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Become an SEO rock star: Evolve your SEO skill set

Want to be the SEO every­one looks up to? Con­trib­u­tor Bob­by Lyons lists areas of mar­ket­ing and tech­nol­o­gy you need to mas­ter to be at the top of your game.

Dur­ing my career, sev­er­al exec­u­tives have asked why so many of my search engine opti­miza­tion (SEO) team mem­bers are poached by oth­er teams in the orga­ni­za­tion.

The answer is always the same: True SEO pro­fes­sion­als evolve quick­ly and are in a con­stant mode of pro­gress­ing their skill set. Suc­cess­ful SEO is less about what you know and more about what you can get done.

Tal­ent­ed search pro­fes­sion­als are not only experts at evolv­ing their skill sets and adapt­ing to the rapid changes Google makes on a recur­ring basis, they are also experts at under­stand­ing how an orga­ni­za­tion works across the numer­ous func­tions in their orga­ni­za­tion.

Every man­ag­er is look­ing for an indi­vid­ual that can learn quick­ly on the job and already knows how to work cross-func­tion­al­ly to achieve objec­tives. These are core char­ac­ter­is­tics of a rock star or a star on the rise in any com­pa­ny.

In this arti­cle, I am break­ing out the core areas of self-improve­ment SEO pro­fes­sion­als should be focused on to con­tin­ue to progress in SEO and increase their val­ue to the orga­ni­za­tion.

Most of these are not the run-of-the-mill SEO required skill sets, but obtain­ing these skills can place you in a dif­fer­ent league in the search space where dri­ving organ­ic growth is only one val­ue you are deliv­er­ing.

The more you under­stand about areas out­side of SEO that impact SEO, the more impact you can dri­ve across the entire orga­ni­za­tion.

Marketing list for SEO rock stars

Mar­ket­ing is a great place to start, giv­en the com­mon split of SEO pro­fes­sion­als com­ing from either a mar­ket­ing or tech­nol­o­gy back­ground.

Below are some of the areas you should have a sol­id under­stand­ing about today that are mar­ket­ing-cen­tric or close­ly tied to the mar­ket­ing func­tion:

1. Copy­right and trade­mark law. No need to be a lawyer, but you should under­stand how copy­right and trade­mark laws work to pro­tect intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty.

SEO can pro­vide guid­ance to inter­nal or exter­nal legal teams by demon­strat­ing how indi­vid­u­als are cap­i­tal­iz­ing on our intel­lec­tu­al assets. Demon­stra­tion of the pri­ma­ry rule around cap­i­tal­iza­tion, as well as where a vio­la­tor is cre­at­ing con­sumer con­fu­sion, is fun­da­men­tal in resolv­ing copy­right and trade­mark issues. Infringe­ments occur­ring online are like­ly hav­ing an impact on our SEO traf­fic and/or poten­tial­ly how Google eval­u­ates our web­site.

2. Domain man­age­ment and strat­e­gy. Build­ing on copy­right and trade­mark law and under­stand­ing what options are avail­able to pro­tect against trade­mark infringe­ment and resolve trade­mark use issues with your legal team in the domain space can be extreme­ly help­ful in fix­ing traf­fic leaks and/or pre­vent­ing these leaks from occur­ring.

Traf­fic leaks are what I define as enti­ties that exist online that are designed to siphon traf­fic des­tined for your domain. For exam­ple:

  • What are com­mon typos for your domain?
  • Do you own those typos?
  • Is a large por­tion of your affil­i­ate rev­enue com­ing from redi­rect­ed typo domains?

Every dol­lar spent mar­ket­ing your brand either offline or online should be dri­ving traf­fic to your web­site. When that is not the case, you have a traf­fic leak.

3. Affil­i­ate net­works. In a com­pa­ny I worked for pre­vi­ous­ly, we had what we called the week­ly thief report. The name of the report was a bit of a joke, but the report’s pur­pose was sim­ply to iden­ti­fy where the affil­i­ate chan­nel was can­ni­bal­iz­ing exist­ing spend or efforts from oth­er mar­ket­ing chan­nels.

