Search engine optimization (SEO) is vital for every marketing campaign, and most marketers and businesses know it.

According to a 2021 study, 69% of marketers invested in SEO, and 75% said their SEO tactics were effective at helping them fulfill marketing goals.

But every marketer isn’t an SEO expert or even proficient in the field. Companies need to hire an SEO specialist who knows exactly what to do so their website and content rank on the first page of search engine result pages (SERPs) and bring in traffic.

This article explains the role of an SEO specialist in detail and lists the essential characteristics they must have to help companies get results.

What is an SEO Specialist?

In a sentence, an SEO specialist analyzes websites and optimizes them so that they rank higher on major search engine result pages. 

This individual is an expert in “organic search” — search results that aren’t ads, but that Google thinks are the best and most relevant content — and can create an SEO strategy that improves user experience while simultaneously appealing to the latest search engine algorithms.

Apart from a higher search ranking, an SEO expert can ensure your web pages appear for relevant search terms instead of random ones.

For example, if you search for “running shoes,” you get companies like Nike, which sells running shoes, and articles that list the best running shoes. Both of these results are driven by good SEO.

search results for the term "running shoes" on Google(Image Source)

A good SEO strategy can help companies, regardless of size, attract more users and generate high-quality leads. Consequently, conversions grow, and so does revenue.

While this sounds great, business owners often have surface-level SEO knowledge. They know it’s a marketing term but don’t understand the different components, such as on-page, off-page, and technical SEO, or how they impact search engine rankings.

They can also struggle to differentiate between SEO and SEM (Search Engine Marketing), which have the same goal — driving traffic and revenue from search engines — but varying components and tactics. This lack of understanding often leads to them making incorrect decisions regarding hiring and goal-setting in these areas. 

This is when SEO professionals are required. They can take charge of all the processes needed to boost your search rankings.

What Are the Job Responsibilities of an SEO specialist?

Every SEO consultant has a different set of responsibilities depending on the industry and company they’re working with. However, most SEO experts are proficient in the following:

The functions of an SEO specialist

Keyword research

A keyword typically corresponds with the main topic of the content on your page. It is a word, phrase, or question users search for to find specific web pages and content on the topic. It can be a single word such as “shoes” or a longer phrase such as “running shoes for women.”

An SEO specialist performs keyword research to determine which keywords each page on your website should target. They will then focus on how each of these pages can rank for their specific keyword(s).

Without keyword research, your content is a jumble of topics that you think your users might like. Unfortunately, most websites make this mistake, which is why a 2020 study found that 90% of them don’t get organic traffic from Google.

It’s the job of the SEO specialist to use keyword research to identify exactly what users are looking for and why. They then tailor your website’s content to match search intent.

On-page optimization

On-page optimization is a general term used to describe how an SEO expert cleans up all the elements that are on or behind your website. 

This includes meta titles and descriptions, header tags, using the right images, proper HTML structure, internal linking, and fast page load speeds (like always compressing images that go on your web pages).

Here the SEO specialist ensures every web page aims to show up for the correct search terms, provides a good user experience, and leads users towards conversion.

Optimization also requires testing varying versions of elements on the web page to see which one improves lead generation. For example, having a detailed call-to-action button can perform better than a basic “Click Here” button.

Mobile optimization

Mobile phone users accounted for more than 92% of global internet users at the end of 2021. Your website must be mobile-friendly, there’s just no way around it, both for general usage and SEO purposes. Every page on your website needs to be 100% visible and perfectly usable on mobile devices.

Search engines value mobile-friendliness in 2022. Google has implemented mobile-first indexing for years now, which means websites that are not mobile-friendly automatically get lower rankings. They even offer a free tool to test how mobile-friendly a web page is.

Google has a free tool to check how mobile-friendly your web page is

An SEO specialist must analyze how they can improve your mobile user experience and make your web pages easy for users to navigate, regardless of their device.

Link building & off-page optimization

Link building is a way to let Google know that your content or web page is valuable. It’s the process of getting links to your website from external websites to improve your authority.

The links could be someone referencing your blog post in their article or a reviewer adding a product link as part of a glowing review.

Building a web of links from multiple sources increases your website’s chances of gaining a higher ranking. A recent study showed that top search results had significantly more backlinks than lower-rated results.

Study showing the relation between numerous backlinks and higher SERP rankings(Image Source)

An SEO specialist will have a link-building strategy that develops backlinks via guest posts, content-based assets (infographics, statistics, etc.), and other methods. Some might consider buying links, but this is risky as it violates Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, and you have to trust the seller to be honest and uphold their end of the bargain.

Link building has to be combined with every other SEO component to work. For example, you can have multiple backlinks to a page, but if the content on that page is poor, then your lead generation will take a hit.

Content marketing is an effective strategy for building your off-page online presence. If you invest time in building relationships with other bloggers in your niche, and creating stellar, valuable content, it’s only a matter of time before you earn several high-quality, relevant links.


Every SEO expert has to know how to analyze the results driven by their campaigns, the different metrics to use, and what the numbers actually mean. Understanding this data is more complicated than it seems.

Sure, it’s easy to look at leads generated or web traffic and decide whether a campaign is successful or not. But, there are many smaller yet impactful metrics along the way. Each of which indicates how parts of your SEO campaign are working.

SEO specialists will analyze the correct metrics, gauge results, and make campaign decisions based on them. If a particular aspect fails, they will need to test new elements or implement process changes to get better results.

URL naming & titles

For accurate data collection and campaign tracking, SEO specialists need to use custom URLs. These URLs will let them know where the traffic is coming from, whether from a backlink, an ad, a social media post, or a marketing asset like a newsletter. 

