What to Expect on an SEO Career Path

You want to go into digital marketing, but not just any field in digital marketing — SEO. Search engine optimization is an essential service that businesses need to survive and thrive in the Digital Age, but SEO is notoriously complex; as a result, SEO professionals are consistently in high demand, and salaries for SEO-related positions are remarkably high.

So, how do you get into SEO, and what career opportunities should you expect along the path? Read on to find out.

Getting Started

A majority of SEO experts today did not, strictly speaking, expect to develop careers in SEO. Beginning their careers in the 1990s and 2000s, when the internet was young and the power of search engines relatively low, most highly regarded professionals in the SEO space studied tech or marketing in school and gained the necessary knowledge and skill to provide SEO services while on the job.

It is certainly possible to pivot into SEO from a different tech or marketing career path, even today when SEO is known to be so critical to business success. However, to move into SEO mid-career, you will need to demonstrate a certain level of SEO expertise. You may want to enroll in an SEO bootcamp from an accredited college or university, or you can seek any number of SEO certifications to demonstrate your knowledge and skill.

If you are interested in launching a career in SEO from a young age, you will benefit from a bachelor’s degree that provides plenty of exposure and experience in fields related to SEO. A digital marketing degree with a specialization in search engine optimization from an accredited university will equip you with the skills and knowledge — not to mention the credentials and connections — you need to find high-quality entry-level SEO positions that lead to more lucrative career opportunities later on.

SEO Salary Ranges

Like other career paths, earning potential increases with level of employment. Entry-level SEO workers will command lower salaries than SEO executives — which is to be expected considering the differences in proficiency and experience required for these very different levels of employment. Still, you can benefit from knowing roughly what you will be paid at each stage of your career, so you can strategize your career moves and improve your pay.

Entry-level SEO: $49,000 to $72,000. Titles and responsibilities for this role can vary, from entry-level analyst jobs to writing or editing content and more. Finding an available entry-level position in SEO can be difficult considering the high level of competition for this lucrative career path. Generally speaking, it is more important to find a role with leadership you trust and respect than with a high salary. At this stage, your training matters more than anything, as it will determine how high you can climb on the SEO career ladder.

Junior SEO: $62,000 to $101,000. Junior SEO positions tend to involve pulling data and creating reports — the drudgery of SEO work. Still, this effort tends to pay relatively well for such an early-career role, and in completing high-quality work, junior SEOs make strong connections with superiors and clients, alike.

SEO Strategist: $69,000 to $110,000. Some junior SEOs transition into the role of SEO strategist, which tends to offer a bit more accountability and autonomy. Some SEO strategists help train new hires, which offers you the chance to demonstrate your leadership skills to higher-ups who might tap you for promotion into the management track.

SEO Manager: $80,000 to $120,000. A brand-new SEO manager might only oversee two or three SEO professionals, but with experience, teams can grow. In addition to overseeing the work of SEO staff, SEO managers manage several client accounts. Transitioning into management is a good choice if you dislike the sometimes-tedious work required to complete SEO projects.

Senior SEO Manager: $109,000 to $192,000. Titles for senior SEO management can vary, from Head of SEO to SEO Director. In any case, professionals in these positions tend to assume significant responsibility for the performance of the organization and work tirelessly to improve client relationships. Often, these SEOs are representatives for the entire SEO workforce and can lead workplace culture in major ways.

Vice President: $124,000 to $224,000. Only the largest digital marketing firms have vice presidents overseeing only SEO operations; more likely, you will become a vice president in charge of all digital marketing activities. Still, considering the importance of SEO to business success, your career path through SEO could be beneficial to securing you one of these incredibly lucrative, high-level positions.

CMO or CEO: $192,000 to $550,000. An incredible goal for anyone in the business space, the c-suite is not easily accessed. After decades of climbing the SEO career ladder, you may qualify for entry into the c-suite as a CMO, or you could launch your own agency or business to become CEO. Likely, you will need to diversify your interests, gaining broader business experience outside SEO to qualify for c-suite positions.

SEO Career Routes

There are few careers where the path to professional success is straightforward — and SEO is definitely not one of them. There are myriad ways to establish an SEO career and move up through the levels of SEO employment; almost every SEO professional has a different story and thus different advice for SEO newbies.

However, most SEO career routes fall into one of two categories: agency or in-house. Agency SEOs find employment with digital marketing firms — or SEO resellers that work with digital marketing firms — and thus tend to focus more intently on specific SEO-related tasks within digital marketing campaigns. Though SEOs may juggle deliverables and deadlines, working on multiple projects at once, they usually get the opportunity to work directly with fellow SEOs to hone their skill in the SEO field. By starting and staying within this career route, you can become an expert in SEO, developing in-depth knowledge of this incredibly valuable and in-demand service.

In contrast, in-house SEOs tend to be difficult spaces for SEO novices. This path involves finding employment from a large corporation that has an in-house digital marketing team. These teams might have multiple SEO professionals, but because they are smaller than an entire firm, there are fewer opportunities to learn on-the-job. As a result, you might opt to pivot into in-house employment after gaining early-career training at an agency — and only if you relish the opportunity for a significant spike in responsibility.

A somewhat secret third option — and one that is rapidly becoming more and more attractive to young professionals — is to freelance. Many established SEO experts got their start in the field through freelancing, primarily because marketing firms in the ‘90s and ‘00s did not recognize the power of Google’s Search Algorithm. Today, more young SEO professionals are looking to freelance for the freedom provided through self-employment. Of course, freelancing is a notoriously difficult career route, as it eliminates various types of support, such as sales teams to find clients and teammates to complete projects. Still, with diligence, you can build an SEO business on your own.

Moving Up

Once you have the necessary credentials, you can begin applying for entry-level SEO roles. Having connections in the SEO field can help you secure employment with high-quality agencies or organizations, so you might plumb the depths of your personal and professional networks to find useful relationships. Your first position in SEO can set the foundation of your entire career, so it is important that you take this step seriously and find a role that suits your interests and needs.

Of course, an entry-level position does not a career make. If you have high-level career ambitions, you need to plan to make a career move every one to three years, jumping to new positions that offer higher pay and more opportunities for professional development. Again, you can utilize your networks to identify potential roles that suit your qualifications and goals.

The key to continuously moving up the SEO career ladder is continuous education. Like other fields related to tech, practices within SEO are constantly shifting; SEOs need to keep up with Google’s algorithm, ensuring that SEO strategies allow clients to reach the highest possible ranking within search results. From the start, you should develop a daily habit of reading industry blogs and journals, which will publish up-to-date information about the algorithm. You might sign up for annual seminars or conferences, at which you can learn directly from some of the industry’s leading experts. You can even return to school to pursue a master’s or doctoral degree — though you should avoid creating gaps in your work history to do so.

You are not the only young professional who has set their sites on SEO. With the right preparation and a bit of strategic maneuvering, you can make the most of an SEO career, reaching whatever level of SEO employment fulfills your needs. In fact, you could become the next great SEO expert, leading a new generation of SEO professionals to innovative practices that ensure universal success.

Sonu Singh

Sonu Singh is an enthusiastic blogger & SEO expert at 4SEOHELP. He is digitally savvy and loves to learn new things about the world of digital technology. He loves challenges come in his way. He prefers to share useful information such as SEO, WordPress, Web Hosting, Affiliate Marketing etc. His provided knowledge helps the business people, developers, designers, and bloggers to stay ahead in the digital competition.

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