You might not have dreamt about getting a job at an SEO agency when you were a kid, but you can make it pretty cool if you really want to. Everyone I know in SEO loves SEO and their job, and if they’re not all that happy with who they’re working for, they won’t have any problems moving to another, better paid role whenever they want.
Recruiting an experienced, reliable SEO analyst, manager or consultant is quite a challenge for an employer. Truth is, there’s still a huge gap in the jobs market for candidates with the right CV’s. If you’re a graduate looking to move into online marketing, you could do very well for yourself in SEO. Here’s my guide to getting a job in search engine optimisation and making a rockstar career for yourself.
Stage 1 – Pull together some basic skills
If you want to get an edge over the other applicants for your first role there are some skills that will put you leagues ahead of the others. Being able to look at a website and show an understanding of the basic SEO principles that underpin its success (or failure) is a great first step.
As an employer, I’ve found myself drawn to graduate CV’s with words like blog, html, CSS, SEO, Wordpress, Analytics and so on. So, time to brush up on those skills! It’s all very well having the words on your CV but can you demonstrate how you have used them?
So, if you want to be more or less guaranteed to get the interview and sail it, here’s what you should do:
Start a blog in a platform like WordPress or create your own, basic website. As Danny at SEOmoz puts it:
“Before diving into SEO techniques it is important to know the basics of web development.”
I couldn’t agree more. For me, I would always go with a blog platform like WordPress, because you get the chance to tweak the site for SEO and write about something you care about at the same time. That said, it really doesn’t hurt to understand the basics of creating a page in HTML, using a CSS stylesheet and FTPing your work to a host site. Ultimately, providing a blog or basic site url on your CV will look really good. If you’ve got friends in business, and they happen to have a website, offer up some free SEO advice to them – many small companies are on a really tight budget and will be willing to learn with you. Just be clear and set their expectations properly.
One of the other good reasons to use WordPress is that it’s really easy to tweak using plugins. Here’s a guide to get you started. One of the first things you should do is set up a Google Analytics account and go get Joost De Valk’s Analytics for WordPress plugin. Suddenly you’ve got a powerful, free analytics tool that is usable enough to easily teach you some of the basic metrics of website performance. This is important, if you can talk confidently about search engine traffic, bounce rates, keywords and define all of those metrics you see in the Google Analytics dashboard then you’ll be fine.
Stage 2 – Read up on basic SEO and start to apply it
You’ve got a lot of reading to do, but don’t let that put you off! There are a few really good websites that can give you a solid kick start into the industry. One of the places I really learnt about SEO was SEOmoz. The Beginner’s Guide To SEO is still one of the most definitive and complete guides to the fundamental principles of SEO. It’s not a static document either – it has been recently updated as techniques have developed. It’s best to read a few pages a day and try to implement each idea into your new website. For example, after you’ve read the URLs, Titles and Meta Data section in the guide you might want to refer to Yoast.com’s WordPress SEO guide and read up on how to apply optimised meta titles to your site. That WordPress guide is extremely useful stuff and working through both will practically give you an understanding of SEO and show you how to apply it. You might also want to try out Aaron Wall’s SEObook, who has a suite of free tools and lots of blog history to catch up on.
If you’re a quick study and you like to read, it might be time to start visiting a few of the better recognised SEO industry websites. I recommend to all beginners that they should start keeping an eye out for the best bloggers and most authoritative sources of SEO news quite early on. It really helps in an interview if you can talk about SEO sites that you visit regularly and explain why you like them. Mentioning one good site is great but knowing a few is really good. If you’re using an email client that has an RSS reader or if you use Google Reader you should definitely consider adding RSS feeds from these sites below:
SearchEngineLand – Search Engine Land: Must Read News About Search Marketing & Search Engines.
SEOmoz – SEOmoz: Read SEOmoz, Rank Better. Great guides and a wealth of thousands of thought provoking blog posts.
SEObook – SEO Book.com is a leading SEO blog by Aaron Wall covering the search space. It offers marketing tips, search analysis, and whatever random rants come to mind.
Search Engine Roundtable – The pulse of the search marketing community.
Matt Cutts – Gadgets, Google, and SEO. Matt has been the head of Google’s webspam team for as long as I can remember. Excellent background reading spanning back a long time.
There are of course, many more recommended sites than this. Check out this post for a great list of bookmarks. If you’re feeling really brave then you could download the OPML file from Toprankblog’s Search Marketing Biglist – be prepared to delete a few though as they’re not all 100% relevant to pure SEO! If you want to download a thinned down version, you can download my OPML file here.
So you’ve read up on SEO and you have experience in applying it to your own website. What next? Links.
Stage 3 – Understand the fundamentals of linkbuilding
Some SEO’s feel that linkbuilding is the hardest part of their job. The best SEO’s I know founded their career in linkbuilding! Being able to discuss how to get links on the internet will really tick some boxes with your interviewer. Try reading this beginners guide to linkbuilding first and then check out the ideas below. You should examine each closely, and try to give a real life example of how you’d apply the technique in your interview:
- Genuinely original, link worthy content – add value for users, answer questions, demonstrate value ad original thinking and you’ll attract links.
- Link bait - hilarious quotes in images of cats looking inquisitive or just plain stupid? Sounds like link bait. For a proper run down of link baiting techniques, read this and this and this and this.
- Article websites – Articlesbase.com for example. Sadly, they’ve started to nofollow links.
- Directories – debatable value lately especially as Google have removed “directories” from their Webmaster guidelines but still, here’s a useful article on the top directories you should submit your blog to.
There are lots of other ways to attract links and there’s lots of really good content on the subject, try downloading “Link building notes of an SEO Kindergartner” from this article.
Stage 4 – Tools and resources for the job
I’ve just started to read through this incredibly detailed list of useful tools for SEO – The Internet Marketing Handbook. It’s an amazingly complete list and I get the feeling I’ll be referring back to it on a regular basis. It’s already added to my favourites!
Stage 5 – Start applying for jobs
Your next move is absolutely vital. Search for a recruitment agency who understand SEO and in this case, graduate recruitment. Agencies like The Graduate Recruitment Company in London or take a look at jobs boards like jobsinsearch.com. Obviously not everyone reading this article will be looking for SEO jobs, in the London area but there are lots of recruiters all over the UK searching for junior candidates with the right skills and attitude, so remain confident!
Speak to every agency you find, and ask questions related to the training and support you’ll receive from each of the potential employers advertising for SEO roles. You should look out for progressive agencies who will look after your training and development and give you all the support you need to succeed. Ask questions about the conferences and training they will allow you to attend and the tools at your disposal to do your job. Listen out for SMX and SES as a yardstick measure of whether you’ll be sent to good events. Obviously there are many more conferences across the world – so take a look at this conference calendar to get an idea of what’s going on and where.
Stage 6 – the Interview
There are lots of websites with example SEO interview questions. Try not to worry, you’re applying for junior roles, remember! As long as you’ve soaked up the ideas above, you’ll nail an interview. That said, here’s a few example questions from me.
- Tell me about your blog. What features are optimised for search engines?
- Explain what factors might influence how a page ranks on a Google search page.
- Tell me how you would get more links to your website (I might ask for a specific example, say a car enthusiast or a recruitment company)
- What metrics might be important to a search engine marketer?
See! Pretty easy if you’ve read all of this. I hope my article has been useful and if you’re considering joining our community then I wish you all the best of luck. It’s a great industry and it can be a great deal of fun. Happy SEOing