SEO Specialist - Job Description, Salary & Qualifications | Digital Media Jobs

SEO Specialist Job Description

What is the point of having a website if no one can find it?

That’s the question posed by Search Engine Optimization, and the problem corrected by SEO Specialists.

SEO plays an integral role in the Digital Marketing landscape, as the Search Engine Optimization Specialist is responsible for analyzing, reviewing and implementing recommendations to ensure that a website generates as much visibility as possible within Google’s natural, or organic results (meaning the non-paid portion of the Search Engine Results Pages (or SERPs).

In the modern marketing era, it’s virtually impossible for any site to achieve prominent organic rankings, and thus capture valuable Google traffic, without the assistance of a professional SEO, which is why this field is in such high demand, and projected to grow considerably in the years ahead.

Getting into the industry is no easy task, especially as higher education has failed to embrace this important marketing strategy with effective collegiate-level degrees or training courses, but for the self-starter willing to invest some of their own time in learning the trade, SEO is a lucrative industry offering a great deal of potential for growth.

What Does An SEO Actually Do?

The toolbox of the SEO expert is varied and extensive, requiring considerable finesse to navigate what once was a simple, straightforward process, but which has become riddled with nuances in recent years.

Why is modern SEO so complicated? Because it requires technological and programmatic knowledge, incredibly sophisticated consumer research, keyword targeting and content writing expertise, as well as traditional tasks previously assigned to Public Relations firms, but which have been relegated to the realm of SEO experts in recent years, including link building, content marketing and even Social Media marketing.

Modern SEO Best Practices and SEO Strategy are most easily separated into two distinct fields – On-Page SEO vs. Off-Page SEO, the former involving anything that’s done directly to the website itself, and the latter including anything happening off-domain, but for the purposes of promoting it.

In the next sections, we’ll break down the specifics of On vs. Off-Page SEO.

On-Page SEO

Tasks within On-Page SEO vary wildly, posing a significant challenge to anyone just now looking to break into the field, but offering exceptional variety in terms of the day to day activities of SEO Specialists.

SEO Experts don’t get much time to rest, as they need to become experts in a huge number of processes, from website construction and design to webmaster administration tasks like configuring XML Sitemaps, creating Robots.txt files, building Custom 404 Pages, transitioning older sites to HTTS Secured Site Protocol, and interpreting/responding to Google’s Site Speed reports, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg, because the real meat and potatoes of modern SEO campaigns involves optimizing not just the sites code, but also its content.

Content optimization asks include processes like reviewing and optimizing Title Tags, Meta Descriptions, Page Content and Internal Links, all of which can only be updated once the SEO expert has fully researched consumer trends and especially search query data, constructed a detailed overview of the search volume available to the industry, used to determine priority keyword targets, then analyzed the competitive environment and hand-selected the most appropriate keywords for the site, a process that requires a great deal of expertise, finesse, and experience.

But that’s not all, because text content, image content and video content all have to be handled individually when optimized, and SEO strategies also need to be crafted not just for the traditional Search Engines themselves (like Google and Bing), but also modern disruptors like YouTube, Amazon, Etsy, eBay and others.

Off-Page SEO

Off-Page SEO may not be as powerful as it once was, but it remains incredibly relevant and important to overall SEO success in the modern era, and it’s become even trickier than ever before, requiring SEOs to brush up on their Link Building, Content Marketing, Social Media Marketing, and Public Relations skills.

In years past, it was easy to build links, including relatively high-quality, or at least indexable links that would generate SEO momentum for a site, but post Google’s Penguin algorithm update, link building has become a dangerous, double-edged sword that must be approached with extreme caution.

Gone are the days of spamming web directories, Blog comments, Social Media and Social Bookmarking sites, and here is the era of the modern Content Marketing process, which requires creating content for the purposes of distributing it strategically around the web in order to create attention, citations and yes, of course, links.

But links aren’t the end-all-be-all of Off-Page SEO that they once were, because modern Off-Page SEO best practices also require excellent Social Media marketing strategies and Public Relations campaigns that bridge the gap between the digital and non-digital ecosystem, sometimes including liaising with traditional PR firms and PR Specialists to help create a synergistic campaign that’ll kill two birds with one stone, generating attention and visibility in both the real-world, as well as online.

