"So, what do you do?"

"I work in SEO." 

*blank stares*

If you’re a fellow search engine marketer, you’re all too familiar with this progression of introductory small-talk conversations. Search engine optimization is a hugely sought-after service in today's digital marketing landscape. In fact, in a recent Online Marketing Trends survey conducted by HubShout, nearly 67% of small-to-medium-business respondents cited SEO as their most in-demand marketing service for 2015.

But SEO is not a degree option at most colleges and universities, and when you ask many SEO professionals how they got to where they are, and the path is windy at best. So what keeps people from starting their education, and subsequently their careers, in SEO? There are a few possible reasons.

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It’s too dynamic.

Considering Google currently owns approximately 64% of U.S. user desktop search queries (and even more of mobile at 84%), it’s reasonable to conclude that a career in SEO is almost interchangeable with being a Google expert, which is no easy task. Between the multiple major and minor algorithm updates Google releases every year (every month is probably more accurate…), there’s a lot to keep track of. Google Authorship is gone? Cool. PageRank is dead (PageRank, guys?!) Sweet. Due to the constantly fluctuating nature of the algorithmic updates and ranking factors, SEO would be largely impossible to standardize and teach at a college level.

It’s hard to measure.

SEO is an organic practice, meaning it’s harder to measure and significantly harder to manipulate. Metrics and tools are a vital component of day-to-day SEO practice. However, aside from Google Analytics, there’s really no industry standard as to which ones you should and shouldn’t be using. Trying to teach a college course on SEO would be like teaching a history class without a textbook.

It’s case by case.

Between B2B and B2C, industry verticals, product and service offerings and more, no two SEO clients are alike. How do you teach for something like that? Answer: you can’t -- or at least it’s pretty darn hard. Factor in the aspect that “best practices” and technological standards are constantly changing, and it’s near impossible to teach any sort of how-to course.

So what does all of this mean? Mostly, that there is a huge opportunity for companies to grow their own SEO experts in-house, as well as a pressing need to find and identify those individuals with the potential for SEO growth. The good news is that there are a handful of indicators that a career in SEO would not only be something you’d enjoy, but something you’d be good at.

4 Reasons to Consider a Career in SEO

1) You love words.

English and journalism degrees get a bad rap these days for being “useless majors.” However, the majority of Geary’s current earned media team members all come from liberal arts and writing-oriented backgrounds. So, what’s the connection there? In short, SEO involves writing well. You need to be able to communicate not just to search engines but to humans that your website and content is the most topically relevant. When it comes to on-page SEO and outreach, a way with words will get you far.

2) You’re a “digital citizen”.

In today’s increasingly omni-channel world, SEO is progressing further and further into an integrated discipline. Take the recent Twitter-Google partnership or Facebook’s steady implementation of Graph Search updates to index and find old posts. If you are passionate about all things digital, you may find your niche in the expansive world of search engine optimization.

Another key component of being a digital citizen is a rampant thirst for knowledge. In an industry as dynamic as search engine optimization, you must never stop learning to remain relevant. We round up some beers every Friday afternoon for an internal event known as “Brews and News” and have an enlightened discussion about recent industry developments and how to address them.

3) You’re analytical.

Like data? Great. SEO’s got lots of it. While words are a key component of SEO development, numbers are crucial as well. Typically, analytical-minded thinking is harder to teach, so if you feel this is strength for you, SEO may be right up your alley.

4) You’ve got an eye for design.

When auditing a client’s website, there’s no such as thing as “just SEO.” You have to factor in the client’s entire web presence, which is not just dependent on the technical structure, but also on the look, feel, and user experience. And obviously, content matters. You could have a perfectly optimized product page, but if the design elements are unappealing or it requires a ridiculous clickthrough path for users to get there from your homepage, don’t expect to see results. For this reason particularly, web developers and designers are prime candidates for careers in SEO.

While there are definite backgrounds, talents, and personality traits that may help contribute to success in the field of search engine optimization, there’s no direct path or shortcut to digital marketing success. Who knows who our next hire could be. 

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Originally published Apr 28, 2015 7:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017


Technical SEO