How to Become an SEO Specialist in 2024

Are you looking for a guide to teach you how to become an SEO specialist? In my opinion, SEO is the most in-demand digital marketing skill, with the average salary of an entry-level SEO professional being $54,496 a year, and with the global market expected to reach 122.11 billion by 2028 (Cision). Now is the perfect time to join the career field!

What is an SEO specialist?

To put it simply an SEO specialist is someone who helps businesses increase their search engine rankings via strategies, tactics, and thinking processes. While some choose to specialize in certain types of SEO, generally speaking, a typical specialist is well versed in the three domains of SEO; Technical, On-Page, and Off-Page, also sometimes referred to as Link-building.

To put it simply, an SEO specialist is someone who can get more traffic from search engines (e.g. Google, Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckgo) to a website.

Now that you have a firm grip on what a specialist is, here’s how to become an SEO specialist in 2023;

1. Learn SEO

I first want to preface, that you can definitely learn SEO on your own, so don’t worry about needing any boot camps, or courses.

But, I do want to be honest, if you want to become an SEO specialist, realistically you should take 2 -3 years to learn, but that should not stop you from taking on freelancing opportunities, along the way to make some money and gain some experience with performing SEO. 

Here are some basic concepts I would learn:

Learn How Search Engines Work

It was reported that Google can change its algorithm as much as 3,000 times a year! (Moz). So as an SEO Specialist, you have to have an above-average understanding of how search engines work and the algorithms they use to determine which websites to rank and why. You can visit my search engine guide to learn more.

graphic showing Google scanning pages to index

Learn What a keyword is and how to find them

A keyword is a word, phrase, or question that someone types into a search engine when looking for information on the internet. The strategies you use to find these “keywords” are called keyword research.

Magnifying glasses on the word "keyword" meant to depict SEO keyword research

In my opinion, the best way to find these keywords is to use a free tool from Google called Keyword Planner. But as you begin to learn SEO,  you will hear more about a multitude of tools that can help you get this research done faster. 

picture of Google Keyword Planner console

Learn On-Page SEO 

Modifying a web page’s Title Tag, Meta Description tag, Alt Text tag, and internal and external links are all examples of On-Page SEO components, that you can modify to help a website rank higher in the search results.

The strategy you use to write this new content and manipulate the “tags” is called SEO copywriting, which is a bit different then traditional writing:

picture of the word SEO showing all the components of a strategy

In general SEO copywriting is more about using:

  • Shorter sentences and more white space
  • Natural language 
  • Page Headings
  • Bulleted list
  • Active voice instead of passive voice

Using copywriting methods like these not only helps you rank for search engines, but also provides a pleasant user experience.

Learn Off-Site SEO

“Backlinks” or links a website has from other websites is considered the number one factor when ranking websites on Google ( BacklinkO). 

picture showing the components of link-building

In order to get these links, you have to do a process called Link Building. This can be done through several ways:

  • Blog Outreach
  • Citation building
  • Help a Reporter Outreach
  • Social media

To learn more, read my Off-Site SEO beginner guide.

Learn Technical SEO

While SEO is primarily a non-coding tech job, in order to be successful you must still have an understanding of how websites work and what are technical factors that can prevent them from ranking high on search engines. 

guy coding on a computer

The number one factor is slow website speed. So when learning technical SEO,  I would first start off with learning simple tools like Google Page Speed Insights, Google Lighthouse, and Screaming Frog

These basic tools can help you quickly diagnose a website, make recommendations, and then create a plan to optimize the website to increase its performance.

Learn Data Collecting and Analysis

A part of being an SEO expert is you have to be able to explain how what you are doing is actually helping to improve the business. You can do this through data collecting and analysis. 

person taking a look at data charts and studying it

In my opinion, the best tools for collecting and analyzing SEO data would be Google Search Console and Google Analytics

With Search Console, you can keep track of a website’s search traffic, analyze keywords, and see how your website is doing in the search results.

With Google Analytics you can use event tracking to see how many people visited the website from Google and became a lead, or a person most likely to purchase a business’s product or service.  

And then with even more detailed tracking, you can see how many of them actually made a purchase and brought revenue into the business.

