Although since its birth it never went away, marketers have placed significant resources on SEO as a marketing technique in the last few years. In fact, according to analysts at Borrell Associates, SEO spending will reach $80 billion by 2020. But, SEO doesn’t just touch one team. Good search optimization impacts your social media team, your web development team, your content writing team, your analytics team, among others. Because of this, a competent SEO can have an impact across an entire digital marketing organization and be a key driver of business results.

From this, we can see that hiring the right SEO professional will make your team stronger and more productive. This person can help shape the direction of your website copy and thinking about the customer journey. They are a core function of a smooth-running marketing team. Like any important hire, you need to think carefully about the skills, traits, and abilities needed to succeed in the role.

Every situation and company will be different but below are the core competencies that a good SEO will have. Most pros will have a strength in one or two of them but it’s a rare unicorn that has true mastery of all of them. You’ll need to figure out which of the characteristics below are most important for your situation.

1. Mastery of data analysis and developing insights

A good SEO professional must be able to analyze data. An understanding of Excel (pivot tables ad nauseam) and the basics of statistics is important, but a master will be able to grasp patterns and know what to do because of what they see. Analysis without any actionable insight is a waste of time.

2. Technical prowess

SEO can be technical at times, which means sometimes an SEO pro needs to dig into the code and diagnose what’s causing an issue. A background in web development isn’t necessary but you’d better be able to speak the language of HTML. Without the ability to read HTML or understand server response codes an SEO can be a burden on team productivity. It doesn’t take much to learn what’s needed so be wary of the SEO who doesn’t understand the technology or the language of their profession.

3. Creative mind

As technical as things get, a master of SEO will have a creative mind that can solve problems and add creativity to the content strategies they will champion. This is the magic of SEO and one of the reasons it’s hard to find an all-in-one, single great professional. Creative minds aren’t always technical and technical minds aren’t always creative. That said, creativity will help an SEO develop solutions to challenges that often have competing  priorities (business results, the brand, technical constraints, etc.). Their creativity will also help content creators produce stellar content that’s easy to find online because they will understand the creative process.

4. Customer focus

Last but certainly not least, a great SEO must have a customer focus. This ability allows the SEO pro to anticipate questions being asked by customers. It allows them to prioritize website improvements that will have the most impact on customer experience. To be concise, with a customer focus, a stand-out SEO professional will make your website findable, make it easy for customers to buy from you, and make your customers happy. All great things for growing your business!


Finding an SEO professional who fits all of these boxes can be a challenge but trust me they are out there. Or, as an alternative, if you’d like, you can mix and match. For example, find one SEO who is strong with data and pair that person with someone who has a strong customer focus. The key is to make sure that whoever you hire understands each of the above buckets, where they fit in each bucket, and how each ability will impact the goals of your team.

Good luck out there!