Getting a job in SEO: A Candidate’s Perspective

I’ve now been with Builtvisible for a whopping 2 months. I arrived at a time of rather hefty transition, witnessing a complete rebranding of the company followed by a pleasantly emotional move into our swish new offices. Hello Silicon Roundabout!

Before being embraced by the BV family, I had no real exposure to SEO as a line of work and only limited experience of digital marketing in general. In all truthfulness, this time last year, I would not have been able to tell you what an SEO was from an SOE, let alone that an entire industry exists in its name.

On first exploring the concept, I was entertained by the array of posts pitching ‘white hats’ vs ‘black hats’ in a battle to defend (or salvage) the name and honourability of the industry.

 Dilbert Cartoon

I’m still rather amused by the amount of effort and creativity black hats allegedly put in to playing the system and spamming their way to the top of searches. Grow some integrity Pantless Weasels! I finally understand why the Internet is full of so much crap.

It dawned on me fairly quickly how little I knew about the way Google Search operates – a service nearly synonymous these days with ‘the Internet’. From link audits and crawl budget to canonicals, link baiting and why penguins and pandas no longer appear on my list of the cute and innocent – I’ve been introduced to a lot over these last couple of months and that iceberg has a hell of an arse to it.

Facebook Google Quote

So – especially as I’ve now outed myself as an SEO noob – rather than try to bluff my way through a blog post on why some amazing tool or data set will change your life, or how to make creative content that will blow the internet’s socks off, I thought I’d speak to those out there who are wondering whether or not SEO and digital marketing is something for them, how to get involved and what you might experience by bagging a job in the sector.

 

Landing the job

“Why, oh why”, sings a mildly bewildered chorus, “would a company hire someone who flat out admits a substantial lack of knowledge and experience in digital marketing?”

Good question! Thankfully, this is the UK, and over here it’s okay not to know precisely how to do a job before you’re employed to do it. Ludicrous, I know.

Raptor

As with most typical entry-level job candidacies, you need to demonstrate a suitable level of intelligence and enthusiasm and have done your homework on the aims, purpose and requirements of the company (and your potential role in it). You should also be able to give evidence of possessing a transferable skills set. You can be taught everything you need to know once you’re in.

Never underestimate the simple strength of being able to learn in the deep end of the pool. Not only is there a lot to grasp at the outset when starting a role in SEO – this is an industry that, at the behest of Google, transforms more rapidly than HBO can whip out a new season of Game of Thrones. Just ask last year’s guest bloggers.

I would note that you may want to reconsider your interest in this particular career path if you’ve never touched the backend of a website. After all, who would think to work as a chef without first experimenting in their own private kitchen? Same principle… ish.

Moz

Other than the standard interview prep, my approach was to drench my mind in a myriad of blog posts from Builtvisible (then ‘SEOgadget’), Moz Blog and HubSpot, to name a few. If there’s one thing there isn’t a shortage of, it’s SEO and digital marketing blogs.

I also made time to play around with Google Analytics in my last role, at least as much as I could get away with, which was sadly not a whole lot, but it got me excited enough to suspect that digital marketing was the place for me to be.

If you’re after more detailed pointers on what you need to know to get a job in SEO, check out Richard’s extremely helpful post on the topic, written from the perspective of the employer – it sorted me right out. Every interviewer has a different style and prioritises different things when looking for new recruits. Many are just checking you have a brain and a personality – two things I’ve heard can get you quite far in the world.

Don’t forget that interviews are also your opportunity to assess the company – ask as many questions as you can about the working environment, the scope of the role and which direction the employer sees the company going in. Find out everything you can and measure how it fits against your responding levels of excitement and interest. If you love where you work it becomes a kind of second home, and if that happens, then you know you’re winning at life.

 

You’re in! Now what!?

Prepare yourself for a cascade of technical SEO terms likely to confound anyone with a background in, well… pretty much most other things, and look forward to a plethora of tools that will turn the web into your very own data playground. You’ll be dreaming about metrics before you know it.