Obviously, navigating these confusing and potentially dangerous waters requires a great deal of expertise, making SEO specialists who can successfully complete these tasks all that more valuable and in great demand.

Reporting & Analytics

No SEO work is complete without a detailed, comprehensive approach to reporting and analytics, and while Google Analytics remains the gold standard, the modern SEO should also be familiar with Omniture’s Web Analytics, as well as a variety of third party tracking and planning tools like SpyFu, WordStream, SEMrush, Moz Pro, AHREFS, Majestic, Bright Edge, SEO Clarity, and more.

Unlike other Digital Marketing strategies where a single platform is usually capable of handling all reporting and monitoring needs, SEO typically needs a variety of tools to put together a complete picture of site and campaign performance, once again proving that the successful SEO expert will need to go to the extra mile in order to do their job effectively.

SEOs must fully understand the importance and value in measuring Key Performance Indicators like Keyword Rankings, Organic Traffic and Engagement as well as Conversions and even Ecommerce data, or their efforts are likely to sputter.

This is no easy space to report and measure, so if you’re interested in breaking into the field, you’ll definitely need to allocate some significant research and training time to this part of the SEO process.

SEO Specialist Primary Roles & Responsibilities

  • Perform comprehensive SEO Audits, evaluating current site construction and identifying issues, concerns and areas of opportunity for the eventual SEO campaign
  • Build detailed keyword research documents, uncovering search volume and competitiveness data for all relevant phrases to create a priority plan for targeting individual keyword phrases
  • Conduct thorough competitive analysis to help refine determination of keyword targets by understanding which terms are already dominated by SERPs competitors, and which are potential candidates for future optimization efforts
  • Make SEO recommendations for updating site code, content and tagging elements based on research data and qualified by key performance indicators (KPIs) collected from Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and a variety of proprietary and 3rd party tools
  • Handle Off-Page SEO, generating high-quality links, creating great, viral content for Content Marketing purposes, and advising Social Media marketing and traditional PR teams to approach their tasks in a way that supports SEO efforts
  • Evaluate results with monthly SEO Performance Reports analyzing important KPIs and comparing Year Over Year performance trends

SEO Specialist Qualifications

Typical Education Requirements:

  • A./B.S. in Marketing, Business, Communications, Web Design, Computer Science, Information Technology, or any technology related field

Since Search Engine Optimization is not directly taught at a 4 year University, any of the following Bachelor Degrees listed above are acceptable to get your foot in the door, however, realize that this is really only a stepping stone into a specialized industry that will more than likely require self-teaching or a great deal of on-the-job training.

Employers want to know that you are either familiar with marketing concepts, proficient in writing, and computer savvy, but that’s just the barrier for entry for modern SEOs.

Even if you haven’t leveraged SEO in a professional environment yet, you should definitely plan on being able to showcase examples of professional writing, blogs, or any websites that you have worked on in the past, as this activity will be invaluable to proving that you can help run a modern SEO campaign.

If you do not have much work to show from an online publication standpoint, it is a good idea to become certified by the Google Analytics Academy as this will at least show competencies in analyzing data and proving that you’re serious about getting into the field.

Preferred Skills

  • Experience with Google Analytics, Google AdWords Keyword Planner, Good Search Console, etc.
  • Functional experience with WordPress, Joomla, or another CMS web publishing software
  • Detailed understanding of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript
  • Awareness and understanding of important SEO elements like robots.txt, metadata, site speed optimization, etc.
  • Listening skills
  • Interpersonal Communication Skills
  • Content Writing
  • Creative Thinking
  • Attention to detail
  • Computer skills
  • Analytical skills

These skills are crucial for a career in Search Engine Optimization because almost all of them will be required on a regular basis.

Though on the job training is often provided, being able to show diversification and the ability to learn quickly or actual results from previous SEO efforts are vital to scoring a great role in the industry.

As for interpersonal skills, listening and communication are mandatory since the SEO space is incredibly service-oriented, perhaps even more so than results-driven similar channels like PPC, Email, and Display.

Most SEOs are likely to be responsible for managing relationships with clients and effectively communicating positive and negative performance results.

