Can you imagine a world without search engines?
You’d be stuck combing through endless pages of web content in a frustrating and usually vain struggle to find super important things like “chiropractors near me” or “1976 Best Picture Winner.”
Luckily, search engines do exist. And because they do, there’s a real need for skilled professionals who know how to optimize websites to show up at the top of their rankings.
Are you trying to get started in the field of search engine optimization (SEO)?
I’ve probably interviewed and hired over 100 different people in SEO & search marketing roles over the past 20 years and have learned a lot of things that can help you make the right impression.
Here are my tips for landing your dream job and starting your career in SEO.
What Types of SEO Jobs Are There?
Every business, blog, and ecommerce store can benefit from a search engine optimization expert to boost their online presence.
But each organization has different needs. And this, of course, means lots of different job opportunities.
While it would be impossible to list every SEO role, here are some of the more common jobs in the field:
When it comes to digital marketing, content is still king.
Content creators elevate a website’s search engine ranking by writing copy using keywords.
Tone, style, and readability are also important considerations to content creators.
These professionals are responsible for maintaining the success and relevance of an organization’s website.
By tracking and implementing the latest best practices, they keep websites informative and accessible, measuring success by analyzing performative data.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Specialists and Strategists oversee paid search campaigns and other pay-per-click (PPC) initiatives.
They work with the SEO and marketing teams to drive traffic and attract customers.
SEO Account Manager
Commonly found in agency settings, SEO Account Managers oversee SEO strategy and operations for one or several clients.
They provide customer service and serve as a liaison between the client and the technical team.
These professionals focus on building and maintaining backlinks that will increase traffic to a page.
They develop partnerships using email outreach, blogger networking, and posting on forums.
Usually working as independent contractors, SEO consultants provide expert advice and guidance for organizations looking to optimize their search engine rankings.
They will analyze the current website and content, making recommendations to improve results, and in some cases, even lead a redesign of a client’s online presence.
Is A Career In SEO Right For You?
As an important part of any organization’s digital success, the demand for SEO professionals is high and continues to grow. But like any career, it’s not for everyone.
To help you decide if this is the right choice for you, let’s take a quick look at some of the pros and cons:
Pro: It’s well paid. Let’s face it, money matters. Because SEO is so vital to modern businesses, they’re willing to generously compensate people who can get the results they need.
Con: It’s tricky. SEO is a constantly shifting landscape. Just when you think you have it figured out, Google changes the algorithm, and you have to rethink your entire strategy.
Pro: There’s a lot of variety. As discussed in the previous section, there are countless opportunities for SEO professionals.
From non-profits to professional sports franchises, mom-and-pop stores to multinational corporations – you can work in almost any industry, either independently or as part of a team.
Con: It takes time to get good at. You’re not going to become a search engine wizard in one day. You’ll spend a lot of time combing through Google Analytics, and it takes constant research to stay up to date on the latest techniques and best practices.
Pro: You’re constantly learning. If you’re the type of person who enjoys self-development, SEO may be perfect for you. From writing keyword-rich text to designing webpages, search engine optimization is anything but boring and provides you with easily transferrable skills.
Con: It requires patience. It can take days, weeks or even months for your latest implementation to reap rewards.
Quality optimization provides rewards in the long-term. But even after all your hard work, you may not see the results you wanted.
There are hundreds of ranking factors, many of which Google doesn’t reveal, and sometimes even a great strategy can come up short.
Whether the pros outweigh the cons is completely up to you. But if you haven’t been dissuaded, read on for tips on landing the career in SEO you want.
1. Identify What Employers Are Looking For
The key to finding a job, SEO or otherwise, is to have the qualifications the employer is looking for.
But there usually isn’t one set requirement for every SEO position. Instead, it will vary from organization to organization.
For example, some employers want applicants to have a college degree, while others will accept applicants solely on the strength of their professional portfolio.
Carefully peruse the job posting (if one exists) and consider the type of expertise the employer requires. Do you need in-depth technical skills or knowledge? Some positions may require someone who knows their way around Python NLP libraries, while others will want a Google Analytics wizard.
In addition to digital marketing experience, many companies also prefer candidates with proven verbal and written communication skills.
You can learn more about some of the most common SEO job requirements here.
2. Get To Know The Companies You’re Interested In
Before you ever send off an application, you should know as much as possible about the companies you’re interested in.
This will not only increase your chances of securing a job, but it will also help you determine if it’s a good cultural fit for you.
Research the organization’s history. How long have they been around? What are their primary products and services? Who are their competitors?
Spend some time investigating their core values. Peruse their website. Read their mission statement. Look them up on sites like GlassDoor and Indeed, where you can read employee reviews.
