The SEO career path: what it can look like and how to move up

Search Engine Land » SEO » SEO career path: What it looks like and how to level up

People outside of the marketing world rarely know what SEO is or what initialism is.

Within the industry, it’s a familiar term to all tough marketers. Much less is SEO – search engine optimization – that is really understood.

First, it’s important to understand that, while SEO stands for search engine optimization, it’s also often used interchangeably to describe people who do SEO (aka, SEO professionals). SEO – or search engine optimizer – does SEO. SEO does SEO.

To avoid further confusion, we will refer to people who do SEO as SEO professionals.

SEO professionals are a specialized type of marketer from different walks of life.

But there are some characteristics and experiences that many of us have in common that I will try to list as some of the most useful and professional qualities SEO professionals have in common.

I will also discuss what the career path to becoming a person looks like.

How do you start an SEO career?

Historically, most SEO professionals didn’t plan on SEO as a career – at least until recently (starting in the late 1990s and early 2000s). That’s because they can’t, really.

Early in their educational journey, a marketer or digital marketer very rarely – if ever – stated, “I want to optimize my website and pursue Google’s algorithms for brands to revolutionize the way people and businesses connect forever.”

The last part of that dubious statement may be similar to something many marketers have declared in training.

But achieving it through website and brand optimization to get organic visibility in search engines was not the vehicle they were thinking at the time to achieve it.

It is also rare to meet several SEO professionals who have forged the same path to become one.

But of course there are overlapping journeys, professions, and experiences.

Some of the previous common areas of expertise for SEO professionals that often intersect include teaching, journalism, various math-focused professions, and a distinctly traditional marketing focus.

But as the worldwide web has grown over the last 30 years, opportunities to help brands and people in new ways have emerged in the realm of marketing. And some are becoming more specialized – and profitable – than ever.

Organic search, paid media, and social media are suitable channels for a successful marketing strategy. And they are indirectly or directly created (or adapted for use) for website growth, prominence, and usability.

Today, as a result, high school and college students can set their goals on digital marketing gigs that specialize in SEO. It will continue to become more common as secondary education institutions evolve with the world’s needs, job demands, and technology.

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Possible SEO career routes

As with most careers, there are several directions an SEO professional can take.

It most likely started with an agency, and it’s a great place to start almost any career related to marketing (or design, account management, video production, or sales).

There’s usually a talented group of people with a lot of knowledge and direction to share, so it’s like getting an education for the money.

You also get the opportunity to really find your niche in whatever aspect of digital marketing you’re in, whether it’s SEO itself, or a more specific component of SEO.

Your first few years in SEO are likely to shape your long-term future, at least to some extent.

You can also strengthen and/or demonstrate strengths with the critical soft skills mentioned above and your ability to communicate effectively with internal and external stakeholders.

Agency life lets those skills shine while also finding out if agency life is right for you.

You need to be able to handle multiple submissions and multiple deadlines continuously, often jumping between different projects throughout the same day and throughout the week.

Another direction you can go is directly at the company.

But if you want to strengthen your SEO skills as a beginner, it can prove difficult without a good SEO company to guide you and teach you many of the basics needed to be successful.

Larger companies will be more likely to have several skilled SEO professionals hired on a team at once. Getting such an opportunity was difficult for someone with little or no experience.

One other potential direction an SEO career could take is completely freelance or as an independent consultant.

This was probably the most common way to get into SEO when Google and the search magic were in their teens. Today, it has become more difficult as the search has become more complex and the choice of vendors has increased significantly worldwide.

These are three different potential career routes that SEOs can follow. They usually overlap at some or several points based on what the SEO wants to do which is pointing them in that direction.

All three directions also offer the ability to work in a variety of environments (i.e., working in a traditional office environment, working from home, or a hybrid setting).

SEO, like most digital marketing careers, offers flexibility in terms of where you work as well as when you do the work.

SEO job levels and salary ranges

The SEO career path is likely to move from entry-level to experienced roles. And in terms of salary, like everything in SEO, it depends.

Many variables affect compensation, including your location, work environment, whether you work within the company or on the agency side, and level of experience, among others. (We’ve done our best to put a general range at these levels.)


Salary range: $49K–$72K per year

So many jobs start with a lower base position, but are also very similar to getting paid to continue your hands-on education in your specific field.

Landing the first entry-level position is usually a tougher task. Once you accept the position, you will want to learn as much as possible as quickly as possible. Make sure you absorb everything you can.

Unfortunately, (or fortunately, for the lucky ones) having a great or bad leader to guide and coach you at this critical early stage of your career can make or break you. Take advantage of that.

Junior SEO (SEO analyst, SEO specialist, etc.)

Salary range: $62K–$101K per year

Once you’ve got the basics down and done the day-to-day with limited help, your entry-level position should move up to something a little more senior, like an analyst or SEO specialist (it’s not really a senior position, though).

