Many young people who're looking for a career path wonder if SEO is a good road to take. Indeed, sites are spreading up daily, and their owners want better web presence. On the other hand, there are constant talks that SEO is dead, so it might be not a great road to take at all.
We asked 14 successful SEO experts these important questions:
Is SEO a good career choice as of late 2013? Are SEO experts still in demand? What has changed in terms of SEO as a career since you've started in this industry?
Below you'll find truly insightful answers.
1.SEO should be the skill you have as a sliver of a larger skill
SEO is still a good career choice, but I'm not sure it's not what someone would want to do exclusively. SEO should be the skill you have as a sliver of a larger skill-set - if you're doing SEO primarily, you likely are working for an extremely large company. And if that company went kaput, your skills would not fit well into many other companies.
As such, SEO should be that skill you think about as a large skill-set - like being a good writer, or being good with people. These are extremely valuable skills, but ones that often accompany others to truly be extremely valuable.
Sadly, SEO came and went without every being a definitive career choice. Nobody currently in SEO ever decided to be an SEO, and before we entered the time period where SEO became an attractive career choice because of its potential lucrativeness, it was taken away as a potential exclusive option.
2. Be prepared to prove yourself and stay ahead of the curve
I think that SEO is a great career choice for anyone who wants to work in a field that merges art and science.
One of the things I enjoy most about SEO is that it's never boring. There's always something to test and there's always something more to learn. It's definitely a field full of amazingly intelligent people, many of whom have their own businesses, so it's quite competitive.
If you aren't prepared to prove yourself and stay ahead of the curve, I doubt I'd recommend SEO as a career though, because it's one where you can quickly get left behind if you don't keep up. SEO experts are definitely in demand and I don't know of any expert in this industry who isn't always booked up with work.
Since I started over a decade ago, I think that what has changed the most is the focus that many SEOs have in one area. I programmed, ran the PPC campaigns, wrote content, made technical recommendations, did a few blackhat things, checked rankings and analytics constantly, etc.
Now we have SEOs who specialize in many of those areas and that's mostly all that they do. I specialize in link building now but still do PPC campaigns and consult on other facets of SEO, but I do think that it's harder to get that general perspective and training these days.
Julie Joyce owns the link building company Link Fish Media (http://www.linkfishmedia.com), is a columnist for Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Land, and is a founding member of the SEO Chicks.
3. Work with other marketing channels
Is SEO a good career choice as of late 2013? Totally! Being a quality SEO requires research, training and experience. People are still willing to pay top dollar for an SEO who knows what they are doing.
The issue has been that a lot of people just started putting SEO as a skillset on their resume when in reality they had no business doing so.
Google is making huge changes every few months at this point and companies are struggling to process it all. If you can provide that expert guidance and work well with other marketing channels you can do very well with SEO.
The biggest change has been seeing SEO integrated into the overall marketing process. In the past SEO was seen as some kind of voodoo in the boardroom. Today SEO is simply a part of your overall marketing strategy. If you want to be successful as an SEO you really need to understand Social Media and how to use it to distribute content and gain more links.
You also need to be well versed in PR and outreach. If your content is not in front of influencers it will more than likely fail.
You see a lot of companies coming up with new positions like Director of Content Marketing. If you are an SEO well-rounded in social and PR I think you would be the perfect fit for positions like this.
4. SEO's about answering the right questions and helping people
Is SEO a good career choice as of late 2013? I would say so. SEO is still very important and more brands understand that they need to be digital if they want to succeed. I see a shift where, before, marketing teams had one or two "digital marketers" and now it's getting more and more integrated. Everything is more or less connected to the web these days. From sales, customer services to the CEO tweeting.
And all types of content needs to be optimized. Because search engines are still (or should be) the largest traffic source for almost any website out there!
I wouldn't really say that SEO experts are in demand, but people working with SEO - no doubt about it. No matter if you are self employed working hours for local businesses or in-house for a fortune 500 company. The SERP is always different. You're always looking at different types of content, questions that needs answers and products that should be displayed better. In my honest opinion, the world (wide web) would be way better if a basic understanding of SEO was mandatory in all marketing classes.
SEO's that can connect the dots are very much in demand. There is a lot of businesses that needs to understand how their customers search, where they search and why they purchase something online. It's not always clear as water.
An SEO that can analyze content and the customer journey will not be unemployed. They're needed.
Since I've started in the SEO industry, silos are beginning to be broken down. All marketing efforts needs to be integrated and teams talking and collaborating with each other. SEO is a big part of marketing today. And it's always changing. New features in the SERP, no more keywords in Google Analytics and tons of other changes. What you knew today could be thrown out the window tomorrow.
