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Local Search Survey: Average Earnings & Most In-Demand Skills

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Matt Southern
Matt Southern SEJ STAFF
Local Search Survey: Average Earnings & Most In-Demand Skills

A recent survey of the local search industry found that SEOs earned an average of $61,711 in 2017. SEOs charged an average of $110 per hour, on top of a monthly retainer fee of $1,670.

Freelancers charged much less than agencies, with 69% billing less than $100 per hour. The average hourly rate for freelancers is $75. That could correlate to why freelancers also earned less in 2017.

Compared to an SEO agency employee earning an average of $66,617 per year, freelancers earned $49,422 per year. Again, that’s just the average, most SEOs earned more than that.

Out of those surveyed, 72% of all SEOs earned over $75,000 per year. However, that is down from 76% in 2016. The number of SEOs earning over $100,000 nearly doubled— 14% in 2017 compared to 8% in 2016.

SEOs worked harder in 2017 compared to the previous year, with 43% of those surveyed managing more than 11 clients. The number of SEOs managing 5 or less clients dropped to 33% in 2017 compared to 40% in 2016.

Local Search Industry in 2018

Do these numbers mean the local search industry is growing? Well, that’s hard to say. Over a quarter of SEOs surveyed say they plan to look for a new job in 2018. Some of them have already started.

The consensus is that it will be more difficult to deliver results for clients in 2018. Of those surveyed, 38% agreed it will become more difficult while 14% think it will become easier this year.

Those looking to attune their skill set toward market demands should take note of the top needs of local businesses.

Based on what SEOs cited as their most common activities, the most in-demand skills are:

  • On-site optimization
  • Website design & development
  • Google My Business optimization
  • PPC
  • Content creation & optimization
  • Citation building & clean-up
  • Link building
  • Social media (organic)
  • Reputation management
  • Social media (paid)
  • Inbound marketing
  • Video marketing
  • Google penalty recovery

Key Takeaways

Staying on top of in-demand skills is just the first step to remaining competitive in the local search industry this year. It sounds like the real difference-maker is proving positive results to clients.

With that said, being fluent in website analytics should also be considered a top skill. The more you know about measuring and analyzing data, the better you can prove your worth to clients and prospects.

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Matt Southern

Lead News Writer at Search Engine Journal

Matt Southern has been the lead news writer at Search Engine Journal since 2013. With a degree in communications, Matt ... [Read full bio]

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