Entering the Golden Gates of Search Marketing: A Guide to Getting Your First Job in Search

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Two years ago I would have never imagined sitting in this comfortable desk chair and being welcomed with open arms in to the search marketing industry by Portland’s own Anvil Media, Inc. College was on pace to last until the end of days and professional direction was a spinning compass in the Bermuda Triangle. Not until I discovered the world of search marketing did I discover a truly attractive career path. Once I had done some research and initial networking I knew I had found my path to a happy, productive career. Now my only obstacle was actually getting a job during a time when I was hearing only stories of failure and peers settling for jobs in food service or retail.

First I must point out that my case is a bit unique, and that is why I am able to produce this guide. As a Sport Communication major at Indiana University most individuals I met pictured me in the announcers booth during Monday Night Football, not plugging away behind a computer crunching numbers and reporting like a mad man.

The following is a guide of practices I implemented when making an impression on my future employers, including aspects I wish I would have included along the way. To make a long story short, the path to your first job in search is a passion for the profession. Follow along and see just how an individual, whether on the correct educational path or not, can make an impression and get their first job in search.

1. Go Get an Internship or Volunteer Your Time

This is something that was drilled in to my head the very day I became and Indiana University Hoosier. At first it is easy to think of internships as unnecessary, especially when there is a summer in the sun at risk. I mean who really wants to work 8-5 every day while their friends drink PBR and head out to the lake on daddy’s speed boat? The answer is clear. Individuals who are career minded and forward looking will realize that making sacrifices now can result in great results further down the road. In the big scheme of things, getting an internship isn’t even a sacrifice at all. Snagging a good internship can provide you with a quality learning and networking experience.

I also suggest not being a stickler about money when it comes to being an intern. If in any way you can afford to volunteer your time or accept the small stipend usually offered you will realize that you are being paid in knowledge and experience.

2. Spruce up that Resume, Keep it Clean and Simple

  • Don’t go over one page
  • Don’t worry about references, have them ready if asked
  • Use your experience to prove your interest in search marketing

Yes, I did get a little bit of help from a graphic designer on my resume, but the instructions were clear to keep it simple by aligning all of the content on one page and getting straight to the point. Employers want to know why you are the best fit for the job and if you try to overwhelm them your success will be greeted with a trip directly in to the nearest recycle bin.

The bottom line here is that there is no need to go over one page, and no reason to include over the top information. Now that you have some internship and volunteer time you can highlight that information and prove to your future employer that you have legitimate interest in the industry.

3. Interested is a Lifestyle, Not a Label

There will come a point in the job searching process where you will need to prove that you are as interested in search as you seem to be on paper. Many times we hear the terminology “fake it till you make it.” That is not possible in the SEO job market. When you have the opportunity to have an informational interview or meeting with a potential employer they will find it very impressive that you can speak their language. If you make the effort to read industry blogs daily, use resources such and SEJ’s archives to find old posts on SEO basics, and find ways to practice reading source code and implementing meta tags, you are on the right path. There are many ways to teach yourself the basics of search marketing, and if you aren’t making the effort there are others who are.

4. Search Marketing = On the Internet = God’s Gift to Networking

People are not going to know of your interest in search until you become involved. Start off locally and you will be surprised just how willing people are to have lunch or chat about the latest SEO news. Twitter and LinkedIn are easily the best resources for professional networking. The first way I contacted Anvil Media, Inc. was by sending a tweet to one of the Senior Account Executives. When I sent it I was a little worried it might be stalker-ish, and now I sit next to her every day. It’s kind of an awkward thing to say, but we all pretty much live on the internet.

5. Persistence Versus Insanity

There is a fine line between being effectively persistent and over the top insane, but the point really is to never give up. To send in a resume and simply wait can be a risky proposition. I cannot tell you how many interviews I have gotten simply by following up with employers a week or so after first submitting a resume. The same goes for networking in general. Once you have a contact, stay in touch with that person. Over time you will have the opportunity to share your objectives and get advice at the very least.

6. Welcome to Search Marketing

As you can tell from this list, getting a job in search can simply be having a passion for this ever growing industry. If you enjoy strategizing campaigns, crunching numbers, helping clients succeed, and have a little bit of geek in you than you know that this is a place that you truly belong. Take your passion for the internet, organize your thoughts, and trudge forward towards a rewarding profession in search marketing.

Jeff Bedford

Jeff Bedford

Analytics & Optimization Specialist at The New Group
Jeff Bedford is an Optimization & Analytics Specialist at The New Group, an integrated digital marketing agency in Portland, Oregon. A graduate of Indiana University,... Read Full Bio
Jeff Bedford
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  • Michael

    Thanks for the advice. This really can be applied to any career. I think one thing I feel I missed out on was an internship. I wasn’t able to get one and so I think that could have helped me a ton.

  • Nicola

    Thanks for the advices! It’s hard down here (I’m an Italian hope-to-be-one-day SEO) but we have to start from somewhere… Great post and blog! Keep on rockin’ 🙂

    • Jeff


      You have the first part down buddy, and that is wanting to be an SEO. So many people see search as an easy road and don’t really put their heart in to it. Being interested in passionate from the get go will be super beneficial to you, mark my words.

  • Jeff


    I appreciate the comment. Although I am not positive where you stand right now, not having an internship should never be considered the end of the world. Always remember as well that in search engine marketing that there are a lot of resources for learning other than interning. Any form of volunteering or exposing yourself to the day to day practices of an agency can help. Thanks so much for reading and contributing to the conversation.

  • Dan

    I’m with you, Jeff. I went to Miami University (brother was a Hoosier), majored in Philosphy, aspired to be a guitarist, and am now Director of SEO for a publishing corporation. It’s an incredible career, and one with very little schooling. So odd, yet so rewarding if you can find success…and prove it to your employer!

    • Jeff


      Good to hear from you man thanks for reading the post, it is always good to hear from people with midwest connections. You pretty much hit it on the nose and I agree with you, this industry is so damn exciting it gives me tingles. Good luck to you and hit me up if you ever wanna talk SEO in any regard.

  • Talha

    Hi Jeff,

    Great article, I myself gained a degree in Sports/Performance Sciences, and was aiming to become a researcher within the field. However I came across the world of search marketing by chance, and my professional focus changed since then.

    It all started with a administrative/assistant internship I took on, where I first learned of SEO. Some hard work and a lot of learning followed followed but it all payed off in the end.

    This industry is great to work in, and the oppurtunities are endless.

    • Jeff


      It sounds like we have a pretty similar story man. I first got introduced to SEO through a general advertising internship and it was on like Donkey Kong after that. Thanks for the kind words and hit me up if you ever wanna chat about search.

  • Nick Stamoulis

    The SEO industry is competitive and potential employers want people that can speak the language. Simply reading industry blogs and following influencers in social media can provide you with a lot of free knowledge. If you don’t understand the basics you will have a hard time convincing someone that you are right for the job.

    • Jeff

      Very true Nick –

      There are a lot of people that think they can pretend to be an SEO and it is getting easier and easier to weed those people out, which is a good thing for the industry IMO.

  • Brian Greenberg

    These are all great ideas… but you forgot about just starting your own sites. Start a blog or affiliate site. If you put the time in and achieve some rankings, you just started your portfolio.

    • Jeff

      Brain that is a really good point man, and something I had planned on putting in the article from the very beginning. I firmly believe also that taking time to put towards the design and functionality of your website can help as well. If you can show people that you know SEO, take the time to keep your site looking good, and are that right combination of nerd a website can be the best thing you can do. Thanks for pointing that out, take care.