But that's also what's fun with SEO. You can work with pages, videos, images, PDF's - you name it. As long as you're providing the search engines with good content made for the users - you're pretty much safe. SEO is not about getting content on the first page for a query. It's about answering the right questions and helping people. If they want to find the local pizzeria or that hipster leather backpack that's perfect for old Polaroid cameras.
Per Pettersson has been working with digital marketing and SEO since 2001 and extensively with website architecture, web analysis and search marketing in industries such as travel and Swedish industry. Per works as an SEO Consultant at Search Integration in Stockholm, Sweden.
5. To succeed in SEO, you should be agile, creative, analytical and a bit scientific
Being a specialist is a good thing. It means you can excel at what you do and achieve a status in your industry and ultimately leads to positive impact on your income and future prospects.
While helping you break through to the top of the food chain, being a specialist also carries a huge risk, in any industry. Disciplines change and old trades die out or evolve into something new.
There isn't a better example than SEO to illustrate my point. With an average of two daily algorithm tweaks Google keeps us on our toes at all times. What was considered a sound SEO practice five years ago by many in the industry represents an unsafe practice today.
Further to that search engines (particularly Google) have grown very complex with a myriad of new variables at play. This means that if you're not agile, creative, analytical and a little bit scientific by nature, you'll hardly succeed in a big way.
My advice is to brand yourself as a digital marketer (or equivalent) and give yourself a broader scope of skills. Land yourself an internship or an entry-level job at an agency or work as an in-house resource for a while, it will crystallise a lot of things and bring your closer to commercial reality. While doing so always run your own projects. Play, test, investigate and get a good feel for what it's like to run a business while using your website to funnel a variety of digital channels through as leads, enquiries or sign-ups.
6. SEO is the field for smart and passionate people where only the fittest remain
Becoming an SEO or a professional online marketer is definitely one of the best careers to have right now in this generation (but it's not for the fainthearted though).
This industry is constantly evolving, which makes it very challenging. But what most people would really benefit from this career is the amount of knowledge they can get from their colleagues, clients, the SEO community and the work itself (as continuously learning new things is very essential in this field).
Our community is filled with very smart people, and new comers will surely be lucky to be a part of it.
Given that a lot of changes occur in the search space every year (just like the recent Penguin 2.1, Hummingbird, Panda Dance, etc…), having SEO experts on board will still be a viable option for most – to make sure that a business' web marketing campaign stays in top form.
Since I've started in SEO, it's become a lot more difficult. I've seen a lot of practitioners quitting SEO because they can't cope up with all the changes happening and deciding to change careers instead.
But it doesn't mean that the practice is dying. It's a good thing in my opinion, since I've always believed that it's a field for smart and passionate people – where only the fittest remains.
So if you're smart and passionate about learning new things on a daily basis, then SEO is for you.
7. There's no shortage of service providers, so you need to differentiate yourself
Is SEO still a good career choice? Good question! It depends on what you consider to be SEO. In case you like exchanging links, mass producing low quality content and bribing bloggers to get reviews it's not. In case you love an interdisciplinary approach, consider findability a concept worth of implementation both on and offline and are not afraid to consider
- conversion optimization
- user experience
- social media participation
- high quality content creation
part of your daily work than SEO is a fantastic choice.
You know it seems that the "SEO" acronym will get used less and less in future but the optimization process to get people to find, see and use websites the way intended will grow. I think the time is finally ripe for the holistic findability mindset. When you look at educational and government sites they often use the term and try to fix the whole process of finding things. So in case you consider an SEO career you might as well become a librarian these days.
The demand for all kinds of SEO services is still growing. Some of them are not even called SEO by now or anymore but things like business blogging or conversion optimization are part of high value SEO if you ask me. Some people are turned off by the SEO reputation while others are literally fixated on certain tactics they consider to be SEO. So for example these days clients will specifically seek out outreach or content related services.
On the traditional SEO market there is a lot of competition by now.
There is no shortage of service providers. The supply grows too. Only a small part of them are true experts though it seems. So you got to differentiate yourself. Branding, the quality of work and public appearances (both real life and by writing) can help. Also offering very specific services (like Siri optimization) is a good way to become unique enough to get noticed.
Tadeusz Szewczyk (Tad Chef) writes about SEO and similar topics for publications all over the planet and his own weblog, SEO 2.0 - the only Google-free SEO blog. He also helps people with blogs, social media and search, both in German and English. For more insights follow Tad Chef on Twitter and Google+.
8. A good choice for someone who's up for dealing with constant changes and challenges
Although SEO is definitely not a career for everyone, I do think it's a good choice for someone who is up for dealing with constant change and challenges. For me personally, it's still a thriving business and what pays the rent and feeds my family, so I would be hard pressed to recommend against someone who's motivated not pursuing SEO as a career choice.
