Aug 10, 2018

Digital Career Journeys: Search Marketing

The rapid evolution of the digital age, while demanding, creates a wealth of opportunity for ambitious professionals looking for a fulfilling, sustainable and financially rewarding career. And of all the digital career journeys you can embark on, search marketing is one of the most fruitful.

Not only is search marketing an exciting field of expertise, it’s a sector of the digital marketing sphere that will remain pivotal to organizations in a range of industries for decades to come. Moreover, its constant development will present continuous challenges and opportunities for savvy search marketers looking to excel in the field.

At present, brands and businesses across the commercial spectrum (both B2C and B2B) are crying out for talented search marketers, and here are three key insights to illustrate that fact:

  • 85% of retailers state that search marketing, including paid and search engine optimization (SEO), is their most effective consumer acquisition tactic.
  • 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine.
  • Search is the number one driver of traffic to content-based sites, surpassing social media by more than 300%.

If you feel that search marketing might be the career for you, or you have already started on this path, it is worth knowing that there are three distinctive roles along the career ladder within the specialism: SEO Executive, SEO Account Manager and Head of SEO. The career journey is well demonstrated in this helpful infographic from Smart Insights.

To help you visualize your journey and make the preparations necessary for a rewarding career in search marketing, we’ll break down the journey into these three distinct roles, and explain what is involved in each of them.

SEO Executive

The first stage of the search marketing career journey starts with the role of SEO Executive, and while some believe this role is quite linear and lacks scope, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

The duties of an SEO Executive are as challenging as they are varied. At its core, the purpose of the role is to enhance the visibility and authority of websites for your employer or clients, and also work on various online touchpoints to rank them well in search engines, boost web visibility and increase the overall number of visitors. Of course, this is critical to the success and longevity of any modern business.

At this point it’s worth noting that, like any digital marketing-based job, the methodologies, tactics and approach you take will change from year to year due to shifting trends, algorithm updates and emerging technological developments. However, to give you a working idea of what is expected from an SEO Executive, here is a list of some key responsibilities:

  • Conducting both on-site and off-site analysis to gain intelligence on your competitors.
  • Using data platforms such as Google Analytics to collate unique insights and build regular performance reports.
  • Helping to create, curate and develop high-quality, informative and engaging SEO-driven content.
  • Creating on-site and off-site SEO strategies for the business.
  • Contributing to the official company blog, and playing a pivotal role in the development and delivery of the company’s key marketing campaigns.
  • Conducting comprehensive keyword research in compliance with the latest keyword strategies.
  • Staying abreast with the most recent developments in search marketing.
  • Understanding and responding to any significant Google algorithmic changes.
  • Building relationships with industry influencers and maintaining the company’s link portfolio.


The Skills

Here are the core skills you will need to enjoy a successful career as an SEO Executive:

  • Experience in using tools such as Google Analytics and Google Webmaster.
  • A fundamental grasp of all essential SEO and search marketing tactics and practices.
  • Content writing and copywriting skills and credentials.
  • Some basic experience in HTML coding skills.
  • High-quality reporting and analytic skills.
  • A demonstrable desire to continually expand upon your skills and knowledge.


Stepping Up

To step further along the search marketing career path, you will first need to master the role of SEO Executive. With a challenging set of skills, expertise, experience and confidence to acquire, most people remain in this role for two to three years, but of course, this can vary.

The great thing is that there is so much to learn, you will always be challenged and rewarded in this role – and once you feel you’re ready for a step-up, you will be able to set your sights for the more senior role of SEO Account Manager.

An excellent way to accelerate your progress is to request more responsibility when it comes to managing budgets, freelancers and search marketing campaigns – this will give you the experience you need to thrive in you potential more senior role.

SEO Account Manager

Once you’ve gained ample skills, credentials, experience and confidence during your time as an SEO Executive, you will be ready to take your knowledge into a more senior role as an SEO Account Manager.

As you might expect, you will need all of the skills and expertise you’ve gained as an SEO Executive to be successful at this level, as you will still be conducting many of the same tasks, but with some fundamental differences.

