How to Start a Career in SEO – Ultimate Guide

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Ah, the wonderful world of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Without it, you would never read this article. We’ve swan-dived into the world of internet marketability with exponential succession. Over the past twenty years, we’ve gone from fumbling through the web to knowing every nook and cranny. Knowing the ins and outs of getting websites noticed can be a fun and fulfilling job. How to start a career in SEO is a whole topic on its own, though.

While defining the career path of, let’s say, a pediatrician has been carved by centuries of experience, SEO careers are fairly new in the grand scheme of things. It has yet to be ingrained as an ancestral career. Your grandparents probably cannot set you on the right course. So, how does it work? How can one become an SEO specialist?

What is SEO?

As stated, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Simply put: it is the art of getting search websites like Google to rank your page at the top of the results. For example, if you Google chef knives near me, the top few websites that pop up have nailed their SEO. There are millions of websites, so becoming one of the top choices takes undeniable skill.

The art of SEO branches into a multitude of facets; generating content (written or visual), identifying keywords and observing analytics all fall into the role. As the ever-young internet continues to adapt and develop, so does the way search engines organize results. It’s a constantly changing philosophy. It leads to a job that involves learning, creating new techniques and forward-thinking.

Consequently, SEO specialization can be a fulfilling gig for marketers, writers and communications specialists alike. It’s unique in the sense of fluidity. It doesn’t necessarily fall into one realm of skill and continues to involve new abilities. For example, being an SEO Specialist may have you writing an article one day and producing a podcast the next. 

If you have an array of skills and want a job that involves constant learning, SEO may be right for you.

Furthermore, here is the ultimate guide on how to start a career in SEO.

Sidenote: For those wondering. Glassdoor notes the average salary of SEO Specialists as $66,865.

What Degree to Receive?

Let’s get this out of the way. If you plan on going to college for SEO, there are a few different ways to attack it. Unfortunately, there is not a designated degree for SEO. The most obvious parallel would be internet marketing.

Luckily, most SEO Specialist jobs rely on relevant experience and knowledge more than degrees. If you glance at a job board for SEO-related jobs, most of them do not require a degree.

If the job does require a degree, it usually stays within the realm of marketing, business, or communications. Sometimes writing-based degrees are acceptable, too.

Another positive of SEO Specialization is its flexibility amongst candidate requirements. Plenty of different backgrounds leads to SEO jobs. Writers, graphic designers, marketers and business analysts all can end up working in the field.

How to Start a Career in SEO: Best Degrees to Receive

  • BA in Communications
  • BS in Business Administration
  • BS in Computer Science
  • BS in Information Technology
  • BS in Internet Marketing
  • BA in Web Design

No Degree? No Problem

As previously stated, SEO is a wonderful field in regards to its background. Anyone with dedication and experience can land an SEO job.

So, if you have already achieved an unrelated degree, or haven’t gotten one at all, your SEO career path is not met with an impenetrable wall. All candidates, regardless of educational background, are on even ground when applying. The differential is that of ability and past work.

How to start a career in SEO revolves around knowing SEO. That’s it!

Learn SEO

So, if education isn’t necessary (and there aren’t degrees based entirely on SEO), then knowing the intricacies of the field is the most crucial aspect of landing a job. Henceforth, prepare to do an extensive amount of personal research and learning.

If you are jumpstarting with absolutely zero background in SEO or website design, think about taking an online course. Websites like SkillShare have a plethora of SEO-related courses available from beginner to adept. Look around Youtube, Reddit and other online sources for information and tips. 

At the end of the day, learning about SEO is entirely up to you. How you go about it depends on your learning style and dedication. There are countless articles and videos at your fingertips. Bunker down and get to work, soldier.

While knowing about SEO will be important for the interview process (and doing the job itself), having extensive knowledge probably won’t land you an interview. The most important thing to have is a resume. This takes actual work in the field.

Get to Work!

Here’s another magical thing about SEO: experience can be found on your own. We’ve all heard the most common complaint of job seekers in the modern era. How do you get enough experience to land a job when you need the job for experience?

The paradox that haunts all of us. The nightmare that wakes us up in the wee hours of the morning.

Yes, having experience working as an SEO Specialist for a company is a leg up in the application process, but it’s not always a necessity. Achieving SEO mastery on your own is entirely applicable, and can be done for free.

Gaining SEO experience does not require you to land a gig. You can start building your SEO experience right now!

Start a website immediately. If you are looking to achieve more efficient success in SEO, try and corner a market that doesn’t have as many established pages. What are you into? What will you enjoy talking about?

Let’s go back to chef knives, for example. If you are extremely interested in the topic, start a blog about it. Maybe you do blacksmithing in your free time. If so, start an online shop.

Ultimately, you are looking to create a unique site that you can work to advance in your free time. If you decide to sell something, you don’t have to strive to become the next Amazon. You just have to build and represent your growing search-engine knowledge. After all, you need to create a website, regardless of its purpose.

As stated, niche websites may be easier to increase search engine success. Starting a music blog puts you on a battlefield of millions, but starting a music blog specifically for jazz lessens the competition.

Google only loves you when everyone else loves you first.

Wendy Piersall, internet entrepreneur 

Help a Local Business

Furthermore, if you know a friend or family member that has their own business, run their SEO for them. Helping a small business reach new SEO goals looks fantastic on your resume. Sure, it may not pay, but it’s the same as working on your site in your free time. Getting a business to the top of local searches looks more professional and applicable than your blog.

Local businesses are always looking for help with these things, especially if they have a limited staff. If you currently work for a small business or know one, ask them if you can do their online work. Maybe they will pay you a small fare for your efforts.

Henceforth, gaining experience in SEO may require some unpaid effort at first, but it will help you land a career in the future.