Are SEO experts still in demand? Yes, and they will always be. As long as websites, search and the Internet exists, so will SEO. Don't ever listen to SEO naysayers who cry "SEO is dead.. the sky is falling..." SEO has definitely changed and will continue to do so, but it will never go away or not be in demand.
What has changed in terms of SEO as a career since I've started in this industry? Wow, this one is a doosey! Practically everything has changed since I entered the industry back in late 2005. Out of everything, the importance of blogging and social media as a branding & marketing strategy is the most notable. Tied into that is "social signals" and reactions becoming ranking factors.
There have been so many other changes over the years. Thanks to huge shifts like Panda, Penguin, Google Analytics' "not provided" shift, and Google+, the last few years have been especially busy. While it can sometimes be challenging to keep up with all the changes, the main thing that Big G has made clear is they want to sell more AdWords and will do just about anything to get businesses to spend more money on that program. But even though anyone can complain about that all they want, at the end of the day it comes down to the fact that the people Google has to answer to is their shareholders!
Gerald Weber is an Internet entrepreneur from Houston Texas. In December 2005, Gerald founded Search Engine Marketing Group, which is a company that helps small and medium sized businesses increase their search engine visibility. More recently, Gerald co-founded ViralContentBuzz.com, which is a free platform that helps bloggers generate REAL "social buzz" for their best content.
9. A career of life-long learning
Anyone considering entering the field of search engine optimization should first understand that it is NOT dead, nor is it dying. It's constantly changing and is an ideal career for anyone who wants to be on the cutting edge of online marketing.
SEO "tactics" of old are out (doorway pages, stuffed keyword tags, keyword density). Good "old fashioned" marketing to build brand authority in one's niche via multiple online (and offline) channels is in!
I recently provided an SEO tip for Web Gnomes in which 47 search marketers gave insights into the latest strategies. The Most Actionable SEO Tips Ever is a must read for anyone looking at SEO as a career, because it's broken down into various subtopics that encompass key areas that are important today:
- Content Marketing
- Keyword Research
- Link Building
- Community Building
- Technical SEO
- Strategic SEO
- Local SEO
- User Experience & Conversion Rate Optimization
You can see that the field is broad and well rounded. It's important for someone considering this industry to understand that SEO is a misnomer. It's not about optimizing for search engines. It's important to understand audience needs – not just the keywords they use but what will answer their questions and where they will find such.
Companies need a site that is crawlable by search engines (requires technical/programming skills) and one that has a pleasing user experience (design and usability) with content that is worthy of being shared (social media). To do this, you need a combination of experience and skills in communications, marketing, programming, and HTML. It also helps to like people!
If you have these talents and propensities, then plan on a career of life-long learning. Those who are good at helping companies with what they need for today's multi-faceted Internet marketing environment will have a soaring career!
Dana Lookadoo is an SEO Consultant and founder of Yo! Yo! SEO. She has been focused on SEO and online marketing since 2003 and began her career in Web development in the late 1990s. She speaks at various search marketing conferences and can be found on Twitter and Google+.
10. The profession knows its ups and downs
SEO is a long-term excellent career choice. Its death has been announced many times; at other times it has been a profession looked down upon.
Fact is that no matter what you hear, as long as engineers make search engine algorithms people who want to make money from search will be in need of people who can reverse engineer search. When you hear that "SEO is dead because XYZ" *that very XYZ* has been discovered by SEO professionals to work.
In other words, when you hear that SEO is dead and it's now all about social media marketing, or blogging, or great content – that is part of a what SEO's have discovered to work well in practical search. "SEO is dead" has time and time again been proven to be incorrect; SEO changes are accurate. You need to be able to trust your guts and incorporate whatever you think works to feed the bottom line: marketing, content, psychology, stats, studies, etc.
Likewise, when you hear that "SEO is dead" ask a company made invisible by a Google penalty about their opinion; do they think great content only will get them back or do they need someone to look under the hood and get this thing fixed?
But again: the profession knows its ups and downs. The perceived value and demand goes up and down.
Ruud Hein grew naturally into SEO in the late 1990's as he learned how to drive traffic to his personal sites. In the early 2000's Ruud joined SEP (Search Engine People Inc.) and never looked back. Ruud's currently the editor of the SEP Blog which ranks among the world's 12,000 most popular websites. Connect with Ruud on Google+ and Twitter.
11. I spend my days talking to editors and being creative in writing
SEO was an industry that I found by accident, but I couldn't be more thrilled. I went to school to become an English teacher because I wasn't sure what type of writing/content-driven jobs were out there that weren't in a news room. SEO is that perfect balance. I get to spend my days talking with editors and being creative in my writing. In fact, I am allowed to make my own decisions about what I think is the best article for a particular site, so I have some control that really helps make the job more enjoyable and meaningful. The best part - the industry is booming.
