Q and A: What salary should I expect as an SEO?


Dear Kalena…

What salary would i have if i were to get hired as an SEO or SEM? on average hourly and annual


Hi Cruiz,

A great question – and one often asked by people just entering (or considering joining) the SEO community.  As you’ve probably anticipated, it’s not really possible to provide a definitive answer to this question, as the salary rates you could expect,  depend on a number of variable.  I’ve outlined below some of the most significant factors that are likely to influence SEO or SEM salaries :

  1. Location – you’ve not identified which part of the world you are from, but this can have a significant impact on Salary levels.  Salaries in the US and UK, are typically higher than those in Australia, which are usually higher again than those in India (which has a massive and thriving SEO industry by the way).  Hot Spots within a particular country are also likely to offer higher salaries that are based on the usual factors – such as cost of living, lifestyle, and competition.
  2. Organisation – whether you are working In House,  within a specialist SEO Agency or as a private Consultant , will also influence you salary.
    For In House SEOs, the size of the business, and their awareness/acceptance of the importance of SEO will influence what they are prepared to pay.  Some SMBs are not able (or willing) to justify  a full time SEO role, so Search Engine Optimisation might be seen as something that is done by the Web Developer or Marketer in their spare time.
    The salary for In House SEOs in large organisations (with SEO teams) is broadly comparable to that of the salary for an equivalent role within a specialist SEO Agency (although the Agency SEO is likely to have the opportunity to deal with a broader range of clients and experiences) .
    Salaries for private Consultants can vary dramatically – from the highest salaries for recognised SEO Gurus to the (probably) lowest hourly rates for relatively inexperienced start-up SEOs.

    [Editor Note: You might also want to review the salaries and jobs categories in this blog to get a good idea of the type of salaries that SEO/SEM staff can command. My article 11 Reasons Why You Should Consider a Job in Search Engine Marketing also lists some common salary ranges. Cheers, Kalena]

  3. Role – there  are many different types of roles and activities within the SEO Industry, some people focus on one particular role, others undertake the complete range of activities.  Typically the more experienced you get in a particular area, the more specialised you become, and the higher salary you can expect.  Types of roles include – Strategist, Consultant, Analyst, Researcher, Writer.
  4. Experience – I say experience here rather than qualification, because there is not currently an internationally  recognised  SEO qualification (although given the increasing awareness of the SEO industry – this may change in the future).  SEO Course’s such as those offered by Search Engine College are a fabulous way to gain an understanding of this field, and provide a valuable insight into SEO techniques, strategies and tips.  However, experience – dealing with customers in real world situations is probably the single best way to justify a higher salary.  Being able to demonstrate real success with high profile clients in competitive industries, proves your experience and abilities.
  5. Profile – the better you are at raising your profile in the industry, the higher salary you can expect.   A high profile is usually (but not always) a natural result of experience and confidence.  If you are outspoken in the industry – through blogging, involvement in forums, attendance and presentation at industry events, etc. your reputation will develop. If it is clear that you understand the industry and know what you are talking about; if you offer useful advice and innovative strategies; and if you can demonstrate your ability to achieve real results for your clients, you may be on your way to “SEO Guru” status gathering followers (and an increased salary) along the way.
  6. Supply and Demand – as in all things, supply and demand will influence the level of salary you can expect.  If you have few competitors for a particular role you are likely to be able to demand a higher salary – providing you have suitable experience.  Supply and demand changes from time to time and is influenced by many things including geographic location , unemployment rates, and the financial climate.
    In these days of financial uncertainty, with many businesses tightening up their budgets,  you might speculate that the demand for SEOs would decrease.  However, the reverse seems to be true.  Many SEOs are in fact  experiencing an increase in work levels, as business owners realise that they need to get smarter about how to develop their businesses and spend their marketing budget.

Rand Fishkin of SEOMoz wrote an excellent post on this topic ( see : SEO Salaries – How Much Should You Make) – however this was written in 2006 – and now, 3 years on, the annual salary figures are almost certainly higher.  (how about an update Rand?)

Search Engine Optimisation is a role requiring specialist knowledge and experience, and as such you should expect to achieve a higher salary than a more traditional web or marketing role.  Some of the factors outlined above are outside your control (unless you are willing to move to another part of the world for example), but one factor that you are able to influence is experience.  Getting some good basic SEO Training and undertaking some Search Engine Marketing Courses (through Search Engine College of course) , doing some Research, and gaining Experience (even if it is only on your own/friends websites initially) is the best way for you to improve you salary prospects.

