For all the scary stories about SEO being dead, it is still very much alive and kicking. The last Econsultancy survey shows that companies increase spending on SEO every year. Companies are getting more sophisticated about how they spend their digital marketing budgets and measure their impact. The statistics are compelling: 55% of companies are increasing their SEO budgets this year, for example, and it was 51% last year.
This has created a huge increase of SEO roles, both in boutique consultancies and the big media agencies. Even Google Trends looks good for SEO… (this chart obviously comes with a lot of caveats).
I come from the generation of “bedroom SEOs.” I was self-taught, and I was experimenting with SEO before it became a core marketing channel. I initially found it difficult to get interviews in London at the big agencies without having agency experience.
But now, I have been fortunate enough to provide SEO consultancy from start-ups to billion dollar companies and interviewed over a hundred candidates for SEO roles. If you want a job in SEO, it’s totally possible with some hard work and a little ingenuity—even if you have no agency experience. But there is no excuse for turning up to an SEO interview and having nothing to show. You should be able to show skills or use of technology. You should be involved in the community.
There are free tools, free events, and you can even create a website for free. I’ve been where you are now, and here is my guide for getting your first job in SEO. Read this and you will ace that interview.
Should You Start With A Big Agency or A Boutique Agency? What About Client-Side?
There are advantages and disadvantages to going in-house with a large corporate agency, as opposed to a smaller boutique agency. If you are new to SEO and you want to achieve that steep learning curve, then I would recommend applying for roles within a more specialised agency as opposed to a larger media companies.
That is not saying that large media agencies are poor at SEO and don’t have the team skills. They’re great! You can learn a lot in those places. But these teams tend to be more distracted by client servicing or preparing pitch documents, and they may not have the time to spend educating and improving your knowledge. So if you want to jump-start your career and become a real SEO whiz, then smaller agencies have a lot of advantages.
You also have the option of trying to go in-house as an SEO at a big company. These companies are, of course, laser-focused on their product, so in this case, you will quickly become a specialist. This can be good if you want to keep working in that industry, but you might prefer agency life if you aren’t sure that you want to specialise yet. Additionally, your company might not know much about digital marketing, let alone SEO, and so you will need to be a very good communicator with non-technical people.
Here is an excellent, long post from Moz about the differences between working at an agency, in-house, and freelance SEO.
There are also some interesting articles out there that are aimed at helping clients hire SEO experts. For example, this short post from Layer3 tries to educate clients about whether they should hire in-house or agency SEO. There is also a similar, longer article from SearchEngineWatch. If you read between the lines on these articles then you can learn a lot about what it might be like to work for different clients.
What Not To Do During An SEO Interview
You might laugh when you read these, but I promise, all these things happened to me. Here are some genuinely wrong things to do during an SEO interview:
- Do not take replica handguns and draw them during an interview.
- Do not sit there and eat your breakfast while you are interviewing.
- Do not explain how you want to come to work, put on your headphones, and listen to music all day.
- Don’t say: “I had no budget for links.” And don’t ever say: “I don’t know Panda or Penguin, as I have had no clients with those issues.” I will talk more about this below, but you should memorise this:
There is no excuse for turning up to an SEO interview and not having any examples or SEO tests to show.
Do You Rank For Your Own Name?
You Should Get On That!
When you start getting SEO interviews, nine out of ten interviewers will Google your name before the interview. Make sure you have a website, social profiles, and comments on SEO blogs that are all ranking for your name. This will demonstrate your understanding of basic SEO, and it will show that you’re active in the SEO community (more on this in the Community section below).
Creating Your Own Personal Website
There is no excuse to not show experimentation techniques with your own personal website. Web hosting can be bought for a few pounds a month and some even offer free web hosting when ordering a domain name.
I would look to create pages/posts on your personal website where you can show your testing for basic SEO skills for on page SEO. Your own personal website allows you to link your social accounts and demonstrate your basic understanding of why links are important in SEO. Talking about your own website will allow you to feel more in control with the interview: You can do all the talking with a website you’re comfortable with, instead of fielding random questions about random websites.
Your website can show your mastery of concepts like:
- Implementation of schema to show Google additional markup,
- hreflang to show that you know how to target different global regions
- Using noindex so certain pages do not appear in Google
- Different content ideas.
Your best bet is to use WordPress for your site, as most clients will be running WordPress for their blogging platform.
If you have negative websites appearing for your name, try and get those removed before the interview. This gives you the opportunity to discuss how you cleaned up your search results and improved your online reputation – showing off your skill set.
Although there are no official certifications for SEO you can still improve your chances of achieving your career but completing certifications in some of Google’s other products. These include the Google Analytics Exam and the Google Adwords Certification, the courses are free to sit, but there is sometimes a nominal fee to sit the exam which is required for the recognised certification.
You Think You Have “No Experience?” Think Again!
You don’t have “experience?” Get creative. Before you even begin applying for your first role, you can gain “hands on experience” in SEO. There are so many easy but also cheap ways to do this! You have no excuse for walking into an interview without a little experience in your back pocket. In fact, I have six different ideas for how you can gain experience: