How to be an SEO expert: The Future of Digital Marketing

Luca Tagliaferro

Luca Tagliaferro

SEO Consultant | Blogger | Manager

We’ve reached some impressive numbers in SEO.

The SEO industry’s worth has grown to over $79 billion since its first steps 20 years or so.

By 2024, that number should explode to $100 billion – an increase to $21 billion in 2 years!

Another big point: when Michael Page and The Digital Marketing Institute asked SEOs what digital marketing skills are most important, both surveys said SEO and content marketing.

That’s not all. Today, 87% of shoppers begin product searches online.

And, when they’re deciding whether they want to do business with a brand, ranking on top 3 results on Google and Bing is immediately a trust factor.

Do shopper trust Google? Yes, they do. And by association they also trust brands ranking on top.

This demand for SEO correlates to a demand for expert SEO consultants – the people who optimise websites and increase the number of ranking factors needed to generate results.

Without SEOs, search engines wouldn’t be able to tell a different from a trustworthy website and a website that you can trust.

Despite the high demand for SEO experts, most people are still confused on what SEOs really do on their day-to-day jobs: what they do as part of digital marketing teams and what they optimise to generate organic traffic.

Before we get into the details of what these types of digital marketers do, first let’s explore an SEO expert definition – because SEO experts are NOT like other digital marketers.

What is an SEO expert?

Here is a good, simple SEO specialist definition:

An SEO expert is someone who knows how to get traffic from search engines.

Before you can become this type of skilled SEO consultant, there are a few basics you need to know first.

This includes a strategic understanding of SEO as a practice.

If you want to learn more about what an SEO expert does, read the detailed post on what is an SEO consultant.

Let’s dig into it.

how to be an seo consultant

How to be an SEO Consultant: the future of Digital Marketing

So, you want to become an SEO expert? Before we get into the nitty gritty, there are a few essentials that you need to know.

Here is a list of skillsets you need to build.

1. Develop core SEO skills

Whether your background is technical or journalistic, whether you are a lawyer or a fitness expert, anyone can become an SEO expert.

However, you need to develop some specific SEO skills that will allow you to do an incredible job.

If you feel the thrills of growing traffic and ranking higher on Google makes you excited but you don’t have any experience, then you need to find a way to get that experience.

Did you know that one of the best ways of getting experience in SEO is to build your own website? It’s true, here is the thing.

Building your own website requires some design and HTML skills which will come very handy. Also, you’ll learn a lot about search engines by optimising your website and positioning it on Google the correct way.

This is how I started, I build a reviews websites on cloud storages. I didn’t know anything about cloud storages but in 2 years I built my own website, wrote more than 100 product reviews and started to get serious traffic from Google.

2. Understand Strategic SEO and why it matters

To be an SEO expert, you need an understanding of SEO strategy.

Since SEO is all about generating traffic from search engines by influencing ranking factors and creating stunning user experiences, applying random tactics won’t work. I know it because I made that mistake and it didn’t get my websites anywhere.

Instead, you should learn how to build an SEO strategy – a game plan, a road map that helps you put all the pieces together.

Why does strategy matter so much?

First of all, your strategy determines which resources, products/services, operations, and capabilities are required. When properly developed, your approach is a productivity booster.

Without a clear strategy, you and your team risks bouncing from one task to the next.

So, what pieces do we need for a sound SEO strategy? Here are my recommendations that every aspiring SEO consultant should learn and make theirs.

a. Get your keywords and topic research in place


A keywords strategy is the foundation of your SEO strategy and a couple of questions need answer:

  • What keyword to I want to target?
  • How can I expand on those keywords and generate good traffic?

Those questions are not necessarily happening in this order, you can start with the first and move to the second, then go back to the first and expand on your keywords list.

b. Research your audience and what makes them take action

Research the right keywords is not enough. You also need to learn about the visitors of your website in order to get a good grasp of who they are, what they do and what they need.

You also need to learn what makes them take action and convert on your website: an ebook, a newsletter, a contact form or a sale.

SEO tools can help you understand more about the search intent and the behaviour intents people have. This part can take up to 1 month if done correctly and with great insights.

c. Create Linkable assets

Do you understand what linkable assets are? If not, you need to – it’s one of the most effective ways for building links without having to outreach anyone.

And believe: in SEO you need backlinks to win.

Here are some examples of my linkable assets:

d. Create content for the marketing funnel

Marketing funnels are much about driving your audience towards your final website goal.

To do this, SEOs must thing about what content people are searching for on top, in the middle and in the bottom of the funnel.

They also need to create “funnel bridges”, which are the step necessary to move from the top to the bottom of the funnel.

I’d like you to visualize the funnel here.

