What Do You Think Is The Most Important SEO Skill?

Lee Odden posted an interesting poll today asking the question what type of SEO skill is most important. I think the best answer to the question really is the ability to gain expertise in a variety of the skills Lee listed. Lee himself says the best answer to the question should probably start with “It depends on the situation.” Still I voted for one and thought I’d share some thoughts on why I voted the way I did here.

First here’s the list Lee created:

  • Account management
  • Blackhat skillzBlog marketing
  • Coding
  • Copywriting
  • Creative and design
  • Keyword analysis
  • Marketing strategy
  • Media and link buying
  • Online PR for SEO
  • Online research and search
  • Sales process consulting
  • Server side issues
  • Social media for SEO
  • Traditional link building
  • Web analytics

You could easily make a good argument for at least half of these, but my own choice was copywriting. Perhaps had I looked at the poll a day later or earlier I might have chosen something else, but copywriting would still be high on my list and it was my choice earlier today when I came across the poll.

Why did I make that choice? Again my real answer is that being able to master as many of these as you can is the most important skill. But the choice in copywriting is due to where I think seo has been and where it’s going. Search engines don’t give on-page seo the same weight they once did, but being able to write a page with search engines in mind is still important. I’ll even argue that in less competitive markets it might be all you need to rank well, at least until your competition catches up with you.

More importantly is where I see seo heading. Link data is still going to have the most weight and impact for awhile, but having good copy is becoming even more important in regards to building links. There’s so much out there you need to stand out if you want links. When it comes to link building through social media having excellent copywriting skills is a big plus.

Search engines are also making it clear that they are looking at user behavior and traffic patterns more and in time those sites that are the stickiest, that retain new visitors longer and bring back repeat visitors more often will gain rank. In addition to search engines, social media is becoming the starting point for many and having quality copy is only going to lead to more votes and more visibility in social media.

For me it comes down to the idea of content is king not so much for the direct ranking benefit of on-page factors, but rather that content is what brings links and visitors into your site. Content is also what will keep them there longer and bring them back. And while content doesn’t have to be the written word, most of the time it will be.

I see copywriters as being the most valuable resource of any online business in the near future if that isn’t already the case now. It could be argued that unless you have a site coded to meet minimum standards or if your design is so poor no one will get to your copy. You could argue that without an understanding of marketing strategy and who your target customer is your copy may miss the mark completely. You could argue that without the proper keyword analysis you’ll be bringing the wrong visitors into your site. All of these are excellent arguments and as I said at the start you could easily build a case for any of them and more from the list.

Still I think your content is the backbone of your site. If the quality is there people will find you and tell others about you. They will put up with a site that’s not too attractive or has occasional hiccups displaying. People will link to valuable content no matter how it’s packaged and they’ll return for more.

I’m curious what you think. Is copywriting as important as I’m making it out here? Or do you think one of the other skills surpasses it in importance? Can you build a case for one of the other items on the list? Feel free to vote on the poll and also share your thoughts here.

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11 comments

  1. Darren I agree. Content doesn’t have to be text. Going by Lee’s list for the poll though, copywriting was really the one item associated with content creation. But you’re right about video and we can also add audio as well as any of the different types of applications out there. And as connection speeds increase video is only going to gain in importance. Most content will probably still be text-based for a long time to come, but absolutely you have to look beyond text when it comes to content.

    Adam I was thinking of coding as well. A well-coded site has such an early advantage when it comes to seo and poorly coded one can put up so many roadblocks. Like I said in the post you can really make a case for a lot of these. Still on the list I’m going to stick with copywriting.

  2. I’m curious; how does one go about learning the skill of copy-writing? I have a friend who’s trying to pick it up, and the only advice I’ve been able to muster is “read a LOT.”

    I’m not sure yet what the most important skill in SEO might be, but in programming, it’s the ability to learn. I don’t know even the tip of the iceburg, but I know how to find the knowledge I need at any given moment to make a function work. I wouldn’t be surprised if half of SEO is being able to sort out good advice from bad, at least in the beginning.

  3. Forrest I guess I’m really looking at copywriting in a more general sense of writing as a whole. A blog post for example isn’t technically copywriting, but I’m including it. My vote for copywriting is really meant to be one for writing in general.

    reading is definitely a great way to improve all writing, though you do need to read good writers. i think by reading great writers you pick up on their rhythms and naturally improve your own writing.

    There’s a lot of information on improving writing in general and copywriting in particular. CopyBlogger is a great source for both and their are many more blogs devoted to improving writing.

    There are countless books on the subject. You can walk into any bookstore and find the writing section and there will be some there or simply do a search on Amazon. There are some good books on writing specifically for the web too.

    The Elements of Style by Shrunk and White is a short book, but also one of the most valuable ones you can read to improve your writing.

    I’m with you on the ability to learn. The best SEOs are those who can master or at least understand the basics of most everything on the poll list. And you’re right that the first stage of SEO learning is sorting through the good and bad advice. The key to that is finding a few sources you trust and letting them direct your thinking. Unfortunately there’s far too much bad advice out there from people who are either trying to sell you something or from people who haven’t figured it out for themselves yet, but are jumping in to help others.

  4. You know, as a SEO, my main task is to write content. But without knowing keyword research, onpage optimization and marketing, this skill is pretty useless.

    By the way, good copywriting involves a lot about usability as well (readable paragraphs, subheadings, lists, fonts, etc).

    So you can’t just go with one skill. You use them all at once whatever you are doing (comparing your rival’s content quality, for example).

  5. First take time to research the best keyword phrases to use and then ensure that your content is keyword rich with the particular keyword phrases that you do come up with.

    Then the other very important thing to do is to make sure that you are all the time acquiring as many one way links pointing at your site as possible. One good way to do this is through Web Directory Submissions.

  6. I agree you can’t just go with one skill. You probably can’t master all of them, but the more you can know well the better. And keyword research is one of the better skills to have.

    One thing I would say about copywriting though is that even without keyword research if you write well enough you will pick up repeat visitors and links. And if you can keep a piece of content focused enough you’ll likely have used a good amount of relevant phrases to your subject.

    But yeah, I do agree there’s more to seo than any one thing. The poll only allowed for one vote though.

  7. As keyword research isn’t about the SEs, but about knowing the customers, if, instead keyword research, you know your customers by talking to them daily and reading their forums, it’ll be natural, so yes, I’d agree with that.

    P.S. Web directory submission is perhaps one of the most time-wasting things one can do to a website. And his life :)

  8. I voted for copywriting, keyword analysis, web analytics and blog marketing.

    If we analyse our target market then we will be able to choose our keyword. As yuri rightly suggested it is about knowing the customers instead of researching keywords.

    I believe that blog marketing is the future marketing.

  9. All good choices Surya. The one thing I think we can all say about the poll is you really can’t choose just one skill. They all work together to make for a successful SEO. You’re right that you do need to know your customers and research the words they use to search for you.

    I’m still sticking with copywriting, at least in the liberal sense of content creation, as the skill from the list I most prefer to have.

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