SEO Specialist: Job Description, Salary Range and Career Prospects
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.
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