Andy Henderson
WebConsulting Web Optimisation

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Q and A: A few questions about Google AdWords

QuestionHi Kalena

There are several questions I would like to ask.

1. I set position preferences on Google Adwords as 4-6. However, it turns out the actual average positions of keywords are either 2 or 3. I recognise that it might be due to the high bidding price. However, I am worried that once I drop the bidding, it will go below the range of positions I want. Could you please tell me what I can do to solve this problem? Shall I use this the bidding management tool?

2. I have also concerned about the number of key words and ads used in any campaign. Your PPC course mentions that there should be two or more ads for each keyword. At the meantime, it also suggests that we should group the keywords according to themes, that is, allocate the similar keywords together. Normally, there will be 5-7 keywords in one keyword theme for with the two to three words keyword, there would be several variations in writing. Given this scenario, I am confused whether I should create more ads for each keyword.

3. I shouldn’t say that I don’t like the new format of Google Adwords, but it is so inconvenient. I couldn’t find the quality score for keywords. I would much appreciate it if you could tell me where I can find it.



Hi Sophia

1) I recommend using position preferences initially to help you get a feel for the bidding price of a particular keyword. If you’re consistently seeing your keywords higher than your preference, then by all means lower your bid and see how it goes. The system will tell you if your bid isn’t high enough to show your keywords in your preferred positions and then you can increase your bid again.

2) As explained in the lesson, you will generally need to test a range of ads to see which ones are most effective and then pause or delete the non-performing ads. When you first create your campaign, I recommend creating at least 2 different ad creatives for each unique keyword/phrase. However, if your keyword themes are tightly grouped by Ad Group and very similar or stem from the same keyword, you may only need a few different ad creatives for each Ad Group. For example, *blue wool socks* and *green wool socks* could probably share the same ad variations, while *wool socks* and *nylon socks* might require 2 or more ad variations each, so they can probably go into separate Ad Groups. Make sense?

3) I agree! It’s really hard to get used to, but will soon be the default so the sooner we can get used to it the better. You can only see the Quality Score at the AdGroup level. So using the new interface, drill down to a specific Ad Group and then click on the “Filter and Views” button to the right. From the drop-down list, choose “Customize Columns”. A pop up window will open with a range of check-box options for your column views. One of these will be the keyword Quality Score. Check the box next to it to have it show in your Ad Group view. You can even drag & drop it in the list to determine where the column appears in your dashboard view.

Hope this helps!

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Q and A: How many ad groups should a single PPC campaign have?

QuestionHi Kalena

This probably isn’t black or white, but in general, Is it bad to have one AdWords campaign with (50) ad groups? I would think if you need that many ad groups, you should probably be putting some of those groups into their own campaigns.

Also, isn’t is best practice to delete keywords from Ad Groups that have no impressions/clicks for 3 months? Thanks you!



Hi Staci

There’s no hard and fast rule about the limit of AdGroups each Google AdWords campaign should have, but there is a knack to good account organization. You need to set up your campaigns so they are manageable and logical.

For example, set up a new campaign for each specific geographic market you wish to target, or perhaps for each product line you are promoting. The key is to create as many AdGroups as you need in order to silo each of your keyword themes into their own AdGroup, for example blue socks, red socks, wool socks, nylon socks etc.

You need each of these in their own AdGroup so that you can create ads that are specifically targeted to each theme and use the specific keywords and phrases within the ad headline and body. If it makes sense to have 50 AdGroups in a single campaign for this purpose, then so be it.

Regarding the deletion of keywords, if they aren’t attracting any impressions then yes, delete them. But if they’re getting impressions and no clicks, I would tweak the ads for a month or two before deleting them as the problem may be that the ads aren’t convincing enough.

When I kick off a new PPC campaign, I create a large number of creatives and then If they don’t attract conversions within 2 months, I delete the non-performing ads and gradually pause any that have a 2 percent or lower conversion rate.

Hope this helps

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A Beginner’s Guide to Google Website Optimizer

by Kalena Jordan

We all know that the most effective Pay Per Click advertising campaigns use landing pages that are matched perfectly to your target search keywords and designed to follow through with the idea or theme that your PPC ad has hinted at.

But how do you determine the effectiveness of those landing pages? How do you know what design or page features will trigger a better response in your audience and lead to more conversions? The answer is that you don’t, unless you test.

