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SEO Specialist: Job Description, Salary Range and Career Prospects

Updated on November 7, 2011

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a fast-growing field which has spawned many types of professionals over the last decade or so. Seearch engine optimization specialists is but one.

There are SEO copywriters, web analysts, search engine marketing optimization consultants and pay per click analysts to name a few. One title you’ll run across quite frequently if you’re looking for jobs in the SEO industry is “SEO Specialist.”

Here, we’ll explore exactly what this position entails.

SEO Specialist: What Exactly Do They Do (Job Description)

The first thing you should know is that what an SEO specialist does can vary from company to company. Following though is an in-depth job description that details the majority of skills this professional will be expected to have, and the duties that are required of them.

“Hard” Skills Required to be an SEO Specialist

Website Analysis: Review and analyze client sites for areas that need to improved, deleted, revamped, etc.; prepare detailed SEO strategy reports.

Keyword Analysis, Research & Copywriting: In-depth knowledge of keyword research. This includes knowing how to identify the least inexpensive, yet most profitable keywords for client sites – whether they are running a pay per click (PPC) campaign, or want to improve their organic search results.

SEO Copywriting: This includes the aforementioned keyword research, as well as SEO writing guidelines, eg, where to place keywords in copy so that it gets the most SE traffic, how to write effective headlines and how to write effective call-to-action statements.

SEO specialists are also responsible for creating (or overseeing the creation) of original SEO content for client sites, in addition to implementing off-page SEO content strategies like coding (eg, when and how to effectively use header tags (ie, H1, H2, H3)).

Search Engine Guidelines: Keeps abreast of white hat and black hat tactics so as not to run afoul of search engine guidelines.

Liaison: SEO specialists liaise with many different departments and professionals, inside their own company, with the client company and with independent contractors.

For example, they may work with the client’s SEO point person to strategize ways to improve and track site performance; they may compile reports for their company’s management; and they may consult with independent web designers to improve the navigation of a site so as to enhance its search engine ranking.

Technology Skills: A minimum of 1-3 years of web experience is required. Specific skills include knowledge of HTML; CSS; blogging platforms like wordpress; more advanced programming languages as needed; and MS Office.

The SEO specialist will also be expected to know the “language of SEO,” eg, organic search, PPC marketing, CTR, CPC, SEM, ROI, keyword density, long-tail keywords, etc.

"Soft” Skills Required to be an SEO Specialist

Communication Skills: As indicated above in the “Liaison” section, an SEO specialist interacts with many different parties, hence, they must have excellent communication skills (written and verbal).

Self-Starter: As the position entails so many elements, an SEO specialist should be a self starter; someone who doesn’t require handholding. They should be able to assess a situation, develop a plan, get approval and run with it.

Analytical Thinker: Piggybacking on the last skill, it’s imperative that SEO specialists possess critical thinking and analytical skills. They should be able to readily identify problems and formulate practical solutions.

Cool Headed: The ability to work well under pressure; keep a cool head and demeanor.

Prior Experience: Many firms want you to have previous experience in this position, however if you can demonstrate that you possess all the above, you should be able to land a position as an SEO Specialist.

Salary: How Much Do SEO Specialists Make?

This varies according to region, skills possessed, previous experience, company and previous salary. Following are some “average” salaries listed for SEO specialists from randomly chosen cities across the country. [Source Used: Indeed.com salary calculator].

Phoenix, AZ: $47,000 (Note: Average SEO Specialists salaries for job postings in Phoenix, AZ are 17% lower than average SEO Specialist salaries for job postings nationwide.)

New York, NY: $69,000 (Note: Average SEO Specialists salaries for job postings in New York, NY are 23% higher than average SEO Specialist salaries for job postings nationwide.

Detroit, MI: $54,000 (Note: Average SEO Specialists salaries for job postings in Detroit, MI are 3% lower than average SEO Specialist salaries for job postings nationwide.)

Jackson, MS: $63,000 (Note: Average SEO Specialists salaries for job postings in Jackson, MS are 12% higher than average SEO Specialist salaries for job postings nationwide.)

Atlanta, GA: $58,000 (Note: Average SEO Specialists salaries for job postings in Atlanta, GA are 5% higher than average SEO Specialist salaries for job postings nationwide.)

Nashville, TN: $47,000 (Note: Average SEO Specialists salaries for job postings in Nashville, TN are 16% lower than average SEO Specialist salaries for job postings nationwide.)

Los Angeles, CA: $54,000 (Note: Average SEO Specialists salaries for job postings in Los Angeles, CA are 3% lower than average SEO Specialist salaries for job postings nationwide.)

