How to Become an SEO Specialist

Published: May 29, 2019

 Career Readiness       Job Search       Networking       

If you're a student looking at entry-level positions, it's easy to get discouraged by all the jobs that require experience, which you might not have yet.

Have you thought about becoming an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) specialist? That’s a job title that doesn’t require much formal experience. You just learn the things you need to know, and you start working on online projects. As you gain more skills, you’ll make great progress and earn more money.

Why Should I Become an SEO Specialist?

According to PayScale, the average salary for an SEO specialist is above $44K. For a recent graduate, that’s not bad at all. Money and a quick road to independence – those are two big factors that attract new graduates to this industry.

How to Become an SEO Specialist

Search engine optimization is a versatile category. Basically, when people search for a keyword that’s relevant to a website’s business, the SEO specialist implements a strategy to ensure the website appears in the results for that search. This strategy encompasses several methods that make a website more appealing to search engines:

  • Keyword strategy
  • Content development
  • Reputation management
  • Link building
  • Optimization for mobile
  • Website analytics
  • On-page optimization
  • Local search optimization
  • Social media marketing

You’ll notice that some of these concepts are interrelated, so you don’t have to limit yourself to a single one. For example, you can get skilled at keyword planning, content development, and social media marketing all at once. You can also focus on analytics and pay-per-click campaigns.

But how do you do it? How do you become an SEO specialist in 2019?

Understand What Technical SEO Means

The first step to becoming an SEO specialist is to gain knowledge of what SEO actually means. For that, it’s best to take a detailed online course. Coursera offers a great Search Engine Optimization Specialization program, provided by the University of California, Davis. When you gain that certificate, you can take a higher-level course: Advanced SEO Strategies.

Analyze How Google Works

Bookmark the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog. It’s your best source of information about the way the search engine works.

Why is that important for a future SEO specialist? You have to optimize websites to be attractive to Google, so its bots will index it and you’ll achieve a better ranking in search results.

As an example, let’s look at the latest announcement on this blog: mobile-first indexing for new domains. This tells us that the search engine puts the mobile version of a website as a priority. SEO specialists will focus on optimizing the mobile site. They will use Google Analytics or any website audit tool to see how the mobile version performs, and they will experiment with different versions of the pages to improve its rankings.

Focus on Marketing Principles

To become an SEO specialist, you have to be a marketing expert first. When you’re trying to gain better rankings for your pages, you’re essentially marketing them to Google. Of course; you’ll still focus on the users. They are your final destination, and the search engine is just a link in the chain.

To gain a better spot in the search results, you’ll engage in a few types of marketing:

  • Content marketing: you’ll develop high-quality content for your site, but you’ll also write guest posts that deliver backlinks.
  • Pay-per-click ads: Google gives you a chance to get your pages featured above the results.
  • Social media marketing: the search engine’s bots crawl Facebook and other platforms, so your site’s reputation there also matters.
  • Email marketing: it’s important to get as many visitors as possible at your site, so Google will get hints that it’s popular. Email marketing is part of that effort.

Establish Yourself as A Knowledgeable Specialist

While you can become an in-house SEO specialist (one who is hired full-time by a company as part of their own marketing team) with fairly limited experience, it does certainly help to start developing an SEO portfolio of sorts through demonstrable projects. A great way to do this is by building a base of freelance clients.

But before you start hunting for clients, you need to practice your skills. Start a blog or a website. Try to make it popular. It will take some time before it gets on the first page of search results, but it’s possible if you put in some time and effort.

Choose a niche you care for and develop the site without delays. If you need any help with coding, graphic design, content writing, or any other aspect, you can hire freelancers through a platform like Upwork.

It’s important to start your own website since your potential clients will want to see examples of your work. But it may take years before you see real income from this project. You’ll keep working on it, but you may also find clients in the meantime.

You can start your own SEO agency or work as an individual SEO specialist. Whatever your choice is, you’ll need to hit the freelancing market. Many clients are looking for people who can make their websites more popular. You can do that for them.

Freelancing is a viable option for recent graduates. It doesn’t require a massive investment, but it’s a business that can bring you good earnings for a start.

SEO Is Not a Sprint; It's a Marathon

Any SEO specialist will tell you the same thing: it takes a lot of time and effort to get a website on the first page of Google’s results. SEO is a marathon. But so is the process of becoming a specialist. You’ll start from basic and you’ll have a lot to learn before you can call yourself an expert.

With the right dose of commitment and diligence, you can do it. Now you know where to start.