Guide to starting career in SEO: What to know & learn, how to approach and start your career

What SEO means and what it covers as a practice and profession, and what all are the career options and prospects in SEO

How to start your SEO career

What is SEO as career, services and profession

When you plan to take SEO as career option

SEO or search engine optimization is the process of establishing and improving and search engine visibility of a website through website optimization and by building website's authority or ranking capacity. How this is done, is by optimizing website for certain keywords, and building authority and capacity of that website to make it rank higher for those keywords in the search engines pages.

A career in SEO can be very well rewarded and satisfying. SEO offers many career opportunities. It is also your best way to enter into the digital marketing world. This is because SEO as a professional field or career opportunity has now spread well beyond just doing typical SEO jobs like link building, SEO copywriting or doing technical part, optimization or localization of websites, etc.

SEO is now a complete marketing tool involving strategies to increase the visibility of websites and make websites reach its target audience. It now involves much greater use of content marketing, social media, relationship management, etc.

Of course one still needs to all the basic things in search engine optimization some of which we mentioned above. They are very much needed and are the base of all kinds of search optimization campaigns whether it is for a local business, blog website, a national level business or for a website that needs to target global audiences or audience in different countries.

No matter what the scale and scope of an SEO campaign is, it still starts with keyword research, optimization and then going to off page activities which can be scaled up to include all the other digital marketing channels we mentioned.

SEO is still SEO, but also a lot more.

When you gain more understanding, awareness, knowledge, skills and experience in the SEO field then you also develop the understanding of how these other channels can be incorporated or used to scale up, advance and enhance your SEO.

You also need to develop a broader understanding of SEO and also a keen interest towards how to use these channels and how to advance your SEO to the next level. This is also when you excel your SEO career and expertise and start moving up to the next levels into managing and devising SEO based and marketing oriented strategies.

SEO Career Advantages

The demand for website optimization and the need and significance of ranking websites for more and more keywords is consistently growing. This is because more and more businesses and website owners now know the importance of SEO and value and benefits of what it brings through ranking web pages on top search engine pages (SERP). There are endless growth and success opportunities with SEO.

Taking it as a career can bring many advantages and keep you always in demand. This is because SEO is one of the best digital marketing platform for growth and to do many more things, it is a long term solution and strategy, it is very cost friendly and growth oriented, and often times it is the first channel or strategy which both learners and clients ask for.

  • High growth in SEO Industry
  • High demand skill in digital marketing
  • Growth in search
  • Growth in SEO demand with increasing Internet usage and increase in number of websites
  • Best way to start learning about digital marketing
  • Good pay
  • High growth opportunities
  • Range of career and working options
  • Wide range of SEO jobs

So, when you decide to enter the SEO profession, you need to understand search engine optimization better, fully and in depth, you should know how it is done in the right way and also know the wrong way to avoid it, and you should be aware of all career options you can have in this field. This is all we cover here in this guide for SEO professionals and aspirants to start or advance your career. We also tell the best way for learners to start career in search engine optimization.

Understand what SEO means and covers

Scope of SEO as profession, services and career option for SEO aspirants

Why do you want to learn SEO or any professional skills or knowledge? What is your objective? You learn professional courses and skills make a career and to start working. Similarly, you want to learn search engine optimization to make a career in the field of SEO.

A career or working in this field of digital marketing means doing professional level SEO and delivering SEO services. You may then do a job, working for an agency or in a company as in house; work as a freelancer, start your own services; etc. Whatever path you select, you will be giving professional level services.

Providing or delivering SEO services means three things: knowledge of SEO; application of that knowledge; get results from what all you do for a client or for your own website.

So, first you need to be thorough in your knowledge of search engine optimization.

The search engine optimization practice is a continuous process which involves three related yet different processes or areas. To become an SEO expert or professional and for its complete understanding you will learn and specialize in all the three areas.

