SEO, probably not something most of us learned about at school or considered as a career. It does, however, have a lot going for it. When weighing up the options, SEO is a good bet.
Digital marketing is one of the most in-demand skills or expertise at the moment and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. SEO or Search Engine Optimization is a big and critically important part of digital marketing. Learning and mastering SEO will give you a skill set that is needed by companies large and small throughout the world.
By now, all companies realize the power and importance of digital marketing. They know how competitive the online landscape is and how important it is to have a strong online presence. This can only be done with quality SEO.
The larger companies will have an SEO team but most companies do not have the skills and knowledge in-house. They either have to employ them or outsource their SEO needs to an agency or SEO specialist. It is not something that has been around all that long and informal education, it is only recently that it is becoming part of some courses.
There is quite a lot to learn and is always changing so you have to constantly learn and adapt. This can be a challenge but it makes it interesting. What it does highlight is that you need to be dedicated and passionate. If you do not constantly keep up to date, you will battle to remain relevant in SEO.
What to know before you start
Before studying SEO, it would be a good foundation to have a general understanding of digital marketing and the online environment.
An understanding of the following would be to your advantage:
- Graphic design
You do not have to be an expert but the more you understand, the easier everything else will fall into place.
Then you should understand how Google Analytics works. This is the best way to understand and measure the performance of a website.
Then, learn SEO step by step. You will need to know about, amongst many others, the technical on-page aspects, creative and user experience considerations, off-page SEO, link building, content marketing and SEO tools and analytics.
What are the pros and cons of a career in SEO?
As with any field of work, there are good aspects and the not so good. It is important to understand these before you pursue a career in SEO.
- High demand – There is great demand for people with the skills, knowledge, and experience to perform quality SEO. It is a growing field with not too many qualified or experienced people.
- International demand – People are needed all over the world and you can apply your skills and experience to a web site anywhere in the world. This means a greater demand that is transferable to anywhere internationally.
- Dynamic – The world of SEO is constantly changing. The main change comes from Google algorithms. Some are subtle changes while others are more dramatic. Consumer habits, social media trends, and competitive behavior are a few of the other factors that keep a position in SEO always changing. This keeps it interesting.
- Low barriers to entry – You do not have to go and study for 3 or 4 years. You can pick up the skills and experience in a relatively short space of time without having to spend a fortune on studying.
- Age and experience are not big factors – You can prove yourself in SEO at any age and although experience will help you get a job, you will be judged on your current performance. You can advance provided you do good SEO.
- Combine art and science – There are few career options that allow you to use artistic as well as technical talents.
- Good money – Because demand is high and there are not too many experienced people, SEO pays relatively well.
- Others do not always understand – You will often work for people that do not understand your work. This is a challenge and a frustration.
- Pressure – There will often be great pressure to perform or to get fast results.
- Always having to learn – Because SEO changes all the time, you will have to make the effort to constantly learn and adapt.
- Competition is growing – As more people realize the demand for SEO, so more people learn about it and therefore the completion is getting harder.
Skills and strengths for success in SEO
What do people look for in a hiring someone for an SEO position? What do you need to be good at the job? Let’s take a look at a few of the most important elements:
While this might not be the most important aspect people will look at when hiring someone for an SEO position, it does show that you have applied yourself and learned the necessary skills. There a number of ways to get an education in SEO:
Formal degree – One could study something like marketing, communications, digital marketing or computer science and specialize in SEO.
Online courses – There are many online courses available, some are free and some are paid for. Do your research first to understand exactly what you will learn and how the course is perceived in the job market. Moz, for example, offers a very good free course. There are many other sites that provide online SEO training.
Online certification – These are valuable as they are standardized and very specific. Google, for example, offer certification in Google Analytics or Google AdWords.
Self-taught – As there are so many free resources available online, it is possible to teach yourself the necessary skills and knowledge needed for SEO. There are numerous websites, articles, guides, and videos available. It will take a bit more time than doing a course but it can be done. It will be a bit harder to prove this knowledge so you will have to do that through experience and the discussion in your interview.
