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Today we’re going to talk about what makes a good SEO – this article will be useful for hiring managers and aspiring SEO’s.

A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that SEO is a very technical job requiring all sorts of digital skills and advanced technical capabilities. People hire the boffin because it feels right. He knows how to code really complicated stuff so he can do SEO right?

No. The truth is that the boffin is totally the wrong choice for most businesses. In my opinion: the more technical the person, the less likely they are to actually be good at 95% of what I would consider high quality SEO.

To my mind there are four main elements to SEO. In a perfect world an SEO will have the following profile:

SEO Writing Skills – 30%

Your SEO needs to be a solid writer. If they cannot sit down and write a high quality article about any subject matter within a couple of hours then don’t hire them. They need to be able to create tight content to a tight deadline. They need to be able to target content to particular keywords and phrases and the language needs to be natural.

They do not need to be a particularly creative writer. They just need to be able to write solid articles on just about anything and they need to be able to do it to a deadline. The text needs to be simple and it needs to read well. Ideally this experience was gained writing for the web but it’s not essential. What’s important is that they can write clear, well-formed sentences which appeal to all readers.

Writing is a skill that most people can learn. But it takes a long time. Most people think they can write because they can form a sentence. I would say that it’s rare to find someone who is good at writing who is under the age of 30. By “good” I mean they can write clear, unpretentious copy on any subject matter to a deadline. It is even rarer to find someone who is interested enough in your product or service to write about it regularly in an interesting way.

Before even interviewing someone I would be asking them to research and write an article on a particular set of business related keywords and I would be giving them two hours to do it. If they couldn’t come up with the goods I wouldn’t bring them to interview.

For bonus points they would be giving me ideas for inbound links and would have some evidence of interest in the market.

Selling Skills – 40% of SEO

A lot of people are surprised when I say selling is an essential part of any SEO strategy. To my mind it’s the most valuable skill. It is almost half of the job.

Why are selling skills important for SEO?

High quality links are the key to high positions in Google. I don’t care what Google tell you or what you’ve read on some blog about content. Yes, content is important. Of course you need a reason for people to link to you. But without links from high quality websites you’ll never achieve top positions. When creating new content I always spend more time researching and obtaining the links for the content than actually researching and writing the content.

Have you ever wondered why that rubbish article is on page one and that high quality article is on page three? The reason is two things: quality links and Google News. These two things are the key to page one presence. Most websites will never qualify for Google News so they must focus on links.

There are a number of ways to obtain high quality links. The best way I know of is to come up with a really good reason for people to link to you – some link bait. Then for someone with selling skills to reach out to get links. They need to do it in a target driven way. Some form of performance related pay makes sense. The easiest and quickest way to do that is to get on the phone and sell it. Emails are slow and you can get done for SPAM. The phone is perfect. It’s quick and simple and you’ll know within seconds if you are talking to the right person or if you’re wasting your time.

Your SEO needs to spend a lot of time on the phone trying to convince people to link to the great content he or she has created. Then they need to follow up those phone calls with emails and more phone calls. They need to be ruthless, charming, determined and totally unperturbed by having to make hundreds of phone calls to obtain a couple of links. That’s a big part of SEO. If they can’t do it then forget them.

My perfect SEO has worked for a couple of years in a telephone sales role on a commission basis. He or she is goals orientated and loves an old school sales bonus challenge.

Networking Skills – 25%

My perfect SEO will be very good at networking. I want their contact book to be full of telephone numbers and their desk to be littered with business cards. Why? Because HIGH QUALITY CONTACTS = HIGH QUALITY LINKS. If you know the right people then you only need to ask nicely. A lot of people do not know the value of links.

Your SEO needs to be able to hunt down those select few people who can deliver high quality links. It doesn’t matter whether it’s through LinkedIn, personal contacts, industry events or down at the golf club. Your SEO needs to always be on the lookout for links. If you already have an SEO and he or she isn’t I would be very, very worried.

Technical Skills 5% (HTML, CSS & JAVASCRIPT)

I would happily hire someone to do SEO without technical skills since it is only 5% of the job.

In an ideal world, the perfect SEO will be able to write rock solid HTML, CSS and Javascript for on-site optimisation. But we don’t live in a perfect world. I would happily hire someone to do SEO without those skills since it is only 5% of the job. It’s a much better idea to hire someone who has 95% of the skills base and then either send them on a course or simply outsource the on-site optimisation if you have nobody in your team who can deliver.

Conclusion: The Perfect SEO

So there we have it ladies and gentlemen. SEO is not a technical job for 95% of the time. Yes you need a fast website and yes you need some quality, original content. But more than anything you need followed LINKS and only people with sales and people skills will get you those.

So before deciding on hiring an SEO, ask yourself these questions:

  • How many people do you know who are good both at writing code and copy?
  • How many people do you know who are good both at writing code and selling?
  • How many people do you know who are good both at writing code and networking?

Most technical people are totally rubbish at selling and networking and will be the first to admit it. Occasionally you will find someone with very strong coding and writing skills but those people are few and far between.

A common complaint is that SEO’s are all strategy and no results. It’s because they lack 95% of the skills to deliver.

Hire wisely…

Joe Dempsey

Joe Dempsey

Joe Dempsey is a Shopify Expert. With over 8 years of experience in eCommerce & Shopify he leads one of the most experienced Shopify Expert teams in the world. Founder of Liquify, he tends to work with large brands and Shopify Plus merchants who want to scale aggressively. He is a well known Shopify SEO expert & one of the most experienced Shopify developers in the world.