November 29, 2023

5 Soft Skills SEOs Should Build – Whiteboard Friday


SEOs biggest blocker to driving performance

Question: what is your biggest blocker to driving performance?

I know it’s 2023, and everybody thinks it’s crazy to talk about anything other than AI probably, but when we did a survey, and we asked SEOs what the biggest blocker to them driving performance, it was people. It wasn’t their lack of technical knowledge, it wasn’t their lack of knowledge around AI, and it wasn’t their lack of knowledge around technical SEO generally. It was people that mattered. And so today’s topic is all about soft skills. And I think Tom Critchlow has one of the most amazing resources available. It’s the SEO Skills Maturity Index. And if you look at this tool online, what you’re gonna find is that there’s a number of really cool charts, one of which that shows kind of your career and the skills that you need to generate or build during your career.

And then another of the charts shows the relationship of soft skills and salary. And what we see in that chart as you go through his maturity matrix, as you get to be more and more advanced and senior in your career, soft skills play a larger and larger role in how much salary you earn. And success and everybody accomplishing their dreams, it’s not always about salary but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it’s a big piece of it, right? And so what are the soft skills that we’ve learned that really, really matter? I think that there’s five that are really key to focus in on.

The first is critical thinking. When we built a tool at my last role, we came to realize that SEOs really, really struggle with just basic crunching of information and how to approach a dataset, how to kind of come to it with a question so that they could efficiently get an answer. And then they also struggled with connecting that analysis with action. And so I think there’s a couple steps that one can learn decision making in a really, really great way. And here’s the framework for doing it. First is start with the problem that you wanna solve.

Spend a lot of time upfront learning how to go deep into that structure of the problem that you need to solve. The second step and this is where I think it’s gonna be important, as SEO moves forward, I think we’re all gonna need to get a little bit more technical with how we’re able to work with information or data. And it could be as simple as logging into a search console and learning how to export data into a Google sheet and then using that as a source for looking at data in Looker Studio, building time series charts because human eyes really can see change over time when you start to draw it in a line format. So you’re gonna learn how to sort of gather data and you’re gonna learn how to explore it.

And what I mean by exploring the data is really being comfortable spending time digging into information. And the reason why is that sometimes you’re gonna find insights take time to really extract. And that takes us to the next step in our decision-making critical thinking process, which is learning how to extract insights. And it’s as simple as writing down things that you’re finding in the information that you look at on a separate piece of paper or in a Google sheet. And as you extract more and more of those insights, what you’re gonna find is that a narrative or a story will start to surface. And from that surface, that set of insights, what you’re gonna find is that you’re gonna come up with a hypothesis that you want to actually test in order to solve that problem. And almost all of the time, the problems that we solve in marketing have to do with accomplishing business goals, right?

So all of our exploration and all of the work that we’re doing is about helping our organization or our clients’ organizations accomplish their business goals. You’ll come up with a hypothesis to test, you’ll then test it on a website or in your marketing platform of choice, and then after the test is complete, you’ll look at the results and then you’ll turn the crank on that whole process with as fast a cadence as you can in order to drive performance.

Critical thinking, right? People always wonder, like, “How do I start when I’m doing that definition of the problem part of the process?” Generally speaking, you’re gonna use something called first principles thinking, which is where you take a problem, no matter how complex it is, you break it into its most simple parts as you can, and you reason your solutions up from that simple place. You’re not starting with, “We’ve always done it like this.” You’re trying to use the structure of the problem to determine the structure of the solution.

3. Find opportunities to learn

The third soft skill is finding opportunities to learn

5. Join and build community

The fifth soft skill is to join and build community

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