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The Top 5 Soft Skills SEOs Should Develop



The Top 5 Soft Skills SEOs Should Develop

The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

When it comes to SEO, especially technical SEO, we often talk about the importance of hard skills. And while there’s no doubt that vlookup and regex can be your best friends, there are some essential soft skills to learn that will help you excel in your role and progress in your career.

But first, let’s look at the definition of what we actually mean by soft skills.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are abilities that allow a person to communicate and work with others effectively and harmoniously.

Whether you’re a content or technical SEO, in-house or agency, your soft skills will help you navigate any work environment and process. That’s because in any role, even in tech roles, we are still working with other human beings. Not to mention that SEO is mostly a cross-functional team effort, which means you’ll need to be comfortable interacting with your stakeholders.

And if you are an SEO at management level, you might find that there are even trickier interactions to have with your leadership. Especially if you are responsible to get sign-off on your organic strategies and projects.

I’m going to share five soft skills today that you can start focusing on in order to improve how you engage with your team members, stakeholders, and leadership, thus helping you progress in your career and generate success.

Five soft skills for SEO success

1. Empathy

Empathy is the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling. According to recent research, empathy is the most important skill in leadership. But why is it important for SEOs?

Well, the reason why empathy is the number one skill for leadership is because it helps you build better, more meaningful relationships with and a good understanding of the people you work with. This is essential for SEOs who work across several different functions and engage with a variety of stakeholders on a daily basis. Empathy will help to successfully engage in and resolve conflict, which improves productivity, collaboration and drives better results.

The best way to improve empathy is to examine your own biases and observe how you interact with the people around you. Focus on how you interact and engage with people who have a different point of view from yours. This is not about the logical reasoning behind anyone’s opinion, but more to see if you can understand the emotions and feelings behind why someone has a different way of thinking. You don’t need to agree with someone in order to be empathetic, but you do need to focus on understanding, accepting and validating other people’s experiences.

2. Critical thinking

Critical thinking is the objective, unbiased analysis and evaluation of available facts, in order to form a judgment. It’s absolutely crucial in a space like SEO and digital marketing, as SEO is filled with opinions and occasional facts, and it can be challenging to stay objective and be aware of our own biases.

Asking (better) questions is a big part of developing critical thinking. To do so, you will need a healthy amount of curiosity and skepticism. Skepticism will help develop the habit of questioning assumptions, and improve the practice of reasoning through logic, while curiosity will prompt you to seek out diversity of thoughts. You also want to improve your research skills by looking at the credibility of your sources and actively seeking out the opinions that are different from yours.

This is by no means an easy thing to do. It requires time and energy to go out of your way to do research, ask questions, and respectfully engage with views and experiences that are different from yours.

This skill is useful when reviewing any SEO opinions, analyzing data, reviewing search engine guidelines and algorithms. It can also be extremely helpful when presenting to stakeholders or decision-makers. Critical thinking can help keep your confirmation bias in check, and prepare to deal with concerns and objections. For more tips on improving your own critical thinking check out this article by Harvard Business Review.

3. Proactive listening

Proactive or active listening means that you attentively listen to whoever is speaking to you. It requires you to absorb what is being said, and to listen with the goal to fully understand what the speaker is communicating to you.

Now, you might’ve guessed, but proactive listening is actually an essential part of both developing empathy and critical thinking. And it’s important to not confuse listening to someone with hearing what someone is saying to you. Especially because when we talk about proactive listening, it means more than just absorbing the words being said. It’s not just about what is being communicated, but also how it’s done. Pay attention to body language and tone of voice in order to fully understand the other person.

You can improve this skill by first of all, being more conscious and more present when someone is talking to you. Create mental notes of the conversation. You can imagine to use labels to better grasp how the other person might be feeling. Are they excited, worried or indifferent? Proactive listening will help you understand your stakeholders, team members and leadership better, and set the foundation to our next soft skill.

4. Clear communication

Clear communication is the effective use of verbal and non-verbal communication in order to successfully exchange and explain thoughts and ideas. The goal of the communicator is to make sure that the content communicated is fully understood by their audience.

Clear communication is not to convince someone about your truth. It’s to help others understand the intended message. The reason why this is important to emphasize is because we often think that if someone rejects our idea, we haven’t communicated our proposition clearly. While that is a possibility, this is not a correlation. Unclear communication can lead to rejection just as much as clear communication and vica versa.

