Having initially struggled to forge a career in SEO I know the pain and setbacks you’ll be confronted with, but having said that it’s all worthwhile.
In SEO there’s something for everyone whether you choose to be a generalist or would rather specialise in one aspect there’s so much to choose from. Content, technical SEO and CRO…
With there being no set career path into the industry you’ll find yourself working with a wide variety of people with all different backgrounds.
This guide will outline a number of routes and steps that can be taken to help you gain an entry-level career in SEO.
Unfortunately, it won’t be plain sailing and will require a lot of extra work to make sure this is what you truly want as once you have that opening it’s much easier to progress.
Paths into SEO
When you’re a child I’m guessing no SEO ever dreamed of a job in this industry, instead I imagine they’ll have wanted to be in the police force, a firefighter or a doctor, just as I did. As a result of this a lot of people ‘accidentally’ end up in search due to a growing curiosity, applying for a university course, apprenticeship or job on a whim.
University – The most popular route into SEO is via graduate roles whereby individuals have passed university often with a transferable degree such as Journalism or Business Management and the specifically apply for a graduate role within an agency or in-house. Having said that there are digital marketing degrees which include a year in the industry which can give you an edge against other graduates applying for the same role. However if your course doesn’t include a year of work experience most digital marketing agencies offer summer internships which is a great opportunity to be exposed to agency life to see if it’s right for you.
Apprenticeships – If universities isn’t for you there are digital marketing apprenticeships whereby you’ll spilt your time between college and a digital marketing job in an agency or in-house. From speaking to people that have chosen this route it has been beneficial as they’ve gained a wider understanding of digital marketing instead of just search as well as walking away with a qualification.
Often these are the most common paths into SEO however in my experience I did neither. I left sixth-form having just about passed all of my A-level and was training as a full time athlete but soon realised that I needed something else to keep me engaged. After a lot of Googling I stumbled across digital marketing and if I’m honest I didn’t have a clue what it was, which led to me researching it. I soon realised it was possible to learn about this industry no matter where I was in the world and as a result I’ve created a number of steps which can help you get your foot in the door.
Steps to Progress Your SEO Career
Whether you’ve gone to university, gotten an apprenticeship or are starting from scratch all of the below steps will hopefully give you a competitive edge.
- Make yourself a professional twitter account so that you can follow industry leaders and resources such as Aleyda Solis, Kristina Azarenko and Search Engine Land.
- Likewise, get on Linkedin, for more information about this check out my Linkedin best practices article.
- Hone your soft skills. When applying for a role at any level within SEO most employers want to find out who you are and whether you’d fit into their team/culture.
- Get industry-recognised qualifications such as Google analytics for beginners and digital garage. I personally found this a really good way to learn information as typically you’d watch lots of videos and they have multiple assessments to achieve a certificate which can be added to your LinkedIn profile.
- Doing all of the above is great but what will really set you apart is building a website and practicing/demonstrating your skill set/knowledge. The website doesn’t have to be hand coded, instead you can purchase a domain, CMS such as WordPress and build the website out from there.How I’ve gone about this is I’ll learn about something e.g Local SEO and then I’d write my own article or guide on it to document my findings. Or I’ll complete a course such as Google Analytics and then I’d go away and implement what I’d just learnt for my own site.There are lots of guides out there to break down SEO into the different aspects as well as offering in-depth step by step guides and at the same time it showcases my on-page SEO skills. Make sure you check out the likes of Moz, Search Engine Land, SEMrush and Ahrefs.
- Once you’re confident with your knowledge start applying for entry level jobs such as ‘Junior Organic Search Executive’, where possible write a cover letter and include a link to your project. If you’re lucky enough to get an interview it’s key to learn about the company and what they do as you’ll likely be quizzed on this.
Possible Interview Questions
In my experience for entry level roles the interviews are often a friendly chat and not a grilling with the head of SEO and a senior SEO whereby they want to get an understanding of you. Possible questions you might get ask are:
- What do you do in your spare time?
- Do you have any side projects?
- What about SEO interests you?
- Do you have any industry related qualifications?
- What resources did you use to learn about SEO?
- How would you track a website’s organic performance?
- How would you carry out keyword research?
- What different components are there to local SEO?
- What are the best practices for writing metadata?
- Do you have a professional twitter? If so, who do you follow?
- What do you know about schema?
- Are you able to explain what a 200, 301 and 404 code is?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- What do you know about this company?
- Why do you want to work for us?
Feel free to drop me a message if you’d like any further advice with kickstarting a career in SEO.