- Experience – This is one of the main things employers will look at. If you worked in SEO previously, you should have examples of projects you have worked on. If, however, you are new to the field, it is possible to get experience without working in SEO. There are a number of ways to do this. You could help out a friend or relative with a website, create your own website or offer your services to a charity. Anyone with a website needs SEO and there are many opportunities to get experience that you can demonstrate.
- Social and people skills – SEO is not a job where you will be tucked away in a back office at a keyboard all day. You have to have the necessary people skills to interact well with clients or work as part of a team. These are important skills that people will look at when employing someone for an SEO role.
- Passion for knowledge – Because SEO is such a dynamic field, you need to be able to demonstrate how you stay involved and up to date with SEO developments.
Job opportunities in SEO
SEO is expanding and developing and, as it does, more opportunities become available. There are a number of ways to work in SEO:
- In-house marketing/SEO team – Larger companies will have internal SEO divisions, probably as part of the marketing department. This will probably involve specializing in one of the aspects of SEO and be part of a team.
- Small/Boutique agency – There are many smaller agencies that specialize in digital marketing or SEO. Here, you will have assistance from other members of the agency but will probably be involved in more aspects of SEO.
- Large Media Company – Here again, you will probably specialize in parts of the process as part of a larger team.
- Your own agency – You could always establish your own agency. Here, you will need to do most of the work yourself. This will include finding the business and selling the service. This is a lot harder than many people realize. General management and finance will also need to be understood.
- Freelance – While SEO should never be a once off exercise, smaller companies often look for freelancers to help them with their SEO.
The types of positions one could look at or work towards include:
- Search Engine Marketing
- Content Marketer
- Digital Marketer
- SEO Manager
- Marketing Analysis
- Business Marketing Consultant
Areas of specialization
While you need to understand the big picture of SEO, there are a number of areas in which you could choose to specialize:
- Web content
- Keyword research
- Marketing research
- Competitive analytics
- Data analytics
- link building
- SEO tools
There are also a number of other specialties such as social media marketing, pay per click advertising, reputation management, local search and mobile search. It would be wise to establish yourself well to start with before focusing on any of these narrow niche specialties.
What specialty to choose
After practicing SEO for a while, you will soon see where your true passion lies. Some people are more creative with words and are drawn to writing and web content, some people prefer the analytical side of the business.
Again, it is important to be familiar with all aspects of SEO but once you find your main areas of interest, you can focus more on becoming better at those.
Tips for landing the job
Once you have the knowledge and some experience, it is important you are able to demonstrate this with passion. The best way is to use yourself as an example.
- Have your own website – It does not have to be anything fancy but a good WordPress site that is well optimized and includes most of the major SEO elements is an excellent way to demonstrate your skills. Most likely, the employer will do a search on your name before the interview. If they find your own site that follows good SEO practices, you have already made a great impression before you even meet them.
- Rank for your name – There is more you can rank for than just your own website. Make sure your content is optimized to show the best side of you. Social media will be import here as well. Also important comment on leading SEO forums and pages. This shows an active interest and involvement in the industry.
- Demonstrate a range of skills – On your own page or others, you have worked on, be able to demonstrate a range of different SEO skills. Link building skills are an important part of this.
- Understand the tools involved – Show that you know the main SEO tools and reporting techniques
- Focus on your strengths and experience – Don’t dwell on what you don’t know or have not done. Play up the positives and talk about the success you have had already.
Once you realize you are an SEO expert, you have to take another look. There are a wide number of important elements to SEO and few people master all of them. The only way to do it is to learn all you can, practice as much as you can and then learn some more. Remember that there is always something new and SEO is an ongoing process requiring a combination of art and science. It is impossible to perfect but with learning and experience, you can come closer than most.
The future of SEO
All we really know for sure is that SEO will continue to change and evolve but will still be an important part of online marketing. Organic traffic is still critical to most businesses and this is not likely to change any time soon.
As long as you are prepared to grow and learn and are able to adapt to the changes, the future of a career in SEO looks very bright indeed.
Closing thoughts on a career in SEO
If SEO is something that interests you and you are prepared to do the learning and get the experience, SEO offers a rewarding career. There will never be a dull moment and no two days will be the same but there will always be excitement and opportunity. There is lots of scope for people that have gained the knowledge and a bit of experience to have a lucrative, long-term career in SEO.