Under­stand­ing how affil­i­ate net­works func­tion and how affil­i­ates uti­lize the sys­tem to make their mon­ey makes it much eas­i­er to iden­ti­fy where can­ni­bal­iza­tion is occur­ring, and more impor­tant­ly, where the affil­i­ate is fail­ing to pro­vide val­ue in the cus­tomer jour­ney.

A typo domain redi­rect, uti­liz­ing IFrames (Inline Frames) to dupli­cate con­tent on their domain with­out bring­ing unique con­tent or a val­ue to the cus­tomer is just one trick that occurs in the affil­i­ate space. There are numer­ous oth­er tricks affil­i­ates use to redi­rect traf­fic from your web­site to anoth­er web­site where they are being com­pen­sat­ed for orders or leads.

A per­cent­age of this traf­fic should have arrived at your web­site as an SEO refer­ral source. Spend time with your affil­i­ate man­ag­er to review the pro­gram so you can iden­ti­fy traf­fic leaks that are neg­a­tive­ly impact­ing your SEO pro­gram. Use the infor­ma­tion you obtain about how trade­mark and copy­right law works to deter­mine what options are avail­able to resolve and pre­vent future traf­fic leak issues.

4. Paid search. Sim­ply put, you should know exact­ly what is work­ing in your paid search pro­grams. For exam­ple, what prod­ucts per­form well in prod­uct list­ing ads (PLAs)? These are like­ly the best prod­uct page tar­gets for SEO giv­en these prod­uct uni­form resource loca­tors (URLs) have already demon­strat­ed the abil­i­ty to con­vert traf­fic. Under­stand­ing how paid search is dri­ving clicks through their cre­ative can help you rewrite titles and descrip­tions that will result in a high­er click-through rate for SEO.

What key­words are bid to be vis­i­ble ver­sus bid to win? SEO and paid search should be aligned on key­words iden­ti­fied as bid to win to ensure both teams are fight­ing for top posi­tions for these key­words. Align­ing with paid search on brand term strat­e­gy can reduce spend on brand­ed terms and allow paid search to go after traf­fic where it is more dif­fi­cult for SEO to com­pete.

5. Cam­paign cal­en­dars. Search engine opti­miza­tion does not par­tic­i­pate in every cam­paign the tra­di­tion­al or dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing teams launch. Depend­ing on tim­ing and/or how long the cam­paign will run, it may not make sense to focus SEO efforts on cam­paign sup­port.

It is impor­tant to be able to review a cam­paign cal­en­dar and iden­ti­fy which cam­paigns are going to dri­ve search demand and what key­word search­es these cam­paigns are going to trig­ger. For long-run­ning cam­paigns or where the cam­paign has an extend­ed reach, SEO teams should make sure there is an effort to cap­i­tal­ize on increased search demand ver­sus allow­ing com­peti­tors to ben­e­fit from their mar­ket­ing spend.

If you are new to eval­u­at­ing cam­paign cal­en­dars, we can improve the impact of SEO par­tic­i­pa­tion by work­ing with paid search teams to learn how each cam­paign impact­ed demand in the search engine results pages (SERPs) and how the paid search teams cap­i­tal­ized on the increased demand.

6. Cre­ative. While this is not always present in the mar­ket­ing depart­ment, mar­ket­ing per­son­nel typ­i­cal­ly work togeth­er with the cre­ative teams on deliv­er­ables for a cam­paign.

Every SEO pro­fes­sion­al should place a focus on improv­ing their cre­ative writ­ing skills. Spend time with your cre­ative teams and review what con­tent pieces res­onat­ed with the tar­get audi­ence and learn from their suc­cess­es. Vari­a­tion in con­tent types to dri­ve a dif­fer­ent con­sumer behav­ior is crit­i­cal when devel­op­ing a con­tent strat­e­gy for your SEO pro­gram.

