8 Tips for Writing a Killer SEO Cover Letter

by Meaghan Thomas January 13th, 2011 


There are lots of new SEO jobs coming out this year. Increase your chances of getting that interview by writing an enticing cover letter.

First off, I have to rant for a minute: I can't tell you how many SEO applicants don't include a cover letter with their resumes (even when the ad specifically calls for one). This gives the impression that the applicant either:

  • can't follow simple instructions
  • doesn't genuinely care about the job and just wanted to take a quick stab at it, or he
  • doesn't believe the cover letter request applies to him because he's such a hot commodity and we should be lucky he even submitted his resume.

Not the best first impression, eh?

The cover letter is your chance to highlight your experience and successes, demonstrate your understanding of the position and the company, and show off your personality.

Take the time to write a meaningful cover letter and there's a good chance you'll get a call back. Here are a few suggestions for what to include in that letter:

  1. Analyze the company's website. Write a paragraph or two that demonstrates your knowledge of the site and include a couple suggestions for increasing specific keywords they're targeting. Be concise, but also be specific so they know you're not just throwing around buzz words.
  2. Include stats. How did you improve keyword rankings and increase organic traffic at previous jobs? Sprinkle some hard numbers in and flex your analytical muscles.
  3. Highlight your conversion optimization skills. Increasing organic traffic is great, but what did you do to monetize the site? How did you impact the bottom line? Demonstrate your understanding of the bigger picture.
  4. Speak toward the future. What's going to happen next in search? How will consumer search habits evolve? Show how your insight will bring their company future and long-term success.
  5. Be passionate. Companies want to hire people who love what they do. Talk about how you first got into SEO and how you feel about the latest industry trends.
  6. Get to know the company's culture and write in their language. Show them you'd fit in. Relaxed, creative atmosphere? Write in a more conversational tone. Conservative workplace? Button up a bit.
  7. Consider attaching a short video postcard to the SEO cover letter. This is a bold step, but it shows that you're a communicator who confidently acts outside the box.
  8. Discuss your SEO philosophy. There are a lot of different views on how SEO should work -- show them where you stand. Address specific SEO questions, such as:
  • How do you view Google? A vehicle, a partner, a competitor, or something else?
  • Where do you stand on link purchasing?
  • How do you approach local?
  • What search engine do you personally use and why?

All that said, be aware that your letter could easily turn into a three-page event. Pick and choose what makes sense for you to cover. I would shoot for an uncluttered one-page letter. Be passionate, but also get to the point.

Good luck!

Note: This post was inspired by my recent re-focus on hiring SEO talent. I know some people hiring SEO talent (in Chicago only). For those of you who are looking for an SEO job, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn for more information.

Meaghan Thomas

Meaghan Olson is a writer and digital marketer living in Chicago. She's a believer in the power of words – and in the technology that makes those words matter. Meaghan is the SEO Director at MyUS.com and she runs a site dedicated to giardiniera, the most delicious and under-appreciated condiment in the world. On the weekends, you can find her in section 157 at U.S. Cellular Field cheering for the White Sox.


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7 Responses to “8 Tips for Writing a Killer SEO Cover Letter”

  1. BRAVO! I can not tell you how frustrated this makes me. I can tell you that if I don't get a cover letter, your resume is not considered. It shows me that people are lazy, can't follow instructions, and just don't want to work here that badly.

  2. […] 8 Tips for Writing a Killer SEO Cover Letter, Search Engine People […]

  3. Gouri says:

    A cover letter can help the resume stand out from the rest. But most of us fail to realize this. Thanks for these great tips!

  4. Ros Phillips says:

    Missing the cover letter just shows that common sense is not as common as we would hope! The level of detail in this post not only helps us write a cover letter but gives a good outline for an interview of prospective SEO employees :) – Thanks
    .-= Ros Phillips recently posted: Introducing Mattern &amp Fitzgerald Custom Builders =-.

  5. […] into 2011, the photo was published in an undated (mid-Jan 2011) blog titled "8 Tips for Writing a Killer SEO Cover Letter." It was also published in a Jan 15, 2011 blog titled "Learning SEO to help your Website […]

  6. Daniel Day says:

    Thanks for the post Meaghan. Really relevant post in this crowded job marketplace. I have been involved in the SMM space for some time and also have some experience with SEO more recently. I am looking to get more heavily involved in SEO and SEM. Do you have any advice for marketers that are looking to add SEO to their skill set?

    • Meaghan says:

      Hi, Daniel. A great way to get some SEO experience is to set up a website from scratch.

      Building a site from the ground up will force you to quickly run into those SEO questions (for example, What should my folder structure look like? What duplicate copy issues do I have [www. not 301 to non-www? etc.,]? How do I start ethical and impactful linkbuilding if I have little resources?).

      If you're setting up your own site, you're going to work though setting up bot and user-friendly architecture, writing human-friendly and search-friendly content, link building from scratch, optimizing a site for local search, incorporating social media on your site, etc.

      In my opinion, the best way to learn the foundations of SEO is to put yourself under pressure and learn it as you go. Plus, you'll get your own website out of it and you'll have something to present to employers to show off what you've learned.

      After you have the foundational SEO down, I highly recommend going to some top tier conferences and get to know the A players. I've been really impressed by BlueGlass' conferences. Surround yourself with those kind of A players and you'll pick up a ton. If you can't swing a conference ticket, get to know the top SEO players in your city and connect with them. Take them out to lunch and ask them if you can pick their brain.

      In the end, my advice is to just keep pushing to learn as much as you can about the nature of Google and Bing's algorithms and the companies themselves. If you understand how they work and their motives, you'll be able to better understand where/why they are where they are now and where they may go in the future–and build toward that. The best SEOs know that they don't know everything. If you keep that curious and probing mindset, you'll be great in the biz.

      I also think taking a creative or marketing writing class is a good idea for any SEO. The more compelling your content/call outs, the less the bounce/exit rates, the longer people stay on your pages, the better chance you'll have at those people converting, and the more likely you'll get a link or a social reference. SEO gold.