How To Start A Career In SEO: From In House to Agency To Freelance

The life of an SEO is full of spreadsheets, coffee, and saying "it depends" again and again and again and again.


If that sounds appealing to you then great. Maybe a career in SEO is for you. So here is everything you need to know about how to start a career in SEO.


What Is An SEO?

SEO was born a few years after the internet (apparently) although some people will argue that technically SEO started when the first search engine launched. Whatever side of the fence you're on, SEO is one of those jobs that just didn’t exist 20 years ago.


It's the job of an SEO to get a page from a website appearing as high up in a search result page as possible. That's what we call ranking. We don't pay to rank highly, we use our brains and know-how to get there instead. It's not that complicated, everyone can do it if you put your back into it (here's a link to the song because it will be going through your head all day now we've said it).


So no, SEOs aren't the people who put ads all over your computer, which you will get asked a lot from every relative or mate down the pub who doesn't really have a clue what you do as an SEO.


Types Of SEO

Are you techy? Love writing? Talk a lot? It depends (there it is) on who you are, but you might find one aspect of SEO more appealing to you than others.

There are different types of SEO that you can choose to specialise in. But don't be one of *those* people and make sure you have an understanding of all SEO types. At least read a Wiki page or two. It will help everyone you work with and you. We promise.

Content SEO – perfect if you love writing and have a way with words. But don't be fooled, your writing needs to be data-driven. Learn about keyword research, search volume, SERP analysis, how to write optimized content, and what meta descriptions are.

Technical SEO – perfect if you're techy and know how to code. You need to be able to figure out what's wrong, why, and how to fix it. Learn about page speed, tags, HTML, and structured data.

Outreach & PR – perfect if you're outgoing and like people (not all SEOs do. Dogs are better). You will need to build relationships with strangers so they link to your website. Learn about backlinks, outreach, and PR.


Types Of SEO Jobs

Before you specialise into one area of SEO, let's talk about what types of SEO jobs are out there.

There are three main types of SEO job:

In House SEO

As an in house SEO you will be working for a business. You will be hired and employed by the business who owns the website you work on. In bigger and international businesses you might be part of an SEO team with managers, executives, and specialists. For smaller companies, you might be the only person working on their SEO, so if you're just starting out as an SEO, working in house for a smaller company isn't the best place to be. If you land a job as the only SEO for a company, make sure you network to keep sane and keep learning.

Agency SEO

As an SEO at an agency, you will work for a marketing agency that provides SEO services to multiple clients. You could have different SEO roles in an agency like:

SEO Account Manager – whose job it is to communicate with clients and manage their expectations and performance reports. You're client-facing so might find yourself in lots of phone calls, face-to-face meetings, and on the end of some 'why isn't this working' emails. It's down to you to run the client's interactions with the agency.

SEO Strategist – whose job it is to audit the client's website, work out what needs to be done, and provide a strategy/roadmap to get things done. You could be managing a team that will do things for you, or you could also be responsible for managing the account. It really depends (get used to this phrase. SEOs say it a lot) on the size of your agency.

SEO Executive – whose job it is to get tasks done, manage day-to-day performance (usually), and roll out the strategy in accordance with the roadmap. You probably work with a strategist, or if you're really experienced you might find yourself auditing, creating strategy, and doing the tasks. Sometimes you might have support from specialist marketeers like content writers and technical specialists.

Technical SEO Executive – whose job it is to fix and improve technical aspects of the site including tagging, page speed, structured data implementation, coding, and more. This is specialist work for people who are tech-minded and know basic coding. As a technical SEO executive, you probably won't be asked to do any strategy or content work. But again, it depends.

Content Writer – whose job it is to do keyword research and write SEO optimised content that ranks. Your job is all about writing content that users want to read, your client loves, and search engines rate. No pressure.

Freelance SEO

As a freelance SEO you are likely self-employed. You'll have your own clients and it's your job to manage them and get paid. Basically, you decide what clients you work with and when to get out of bed in the morning. The dream.

But being a freelancer isn't all roses. You have no guaranteed income, all of the responsibility is all on you, it can be a challenge to get clients to pay, and even to get clients in the first place.

So if you don't have SEO experience Freelance SEO is probably not for you. But there's nothing wrong with trying it in your spare time to gain experience and some money for the pub. You never know, you might be running your own agency and writing a how-to-guide yourself someday.


How To Start A Career In SEO

If you are still convinced that you can stare at spreadsheets, say it depends, and fend off people moaning about internet ads, then great. Here's what you need to do:

  1. Figure Out What You Enjoy – Choose whether you want to specialise in a specific type of SEO or just be happy go lucky and do it all. Whatever you choose, make sure you enjoy it. Your job will be very dull and unfulfilling if not. No one wants Monday dread.

  2. Read Up & Listen – Read up on everything SEO. Subscribe to blogs like Moz, Semrush, and SEJ. Follow Googlers on Twitter (John Mueller can be funny too). Go to talks like BrightonSEO (serious fun). And NETWORK. Put yourself out there by asking questions on groups like WTS. There are no stupid questions. We're all one big coffee-loving community.

  3. Start A Job Search – Wherever you are in the world, most SEO jobs are in tech hubs (fancy word for cities where tech companies live). So if you're in the UK you'll find lots of SEO jobs in London and Manchester. If you're in Spain you'll see SEO jobs advertised in Barcelona and Madrid. If you're in the US you'll see San Diegeo, New York, and Atlanta come up a lot in your searches. But there are lots of SEO jobs all over the world in locations you wouldn't expect. Remember: if a company has a website, it should be doing some SEO.

  4. Keep Learning – While you're job searching and interviewing, keep learning. Try freelancing for free if you have the time. Forget 'everyone hates a show off' because it will look pretty impressive on your resume.

  5. Start Your First Job – When you land your first SEO job, absorb everything. Learn from people, talk to people. It's ok to admit you're a beginner. SEO can be a good-paying career, but everyone has to start somewhere so don't be afraid to admit you're not an expert.

  6. Go To Events – Attend SEO conferences and keep posting and networking. Or be bold and pitch to speak at a conference yourself. Once you've got your feet under the table at your job and are getting some good results, it's time to start making a name for yourself.

  7. Move On To Another Job – Loyalty is great. But so is more money. Once you have learned what you can in your first job, go for your second. SEOs are rewarded for staying in one place. It's all about experience in different industries and being able to get results for lots of different clients.


Become An SEO

So there you have it. Everything you need to know on how to start a career in SEO from someone who's done it.

Learn, network, and be bold. But don't say I didn't warn you about the spreadsheets and 'it depends'.

If you want to try working for us at Honeypot Marketing UK, speak to us. We don't bite.

Rebecca Todd

Author and founder of Honeypot Marketing UK

linkedin.com/in/rebeccatodd-seo/