How Much Should You Earn as an SEO?

April 3, 2015

Salary ranges for SEOs run the gamut

[See More: How Much Should You Earn As An SEM?]

Determining what your salary range should be for any position is a dilemma many job hunters face (especially in today's economic environment). "How much am I worth in this market? How much should I ask for in salary negotiations? How much do my positional peers earn?" are all common questions.

It's no different for SEOs. Search marketers wonder about salary expectations and inquire on message boards, forums and online SEO communities about how much they should expect to earn.

The thing is there are so many factors that come into play that it’s difficult for anyone to say with certainty how much YOU should be earning as an SEO. Take for instance:

  • Location – Cost of living varies depending on where you live. Salaries differ from country to country, state to state and even city to city. Location plays a large role in how much you earn.
  • Experience Level – This is pretty obvious, but the more years you have under your belt, the higher your earning potential.
  • Agency vs In-House – Typically, SEOs who work in-house for a privately-run company tend to make more than those working at agencies.
  • Impact – If you dazzle your potential employers at an interview, you may be able to ask for more money. I mean every employer has a budget in mind for a potential hire, but they’re willing to spend more and push the higher of the salary range for someone they feel is a perfect fit.
  • Reputation – Let's face it, if you’re a well-known SEO/thought leader in the industry, you can often name your price and ride your notoriety to the bank.
  • Supply and Demand/Economic Pressures – Despite trillions of wasted stimulus dollars pumped into the economy by misguided Keynesian clowns (yes, I'm on my soapbox now, so you may want to skip ahead), the job market still stinks and pay rates continue to drop. Companies earn less and therefore have less to spend. SEOs seeking jobs in the current economic climate are likely to earn less and get lower offers than those who secured new roles even just a few years ago. Also, with national unemployment holding steady at 10%, you have more people competing for fewer jobs, which continues to put deflationary pressures on wages (just call me Mr. Sunshine and Lollipops).

So given all the moving parts, it’s hard to get an accurate gauge of salary unless you’re getting input from another SEO working in your market/city with knowledge of salary ranges for professionals with your experience level. So my advice is, if you want to find out how much you should be earning as an SEO, seek out other SEOs in a comparable situation.

Where do you find other SEOs in your market?

  • You can reach out and connect with them on Linkedin. It’s easy enough to run a refined advanced search (I mean, you are a search pro, right?) to find your fellow, local SEOs.

Using Linkedin to find other SEOs near you
  • Also, you can find regional SEOs at local Meetups. Check out the SEO Meetups hub page and drill down to your city. Meetups are a fantastic way to network as well and to make new, local connections in the industry. Also, if you want to pad your resume, ask to speak at a local Meetup. Most Meetup organizers are dying for speakers.

SEO Meetups groupls in the United States and around the World
  • If you really want the inside track on a role you're interviewing for, you can reach out to the person leaving (or who just left) the position, introduce yourself and tactfully inquire about the position. I mean, who better to ask, right? Many companies list their Web/marketing teams on their sites with their roles, job titles, so finding out who you're replacing isn't super-difficult. Also, a Linkedin advanced search is easy enough to run as well (search: company name, role, etc). Keep in mind to use extreme discretion with this approach, as it can backfire on you. I've reached out to SEOs whose roles I was interviewing for and on one occasion the person forwarded my email to her boss. Needless to say, the hiring manager thought it was inappropriate and booted me contention for the role. And here I just thought I was being all industrious ;). In any case, proceed with caution if you do go down this road. I'd recommend kicking off your correspondence with a pleasant intro and just say you're interested in the role and just wondering what they like and didn't like about it. Keep it benign out of the gate.

SEO Salary Data and SEO Salary Tools

Now, as I said, if you're looking for accurate salary data, your best bet is to speak with someone in the field, in your area. However, if you're looking for other options, there are a number of SEO salary surveys out there.

SEO Job Boards

And if you are looking for work in the SEO industry, here are some of the better job boards to find a search geek gig.

Anyway, if you're reading this because you're on the prowl for a new gig, good luck with your search and hope you find what you're looking for. Happy SEO job hunting!


Ken Lyons

Ken Lyons

Ken Lyons is a cofounder and managing partner of Measured SEM.