If you’ve clicked on this article, you’re likely to be interested in starting a career in SEO. Whether this is the first, second, fifth, or hundredth article that you’ve read on the topic, you’ve probably started to get spammed with video ads on your social channels. If this hasn’t happened already, prepare for hundreds of YouTube ads offering advice on how to earn six-figures per month online while you sip cocktails on a tropical island.
This article is not aimed at selling the fruits of a successful online business. Although you can achieve great things in the SEO industry, and might well find yourself earning some serious money, that story is for another day.
Instead of harping on about unrealistic earnings, this article focuses on the realities of breaking into the industry, the resources and help available, SEO career paths, as well as pros and cons of working in SEO.
Let’s take it from the top.
How do you get started in SEO?
Before we talk about how to get started, it’s important to look at what SEO fundamentally is.
By definition, search engine optimization is the process of increasing traffic to your website through organic or natural search engine results.
Search engines use continually changing algorithms that rank webpages and other online content (such as images, videos, etc. ). These algorithms decide on the ranking of content based on what it considers to be most relevant.
To get started in the SEO industry, you must gain an understanding of how you can increase traffic to a site and the different techniques involved in doing so.
SEO is constantly changing, and while certain aspects of it can be complex, other facets are quite straightforward. Therefore, once you get up to speed on the basics, you can get to work immediately on your SEO career. Whether your goal is to drive content to your own website, or you want to work on smaller freelance projects, there are entry-level online jobs that require no experience.
Learning on the job while you develop your own website is perhaps the most beneficial and personally rewarding approach, but earning your way as a freelancer is a great way of building a portfolio.
Either way, you should be working hard to learn SEO and develop a deeper understanding. To do so effectively, it’s crucial to know which blogs and authority figures you can follow to stay updated and continue to learn.
SEO Learning Resources and Authority Figures
There is an abundance of online information and resources out there to get you from the very basics to an industry expert.
As with many online-based industries, it can be difficult to sift through webpages trying to distinguish between credible and useless information, particularly when you’re trying to learn the ropes.
Here are several fantastic resources to help you along the way.
Moz.com is an exceptional resource for SEO beginners and beyond. Their Beginner’s Guide to SEO is one of the best pieces of information available to get you started. It tackles the fundamentals of SEO and eventually brings you to quite an advanced level. What’s more, the guide is free.
Google has some excellent information available for beginners and more advanced SEO workers. They have ample documents, read-throughs, guides, and information regarding all aspects of SEO.
Search Engine Journal
Search Engine Journal is an online magazine that contains a variety of SEO based information. It is regularly updated with useful content, guides, reviews, and news. They also host frequent webinars and a podcast.
Search Engine Land
Search Engine Land is another online magazine that focuses on digital marketing. It is regularly updated with quality content.
There are several other useful blogs and websites with information relevant to beginner, advanced and niche areas of SEO:
- The Official Google Blog
- The SEM Post
If you’re active on social media or enjoy getting the latest takes from individual authority figures in the industry, Twitter and LinkedIn are the best places to find them. Follow experts that own, run, or contribute to the leading sources for SEO content.
Stay updated with organizations that run business, marketing, and SEO conferences and webinars. These are great sources of information and networking.
SEO Career Paths
There are several SEO career paths, and there’s a realistic chance that you’ll have a taste of each of them. If you’re wondering how to get an SEO job, your best bet is with an agency or online.
Working for an SEO agency
Having a role for an agency means that you will be part of a team working on various projects. Each assignment could differ greatly from the next.
One major benefit of working for an SEO agency is that you will likely receive in-house mentoring or training. This allows you to gain valuable experience very quickly. In an agency, you may be exposed to a wide array of industries and projects, giving you a better indication of what your preferences are.
A negative aspect of working for an agency is that you may encounter repetitive or boring work.
In a large company, you may have a specific SEO based role. This can be rewarding and exciting as you get to dedicate large amounts of time to individual projects. You and your company can reap the rewards of your work directly.
Many companies will not have one employee who is dedicated solely to SEO. Therefore your role may involve several digital functions. It can be extremely difficult to find the right balance between functions, particularly if SEO is a priority.
If you become an experienced and reputable SEO expert, there is no ceiling to your opportunities as a freelancer.
However, working as a freelancer is difficult. It can be hard to get your career off the ground, and you may have to spend some time working for little to no pay. Marketing and selling yourself is as important as your skillset at times.
“The reality is that freelancing isn’t always as glamorous as the YouTube ads will tell you! It’s a great option for someone who loves working with independence and welcomes responsibility – but be prepared to get your head down and work hard!…”
Nigel Adams is a freelance SEO based in Bedford, UK trading under ‘Nigel Adams Digital’.
“… as cliche as it sounds – you need to be prepared to wear many, many different hats!”
Starting your own SEO agency
If you’re entrepreneurially minded, you might be tempted to establish your own agency. Although this might start as a solo venture, an SEO agency can expand to take on many additional marketing responsibilities. Your role could change from SEO specialist to CEO in a short period.
Other career roles
A common route for SEO specialists is to set up an SEO, marketing content, and affiliate advertising modelled business. Another venture would be to apply your SEO knowledge to an e-commerce business. SEO is one of the most vital aspects of running an e-commerce site and advertising strategy.
It has its ups and downs
The reality of SEO as a career is that you are likely to experience ups and downs, much like with any other profession.
Whether you’re a freelancer, an employee, or a business owner, there are always difficulties with clients. Miscommunication, deadlines, and differing expectations can all have an impact.
Without a doubt, the most difficult aspect of an SEO career is that the landscape is continually changing. Google regularly alters their algorithms and updates the criteria that affect SEO. This means that you must constantly research and upskill. The information has an expiry date and can become irrelevant quite quickly.
Implementing SEO effectively is also quite difficult. Driving high volumes of traffic to your website by organic means requires knowledge, expertise, and a lot of work.
However, SEO is here to stay. In the digital era, e-commerce and online content are more relevant than ever. What’s more, industry trends would suggest that SEO will be even more important down the line. Learning how to start a career in SEO today could set you up for a long term and successful online position.