Do not for­get to be a good part­ner. SEO has access to infor­ma­tion and tools that help us deter­mine what key­words and ques­tions are trend­ing in the search engines. Share infor­ma­tion with the cre­ative team so they are con­tribut­ing to SEO as part of their process of devel­op­ing con­tent for the cus­tomers. Every piece of con­tent you do not cre­ate in SEO is a win in terms of scal­ing your pro­gram.

7. Fore­cast­ing. We can’t cre­ate an SEO fore­cast with­out under­stand­ing the objec­tives and process for the entire mar­ket­ing chan­nel fore­cast. The desired out­come for the entire mar­ket­ing mix, along with know­ing the objec­tives around cash flow after mar­ket­ing, is crit­i­cal to under­stand­ing what is expect­ed from your SEO chan­nel.

Each quar­ter, the per­cent­age of rev­enue con­tri­bu­tion for your chan­nel may need to shift to allow for the entire mar­ket­ing mix to be suc­cess­ful. Using the infor­ma­tion you have on how your SEO pro­gram per­forms as it relates to cost ver­sus rev­enue, cur­rent run rate and per­cent­age of rev­enue con­tri­bu­tion, take a crack at a full mar­ket­ing fore­cast across all chan­nels.

To refine your fore­cast process, obtain the same infor­ma­tion from the oth­er chan­nel man­agers and com­pare your fore­cast to the company’s fore­cast quar­ter­ly, as well as the actu­als report­ed.

Per­for­mance trends for oth­er chan­nels will have a direct impact on future fore­casts for SEO. Mar­ket­ing is a team effort: When one chan­nel is down, anoth­er chan­nel must step up and pick up the slack.

Wear a lot of hats

When eval­u­at­ing job oppor­tu­ni­ties, always look for a posi­tion that will allow you to grow beyond your cur­rent SEO skill set. Expo­sure to oth­er func­tion­al areas in the orga­ni­za­tion, and/or even respon­si­bil­i­ties to man­age oth­er groups as part of your role, will help build you into a well-round­ed pro­fes­sion­al.

With that said, let’s take a look at the tech­nol­o­gy list of self-improve­ment areas. The tech­nol­o­gy areas of con­cern in this sec­tion are focused on deep­er lev­els of tech that can help you mature your SEO pro­gram through enhanced train­ing for tech­ni­cal per­son­nel, a more thor­ough analy­sis of both the bot and user expe­ri­ence and how to lever­age tech­nol­o­gy to sim­pli­fy rou­tine SEO oper­a­tions.

Technology list for SEO professionals

8. Front-end devel­op­ment. The abil­i­ty to read and audit front-end code is an essen­tial skill for SEO. Brush up on:

  • The Amer­i­can with Dis­abil­i­ties Act (ADA) com­pli­ance best prac­tices.
  • World Wide Web Con­sor­tium (W3C) val­i­da­tion.
  • Markup lan­guages.
  • Devel­op in the areas of cas­cad­ing style sheets (CSS), JavaScript and linked data.

My rec­om­men­da­tion is to always have a web­site you own and are main­tain­ing. Where pos­si­ble, cre­ate a web­site and reg­is­ter as an affil­i­ate through one of the affil­i­ate net­works like Com­mis­sion Junc­tion, Rakuten Link­Share or Shar­eaSale.

The more you explore on the mar­ket­ing and tech side with your own site, the eas­i­er it will be to eval­u­ate web­sites you are opti­miz­ing. The goal you should set is to reach a point of com­pe­ten­cy that allows you to speak flu­ent­ly with the front end devel­op­ers about code require­ments and reach the lev­el where you can con­duct SEO cours­es for front-end devel­op­ment.

9. Load bal­anc­ing. Busi­ness growth is a good thing, but it requires web­site scal­ing to accom­mo­date increas­es in traf­fic. A firm grasp of how load-bal­anc­ing tech­nolo­gies work to route traf­fic gives you a sig­nif­i­cant advan­tage in SEO.

