SEO Expert

You Don't Need a College Degree or Experience For This High Paying Career

Did you know... Google, IBM & Apple both recently announced they are ditching college degree requirements. While this may come as a surprise to many, it shouldn’t in light of souring college education loans and the years it takes to acquire a degree. 

Ever thought of becoming an SEO Consultant? 

If you found this page, and expected to find a list of top 50 jobs that don’t require a degree from USA today - look no further, I got ya covered.

However, if you think digital marketing might be something you hadn't considered before read on. I'm living proof that you can do work and create a high paying career for yourself  without a college degree. If you develop some great unique skills that companies like Accenture, Fiat, and many others are in need of, the degree becomes less important. 

What is Digital Marketing? 

digital marketing experiences

Online marketing or digital marketing at its core, is marketing done purely online, through social media in the form of Facebook advertising, optimizing YouTube videos, or the paid ads you see in your Google search, called pay per click (PPC), search engine optimization (SEO) optimizing your site for search engines, email marketing and content marketing and lots more.

The above image should help you understand all the various types of digital marketing channels any business will invest in to get their products and services sold online. 


  Fun Fact  # 1

seo expert

" SEO jobs are up 43 percent year over year. Content marketing jobs are up 33 percent year over year" 

Businesses are increasing their investment in organic channels. Content & SEO are growing fields for both junior and senior professionals

reference: Conductor 2018 Marketing Salary


Is it Possible To Develop a Six-Figure Career in Search Marketing?  

The Answer: Yes, Very! 
If you graduated from a traditional 4-year university as an accounting major. You likely could work for a company as an accountant. You’d start off in an entry level position, making mid $50,000 a year, and eventually get promoted up to analyst or manager level, and eventually to executive level. Not bad, and certainly a very respectable career path. 

You might even find some certifications through financial associations you could acquire and maybe later on a masters degree would also help you get promoted. You get where I’m going - it’s pretty much a straight, longish path. 

Digital Marketing, social media marketing, search marketing, digital analytics, conversion rate optimization, content marketing - it all can go in so many different directions and much, much faster! 

There is no specific career trajectory, which makes this such an exciting career choice. You can literally go from SEO Specialist one year, to Sr. Manager or Director within two. 

As someone who has some college, but no actual degree,  I was able to launch a career in SEO with zero search work experience at a boutique search agency in the NY Metro area. The starting salary was $70,000 in 2006. Since then, I have seen my salary raise to over 300%, because of my search marketing skills and expertise I acquired over the course of ten years. You Can Too! 

BTW - Before I got my first job at the boutique digital agency, I read a lot offline and online, and I took a single in person SEO class through an independent consultant from Toronto back in 2005. Yes, very early days of Google and what search marketing even was. 

I even have the actual review  - here’s the actual quote I gave him (still posted online after all this time)  

seo review

I read  A LOT and practiced all the tactics I could find to learn SEO. I found out what the basic best practices were and read the most credible online blogs I could find. 

9 Traits and Skills You Need To Become an Effective SEO Professional 

I'll assume you have no experience, or maybe you just decided to make a career change. It makes no matter - college or no college, technical background or services background - does not matter. Learning to become an SEO specialist is not rocket science, but you do need to apply yourself regularly. 

I spent the majority of my career leading SEO programs, building SEO programs, interviewing new SEO specialists, directors, evaluating SEO tools, and becoming immersed in SEO. If you have an interest in SEO, I’m going to share with you how you can get into this really incredible career and do really well financially.

Let’s start with some identifiable skills, or personality traits that help make the SEO consultant or specialist most successful.

1. A Real Interest in Digital Marketing 

Just be curious and have the will to learn. Sounds simple, but an interest and a desire to learn is absolutely one of the most important success factors in developing your search marketing career.

I've got a link to an article by one of my favorite digital marketing platform companies, Conductor.

Now, take this with a grain of salt. I don’t think I’m that much of an anomaly, but when you read this article it may give you pause because of the education or description of what is mentioned for SEO Specialist, with number of years out of college, etc. This is all very subjective and something I’ve rarely witnessed in practice. 

Reference:  Digital Marketing Career Path

2. Change

Do you welcome changing and challenging environments over the course of one work day? If SEO is something you might want to consider as a career, you absolutely must be ready for change and uncertainty. There will be challenging days. I'll give you an example that might help paint the picture a bit.