Benefits of Landing Page Testing

Whether they are a part of a PPC campaign or not, there are countless benefits to testing your web site pages, including:

  • Improve the effectiveness of landing pages
  • Increase conversions / sales
  • Attract more leads / sign-ups
  • Increase time spent on your site by visitors
  • Reduce the Cost Per Acquisition of new customers
  • Eliminate guesswork. Improve your site design via information from your site’s end users
  • Avoid staff disputes – let your customers decide what design elements should be changed

Google Website Optimizer

The Website Optimizer is a tool that allows marketers and webmasters to test variations of pages on site visitors automatically, to see which pages or variations of pages perform the best (i.e. lead to the most conversions).

In April 2007, Google took their Website Optimizer tool out of BETA and made it available to the general public. I had been wanting to use Google Website Optimizer to test our landing pages on Search Engine College for some time and I finally found the time to trial it in October this year. After what we learned from our experiments, I wish we’d implemented it months ago!

Website Optimizer helps you study the effects of different content on your users and identify what users respond to best so you can alter your web site accordingly. You can test any kind of site elements from individual copy blocks and images to complete page layouts. Perhaps the best thing about Website Optimizer is that you can test ANY page on your site, including landing pages you have designed for other PPC programs like Yahoo or pages designed for non-PPC purposes.

Google Website Optimizer allows you to perform 2 different types of tests:

1) A/B Split Testing
2) Multivariate Testing

You can view a 5 min overview of Website Optimizer here.

A/B Split Testing:

Through the use of code added to the “A” (original) page, Google is able to serve the A/B variations (there can be many more variations than just the “B” page) to site visitors and then provide results of which page was most “successful”, commonly through reporting which of the A/B pages lead traffic to a “results” page.

A/B Testing compares the performance of entirely different versions of a page. Google suggests using it if:

- your page traffic is fairly low (i.e. less than 1,000 page views per week)

- you want to move sections around or change the overall look of the page

In Figure 1, you can see an A/B Testing experiment being set up in Website Optimizer.

Figure 1

Figure 1 - Website Optimizer A/B Experiment Set-Up

Setting Up A/B Experiments in Website Optimizer

To set up an A/B testing experiment in Google Website Optimizer, you first need to prepare three things:

1)    Your “original” web page
2)    Your variation/s of this original
3)    Your conversion page (e.g. the “thank you for subscribing/purchasing” page)

In the example you see in Figure 1, we set up an experiment on SearchEngineCollege.com consisting of our original page (/add-me.shtml) and a single variation (/add-me2.shtml), with our conversion page being /seo-starter-course-sample-download.shtml.

Next, you need to add some javascript to each of these pages to enable Google to track your experiment. Then it’s simply a matter of uploading all your test pages and having Google validate your URLs to confirm you’ve set up your experiment correctly.

Multivariate Testing:

Testing can be made not only with A/B pages, but with different possible versions of a single page.

This allows you to trial different types of layouts and page text to see which combinations lead to the highest conversions on your site.

Multivariate Testing compares the performance of content variations in multiple locations on a page. Google suggests using it if:

  • your page traffic is high (i.e. more than 1,000 page views per week)
  • you want to try multiple content changes in different parts of the page simultaneously

Setting Up Multivariate Experiments in Website Optimizer

To set up a Multivariate testing experiment in Google Website Optimizer, you need to do the following:

1)    Choose the web page you wish to test.

2)    Decide with your marketing/technical teams which page sections you wish to test e.g. headline, image, call-to-action, copy etc.

Figure 2 - Website Optimizer Multivariate Experiment Set-Up

Figure 2 - Website Optimizer Multivariate Experiment Set-Up

3)    Add the JavaScript code to your page’s source code. This includes the Control Script, the Tracking Script and the Page Section Script.

4)    Identify your conversion page and add the Conversion Script to that page’s source code.

5)    Upload your revised test and conversion pages.

6)    Validate your pages. If you’ve set up your experiment correctly, you will see a confirmation message.

7)    Create the code variations for each page section you are testing (see Figure 3).

8)    Review and launch your experiment.

Tracking Your Experiment

Once your experiment is launched, Website Optimizer will serve up your original page and over time, switch it out with page/section variations included in your experiment. During the testing phase, Website Optimizer will display a report showing the progress of the experiment and the number of conversions each page variation has achieved. It will also attempt to estimate the winning page combination based on the number of conversions each page variation achieves.

Once the tool has gathered enough page impressions from your experiment to produce meaningful data, it will display a report. Depending on what type of experiment you ran, there are two kinds of reports: a combination report and a page section report. Each column in the reports provides a different summary of the performance of combinations, page sections and variations.

