The SEO Strategist, an Insightful Specialist

For the past several years I’ve held the unofficial title of SEO Strategist for several companies, startups, and organizations. The specific SEO services & responsibilities varied by organization/project. In each case I worked towards a common goal: develop a SEO strategy & S.M.A.R.T. goals anchored in market research and careful analysis.

According to Google, some of the most important skills for a SEO Specialist are Strategy, Analytics, Critical Thinking, Keyword Research, Market Research, Problem Solving, etc. 

While these general skills are needed to perform SEO, there’s quite a gap in what exactly an SEO Strategist does here…

Real data about SEO Strategist roles helps paint a more complete picture.

And luckily LinkedIn and Indeed offer a source of fresh and rich data around job descriptions and responsibilities that match a SEO strategist.

The insights and descriptions below are based on sample data from senior SEO job listings via LinkedIn, Indeed, and Google.

Additional analysis on the common characteristics and specific activities provides more context about the specialized strategist role.  See a more detailed methodology below regarding the data.

First let’s cover the basics.

What is a SEO Strategist?

An SEO Strategist is a specialist in digital marketing that focuses on data-driven analysis & recommendations to help grow organic traffic from search engines. Specific activities often include website audits, assessment of competitive landscape, keyword & topic analysis,  cross-functional work with product & development teams, and set & track key performance indicators.

Within a larger marketing team the role of a SEO Strategist is often to collaborate, educate, and support other teams like product marketing, sales enablement, social media, paid media etc.  A savvy strategic SEO helps other marketing channel owners leverage investment & insights from the organic channel.

LinkedIn & Indeed often have hundreds of SEO job listings that are exactly or closely related to an SEO strategist:

Overview of SEO Strategist Role

According to the data, most of the job overview sections emphasized expected topics such as SEO, strategy, content, and marketing.

Other non-SEO concepts that were mentioned frequently were teams and product - hinting at the importance of cross-functional collaboration needed for a SEO strategist to succeed.

SEO Strategist Responsibilities:

According to the sample data from senior job descriptions, a SEO strategist has many responsibilities that are both strategic & tactical. Below is a breakdown of the most common activities that also describe the routine activities that support SEO strategy work.

Most Common Responsibilities for an Experienced SEO Strategist  

(in order of frequency)

  1. Own & develop SEO strategies
  2. Analyze, optimize, and create content
  3. Manage website health & vitals
  4. Lead & grow SEO capabilities
  5. Know & implement SEO best practices
  6. Analyze & monitor SEO performance
  7. Seek & highlight data-driven insights
  8. Oversee technical site optimization & improvements
  9. Partner closely with other marketing teams
  10. Collaborate with cross-functional teams (ie engineering, communications, sales, etc)
  11. Grow sustainable organic traffic
  12. Perform keyword research

Most frequently occurring terms in job responsibilities:

Common SEO Strategist Skills:

Assessing the job sample data helps highlight the types of skills required to do SEO strategy work. These are some of the specific knowledge areas or skills that align with common responsibilities:

  • Digital Strategy: SEO, content, development
  • Research: data, market, keyword, etc
  • SEO Industry Knowledge: trends, news, best practices
  • Action Oriented: execute, implement, progress, growth
  • Analysis: reporting, measuring impact, insights, etc
  • Technical SEO: site architecture, AB testing
  • Design: user experience, accessibility, content

Traits of an Ideal Strategic SEO:

Based on the expected qualities for an experienced & qualified SEO strategist, some traits rise to the top based on this quick word analysis.

Taking the data a little further, many of the job listings explicitly described an  “ideal candidate” from their perspective. 

According to the job data sample, SEO teams hiring new talent seek out these types of attributes in an ideal candidate:

deep SEO expertiseconsistent implementationhighly analytical
strategic and tacticalfluent with complex dataresults driven
highly organizedeffective communication skillsproven leadership

Common Tools and Software:

While researching the various SEO Strategist job listings, several specialized SEO software tools were mentioned repeatedly. Below is a list of tools that are commonly used by SEO strategists:

Frequently Listed SEO Tools

Valuable SEO data tool from Google that provides a large suite of tools and reports

Web site crawler and site audit tool with various data integrations

Software suite with 50+ tools for SEO, content research, competitive insights, etc

Suite of SEO tools & resources to understand and manage search traffic

Popular web analytics tool used by websites to track traffic sources, user behavior, and conversion data

Spreadsheet software used to gather, organize, and analyze data

Advanced web analytics tool that is part of the Adobe Experience Platform (AEP)

Data visualization software which is useful for creating dashboards or uncovering actionable insights

Other Tools Mentioned 

  • Google Keyword Planner
  • Moz
  • Botify
  • Google Trends
  • Word / Google Docs
  • PageSpeed Insights / Lighthouse
  • Lumar (fka Deepcrawl)
  • Brightedge
  • Tableau
  • SplitSignal
  • Yoast
  • Majestic
  • Conductor
  • Ryte
  • Confluence

Other Observations on the SEO Strategist Data:

Strategy vs Implementation

While a SEO Strategist title might  imply no execution. Most SEO roles involve a mix of strategy and implementation.

As a consultant, there are opportunities where the scope can be largely strategic.  However when that role lives permanently within an organization it makes sense that a good SEO will also implement the strategy or work with other teams

A savvy SEO strategist can quickly gather data and identify insights independently.  In this case, some quick 

It’s worth noting that “link building was only mentioned occasionally across all the SEO Strategist responsibilities.  Link building is often touted as one of the most important aspects of SEO.  For example, large publishers like Search Engine Journal, Moz, Ahrefs, and Semrush all have ample content dedicated to link building.

Despite the missing mentions, it’s clear the over emphasis on content strategy, content marketing, and content distribution - that the action of link building is still woven into this job data around SEO content strategy.   

Reading Between the Lines:  Customer Empathy

The best functional leaders, not just senior SEO team members, excel at knowing their customers and aligning their goals accordingly.  Many of the job descriptions don’t mention this directly.

In larger organizations, senior SEO functions always have internal & external clients.  External clients are the obvious customer or buyer of a product or service.  Internal customers are not always as clearly stated.  They can be other peers in the marketing organization. They can also include cross-functional counterparts where your work can make an impact like product, engineering, web development, and finance.

It's clear SEO strategist roles have a diverse mix of responsibilities that include specialized SEO activities, broader duties tied to other teams, and driving business impact overall.

Data & Methodology

  1. Limited data to SEO positions with “seo strategist” in the title or “SEO strategy” in the overview description.  Also limited data to job positions that were senior manager or above.  
  2. Created one document with overview copy limited to only SEO specific statements and descriptions. Extra corporate, company, or industry descriptions were excluded to minimize unrelated content.
  3. Created another separate document limited to the SEO position responsibilities.  These were comprised of 10-20 bullets from each job opening which described the roles & responsibilities.
  4. Analyzed each document separately through a text analysis software that identified frequencies, common terms, common phrases, keyword relationships, etc.
  5. Worth noting that some smaller companies were excluded. The data included recognizable, authoritative brands with a strong SEO footprint such as: Walmart, Apple, Yahoo, Expedia, Hearst Media, New York Post, Boston Globe, TripAdvisor, etc.

COPPER INSIGHTS

Harness organic search to make meaningful connections with the right audience
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