As an SEO Account Manager, there are three key elements you must consider: technical expertise, project management abilities and people skills. On top of this, you will need a firm grasp of digital sales techniques.

While conducting a great deal of SEO-based duties, you will also be responsible for a small team of SEO Executives, and as such, you will need to delegate particular tasks, responsibilities and strategic pursuits in a way that will benefit the business and its search rankings.

Moreover, you will need to spearhead pivotal search marketing-centric projects from start to finish, based on a brief from the Head of SEO, collaborating with your executives (as a leader) to develop initiatives, achieve desired results and spot or iron out any potential pitfalls or SEO-based issues as they occur.

And finally, you will need to act as a liaison between the content marketers, SEO executives and technical staff to ensure the smooth delivery of search marketing initiatives. You will also be required to manage relationships with any external partners with the company’s overall marketing success in mind – this is where your interpersonal skills and sales knowledge will really come into play.

The role is demanding, but if you have the confidence and desire to succeed, the rewards can be great.


The Skills

In addition to your base knowledge as an SEO Executive, here are the core skills you’ll need as an SEO Account Manager:

  • Strong managerial and project management skills.
  • A fundamental knowledge of digital and social selling.
  • Comprehensive pay-per-click and link-building skills.


Stepping Up

Not everyone makes it past SEO Account Manager, but if you really want to take your career to the next level, the next role to set your sights upon is the Head of SEO.

By being creative, demonstrating an impeccable track record in your previous roles and being able to show, with data, that you’ve enhanced your company’s search rankings and authority while managing key projects and personnel, you will stand an excellent chance of progression.

Head of SEO

As the Head of SEO, you will essentially assume the position of search director, which means that the future of the business’s search marketing success ultimately rests on your shoulders.

The head of search is primarily responsible for strategic formulation. You will be required to contribute heavily to the growth and evolution of the business’s online marketing campaigns, working closely with other marketing-based directors within the company to implement appropriate online marketing strategies for the business’s websites, blog sites, landing pages, mobile assets and other various digital touchpoints.

To succeed as Head of SEO, you will need to improve the business’s web visibility and raise its organic search rankings, implementing and analyzing SEO programs, campaigns and initiatives as a strong leader, organizing, mentoring and delegating to everyone in your department.

In summary you will need to focus on leadership, collaboration, innovation and opportunity, strategy and analysis, with the core goal of improving the businesses search marketing prospects.


The Skills

Here are the core skills you will need to ensure success as the head of SEO:

  • A comprehensive knowledge of all software, platforms and programs associated with search marketing.
  • Strong leadership skills and experience, as well as the ability to speak publicly with confidence, conveying critical messages to staff throughout the business.
  • An ability to inspire, guide and motivate other team members.
  • Solid technical knowledge, as well as some practical coding knowledge, in the fields of HTML, JavaScript, AJAX CSS and Flash.
  • Advanced strategic skills and an astute understanding of every shift, change and trend within the industry.
  • Impeccable organizational and collaborative skills on a senior level.

This role is demanding, but if you’ve gained the skills and experience required from your time as an SEO executive and account manager, you will be able to build upon these credentials and enjoy real success.

The important thing to remember here is that not everyone can succeed as the Head of SEO, so setting yourself apart from the competition is essential. Continual learning and self-development is essential for success, as is remaining informed on all industry trends and generally walking that extra mile.


Stepping Up

If you are ambitious and talented enough to become the Head of SEO, and you want to go further, setting your sights on the roles of Head of Digital Marketing or CMO is certainly a possibility. However, if you decide that you are happy where you are – good for you, being the director of search is a remarkable achievement in itself.

Some Key Takeaways

  • To enjoy success in the field of search marketing, the learning curve is very steep initially.
  • Managerial, interpersonal and strategic skills are essential to progression.
  • To get to the top, you must develop yourself and your skillset on a continual basis to gain the level of knowledge and expertise that set you apart from the competition.

Dan Hughes
Dan Hughes

Dan is a content writer specializing in digital marketing, emerging tech, music and looking after a toddler. You can find out more about him and his work by visiting his Catchy Space.

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