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

Question

Dear Kalena…

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

Cruiz

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: How much should I expect to pay for SEO services?

QuestionDear Kalena…

We are in the early stages of the SEO service development within our company and are now wanting to start getting an idea as to what the going rates for this service generally are within the industry, and what factors effect pricing.

Do you have any knowledge or information regarding this?

Are there any leads/resources you can point me in the direction of for me to gather up information regarding this? How are costs usually determined/laid out within a company offering this service, I’m assuming there are typically multiple levels of SEO one can offer, yet I do not know what the variables are that put someone in one level, and someone else in another.

If you can, please let me know anything about this topic that you can. I’m sure any help will go a long way in helping us sort things out.

Thanks

Myles

Dear Myles

There are many ways you can promote a website online ranging from paid advertising, organic optimisation, social media marketing, local business directory and search listings, article marketing/distribution, viral/linkbaiting etc. etc.

Just like there are many flavours of SEO – there are also just as many types of companies providing these services ranging from large corporate SEO agencies, freelance consultants and specialised boutique providers that focus primarily on one aspect of SEO (and then do it really well).

So as you could imagine, the pricing will differ considerably – and sadly, you don’t always get what you pay for.

Rand Fishkin from SEOmoz wrote a great article on the topic which should give you some more specific information regarding costs and services: SEO Pricing & Costs – What Should You Charge / How Much Should You Pay?

SEOmoz also has a directory of well respected SEO firms in their SEO Services Marketplace. Or the Search Engine College Jobs Board will give you an idea of what price some companies are willing to pay to hire in-house SEO consultants.

At the end of the day, you have to feel comfortable with the SEO provider you decide to work with, so ask lots of questions and if you’re not satisfied with the answers move on. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is… oh, and one last thing – avoid any company that guarantees top 10 rankings.

Hope this helps!

Peter Newsome
SiteMost SEO Services

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Q and A: I want a career in SEM. Where should I start?

QuestionHello Kalena

I enjoyed reading your web site and blog today. I was recently laid off and am interested in pursuing the SEM field. Where would you recommend I start?

I have 30 years of marketing, public relations, broadcast production, journalism (newspaper columnist), publishing (owner/editor of niche market magazine)… plenty of transferable skills I think. I also developed two web sites, produced several radio and TV shows and through it all I have excellent copywriting and proofreader skills.

Thanks much! Wish I could meet you in Sydney!

Susan

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Hi Susan

First up, I think your idea to start a career in Search Engine Marketing is timely and sensible given the current economy and global demand for search marketing staff. Reading my article 11 Reasons Why You Should Consider a Job in Search Engine Marketing should get you fired up even more about the idea.

It sounds like you have a lot of skills that would translate nicely to a job in the Search Engine Marketing field. Journalism and copywriting especially will come in handy for writing blog posts and optimized page copy or PPC ads. But there is quite a technical side to SEO and PPC that you will need to study and gain experience in before you’re ready to take on client projects or apply for a job in the field.

There are plenty of SEM training options to get you prepared for the industry, including *cough* Search Engine College *cough*, but you should also start practising on your own sites and others as soon as possible. Hands-on experience is essential to competency in the field.

Best of luck and do pop back and let us know how you get on. If you do happen to get to SMX Sydney, make sure you say hello.

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Q and A: How do I get a job as a Search Engine Optimizer?

QuestionDear Kalena

I have just turned 40 & am looking for a new career having previously been in sales management. I am interested in finding out how I would go about getting a position within a company as a S.E.O. and what qualifications are currently internationally recognized within the industry. Any advice would be appreciated.

Second question: is a blog type website such as a WordPress site better for optimization than the typical site a web designer would build?

Mark

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Dear Mark

1) There’s no reason why you can’t start a new career as a Search Engine Optimizer, heck I’ve written an article called 11 Reasons Why You Should Consider a Job in Search Engine Marketing. BUT, (and this is a big BUT), it takes more than theoretical knowledge and qualifications to be a good SEO.

There are plenty of online and offline training options for learning Search Engine Optimization, including the SEO courses we offer at Search Engine College. But they need to be paired with practical, in the trenches experience before you really understand how to optimize a web site successfully.

I attended a powerful presentation by Nat Torkington at Webstock last week about how to have successful failures and I would say that failures are a MUST for anyone in SEO. It’s only when you fail to get a page ranked highly in search engines and then tweak it to out-rank your competitors that you really grok SEO.

Regarding SEO qualifications, you should be aware that the search industry does not have an official accreditation body and therefore no standardized certification levels. At Search Engine College, we consistently check our lesson methodologies against the guidelines set down by the search engines themselves and I believe many of the other training institutions do the same.  We also set quite strict performance benchmarks for tutor-graded assignments and assessment items before allowing our students to gain certification.

As a result, we believe SEO / SEM certification has become increasingly recognized by employers in the search industry and we’ve had students tell us that having our specific certification has given them an edge over other applicants when applying for jobs.

2) In answer to your second question, any web site can be designed and optimized well enough to be search engine friendly, but yes WordPress blogs do seem to be indexed by Google very quickly and ranked well so you can feel comfortable building and optimizing a site using WordPress. It’s so much more than a blogging platform! Just make sure you download WordPress to your own domain and don’t build your site as a hosted blog on WordPress.com

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Q and A: What salary should I be earning as a search engine marketing specialist?

QuestionDear Kalena

I work for an ad adgency that provides both traditional and interactive marketing. However, I was hired as an SEM and Online Media Specialist within the Media Planning dept. The problem is I’m managing everything and anything that has to do with SEM.

Currently, I’m fully managing SEM campaigns for 12 clients each within 2-3 different search engines. Within a 200+ person ad agency, I’m the only person who knows SEM and SEO. My current salary is $43,000 with 3 years of experience. Can you tell me a salary range that I sould be paid at?

Brittany

Dear Brittany

It’s difficult to speculate about SEM and SEO salaries because they vary widely. However, judging by your experience and current portfolio of clients, your salary does seem quite low.

In my opinion, SEM specialists are experts in a niche industry and should be paid for this expert knowledge. Put it this way, in 2001, I was in a very similar position to yours, in a similar sized agency and I was receiving a salary of USD 80K. Granted, the industry was even more niche then, but according to Indeed.com, the average salary for SEM staff currently ranges from $68-85K.

If I was you, I’d be asking for a payrise! Have a read of this post about SEM/SEO salaries and some of the salaries quoted in these SEO/SEM job postings before you knock on the bosses door so you come prepared with ammunition.

Good luck!

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