CONTENT FUNNEL FOR SEO

e. Understand strategic SEO


Researching keywords, building links and writing content is part of the SEO strategy. SEO consultants are, of course, responsible for this part, but also:

  • How to create content calendars and writing processes that are repeatable and scalable (having a good mix of linkable asset, blog posts and landing pages.
  • What high-quality links look like (Domain Authority, Traffic, Spam Score, Trust flow, Relevancy).
  • User experience (fast website, amazing online experiences, nice design, easy to use).
The actual keywords research and link building are only part of the job.

f. Know why Technical SEO matters


A website won’t be working properly if technical SEO is a mess. If you write content, build backlinks and have landing pages on a disastrous website, don’t expect to have any results.
  • Indexation and crawling are essential to be found on Google and Bing. Search engines robots will follow links to discover your content on your site. If your pages are not indexed, they’ll never be found.

  • Your content and digital assets need to sit on a fast-loading website, so taking care of Core Web Vitals is…vital.

  • Other elements that need attention are broken pages and redirects. Check you don’t have too many broken pages with 404 errors and redirect using 301 codes.

  • Finally, probably the most obvious technical item is having a secure website. We are not in 2005 so make sure your certificate is valid. You can easily check if your website is HHTPS in most browsers. If you see the word “not secure” you have some work to do (or your developer).
< Now, you know they "why" an SEO strategy matters. It's a comprehensive and interconnected web of different elements.

3. Learn the skills you need for becoming an excellent SEO consultant

If you want to truly excel in SEO, along with technical and copywriting skills, all great SEOs have also another set of competencies. Here is a non-comprehensive list:

    1. A prioritisation master. When you have a gigantic amount of work that needs to get done, how do you determine which comes first? Feeling overwhelmed is common in SEO but don’t worry. If you learn how to execute the tactics that bring the most impact first, you have done your job successfully.

    2. A friendly chap. As an SEO, you need to get help from web developers, web designers and content writers. You also probably need to get buy-in from top management if you work in-house or with clients. Then you need to get backlinks from your partners and agencies. How do you accomplish all of this? You have to to build relationships with people so you understand what is important to them and what skills they have.

    3. An analytical ninja. Great SEOs look at data and come up with solutions. They understand what happens, why it happens and what we can do to fix that.

    4. A technical nerd. You should know HTML, JavaScript and other programming languages, but it’s not mandatory. Some SEOs specialise in link building while others are more technical with an engineering background. Whatever your education, knowing programming languages can help a lot in your success.

    5. An inspired writer. Nobody expects you to write novels like Hemingway, however, taking some copy-writing courses and learning how to write properly for different audiences in several industries, is highly recommended. “Content is king”, someone said and this still applies in SEO. So the question is: how to write content that is 10x better than your top 10 Google results? This is what matters in the end.

4. Choose whether to specialise or be a generalist

There is a never-ending debate about whether you need to become a generalist or a specialist in SEO.

To differentiate themselves from the crowd, some SEOs become specialised in SaaS (Software as a service), e-commerce, real estate, or legal websites. Others become specialised in CMS for SEO, for example, Wix SEO consultants or WordPress SEO consultants, simply because they have a deep knowledge of those content management systems.

That said, I would recommend you to choose your own path. If you specialise you probably make more money because you can charge higher prices, for what is worth.

But for me personally, money is not everything, so being a generalist SEO expert is not bad either. You can work with a variety of clients because a website is always a website. The core technology doesn’t change.

So if you are still undecided on what type of SEO you want to become, invest some time in understanding your career goals. Some ideas:

  • Do you enjoy real estate websites? Why not try to do SEO for companies selling and renting houses? It’s one of the biggest industries out there. Do you know enough about mortgages, selling houses, landlords and the like?
  • Do you feel like you are a fitness person? Then you’ll enjoy more working for companies in that industry. Commit to learning more about that industry and to what drives people’s actions.
  • Are you more technically orientated? Do you enjoy coding and developing? If so, you might be the next technical SEO global expert.

5. Build your portfolio and show off what you can do as an SEO expert

Keeping a record of your past projects means having a portfolio of case studies.

Here is an example of my SEO audits case studies from various clients I consulted in the past few years.

seo audits case studies

SEO consultants must be able to demonstrate their expertise with real numbers.

Having a degree or showing off your digital marketing courses can be a good start into the industry, but it won’t help you to get recognised as an expert.

Employers and clients want to see how you impacted a website from an SEO perspective so I recommend you have ready a list of your accomplishments. Then add hard numbers to them:

  • How much more traffic did your work generate?
  • What type of technical errors did you solve?
  • how many backlinks (and what quality) did you produce?
  • Did your traffic bring any conversion? If so, how many?
This is the best way to show that you know your stuff. You can’t just generate traffic, but you can also have an impact by bringing more tangible benefits (sales, links, conversions).

6. Charge accordingly (what is the average SEO salary)?

The last final step of becoming an SEO expert is to know your worth: how much your skills, experience and work can be paid on the market.

I am always shocked to see how bad SEOs are when it comes to charing the right money for their worth. The main problem is that clients or companies don’t know it themselves. When they don’t know, you need to be able to show what a fair salary looks like.

One of the most common questions is: how much can I charge an SEO consultant?

