General SEO

10 Skills Every SEO Pro Needs for Success

Jenny Abouobaia
Jenny is an award-winning SEO consultant who specializes in using branded PR to maximize SEO results for clients by building E-A-T and has an extensive background in niche affiliate and technical SEO.
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In the world of digital marketing, SEO is a vital skill set. But what exactly does it take to be a successful SEO pro?

If you aspire to become an SEO pro or want to take your SEO career to the next level, there are specific competencies you need to master.

If you want to improve your skills as an SEO, you need to start with the fundamental elements of search engine optimization. 

Keyword research

Keyword research is the process of identifying individual terms that people enter into search engines. This allows you to understand what your target audience is looking for.

Keyword research is a crucial aspect of SEO because choosing the wrong keywords means you’ll likely waste time (and money) producing content that no one wants to read.

Some different aspects of keyword research include:

Technical SEO

Technical SEO involves optimizing website infrastructure and code for better search engine performance. 

As an SEO expert, you need to have the technical skills to analyze websites for common issues such as broken links, duplicate content, and loading speed.

You don’t need to be a technical guru with in-depth knowledge of how to fix the most complex issues. But being able to at least identify issues that can be forwarded to a specialist is a must for every SEO pro.

Here are some common technical SEO elements:

On-page optimization

On-page optimization is the process of making changes to improve the content of your pages to perform better on the search engine results pages (SERPs).

On-page optimization is one of the most important aspects of SEO as, sometimes, even the smallest changes can make a huge difference to how well your pages rank. 

Some aspects of on-page SEO include:

  • Writing SEO-friendly content.
  • Filling content gaps.
  • Optimizing existing blog posts.
  • Internal link optimization.

Link building

Link building is an essential component of any successful SEO strategy.

An SEO pro must identify high-quality link opportunities, create compelling content that encourages other websites to link back to yours, and use tools like outreach software for efficient communication with webmasters.

Links are also a key ranking factor for Google, so link building will always be an essential SEO skill that any SEO worth their salt needs to master.

Backlinks help pages rank higher in Google's search results

Some of the most popular link building techniques include:

Proficiency with SEO tools

Having a stack of SEO tools that can help you get the job done faster allows you to work smarter, not harder.

Google Search Console is a must-have tool for SEO specialists. With it, you can monitor your website’s performance in search engine results pages, identify and fix any issues with indexing or crawling, and submit content to be indexed.

Here are some other tools to include in your stack:

Of course, if you want to enhance your SEO knowledge, mastering the basics of SEO is a must. But there are many other valuable skills that all experienced SEOs need to work well in this industry.

Analytical thinking

If you want a career in SEO, being an analytical thinker is an essential skill to have. 

You need to look at data and understand what has gone wrong and why; also, what are the best steps to take and rectify it?

You will also need to prioritize tasks effectively for individual clients (as their needs change and grow) and even prioritize one client’s work over another. 


SEO is an ever-changing landscape. With search engine algorithms constantly being updated, your strategy may need to change overnight.

Being able to adapt your strategy to address your clients’ immediate needs and get the best outcome for them is an essential skill to have.

Great communication

Communication skills are one of the most important skills to possess not only as an SEO but also in all areas of digital marketing. 

An SEO who can write outstanding content is an incredibly valuable asset. And if you can confidently convey to clients, internal teams, web developers, or other key decision-makers why something needs to happen, this is going to further your SEO career.

Being able to speak confidently in meetings, relay complex ideas in a deck, and put together compelling case studies can help you land (and retain) SEO clients. 

People skills

Here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter how good an SEO you are if you can’t get along with people.

Granted, you can’t please everyone all of the time; that’s just life. But even if you’re the greatest SEO superstar, you won’t get anywhere if nobody wants to work with you. 

Even as a freelancer, you will need to communicate with internal team members and, often, clients. Being able to create a positive environment and show you care about the work makes you a valuable resource.

Plus, some of the best relationships are built at industry events—both in-person and virtual ones. Remember, making connections can further your SEO career.

Willingness to learn

SEO is so multifaceted that you can either be a niche-specific expert or have a basic understanding of every element. There are few people in the SEO industry who have a deep understanding of every complex element.

With that in mind, there is always something to learn. Especially when working with others, be it with marketing teams as a freelancer or working directly under an SEO manager, you need to take feedback and learn new ways of doing things.

So now you know which skills you need to further your SEO career, here’s a question: How do you improve them? 

There are three ways you can get started.

Continued professional development

As SEO is always evolving, it’s important even for the most seasoned SEO to be open to learning new things.

Continuing your professional development by attending leading industry conferences and taking relevant courses will allow you to develop your SEO skills further. 

Ahrefs' course collections

The Ahrefs Academy has a number of comprehensive courses that will enhance not only your SEO but also general marketing skills:

On-the-job training

There are several ways to gain on-the-job experience to improve your SEO skills—whether it be an internship with a reputable SEO company or offering your services to local charities. 

There are also skill exchange websites where you can offer your SEO skills in return for something like website design or even singing lessons.

Giving SEO help in exchange for singing lessons on Skill Harbour

Personal projects

Building your own websites and optimizing them yourself is a great way to improve your SEO skills.

Having your own digital assets can allow you to experiment with new things, understand which aspects of SEO you naturally excel at, and make mistakes without messing up a client’s site. 

Final thoughts

The first and most important step in establishing a career in SEO is improving your skills. This requires understanding the fundamentals and gaining practical experience. 

If you want to get started with SEO, try our free SEO training course. This is a great first step in gaining essential SEO skills.

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Article Performance
Data from Ahrefs
  • Organic traffic
  • Linking websites

The number of websites linking to this post.

This post's estimated monthly organic search traffic.