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How to Become a SEO Expert

As people consume an increasing amount of information online, and make use of search engines every day, it’s no surprise that the need for SEO experts is high.

After all, the internet has become the new frontier in advertising. In the past, companies used to advertise in newspapers, on television, and through the radio. But the internet has opened up a vast array of ways in which companies can connect directly with their audience.

One of the most common is through search engines, which yield results for any inquiry. The SEO expert is responsible for ensuring a company’s content and writing appears high on search engines.

How do you become an SEO expert? In this guide, we’ll answer that exact question. You’ll find all of the information you need to decide whether a career in SEO is good for you. In addition, you’ll learn about the expected salaries for SEO experts, as well as training programs available to you.

What is an SEO Expert?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a practice where a company will optimize their writing and web content to make sure it ranks highly on search engines such as Google. The higher a site is ranked, the easier it will be for people to find.

SEO specialists are responsible for ensuring a company’s materials consistently rank high, and will do so through conducting research to help the business understand how they can improve their content. An SEO specialist will then make technical recommendations on how a company can improve their work so it will be ranked higher on search engines.

SEO Expert Job Description - What Does an SEO Expert Do?

SEO experts will help a business ensure their content ranks well on search engines such as Google. Search engine optimization is important because, unlike search engine advertising or other methods of online marketing, ranks on sites such as Google are based on merit.

So, if a company knows how, it can make its website appear higher on a site such as Google. This means more people will see the website, and therefore increase traffic to a company’s work.

SEO experts have a couple of responsibilities. Their main job is to conduct research to help a business understand how to rank better on platforms such as Google. They will run keyword research to identify the terms people are searching for on platforms, and use that information to make recommendations on how a business can improve its content. SEO experts will also conduct competitor research to determine how a business can compete with similar articles on the internet.

SEO experts will also design the architecture of a website to optimize it for SEO, and will track various different metrics to ensure a company’s content receives a large amount of exposure. For example, an SEO expert may track page views on certain webpages to determine which articles are performing well and which ones need to be optimized.

Here are a few of the job responsibilities SEO experts have:

  • Prepare detailed strategy reports on how a company can improve its content rank on search engines
  • Review and analyze sites for areas that can be improved
  • Identifying keywords a business can target to attract more traffic
  • Creating strategies to help maximize the chance people link to a business’ content
  • Writing SEO guidelines for members of a business’ content team
  • Analyzing SEO techniques used by competitors.

We have also written a guide on careers in digital marketing which covers a number of different careers. If you’re interested, you can find the guide here.

SEO Expert Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not track the job outlook for SEO experts specifically. That said, the BLS does track the job outlook for advertising and marketing managers, which gives an indication into the overall growth in the SEO industry. According to the BLS, demand for advertising and marketing managers is expected to grow by 8 percent by 2028, which is “faster than average.”

However, the job outlook for SEO experts may be higher, as roles in digital marketing continue to become more common. Indeed, a career in SEO will prepare you for the future of marketing, and also has many different potential paths of progression.

SEO Expert Salaries - How Much Do SEO Experts Earn?

SEO Experts earn good salaries in relation to other salaries for digital marketing jobs. The national average salary for SEO experts lies between $35,000 and $65,000, and the overall average is $46,000

There’s no way to know exactly how much you’ll earn as an SEO expert - salaries vary between companies and locations. For example, SEO experts in San Francisco can expect to earn over $62,000 whereas the same SEO expert would only earn almost $48,000 in Atlanta. It’s clear how much of a difference location makes on salaries.

Your salary will also depend on your experience. SEO experts usually progress onto a role as a digital marketing manager - there are very few senior SEO positions. Digital marketing management positions can earn an average salary of between $51,000 and $110,000. The national average for these positions is currently $74,200. Remember, this does not include stock options, employee benefits, or other perks offered by some tech companies. You should keep this in mind when you’re searching for a job and evaluating offers.

Some SEO experts choose not to work for one company, but rather to work as an independent consultant. SEO experts who operate as consultants can typically earn hundreds of dollars for a few hours of work if they have the right experience; SEO experts can earn a great living as an independent.

How Can You Become an SEO Expert?

There are a few different routes you can take to become an SEO expert, but the most common paths people take to start a career in SEO fall into one of the following categories:

  1. Attend an intensive coding bootcamp specializing in digital marketing
  2. Earn a degree in business, marketing, or a related field at a college or university
  3. Learn digital marketing through self-study

Each path has its own pros and cons. Many people opt to attend a business or marketing degree program at a university, where they will get a well-rounded education covering both digital and traditional marketing. However, there’s one option which has become an increasingly common alternative to college or self-study: coding bootcamps.

