In the first week of January 2012, I conducted a small research project where I manually extracted the text from SEO job postings on LinkedIn and plugged them into a word cloud generator called Wordle. I was curious to know what hiring companies nowadays are looking for when they want to fill an SEO position in terms of perception (job description) and qualifying factors (job experience).
A small disclaimer: I make sweeping generalizations for each image so it may not apply to every position, description, experience or company. That being said, feel free to offer your own explanations in the comments section below as I am always open to hearing how others interpret this.
I searched for “SEO” on LinkedIn and only used the first 10 search results pages.
The job posting title MUST have the acronym “SEO” in it otherwise it was omitted.
“Account managers” were excluded because they aren’t real SEOs - why does this position even exist?
The sample includes small, medium and large businesses from all over the United States including companies like Facebook, TripAdvisor, Verizon and Walgreens.
I separated the job posting into three separate categories (I left out a “Director” category because there were only 3 results).
Perceptions - SEO Analyst (n=10, includes Associates)
As is the case with most industries, the Analyst is the heavy lifter executing campaigns and getting their hands dirty - the search industry is no exception. For novice SEOs, it would be a good idea to learn the basics of (online) marketing and getting a grasp of keyword research and optimization.
Qualifying Factors - SEO Analyst
To be considered for an SEO Analyst position, you should know how the internet works and understand how search engines play a part in it. Judging from the word cloud though, it wouldn’t hurt to have some hands-on experience with web analytics either.
Perceptions - SEO Strategist (n=16, includes Specialists/Experts)
The SEO Strategist does exactly that - they strategize to find opportunities and weaknesses. Also, if you’re looking to obtain this position I recommend taking your SEO knowledge to the next level by reading about the patents being granted to the major search engines. One of my favorite resources is SEO by the Sea - Bill Swaski reads every patent so you don’t have to then translates them into laymans terms.
Qualifying Factors - SEO Strategist
According to the tag cloud, companies looking for an SEO Strategist want to hire someone who has a strong analytical mind-set and a deep understanding of how site optimization can impact web traffic from search engines. Again, read up on search patents and flex your analytical muscles - I suggest checking out Occam’s Razor by Avinash Kaushik.
Perceptions - SEO Manager (n=23)
This one is a little difficult to decipher as nothing really stands out but if I were to venture a guess, the current perception of an SEO Manager is someone who is the jack-of-all trades. Essentially, they want someone who can strategize at a business level, manage projects and team members, responsible for reporting SEO performance and in charge of driving new search initiatives. I hope you get paid well!
Qualifying Factors - SEO Manager
This cloud is just as ambiguous as the last yet they are very similar. I’d suggest you be good at EVERYTHING to qualify as a Manager. You’ll most likely need to have advanced technical SEO knowledge, business/financial acumen and interpersonal skills. Looking to reach this level? Learn to do everything in the tag cloud above (data analysis, link building, social media, web analytics, content optimization, HTML/CSS/JS, and more!).
So what do you think? Do hiring companies perceive the prospective SEO candidate as someone to just “do the SEO” or are we the proverbial “inbound marketers” everyone is raging about? I would have to say no but it depends entirely on the company - we’ll save that thought for another post though.