A Search Engine Optimiser (SEO) differs from a Webmaster and a Web Designer in that he or she is responsible for marketing a website via search engines, as opposed to designing it. The SEO process can range from being purely technical work, to being entirely a consultancy job.
Basically, a Search Engine Optimiser’s knowledge base lies in knowing how search engines index and rank websites and can therefore re-design existing sites in order to raise the amount of visitors they receive.
A basic technical and design knowledge is required for this job, almost to the extent of a Web Designer, but a SEO also needs sound business, marketing, anaytical and research skills.
The main factor a SEO has to deal with is the fact that the industry changes on a daily basis, so you have to be able to adapt quickly. It’s not what you know – it’s how well you adapt to the changes!
What does an SEO do?
It varies a great deal depending on your role within your organisation. Within a large company, an SEO may work directly with the website team and most likely will coordinate efforts with the marketing team. In a smaller company, the SEO may be excepted to fufil more of these roles himself.
There are several key elements to SEO;
- Developing a content strategy for the website.
- Deciding how the website will present information to users and search engines.
- Influence how other websites view and reference the website.
These 3 areas really form the basis of search engine optimisation – an SEO will either be the one advising on these areas (as a consultant, project or accountant manager) or actually implementing these areas (as a technical SEO). Your role will really depend on your own skills and what specific career path you have chosen, but generally there is an element of technical understanding required.
Similar to that of a Webmaster but with a less technical focus. You could learn online what you need to know about Search Engine Optimisation, but an IT or Marketing background would be beneficial to you.
You don’t really need any qualifications to be a SEO, but some Web Design knowledge and experience will be necessary if you want to this professionally. Generally most entry level SEO positions are aimed at graduates from technical or business degrees and a solid understanding of the Internet is preferred.
In the SEO industry, there is no substitute for reall experience as there are very few training courses available (although they are becoming more commonplace these days so you might want to try them out). It’s very simple to setup your own website, be it a blog (you can setup free blogs at Blogger or WordPress) or other type of website.
If you are keen to get into the SEO industry, then the best thing you can do is setup your own website and take it from there. SEO is all about research and testing – play around with your website and see what works and use that knowledge to take your website to the next level.
One of the main starting points for many people in the search engine optimisation industry are discussion forums – many contain great starting guides so you can get your head around the basics of the industry and most communities are happy to help out “newbies” with any questions they may have.
Key Skills For Becoming A SEO
Some knowledge of the following would be necessary, but most of these skills can be learned on the job, through home learning and practical experience:
- Search Engines – this is at the core of a search engine optimiser’s job – how do search engines work and how can you implement that knowledge in your project.
- Web Design – basic theory, HTML markup and an understanding of how web pages work.
- Marketing – basic concepts such as market segmentation, etc.
- Keyword Research – the concept of keyword targeting and skills researching what people search for.
- Copywriting – write copy for web pages.
However, many SEO roles may also require soft skills:
- Account management
- Project management
- People management
- Presentation skills
- Networking skills
SEOs can easily be a Jack of all Trades, but also be a niche expert at the same time. It’s a very unique industry – one person’s job description may be completely different to another’s, even though they have the same job title. SEOs commonly lead their teams into areas the company hasn’t ventured into before. The nature of the market means that many SEOs can make more money working on their own projects than an employer can pay them so quite a large percentage of experienced SEOs find themselves self employed.
- Fused Nation Blog – SEO and marketing blog
- Google Webmaster Central – Resources for webmasters
- HTML Goodies – HTML tutorial site
- Open Directory Project – Largest directory of resources on the Web
- Macromedia Dreamweaver – Homepage for Macromedia’s HTML text editor
- Matt Cutts – blog of senior Google anti-spam engineer, Matt Cutts
- w3schools – Tutorial site for web design technologies
- WC3 – World Wide Web resources and Standards
- WebmasterWorld – Webmaster & SEO forums
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