Meghan Burton, Director of SEO at Epiphany shares some useful advice on how to land a job in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)…
Getting into the SEO industry can seem insurmountable; it’s a highly-valued career path, but because there is no formal training process, it’s not always easy to know where to start. The internet is full of information, but plenty of it is out of date and many businesses do things in their own, defined way, which can make it a challenge to know exactly how to present to a new company.
As a hiring manager for Epiphany, I’ve interviewed dozens of brand new SEOs and have put together the following guidance on how to land your first job in SEO.
Learn what you can
It never ceases to amaze me how many people apply for a job in SEO without even having a look at the wealth of information that exists across the internet on what it is and broadly how to do it. Spoiler alert, it isn’t just updating metadata. You spend years training for other careers, so why not start before you apply? A dive through is the bare minimum.
Some of the most successful SEOs start up their own websites or blogs to see what might work before they step through the door. You won’t always get it right but a platform to build from goes a very long way.
Bring an inquisitive mindset
Although I’ve just gone on about the reams of information available online, many answers to SEO problems are not straightforward. Different things work in different verticals and with different clients. We’ve been doing this for 14 years as an agency – collectively in our team for far, far more man hours – and we still encounter problems we’ve never seen before. Much of what we do is merging best practice with experience, testing, and gut feel, especially when a client is incapable of implementing your ideal solution.
You will need to have a problem-solving mindset and the flexibility to try and experiment with new things. I like to think of SEOs as a collective of detectives; you must be able to poke around and find things to test or fix, even if they’re new, and have the ability to share with and learn from your peers. Think about how best to demonstrate this in your interview, whether you’ve been allocated a task or have examples from previous employment or education.
Show initiative and passion
I firmly believe that initiative is one of the main drivers of a successful employee in any business. Show me that you can own your role, you don’t need permission to do what is right for a client and that you can take on and deliver the extra mile (within reason of course – there’s a difference between someone who simply takes on too much and drowns vs someone who makes a difference in a business!).
You’ll often find that not only is the first role yours, but you’ll get promotions and progress within the business too.
Secondly, passion – because SEOs are essentially a group of problem-solvers, you need to have an interest in what you’re doing to keep ahead of the curve. SEOs who want to solve clients’ problems often fall down investigative rabbit holes simply because they want to know the answers. Persistence is a must; you’ll be rewarded when your client finally turns a corner or sees record levels of revenue from that new problem you found. A passion for the discipline allows someone to rise from a decent SEO to an amazing one.
A bit of coding doesn’t hurt either
Your life will be immeasurably easier as a beginner SEO if you understand a little bit about how websites tick – the more, the better. Not only will you be able to look at the implementation of your technical recommendations, but you’ll be able to speak to the developers implementing them yourself without a go-between.
As well, some knowledge of coding and a desire to delve further opens you up to tool creation and automation; these are invaluable skills to make your work more efficient and go further for clients.
A job interview is partly for you to assess how you’ll get on with your potential employer, too. Look closely at their website and learn what you can about how they do things. How are projects planned out? How much autonomy will you have versus how much is your work planned for you? What kinds of clients will you be working on? Can they describe their approach to SEO to you?
Almost everyone we interview sticks with a single question, if that, but digging deeper not only allows you to understand more about the job environment but also shows your potential employer that you’re interested. We understand that everyone just wants a job, but for a beginner role, we often get quite a few applications. A trio of well-thought-out questions can help you stand out in a crowded field of applicants.
Getting a job in SEO isn’t all that different from any other industry. Prepare yourself for the job you’d like to take on and show that you have the character traits required to succeed and you’ll find that employers respond accordingly.