Many SEO professionals build deep and thorough expertise and specialization in one of these areas as per their likings. But, even those, who specialize in any one area of SEO, they have good understanding and expertise in other two areas. This is because one needs to understand the whole search engine optimization practice and also know what all is done, what are latest trend in the practice, new developments, etc. Basically, you need to have good theoretical and practical knowledge and awareness about the current industry trends.

So, broadly search engines optimization of a website means doing the following three steps:

  • On page SEO optimization
  • Technical or on site optimization
  • Off page optimization

Let us tell you what all is done in each of three SEO segments, in little more detail.

What is on page SEO and how to do it

One is on page optimization which involves optimizing the content of a particular page. Now this does not only means written text but also images, videos that are used on the page and also the coding aspect of a website when it comes to optimizing various meta tags.

The things you need to learn in on page SEO includes:

How to do keyword research (although keyword research is a complete process in itself which comes before on page SEO, but it is very much a part of on-page optimization)

What is Title tag. Why is it important and how to write and optimize your title tag

What are various meta tags and how to optimize it

How to optimize content

How to use keywords in meta tags, content, in your images and other media files

How and why link your pages internally

What is technical SEO and how to do it

Second is on site optimization. This is more comprehensive and technical thing and is also called as technical SEO which involves making a site easily accessible to search engines. This is achieved by doing things like improving site speed, code optimization, image optimization, etc. It also involves steps to improve site's authority and trust by having HTTPS or SSL certificates.

Technical SEO optimization is often considered as part of on page SEO optimization. Since, it covers more technical things it is considered as technical SEO and separately done. Often times and ideally technical optimization should be done before on page optimization. The things you need to learn in technical SEO includes:

HTTP vs. HTTPS and why later is important

Why site speed is important and how to improve it

What is site structure and how it helps in SEO

How to read technical errors from Google search console and Google analytics and improve these

How to keep your site comply with guidelines of search engines

On page involves techniques to optimize various on page factors to better target the selected keywords. Technical SEO on the other hand strengthens various on page factors with technical optimization and also improves the search visibility and authority of a website. You can read and follow these 22 best and advanced SEO optimization techniques covering on page SEO optimization and technical optimization and improve your page's search rankings.

What is off page SEO and how to do it

Off-page SEO means all the things we do outside of website and all the SEO activities and techniques we use to build authority and improve rankings of your website in search engines. It includes many techniques and link building is one of the important techniques.

The things you need to learn in off page SEO includes:

How to do off page SEO

What all off page can include

What is link building

What are backlinks

What are the types of backlinks

What is white hat and black, which one is good and which one to avoid

How to know which links are good and which ones to avoid

What are nofollow and dofollow links and know the difference

Importance of internal links

Does social media help and if yes how

How to do Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Best is to start with the very basic — know how search engines work

SEO is a very dynamic industry and practice and just the theoretical knowledge is not enough. It is dynamic because primarily because the search engines keep evolving every time on a continuous basis.

You need to know how search engines work and also know what are the latest updates. You do not have to be obsessive about all the latest updates of search engines and all the jargons SEO community keeps on using.

One of the most important things you need to know when you are doing SEO is Google algorithm updates. Since Google has the maximum market share of search engine market or platform and we get most of the traffic from Google only, we need to know how it ranks the websites, how it views and displays search results, and more.

Google's algorithms and their past and recent updates give us this idea. One also needs to be aware of how search engines work and what they consider as good and bad for every aspect of SEO for on page, technical and off page techniques.

In one way this would again bring you back to knowing how search engines are looking at SEO of these days. What are the latest things that are being looked down or considered as negative. You need to avoid these as much you can.

What basically one needs to understand is the basic working methodology that drives all these algorithm updates, changes or new algorithms. The only thing or the most important thing that search engines want to achieve through their algorithms and updates is to deliver better and relevant results to the users.