This junior SEO position usually does a lot of data retrieval and stays in Excel which builds solid and effective SEO. These are verbose tasks that build SEO professionals at their core, and they cannot be replaced or shortened.

You may be working with SEO managers and their senior SEO leaders to:

SEO strategist

Salary range: $69K–$110K per year

After time as a junior SEO, be prepared for a little more sense, a little more account ownership, and even some opportunities to start training other new employees (regardless of experience level).

Some of the “training” that you do will likely not be a very complicated SEO task but rather an internal task related to the SEO process in the company. This can include:

SEO manager 

Salary range: $80K–$120K per year

The SEO manager is usually the first management-oriented SEO role within the agency. New SEO managers usually supervise one or two SEO professionals to get a feel for their style, effectiveness, strengths, and weaknesses.

These managers also typically manage multiple client accounts and their own workloads as well.

This period in an SEO career can also allow people to see what their next role will be by identifying the things they do and don’t like.

Senior manager (head of SEO, director of SEO, etc.)

Salary range: $109K–$192K per year

Following a successful post at the helm as an SEO manager, the senior version usually follows.

As a senior manager, who can also be the head of SEO or even a director, you assume much greater responsibility, not only as an individual, but as a representative of the agency or company you work for, as well as the clients you work for. with and represent as leaders of their organic initiatives.

Vice president

Salary range: $124K–$224K per year

VPs tend to be some of the highest ranked, SEO-focused positions on the climb to the top.

While a VP of SEO/organic is still very much integrated with SEO efforts and usually oversees an entire team or more in that area, they are still very much responsible for:

C-suite (CMO, CEO, etc.)

Salary range: $192K–$550K per year

This is likely the end goal of many digital marketers, not just SEO professionals.

Some start their own companies, others join companies as veteran thought leaders and try to take the company to the next level, and still others are so right for the job, nowhere else is really theirs.

Good and effective marketers will always be in demand, and better ones will lead the best companies and their organic growth initiatives.

By the time SEOs make it into the C-suite, they’re most likely:

Of course, this is not a surefire path through SEO rankings.

Every company and agency has its own way of doing things. Sometimes it looks like this, sometimes it looks a little different, and sometimes it looks completely different.

It’s important to stay on the path that’s right for you and take the necessary steps to get to where you want to be.

Best ways to advance your SEO career

It’s important to understand that SEO education never stops. Staying ahead of the game is one of the brilliant factors that differentiates worthy from great SEO professionals.

Therefore, educating yourself about the many aspects of SEO and digital marketing should be a top priority for someone trying for the first time in this profession.

Stay abreast of industry changes and developments through online forums and SEO-related news publications. Keep an eye on the Google Search Blog.

From there, once the show is done, the most important aspects of building an SEO career come to you every day: real-life SEO experiences with clients, internal stakeholders, vendors, and/or agency partners, among others.

You will continue your education after that too. Almost every day you will read blogs and news in the ever-changing industry.

You will attend state-of-the-art conferences and virtual seminars. Finally, you can also speak at these events and mentor SEO professionals from around the world.

SEO professionals love to help each other as much as they like to learn from each other. This is one of the best parts of being an SEO and that’s why you’ll have a hard time finding a great SEO who doesn’t like other great SEOs. We are together and there is so much to do!

The daily trials and tribulations in the field are the best way to find your way as an SEO.

Most importantly, you should know if SEO is right for you early and often. I know I did, and I still do a lot.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest authors and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff writers are listed here.

Sam Hollingsworth is an Upstate New York resident currently living in Saratoga Springs, New York, and helping lead the SEO efforts for Moving Traffic Media as its SEO Director. With a general SEO background — specializing in local SEO, ecommerce SEO, and international SEO — as well as content strategy, social media, and client service, when Sam isn’t spending time at digital agencies, he’s likely to enjoy one of the many race tracks. Native American race, enjoying the great outdoors (Adirondack Mountains, Great Sacandaga Lake, and more), and hanging out with his family on any adventure they can find.

Is SEO a fun job?

This is the broadest field of marketing As a result, there is so much to learn and discover that a career in SEO is challenging and rewarding, exciting and exciting.

Is working in SEO a good career? ‘ Yes. SEO is a good career choice as it is one of the most sought after careers in the Digital Marketing field. There are several organizations all over the world, hiring SEO professionals to produce better content and therefore generate more business leads.

Is SEO high paying? At the median, SEO Specialists earn $49,000 per year, with the SEO Manager’s median salary significantly higher, around $63,000. At the top of the class are SEO Directors—who typically earn between $70,000 and $120,000—and SEO Team Managers and Campaign Managers, in the $50,000 to $100,000 range.

Is SEO a stressful job? Any job can be stressful based on the type of performance your company requires. Same is the case with work related to SEO. However, it is not as strenuous as IT or other programming related jobs.

Is SEO a hard job?

