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4 Job Search Tips for Aspiring SEO/SEM Specialists

SEOCompanies across every industry are competing for top rankings on search engine results. And whether they turn to a marketing agency, SEO firm or consultant, there is an increasing demand for search engine optimization specialists.

Marketing professionals looking to break into this relatively new niche can’t necessarily rely on prestigious certifications or a long background as a SEO specialist to demonstrate their knowledge.

We spoke with SEO firms to get their advice for aspiring SEO specialists who want to impress potential employers and stand out from the pack.

1. Show, Don’t Tell


It doesn’t matter how pretty your resume is or how many years of experience you have. What SEO firms are looking for is proof that you can do a good job pulling their clients’ websites to the top of search engines. Do that, and you’re in.

“What I want to look at is sites that they’ve optimized,” explains Nick Spears, the director of search for SEO firm Incredible Marketing. “And I am going to basically open up the source code; I’m going to look at how they’re optimizing title tags and things as simplistic as keyword meta tags and descriptions.”

The best way to present your work is through an online profile. Billy Canu, the co-owner and COO of SEO by the Hour, suggests that you take screenshots of your rankings in case they change. If you’re wondering if something is impressive enough to include in your portfolio, use these guidelines from Spears:

First spot on Google: “very impressive.”

Anything in the first five results: “generally where you want to brag.”

Obviously, the standards are different depending on the competition for the keywords. “SEO Firm” for instance, is a national search and harder to win than a geo-targeted phrase like “SEO Firm, Irvine, CA.”

2. Work For Anyone to Build Experience


Nobody (good) is going to hire you if you have no experience. But there are plenty of opportunities to get experience before you get your first SEO job. Here are a few ideas:

  • Work on your own site. This is how both Spears and Canu got their start. Spears says he used his first sites as “crash dummies” in order to test what worked and what didn’t work. Billy learned SEO while running an online DVD rental business. Working on your own site can be a great way to not only perfect your trade, but build a portfolio.
  • Volunteer to help a non-profit improve its SEO. You’ll be contributing to a cause you care about and building your portfolio at the same time.
  • Offer to work on somebody’s site for minimal compensation. There aren’t a lot of SEO internships, but there are plenty of businesses that need the service. Working for little pay now can pay off later.

3. Experience Trumps Degree


Since SEO is a relatively new field, most accreditation programs are relatively new, and universities are just now starting to offer classes on it. There are instructional programs offered through organizations like SEO company Bruce Clay and the Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization (SEMPO), but your experience will trump any certification that you can buy.

“[Being certified] is fine and dandy, but what it really comes down to, for me hiring someone, is actually seeing their work rather than their ribbons or their certificates,” Spears explains.

4. Keep Learning


An SEO specialist’s job changes as fast as the Internet. The rise of social search and social media, for instance, has affected how SEO works.

“Someone who would come to me and say, ‘I have a very good understanding of Facebook and Twitter’ is going to be a step ahead of someone who just comes in and says, ‘I understand the SEO strategies and history and things like that,’ ” Spears says.

A good way to stay up to date is to read SEO forums like Digital Point, SEO Guy or Webmaster Talk.

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