Let’s say you hired an SEO expert to boost your traffic from search results. If there’s a sudden uptick in traffic, how do they know if it’s because they’re actually reaching the goal you set or if the increase in visitors is from other sources, like a social media contest?

Custom URLs are used to monitor data for different campaigns, assets, and sources.

The Characteristics of an Effective SEO Specialist

If you’re looking to become an SEO expert or hire one, here are six crucial characteristics you need:

What makes a successful SEO specialist?

#1. Understands the different levels of SEO 

There are three main SEO tiers — on-page, off-page, and technical — that every expert must deeply understand.

  • On-page SEO is usually content-related but includes everything that goes into your web page. It’s the process of ensuring all the content on your website uses the right keywords, meta tags, title tags, and internal links. These elements let search engines know the topic you’re covering and why you’re a trusted resource on the subject.

SEO experts must know how to optimize content and form links between related web pages such that users are led from one page to the next, inching closer to completing the purchase.

  • Technical SEO refers to optimizing components that are not content-based. It ensures that the foundation of the website is good.

Website speed, architecture, indexing, crawlability, and mobile-friendliness, are some technical factors that an SEO expert must analyze and improve.

Improving technical elements shows search engines that your website is well-built and provides a better user experience.

  • Off-page SEO refers to activities outside your website that help improve search rankings. Backlinks are vital for off-page SEO as they act as social proof of your authority on a subject and let Google know that your web page is a trusted source.

Apart from backlinks, any external activity that can boost your search ranking is considered off-page SEO, including social media and traditional media marketing campaigns, brand mentions, and influencer marketing.

SEO specialists often work with marketing and PR teams to create external campaigns that will positively impact SERP rankings.

An SEO specialist is expected to be an expert in these core areas and know precisely how they affect your ranking. While they may not handle all of these factors personally, their knowledge will help them oversee other teams’ efforts.

#2. Stays current

Google constantly updates its search algorithm, and these changes can affect your rankings and domain authority. So how do SEOs stay up to speed? The SEO industry keeps evolving as experts discover new strategies or ideas to adjust to the latest developments.

An SEO expert must keep track of all these updates, trends, and methods to strategize effectively. Outdated tactics will often lead to poor results.

They must also be aware of the latest trends in the client’s industry so that they can create relevant content. For example, if everyone in the industry is focused on X, but all your blogs are about Y, the chances of gaining next-level traffic are minimal. So you want to capitalize on trends to capture user attention.

#3. Collaborates with other teams

Since so many factors go into SEO, a specialist rarely works alone. It’s more common that they work hand-in-hand with other teams, such as social media marketing, content marketing, and web development.

For successful campaigns, SEO experts must be excellent communicators and collaborators. They must communicate with clarity, so all team members understand why and how to accomplish campaign goals.

They also need to be persuasive. You often have to explain why changes are needed and how they benefit the website to people who don’t have any SEO knowledge, such as stakeholders or the web development team. You must be able to get these people on board.

#4. Has a marketing mindset 

Search engine optimization and marketing go hand-in-hand. Effective marketing campaigns lead to better search rankings.

SEO specialists need to have a marketing mindset, where they are focused on the target audience and know how content plays an overall role in achieving business goals.

Moreover, an SEO consultant will often work with a company’s internal marketing team. So, they need to be up-to-date on current marketing trends and strategies. The content you create must appeal to readers if it has a chance of rising up the rankings.

Additional knowledge in social media trends, consumer psychology, web development, and viral strategies enables SEO experts to create more compelling content and optimize websites to make the most impact on users.

#5. Able to define and track SEO goals 

SEO experts must be able to look at the bigger picture and set the right goals. Is the overall goal to build brand awareness, increase rankings, drive traffic, or boost conversions? These are interrelated, but understanding the main objective helps set smaller SEO-based milestones.

For example, if the goal is to drive traffic, you can set milestones based on the number of visits via organic search per month. A free website traffic checker can help with that.

HOTH has a free website traffic checker

(Image Source)

Knowing how to set goals, using the right metrics to measure them, and analyzing initial results to make changes or increase production are all expected of an SEO consultant.

#6. Adaptability 

You’ve created the perfect roadmap for getting the company website to the first page of SERPs, and then BAM! Google switches its search algorithm, or a new viral marketing trend takes over.

This is a common scenario for an SEO expert, and they must be able to adapt to it. 

SEO experts often work with multiple companies across industries. Adaptability is also essential here. You need to understand your client’s needs, their industry, and how you can take them to the top of search rankings for their specific keywords.

Where to Find SEO Specialists?

You can hire a freelance SEO specialist or consultant for one-time projects. These are experienced individuals that work with companies on a per-project, contract, or retainer basis. 

However, they may not be viable for many organizations as freelancers can be expensive, and there’s no guarantee of stability or results or productive, long-term relationships. Moreover, a single SEO specialist can help strategize, but they struggle with implementation, especially at a larger scale. 

The second option is to hire a full-time SEO specialist who works with your marketing teams to get results. But again, this can get expensive, and their skillset is often limited to one aspect of SEO.

This is why most companies opt for a digital marketing agency like The HOTH. Agencies have a group of experts at their disposal. They can also produce content faster, meaning you can scale your marketing efforts exponentially. 

To add to this, agencies can be cheaper and often have a subscription-based model where you only pay for what you need and can cancel at any time.

SEO Specialists Can Elevate Your Brand and Business

Every business that wants to succeed digitally needs SEO experts to guide them to the top of SERPs. SEO agencies can help you target the right users, create personalized content at scale, and boost traffic. 

Get industry-leading SEO specialists working on your website by using our HOTH X service. Our experts have spent years of their lives diving into the technical (and often tedious) world of SEO, so you don’t have to.