What Is an SEO Specialist & What Do They Do?

What exactly does an SEO specialist do to help businesses get to the top of search results? Learn about how SEO professionals work with clients and how you can work with one to grow your traffic.

Before you start considering if you should hire an SEO consultant, you need to know what you can expect an SEO specialist to do for your website. I’ve been an SEO specialist since 2013, when I first started working with clients after teaching myself SEO for a few years before that.

While some of the job has changed over the years, what an SEO specialist does is actually pretty straightforward.

What is an SEO Specialist?

An SEO specialist is someone who helps get a website to the top of search results using search engine optimization strategies. They’re tasked with getting more traffic to a website from search engines.

There are no formal certifications or training for becoming an SEO specialist, which also means that if you’re trying to hire someone to do SEO for your business, it can be really difficult to tell who is a good SEO specialist or not.

In general, I advise that you think about hiring an SEO specialists with the following minimum qualifications:

  • 3-5 years of experience in the type of SEO you need
  • Proven results for past clients
  • Knows and follows best practices
  • Keeps up with SEO news & changes in SEO techniques
  • Can explain SEO concepts and techniques in a meaningful way
  • Ability to report on, track, and explain SEO results and progress

As an SEO pro myself, I’ve seen plenty of people who weren’t qualified to call themselves SEO specialists who didn’t meet these qualifications. If you’re considering hiring someone to manage an SEO campaign, at the very least make sure that you’re hiring someone who meets all of the above qualifications.

What Does an SEO Specialist Do?

In the simplest terms, an SEO specialist gets your website to rank in search results for specific keywords. But it’s a bit more complex than that—because of how Google and other search engines work today.

My work as an SEO professional as centered on building the authority of my clients’ websites and brands online in three parts:

  • Creating keyword-optimized content that showcases expertise
  • Improving how their website works to provide a better user experience
  • Creating relationships with partners and online authorities to establish links that build trust

Together, these three aspects help not only improve the rankings of my clients’ websites but also helps them build their audience, gain recognition, and develop a profitable online presence for their business.

SEO specialists use proven techniques to improve a website and brand’s performance in search results by developing and implementing an SEO strategy. Usually, the process an SEO professional follows involves these steps:

  1. Determine goals for the SEO campaign that impact business goals
  2. Assess the current state of SEO for the website and brand and gauge competitors
  3. Create a strategy of which keywords and topics the business should rank for that directly impact business goals
  4. Create content designed to rank well in search engines that leads towards cultivating new customers
  5. Improve the appearance and consistency of how the brand appears on other websites across the internet, including directories
  6. Market the content and company to build relationships and gain links to the site
  7. Make technical improvements to the website to help it communicate better with search engines
  8. Make user-focused improvements to the website to make it easier and more enjoyable to use

Different types of SEO center on different techniques of how this work is done and there’s wide ranging opinions in the SEO industry on what techniques work best. However, an SEO specialist should be able to explain why different parts of the process are more important for your business, where your focus needs to be, and what will likely have the biggest impact on your goals.

Keep in mind that an SEO specialist focuses solely on organic search traffic, not ads. They generally don't provide Google Ads services, though there are some SEO pros like me that offer integrated search marketing services. If you’re looking for a more comprehensive approach to search engine traffic, you’ll need someone who can do both.

How SEO Specialists Work With Clients

There are generally three ways to work with SEO specialists: one-time SEO work, SEO advisory services, and ongoing SEO campaign management.

Figuring out which kind of SEO work you need done can help steer you towards the right kind of SEO specialists for your goals.

One-time SEO Work

One-time SEO work focuses on making specific changes to your website or online presence to take care of a particular SEO related issue. This can include services like:

  • SEO audits
  • Link cleanup
  • Penalty recovery
  • Content assessments
  • Keyword research and content strategy development
  • Technical SEO implementation
  • Site migrations
  • SEO coaching

In general, you’ll want to use a one-time SEO service if you have a specific issue you want to solve related to your SEO, not just to improve your SEO overall. Why? SEO is an on-going process that will require you to take action beyond one-time SEO work.

The idea of one-time SEO services is that it sets you up for success so the progress you make on your own will have the best chance of increasing your rankings.

SEO Advisory Services

SEO advisory services is the next step up from one-time SEO services that focus on helping you implement SEO strategies on your own with an expert you can turn to for advice.

Some SEO specialists have formal advisory programs that guide you through the process of doing your own SEO, like my SEO coaching program. These types of programs are a great fit for people who have very limited experience doing SEO on their own and need to not only learn how to implement SEO but keys to how SEO works.

SEO advisory services may also be a more open-ended process that is tailored to your needs with hourly consulting or with monthly or quarterly check ins, like I offer with my SEO consulting. If you’re more experienced and understand the basics of how SEO works or have some experience working on websites, this kind of check-in style advisory services may be a better fit if you want to handle your SEO on your own.

Ongoing SEO Campaign Management

However, if you don’t want to continue to do things that will improve your SEO, you’re probably more likely to benefit from ongoing SEO management instead of one-time work or advisory services. Instead of working on improving SEO on your own, you’re able to hand off your SEO campaigns to an expert who can take care of all or most of what goes into improving rankings.

The process of ongoing SEO can be systemized with a specific work-flow and process your SEO specialists use or customized specifically to your particular needs. My ongoing SEO consulting services focus on using a SEO roadmap of specific SEO tasks proven to work for my clients that’s tailored to your particular goals and needs.

The biggest benefit of ongoing SEO services is that everything is taken care of for you. Some SEO specialists like me als include content creation as part of their services, in addition to website technical fixes and optimization and linkbuilding work.

For my clients, I’ve designed my SEO services so they can hand over the majority of their website management tasks so they can focus on more important things in their business.

Is an SEO Specialist Right For You?

Now that you know what you're looking for in a qualified SEO specialist, the process they use, and how they work with clients, you’re probably wondering if an SEO specialist is right for you and if working on SEO can help your business grow.

I offer free initial consultations to help you better understand if SEO can help your business, get a personalized plan of what you need to do to improve traffic from search engines, and what working with me would look like for your business. Get a free initial consultation and see if SEO is right for your business.

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