You could walk into work one day and your boss or client could ask you "What's going on with our traffic? We lost 30% of all organic traffic overnight.?" You have to put asside what you thought you were going to work on that day to understand the root cause of what may have happened.

Was there a major algorithm change in Google that now has affected the site? Could the analytics code on the site have been removed somehow from those pages that saw a decline in traffic? Was there a change you were not notified of by the development team - moving pages from one location to another without including a 301 redirect?

The point is it could be any number of reasons. Remaining calm and methodical, and embracing the challenge is something every SEO specialist will experience from time to time.

I could go into this in even more depth and detail in another post, but for now, if you're further down the road and currently working as an SEO, check out the reference article I linked to below. Ahrefs, one of my favorite go to resources wrote a real extensive commentary on this subject. 

seo traffic decline

I could go into this in even more depth and detail in another post, but for now, if you're further down the road and currently working as an SEO, check out the reference article I linked to below. Ahrefs, one of my favorite go to resources wrote a real extensive commentary on this subject. 

ReferenceHave a look at the SEO Visibility - Complete Beginner's Guide to Traffic Loss from Ahrefs

3. Think Analytically 

I don't mean you should be some sort of analytics or statistics nerd. You should be able to think of things from an analytical perspective.  

Why could a page rank and get more traffic than another? Do you enjoy testing something out and seeing it work, or not, and if not, head back to the drawing board to figure out how to improve that? 

Do you have an open mind, and consider there might be more than one reason something doesn't work. If you have a page that lags in ranking and traffic, and doesn't convert well - there likely isn't ever one reason why. You need to understand that there could be any number of variables at play, and be interested enough in finding out why. 

4. Be a Team Player 

As a female in this still mostly male dominated field, I have found that those with a "know it all" or "my way works best" attitude aren't the best to work with. Those that know it all, and never share any learnings or keep anything they know to themselves, without sharing with others make the worst SEO consultant team members. 

You get better by learning and sharing and growing. You are human, you will make some big mistakes, and you will learn from them. You are NOT perfect, and if you think you could be some SEO Rockstar, avoid walking around like you're the sh**. Cocky headed SEO dudes aren't the types that become much of anything. There, I made my point. Learn, grow, share and don't fear sharing something you tried and found works with your fellow SEO peeps. 

5. Listen. Then, Help Your Client. 

You might work as an independent SEO consultant, or you might work for a management consulting firm, or agency - you have clients. You must listen to them.

They likely don’t know anything about SEO, but they will ask you to “call up Google and ask for a rank increase” or some other unreasonable request. What they’re trying to understand is how they’ll see growth in sales, visitors and ultimately a return on their investment. It’s your job to show them how that’s possible.

Having SEO workshops for your client and their team, could be a great way to help them understand how Google ranks pages, how mobile page speed impacts your site’s ability to keep and retain visitors, and how their developers can apply some technical best practices that make your job much easier.

6. Read and Take Action on Learnings 

There are so many really good resources out there. First, I’ll start with my own - a free downloadable SEO Guide for those serious about learning how to kick start your SEO career.

There are many others packed into this guide, bug start here first. Now I'll go into other online resources I highly recommend and have been around for more than 10 years - will show you these are the powerhouses of the SEO industry and once you read through you'll quickly see why. 

I usually get asked this question at least 3,899 times a week "What SEO resources would you recommend?"

Well my friends, here they are in no particular order. 

search engine roundtable seo resources

Since 1994, Barry Schwartz has long been someone who provides timely, expert advice and relays all Google news alerts, algorithm updates, and any and all search related news. If I need to know in real time what's happening in search - I visit SE Roundtable.

Barry also writes for SearchEngineLand, another valuable resource ---->

search engine land seo resources

This is another resource I've referred to on so many occasions since 2006. Always has timely, advice from industry leaders all in one site. They break up sections in the site - SEM, SEO, Mobile, etc. 

I really like that they can go real deep on a particular technical topic. There's something here for every beginner to the very advanced in SEO. 

moz expert seo resource

One of the best places to learn bar all things search bar none. I have recommended Moz Whiteboard Friday to so many people.

The show and tell and explanation of something as difficult to understand like faceted navigation or SEO A/B testing to keyword research for ecommerce, and everything in between. 



