Getting an SEO Career – Plan, Goals, Salary & Skills


Read If you are thinking of joining an SEO career program or you’re considering becoming an SEO specialist by yourself and by learning in the comfort of your home, you’ve ended up in the right place. 

In today’s article, we’re looking at everything that an SEO career takes – from the salary you can expect, the work you have to put in, what SEO career goals are expected, and much more. Read on to learn how you can follow an SEO career path!

Skills you should have for an SEO career


Like in any other business or career, you’re likely to fail at one point or the other. It is up to you to rise up to the challenge and test different things that might or might not work. 

People don’t usually handle failure well, which is why they quickly tend to become discouraged and abandon their SEO learning experience altogether. 

If you want to succeed at SEO and if you want to build a reputation for yourself, it’s essential to keep an open mind and understand that you can learn from failure and that it is a natural part of the process of building an SEO career. 

The ability to stay ahead of the curve

Everyone learns from everyone when it comes to SEO, but that doesn’t mean that you should take it easy and use techniques that specialists relied on back at the beginning of 2000. 

When it comes to search engine optimization, something new shows up every day – whether it’s a challenge from your own site or that belonging to one of your clients, an algorithm update, or something groundbreaking that another SEO has discovered and published an article about. 

To be able to keep up with all of this knowledge, you should put together an RSS feed of the sites you regularly use for learning SEO. 

seo career

If you’ve subscribed to a specialist’s YouTube Channel, you should enable the notifications so that you know when a new video has been posted. 

It might be disrupting to have to check on all of the sites and channels every day, so we recommend sifting the wheat from the chaff regularly so that you keep only the valuable resources in your feed. 

For practical reasons, most people prefer to check out their feed every evening for 15 minutes or during the weekends when they are not busy with work. 

A desire to learn new things

Something new comes up every day in SEO, and it’s up to you to adjust and raise up to par as best as possible. 

Several years ago, there weren’t even tools like SEMRush or Ahrefs, both of which have effectively changed the way many small business owners that manage their own SEOs look at things. 

There are new tools, plugins, and even challenges that you have to face and deal with several times a year (the big changes) and sometimes, even every month. If you do not like having that in your career, perhaps SEO is not a good path for you. 

Creativity and an analytical mindset

It takes a bit of imagination to do as much as you can with as little money as possible, and that’s what your first clients are going to ask you to do. Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt if you also learned a bit about growth hacking and what it might involve besides actual technical SEO, which any good specialist can provide. 

You will also have to look at the results of your campaigns and use tools such as Google Analytics, but also others. 

As much originality as you might have, you still have to practice discipline, both in learning new SEO skills, but also in offering your clients what they need. Otherwise, you aren’t going to be paid or build a good enough reputation for yourself. 

Passion to remain in the field

This industry is evolving in a constant way, so you have to make sure that you really like what you are doing in order to be part of the game. There are ups and downs in every career, but this is even truer for SEO.

seo career skills

You effectively depend on what search engines do and decide, so the algorithm is your boss. If it’s changed and your clients end up all of their assets, you have to do your best at handling the challenge of explaining to them what happened. 

You also have to be strong enough to remain an SEO. 

Being able to stand out from the crowd

Everyone is offering SEO services these days, mostly because with a little hard work and the right amount of time invested in learning, people can hone their skills quickly and effectively. 

So what is your approach to SEO? What else are you offering? Do you also have writing skills and can combine SEO with content marketing, for instance, so that you can offer more generous packages?

Can you also build websites? Are you a master of social media marketing, too? Think of ways you can differentiate yourself from other great SEOs, and not by offering very affordable services – as that could look suspicious to some potential clients. 


This skill is perhaps one of the most essential ones that you should own if you want to become a good SEO specialist. You need a lot of patience to learn the ins and outs of everything, and once you’ve done all that, you need patience in doing your job and in waiting for results.

Additionally, you have to be patient and put up with a lot of your clients’ demands or questions. Some people just don’t understand SEO, especially if they are in a completely different industry. 

So, even though it might be trying, you’ll have to do your best at sitting down with them and explaining to them both what SEO entails, what you will do to help them, and even estimate how long it will take before they see any changes. 