When you are trying to improve this skill, focus on improving how well your audience understands your message. The essentials of clear communication are therefore; a good understanding of your audience and their needs, the use of the right language and examples, and a clear message. You can further improve this by actively seeking and listening to feedback from your audience and improve your communication skills accordingly.

5. Storytelling

Storytelling is the act of sharing a story. Sounds simple, right? We all tell stories. We share our personal stories such as memorable events from our lives. Something we’ve seen, heard or experienced. We also share stories about what we aspire to achieve, or around something we fear. Stories help us make sense of the world, and it lets us share information in a way that creates emotional connections.

But why did I include storytelling on this list, if we all know how to do it? Well, it’s because we also need to learn how to use it in the workplace in order to achieve success.

Let’s break this down. Stories help us make sense of the world, which means a story could help communicate a clear message even about the most complex subject. So, if you want your non-SEO audience to understand the difference between crawling and indexation, you can tell an analogy about how search engines are like librarians and the database behind a search engine is like a library. Analogies are a great form of storytelling to help explain unfamiliar things with something familiar.

Stories also help build emotional connections, so using them in business can help you create trust with stakeholders and leadership, which is essential to get buy-in and achieve success.

Slide from Petra's MozCon presentation, white text on a blue background: "We are persuaded by reason, but we are moved by emotion"

It takes practice to find what narrative works well for your audience and to develop your own storytelling style. The good thing is that each of these skills build on each other, and you can totally focus on developing them at the same time.

In summary

When it comes to SEO, developing these five soft skills will help you be more successful in:

  • Building better relationships with a variety of stakeholders, as well as better-functioning teams.

  • Successfully presenting to and getting buy-in from leadership.

  • Improving productivity in cross-functional projects.

  • Deeper, and more factual, understandings of Google algorithms for non-SEOs.

  • Improving your understanding of “the big picture”, and high-level connections between SEO and other business functions.

Building your soft skills can be hard, and there’s no tangible certification to say you’ve mastered them. It takes practice and consistency and — just like SEO — it’s never fully finished. It’s a mindset that inspires to do the work day-to-day and motivates to continuously develop your skill set.

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Is Twitter Still a Thing for Content Marketers in 2023?



Is Twitter Still a Thing for Content Marketers in 2023?

The world survived the first three months of Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover.

But what are marketers doing now? Did your brand follow the shift Dennis Shiao made for his personal brand? As he recently shared, he switched his primary platform from Twitter to LinkedIn after the 2022 ownership change. (He still uses Twitter but posts less frequently.)

Are those brands that altered their strategy after the new ownership maintaining that plan? What impact do Twitter’s service changes (think Twitter Blue subscriptions) have?

We took those questions to the marketing community. No big surprise? Most still use Twitter. But from there, their responses vary from doing nothing to moving away from the platform.

Lowest points

At the beginning of the Elon era, more than 500 big-name advertisers stopped buying from the platform. Some (like Amazon and Apple) resumed their buys before the end of 2022. Brand accounts’ organic activity seems similar.

In November, Emplifi research found a 26% dip in organic posting behavior by U.S. and Canadian brands the week following a significant spike in the negative sentiment of an Elon tweet. But that drop in posting wasn’t a one-time thing.

Kyle Wong, chief strategy officer at Emplifi, shares a longer analysis of well-known fast-food brands. When comparing December 2021 to December 2022 activity, the brands posted 74% less, and December was the least active month of 2022.

Fast-food brands posted 74% less on @Twitter in December 2022 than they did in December 2021, according to @emplifi_io analysis via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

When Emplifi analyzed brand accounts across industries (2,330 from U.S. and Canada and 6,991 elsewhere in the world), their weekly Twitter activity also fell to low points in November and December. But by the end of the year, their activity was inching up.

“While the percentage of brands posting weekly is on the rise once again, the number is still lower than the consistent posting seen in earlier months,” Kyle says.

Quiet-quitting Twitter

Lacey Reichwald, marketing manager at Aha Media Group, says the company has been quiet-quitting Twitter for two months, simply monitoring and posting the occasional link. “It seems like the turmoil has settled down, but the overall impact of Twitter for brands has not recovered,” she says.