My biggest adjustment has been changing the way I think about the Internet and its users.  When coming up with content ideas – particularly new interactives – I get swept away with inappropriate levels of excitement over how useful or entertaining a particular idea would be for people interested in x, y or z, before I get stopped in my naive little tracks by the comment: “Well, yes, but how would it generate links?”. Links from external domains to a piece of content on your site quantifies the content’s success and, if the links are good, boost your site’s rankings. Or so I’m told.

Here’s vaguely how I’m picturing all of this: Google’s endgame is to please users, our endgame, as SEOs, is to please Google, which we manage by feeding the elusive, fickle yet all-determining Google Bot (Sorry Bing), and that particular little ‘spider’ loves to chow down on a diet rich in high quality links. Yum.

cookie

One of the best things I was presented with when starting my new role was a mentor. If you haven’t got one, ask for one. It helped that mine happened to be a nice enough human being to refrain from any condescending laughter when I let Inner Blondie loose (cheers Darren!). Patience is another of his much-appreciated virtues – one that our entire team, if not the whole company, gracefully seems to share.

Feeling comfortable enough with someone to ask them stupid questions makes a world of difference when settling in. It also means a lot to have someone simply ask if everything’s going okay and whether you’re getting a chance to learn the things you want to. Thanks for that BV!

In my first few weeks Darren introduced me to a very useful tool I think all fellow younglings in the industry (or perhaps everyone generally) should be aware of – a platform called Feedly.

feedly

Feedly allows you to create different categories of feeds collating recent posts from selected blogs. The selections available include a good variety of marketing and SEO blogs led by some seasoned pros. The layout of the app makes it easy to scan through recent posts listed in customised categories, helping you to pick out relevant content at a glance. It can suck you in and spit you out hours later if you’re not careful, but a half-hour session a day is time well spent when you’re on a learning curve – which in digital marketing, I have a feeling you always, always are.

Finally, if you’re an all-rounder – the type of person who gets just as excited over discovering trends in data sets as you do polishing off copy then you probably should get involved. By exposing yourself to all the different skills and practices that make up SEO and digital marketing, you can steadily identify what you enjoy the most and carve out a perfect little niche for yourself. I have my ideas already as to what mine will (hopefully) turn out to be.

So, dear reader, before I go… Are you about ready to jump in yet?



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4 thoughts on “Getting a job in SEO: A Candidate’s Perspective

  1. George says:

    Nice post Dani.

    I would like to ask you a question.

    I have a good knowledge/experience (at least this is how I feel) on SEO related processes. I am currently working as self employed at a very small media agency in Greece. As I have recently relocated in the UK, I am highly interested in looking for an SEO job here. How difficult you think this might be taking into consideration my lack of fluency in English? I know that SEO copywriting is a major part of the job, but is it a critical factor for not being selected for a position?

    Thank you in advance
    George

  2. Dani Mansfield says:

    Hi George!

    Thank you, I’m really glad you enjoyed it.

    Firstly, welcome to the UK! I hope you’re settling in nicely.

    In answer to your question, I wouldn’t worry too much about your level of English (which judging from your comment seems pretty good anyway!). Employers are usually perceptive enough to understand how much working in an English language environment can do to boost the fluency of employees who speak English as a second language. As long as you are able to communicate your points of action in daily working life, perfect grammar should not be an issue.

    While copywriting is still a part of the role, it is not as integral to a job in SEO as it once was (..my more experience colleagues tell me). I referred at the very end of my post to the range of different skills that is useful to working in SEO and about carving out a niche for yourself. As you already have experience in SEO, you can talk about the strongest SEO-related skills you have and use those to prove your value to the employer. If you can do that, I’d be very surprised if an employer turned you down because of language skills.

    I hope that helps!

    Best of luck.
    Dani

  3. George says:

    Thank you for your prompt response and the… encouragement!

    Sorry for the mistake that you had to correct on my initial comment ;)

    I wish you all the best. George

  4. Sandra says:

    Some great insights into the world of SEO. Very honest and down to earth. What you wrote early on about not being aware of how the internet really worked when you first started and looking at Google search from a different perspective is something a lot of people struggle with at first. It really does open your eyes to how SEO impacts websites and how important it is to follow SEO strategies.

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