I get offered freelance opportunities all the time, so I don't think I will ever be out of work completely. It is a little bit more difficult to get a full-time job on a salary, which can be something very annoying about this profession, but with hard work it can happen. I think more and more companies are beginning to see the value in hiring someone full-time so I expect this to grow in the next few years.
Amanda DiSilvestro gives small business and entrepreneurs SEO advice ranging from keyword density to recovering from Panda and Penguin updates. She writes for the nationally recognized SEO firm HigherVisibility.com that offers online marketing services to a wide range of companies across the country.
12. SEO's now a blend of creating a content strategy based on what the prospect really needs
Is SEO a good career choice as of late 2013? Yes, it is better than ever. SEO is now more than pure on-page and off-page optimization strategies; it's a blend of creating a content strategy based on what the prospect really needs, and putting that strategy in place.
SEO is dynamic; as Google and other search engines continue to refine their algorithms, they change the way SEO is planned and carried out. Anyone who wants to do SEO will never be bored - between keeping up with changing searcher needs and the way the search engines continue to fine tune their algorithms, SEOers should adopt the saying "Semper Gumby" - always flexible! I love developing content marketing ideas and strategies; there's so much creativity you can use.
Here in the Washington DC, USA area where I live and work, I'm turning SEO opportunities down. I could work seven days a week, 12 hours a day. I personally know of at least businesses here in the DC area who want to find a good SEO professional to help them out full time. I don't have SEO competitors; I have SEO colleagues and friends who are just like me - strapped for time, would love to do the work, but just can't fit anymore in their SEO project schedules. As for what's changed - wow! I remember when you could apply SEO and refine it every few months way back in the day; now it's daily content management, social media promotion, analyzing reams of website performance data and integrating inbound marketing principles and strategies.
Nancy E. Wigal has been doing SEO since 2004. She runs Search Engine Academy Washington DC, an SEO training and consulting firm in the Washington DC metropolitan area. She trains anyone with an under-performing website how to do SEO to get better search engine visibility. Nancy is active on Google Plus - circle her G+ Community page.
13. You need a whole bunch of technical and non-technical skills
SEO, or better Online Marketing should be definitely on the list of job-seekers (both young and seasoned ones)! Here are just a few reasons that I consider quite convincing:
Take a look at the SEO industry – there are people of all talents there. Online marketing is a diverse industry with so many specializations – copywriting, SEO, Wed design and development, UI analytics, Public Relations. It's not just one skill that's required, it's the whole bunch of both technical and non-technical activities that can be found in the SEO job.
The SEO industry is definitely growing, there's no need to look at the stats. My personal example: when I started in SEO, I was taught by an experienced webmaster, and that was actually one of the most popular ways of "getting into SEO". Now there are several local SEO schools with dozens of professional teachers!
SEO experts are definitely in demand. There are more and more businesses that understand that launching a website is just the beginning of building their online presence. And that they need someone who would be able to take care of the website, content, links, social media.
Online marketing is a very quick-changing industry, but with some good extensive foundation and principles. I'd definitely recommend getting an SEO job.
Inessa Bokhan is the co-founder and chief internet marketing manager at SEOlots, a startup SEO agency. She's been working as a copywriter (software development and marketing topics), pay-per-click manager, and has provided strategic consulting to search marketing clients. Connect with Inessa on Twitter.
14. Every day in SEO is an adventure
If you're into black hat techniques, like link spam, getting sneaky victories etc., it's not worth getting into SEO. I'd suggest getting into a more technical career, programming pays well and hack-y fixes are good there.
If you're into marketing campaigns, building relationships, cool social campaigns, building partnerships, excellent content, efficient processes, project management, and still a large technical component, now's a great time to get into SEO.
It's a big, broad, scary profession where, when you make a mistake, everyone knows about it and they know it's you. But when you have great successes, it's dollars and cents for you clients and your company. This means that you've got a lot of negotiating power for your salary. It also means that every day is an adventure.
I'd suggest starting at a digital marketing agency, not a creative agency, or client-side, and then moving to a client 4-5 years later. If you start doing SEO for a small company, you won't learn a lot, no one will train you and you'll end up hiring agency people to do your work for you. That caps your salary pretty fast and it's not a great feeling. The other way around you're able to be making six figures (in big cities in Canada, more in the US) before you're thirty.
Troy "Fawkes" Boileau is a Team Leader and SEO Specialist at Powered by Search. He's passionate about SEO, marketing and networking. He dabbles in web development, design and writing on the side. Follow Troy on Twitter or Google+.
And do you think SEO is a good career choice in late 2013? Which viewpoint resonates with you most? Share your ideas in the comments below!
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