The need for search engine talent has never been greater, and the job market for SEOs and SEMs could not look any brighter. Search Engine Journal reported a 43% year-over-year increase in job openings for SEOs in 2018. So, it is safe to say that companies are prioritizing search into their core marketing strategies. But, what does this all mean for you? Do you have the right tool belt of skills to either enter this sector or transition into a new job? What are companies looking for going into the new year and what do they expect from their search talent? The pathway into a job change or an entering to the field may not always be straightforward (speaking for myself, I was working in the film industry before I ever got into marketing), having a core understanding of the search engine landscape may just land you your next job.
Methodology and Data:
Using Python, a total of 1769 unique job postings across the country were gathered from Indeed.com and broken down for analysis. Job postings were sourced between Nov 1st and December 19th. Six different data points were collected, including job title, city, state, company, salary (when provided) and job description.
Where are Employers Hiring?
For those early in their careers looking to enter the search industry or if you are looking to make a mid-level move, the cities with the top total postings for jobs was New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Austin, and Seattle. But, for those who have some experience under their belts, (director, VP and upward), New York and San Francisco would be your best bet. The competition will be tough though, with leadership positions in New York and San Francisco making up 7% and 13% of the job postings respectively. To see where in the US jobs are located, explore this interactive map of job postings.
Who is Hiring?
It may not come to much of a surprise that Agencies lead the industry in terms of hiring and employing search engine talent in the US. The project-oriented style of SEO and the PPC elements of SEM usually require larger organizations to rely on media/marketing agencies to manage this channel. In regards to internal talent, Tech, Retail, and Media make up 29% of the hiring landscape.
While more organizations are turning to internal teams over agencies to manage their marketing/advertising, you may still have better luck landing a job by attuning your search to agency positions. Agency employers value talent who are able to showcase their previous successes (and for those new to the search landscape, a showcase of ideas and vision). Consider developing case studies of previous projects, a personalized website (bonus point if it ranks for relevant keywords), and portfolios for the purposes of elevating your exposure to agencies.
What Platforms Should I Focus On?
Beyond Google’s offerings (Analytics, Search Ads 360, etc), employers will expect knowledge of third-party tools on the market. With hundreds of different platforms on the market for keyword research, link building, PPC management, and technical analysis, it is clear that employers favor particular platforms over others. In terms of holistic search software, Moz and SEMrush were the most prevalent across desired platform skills. Enterprise platforms such as Brightedge and Conductor were less requested, most likely due to the cost to onboard / maintain these services compared to other more mainstream competitors.
Having some mastery over one of the major players in the search engine software space that you can speak to is a great way to differentiate yourself from other applicants. While I am a strong brand advocate of SEMrush personally, I would recommend exploring each of these platforms (many of which have trial accounts or free versions). Each of the software listed above has excellent documentation on their sites which can give you a beginner, or even advanced insights into the respective platforms.
What Computer Languages Should I Know?
It comes as no surprise that technical languages are prevalent across job descriptions across all levels. In terms of priority, HTML and CSS remain a necessity for the modern SEO/SEM. It’s worth noting that SQL and “programming” were 66% less likely to appear in a job descriptions qualifications compared to HTML. More advanced programming languages such as Python weren’t found in any of the job descriptions analyzed.
Focus on mastering web languages, enough to have a thorough understanding of code as it relates to web design and development. As search engines continue to become more complex, both in regards to paid and organic, having a foundation in how landing pages are built as well as how to optimize them is key to landing an interview. For learning and/or further developing your HTML/CSS skills, I highly recommend Jon Duckett’s HTML and CSS: Design and Build Websites.
What Soft Skills Should I Have?
Outside of the technical toolset, your soft skills can truly be a make or break in regards to employer’s expectations of ideal candidates. Keywords such as “communication skills” and “project management” appearing far more frequently than technical terms within a job’s qualifications. With Agencies and Technology companies being the primary employers of SEO/SEM talent, it makes a lot of sense. The ideal team player has to be able to educate clients on the value of search, as well as manage multiple client projects/expectations (speaking from personal experience). While there is importance in being well rounded when it comes to search engine optimization/marketing, ideally your skills as an orator/educator who can adapt to the ever-changing search landscape will make you an undeniable asset to any employer.
While hard skills are easier to obtain through self-education, courses, and training, the soft skills listed above are almost exclusively developed through time and experience. For those looking to change careers, find areas to further nurture these soft skills in the form of finding a mentor and communication with your management. For employers, consider the culture of your organization and how it aligns to these desired skills? Are their programs in place to foster and grow these skills for employees? Aligning expectations with organization offerings may offer a wider pool of applicants.