SEO isn’t that hard to learn, but it can be confusing and exhausting to get started. Learning SEO means studying a long list of individual digital marketing strategies, which feels like adding a new weapon to your arsenal as you learn how to use them.

Is SEO marketing difficult? SEO is not easy. But that’s not rocket science either. There are things that you can implement right away and there are concepts that will take more time and effort. So yes, you can do your own SEO.

Why is SEO so difficult? This is a very complex set of tasks and above all, SEO changes dramatically all the time, so the underlying best practices are often very similar from year to year but there are always nuances, new additions, new opportunities, new ways that search engines are changing like. what was the result, how did you…

Is SEO an in demand skill?

However, it should be noted that the demand for SEO skills is very high, as search engine optimization is increasingly important for any job posting in communications, digital marketing or social media marketing. Here are some common SEO job titles: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Specialist.

What skills do you need for marketing in 2022? The Most Valuable Digital Marketing Skills In 2022

  • Copywriting. …
  • Search Engine Optimization. …
  • Social media marketing. …
  • Marketing Automation and Technology. …
  • Audience Building. …
  • Project management. …
  • Data analysis. …
  • Conversion Rate Optimization.

What skills do marketers need in 2025? Machine learning, advanced analytics and neural marketing are seen as the most important skills in the marketing department by 2025, and the tools that enable these will top the shopping list.

What marketing skills are most in demand? Globally, digital marketing skills are the number one skill that marketers list on their LinkedIn profiles, followed by social media marketing and search engine optimization. Marketing strategy comes in fourth, followed by knowledge of Adobe Photoshop, email marketing, and content.

What skills will marketers need in the future?

Executives say proficiency in content marketing, strategy, and data/analytics will be the most important skills for future marketers, according to new research from Drift. This report is based on data from a survey of more than 100 marketing leaders across 25 industries.

What does an SEO employee do?

Search Engine Optimiser or SEO Experts test, analyze and modify websites so that they are optimized for search engines, and the websites then rank higher in search results on major search engines like Google and Bing.

What do SEO Experts do every day? Search engine optimization (SEO) specialists improve a website’s ranking on major search engines, such as Google, Yahoo! and Bing. Specialists ensure on-page optimization to produce relevant search results and a positive user experience, increasing site traffic, lead volume and brand awareness.

What are SEO skills?

The job of a Search Engine Optimization specialist with SEO skills is to analyze and review websites and optimize them in such a way that they will be picked up by search engines. SEO specialists aim to ensure increased traffic to a website by developing content with appropriate keywords and phrases.

Is Google SEO a skill? While it may not sound as obvious as a tech skill like coding language or web design, search engine optimization is an essential skill for almost any web-related role.

Why are SEO skills important? SEO is made up of several elements, and knowing what they are and how they work is key to understanding why SEO is so important. In short, SEO is very important because it makes your website more visible, and that means more traffic and more opportunities to convert prospects into customers.

Is SEO a hard skill?

At the top of the list of important hard skills is search engine optimization. The data from this study is based on a LinkedIn poll conducted by Microsoft with 600 participants of global senior marketers.

How easy or difficult is SEO? SEO is not easy. But that’s not rocket science either. There are things that you can implement right away and there are concepts that will take more time and effort. So yes, you can do your own SEO.

What type of skill is SEO?

The big picture: SEO managers are digital marketing experts who create customized strategies to rank high-ranking brand content on search engine results pages (SERPs). The goal is to get organic traffic that can help brands attract more visitors, leads and conversions.

Is SEO a technical skill? However, to land on Page 1 of their search results, you need technical SEO skills. Paying attention to these top 10 SEO skills will help you not only land on that coveted first page, but also as one of the first results.

Is SEO a soft skill? To make an impact, you need to develop the desired soft skills. Soft skills are those that complement your hard skills. In SEO, your hard skills are your core technical skills and will be things like using spreadsheets, creating SEO strategies, executing SEO tactics and so on.

Is SEO a good skill?

SEO skills are more demanding in the 21st century as both old and new companies often need SEO to grow their customers and revenue. SEO is a great thing to learn because it allows you to learn different online marketing strategies, content writing, and content curation that you keep ahead of other domains.

Is SEO a valuable skill? So, yes, SEO can be a great career choice right now, especially if you love all things Internet. Remember that you have to keep learning and mastering your skills all the time, because search engines are fiddling with their algorithms all the time.

Is SEO still a good career?

SEO is a promising career in 2022 as it gives you access to a wide variety of opportunities. You can work from home, receive clients, and even start and develop your own website. Plus, the three most popular websites,,, and, are the largest search engines.

Does SEO have a future? SEO will only thrive in the future. Make sure to follow best SEO practices like creating useful content, having a faster website, and following Google’s guidelines for better rankings.

Does SEO pay well?

SEO Specialist Salary by Years of Experience The average salary for an SEO Specialist with 7 years of experience is $76,486. Average salary for