@ahamediagroup quietly quit @Twitter for two months and saw their follower count go up, says Lacey Reichwald via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

She points to their firm’s experience as a potential explanation. Though they haven’t been posting, their follower count has gone up, and many of those new follower accounts don’t seem relevant to their topic or botty. At the same time, Aha Media saw engagement and follows from active accounts in the customer segment drop.

Blue bonus

One change at Twitter has piqued some brands’ interest in the platform, says Dan Gray, CEO of Vendry, a platform for helping companies find agency partners to help them scale.

“Now that getting a blue checkmark is as easy as paying a monthly fee, brands are seeing this as an opportunity to build thought leadership quickly,” he says.

Though it remains to be seen if that strategy is viable in the long term, some companies, particularly those in the SaaS and tech space, are reallocating resources to energize their previously dormant accounts.

Automatic verification for @TwitterBlue subscribers led some brands to renew their interest in the platform, says Dan Gray of Vendry via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

These reenergized accounts also are seeing an increase in followers, though Dan says it’s difficult to tell if it’s an effect of the blue checkmark or their renewed emphasis on content. “Engagement is definitely up, and clients and agencies have both noted the algorithm seems to be favoring their content more,” he says.

New horizon

Faizan Fahim, marketing manager at Breeze, is focused on the future. They’re producing videos for small screens as part of their Twitter strategy. “We are guessing soon Elon Musk is going to turn Twitter into TikTok/YouTube to create more buzz,” he says. “We would get the first moving advantage in our niche.”

He’s not the only one who thinks video is Twitter’s next bet. Bradley Thompson, director of marketing at DigiHype Media and marketing professor at Conestoga College, thinks video content will be the next big thing. Until then, text remains king.

“The approach is the same, which is a focus on creating and sharing high-quality content relevant to the industry,” Bradley says. “Until Twitter comes out with drastically new features, then marketing and managing brands on Twitter will remain the same.

James Coulter, digital marketing director at Sole Strategies, says, “Twitter definitely still has a space in the game. The question is can they keep it, or will they be phased out in favor of a more reliable platform.”

Interestingly given the thoughts of Faizan and Bradley, James sees businesses turning to video as they limit their reliance on Twitter and diversify their social media platforms. They are now willing to invest in the resource-intensive format given the exploding popularity of TikTok, Instagram Reels, and other short-form video content.

“We’ve seen a really big push on getting vendors to help curate video content with the help of staff. Requesting so much media requires building a new (social media) infrastructure, but once the expectations and deliverables are in place, it quickly becomes engrained in the weekly workflow,” James says.

What now

“We are waiting to see what happens before making any strong decisions,” says Baruch Labunski, CEO at Rank Secure. But they aren’t sitting idly by. “We’ve moved a lot of our social media efforts to other platforms while some of these things iron themselves out.”

What is your brand doing with Twitter? Are you stepping up, stepping out, or standing still? I’d love to know. Please share in the comments.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.


Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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45 Free Content Writing Tools to Love [for Writing, Editing & Content Creation]



45 Free Content Writing Tools to Love [for Writing, Editing & Content Creation]

Creating content isn’t always a walk in the park. (In fact, it can sometimes feel more like trying to swim against the current.)

While other parts of business and marketing are becoming increasingly automated, content creation is still a very manual job. (more…)

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How data clean rooms might help keep the internet open



How data clean rooms might help keep the internet open

Are data clean rooms the solution to what IAB CEO David Cohen has called the “slow-motion train wreck” of addressability? Voices at the IAB will tell you that they have a big role to play.

“The issue with addressability is that once cookies go away, and with the loss of identifiers, about 80% of the addressable market will become unknown audiences which is why there is a need for privacy-centric consent and a better consent-value exchange,” said Jeffrey Bustos, VP, measurement, addressability and data at the IAB.

“Everyone’s talking about first-party data, and it is very valuable,” he explained, “but most publishers who don’t have sign-on, they have about 3 to 10% of their readership’s first-party data.” First-party data, from the perspective of advertisers who want to reach relevant and audiences, and publishers who want to offer valuable inventory, just isn’t enough.

Why we care. Two years ago, who was talking about data clean rooms? The surge of interest is recent and significant, according to the IAB. DCRs have the potential, at least, to keep brands in touch with their audiences on the open internet; to maintain viability for publishers’ inventories; and to provide sophisticated measurement capabilities.