For exam­ple, you may be look­ing at mas­sive log files con­duct­ing your log file analy­sis to deter­mine how crawlers are inter­act­ing with the web­site, issues they are encoun­ter­ing and vis­it fre­quen­cy. Load bal­anc­ing allows for the cre­ation of a repli­cat­ed bot farm where bot traf­fic is offloaded to a group of servers run­ning the exact code base as the cus­tomer. Seg­ment­ing this traf­fic allows for more crawler activ­i­ty with­out the con­sump­tion of resources used to serve the cus­tomer.

The tech­nol­o­gy team will agree to the seg­men­ta­tion because offload­ing bot activ­i­ty to ded­i­cat­ed servers makes it much eas­i­er to achieve con­sis­tent page load times giv­en that the ran­dom crawl activ­i­ty con­sumes resources that could be more effi­cient­ly serv­ing a cus­tomer.

10. Log file analy­sis. Why do we want bot traf­fic seg­ment­ed from cus­tomer traf­fic? One advan­tage is the abil­i­ty to ana­lyze logs that are serv­ing a spe­cif­ic need.

Ana­lyz­ing logs with­out hav­ing to parse out non-bot user agents to get a thor­ough under­stand­ing of the expe­ri­ence a crawler encoun­ters as part of their crawl sim­pli­fies the process immense­ly. Ana­lyz­ing sam­ples of logs from the farm of servers serv­ing the cus­tomer can help you glean infor­ma­tion about issues with the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence, issues that will even­tu­al­ly show up in the bot logs.

Start out using appli­ca­tions like Scream­ing Frog’s log ana­lyz­er and Deep Log Ana­lyz­er, and then build up to uti­liz­ing log aggre­ga­tion sys­tems or import­ing logs into a data­base that can be queried.

Log aggre­ga­tion sys­tems may become more crit­i­cal if traf­fic is not seg­ment­ed by a user agent. Larg­er web­sites do not always cre­ate sep­a­rate resource pools for cus­tomers ver­sus crawler, but log aggre­ga­tion sys­tems allow for advanced exports where spe­cif­ic user agents from the logs can be tar­get­ed for export.

11. Linked data. This is an area where you can leapfrog over SEO pro­fes­sion­als that have “rest­ed on their lau­rels” while the web was mov­ing for­ward.

Today, most SEO pro­fes­sion­als ful­ly under­stand how web­page link­ing works to pro­vide val­ue for a vis­i­tor and how it impacts SEO. Linked data is the next step, where data can be aggre­gat­ed from mul­ti­ple sources into a sin­gle resource for the cus­tomer.

Most of us are aware of linked data tech­nolo­gies like JavaScript Object Nota­tion for Linked Data (JSON-LD) because Google has been clear that it’s a pre­ferred markup lan­guage for pro­vid­ing addi­tion­al descrip­tive data around ele­ments in our web­sites.

Spin up on linked data to under­stand the end game: a con­nect­ed web where infor­ma­tion shar­ing is much more flu­id for the cus­tomer. Instead of pro­vid­ing a sin­gle con­tent page that links to oth­er pages pre­sent­ing use­ful infor­ma­tion on the same top­ic, you can use linked data to bring that con­tent into your page. It will also acknowl­edge the cre­ator and build a more use­ful page for your vis­i­tor.

Beware of build­ing pages where you have not pro­vid­ed added val­ue and are just aggre­gat­ing oth­er sources. If you are an Excel user, imag­ine being able to per­form a VLOOKUP across the web to cre­ate a sin­gle data set from numer­ous data sources.

Linked data is pow­er­ful, and we are only begin­ning to see prop­a­ga­tion of use.

12. DNS and con­tent deliv­ery net­works (CDNs). I am com­bin­ing these two tech areas because they over­lap.

For exam­ple, near­ly all web­sites today have access to con­tent deliv­ery net­works that help scale the web­site to han­dle more traf­fic. Cloud­Flare, Fast­ly, Instart Log­ic, Ama­zon S3 and Aka­mai are just a hand­ful of CDNs that are in use today that have an impact on SEO.

Lever­ag­ing these resources for SEO pur­pos­es can ease the work placed on inter­nal tech­nol­o­gy part­ners and allow for faster exe­cu­tion for the cus­tomer.