SEO Specialist Career Outlook

Though the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not provide data directly under the title “SEO Specialist”, they reported a 2% - 4% growth for the category of Search Marketing Strategist during 2014-2024.

This includes data for PPC Advertisers (the flip-side of the Organic Search Marketing or SEO coin), but it’s a good indication that SEO demands are likely to continue rising for some time.

Search Engine Optimization is a unique field that is constantly evolving as new strategies, tactics and trends emerge, but is likely to continue growing significantly in the years ahead and more and more companies grow to realize the value of putting their products and services at the top of the Search Engines.

With that being said, the ways in which people are searching the internet are evolving too, and SEOs will need to keep up with other Inbound Marketing Channels, adjusting SEO strategies to deal with disruptive new tech like virtual assistants, voice search, VR, etc.

Fortunately, SEO Specialists are of the few roles capable of successfully integrating all of the Digital Marketing channels into a comprehensive, cohesive strategy that uses the website as the core around with the other spokes revolve, ensuring the value of SEO strategy for years to come.

SEO Specialist Salary Expectations

Glassdoor reports an annual average base pay of $37,620.

PayScale reports an annual salary of SEO Specialists at $43,345.

Indeed reports the average salary for job postings is at $61,696. This statistic combines both Senior and Junior level positions.

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Google Display Network (GDN) GDN is Google’s ad network of AdSense publishers, accessible via Google Ads (formerly AdWords). GDN is one of the largest, easiest, but simplest ad exchanges, making it a good choice for those who are new to the industry, or who only want to run basic programmatic marketing campaigns. Experienced Programmatic Traders will typically avoid GDN since its options are limited, however, compared to more modern DSPs. Demand Side Platforms (DSPs)   DSPs offer advertisers access to a wide collection of the available display, video, native and mobile inventory in real-time. In addition, many DSPs offer more advanced programmatic advertising technology, such as geofencing and IP address targeting capabilities, as well as access to a large bank of third-party data providers. Leading DSPs examples include The Trade Desk and DV360. Typically, DSPs are a better option for more advanced campaigns with restrictive or specific targets. GDN vs DSPs GDN has basic audience and content targeting capabilities, but the DSPs have additional targeting capabilities and sophisticated optimization tools. With more targeting options, advertisers using DSPs are typically better able to reach the exact group of people who will respond to their marketing efforts, making DSPs more effective than GDN. GDN isn’t bad though, it’s just better for small advertisers with limited budgets, while DSPs are best for large advertisers who require advanced targeting capabilities and greater reach. Using GDN & a DSP Simultaneously One thing virtually all programmatic trading experts agree on is that it’s best to NOT use both a GDN and a DSP simultaneously, as there are problems to running both systems at the same time, including: Inability to Control Frequency Capping – When running both GDN and a DSP, it becomes impossible to effectively control frequency capping, which can be a big problem as this is an effective way to reduce waste, avoid audience burnout and negative brand associations related to over-exposure. With a single DSP, it’s possible to cap frequencies, but with more than one DSP, or a DSP & GDN, frequency cannot be easily controlled. Multiple Bids on the Same Impression – DSPs participate in auctions for placements, and the highest bid wins each impression. If two DSPs are used to bid on the same audience (or cookie pool) then there will be competing bids from the same advertiser on the same impression, meaning advertisers using two DSPs, or DSP and GDN, will be bidding against themselves, needlessly driving up the price of each impression. Attribution Dilemma – Using more than one DSP, or a DSP and GDN, makes attributing and ROAS determinations much more difficult, especially when targeting a limited audience (like with a retargeting campaign). It’s likely that both DSPs will have ad exposures to many of the same converters, but only one will receive credit for the conversion. This makes it difficult to determine which platform is performing better, due to the randomness with which attribution gets assigned. Reach – Running two DSPs, or a DSP and GDN may lead to a slight increase in reach, but most top DSPs have access to nearly all of the same inventory, so the incremental increase in reach is probably not worth the other negative issues outlined above. Note: GDN has less inventory than the top DSPs (discussed below) and niche DSPs like Amazon are an exception, with exclusive inventory, but in general, all of the top DSPs have enough reach that advertisers don’t need to worry about running two platforms at once. For all of the reasons above, we recommend picking a single DSP and running with it. If you’re not happy with the results of the campaign, and want to try another DSP, it’s best to pause the existing campaign before starting up again on a new platform. Reach DSPs are superior to GDN