This is a great way to get an inside look at the culture and what working at the company is really like.
LinkedIn is also a great tool for research.
Look into company leadership, as well as the team you might be working with. See if you share any connections or interests. This can help build rapport during the interview process.
3. Stay Current With Emerging Trends And Hone Your Skills
Search Engine Optimization, more than almost any other field, is a constantly shifting landscape.
Whether it’s changes to Google’s algorithm or emerging new technologies, what worked yesterday may not work tomorrow.
Best practices are constantly changing. To stay at the top of the field, you need to know about them.
Show potential employees you’re not only aware of the latest trends and techniques, but you understand how to use them by applying them to your current work.
Stay up to date by reading blogs and web resources (like the one you’re on now, for example).
Participate in SEO forums where you can ask and answer questions. Enroll in free certification course that will look good on your resume.
And of course, don’t forget about Google Career Certificates, a low-cost way to earn the equivalent of a four-year degree in just a fraction of the time.
You can read more about how these certificates can help you fast-track your career in this article.
4. Build Your Online Brand
In an evolving job market, which also happens to coincide with a look-at-me social media environment, it’s more important than ever to stand out.
And that means more than simply doing good work and having an amazing portfolio – it means building your brand.
Not sure what that is? Think of it as how other people think about you. It’s both your talents and who you are, and it’s what differentiates from everyone else.
A good place to start branding yourself is with a personal website. More than a way to tell your story or show off work, also lets you show employers your web-savviness.
Think about it: What could prove your expertise with search engine optimization better than a personal site at the top of the rankings?
In one fell swoop, you’ve demonstrated both your expertise and experience. And if you need a little help getting that new website off the ground, we have a handy guide to get you started.
You may also consider optimizing your social media profile for the job you want. Make sure you’re presenting a consistent, professional message across platforms. And yes, that means deleting those embarrassing party pictures from college.
5. Customize Your Resume To The Role
Many jobseekers fall into the trap of creating one “good enough” resume and submitting that for every position they apply for. That’s a mistake.
Employers want to know you not only read the job posting, but that you’re qualified for the role.
Before hitting “send” on your next application, take some time to assess your strengths and feature the qualities hiring managers are looking for.
It may be as simple as restructuring your bulleted list of skills. Or, it may call for a massive rewriting of your entire resume to focus on more relevant experience.
Do a web search for resume examples for similar roles and tailor yours around them. SEO jobs want to know the specifics of your performance.
Did you take a website from the third page of Google results to the top spot? Highlight that.
Did you grow organic traffic by 32%? Your resume should show it.
Make sure you list not just your experience but your achievements, as well.
For more assistance in crafting an SEO resume, be sure to read this article.
6. Nail The Interview
Your resume has been polished, and you’ve attracted the attention of the hiring manager. Now comes the really tricky part – the interview.
Most people know better than to show up with uncombed hair, in ripped jeans and a wrinkled Justin Bieber t-shirt, but there’s so much more to good interviews than just looking great.
Body language is also important. Sit up straight, look people in the eye, and smile. Basically do all the things your kindergarten teacher taught you.
Come prepared with pointed questions to ask. Interviewers love when you have done your research. It shows your interest in the position and that you are taking the interview process seriously.
Rehearse your answers to common interview questions and be prepared to highlight your creativity and relevant skills.
Not sure what kind of questions you may be asked? We’ve provided a list of 46 common questions that may come up during an SEO job interview.
7. Know Your Worth
All your life you’ve probably been told it’s bad manners to discuss money. There is, however, one exception to this rule – during job interviews.
Be confident in your skills and ask for compensation commensurate with them.
Research how much jobs at this level generally pay based upon job title and experience. Not sure where to start? Take a look at State of SEO 2021 SEO Salary Report.
And, be prepared to negotiate. Most jobs expect you to have a counteroffer.
A good rule of thumb is to ask for 10% more than you think you’ll get.
Provided your counter isn’t completely unrealistic, it’s not harmful to ask for more money, and who knows? You just might get it. But you won’t know if you don’t ask.
In the course of this piece, we’ve taken a look at what types of SEO positions are out there, what the pros and cons of a career in this field are and some strategies for landing the job you want.
If there is one thing you take away, let it be this: SEO is a good career choice, where you will be in high demand.
With the huge global shift into digital, people are more connected to the web than ever before. And that means more content in need of optimization.
According to Business Wire, the global market for SEO services is expected to grow by 19.6% to reach $83.7 billion in 2025.
And that means the sky is the limit for SEO professionals right. Now go out there and get that job.
- 7 Things I Wish I’d Known Earlier In My SEO Career
- Aspiring & New SEO Professionals: 3 Tips for Success
- SEO for Beginners: An Introduction to SEO Basics
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