Know Your Tools

We are not here to tell you how to get your personal website to the top of Google. All search engine paths are different, and the process continues to change. That’s up to you. Proven success is your key to finding a job in the field.

Learning about Search Engine Optimization and actually proving that you can do it are the most important steps to how to start a career in SEO. It will take time and effort, but it can be done in your free time. Knowing and learning to use all of the available tools is a great start, too.

Learn your way around tools like Google Analytics, Google Ads, Keyword Planners, Ahrefs and Yoast.

Basically, not only should you know the basics of how search engines work, but you should be knowledgeable about all the surrounding tools, too.

Is Coding Necessary?

Firstly, the majority of anxiety around launching into an SEO career is that of coding. Coding is a whole other beast in itself. It’s learning a new language (or multiple, really). It’s a skill that takes people years to learn, much less master.

Is coding necessary to start a career in SEO? The short answer: no, most SEO Specialist jobs require minimum-to-no coding. If coding becomes necessary, it can be taught on the job. While having coding expertise may not be necessary to land an SEO job, it is a plus. Overall, it is needed to become an all-around expert in the field.

A basketball player can make the NBA off of their defensive ability. But to become the next Michael Jordan, they have to know how to score, too.

Awful analogy aside, knowing the basics of coding can be extremely useful in landing a gig. It’s just another skill to put you above other candidates. Will it be needed in practice? Not necessarily. If you are working for a larger-scale company, they most likely have specialists working on the web design side. If you are working for a small company, you may need to know a bit of coding to help solve problems. You may need to be a jack of all trades if there are minimal employees on your side.

Henceforth, if you are looking to get an entry-level SEO job and don’t have any prior experience, bolstering your skills is the best way to get your foot in the door. If you have the time, learn a little coding. If you create your own website and use software like WordPress, you will have to learn a bit of coding in the development process.

Create a Portfolio

If you are looking for an entry-level SEO job and do not have any prior work experience in the field, then a portfolio is a necessity. If you have experience in the field, you still need a portfolio.

Your resume credentials will not win you a job alone. SEO Specialists need to have proof of success.

Your portfolio should include all of your campaigns and how you went about them. Make sure to keep detailed notes on what you do and how you do it. Prove you have displayed an ability to adapt and try new avenues. As previously said, SEO is an adapting field. You need to be able to try new things to be successful.

Furthermore, keep note of all the numbers. Keep all the analytics for each project. Maintain strong data about analytics like page views, new visitors, loading times and page rankings. These metrics are the proof in the pudding. They show that not only do you understand SEO, but you can successfully implement your tactics.

Because getting an entry-level job in the search engine field does not require an education or previous experience, proving your ability is the most important part.

Tailor Your Resume

We have spent countless words explaining how to construct the best resume. It’s kind of our specialty here. Ironically enough, a lot of our resume tips coincide with the same concepts as SEO.

For example, use keywords in your resume. Identify the specific words and skills a job post is looking for and work them into your skills and job history section. Much like websites, don’t overstuff your resume with these keywords, though.

Look at that! Using SEO to get a job in SEO.

Furthermore, when applying for SEO jobs, list former SEO experience in your job history. Think of it as a freelance gig, even if it wasn’t paid. If you helped a local business get their website to the top of the rankings, make sure to put that as a job you previously had. It shows experience in the field, even if it isn’t paid.

Ultimately, your resume is the chance to show that you know every facet of search engine optimization. Make sure to include all of the jargon and tools you learn during your research and implementation phase.

My Oh My How Time Flies

Much like the act of building up SEO itself, landing a job takes time. Think of it this way: you are heading towards a career that doesn’t require a degree. It is going to take time and effort on your own part.

Building a top website and becoming successful on the internet seems like quick satisfaction, but it’s anything but. It’s going to take time, effort and dedication. The tactics you learn starting may be all but useless in a year. That’s the fun of SEO. It takes constant research and learning.

Do not get discouraged if there isn’t a fast turnaround. If you want to start a career in the field, it will take time. Just keep up with things when you can. Work to build your website in your free time. Do research when you have a break. Breaking into this field involves a lot of work on your own. Unless you manage to find a job that will allow you to learn SEO and go through the growing pains on company time, it’s going to take a lot of personal time to get there.

Keep your chin up and keep working. Take the time to build a solid foundation before you begin your job search. It may take more time than other career paths, but if you enjoy it, it’s worth it.

Network, Network, Network

Asking others how to start a career in SEO is crucial, too. Consequently, no one jumps into a career without knowing a few people. Networking is important for any profession. The good thing is that SEO Specialists are always online.

Connect with other SEO workers over social media and forum platforms. Reach out to experts for advice. Send emails to other specialists for backlink help or tips. Build a network of other people for education and advice. This networking may always lead to references, new skills, or potential job openings.

Furthermore, keep an eye out for SEO conferences, workshops and online meetings. There are always a ton of ways to meet other professionals in the field. For example, just searching SEO on Twitter can lead to thousands of profiles of specialists. They are likely to answer replies, too. Being online is their job, after all.


Becoming an SEO Specialist is all about what you know, how you implement it and who you know. It takes personal dedication and time.

Finally, if you are interested in the field, take some free time to research the basics or build your website. The great thing about SEO is that you don’t need a job to get experience. After signing a job offer, you won’t be blindsided by a career you don’t like. You can get your hands dirty and figure out if it’s for you from the comfort of your home.

Go start! Give it a try, If you like it, continue to grow your abilities and eventually reach out to job applications. This career doesn’t involve waiting and seeing. This career involves doing. You can start right now, so do it.

We can tell you how to start a career in SEO all day, but it’s null and void. The biggest tip is to start. Just start.