Figure 3 - Multivariate Experiment Page Section Variations

Figure 3 - Multivariate Experiment Page Section Variations

Combination Report

A Combination Report (see Figure 4) will show the performance results for all of the page combinations made from the page variations you created for your experiment. By seeing how well a particular combination performs in comparison with the original and the other combinations, you can choose the most successful one to improve your business.

The Chance to Beat Original column shows the likelihood, expressed as a probability, that a particular combination will be more successful than your original content. It is very possible that there can be more than one combination which has a good chance to beat the original. When this number goes above 95% or below 5%, the corresponding bar will be all green or all red, respectively. You can see this in Figure 4, where the Optimizer has determined that Page Variation 1 has a 99.5% chance of outperforming our original page configuration and is therefore showing a green bar.

The Estimated Conversion Rate range provides an at-a-glance summary of overall experiment performance. View this column to see how well each combination is performing relative to your original content.

The Observed Improvement column displays the percent improvement over the original combination. Because this percentage is a ratio of the conversion rate of a combination to the conversion rate of the original column, it will often vary widely. Google suggests that you only concentrate on the observed improvement when a large amount of data has been collected and it can be considered more reliable.

Conversions/Visits represents the raw data of how many conversions and page views a particular combination generated.

Figure 4 - Website Optimizer Combination Report

Figure 4 - Website Optimizer Combination Report

Page Section Report

While the combination report looks at your content performance as whole combinations, the page section report focuses on which variations of each page section performed best. The tricky part is in choosing variations that work effectively as a winning combination. Why is it tricky? Because page section variations that perform the best in isolation may not work as well in combination with each other.

The Relevance Rating shows how much impact a particular page section has on your experiment. For example, if your headline page section showed a relevance rating of 0, you’d know that the headlines you used did not significantly distinguish themselves. Alternatively, a relevance rating of 5 for your image page section would show that there were one or more images which significantly differentiated themselves from the others, and that the images page section is important for conversions.

The other Page Section Report columns contain similar data to that shown in the Combinations Report, except the figures are only relevant to the variations of a single page section and not to how each variation performs relative to the original variation in that section.

Suggestions for Testing

Whether you conduct your own experiments to test pages for effectiveness, or use testing tools such as Website Optimizer, there are a few things to keep in mind that will help you get the most from your experiments:

1)     Test a page that gets a lot of traffic

There’s no point testing a page that nobody visits. Test a page that brings you a lot of traffic so your experiment has some meaning and the changes have real impact.

2) Test a few things at a time

Test various web site elements at the same time and see how they impact each other. But remember to give your experiment more time and/or more traffic in order to receive meaningful data.

3) Pick a logical conversion goal

For your first test, pick a common conversion goal that will be easy to measure, e.g. purchasing a particular item or signing up for a newsletter.

4) Be brave

Make your experiment obvious! Try a hard-hitting headline versus a blander one. Compare a “buy now” button in a brighter color, try moving a link above the fold to see if it attracts more clicks.

5) Learn from your experiments

Once you have the results of the more obvious experiments, redesign your page/s to incorporate the most popular elements. Then you can try more subtle changes, continually tweaking a page element until you strike a combination that outperforms all others.

6) Take your site traffic into account

For experiments to result in meaningful data, sites with low traffic and/or a large number of variations should run longer experiments in order to obtain a higher percentage of overall traffic.

What Did We Learn?

We were amazed by the results of some of our experiments. We expected our landing pages that incorporated images would convert better than the versions without images. Wrong! Website Optimizer proved that our landing pages with more text and fewer images actually converted much better.

Next we discovered that our landing page which included our navigation menu converted better than one without, despite the persistent belief that landing pages should contain fewer links. Most interesting of all was that while we confirmed that positioning our Call to Action button above the fold resulted in higher conversions, using a red (stop) button converted much better than a green (go) button.

So the lesson here is that assumption is a dangerous thing. You need to test your landing page combinations and not assume that you know what your visitors will respond to.

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Dumbass of the Week: AdWords Support Staff

DuhLet me preface this post by saying that I love Google and I’m a big supporter and very early adopter of AdWords pay per click advertising. BUT a recent experience I had with AdWords support staff left me shaking my head and my fist in frustration. And it wasn’t an isolated incident.

Sadly, a level of bureaucratic lunacy seems to have pervaded Google AdWords in terms of ad approvals and editorial policy in the past 12 months. Here’s the latest example:

My client, a psychotherapist based in New York, had asked me to create a series of new ads for his AdWords campaign based on a new service he was offering. His site domain is unusual in that it contains 44 characters – way beyond the standard 35 character limit allowed by Google for display URLs in text ads. So we had been using a non-existent but similar shortened version of the URL as the display URL for years, with Google’s approval.