Here are some useful guidelines and averages for the industry:

  • According to Ahrefs, 53.45% of agencies charge $100+ per hour compared to only 33% of SEO consultants.
  • For SEO consultants it’s $75-$100/hour, and for freelancers, it’s $41-50/hour, according to the same Ahrefs study.
  • More experiences SEOs earn much more up to $142+ with 10 years of experience.
04-SEO-Hourly-Rates-by-Time-in-Business

As you can see, it really depends on your level of experience and your field of work. 13% of consultants can charge as much as $200 to $300 an hour.

It’s good to keep these rates in mind while pricing your work and looking for digital marketing jobs.

6 Types of SEO Experts and their job roles

SEO experts are very different from each other.

As we have touched before in this article, some pros specialise in technical SEO, while others are very good in generating backlinks.

Here are the most common types of SEO consultants, including some campaigns examples.

1. The industry expert SEO

This type of SEO consultant knows the ins and outs of a specific industry (or sector). For example, they are expert in SEO for real estate, law, travel, fitness, nutrition or health and medicine.

There are agencies specialised in legal SEO, they know exactly what happens in a legal company, what are their operating systems, blockages, problems and solutions. They most certainly are also able to provide extremely relevant backlinks from other legal websites in the same industry.

Similarly, an e-commerce SEO expert can navigate through the technicalities of an online shop. They know how to optimise a faceted navigation, how to write product descriptions, what are the most common e-commerce SEO tech issues and they are expert in online stores.

Here is an example of an optimised landing page for a price comparison website, likely done by an SEO expert in comparison websites and car insurances.

2. Generalist SEO

A generalist SEO expert is someone who is able to build an SEO strategy for a website, regardless of which industry the website operates. Need a content calendar? Need keywords research? Need writing blog posts and landing pages? A generalist can do it.

A generalist SEO probably built this local SEO landing page

A generalist is also able to build landing pages optimised for SEO in other industries.

3. Technical SEO Expert

As you can probably guess, a technical SEO expert is someone who can easily navigate the backend of a website. They know all programming languages, HTML, CSS, JavaScript and can recommend technical solutions to make the website faster, stronger, more secure and more reliable.

Technical SEOs also set up the entire website structure, for example for e-commerce websites, that include category pages, subcategory pages and product pages. From URLs names to structured data and Search Console set up, they are the backbone of SEO.

Here is a good example of technical SEO organising the products into categories and filters, from an online pharmacy.

Technical seo example of work

4. On-Page SEO Expert

An on-page SEO expert, or “SEO content writer”, is deeply knowledgeable about all SEO elements that go into a page. From page titles, to meta descriptions and the entire page content, a content writer knows how to optimise a blog post or a landing page for targeting a specific keyword.

On-site SEO also take care of website structures, like technical SEOs, images alt text and and are experts in the overall Google Search Quality Guidelines, meaning how to write expert and authoritative content. The most recent version of the guidelines is 175 pages long and if you are interested, you can find it here.

5. Off-page SEO Expert

Off-page SEO experts, also known as “Link Building Specialists”, are especially skilled at creating partnerships, mentions and links from one website to another website.

They have lots of relationships with bloggers, journalists, website owners to create networks of links that could generate referral traffic, or simply make Google find your website throughout these links.

Link building is one of the most important ranking factors because every link counts as a vote of confidence. So improving the off-site factor can increase popularity, authority and trust of your website.

Below you can see an example of some of the links I built for my blog.

Currently, I have 1,220 domains linking to lucatagliaferro.com, some of which from high relevant blogs such as Moz.com, Semrush.com, Aweber.com and Envato.com.

luca tagliaferro link building

6. International SEO Expert

International SEO Specialists set up processes for optimising a website so that search engines can easily identify which countries you want to target.

These specialists have a deep understanding of International SEO best practices, including URL structures for international sites, language targeting and “ahreflang” – the bits of code needed in which language is your content visible.

They are also able to target your content to users’ languages and cultures, making sure the information provided is relevant and accurate to the target audience.

In this example, trustpilot.com is available in several languages targeting relevant countries:

https://it.trustpilot.com/ – for Italy

https://trustpilot.com/ – for the US

https://de.trustpilot.com/ – for Germany

Are SEOs the most important digital marketers of the future?

Good question!

If you are considering SEO as a career, that’s a great choice and you should pursue it because the SEO industry is booming and many employers are hiring across the world.

Those SEOs who can do their job with focus and expertise are the most sought after and always over booked. Employers like brands, agencies and B2B businesses are looking for SEO experts right now.

Consider starting your own website, it’s the best way to master SEO skills, generate traffic from search engines and place pages on top of search results.

You’ll be able to show a portfolio of your successes and gain new clients on the way.

Want my 1:1 help in doing this?

Being an SEO consultant can feel lonely at times, I provide aspiring experts with 1:1 consultations packed with real skills, processes and strategies for bringing your business to high hopes.

Book me now.

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