Modern Jobs: Why a Career in SEO Ranks No. 1 for This SEO Director

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career in search engine optimization

If your job doesn’t feel like the right fit, it might be time to look outside the box. In our Modern Jobs series, we’re spotlighting cool new jobs you might not know about.

Google receives over 40,000 search queries every second. Those searches are usually listed in order from most relevant to least.

But how does Google know what results to show you? Well, that’s where search engine optimization (SEO) specialists come in.

SEO specialists or consultants help companies appear in search results. And getting a company’s name higher in searches brings in traffic and potential customers.

The SEO industry has grown more than five times faster than the overall job market.

To learn more about building a career in SEO, I spoke with Sam Kessenich, director of search marketing for RyTech, a digital marketing consulting company.

Here’s what Kessenich had to say about working in SEO, along with his advice for new graduates looking to break into the field.

Building his own website to learn SEO

Kessenich has been working in SEO for four years, but he didn’t know much about the field after graduating college. So he decided to teach himself the skills he needed.

“I majored in economics as well as marketing,” said Kessenich. “From there I moved on to a sales job, which allowed me to use my spare time to learn digital marketing a little more in depth.”

Kessenich took advantage of Google’s free Academy for Ads program to learn about Google AdWords and Analytics. He also created a website in WordPress to practice SEO.

“Once I felt more comfortable, I approached someone I had met through my sales job who ran a digital marketing agency to see if he needed any cheap labor,” said Kessenich. “This was the best career move I’ve made. The experience I gained was the most useful skill I could have asked for.”

Kessenich worked as a freelancer for two years before getting hired full time as an SEO specialist. About a year later, he became a director for RyTech.

When it comes to SEO, every day brings a new challenge

An SEO consultant’s main goal is to help a company’s website appear in search results. SEO consultants take many approaches to achieve this, Kessenich said.

“I would say an SEO consultant’s general job description would be to review a business’ website, as well as that business’ digital competition, and create a strategy to improve where your client’s website shows up in search engines for specific queries,” he explained. “Whether this is through optimizing your current website, developing new content, or building links back to your client’s website, [this] is all part of the strategy the SEO consultant is in charge of.”

Improving a website’s ranking requires different approaches, so no two days are the same.

“There’s no typical day in the SEO field, but normal days can consist of checking analytical trends, brainstorming with our team or with clients on the next marketing campaign, writing content, outreach to journalists, bloggers, [or] influencers in a certain field, technical audits of websites, and interfacing with customers,” said Kessenich.

Some days Kessenich might be creating content for a website, while other days he could be doing technical coding work. He said working in SEO requires flexibility depending on a client’s needs.

Get ready to experiment with various SEO approaches

What Kessenich loves about working in SEO is the creativity it demands.

“My favorite part of this job is brainstorming and implementing new, interesting, and creative marketing ideas,” he said. “If we can’t separate our clients apart from others, we’re not doing our job.”

Kessenich admitted that experimental ideas don’t always take off.

“The part of the job I dread the most is having to rework a campaign,” he said. “It means our initial idea didn’t succeed and we have to tweak certain aspects. We put a lot of time and effort into these campaigns and sometimes get too attached.”

As an SEO specialist, you have to be willing to take innovative approaches that haven’t been tried before. But you also have to be able to roll with the punches if an idea falls flat.

There’s no single path to a career in SEO

Now that Kessenich is in a director position, he’s responsible for hiring an SEO team. But he said you don’t need a background in marketing to make it in this field.

“For an SEO position, there isn’t a typical career trajectory,” he said. “We interview and hire a variety of backgrounds from journalism and English majors to statistics, math, and computer programming majors.”

Part of the reason he looks for candidates with different backgrounds is the diversity of perspectives they can bring to the work.

“Having multiple unique points of view is one of the best assets for any SEO campaign,” said Kessenich.

If you’re interested in working in SEO, follow Kessenich’s lead by taking Google’s free courses to learn the ins and outs of its platforms. You can also take free classes on Udemy or build a website to put what you learn into practice.

Then, use LinkedIn and other job boards to search for full-time SEO gigs or reach out to your network to learn about opportunities. If you’re interested in finding freelance gigs, check out Upwork and Freelancer.

What’s the pay like for an SEO job?

SEO specialists play a big part in helping a company succeed. But do they get paid well?

According to Indeed, the average annual salary for an SEO specialist in the U.S. is almost $63,000. PayScale puts the median salary for an SEO consultant at more than $58,000.

Those in SEO director positions make a median salary of more than $88,000, according to PayScale. Keep in mind, though, that pay can vary across companies and locations.

Although the SEO field is likely to keep changing, SEO and digital marketing skills are sure to remain relevant for years to come. By putting these skills in your toolbox, you’ll be one step closer to a career in this exciting field.

Do you have a modern job you wish others knew more about? If you’d like to be featured, write to rsafier@studentloanhero.com.

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Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.