Do what search engines value the most

You need to know what is right and what is wrong, especially from the point of view of search engines as they are the best (and the only) judge. Here, it becomes important that you are well aware of the three types of SEO which are being followed: the white hat SEO; the black hat SEO; and the gray hat SEO.

Keeping yourself well-informed about the practices which are still considered as good and are highly valued by search engines, is always a good idea. Also, as we said earlier, keep up-to-date with all the latest practices which you can follow and include in your services.

Besides having a sound knowledge of the basics you also need to know what is the latest that is happening in this industry. It will surely help and take your SEO to the next, more advanced and specialized level, if you also know what are the latest trends, methods, strategies that are effective in today's SEO. Being aware of the what latest is happing and changing in the SEO landscape will always add to your knowledge, awareness and skills.

One also needs to know and understand how these changes or trends will affect the SEO industry and particularly what you are doing in SEO, for your own sites or for clients. Also you need to understand and find out how to actually use these changes, improvements in techniques and strategies so that you are not doing things that are no longer effective and result oriented.

SEO has expanded in scope

One also needs to be aware of skills and activities that are closely associated with SEO. These are needed in order to execute better and more comprehensive SEO campaigns and deliver better results. These include use of social media, some proficiency or an eye for good content and content writing, it may also involve designing elements like designing images or even infographics for social media and content. Being good in writing also applies in emailing which is also used in SEO. Then you also need to do Internet research on a consistent basis, starting from keyword research to researching sites to link from.

SEO starts with your website – Understand Importance of website

Of course, you would say. Since SEO means optimization of website and making it rank in search engines, it is very obvious that website is the base and the only platform on and for which you do SEO.

A website is still very important, even if look beyond SEO and even if you don't do SEO at all. SEO is where the visitors or the customers come, it is where people from anywhere and who do not know you or your business find out who you are and what you do, a website is your face to the online word and your 24/7 marketing platform. So, the importance of a website is huge for the role it plays, and even if do not consider SEO.

For this reasons a website becomes all the more important for SEO and optimizing it completely for search engines and for the user, becomes hugely important.

One of the most important thing which you would be constantly in touch with are the website elements when you want to constantly optimize it.

The most important thing here is to make a website mobile friendly. It is already some time now that search engines, especially Google, has introduced mobile first indexing. This shows their strong preference for a mobile friendly site.

It is important here to say that along with mobile friendly your site speed should also be fast enough. Do you know that users may go away from your site if it takes longer to open. A delay of every additional second in opening increases your site's bounce rate which simply means that more and more visitors are going away after clicking on your site through search results or reference sites.

Google has two tools which allows you to check mobile friendliness and speed of your site. You can go to this link here to test mobile friendliness of your website. This tool from Google allows you to test the speed of your site. Site speed is one the most critical part. The tool checks your site speed both for mobile and desktop versions.

Give direction to your SEO

One also needs to be able to do an audit. This means having a sharp eye for all the improvements a site needs to make it better optimized. Once you are thorough with on page and technical SEO and after some practice you would be able to do it. Advanced and full scale (and usually paid) audits also includes profiling and auditing of the backlinks and all off page activities of a website.

Audit can provide you with a strong base and a direction for search optimizing that website. And there are in fact many tools, both free and paid, to do audit. However, one needs to know all the SEO basics to understand and implement the points a tool may throw up for a website.

How to start your SEO Career

There are basically two ways in which you can start your career. One is taking up a job in this field. This is a great way to practically apply all that you have learned. You also get to learn how SEO works in the real world. You can learn more from your colleagues and seniors. As you learn you grow your career.

Second option is to start your own work. This is little risky option at the start of your career when you have just learned the theoretical part. SEO in real world involves lot many other things. To be some sort of expert one needs some experience. Starting your own work also means that you are completely on your own unless you build a team.

There is a third unique way which we would like to suggest to all SEO candidates. This is how I started out and build my skills, expertise in this field and also moved on to other related channels which I mentioned.