Starting a career in SEO

Building your SEO skills

The biggest problem that most people who start learning SEO on their own face is that they lose their patience and determination in a short period of time. So try to be as specific about your goals and set particular tasks that you have to complete in your Google Calendar, for example. 

If you want to learn SEO while you work in a different industry, set aside one hour a day to watch videos, courses, and even test out some techniques on your personal website, if you already own one. 

Get to know what SEO means, the definition of technical SEO, off-page SEO, and also on-page SEO. Learn the meaning of link building and find out how you can do a bit of keyword research and competition analysis (even without using a paid tool).

It wouldn’t hurt to look at what black-hat, white-hat, and grey-hat SEO techniques entail, either. 

Learn basic coding

You don’t have to become a web developer in order to be a good enough SEO, but you should be able to use some types of basic code, specifically HTML (since that’s the code that you can quickly and conveniently change in most WordPress websites). 

To give you an example, you should be able to use code so that you add the ‘nofollow’ attribute to a link – basic things like that can make all the difference. 

Also, since the majority of the websites that exist out there use WordPress as a content management system, you should try to learn it as best as possible, so that you know how you can work with permalinks, how you can install a plugin for a sitemap, and so on. 

These are all very basic skills that most SEOs out there already possess – but you can definitely learn other coding languages if you think they would help you. 

Master SEO tools

If you have been researching search engine optimization for a while, you’ve probably heard of tools like Ahrefs or SEMRush, but there are many others that you can check out and that aren’t even paid. 

Free keyword research tools still exist and you can make the most of them, especially when you are starting out. Once you hone your skills and get your first clients and start making a bit of money, you can get a paid subscription and enjoy all of the benefits. 

But knowing how to work with SEO tools and plugins is essential, so you can’t work your way around it. 

Learn the Google Webmaster Guidelines

You are going to have a diverse range of clients and while some of them might not be fearful of using shady techniques like PBNs, for example, for building backlinks, some are going to want you to be as safe as possible. 

Google has a number of rules in place and they’re all available in the Google Webmaster Guidelines document. You don’t have to learn them by heart, but you should at least look at them whenever you want to implement something that might go against the rules or bend them too much. 


Practical experience makes all the difference when it comes to getting an SEO job. You are not going to be able to get hired by an agency or get bigger clients if you intend to remain a freelancer if you have no portfolio.

However, to build one, you are going to have to practice as much as possible, both on your personal projects and on your smaller clients’ ones. 

Getting your site to rank well for a decent number of keywords, increasing its traffic, and even having the ability to show the clients how much money you make with your own project can be the right way of going about things. 

Get your first client

Once you’ve learned as much as possible about search engine optimization and you’ve built your first project, you will want to acquire several clients. This is important for the future as you will be able to showcase the results you got in your portfolio and get bigger and bigger clients later on. 

There are several ways in which you can market your services. Whether you intend to use paid ads on social media or the major search engines or you want to take a more hands-on approach and use freelancing sites – it is all up to you. 

We have found that some of the best places to acquire clients are sites like Upwork or Outsourcely. 

PeoplePerHour could be another good choice, and even Fiverr if you’re not picky and you can handle a lot of challenges – both in terms of these platforms in terms of how ‘well-paid’ some projects on them can be. 


Build a portfolio and write a standard proposal

Being able to show what you are capable of assisting clients with is very important when it comes to becoming a great SEO specialist. 

No one is going to believe that you have excellent skills if you have nothing to show them, if you’ve never worked on a website, and you haven’t seen an increase in rankings based on the changes and implementations you have put together. 

Consider an SEO career internship

Of course there is a lot of competition and there are many other SEO interns looking for work, but if you can get an internship at a well-known agency, it’s definitely going to be an asset for your portfolio. 

You do not even have to consider a company. If you want to learn from someone and you are capable of writing a good enough pitch, a very famous SEO might want to be your mentor and teach you things you might never learn from free online videos or tutorials. 

What is a typical SEO career salary?

Based on a study performed by Ahrefs, the typical hourly rate for an SEO consultant (freelancer) is within the range of $50 to $125. However, these prices can vary a lot depending on where you are based or the kind of experience you have. 

A standard SEO salary if you were to work in an agency, for example, is around $42,000 a year or more, also depending on your experience and seniority. 

