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What is a Technical SEO Specialist?

If you’re investing in content marketing to grow your business, you’re no doubt familiar with search engine optimization (SEO). But on-page SEO isn’t the only piece of the puzzle — you also need technical SEO to help visitors find, navigate, and read content on your website.

The job of technical SEO is no small feat, and encompasses all sorts of responsibilities. A few of the most common of these include:

  • Building backlinks to improve your site’s authority
  • Improving page load speeds to retain readers longer
  • Fixing technical errors so visitors have a seamless experience on your site

These are complicated tasks with a potentially huge time commitment, and likely more than you can handle as a marketer, developer, or small business owner. Luckily, you can delegate each of these responsibilities to a skilled technical SEO specialist working full-time on your site.

But knowing when to hire a technical SEO specialist is a lot more complicated than knowing what they do.

That’s why we wrote this guide covering everything you should know about technical SEO specialists. Our goal is to familiarize you with their many benefits so you can make an informed decision about finding one for your business.

Once we explain what their characteristics and responsibilities are, we also cover when you should hire a professional to get your website seen online.

Now, let’s start with the most obvious question:

What is a technical SEO specialist?

A technical SEO specialist is responsible for ensuring that websites are optimized for search engines like Google. This includes tasks such as fixing technical errors, improving page load speed, and building backlinks to boost your website’s authority.

However, this is just scratching the surface of what a technical SEO specialist can do. Depending on the size of your site and your specific niche, the right expert can also:

  • Create sitemaps to help search engines better understand your website’s structure and create a hierarchy of information between different pages.
  • Optimize your website for mobile users so potential leads never fall through the cracks.
  • Update the title and meta description of each webpage with the optimal number of keywords and characters.
  • Consolidate code on individual web pages to improve loading speed and retain impatient visitors.

You can think of SEO like building a house, with backend technical SEO specialists acting as the builders. Off-page experts need to construct the ‘shell’ of your structure so on-page content marketers (like interior designers) can get their content seen by the right people.

Just keep in mind your technical SEO specialist probably isn’t going to pen any content for your site. Since technical experts are focused on performance over keywords, their role is to bridge the gap between frontend content and your backend structure. 

How senior is a technical SEO position? That depends on your business structure. You may want to keep your technical SEO expert on the same level as your head of content, or you may choose to bump them a notch above or below. It all depends on what you plan to do with your website and how much you want to invest in on-page SEO.

It may be possible to hire a single specialist with experience managing on-page and off-page SEO. Just keep in mind this isn’t a common combination — and the cost of hiring such an expert may be far more expensive than hiring two separate SEOs.

Characteristics of a Technical SEO Specialist

Not everyone is cut out to be a technical SEO specialist. While you may be able to hire someone internally to manage a few off-page tasks, there will likely be a few skill gaps that require you to hire a full-time expert (or at least partner with a freelance professional).

You also need to find someone with the right skill set and temperament to handle new technical SEO challenges as they arise.

A few of the most common characteristics of a technical SEO specialist include:

  • A strong understanding of the technical aspects of SEO. This means having a demonstrable, working knowledge of search engine algorithms, SSL certificates, and website architecture (HTML, CSS, JS, and others). 
  • The ability to troubleshoot and fix technical errors. Most pros need to address 404 errors, webpage redirects, and canonical tags on a regular basis. 
  • A strong proficiency with technical SEO tools or platforms, including Google Analytics, Ahrefs, and Screaming Frog.
  • The ability to optimize websites for speed and performance. Most technical specialists should be able to diagnose issues fast and find workarounds relatively quickly.
  • The ability to optimize landing pages, blogs, and published articles for non-desktop users. This includes phones, tablets, and even certain laptops.
  • The ability to build do-follow backlinks through websites with reputable, high DR rankings. Remember: artificially building backlinks through shoddy, spammy websites can be terrible for SEO and is not recommended.

We should mention here that some people distinguish between technical SEO and off-page SEO. They argue that technical SEO specialists handle the backend of a website (like pagination), while off-page SEO specialists handle optimizations outside of your site (like backlinks). This article uses the terms interchangeably since many technical SEO specialists also do off-page SEO (and vice versa).

When Should You Hire a Technical SEO Specialist?

So you know for sure you want a technical SEO specialist on your team. The question isn’t if, but when.

But is it ever too early to hire a technical SEO specialist?

Well, yes and no.

Yes, you need a technical expert to flesh out your website and help content perform. Since organic traffic is responsible for 53% of site traffic (and 40% of people abandon websites that take more than three seconds to load), having a technical specialist by your side can supercharge your content efforts and hold on to more leads.

That said, hiring a technical SEO expert can be expensive for smaller brands. The average salary for a technical SEO pro is around $80,647 per year, which comes out to approximately $39 per hour. If you’re not equipped to pay for a full-time staff member, you may want to look for a freelancer to fill in the gaps. 

And keep in mind not every company needs to hire a technical SEO specialist. Depending on your specific size or niche, you could move one of your SEO-savvy developers into the role. If you’re one of the lucky few to find an SEO unicorn (someone who can do on-page and off-page optimization), you don’t need to worry about hiring separate roles at all.

What about posting a job description? How soon can you know you need technical SEO? You can use the hiring triggers below to get a better idea about your timeline.

You may want to hire a technical SEO specialist if:

  • If your website is not ranking well in search engines. Lower rankings may be tied to confusing sitemaps or slow-loading pages that encourage visitors to bounce.
  • If you are experiencing technical errors that are affecting your SEO. Just running your domain through Ahrefs won’t be enough to fix your site, and tinkering with the backend without knowing what you’re doing could lead to disastrous results.
  • If you are looking to improve your website’s speed and performance. Many technical SEO experts can optimize loading speeds while improving structural data, which makes content easier for search bots to understand and more fun for users to read.
  • If you are looking to build backlinks to your website. Paying for links or settling for low DA websites is rarely a good strategy for online growth. Good technical specialists worth their salt can propose better strategies ensuring growth over time.

You may want to hire a technical SEO specialist at the same time you onboard other members of your technical team. Not only can they weigh into your website’s building process, but they can also provide guidance while expanding your digital presence (like choosing the right blogging platform, for example).

Upgrading Your Website With a Technical SEO Specialist

Technical SEO specialists aren’t just a vanity hire. With deep vertical experience creating sitemaps, backlinks, and structured data, they can be a secret weapon for growing teams looking to take their marketing to the next level. 

Yes, they can be expensive. And no, they may not be the right hire for you at this particular time. But if you can make space in your budget and are ready to scale, a technical SEO specialist can no doubt help your company grow.