Chicago, IL: $55,000
(Note: Average SEO Specialists salaries for job postings in Chicago, IL are 1% lower than average SEO Specialist salaries for job postings nationwide.)

Observation: What really stood out to me is how relatively well this position pays no matter where you live ($63,000 in Jackson, Mississippi – really!) Remember, you only need one to three years experience; not bad.

Career Prospects for SEO Specialists

The job outlook for SEO professionals is rosy. Proof?

In 2009, a corporate recruiter in the DC area said that a whopping 80% of the openings she sees are Web-related in some way, such as programming, SEO, copywriting, etc. The SEO specialist job trends graph by Indeed.com bears this out (see illustration above to the right).

The number of job listings for these type of SEO professionals has tripled in just the last five years.

The Bottom Line on SEO Specialists

In the Clickz.com article, SEO Generalists vs. SEO Specialists, Sheri Thurow summed up this profession in a nutshell when she writes:

“[An SEO specialist delivers a] . . . Web site that meets user goals, business goals, and search engine goals. A truly great SEO professional is a person who can apply his or her skills to attain all those goals.”

Search for SEO jobs and learn more about SEO writing at SeoWritingJobs.com.

Update August 2010: I live practically year-round in Jamaica now. Freelance writing allows me to live and work anywhere in the world -- as long as I have an internet connection.

Want to get started as a freelance writer?

There's no better place than hubpages to start/spread your online and/or SEO writing wings. Start making money as a freelance writer today by joining!

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    • profile image

      Pulasthi Wannniarachchi 

      6 years ago

      its really great blog. www.dunhinda.com

    • profile image

      vanita 

      6 years ago

      I want to start a career as a SEO specialist . where and how can I get started? I live in Detroit..I have been trying to do it here but couldn't find out any place..Is there any body teaching online ? Does one need to be good in programming or just few web page designing is sufficient?

      Any help would be appreciated..

    • profile image

      Brijesh Patel 

      6 years ago

      it's really too much overwhelming article really, i have no words to thanks. But say only thanks thanks much again and again. it's really good.

    • profile image

      Ram 

      7 years ago

      i owe to you for being obliged with this useful information.

    • profile image

      nivi keshri 

      7 years ago

      What is the growth prospective for a SEO specialist ?

    • Bret Talley profile image

      Bret Talley 

      7 years ago from Fort Lauderdale, FL

      I really enjoyed this post... as an Internet marketing consultant, SEO is a major part in my role. Especially interesting to see all of the salary ranges!

    • profile image

      Abir 

      7 years ago

      As a Marketing Coordinator, I handle almost all of the mentioned tasks. I have now also shifted into working in social media.

    • profile image

      Yuwanda 

      7 years ago

      @Chicago SEO Specialist: Yes, it is a good thing. And in my opinion, this trend is only going to continue over the next decade or so.

      Thanks for writing in.

    • profile image

      Chicago SEO Specialist 

      7 years ago

      I am so glad to see there are more and more opportunities in the SEO/SEM industry, and it's always a good sign to see the salary carries an upward trend over years.

    • profile image

      SEO Specialist 

      8 years ago

      I wish I'm working in US. The salary here in the Philippines for SEO Specialist is really low compared in US..

    • profile image

      Chris Culos 

      8 years ago

      My pleasure! I ran home to get my resume together and came back. Now I'm waiting for the interview. Even if I don't get the offer I'm looking for, this and other articles have given me the confidence and reassurance I need to pursue this as a career. The landscape has really changed in the past 12 months. When originally searching, the majority of articles I came across mentioned that SEO as a career was a dead-end job. Now it seems everyone is privy to the idea and the value that it provides companies, so room for advancement is much, much greater.

    • profile image

      Yuwanda Black 

      8 years ago

      Chris:

      I'm glad to provide the ammo. I hope you get the salary you deserve.

      All the best and thanks for taking the time to write in.

    • profile image

      Chris Culos 

      8 years ago

      Thank you so much for this article. I'm searching today for information to use in the negotiation of my salary for SEO in New Jersey. They want me to begin building a strategy to use for our clients, and work up to building a team of people and really spearheading half of the company. I have approximately 2 years of experience in the field, and up until now have only been getting work part-time. This salary range coincides precisely with what SimplyHired.com has listed, so this is good ammo for my fight, thanks again!

    • profile image

      Ravi Mathur 

      8 years ago

      Online marketing is a good way to purchase and sales products all over world via search engines. This can be possible via SEO. seo service delhi

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