Beyond SEO Skills: How To Become a Great Expert

Anastasia Sidko

May 19, 20157 min read
Beyond SEO Skills

Semrush’s main goal is to provide the best insights and help professionals from all over the world to grow. We pursue this goal through our blog and the services that we provide.

And we found another great way to share this knowledge with you.

Next month we are supporting a big digital marketing conference — Web Marketing Festival in Rimini, Italy, where you can dive into the depths of SEO and marketing knowledge with the greatest speakers from all over the world!

We are running a special International Track during the conference, and it won’t be just us that will share our knowledge and ideas. We’ve also invited leading industry experts to share their insights and experiences with the key aspects of digital marketing.

During the conference, you’ll get the chance to learn valuable strategies, upcoming trends and vital secrets from some of the top SEO experts.

What makes them so great? First of all, their professional level, which not only includes SEO, but also their diverse knowledge and experiences. We asked our Semrush Track speakers which skills — beyond SEO — every SEO specialist needs to succeed.

We're happy to introduce our SEO experts:

Cosmin Negrescu, CEO at SEOmonitor Dixon Jones, Marketing Director at Majestic Lukasz Zelezny, Head of Organic Acquisition at Nichola Stott, Managing Director at theMediaFlow Stephen Kenwright, Head of Search at Branded3 Bastian Grimm, CEO at Peak Ace AG.

Cosmin Negrescu

Twitter / LikedIn / Google+

What are the most important skills, beyond SEO, that a good SEO specialist should have?

Today, SEO has transformed from a few basic rules and techniques that could be used by SEO specialists into something that requires an all-in-one role.

An SEO relies on data and trends, so one should have an analytical bias. Next, if you don't have proper marketing knowledge and an understanding of your client's business and customer profile, your chances for success are slim. Once the business case is accepted, you are left to achieve your goal. This also means that you have access to resources — and you need good management skills.

In order to succeed, you need to be a good copywriter, have PR skills, and create valuable, viral content that is successfully distributed throughout the right communities via blogs, magazines and social media. The outreach process could definitely benefit from negotiation skills. It would be best to increase your influence in the industry that you're working in.

One person usually doesn’t possess that many strengths. And the hard truth is that you can't. The “SEO guy” has been replaced by the “SEO team.”

Dixon Jones

Twitter / LinkedIn / Google+

How can SEO be integrated into thought leadership?

The challenge for SEOs is that good content is generally written by a person that is authoritative in their own vertical. So if the Queen of England speaks about constitutional monarchies, her content WILL do well in search, and anyone else’s will come second, unless the pretender is very good — and a little lucky. This is because the Queen of England would naturally be considered an authority on this subject, or at least one whose opinion is highly respected.

An interview with the Queen would be a good second bet, but if you, as an SEO, have no personal authority in the subject you are talking about, then you will need to work alongside someone who actually does. The fact is that high-quality, insightful content comes from thought leaders. These people change the debate and, in doing so, create new ground — new search terms that they, as thought leaders can own (at least in the short term).

What are some sources of knowledge for thought leadership?


  • The Chimp Paradox by Dr. Steve Peters.
  • The Art of War by Sun Tzu.

After that, I look at the Topical Trust Flow of a person’s Twitter profile to see if they are an authority on their subject or simply a commentator.

Lukasz Zelezny

Twitter / LinkedIn / Google+ / Facebook

How can SEO be integrated into social media marketing?

An SEO campaign in 2015 needs to focus on a lot more than keyword optimizing a website. Because social media often ties in with local and mobile search, it is vital for an SEO specialist of have a great deal of knowledge in their field. An SEO expert needs to be able to optimize social media accounts in order to generate organic traffic. He or she needs to be able to utilize and develop profiles on social networks. And that person needs to assist with content distribution, which often requires social media.

In the past, SEO specialists didn’t need to know much about social media in order to run successful campaigns, but Google’s algorithm updates have changed the way things work. SEO specialists need to be willing to change with the times, and having a lot of knowledge related to social media is vital.

Which blogs, webinars or e-books would you recommend?

  • LinkedIn Pulse.
  • The Google Webmaster Central blog.
  • Other large SEO blogs in the industry, such as’s, Search Engine Watch, Search Engine Land, and Hubspot.

Nichola Stott

Twitter / LinkedIn / Google+ / Facebook

What are the main benefits that SEO can bring to content marketing?

Great digital content can be accelerated by excellent technical SEO and an understanding of keyword research. If you bake-in best practice from an SEO perspective at the creative brief stage, you’re mindful of any link and share objectives that may positively impact organic search; things like where the content will live, if it is accessible to crawlers, has optimized mark-up and is generally share-worthy or otherwise newsworthy — all of this is helped with a solid search background. 

What level of content marketing knowledge must an SEO specialist have?

If an SEO specialist is contributes to a content project , they need to be briefed at the earliest opportunity in order to understand the content objectives. Is this content designed to rank and be discovered for a critical keyword or a keyword cluster? Does the content solve a customer’s problem? Is this “discovery” content designed to be shared and linked to locations outside of your brand-aware audience? If a good SEO understands these goals and the thought process behind the piece from the get-go, they can help improve the content’s success rate and also be mindful of common pitfalls.

Stephen Kenwright

Twitter / LinkedIn / Google+

How can SEO be integrated into link-building activities and PR?

The fundamental change in SEO over the last few years: the person who optimizes your website is no longer the person who is best suited to acquire links back to it. An SEO campaign requires the input of multiple professionals more than ever before.

This is a wonderful thing because technical SEO is now more important than ever. Freeing up your SEO’s time to get things done and drive results gives you a huge advantage over your competitors if all they are doing is adding content to their site and adding links back to it.

As an SEO, you should be able to make a judgment call — does this website need links more than it needs new content, new landing pages, or something else? Can I compete for links with other websites in my sector?

The old skills all SEOs have developed over the years — like using analytics, finding demographics, and seasonality — are the most useful for planning a PR campaign. 

Which sources of information do you use?

The sources of information I find most helpful are:

…But if I want to learn about how other SEOs think about PR, then you should definitely check out Distilled and Builtvisible’s blogs.

Bastian Grimm

Twitter / LinkedIn / Google+

How can an SEO become a great public speaker?

I’d absolutely say that a deep understanding of a topic is key to actually delivering a good speech and providing value to attendees. That said, I’d go one step further and also say that you should only talk about your core topics of expertise in front of others, because average is not good enough to deliver “wow moments.” As an attendee, you want strategies to take away and implement once you’re back in the office. I’ve often noticed that packed “X tips for topic Y” do provide a great value — and, therefore, as a speaker, that’s one of my favorite formats to use because I can deliver lots of ideas and input despite my limited speaking time. 

What are your main sources of knowledge?

I think, as an SEO, you get used to reading a lot, especially with Google. Often by not providing clear guidance, you’re basically depending on external views, opinions and input.

We do a lot of testing ourselves, as I believe this is absolutely crucial. Google changes quite frequently; therefore, you just have to run with your theories and validate best practices in order to provide best-in-class SEO consulting.

And last but not least: conferences or events in general. Get out there and talk to people — for real!

So, once again we're glad to invite you to visit Web Marketing Festival on June 19-20 in Rimini, Italy. Check out the Semrush International Track website to get more information and book your ticket!

Author Photo
Anastasia SidkoAnastasia Sidko, Content Manager at Semrush. I have four years of experience in content creation and public relations. My areas of interest include SEO, digital marketing and content marketing.
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