Originally Published: November 2014
Updated: May 2020

This seems like a simple one with a straightforward answer. Many would describe an SEO specialist as someone who helps users find what they’re searching for when using search engines like Google and Bing.

However, that is merely the tip of the search engine optimization iceberg.

Let’s consider the following example:

A Google search for “cat” returns “www.cat.com” which belongs to the Cat (Caterpillar) construction equipment. It then shares information based on its web of knowledge to present the searcher with what is known as a knowledge graph. This is a list of questions pertaining to owning cats. The knowledge graph is then followed by a list of YouTube compilation videos of cats. If we refine our search to “cat animal,” the search results are more relevant. A searcher now sees a Wikipedia article ranking first, followed by a similar knowledge graph, plenty of YouTube videos, and information from National Geographic on domestic cats.

If I am the owner of a cat boutique, why isn’t my website showing up in the search engine results for “cat”? How will people find me? What can an SEO specialist do to help us be more visible online?

As SEO experts, it is our job to make your website (cat boutique or otherwise) show up at the top of the “right” search engine results. With that job comes learning the intent of searchers that may be looking for you online, selecting keywords, and presenting your information in a way that is compelling enough for them to want to click and visit your website.

10+ years ago this job required much different SEO skills than it does now, and there is a whole new skillset that SEO specialists need to master these days.

A modern specialist must be able to:

  • Make a decision.
  • Research like crazy.
  • Prioritize
  • Problem solved
  • Write intriguing content.
  • Know the audience.
  • Learn

As we go through the basics of what an SEO specialist does, we’ll see how often these skills apply to a range of common tasks and strategies.

Improve URL Structure

URLs should be simple, descriptive, and easy to read. While they may not have a huge impact on rankings, a poor URL structure is bad for the user experience and decreases the clickthrough rate.

Opt for this:


Not this:


Required skill: Make a decision

Fairly often there are many possible correct answers for how to solve a problem. That fact is especially true when it comes to changing URL structure on a website, and SEO specialists need to be able to make a good decision quickly instead of agonizing over the dozen possibilities.

Optimize Title Tags

Optimize Title Tags - SEO.com

An example of a title tag for SEO.com

The title tag is incredibly helpful when it comes to the many ranking factors out there. It is the text that shows up larger and bold on the search engine results page (SERP). You should include your main keyword in the title (some would argue at the very beginning), have it flow naturally, and include your company name. Each title tag on your website needs to be unique and specific to what that page is about. Also, be consistent and structure every title tag the same way.

The title tag is also a small piece of the puzzle that opens the opportunity to entice searchers to click on your site.

Opt for this:

Cat Beds & Blankets for Your Feline Friend | The Best Cat Boutique

Not this:

Cat sleep Accessories – cat beds – cat Blankets – Cat boutique – thebestcatboutique

Required skill: Research like crazy & Know the audience

Keyword research is an SEO specialist’s bread and butter. It is by keywords that we know what to optimize and rank for in search engines. To properly optimize title tags we must first complete keyword research. It is not always glamorous or fast-paced, but specialists need to embrace the research rather than fear it.