The latest in our series on IT jobs in the 21st century, this week the spotlight’s on one of the most constantly-growing UK IT jobs of the last five years: SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) specialist.
In charge of organically improving rankings in search engines such as Google, a SEO specialist (or at least, a good one) is in the front line when it comes to making sure their organisation gets “heard” online. And it’s a position that’s in increasingly higher demand – the average weekly quantity of IT jobs which contain the acronym “SEO” has tripled between 2009 and 2013 (source: JobisJob database).
So what is being a SEO specialist all about? We interviewed Joan Monplet, SEO expert at JobisJob, to find out.
How to become a SEO specialist
What does a SEO specialist do?
The SEO expert’s work divides into to areas, according to Joan: “on-page” SEO and “off-page” SEO. Both should have the same end goal: making sure your carefully-produced website ticks off the boxes search engines are looking for, and therefore gets the online recognition it deserves. “On-Page” SEO refers to techniques used within your webpage, such as making sure everything runs quickly and smoothly and that you use the same sorts of keywords that your users are likely to look for. “Off-Page” SEO is about external techniques that can be used, such as creating blogs or reinforcing links with other online community members.
Much fuss is often made of “black-hat” SEO techniques, which are used to trick search engines into giving websites greater importance than they deserve, but Joan doesn’t recommend these. “This sort of tactic simply isn’t sustainable. At the end of the day, it’s simpler and more ethical just to use honest means and stick to them.”
How can you become a SEO specialist?
Despite being a job in IT, SEO experts come from a variety of different walks of life, according to Joan. “I did an IT degree, but this isn’t by any means a prerequisite. SEO managers might equally well come from a marketing or business background. There’s no real set path to becoming a SEO technician – it’s more likely to be something that finds you.” One thing you do need, however: “You have to be passionate about the online world, and keeping abreast of the challenges the industry brings.”
As many SEO specialists do, Joan began to learn the tricks of the trade while working in a different role alongside a more specialised colleague, before finally becoming a SEO specialist in his own right. Although an increasing amount of UK universities and further education colleges are beginning to offer training in this type of discipline, experience, Joan says, is the best master: “Even if you memorised a basic SEO guide from cover-to-cover, nothing can beat trying out your problem-solving skills in the real world.”
What is a job as a SEO specialist like?
Becoming a SEO specialist, says Joan, can “sometimes feel like working in the dark. Often, there are no directly obvious patterns to what works or doesn’t work. It’s like trying to do magic. You need to use your intuition.”
The problem-solving aspect of the SEO specialist’s work, however, is its own reward. “Working as a SEO specialist is like trying to find a magic formula to grow a business with. This formula doesn’t exist, of course, but it’s fun trying to find it.”. It’s also a great job for those entrepreneurial types who like a challenge – “you have to constantly keep ahead of the game”.
Working as a SEO specialist is not the type of IT job for the faint-hearted. Often, you will be the main messenger when business goes up or down, meaning you need endless patience, and the ability to work under pressure. When things are going well, however, the work is “enormously satisfying”. Both for the SEO specialist, we imagine, and the budding business who finally manages to get the online world to listen.
Latest jobs in SEO