So you want a career in SEO?

by Jennifer Osborne September 17th, 2009 

2010 SEMMY NomineeTo: My Brother’s, Ex Secretary’s, Fathers, Cousin:

Thank you for applying for a job with us.

I ‘m glad you think this “SEO Thing” might catch on.  I also appreciate that you can see a lot of reasons why you would benefit from getting a job with us.  As you said in the interview, your company is laying off people, you’re in a dead end industry.  And you would like to expand your knowledge and take on a new challenge.

Makes sense.

But My Brother’s, Ex Secretary’s, Fathers, Cousin, what I think you failed to consider is what can you do for our clients?

<rant>  I am really getting frustrated interviewing people who think that just because they’re currently in “IT” that they may somehow be qualified for a job in SEO.  And what really irks me, is when you’ve had two weeks to prepare for this interview, and you didn’t do any research whatsoever into what it is we actually do.

If you can’t even tell me what it is that we do, why in the world should we hire you?

There is no other industry that has sooo muuuchhhh information about what we do online.  For Free!!

All you have to do is put in some effort!!!

Every good SEO has taught themselves.  First by reading everything they could get their hands on, then by running their own tests.  (rinse and repeat).

Okay maybe a few good ones got really lucky and had a mentor.  But that’s rare.  Guaranteed, if you’re good, you ran your own tests and took your knowledge beyond what you were spoon fed.

But no, you want us to allocate precious resources, to train you from scratch, because you think that maybe there’s something to "this SEO thing", and you’re ready for a new challenge.  <end of rant>

Internet Marketing is HOT.  It’s steaming HOT. Geeze no it’s worse than that, its mainstream.

How do I know that it’s gone mainstream?  Because everyone and his brother now wants to get into the industry.

So, a note to all my future interviewees:

If you want to get into this field, great. Everyone has to start from somewhere and newbies are welcome!!!

Scratch that.

New SEO’s are much more than welcome, they’re necessary!!!  I love to see the fresh thinking and new ideas that come from someone who hasn’t yet heard that “it can’t be done”.

But your starting point isn’t to talk to me.  We are looking for smart people who take initiative.  Show me that you can take initiative.

So before you talk to me, your starting point is to stop resting on your laurels and personal contacts, and do your homework.  At least take some time to figure out the basics.  Know the difference between on-page versus off-page SEO.  Know the difference between SEO and PPC and don’t mix up the two when you’re answering the questions.

Know that the fact that you were Director of IT making $150,000 per year in your past job doesn’t count for squat if it doesn’t help our clients meet their objectives.  If we have to train you from scratch Mr Director of IT, then you’re entry level.

Participate in social media.  Launch your own blog.  Set it up yourself in word press and play around a bit.

and then come talk to me.

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12 Responses to “So you want a career in SEO?”

  1. Yura says:

    Unless you do think that you need the best of the best and that you have to and can train them yourself.

    Kinda reminds me a recent post by Egol the Great:

  2. Nick says:

    ouch, forgot to check your "100% spam free" and lost my post! ugh!

    I can't believe that people actually come to interviews unprepared in an economy like ours today. Some people aren't even lucky enough to get job interviews and people are wasting them. It must be hilarious to hear people attempt to "BS" on a subject like SEO. I know from experience that SEO needs to be not only something you are interested in, but you must be somewhat obsessed.

    I can only imagine how many times you heard, "adding keywords to the keywords description field will increase your ranking".

  3. Amen! This is much more than a rant! You hit the nail on the head.

    Also, the SEO industry is now overflowing with those same IT people and Web developers who say they know SEO. OK, you can say anything; however, these same people have put out their SEO shingles, advertising "Search Engine Submission Services!"

    I sometimes don't even mention SEO when when telling people what I do. If they have no clue, I might joke and say that I work for the search engines. The reality is that we are working for the people, those who read what the search engines spit out.

    Thanks for letting me rant along with you, Jennifer. Nice post!

  4. Dev Basu says:

    Amen to that Jenn.

  5. Afzal Khan says:

    If you are an SEO or want to build your career in SEO industry you need to learn atleast basic on your own.

    It's quite funny to see reaction's from people on SEO, they think SEO is something is which is very easy to get on…Hold on you need to invest a hell lot of time understanding it's real essence.

    Very nice post!

  6. Okay I've been studying and taught myself. I have my site on page one of Google, Yahoo and Bing for several keywords. A have a couple of other sites one page one of local searches for several keywords. When can I apply for a job?

  7. Paul says:

    Anychance your expanding and perhaps going global, you might even fancy opening an office over here in Jockland, I can go your overseas advisor – pay me twa crates o' beer a week and settle ma bookie debt and im yours.

    Joking aside, this article hit the nail on the head, over & over & over – big thumbs up!

  8. Marie-Claire Jenkins says:

    Actually I would say that this post is applicable for pretty much every career path. I would say the same to SEO's who think they can design software and understand algorithms without even taking the time to read the papers or understand the math. Also coding HTML, PHP, Javascript and so on is nothing like coding Java, Python, C++, C and the like. Agreed. People need to do their homework if they want to succeed, and my favourite saying stands "There is no silver spoon"!

  9. To be a successful in-house SEO, you got to be very diplomatic because you would have to deal with a lot of people from different departments.

  10. Karl Foxley says:

    I totally agree when you say "There is no other industry that has sooo muuuchhhh information about what we do online. For Free!!"…

    there is no excuse NOT to know the basics, especially when going into an interview.

    An enjoyable rant all the same.


  11. Couldnt agree more, see the thing with SEO is you can learn practically everything about it online, it just takes time. There is so much information out there on it and once you know the basics then your able to start testing things out and see how the search engines really work.

  12. I couldn't agree more with the point that it takes real time and effort to get beyond the basics but it is worth it. The test and learn approach is definitely the best.