How data clean rooms can help. DCRs are a type of privacy-enhancing technology that allows data owners (including brands and publishers) to share customer first-party data in a privacy-compliant way. Clean rooms are secure spaces where first-party data from a number of sources can be resolved to the same customer’s profile while that profile remains anonymized.

In other words, a DCR is a kind of Switzerland — a space where a truce is called on competition while first-party data is enriched without compromising privacy.

“The value of a data clean room is that a publisher is able to collaborate with a brand across both their data sources and the brand is able to understand audience behavior,” said Bestos. For example, a brand selling eye-glasses might know nothing about their customers except basic transactional data — and that they wear glasses. Matching profiles with a publisher’s behavioral data provides enrichment.

“If you’re able to understand behavioral context, you’re able to understand what your customers are reading, what they’re interested in, what their hobbies are,” said Bustos. Armed with those insights, a brand has a better idea of what kind of content they want to advertise against.

The publisher does need to have a certain level of first-party data for the matching to take place, even if it doesn’t have a universal requirement for sign-ins like The New York Times. A publisher may be able to match only a small percentage of the eye-glass vendor’s customers, but if they like reading the sports and arts sections, at least that gives some directional guidance as to what audience the vendor should target.

Dig deeper: Why we care about data clean rooms

What counts as good matching? In its “State of Data 2023” report, which focuses almost exclusively on data clean rooms, concern is expressed that DCR efficacy might be threatened by poor match rates. Average match rates hover around 50% (less for some types of DCR).

Bustos is keen to put this into context. “When you are matching data from a cookie perspective, match rates are usually about 70-ish percent,” he said, so 50% isn’t terrible, although there’s room for improvement.

One obstacle is a persistent lack of interoperability between identity solutions — although it does exist; LiveRamp’s RampID is interoperable, for example, with The Trade Desk’s UID2.

Nevertheless, said Bustos, “it’s incredibly difficult for publishers. They have a bunch of identity pixels firing for all these different things. You don’t know which identity provider to use. Definitely a long road ahead to make sure there’s interoperability.”

Maintaining an open internet. If DCRs can contribute to solving the addressability problem they will also contribute to the challenge of keeping the internet open. Walled gardens like Facebook do have rich troves of first-party and behavioral data; brands can access those audiences, but with very limited visibility into them.

“The reason CTV is a really valuable proposition for advertisers is that you are able to identify the user 1:1 which is really powerful,” Bustos said. “Your standard news or editorial publisher doesn’t have that. I mean, the New York Times has moved to that and it’s been incredibly successful for them.” In order to compete with the walled gardens and streaming services, publishers need to offer some degree of addressability — and without relying on cookies.

But DCRs are a heavy lift. Data maturity is an important qualification for getting the most out of a DCR. The IAB report shows that, of the brands evaluating or using DCRs, over 70% have other data-related technologies like CDPs and DMPs.

“If you want a data clean room,” Bustos explained, “there are a lot of other technological solutions you have to have in place before. You need to make sure you have strong data assets.” He also recommends starting out by asking what you want to achieve, not what technology would be nice to have. “The first question is, what do you want to accomplish? You may not need a DCR. ‘I want to do this,’ then see what tools would get you to that.”

Understand also that implementation is going to require talent. “It is a demanding project in terms of the set-up,” said Bustos, “and there’s been significant growth in consulting companies and agencies helping set up these data clean rooms. You do need a lot of people, so it’s more efficient to hire outside help for the set up, and then just have a maintenance crew in-house.”

Underuse of measurement capabilities. One key finding in the IAB’s research is that DCR users are exploiting the audience matching capabilities much more than realizing the potential for measurement and attribution. “You need very strong data scientists and engineers to build advanced models,” Bustos said.

“A lot of brands that look into this say, ‘I want to be able to do a predictive analysis of my high lifetime value customers that are going to buy in the next 90 days.’ Or ‘I want to be able to measure which channels are driving the most incremental lift.’ It’s very complex analyses they want to do; but they don’t really have a reason as to why. What is the point? Understand your outcome and develop a sequential data strategy.”

Trying to understand incremental lift from your marketing can take a long time, he warned. “But you can easily do a reach and frequency and overlap analysis.” That will identify wasted investment in channels and as a by-product suggest where incremental lift is occurring. “There’s a need for companies to know what they want, identify what the outcome is, and then there are steps that are going to get you there. That’s also going to help to prove out ROI.”

Dig deeper: Failure to get the most out of data clean rooms is costing marketers money

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