when it comes to reach, since they can access hundreds of exchanges/suppliers such as PulsePoint, OpenX, AppNexus, Sonobi, Rubicon, PubMatic, PMPs and others, while GDN is limited to primarily to just the Google AdSense network. One example where DSPs are almost guaranteed to be superior to GDN would be running a re-targeting campaign, where you serve ads to customers who have already visited your site, but who have not yet converted. In this case, you’re working with a relatively small targeted population of valuable potential converters, so you’ll want to reach as many of those individuals as possible, and typically, a DSP will give you much more penetration into that audience than GDN. Any time programmatic traders are running retargeting campaigns, campaigns targeting a small geographic area, or campaigns focused on reaching a niche audience, using a DSP will typically produce better results than GDN. Inventory Availability DSPs distinguish themselves by having more premium inventory, whereas GDN inventory is primarily sourced from AdSense for publishers, which could include a lot of lower quality sites. Many large, established publishers such as CBS and The New York Times are on DSPs, but these types of premier brands are often not found on GDN. GDN is typically considered a good basic or beginner place for advertisers to start testing campaigns, just like Google AdSense for Publishers is considered a good place for publishers to start testing ad placements on their sites. Large and established publishers almost always eventually navigate to making their inventory available on the open exchange or through Private Marketplaces instead though, away from Google AdSense and GDN. Inventory Quality DSPs can buy the inventory across all value levels, whereas GDN is open auction only and includes many smaller publishers who cannot qualify to sell their inventory elsewhere, including Google’s premium exchange. This means that advertisers are probably getting a lot of “bottom of the barrel” inventory from GDN. In comparison, with DSPs, advertisers are able to set up deals that provide access to higher-quality inventory higher up the food chain, which typically leads to better converting traffic. CPC Vs CPM Pricing GDN gives advertisers a choice as to how to pay, but even though advertisers will be invoiced on a CPC (cost-per-click) basis, the yield management algorithms inside GDN are calculating an effective predictive CPM when deciding where, and how often, to serve each ad. In contrast to that system used by GDN, nearly all inventory purchased through DSPs is made available for real-time bidding on a CPM exchange, including Google and others. This tends to make pricing more attractive on DSPs than GDN. Targeting & Optimization Capabilities GDN has basic audience and content targeting and optimization capabilities, but DSPs have additional targeting and optimization capabilities. With more targeting and optimization options, there is a better chance for advertisers to reach the exact group of people who will respond to their ads, increasing the ROAS of the campaign. GDN is limited to location and language targeting, keyword targeting, device targeting and retargeting, whereas DSPs offer all sorts of additional options. DSPs have advanced capabilities, such as the ability to locate and target current and desired customers based on specific demographics, interests and their purchase intent, audience frequency caps for excluding users based on the number of impressions they have been served (across media, channels, and identity spaces) and advanced algorithms to adjust and optimize bids and budgets. 3 rd Party Data GDN does not have third-party targeting capabilities, meaning that you are reaching relevant users on  GDN only. With DSPs, you can target based on demographics, interests, topics, and even seek out users currently interested in a specific product or service through display and search.   Brand Safety/Ad Fraud/Audience Verification DSPs have fraud protection and brand safety controls that are integrated with leading third-party verification providers.  In contrast, GDN only offers Google Ads-only brand safety controls, without third-party integrations. GDN also doesn’t offer any transparency, so it’s virtually impossible to conduct impression-level analysis to determine what is performing well, and if that performance is real, or potentially fraudulent. GDN does self-grade the inventory that they are selling, but this isn’t transparent either, and GDN’s reporting is also only available through Google Ads, which further limits transparency for performance. Basically, DSPs offer much better options for brand safety, fraud prevention, and audience verification. Creative Options Google Ads: Image, Text, HTML5, Dynamic Creatives and Video Ads. Display & Video 360: Image, Rich Media, HTML5, Native, Video Ads and Dynamic Creatives. Pick the Right Platform for Your Campaign As this post established, simpler campaigns may be better suited for GDN, whereas more sophisticated campaigns are going to perform better on DSPs. When determining which platform will work best for you, you’ll have to review the differences outlined above, weighing the pros and cons, and deciding which system is in your best interest. But when it comes to deciding between running on the GDN vs. DSPs, typically, DSPs will win out thanks to their more-modern, more-sophisticated targeting, optimization and reporting capabilities.
