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The Skills You Need for Providing SEO Services

Lindsay Halsey

Lindsay Halsey is a co-founder of Pathfinder SEO. She has over 10 years of experience working in SEO with small to large businesses. Lindsay focuses on teaching site owners, freelancers, and agencies how to get found on Google via a guided approach to SEO. Stay in touch on Twitter - @linds_halsey.

Anyone who tells you that you need to be an SEO expert to provide great SEO services is flat out wrong. Providing solid SEO services that generate results for your clients simply requires knowing some SEO basics and having some key digital agency skills.

If, as a freelancer or agency owner, you have basic SEO knowledge and digital agency skills, there is no reason you can’t effectively provide SEO services to your clients. Especially today, when there are so many amazing SEO tools and useful SEO resources out there on the internet.

Will you be able to provide enterprise-scale SEO services with these basic skills? Probably not. You will, however, be able to create and execute impactful SEO strategies for small- to medium-sized businesses.

Here are the basic skills you need to successfully provide SEO services to your clients. And, some suggestions to fill in any gaps in your current skillset.

Basic SEO Skills Required to Offer SEO Services

These are the SEO-specific skills that you need to provide SEO services effectively. Combine these with the digital agency skills we then review, and you have what you need to offer impactful SEO to your clients.

SEO Skill #1: Understand and Explain The Basics of How Search Engine Work

If you’re working with small- to medium-sized businesses, you probably already know more about SEO than any marketing person or business owner who’ll hire you. There may be exceptions, but this is the most likely scenario.

If you don’t know much about SEO, Google provides a great primer that you can use to quickly educate yourself on the topic.

Will a business owner or marketing person spend the time to learn about SEO themselves? It’s unlikely. Invest a bit of your valuable time to learn how search engines work so that you can inform your clients and develop your SEO offering.

Once you understand how search engines work, you’ll need to be able to explain it to clients, which means you need to practice. Practice talking about the importance of SEO in website design. Practice talking about SEO with your team. Practice by pitching SEO services to clients you know will say no or you don’t even want to do SEO for. A couple of warm-up swings will help when you get up to the plate with a client you actually want to work for.

SEO Skill #2: Understand Basic SEO Best Practices

If you want your services to create more traffic and conversions for your clients and generate a solid ROI for them, then you need to know SEO best practices.

Do you need to know advanced SEO skills? No.

Do you need to be an SEO expert? No.

Do you need to be able to deploy basic SEO best practices and tactics on your client’s website? Yes.

In a perfect world, those tactics are part of a comprehensive SEO strategy. Even if they aren’t, they can still have a profound impact on a client’s ability to rank and drive more conversions that turn into leads or sales. knowing and using SEO best practices on your client's sites is important.

SEO Skill #3: Keyword Research

You’ll need to understand the basics of keyword research if you want your SEO services to be successful. When you understand how to conduct effective keyword research, you have the most essential SEO skill at your disposal.

It’s true that you could outsource your keyword research. But if you don’t know how to do quality keyword research yourself, you may not be able to tell the difference between a good and a bad deliverable from anyone else you hire.

If you want to learn how to do keyword research, Pathfinder SEO has a great track record of teaching it to people like you.

Take a Guided Approach to SEO Services

Follow our step-by-step process to execute SEO strategy for your clients. Get regular guidance from an SEO coach. Grow your business with monthly recurring revenue.

Digital Agency Skills Required to Offer SEO Services

You can definitely deliver SEO as a service if you have basic proficiency in the skills mentioned above. But chances are you want to provide SEO services as effectively and with as little effort as possible. That’s why you’ll need to lean on the following digital agency skills to provide SEO services like a pro.

Digital Agency Skill #1: Project Management Skills

What sets the truly effective SEO providers apart from those who have trouble offering SEO services? Project management skills, which includes the creation of systems and processes that get SEO work done.

When it comes to managing SEO work for clients, having—and following—internal systems and processes (standard operating procedures) is key. If you have your project management skills dialed in, executing SEO for your clients becomes standardized and repeatable. And, it turns into something that you can easily delegate to a team member or outsource to a virtual assistant.

A lack of project management skills will result in wasted time and lots of scrambling to figure out what to do and who’s doing what from month to month.

Digital Agency Skill #2: Ability to Take Action

Unfortunately, SEO doesn’t complete itself. It takes dedicated effort and time to create long-lasting SEO results for your clients. That’s why we say SEO is not a “set it and forget it” marketing initiative.

If you are able to take action to improve your clients’ SEO each month, you can just about guarantee they will see better traffic and rankings.

It’s when you are unable to take action on behalf of your clients that you start to run into problems, and your clients will question the effectiveness of your services. Taking action each month on behalf of your clients may seem like a no-brainer, but you would be amazed at how many people we've seen that sell SEO services and then forget the action piece.

Agency Skill #3: Clear and Cogent Client Communications

A lot of freelancers and agencies get stressed about offering SEO services because they don’t think they can speak to the topic authentically. While this can be a legitimate concern, it’s also one that is easy to overcome.

Most of the time, clients don’t want to know about the technical side of SEO. Instead, they want high-level overviews of the actions being taken to improve their website’s performance in search engines.

When you keep your client communications oriented toward providing high-level information, it’s hard to go wrong. If clients want to go into the weeds, you can rely on your knowledge of how search engines work and SEO best practices to answer their questions.

A little basic SEO knowledge can go a very long way when it comes to communicating with your clients effectively. Chances are, you’ve made it this far thanks to the great client communication skills that you already have.

Also, when you have those low-performance months or quarters, there’s nothing that will soothe a client’s nerves like clear and honest communication from you. That's one of the reasons we've created dozens of effective email templates for our freelancer and agency subscribers to lean on.

The SEO Services Linchpin

If you have all the skills mentioned above. You are ready to offer SEO services to your clients. If you don’t, you can fill in whatever gaps exist in your repertoire and you’ll be ready to roll.

Either way, you still need a cohesive SEO offering that generates results for your clients and that you can sell. Thankfully, you don’t have to try to figure out how to put that together on your own. 

You can use an SEO checklist for a list of basic SEO tactics. You can also lean on the guidance of a professional SEO coach to help you formulate a cohesive SEO strategy for each of your SEO clients. And, you can look to some of the useful guidance we’ve created about how to pitch, package, price, and sell your SEO services.

A guided SEO service like the one we offer at Pathfinder SEO has all of that–and more–in one place.

Now that you know what skills you need to offer SEO to your clients, what's keeping you from offering SEO as a service?


Grow your customer’s business while growing your recurring revenue. Learn how in “Getting Started with SEO Services”.

Lindsay Halsey

Lindsay Halsey is a co-founder of Pathfinder SEO. She has over 10 years of experience working in SEO with small to large businesses. Lindsay focuses on teaching site owners, freelancers, and agencies how to get found on Google via a guided approach to SEO. Stay in touch on Twitter - @linds_halsey.
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