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What makes a truly great SEO manager?

Talented and experienced SEO managers are a highly sought-after commodity in business. That’s because search engine optimisation (SEO) is one of the most crucial elements of any organisation’s digital marketing strategy, serving as the foundation for their brand’s online presence. Unfortunately, while there’s an abundance of SEO-related positions to fill, digital recruiters will tell you that truly great SEO managers are rare beasts. This poses a problem for organisations: if their SEO manager isn’t up to snuff, they’ll likely have wasted a lot of time and resources on an SEO plan that’s doomed to fail from the beginning. 

Below I outline how an SEO professional of any skill level can level up to become a truly great SEO manager – but before I dive into the diverse range of skills budding SEO managers need to master, it must be noted that it’s an ever-evolving role due to the fact that the SEO landscape itself continues to change. Consequently, SEO managers need to adapt and improve their skills, as well as acquire new ones, on a regular basis.

Be a Thorough Investigator

This is a key skill for anyone in the SEO world to have, particularly those just starting out. Your investigative skills shouldn’t just be limited to your work, but also be utilised regularly in your own development. Luckily in the SEO world there are literally thousands of free information sources available online – including how-to guides, forums, case studies and podcasts just to name a few. My own experience in SEO started when I cut back on my working hours as a traditional offline marketer to invest my time in learning SEO through the sources I’ve just mentioned. Having the ability to find those sources and educate myself was what landed me my first SEO job. That skill in dissecting a subject matter of any kind and digging to the core of what it’s all about is the number one skill any SEO professional should have. In fact, it’s safe to say that the level of SEO knowledge that any person can have is directly dependent on how much SEO information they personally seek and consume.

Become a Technical Wizard

I know, it’s a big topic and we could write an entire eBook on the ‘ins and outs’ of technical SEO. But having a super-solid technical skillset isn’t only going to improve your efficiency, it’s also one of your strongest assets when it comes to communicating with developers. Talking to them in their language, on a detailed level and providing technical guidance when needed is not only proof of your SEO expertise but also going to bring you the best results.

Further, to be a great SEO manager, you not only have to identify all of the technical issues in a site, but also be able to offer solutions. And one of the best pieces of advice I can give when it comes to solving those problems is this – learn to deal with restrictions. Whether it’s limited resources, CMS constraints or even lack of experience in the team you’re dealing with, there will always be some sort of restrictions. So you need to be able to confidently tackle any issues and maximize the potential of every scenario regardless. There are a lot of thorough technical audit checklists, migration guides and must-have SEO tools out there, but to be in the game it’s important to be vigilant in staying on top of Google’s updates and always up to date on the top SEO blog sites.

Know Your Tools Back-to-Front

Master Excel! Yes, Excel is a great tool and in my opinion, it’s sometimes underrated in the SEO community. Becoming an advanced Excel user will really bring something special to the table, especially when it comes time to dealing with large data sets. Create interactive reports, plug in APIs and make use of SEO plugins such as SEO Tools For Excel – these are the things that will really set you apart from the pack. For instance, have a look at the example graph I’ve done below that shows the impact of link acquisition efforts against the growth of a link profile. It’s so simple to implement, but the analysis you get from displaying the information in such a way is so effective. It shows an assumed natural growth of links (based on average monthly growth) and compares it with actual growth of links (from link acquisition activities).

Picture1The trick is to work smarter not necessarily harder. And if you master a range of SEO tools across all disciplines like content, links, social and data, working smarter becomes a lot easier.

Here are a few key SEO tools I suggest you play around with:
  • Rankings: AWR and SEM Rush
  • Crawling: Screaming Frog or Deep Crawl
  • Links: Ahref, Majestic SEO, Cognitive SEO, Google Search Console.
  • Google: Google Trends, Keyword Planner, Google Search Console, Rich Snippet Testing Tool, Site Speed Testing, Mobile Usability Testing, Google Tag Manager
  • Web Analytics: Google Analytics (I’d suggest you become GA qualified if you aren’t already), Adobe’s Omniture etc.
  • Browser plugins: Redirect path, Ghostery, Moz’ Da, gInfinity, SERP preview, Built-With, Similar Web
  • Know how to use advanced search operators in Google
Be a Communication Chameleon

SEO managers typically deal with a range of contacts across quite a few spheres of professionalism: developers, marketing managers, CEOs, coordinators, content producers and publishers to name but a few. For that reason, being able to communicate effectively to all of those levels is key to building and maintaining momentum in your work.

So widen the spectrum of your communication style. Or in other words, learn to communicate in layman’s terms while also having the ability to discuss the detailed technicalities of the matter. Being flexible and able to keep your point of contact on the same page for the entire duration of a campaign is key to long lasting client relationships.

You should also have a keen eye for detail when it comes to your deliverables (the documents you send) and it’s essential that you sharpen your presentation skills. I know it can be daunting to some people to present your work, but work through it – get used to being uncomfortable and eventually you’ll be comfortable, I promise.

So, there you have it: the key areas to develop for you to become a great SEO manager. I wish you the best progress in your career and remember to always maintain an ‘onwards and upwards” attitude.


About the author

Bio: Roland Naddaf is a digital veteran with over 10 years of experience in Marketing across several verticals including Tourism, Hospitality, Entertainment, Retail & Finance. He is currently an SEO & Content Manager at indago digital, a search marketing agency in Sydney. Armed with solid post-graduate degrees in Marketing & Convergent Media, a proactive attitude and a genuine passion for digital marketing, Roland is determined to deliver the ultimate results for his clients.