Being able to collect data and analyze it in my opinion is the best way to maintain your position and to then pursue more lucrative opportunities later down the road.

2. Create projects and take on SEO freelancing clients

Learning how to become an SEO specialist is not just about learning SEO, you must also practice SEO. I highly recommend you start creating projects and getting some freelancing opportunities under your belt, even if they are unpaid.

For instance, a great project to create is an SEO audit because with this project you are able to practice checking a website to make sure it is up to standards for all three domains of SEO (On-site, Off-site, and Technical).

Also, you get some great experience with using a variety of tools like Google’s Page Speed Insights, Ahrefs Domain Authority Checker, Screaming Frog, and other keyword research tools of your choosing.

For freelancing opportunities, you could just simply ask your friends and family if they need help with a website or if they know someone who has a business and they’re trying to get some traffic from Google.  

You’d be surprised how many people you would know that could use some help. 

Another great idea is to practice SEO for yourself.

Starting a YouTube channel could be some good practice for doing YouTube SEO.

Starting an Etsy shop or Amazon business could give you some practice with eCommerce SEO.

As you can see there are numerous ways to practice SEO. All of them can help you become a better and more rounded SEO specialist.

3. Create a SEO job portfolio 

So now that you’ve racked up some freelancing opportunities and some relevant work experience now is the time to write a resume and a cover letter.

resumes on a table

We have posts where we show you how to write an SEO specialist cover letter, and how to write an SEO specialist resume, you may want to check out both if you get stuck.

Resume and cover letter tip: When mentioning freelancing opportunities on your resume and cover letter, I would highly recommend making it clear that the opportunities were in the past, and that you are no longer freelancing. 

The reason is that you want to make it clear to recruiters that you are looking for a position and not currently doing “side work”. It can be a bit worrisome for recruiters if you are doing opportunities on the side because it says that you may not be ready to fully commit to the position you are seeking. 

You can make it clear that the opportunity has concluded by adding the start and end date of the opportunity on your resume, and mentioning that you have moved on somewhere in your cover letter.

4. Apply for open SEO jobs

Okay, now that you have an awesome resume and cover letter, it is time for the moment of truth, applying for a job! 

Person looking at a resume and speaking to the applicant

When searching for SEO jobs to apply to, I recommend looking on:

  • Indeed
  • Glassdoor
  • Linkedin
  • Snagajob
  • Ziprecruiter
  • Monster

Job Application Tip: When applying to a job, you will be asked to submit the application, resume, and in most cases, a cover letter. In addition to these three components, I also recommend submitting a project that you’ve completed, such as an SEO audit. 

When applying to jobs, you can think of it as a “point system” –  and each project you add is considered a “point”.

An application with a cover letter, resume, and a project will “score higher” or stand out more than an application with a resume alone.

So I do believe it can be worth the extra effort to include a project with your application. 

5. Interview and keep applying

Okay, so maybe you’ve applied and have secured a few interviews, then need to know what to expect. I’m going to be honest, recruiters are interviewing multiple candidates for a position, so you don’t want to make the mistake of waiting for a response, only to be told that they have moved on with another candidate.  

A person frustrated sitting at a computer

Sometimes companies don’t email you at all letting you know that they have moved on. 

So don’t make the mistake of waiting for a response you may never get. 

So with that being said, I would keep applying even if you believe you may get an offer soon.  

The best practice is to apply to at least 10 positions per day. 

I’m also going to be honest again, it is not uncommon for it to take at least 30 interviews before you get your first position, but if that scares you then this is not the field for you anyway.  

I like to think of each interview as an opportunity to learn and grow in the field. Getting a job is just a side effect of putting in the work to learn the skills. 

Not to mention, once you do get the job you will now have leverage. That you will be able to use to get an even higher-paying position later on down the road. 

Become an SEO specialist today

Becoming an SEO specialist is something that anyone can do, as long they are willing to learn and try out new things. While anyone can become one, it can be hard to stay focused and ensure that you are only learning what is necessary. This is where having a skilled SEO professional, as a mentor can help you. If you are interested in receiving one-one SEO job help. leave your name and message in the form below, and we will send you back information on how to join our mentorship program.

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