What is Lead Scoring and How Does it Work? When it comes to acquiring new customers, most businesses focus all their time, money, and effort on one of two processes: acquiring leads or nurturing leads. Tons of resources are poured into lead generation activities (e.g., marketing, advertising, blogging, etc.) or lead nurturing activities (e.g., sales calls, email follow up sequences, etc.). In other words, most businesses either focus on what happens before someone becomes a lead or what happens after they become a lead, but what about the process in the middle? Many marketers and even businesses don’t even know that lead scoring exists, which means that the process of selecting which leads to pursue, and which to ignore, often goes overlooked entirely. For businesses that get very few leads, this is fine. However, businesses getting hundreds or even thousands of leads per day need to have a process in place that allows the sales team to prioritize which leads to pursue. It’s important to realize that not all leads are created equal. Some leads are cold and at the top of the funnel, while other leads are at the bottom of the funnel and are literally ready to buy right when they’re submitted. Still other leads won’t even be in the funnel at all, like those sent in by researchers or bloggers just poking around, and would be a complete waste of time to chase down. This is why it’s so important to have a lead scoring system to handle the sales process. Having a system that assigns numerical values to leads in such a way that will allow a sales representative to go after high-quality leads and disregard low-quality leads will result in better time efficiency and more revenue in the long run. That’s where lead scoring comes in, and that’s what we’ll explain to do in this post. What is Lead Scoring? Lead scoring is the process of assigning values to your leads so that you can label those that are most likely to convert and those that are not. This way, you’re able to prioritize which leads your sales team will contact next. Without a lead scoring system, leads would be chosen one by one which is fundamentally flawed because many of those leads will end up being a dead end and a huge waste of time. Having a lead scoring system is an extremely valuable tool for a business since it helps improve the efficiency of the company’s sales team, generates more revenue, and helps prevent the sales staff from experiencing burnout.   Better time efficiency means no time is wasted on bad leads, and no time wasted on bad leads means higher conversion rates and more revenue for the company. Additionally, since the sales team can see what characteristics and attributes make a high-quality lead, they can relay this information to the marketing team, which should help improve the overall marketing strategy too. With improved marketing, the leads coming into the sales funnel will be even more qualified than they were before, making the marketing and sales process easier, faster and more profitable for the company. How Does Lead Scoring Work? To give a prospect a lead score, you must first come up with a point system with rules. This point system is at the heart of lead scoring and what ultimately allows you to know which prospects are hot and which are cold. The first step in creating a point system is looking at past and present customers. Look for commonalities between customers—the attributes that they all share or the common actions that these customers took just before becoming a customer (e.g., a download, a click, a form submit, etc.).   The next step would be to assign a numeric value to each of the attributes you have chosen to be good indicators of potential customers. There are different ways to assign points to attributes, but to keep it simple, one way would be to add a higher amount of points to crucial attributes that all customers share and fewer points to those attributes that occur less frequently in customers. Three Types of Scoring There are three main ways most systems and organizations score leads. The first one is demographic scoring which is when you score a lead based on the data you have collected on the lead submitter. For example, people who live in a certain location or those that are a certain age would receive a higher score. This way, you can ensure that those who fit your target demographic will get prioritized. The next type is behavioral scoring. With behavioral scoring, you score a lead based off of how they interacted with your website or business. Using behavioral scoring, you might award more points to people who have visited multiple pages of the site, people who have visited the pricing page, people who have downloaded a brochure, etc. Lastly, there’s negative scoring which is where you deduct points based on attributes that would automatically disqualify someone from being a good lead. For example, you might want to deduct points from leads who have visited the employment page, or who did not include either a phone number or email address on the lead form they submit. Having a system that utilizes these 3 different types of scoring will allow you to qualify and rank your leads more accurately.   