Google webmaster blog

I'd be a complete fool if I never mentioned Google Webmaster Blog. This is something you MUST be reading on a regular basis. Google will talk about their products, Google Search Console,  or anything else you, as the SEO who manages any SEO program, must be keenly aware of. 

Here's where you'll learn about any algorithm changes, or new tools to help evaluate aspects of your site. I also very often reference Google Blog, anytime I've worked with a client to notify them of any change or best practice. Having a reliable resource,  straight from the horse's mouth, is what you should be sharing with your team, or clients.

You may find yourself having to justify a recommendation you want to make, and just referencing something Google has specified is all the justification you'll need.  

7. Talk to Other SEOs

Always ask loads of questions and learn from their process. Not everyone will do things the same way, because lots of what you learn in SEO is picked up from various methods and trainings. 

Some do keyword research one way, others conduct site audits another. Learn, then do. Then eventually you'll have your own method for doing things. If you found a fool proof way to identify how something can be done, share it with others. We all get much smarter, the more we share and learn. SEO is an "always learning" kind of career. Keep learning from other SEO professionals - talk to them at SMX conferences, or through SEO forums online. 

8. Do Strategy 

Understand this early and often, that strategy in every SEO program is one of the most important things you can do to get your program off the ground and sold to your boss or other senior leaders in the organization. 

There is some basic ways to begin your strategy. Anytime, you begin a new SEO program, start with Strategy! I could go on and on about the importance of SEO strategy, but for now, I'll say this is one of the first things I learned, and helped me get promoted from SEO specialist to Associate Director of SEO. 

For anyone interested in how to start thinking about SEO strategy - check out this article by Hubspot

9. Understand Project Management

No, you do not need to be a professional project manager, but you should be able to be open to learning something about Agile SEO. 

agile seo

The basic Agile tenets apply. 

The Agile SEO Cycle

DISCOVERY / ANALYZE / STRATEGIZE / EXECUTE / MEASURE / REPORT / ADJUST

Discovery

This kicks off the SEO project. You need to establish a discovery call with the team, or client to understand all goals and objectives of the business. Learn as much as you can here. Who are the competitors? What are the primary products and services this client cares most about? How do they measure SEO success? 

​​Analyze

Review all analytics, any data that helps you learn more about the site you're about to optimize. Using tools like Conductor Searchlight, Google Search Console, reviewing any past analysis will also help. 

Strategize

Once you've accumulated all the necessary data, and discovery you can pull it all together into a concise SEO strategy. Developed out of all the conversations and data you'll have enough to go on to develop the strategy and timeline with which to implement. 

Execute

After you've shared your strategy and got buy in. You then begin to execute the plan. This should include your technical and content auditing, keyword research, and rolling into an ongoing recommendation cycle, that should also include implementation of all your recommendations. You should identify a regular time each month when all recommendations will be implemented. This is where the next part of the cycle comes in nicely. 

Measure

Using the preferred analytics platform for your client or your employer, you develop a search marketing dashboard consisting of your key performance indicators (KPIs). These should include new visitors, pages getting most and least traffic, best and worst converting pages, number of sales your organic search traffic contributes to the business. Notice I never said your keyword ranking.

That's because the Google algorithm (Hummingbird, and RankBrain) look at many other factors, no longer how a single keyword ranks. Not to mention the fact that SEO is so much more than what keywords rank. It should be what pages are ranking, for what keywords and of those, how many are converting to sales. Measure visitor to lead traffic. That is key. 

Report

Reporting on your performance at regular intervals will help provide your boss, client, etc the understanding that what you're doing has an impact. Reporting on your key performance indicators during monthly and quarterly meetings will help your team see the immediate impact of the SEO operation

Adjust

After you measure and report, you'll know what might need adjusting. You may find that a particular page isn't getting the visibility or engagement you'd hope for. Here's where you make those adjustments, fine tune it and roll back into the cycle. 

There's loads more help I can offer, but let me know if there's anything else you have questions about. 

Have you developed your own project management style? If you have - share it here! 

Janet

Janet has over 16 years building, optimization, mentoring, and teaching SEO to hundreds of digital marketers, agencies, digital marketing teams, and developers - anyone who has a need to learn SEO professionally. Consulted for Fiat, Verizon, Kia Motors, Payless Shoes, Bank of Montreal, and many, many others

  • Aswani says:

    Excellent reading. SEO consulting can be a very good career choice. Your points are really valuable in this regard. Thanks for sharing.

  • >