I don’t believe anyone needs a specific qualification to be able to learn SEO and to be able to do it really well. Certain character trait and skills, however, that are definitely really valuable in the SEO space, particularly for those looking for their first entry level role. Here’s my take on what those are:
1. Copywriting Skills
So I’m potentially a little biased here given that copywriting is the way I ended up in SEO. But if I were going to have a team of just 3 people to deliver SEO, I’d want one of them to be a copywriter. A natural way with words and an ability to communicate well in writing are genuinely useful skills. Even if you’ve never done any SEO before, if you write well, I believe SEO copywriting will come pretty naturally.
But I find copywriters can bring more to the table than just writing. I’ve often found that people who are great writers are quicker to pick up on keyword research and understanding how the audience might use search engines. Keyword research simply seems to come more naturally to copywriters, in my view.
2. The Ability to Put a Quick Website Together
I’m not saying you need to be a master developer to get a break in SEO. But if you can knock together a quick site on something like WordPress then it shows a basic understanding of websites and website structure, a natural ability to learn and I often find the technical side of SEO comes a little more quickly to those who have some experience in putting sites together.
Determination and persistence are really important in SEO, I think. Yes, persistence is an obvious trait for roles like outreach. But beyond that too, I think a headstrong determination helps people keep going in competitive spaces, or when things that you thought might work don’t work.
I look for persistence and determination as key traits in entry level SEOs. And actually, many of those I’ve interviewed have been ones who’ve chased up (some more than once) their application if I’ve been being slow.
4. Desire to Learn
I’ve been in SEO for 11 years and feel like a noob some days. I like it that way. The moment you think you’ve learnt it all is the moment you start to fall behind. SEO moves fast and a huge part of it is about testing, testing and testing some more. Those who are constantly curious perform better.
5. A Commercial Head
For all its technical elements, creative content and keyword research, SEO ultimately comes down to a return on investment. A commercial understanding is vital. Understanding the fundamentals of how a business makes money, differences between revenues and profit and understanding margin helps people to constantly focus on whether SEO is delivering value.
Experience isn’t necessary for entry level roles. You don’t have to demonstrate that you’re a self taught ninja who’s been ranking sites since you were a toddler. Some examples of your own previous experiments can be useful, but demonstrating that you have character traits or other skills that can be immediately valuable to an SEO will give you an upper hand when reaching out for that first step on the career ladder.