You can learn the basics of HTML and build a website of your own. Then start doing SEO for this website just like you would do for a client if you were in a job. Practice everything with this website and try to rank it for its selected keywords.

This way you will learn more and will gain practical experience too.

Now let us take a look at the career options you can have in SEO.

SEO Career options

Below are the ways in which one can start his or her career in search engine optimization.

In house SEO job

An in house SEO job means that you will be part of an in house search engine optimization team. This team looks after all the tasks related to search optimization of the company that hired this team.

Here you would typically be working on a single website. You might be assigned one task of SEO and later you can move to other areas or add more tasks in your job.

SEO job in an Agency

An agency job could be totally different from an in house job. Any agency typically works for various clients. They also do all different types of work for them. Also the agency could only be focusing on SEO or could be a digital marketing agency where you would be hired in the SEO team.

The advantage here is that you can learn much more. First thing is that you might be working for different clients. This means doing the same tasks for different websites or even doing different tasks for different websites. This all will depend upon how good your knowledge is.

This gives a good exposure to a candidate. But this also could be little hectic with more deadlines. But you learn more.

The other advantage is that if you in a digital marketing agency then you learn about other channels too. There also a big chance that social media or content team members would interact with you and ask you to do things. This will help you understand how all these channels are inter-related and work together for a website's complete marketing.

Freelance SEO

Freelancing means that once you believe that you have acquire the necessary skills and expertise in SEO, you start taking up projects by approaching companies. It is just like working in a job with the difference that you will be doing most or all of the work.

Freelancers often also build and work in small teams of other freelancers or even hire employees when they grow.

Starting an SEO Agency or company

This is the step people usually take when they have gained enough experience. This also requires higher and deeper understanding of how the whole SEO process works from start to finish and what all is included.

This stage is not that much about SEO skills but more about managerial skills and entrepreneurial abilities. This also requires funds or investments. Although, agencies often start with small teams and so relatively small investment.

However, once you start it takes time to build and take your agency to a certain comfortable level.

Whether one works as a freelance or starts an agency, it is always beneficial to have your own website which is ranking for its keywords and has good search presence.

This not only will bring customers for you but also showcase your SEO abilities and help in brand building.

Qualification and skills needed to excel in SEO Career

A basic graduation is enough to enter into this field. More important than your academics is the knowledge in this field, your interest level, your enthusiasm, and willingness and ability to learn.

What you may need to advance and grow in this field is a combination of a bit of marketing perspective, familiarity with and learning willingness for technical things and the internet, ability to do research, little bit of creativity, language skills, people handling, and also some business understanding.

Following is a list of skills and abilities that will help you start and then succeed and stand out in the SEO industry and career.

SEO knowledge

SEO experience

Working knowledge of HTML and websites

Understanding of digital marketing and position and role of SEO in it

Interest in technology field

Bit of curiosity

Attitude of always learning

Good or at least average level of language, comprehending and writing skills

Developing good written communication skills will help

Little bit of creativity

Ability to manage different tasks

Ability to switch from one task to another

To do repetitive tasks quickly and efficiently

Wrapping up our SEO career guide

Search engine optimization is a fast growing industry because website need it. And the number of websites growing demand for SEO will grow. It is an industry that will remain in demand and grow because of the value it brings by ranking websites on top in search engines. It will be also in high demand because SEO is the best platform to bring online success and growth for anyone and any business through their website.

As a learner, career aspirant and a professional, doing SEO or providing SEO services starts from knowing all the three segments of it, i.e. on-page SEO which is optimization; technical SEO which is more of a technical improvements; and off-page SEO which covers link building, content, social media and lot more.

To be able to do search engine optimization in the right way one should know all the updates Google has released till now. And then the thing to remember is SEO now a days has gone way ahead and is not limited to link building or optimization. You would be using creative and various form of content like images, infographics, videos, and lot many other methods which were not exactly covered as part of SEO some time back. But the first thing you should do is have a mobile friendly website and do a thorough keyword research.