toxic backlinks to increase the credibility and naturalness of the website,

Eventually it ranked number 1 for “remedial massage melbourne” within a few months of starting.

Stories like these are great ways to communicate your knowledge and build trust as an SEO expert.

Personal Branding for SEO Experts

To stand out as an SEO expert, you need to build a robust personal brand and network.

Start a blog and post articles about SEO successes and insights based on your experience

Use social media to promote and engage with the community.

Go to conferences, and join forums to share ideas. Eventually to step up on the main stage as an expert in your SEO field.

Effective networking and branding can propel your SEO career and help you contribute meaningfully to the community.

Passionate About Helping Others

Becoming an SEO expert can be a highly rewarding and fulfilling career path.

It’s a heavy burden, from experience the trust that a business will give you, and invest in your expertise with their own hard earned money requires you to be passionate about helping, and driving results.

In order to be successful as an SEO expert, you have to be willing to go above and beyond in your projects to achieve results, when you help others you’ll find in SEO amazing opportunities happen!

Skills for an SEO expert

Here’s a curated list of essential skills for an SEO Expert:

  • Adaptability (can roll with the punches in marketing)
  • Analytical and critical thinking
  • Copywriting skills
  • Manages site technicalities.
  • Skilled in HTML/coding languages.
  • Understands search engine mechanics.
  • Aware of SEO trends
  • Patience (the marathon not the sprint)
  • Problem soving
  • Researching and investigation skills
  • Prioritizes tasks efficiently, can time manage well.

SEO expert salary

SEO experts typically earn an annual salary of around $60,000 on average.

Earnings can vary based on employment type—corporate or freelance—along with experience, skill level, client portfolio size, and location. Those in full-time roles often enjoy perks such as health insurance, vacation days, and flexible work hours.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the salary range for an SEO specialist?

The average salary for an SEO specialist ranges from $50,000 to $80,000 per year, depending on experience and location.

Is an SEO specialist a good career choice?

Yes, becoming an SEO specialist can be a lucrative and in-demand career path. The demand for SEO professionals is growing as more businesses invest in online marketing, and the digital marketing industry is expected to grow in the coming years.

How long does it take to become an SEO expert?

The time it takes to become an SEO specialist varies depending on your prior experience and the amount of time and effort you put into learning and practicing SEO. On average, it takes around 6-12 months to become proficient in SEO.