SEO career prep

If you tend to overcomplicate things, you might think that in order to become an SEO specialist, you have to at least have a degree in digital marketing or a related field. 

Well, the fact of the matter is that there are now endless learning resources on the Internet. Naturally, for some courses you will have to pay, but most of the paid ones are excellent and offer you a lot more details than anything you might be able to find for free. 

Craig Campbell’s YouTube channel is a great place to start, especially since it comes with a wide range of playlists. If you subscribe, you can learn everything from link building to SEO tools and how you can make the most of them, but also a lot of technical things and lots of knowledge bombs on buying and flipping websites or starting your first affiliate project. 

Getting back to what we were saying about the degree, the average cost of a private college is at least $35,000 to $40,000 per year, and that is what most undergraduate degrees cost. So, if you do not want to end up in debt at the end of a 3 to 4-year learning experience, you have to make the most of free and paid courses. 

Some sites you can check out are Udemy, Lynda, and Skillshare, and the latter is actually very affordable since it asks you to pay for a subscription that gives you access to all of their courses, including those relating to other domains you might want to become acquainted with, such as digital marketing, blogging, management, and lots of other things. 

seo career - skillshare

SEO career goals

When you land your first SEO job, people are going to ask you for specific things and specific results. Some might want you to improve their digital marketing efforts and rankings on the whole or build customers through lead generation. 

Others will simply want to increase their website traffic, and there are also clients that will want you to drive only relevant audiences to their site so that they increase their ecommerce sales. 

Read more: Car Dealer SEO

Reputation management and branding are two other goals that people might expect from you depending on what they do and the companies they own. 

When you become a seasoned SEO, some might want you to provide consultancy to their in-house team so that they learn the basics of link building and consequently, be able to put together an outreach campaign on their own later on. 

Why choose SEO as a career?

An SEO career is a pretty good choice for anyone who loves to spend time on the Internet, particularly for someone who likes to do their own research and find out about new things on a regular basis. 

The greatest advantage of learning SEO is that you can start out as a freelancer and even build your own agency later on. You can set your own schedule and work remotely for clients located thousands of miles away from you.

In a nutshell, SEO is here to stay and everyone is going to need it at one point or the other. So it’s a career for the future, one that is likely not to disappear as easily as others in this industry. 

Pros and cons of having an SEO career

Like any other career, SEO is a field that comes with advantages and disadvantages. 

In terms of pros, it’s convenient, flexible, and it doesn’t really call for a specific degree, so it’s cheaper to learn than others. 

Read more: SEO for accountants

You also have the chance to interact and learn from the best people in the industry, sometimes even for free. Also, if you learn it in a short amount of time and you become an expert, your level of seniority doesn’t matter at all.  

When it comes to the cons, there are some that you have to consider. Being highly adaptable and managing changes and challenges is something that SEOs have to face regularly, and it might not be for everyone. 

Moreover, many clients have unreasonable expectations, both in terms of budget and in terms of the time that you can devote to their projects. Maintaining a great work-life balance can be difficult. 

It also takes time and patience for you to learn the right things, and without being disrespectful, there are also heaps of fake SEO gurus out there. 

Read more: Winning Featured Snippets By Including SERP Features in Your SEO Strategy

They will promise to deliver you all the knowledge you need – and if there’s anything you might have learned about search engine optimization by now is that no one knows everything and you have to be constantly learning. 

Can SEO help you choose a different career path?

Yes. The first and most obvious one is the path of entrepreneurship. If you’re going to build a website to test out everything you’ve learned, you might as well do a bit of research about monetization options. 

One thing leads to another and you can end up owning and operating dozens of affiliate, dropshipping, or ecommerce websites, or even create your SEO agency at one point. And from then on, the sky’s the limit as to how much you can make, for example. 

Two other obvious careers are digital marketer and SEO manager, since these two are closely related to what you, as a search engine optimization specialist, already do.  

Managing people’s ads can be another thing that you can specialize in, whether it’s becoming a PPC specialist and becoming a Google Ads expert. 

Need help with your digital marketing or SEO campaign? Get in touch today to find out how we might be able to assist you in reaching your goals.


seo profile image

Craig Campbell

I am a Glasgow based SEO expert who has been doing SEO for 20 years.

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