One exam­ple would be redi­rects. Cer­tain­ly, you want to be ful­ly aware of any domain lev­el redi­rects that are set in DNS. Typo domains are a great exam­ple where domain name sys­tems (DNS) should be used at domain lev­el to redi­rect traf­fic, as long as the appro­pri­ate 301 response code is returned to the crawler.

Oth­er redi­rects we work with for plat­form migra­tions, hyper­text trans­fer pro­to­col secure (HTTPS) migra­tions and the han­dling of rou­tine redi­rects to accom­mo­date dis­con­tin­ued con­tent are han­dled much more eas­i­ly at the CDN than by the inter­nal servers.

Every task your inter­nal servers do not have to han­dle makes room for the effi­cient exe­cu­tion of tasks it must han­dle. Offload­ing redi­rects to CDN part­ners elim­i­nates bloat in con­fig­u­ra­tion files, and the right CDN part­ners make mass redi­rects a breeze.

Best of all, con­sol­i­dat­ing redi­rects at the CDN allows both tech and SEO access to the redi­rect rules.

13. Web­site per­for­mance. I ham­mer home web­site per­for­mance in near­ly every arti­cle I write because Google is always going to con­sid­er speed as a crit­i­cal com­po­nent of the user expe­ri­ence.

Focus on learn­ing how to iden­ti­fy per­for­mance issues, find out who to work with­in your orga­ni­za­tion to resolve per­for­mance issues and learn about the per­for­mance tools of the trade. If you are work­ing for an online retail­er, and you do not know the ser­vice lev­el agree­ments (SLAs) assigned to your tech­nol­o­gy team for page load times and page types, you are already behind the curve.

If your tech­nol­o­gy team does not have assigned SLAs, they are behind the curve. Work with your tech teams to track core met­rics like:

  • Response time.
  • Top-of-fold load time.
  • Over­all page load time.

Once core met­rics are set, be sure to set goals that can be con­vert­ed to SLAs. While per­for­mance is essen­tial to SEO suc­cess in a mobile-first world, dri­ving per­for­mance for­ward is a cus­tomer win regard­less of traf­fic source.

Homework

Work­ing in SEO always comes with sig­nif­i­cant home­work.

The chal­leng­ing part of SEO has always been adapt­ing to changes and the abil­i­ty to envi­sion where Google is going next. Cer­tain­ly, if we are focus­ing on improv­ing the expe­ri­ence from the search engine to the ful­fill­ment of the user’s intent, we are already work­ing ahead of the Google algo­rithm.

Under­stand­ing where Google is head­ing next in their endeav­or to mea­sure the user expe­ri­ence can help us to pri­or­i­tize improve­ments in those areas ahead of where Google will be head­ing lat­er.

Find a good teacher

Keep in mind learn­ing on the job works very well when you have the right teacher. If you do not have the right teacher, there are many resources online to help you devel­op your skill sets.

I fre­quent­ly find myself switch­ing from iTunes to Lynda.com to lis­ten to a course while I’m work­ing. If I’m focus­ing on a tech skill improve­ment, I often use the resources at O’Reilly, as the month­ly cost is very rea­son­able and the tech­nol­o­gy areas are cov­ered in more detail. Lynda.com’s cost is also very rea­son­able, but I have found it more use­ful for div­ing into the areas of mar­ket­ing and ana­lyt­ics.

Conclusion

Regard­less of your source of learn­ing, make self-edu­ca­tion a pri­or­i­ty. Keep on top of the arti­cles on Search Engine Land, and stay up to date on what is hap­pen­ing in SEO today to help inform your cur­ricu­lum deci­sions. Nev­er stop learn­ing.

SEO revolves around change, and change always has a learn­ing com­po­nent. Embrace the jour­ney, set per­son­al devel­op­ment goals, and if you work in a com­pa­ny where a teacher does not exist, become the teacher.

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By |2018-04-16T11:51:42+00:00April 17th, 2018|Industry News|Comments Off on Become an SEO rock star: Evolve your SEO skill set