Scores of ads were still running successfully using the fake display URL so when it came time to draft new ads a couple of weeks ago, I used it again. But every time I created a new ad, it would show up as “disapproved” within minutes. I double checked the running ads to make sure I typed the display ad correctly and tried again and again. Every time the ads would be approved and then show up a few minutes later as “disapproved” with the display URL being cited as the cause of the problem.

In despair I emailed AdWords support staff to ask for their help. The first response I got was from Manvee, who wrote:

“The ads are getting disapproved when you are using another shortened version. Please know that I reviewed your client’s account and found that their ads are being disapproved because they are using display URLs which do not match their destination URL. Please know that we have allowed your client to use only specific shortened versions like [shortened display URL]. Therefore, their ads will be disapproved if they use any other version that we have not allowed.”

Sure. Except that the specific shortened version they suggested WAS the one we were using. So after another week of disapprovals and an increasingly frustrated client, I sent a follow up email asking AdWords staff to please have somebody login and manually approve the ads or explain why the display URL they recommend was no longer acceptable, even though it was running fine on older ads.

The next response I received from AdWords support was from Ruchi:

“Thank you for your email. I understand that you are concerned about your ads being disapproved even after you have made the required changes.


Our AdWords Specialists found that there was unauthorized access to your AdWords account [account number removed]. No campaign changes were made to your account on that date, but we believe that the security of your account has been compromised.”

Huh? What? Did I not just explain that my client and I both have full access to the account via separate logins? Could it be that you think one of us is a hacker? And even if the account was compromised (which it wasn’t), how on earth would that influence the approval or disapproval of my client’s display URL? And why haven’t you addressed my actual problem?

As you can imagine, my patience was fast running out.  I emailed my frustration and asked Ruchi to escalate the issue to a senior account manager. The response I received was not the one I was expecting:

“Thank you for your response. I apologize for any frustration experienced by you. We suspect unauthorized access to you account by a 3rd party. We have reactivated the MCC and child account. However for the client account: [account number removed] we still need you to check and confirm that all the changes made in your account were authorized. As soon as your confirm this we will activate your account.”

So not only did they NOT offer any assistance with the problem at hand, but they de-activated my client’s account without warning! At this point, my client stepped in and called AdWords support directly, which was probably a good idea given my plummeting patience and rising stress levels. This time we both received a response from someone called Priti:

“Thank you so much for your patience.  I received a response from our specialist team, and it looks like in order to use an alternative URL for your ad, the URL must be of a non-functioning website.  Currently, [shortened display URL] is a functioning site (this is possibly a recent development), so the ads cannot be approved for this URL.

We definitely want your ads to be approved, so here are the steps that need to be taken:

1) Please change the display URL for these ads to [shortened display URL (a)]
 or [shortened display URL (b)] (both of which are non-existent websites and within the character limit)

2) Please then email me back you once you have done so.

3) I will then send your ads back to our Ad Review team for expedited review, and follow up with you once they have done so.”

Phew! At last somebody at AdWords support was offering us a solution. I logged into my client’s account, made the changes to the ads and emailed Priti immediately. Problem solved right? Wrong! Within a couple of hours, my client received the dreaded You Have Disapproved Ads status notification.

By this stage, my client’s stress levels had caught up to mine and he sent back an email to Google that simply said:

Here we go again! When will it ever end!?

I was dumbfounded by 3 weeks of fighting AdWords bureaucracy and decided it simply wasn’t worth pursuing any further. It wasn’t until 4 days later that my client received the following email from Priti:

“Thank you again for your patience.  I apologize – I was not in the office over the weekend, and so did not get your email nor Kalena’s email until just now.  I do see that you have made these changes in the account, and I am going to send this to the ad review team immediately so that they can approve your ads.”

She then expedited the process and the ads were up and running within the hour.

Hats off to Priti for finally resolving things, but shame on Google for hiring support staff that don’t seem to have the ability to solve relatively simple problems and for creating so many unecessary layers of bureaucracy for advertisers to jump through in order to do so.

Given the number of web sites inflating the size of the Internet on a daily basis, it’s likely that domain lengths are going to increase as fewer short domain names become available for registration. In light of this, you would think that perhaps Google would consider increasing the allowed character limit of display URLs, or at least suggest alternatives at the point of ad creation.

Anyone else got a tale of woe to share about AdWords editorial policy?

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