Coding bootcamps offer a viable alternative to college. Instead of spending four years in a university, you can instead learn all of the practical skills you need to break into a career in tech at a coding bootcamp. During the bootcamp, you’ll build a portfolio of work which you can use to demonstrate your skills to employers.

How to Learn Search Engine Optimization

There are a few different ways you can learn about SEO. Some SEO experts attend a college or university, usually for marketing, business management, or a related major. Others digital marketers have taught themselves about the industry, and lack any formal education. However, there’s another way to learn about SEO.

Instead of going to college or teaching yourself about digital marketing, you can go to a coding bootcamp. Coding bootcamps, which typically last between three and nine months, are intensive training programs which will prepare you for your career in the tech industry. During the program, you’ll also receive career support which will help you figure out which career is best for you, and prepare for the job search.

Top Skills Needed for SEO Careers

To succeed in your career as an SEO expert, there are a few skills you’ll need to have. Let’s break these down into two categories: technical and “soft” interpersonal skills. We’ll start with technical skills.

Essential Technical Skills for SEO Experts

There are a couple of technical skills you’ll need to master to succeed in your career as an SEO expert. These skills include SEO techniques, digital marketing skills, and other technical abilities.

  1. On-Page and Off-Page SEO.

    There are two main types of SEO: on-page and off-page. On-page SEO is about optimizing your own website - images, videos, content structure, meta information - to improve your ranking on sites like Google. Off-page SEO relates to how your site is ranked based on factors off your website, including backlinks from another site. You should know how to optimize for both.

  2. Competitor and Keyword Analysis.

    You should be able to conduct a deep keyword analysis on a topic, and use the information you have gathered to make actionable recommendations for how an organization can improve its content strategy. You should also be able to analyze the rankings of competitors’ sites, and determine how you can compete with them.

  3. Content Marketing.

    Content is at the heart of all digital marketing strategies. As an SEO expert, you should understand content marketing, and how to create high-quality, SEO-friendly content that will engage your target audience. You should also be able to devise content strategies that take into account SEO best practices.

  4. Data and Analytics.

    SEO is a data-driven skill. You need to be able to use tools such as Google Analytics to determine what content is receiving the most traffic, and which content may need to be optimized for SEO. You’ll also have to know how to use the data you gather from tools such as Google Analytics to make informed decisions about future content and SEO strategy.

  5. HTML, CSS, JS.

    While SEO expert jobs do not usually involve heavy programming, having a knowledge of HTML, CSS, JS - the main programming languages that power the web - will give you another tool to solve the problems you may encounter as an SEO expert.

Essential Soft Skills for SEO Experts

In order to be a successful SEO expert, you’ll need more than just technical skills. You’ll also need a whole range of “soft skills” to thrive. Here are the top soft skills you should have as an SEO expert:

  • Curiosity.

    Digital marketing is constantly evolving, which means all marketers have to be interested in learning more about the industry and keeping up-to-date with best practices. SEO has evolved significantly over the last few years, and many of the skills you may have learned years ago will no longer be relevant.

  • Problem Solving.

    As an SEO expert, you’ll encounter many problems you’ll need to solve. For example, you may realize an article is not ranking as high as you would like, at which point you would need to devise a solution. You should be able to break down problems into smaller components, and create an effective solution.

  • Teamwork.

    SEO experts usually work as part of a larger digital marketing team. Indeed, your insights will be shared with content strategists, writers, and other people within an organization whose work relates to digital marketing. Overall, you should be able to work effectively and efficiently as part of a team.

How to Become an SEO Expert: Step-by-Step

There are a couple of steps you’ll need to take to become an SEO expert, which are as follows:

  1. Learn about SEO through a digital marketing bootcamp, college, or self-study
  2. Develop and practice your technical skills
  3. Create your digital marketing portfolio
  4. Write your digital marketing resume
  5. Start the job search
  6. Prepare for your digital marketing interview

Great news! Career Karma can help you along every step of your journey to becoming an SEO expert. We’ll provide you with free mentorship, coaching, and access to a community of your peers who can support you as you proceed on your journey to becoming an SEO expert.

We’ll also help prepare you for and get accepted to one of the top digital marketing bootcamps, so you can get the training you need to succeed in your new career!

Get matched to top bootcamps