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How to get an entry-level Search Engine Optimization job?

Role Basics: What is Search Engine Optimization?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) makes sure web pages show up in google search. They typically focus on improving technical aspects of websites, identifying topics where writers could create content that is better than anything on the internet, and optimizing existing content to make it more Google-friendly. 

Flavors of SEO roles: 

SEOs can be more focused on technical SEO or on content. Often a team needs to have either user generated content or a larger content team or budget to justify a full-time SEO who is not also a content marketer

Example projects in SEO:

  • Conduct an SEO audit to understand where the site can improve, and put together a prioritized backlog of technical and content changes to improve search performance. This might reveal things like: images are too big and need to be resized so the page will load faster; outbound links are dead; some pages aren’t linked so google has no way of discovering them. 
  • Research potential topics. This involves looking at the monthly search volume for keywords and analyzing the competition for quality, authority, and links. You’re looking for topics aligned with your business, with lots of searchers, where the competing content is not very good and doesn’t have tons of links (which Google uses as a signal of quality). 
  • Review and edit existing content. Often this will include things like tweaking the title, headings so that they’re more closely aligned with what people search (signalling that the article is more relevant to google)
  • Link Building campaigns. Some campaigns look specifically for existing articles that have broken links, and reach out to the authors to tell them their links direct to a defunct site, and offer their site instead. Some are more creative: creating a scholarship program to get university websites to link to the company’s page (.edu links tend to be very valuable). 

Common activities in SEO:

  • Technical SEO.
    • Run a site audit using screaming frog
    • Create and prioritize a backlog of technical issues for engineering to address to improve SEO
    • Conduct quality assurance on major changes to a website to make sure changes don’t tank SEO 
    • Plan out and monitor changes from one domain to another
  • Content research. 
    • Create a user journey map for your customer’s users, to identify common challenges they face
    • Brainstorm content topics aligned with the user journey
    • Use a tool like Ahrefs or Google Keyword Planner (free) to identify common google searches associated with those topics, quality of existing internet content, and how competitive this content is
    • Prioritize content production based on potential traffic and competition
  • Content production. 
    • Recruit and manage content writers
    • Write content briefs that outline content structure, questions to answer, and keywords to use 
    • Either write this content or assign it to content marketers
    • Review this content for quality and keyword alignment
    • Edit existing content to ensure it uses the correct keywords or phrases – especially in titles and headers
  • Link Building. 
    • Find and manage a link building agency
    • Define different link building campaigns
    • Create a list of sites, authors and web pages to reach out to 
    • Draft email outreach, and send out campaigns designed to get links to your content

SEO metrics: 

  • Organic site visits – visitors who reach the site through unpaid search
  • Conversions and revenue from organic visits – the value of this organic traffic
  • Inbound links – number of links to a page
  • Domain authority – a metric of how influential an entire website is, a composite of the authority of all its URLs
  • Page authority – a metric of how influential a page is, a composite of the authority of the overall site and the URLs that link to that page

SEO compensation: 

Entry jobs pay $40-60K, but good SEOs can make more than $100K within a year or two. 

SEO career path: 

You can get into SEO by learning and building your own blog or website, by working as a content marketer, or by being in the right place (you’re a junior marketer, and your team needs some to “figure out SEO.”)

How accessible are SEO jobs?

  • Time to learn. 3-6 months. 
  • Selectivity. SEO is selective, but is also relatively transparent and doesn’t require a fancy degree or credentials. You need to understand how to do it, and have results to prove. 
  • Ease of working remote. Easy. 

Job Requirements: What you need to be competitive for SEO roles?

Key skills for SEO:

Here’s an exhaustive 2-3 month checklist of what you need to learn to become a junior SEO. 

Professional background for SEO:

Good news. For most marketers, SEO is like a black box. You need to develop the knowledge and skills, but once you can prove you have them (by building something yourself), you can get the job. PLUS, at this point you can basically print money, so you may not even want to work for someone else. 

Personal characteristics for success in SEO: 

SEO is good for people who are introverted, like data and systems, and are optimizers. 

How to prepare for and get a job in SEO? 

Projects to learn and prove yourself:

  • Build a blog or website from scratch, and deliver impressive results (i.e. 10,000s in monthly visits, $1,000s in revenue). 
  • Manage SEO for someone else’s blog or business, and deliver impressive results (i.e. 10,000s in extra traffic, a step change in growth, or significantly more leads or revenue). 
  • Use Screaming Frog to conduct a site crawl and audit, and create a prioritized list of technical changes to implement. 
  • Use Ahrefs to research potential topics, and write posts on Medium that get 1,000s of site visits per month. 
  • Use Market Muse to optimize an existing article, and to write a new one, and prove that it has an impact on search. 

Key concepts and resources:

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