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This article is a continuation of our SEO Salaries Guide for digital agencies and organizations to effectively gauge the market rate for the SEO Specialist role. This article is also very useful for SEO Specialists wanting to benchmark their current salary or for aspiring SEO practitioners to learn more about expected salary ranges at the Specialist level.
What is an SEO Specialist?
An SEO Specialist is someone skilled in all facets of SEO, from auditing, analyzing, planning, onsite optimization, content writing, link building, outreach and more. The day-to-day tasks of an SEO Specialist are highly dependent on where they work and if there are other SEO practitioners in their team. In small agencies or organizations where there is only 1 SEO professional, the SEO Specialist functions the same as the SEO Manager. They have oversight and execution responsibilities for all SEO projects.
SEO Specialist Roles and Responsibilities
For SEO Specialists who are the only SEO individual in a team, their responsibilities include everything that an SEO Analyst does PLUS:
- Executing tests and analyzing results
- Managing full SEO project lifecycles
- Implementing on-page SEO changes to site architecture, internal linking and existing content
- Writing search-optimized content
- Executing link building strategies including outreach, publisher relationship building
- Working with other internal teams to drive SEO priorities in content creation and planning
Some SEO Specialists also manage other SEO people in the organization but may not have “Manager” in their job title. However, this is less common.
SEO Specialist Salary
The average SEO Specialist Salary in the US is US$59,871 per year in the United States. (source: ZipRecruiter)
Junior SEO Specialists average starting salary is US$24,500 per year. Senior SEO Specialist salaries can be as high as US$112,500 per year or higher, depending on the organization.
SEO Specialist Salaries outside the United States
We’ve combined and averaged multiple pay & salary benchmarking sources including CWJobs, Glassdoor, IIDE, Indeed, PayScale, SalaryExpert and ZipRecruiter to provide an indicative average annual salary and range for each of the following countries:
- Australia: AU$81,939 per year ranging from AU$63,426 to AU$107,221
- Brazil: R$83.688 per year ranging from R$61.265 to R$103.568
- Canada: CA$60,484 per year ranging from CA$50,060 to CA$86,548
- France: €47.867 per year ranging from €34.749 to €58.742
- India: ₹6,19,634 per year ranging from ₹4L to ₹8L
- Pakistan: Rs 1,266,050 per year ranging from Rs 930k to Rs 1.8m
- Philippines: ₱345,858 per year ranging from ₱250k to ₱500k
- Singapore: SG$66,200 per year ranging from SG$48,300 to SG$82,000
- Spain: €32.500 per year ranging from €23.500 to €40.000
- United Kingdom: £39,100 per year ranging from £28,400 to £50,000
How do you become an SEO Specialist?
As with most digital marketing skills, SEO is typically learnt ‘on the job’ but there are many education and upskilling options in the form of short courses, SEO guides and even university subjects offered as part of Marketing & Communications degrees.
In addition, there are a few typical pathways for marketers to transition or step up into an SEO Specialist role:
Promotion from SEO Analyst or Junior SEO role
The most typical entry point is from a more junior SEO role such as an SEO Analyst or Junior SEO Specialist. Staff churn in agencies can be high which presents great opportunities to move up roles when more senior staff leave the agency or move into other more senior roles themselves.
Adjacent move from non-SEO agency roles
Another common entry point is from adjacent and related roles, in particular agency staff moving from account management / client service roles into practitioner roles. Note that this also goes the other way, practitioners moving into account management.
Pay Per Click (PPC) or Search Engine Marketing (SEM) roles are also somewhat related to SEO roles and marketers might move between these fields. This is the same with other agency disciplines like Social and/or Strategy roles or even Creative roles like copywriters or content producers who have a natural interest in organic performance and growth. Many of the foundational skills in these adjacent roles are valuable when moving into an SEO Specialist role.
Natural expansion of role
In the last few years, the rise of the ‘digital generalist’ role has continued, especially in smaller agencies. These individuals have skills and oversight over many digital marketing channels (including SEO). These generalist roles can be an entry point to a more specialized SEO role especially if the agency wins new SEO work. Rather than hiring a new dedicated SEO role, the digital generalist morphs into an SEO Specialist role. This might be temporary or it might be permanent if there’s a reliable stream of new SEO clients.
A Day in the Life of an SEO Specialist
Dougal Warby – Client-side SEO Specialist at CANSTAR, Australia
I usually start my morning catching up on any emails, have a 15-30 minute look into any news that came out over the last 24 hours and then get a to-do list together for the day.
Analytics in the background is typical as I move between tasks and meetings with different teams within the business (marketing, UX, design, devs). I’ll try and have 2-3 main tasks for the day which gives me enough time to also answer / fix any ad hoc issues or asks from coworkers.
Overall organic traffic growth is always going to be on the mind of an SEO, but my role typically looks at content opportunities and keeping different verticals at / exceeding their traffic budget. It’s a pretty great feeling to take an idea, put together the content brief, publish the article and see users gobble it up!
Probably the most challenging aspect of the role is managing the perception of SEO from other teams. Making sure that other members of the company are well aware of SEO can take time and just because the changes have been implemented, doesn’t mean you’ll see instant results.
Career Progression for SEO Specialists
The most logical career progression for SEO Specialists is into the SEO Manager role. It is expected that a transition to manager level, includes responsibilities to manage a team, which technically means a higher average salary. Depending on the organization, beyond this level, there might be further roles including SEO Director, SEO Lead, Group SEO Director or Head of SEO.