Oh, The Traffic You'll Grow: Your Guide to a Career in SEO

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Jill Caren
Jill Caren



"SEO is dead" — Maybe you've heard that line before and thought a career in SEO is a bad idea.

An SEO strategist working on her resume and looking for SEO roles.

I am here to tell you, it's not.

A career in SEO can provide you a comfortable life with stability, flexibility, and the opportunity to meet some amazing people.

I know from personal experience, as I've worked as an SEO professional since 2008.

If you are considering a career in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), I hope this guide will help you understand the options out there for you.

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What does an SEO professional do?

In short, an SEO professional is responsible for getting more organic traffic to a website.

Sounds simple right? But it's not.

There are many aspects to how to grow organic traffic. As an SEO you can choose to be a "jack of all trades", or if you prefer, you can specialize in certain parts of SEO.

Some common SEO specialties include:

  • Content strategy and creation
  • Link building
  • Technical SEO
  • Local SEO

So, if there is one area of SEO that you are more passionate about — there is the opportunity to make that a career path. Or, you can take the path I took and focus on it all!

That is just one of the many great things about this career: flexibility.

Is SEO a good career option?

SEO is a great career choice for those who are analytical, love challenges, and enjoy working on the computer.

Pros of an SEO career:

  • The field is growing and employment opportunities are high.
  • Many SEO jobs offer flexible hours and remote opportunities.
  • Salary is based on experience, which means the more you learn and validate success, the more you can earn.
  • Career opportunities are available with brands, big agencies, and small agencies — which means you can find a career in an environment that fits your personality.
  • College is not a requirement for most jobs.

Cons of an SEO career:

  • It can be stressful trying to keep up with all the algorithm changes from the search engines.
  • Continuing education will be required to be up-to-date.
  • Troubleshooting traffic issues can be difficult.
  • If you work directly with clients, they can have unrealistic expectations that you have to manage.

The Path to an SEO Career

Many of us who have been in the SEO profession do not have formal SEO (or even marketing) backgrounds.

Personally, I never attended college and fell into SEO by accident. I fell in love and have been doing it ever since.

Marie Haynes was actually a veterinarian before becoming a highly admired SEO professional.

There is an interesting thread on Twitter that actually has some other creative ways people transitioned into SEO.

So, there is no direct or "right" path to SEO.

You can be a new college grad, or looking to change careers after 20 years. No matter how you get into SEO — we all have different paths that got us there.

But getting a job in the SEO field does require some specific skills. Below, let's dive into some strategies and resources to help you get there.

1. Gain basic SEO skills.

You'll want to ensure you have a strong SEO foundation before applying for any roles.

Among other things, you should have an understanding of how a search engine works, what search engines look for when ranking a website, and what the various components of SEO are.

Some of the critical parts of SEO that you should learn about include:

  • Keyword Research
  • On-site Optimization (Header tags, Title Tags, Meta Description)
  • Internal Linking
  • Backlinks

It would be beneficial to also have a basic understanding of HTML, CSS, or PHP to help identify some technical issues, as well.

There are many courses available online as well that you can invest time into. HubSpot's SEO Training Course is a free course that offers all you need to get a great understanding of SEO.

Additional Training and Educational Resources Include:

Moz also offers an SEO certification that can help set you apart when it comes time to apply for jobs.

2. Learn how to use common SEO tools.

It would be highly beneficial to learn how to use some of the most popular SEO tools so that you can impress a potential employer. SEO tools are a critical part of any SEO job, so showing you have some basic knowledge about how to use them can set you apart from other candidates.

Some of the more popular tools include:

  • SEMrush
  • Ahrefs
  • Moz SEO Suite
  • MajesticSEO
  • Accuranker
  • Screaming Frog

Many of these tools can be expensive, but most do offer a free or low-cost trial. Make sure you sign-up at a time when you can take the most advantage of that trial to be able to learn as much as you can.

You can also read blogs, tutorials, and watch videos that each of the tools creates for their users.

Do not be afraid to reach out to the SEO community to ask for help, as well! I was thrilled to help when a new SEO strategist reached out to me for Ahrefs training before a big interview she had. I am sure others will help, too. Consider making those connections on Twitter or LinkedIn.

3. Improve your writing skills.

A big part of SEO is content creation.

You may be required to write or edit content, and create compelling title tags and meta descriptions, to encourage searchers to click your page in the search results.

Taking a creative writing course or sales copy course can help you stand out and will help you be successful as an SEO professional.

4. Volunteer your time.

The best way to get that first SEO job is to have proof you can do the work required.

Two ways you can gain some first-hand experience is to volunteer your time or start your own website.

By volunteering for a local nonprofit or a business, it gives you the opportunity to use all of your training and put it to work. Optimize a few sites and track your changes so when it comes time to find a job you have real-world data you can show a potential employer.

SEO Employment Opportunities

Before you get started on your job search you should have some kind of idea of the environment you want to work in.

SEO Agency: the agency environment will usually have you working on several projects at one time and require a lot of communication with other departments. You may start out as an analyst or specialist and can work your way up to a management position. A position in an SEO agency can potentially provide more training opportunities.

Media/Web Company: As a beginner, this may be a harder path since there might be less training and hands-on help to assist you. Because their offerings are often so much more than just SEO, it might be a much busier and hectic environment.

In-house: working as an in-house SEO for a brand or company is also a great option. As a new SEO, you may work as an analyst or specialist underneath an SEO Manager or Director. This would typically fall under the marketing department and may or may not have good training opportunities - so you will want to get information about that before being hired.

Freelance: if you feel confident in your SEO skills and have what it takes to work solo, then working as a freelance SEO is another option. This is the option I chose and have been very successful with. The downside is managing client expectations, pricing, and inconsistent work loads. This is not the easiest path to take!

Starting The Job Hunt

If you have tackled all of the above and feel ready to find the job of your dreams, the tips below will help you prepare.

Write a Powerful SEO-focused Resume

Creating a powerful resume that outlines your SEO education and successes is critical. While many job descriptions will note that they require a college degree, having proven skills in SEO may override that requirement.

Make sure you include data that showcases your skills. If you increased traffic month-over-month, then make sure you include that. If the company is tracking revenue growth from SEO efforts, it is important you detail that as well.

Create a Website

A resume is typically one page and simply lists your experience and skills. However, it can be difficult to display visuals related to your experience through your resume. That's where a website can help.

Create a simple personal website that highlights your experience, proof of success, and education. Practice your SEO skills to help the website rank for relevant keywords.

Find A Job

Job boards like Indeed and networking communities like LinkedIn are great places to start your job search, but there are other ways to find opportunities as a professional SEO.

Below are some great options for finding SEO jobs:

  • Use Twitter to build relationships with the SEO community and let them know you are looking. Many have found jobs just from a tweet!
  • Women In Tech SEO is a wonderful community of women SEO professionals that offers many opportunities.
  • Remoters.net offers an SEO-only jobs board that offers a variety of open positions.

Good luck! You're now ready to go and find the job of your dreams.

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Topics: Technical SEO

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