How to Find the Important Attributes A lead score model needs a set of rules that tell you when to add points to people with certain demographic and behavioral attributes. But how do you know which attributes to award points to? First, try asking your sales team. Since your sales team is constantly in the trenches, actually interacting with your leads before they become customers, they usually have valuable insight as to what type of attributes indicate that someone will become a customer. Next, you could ask your advertising department. It’s no secret that advertisers must deliver the right message to the right people, otherwise, their advertising efforts will have been for nothing. To do this, advertisers have a predetermined set of attributes that they use when they’re configuring their targeting settings just before launching a digital ad campaign. Viewing your advertising department’s targeting settings just might give you the insights you need to discover those important attributes that you can assign points to. You also might be able to find important attributes from your marketing department. Like the advertising department, the marketing department also has a target market—a set of attributes—which they hone in on when they deliver their creatives, content, and collateral. Looking at the marketing department’s targeted demographics can reveal hidden attributes that might not have been obvious at first. Additionally, you could ask the customers themselves since their inner thought processes are something that no marketer could replicate. Although surveying your customers is more time consuming, it might be worth asking them why they think they became customers or when in the sales cycle they knew they would become customers. You could do this by interviewing your customers, sending them a questionnaire, or by sending them a poll. Lastly, you could also check your analytics, which is ripe with valuable insights on your customer’s demographics, interests, and behavior (all three types of lead scoring data!). Running an attribution report can uncover which marketing activities convert leads into customers. You could also check which pages of the site leads have viewed before turning into customers or which pages visitors viewed before turning into leads and use this info to assign a higher score to leads that have viewed those pages. How is it Done? There are a few different ways of lead scoring, however, some methods take longer and are less effective than others. The first way of doing this is manually, although almost no one ever does it this way anymore as it becomes too time-consuming. Another method is using a data mining technique called logistic regression. For this method, you must build a formula (typically in excel) that takes into account all of the customer’s attributes and analyzes how they interact with one another, which in the end, will determine the probability that a lead will convert into a customer.    And finally, there are some automated approaches that do all of the heavy lifting for you. For example, some email autoresponders have a lead scoring system already built into them, with a few examples being Active Campaign, Get Response, and Drip. But even that isn’t as effective as another automated lead scoring method called Predictive Lead Scoring. Predictive Lead Scoring In an ideal world, your lead scoring system wouldn’t be static, but instead should be a living, breathing thing that changes as the market and your customers change. The criteria and attributes that make a good, high-quality lead might not even be the same from month to month—this is especially true for businesses that are heavily influenced by seasonality. This is why it’s recommended that you constantly need to be making tweaks to your scoring system so that it stays as accurate as possible. But this can quickly become too time-consuming, stealing the time you need to dedicate towards other elements of running your business. How can you automate the lead scoring system tweaking process and essentially “set it and forget it”? The answer is predictive lead scoring. Predictive scoring is an AI-based scoring system that uses machine learning to look at thousands of data points to see which attributes indicate hot leads. The scoring algorithm is constantly evolving, automatically making tweaks, updating itself, and sorting your leads to ensure that those most likely to convert remain at the top of your sales funnel. Admittedly, predictive lead scoring isn’t the right tool for every business. Because the sorting algorithm needs a large number of data points for it to work, predictive lead scoring is best suited for Businesses that have thousands of customers. If you’d like to try out predictive lead scoring, some popular lead scoring tools are MadKudu, Infer, Mintigo, and 6Sense. What Should You Do? No matter what lead score software or method you do end up choosing to use, the important thing is that you try something other than treating every single lead as being equal, as that’s an incredibly inefficient way to handle sales. Lead scoring is incredibly powerful and the truth of the matter is that most lead-based businesses could benefit from implementing a lead scoring system of some sort, even if it’s incredibly simplistic and done entirely manually. If you’re looking for ways to increase lead conversion rates, improve sales rep productivity, save time and money, and improve profits, then you need to look into lead scoring! About The Author Darden Faulkner is a freelance writer and product reviewer living and working in Irvine, CA. He enjoys long walks on the beach, learning everything he can about Google products, and has just discovered Twitter!  Follow him over on Twitter  for the latest life updates
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