Back when I started, there were no courses in digital marketing, no internships and definitely nothing like professional certifications available. I am going to do my best to share some insights and tips to help those of you looking to get into SEO. Expertise is weird. You get started and by the time you make it, you tend to forget exactly what you did to get there. That’s because you forget what it’s like to be a novice.
Starting a Career in SEO
If you are a recruiter reading this article, welcome! If you are a SEO beginner looking for a job, welcome! Now in both cases, please remember that this is a blog post, not a job board. I am simply here to talk about what you should be looking for in an entry-level SEO specialist.
Here’s What You Should Know to Pass a Junior SEO Interview
Your SEO Skill Set
- EO basics
- Basic HTML knowledge (no need to know how to code)
- Basics in making WordPress SEO-friendly
- How to write
- A little knowledge in Google Analytics
SEO Skills Are Half the Job: Communication and Experience Also Count
Any expert should know how to communicate the important bits to stakeholders. Are you able to explain how SEO priorities align with the big-picture business objectives?
To showcase your experience and expertise, you should highlight any work you have done on a website. Here are some adjacent tasks or job titles that matter:
- Working on a tech website
- Online marketing
- Social media marketing
No Job History? Hone Your Skills on Your Own.
There’s a Catch 22 — to Get a Job, You Need Experience, but to Get Experience, You Need a Job
Here’s how to cut through that: hone your skills on your own. You can get involved in open source projects or volunteer at a startup incubator. There’s only so much a classroom can teach you. Those who succeed in this business are self-starters and curious by nature. Showing that you’ve developed a website or a blog with some focus on search engine optimization counts for much more than a Udemy certificate.
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Any Google Certification Is a Differentiator on a CV
Not going to lie, Google Analytics individual qualification is the most sought after free certification you can get. This will get you noticed by recruiters. There are also a few other courses that are highly recommended like the SEO Training course by Moz that’s available for free.
Get Familiar With Industry Blogs and “Famous” SEO Experts
You should know a handful of industry blogs and experts. This shows that you know a bit about the industry and keep up with the changes. You should quote some classics that your interviewer will also know:
- Search Engine Land
- Search Engine Round Table
- Google’s Webmaster Blog
- Neil Patel
- John Mueller
Here are some more niche blogs and experts you should talk about:
- Kevin Indig
- SEO by the Sea
Are You Sure You Want to Become an SEO Expert?
Having the Skills Isn’t the Same as Having a Passion
I am very good at producing bullshit marketing copy full of buzzwords. That doesn’t mean I like to do that. Having the skills is half the battle. To actually be good in this type of job, you must have passion. If you don’t, you will always be a decent specialist, not a good one and certainly not a great one. If you aren’t passionate about this, you will have a harder time. Now, let’s look at the pros and cons of this type of job to make sure it’s for you.
Pros of a Job in the SEO Field
- There’s always something new to learn. Constant change makes stuff interesting. It’s hard to get bored in this field. Don’t get overwhelmed thinking you have to be an instant expert, you should know why something new matters and not how it all works.
- Expertise is easily acquired. After 3 years, most of us feel like we are senior. As long as you have an idea and a plan to test and measure it, nobody will ignore you.
- “Test and learn”: if you like to see how things work and are able to show how you improved or learned from a setback, you will be fine.
- Meet interesting people: most of us came with some very colorful backgrounds. I like knowing a diverse group of people that wear fangs to webinars, dye their hair to match the Firefox logo or wear unicorn onesies on stage.
Cons of Working With Unpredictable Search Algorithms
- There’s always something new to learn. This industry changes so dang fast! And it’s getting ridiculously fast nowadays. It is straight up tiring after a while!
- Say goodbye to work/life balance. If you love this job, you will be thinking about that stuff even in the shower and in bed. Burnout is a very real problem in our industry. Don’t be me and please remember that you are a limited resource and there will always be some reason to work late or skip a vacation. Don’t fall for that.
- It’s hard to get promoted but easy to change jobs (and get more money). It will cost more to promote you to a manager job than hiring a new manager. SEO skills are hard to find. I’ve always had to change jobs to get a promotion because I was always the only SEO in my company. If you are in an agency with an SEO department, things could be different.
- Unreasonable expectations from clients and bosses. There are definitely those who think SEO is like magic. Even with guidance, patient counseling and careful presentation of progress, you sometimes cannot reset those unreasonable expectations.
- You will make enemies if you order some labor intensive SEO changes to copy or developer teams without taking into account other teams’ priorities and backlogs. And at some point in your career, you will be doing just that (live and learn). Always acknowledge other people’s expertise and communicate how SEO can enhance their work instead of hinder it.
So What Now?
Is SEO for everyone? Definitely not. Looking for an easy ride until you retire? This is not the job for you. If you like figuring out the way things work — go on board, you’ll have fun with this career choice!