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Career Guide

How to Become an SEO Specialist

Want to pursue a career in search engine optimization (SEO), but don’t know where to start? BrainStation’s SEO Specialist career guide is intended to help you take the first steps toward a lucrative career in SEO and search engine marketing (SEM). The guide provides an in-depth overview of the SEO skills you should learn, the best SEO training options, career paths in SEO and SEM, how to become an SEO Specialist, and more.

How to Become an SEO Specialist
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How Do I Become an SEO Specialist?

While there are a number of ways to become an SEO expert, there is no single path to becoming an SEO Specialist. Many people working in SEO began in traditional marketing roles before narrowing their focus to SEO, but that’s far from a hard-and-fast rule; there’s actually no specific background experience required for you to become an SEO Specialist—only a specific set of skills. In fact, many people enter jobs in SEO from a range of different fields, including marketing and communications, business, and IT.

Here are four steps you can take today to help you become a SEO Specialist:

  • Enroll in a SEO course to learn SEO fundamentals, including content creation, keyword research, paid ads, and more.
  • Develop a familiarity with key SEO tools, including Google Ads, Ahrefs, Alexa, SEMRush, Serpstat, Google Keyword Planner, and more.
  • Optimize your own website to develop your SEO skills and experience.
  • Develop a portfolio of projects to showcase your work.

How Do I Become an SEO Expert?

The first step toward beginning a career in SEO is to acquire the core technical competencies that an SEO Specialist needs—in SEO and SEM techniques, HTML and CSS, analytics, and link building, as well as related expertise like content marketing and raising brand awareness. Alongside these skills, you’ll also need to find ways to demonstrate that you have the many soft and transferable skills an SEO Specialist should possess, like a feel for the online landscape, strategic and critical thinking skills, communication and interpersonal skills, organization, and an attention to detail. If you’re trying to pick up experience using different SEO and SEM strategies in a piecemeal way, it may take a few months for you to turn your passing familiarity into a coherent skill set. Bootcamps like BrainStation’s Search Engine Optimization course are specifically developed to immerse you in the most crucial aspects of SEO for efficient, accelerated learning.

How Do I Start a Career in SEO?

In most cases, your resume is your first contact with a potential employer, so it pays to get it right. Here, it’s best to keep it simple. Research shows that you have about six seconds to make your first impression, so keep your resume’s layout clean and well-organized, and the information concise. Use bullet points where appropriate. The emphasis should be on your SEO training, skills and experience, using hard numbers to back up your accomplishments (bearing in mind that your portfolio is the place to dive into details).

SEO skills typically fall into three categories: technical skills (including expertise with the software, platforms, and digital tools of SEO), transferable skills (like sales, marketing or communications skills), and adaptable skills (like strategy, teamwork, and organization). That first category should get top billing on your resume—your technical SEO skills should be the first thing the reader’s eye lands on when they look at your resume. Transferable and adaptive skills can then be cited at the bottom of the page or woven throughout.

Build an SEO Portfolio

For SEO Specialists, whose work outcomes aren’t typically well-represented by the kind of content the user sees, putting together a portfolio presents an added challenge. Instead of simply showing a finished product, you’ll need to demonstrate your processes and outcomes in a way that showcases your research, planning, analysis, and strategic thinking.

Here, what will impress potential Hiring Managers most is hard information. This can be presented in two ways. First, emphasize your training and skills by walking the reader through the how of what you’ve done, perhaps by focusing on a single project—the courses you’ve attended, the techniques and strategies you’ve used, the insights you’ve gained, and so on. Your portfolio can tell a story, beginning with what you set out to accomplish, what challenges you faced, and what you did to overcome them. Even if you have no paid experience working directly in SEO, your portfolio can feature the results of the hands-on exercises you conducted in your SEO course.

Then, dig deep into the data. Statistics are your best endorsement—see if you can identify meaningful metrics that speak to the success of your SEO projects, such as growth in total pageviews or new visitors, an expanded audience in the mobile market, a jump in your page rankings, or even a measurable improvement in your page loading times. For these, you’ll need to rely on numbers—and while more is typically better, make sure you’re presenting them in a way that makes an impact, but doesn’t overwhelm. Charts and graphs are great; long lists of numbers are not.

Keep Building Your SEO Skills

The Internet never sleeps—to remain viable as an SEO Specialist, you’ll need to continue upgrading your skills over the course of your career (and demonstrate to potential employers that you are doing so). This means that your resume and portfolio are never complete. For instance, a study of all web searches conducted in May of 2018 found that the click-through rate for the top-ranking search result was just under 30 percent, a number that plummeted to four percent for the fifth-ranked result. By the ninth result, a meagre one percent of searchers, on average, were still interested in clicking through. Compared to a few years earlier, that’s a much more dramatic drop-off. Much of this change is likely a result of the number of searches conducted on desktop versus mobile—and the trend toward mobile searches has only grown since. For that matter, voice search accounted for one in five searches as long ago as 2016, according to Google. Knowing these facts not only underscores the importance of SEO; it also offers important insights about how optimizing for mobile or voice searches can improve your overall traffic. Audience behaviors change—and so do search engines. Large players like Google and Bing are constantly making updates to the algorithms that drive their search engines, using new metrics and emphasizing or de-emphasizing others in an arms race to stay one step ahead of people trying to game the system. As a result, an SEO strategy that worked well just a few years ago might already be hopelessly outdated. Refreshing your SEO skills periodically is crucial to staying on top of an endlessly evolving field.

Network!

Once your career as an SEO Specialist is underway, take it to the next level by networking with others in your industry and raising your personal profile. Unsurprisingly, developing a wide network as an SEO Specialist begins online. Consider starting your own industry-related website to showcase your own original strategies, demonstrate thought leadership, and share your work while also growing your personal platform. Here, your own page ranking is your best endorsement; building out a strong online presence is to one’s benefit in virtually any field, but particularly in SEO, where the proof is in the pudding.

There are also several networking events for people working SEO, both online and offline, which offer excellent opportunities to meet people in your field. SEO conferences, workshops, and virtual summits give you the chance to brush up on your skills while also connecting to others in your line of work.

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