Is SEO a Good Career in 2022? Here’s What You Need to Know

woman at a desk on her laptop in her office staring out large windows at the city and pondering if seo is the right career for her or not
woman at a desk on her laptop in her office staring out large windows at the city and pondering if seo is the right career for her or not

If you’re pondering SEO as a profession, you’re probably in one of the following situations:

  • You’re in or about to enter college and trying to decide on a major or career path
  • You are close to graduating or have recently graduated and looking for a “big boy” or girl job.
  • You are unfulfilled in your current career and looking to make a switch
  • You have dabbled with the idea of starting your own gig, either as a side hustle or your own business.

I am Ryan, an SEO in Des Moines, IA and i’ve been doing SEO for almost a decade. Regardless of which of these categories you fall into, I am going to tell you everything you need to know about weighing the pros and cons of an SEO career, and how to decide if it is right for you specifically.

Is SEO a good career choice?

Is SEO a good career choice? Let’s dig in.

I’m assuming that you are like most people and you define a “good” career as satisfying these 2 overarching criteria:

  1. The pay/demand/job stability associated with the career
  2. The level of enjoyment and fulfillment that you receive from the career

Money/demand/job stability of an SEO career

That part is covered. SEO is a high-demand job that can yield great monetary rewards.

  • According to Glassdoor, the median pay of an SEO Specialist is $66,709. Senior roles such as an SEO Analyst Lead can receive salaries that are comfortably in the 6 figure range.
  • According to LinkedIn, Digital Marketing roles are growing every year, and have the greatest amount of job openings, making them a highly demanded, if not the most demanded job out of all careers.

The level of enjoyment and fulfillment from an SEO career

This is where it gets subjective. Here’s how to help determine that part.

The best way is to gain an understanding of what SEO entails. Looking at the day-day can help you decide if an SEO profession is right for you.

Common SEO tasks

  • Technical SEO – Have an analytical mindset? Technical SEO includes things like setting up proper site infrastructures and digging deep into websites to discover opportunities.
  • Competitor research & execution – Are you a competitive person? It can be very rewarding seeing your site jump up in the search engine results pages above your competitors.
  • Copywriting – There’s a saying called “Content is King” for SEO. So needless to say, SEO copywriting such as creating blog articles is a big party of SEO. You writers out there may love an SEO job.
  • Design – Web and graphic design are a big part of creating a positive user experience for websites and SEO. This could give you creative people an excellent role in SEO.
  • Data analysis – Reading and interpreting large amounts of data is a big part of SEO, great for those with an analytical mindset.
  • Account management – Love working with people? You would make a good SEO account manager.
  • Presentations – Some SEO roles will involve creation and implementation of presentations to key stakeholders.

When searching for an SEO role, no 2 jobs are created equal. It is important to determine what your specific job entails.

An entry level in-house SEO role at a small company will probably entail doing all of the above-listed tasks, even other digital marketing tasks outside of SEO, such as PPC, social media, and email marketing. You will have lots of autonomy in developing a digital marketing strategy to further the business.

At a big agency, you will likely have a very specifically designed role and narrowly defined set of tasks within the scope of SEO.

It’s important to make sure that your specific SEO gig aligns with your personal interests and style.

(Study) Asking SEO workers if they’re happy with their career

To dig a bit deeper, I conducted a survey asking full-time SEO specialists if they are happy with their career choice. Here are the results:

Of the 437 full-time SEO professionals who participated in our poll:

  • 164 said yes, SEO is a good career
  • 194 said sometimes, it depends on the day
  • 79 said no, SEO is not a good career

Here is what some of survey participants had to say:

“I absolutely love my career. There is always something to learn and do. SEO never stops and every day is different.”

Jennie Woods, SEO Strategist at WillowTree

“Working in SEO is really satisfying – you get to mix digital marketing and technical development skills. One of the most important tasks is to manage your client expectations, and that needs doing regularly. With good communication, you can achieve buy-in from your client, and if you do the basics well you’ll make great things happen. Trust the process!”

Tom Riley, SEO Manager at Ride Digital Marketing

“I voted yes. Overall, it’s a good gig. I’m an in-house SEO, so I’m not dealing with numerous clients on a daily basis. It’s rewarding to see your efforts pay off and it’s a field that rewards creativity and consistent work.

The only bad experiences I’ve had as an SEO involved working for companies that treated SEO like paid ads, expecting quick results.”

Greg BirchGardens of Bacchus

“I generally like it as a career. I’m well paid (as an SEO Consultant). I have a good amount of flexibility in my work too.

I’d say the main downsides are:

  • Clients sometimes work in boring industries
  • Certain tasks are repetitive and dull
  • I work solo a lot, so that can be isolating

Overall, I like it more than I don’t. But if I were to start out again, I’d at least consider a different career path.”

Anonymous

“Overall it’s pretty fun and rewarding. It has its good days and bad days like any profession. A lot of misinformation in our industry. Ton of fake guru types. I keep my head down and rank.

I originally got in SEO over a decade ago and it’s fairly the same. There’s so many different specializations in SEO though so it keeps you on your feet.

You need to become decent at sales if you go on your own. That was my biggest weakness going in. I’m alright at sales now but Oof, it was rough at first.”

Joshua Allen, Smartlinks SEO Company

“It’s a yes from me.

I’m well paid, work from home, have flexible hours, I enjoy helping businesses become successful online, and getting higher rankings and more leads/sales is a bit like a video game to me.

Cons: Working from home is isolating, sometimes the work can be boring depending on the client and task, some clients are jerks, they mess up their website, they expect fast results even though we’ve explained it will take time, they want things out of scope, or they don’t pay, and explaining SEO to clients can be painful.”

Anonymous

THE VERDICT

Overall, SEO is a good career based on its high demand, competitive median salary, and the job satisfaction of our survey sample of 437 people in full-time SEO roles.

That being said, an individual’s overall satisfaction with their SEO career will depend on their own personal level of enjoyment with the tasks that SEO entails and what type of company that they work for.

Still on the fence? Keep reading.

8 reasons why an SEO career is most excellent

Photo: Orion Pictures

Still not convinced that an SEO career will be right for you? Here are 8 reasons to sway you back in the right direction:

1. It still is and always will be a highly coveted & specialized skill

As long as there are search engines there will be a need for SEO. While in the decades to come there may be significant changes to SEO, the fundamental concept of providing value to users will never change.

SEO is a specialized skill that makes businesses money when done right. This means if you know your stuff, you are very hire-able.

2. There is lots of money in it

As mentioned, the median pay of an SEO Specialist is $66,709. Senior roles can receive salaries well into $100,000 and beyond.

Simply put, SEO helps businesses sell stuff to make money. If you make a company money, you are going to make money.

There is unlimited earning potential in SEO.

3. You can work from anywhere

If you’re looking to become a digital nomad, SEO is the perfect gig.

SEO is one of those jobs that can truly be done from anywhere with an internet connection. Lots of SEO jobs today will be offered as a remote positions or a hybrid schedule. Or if you start your own gig, it can be done from anywhere, no office required.

4. It gives you independence

Being an SEO expert can be truly liberating. Your specialized skillset will always be highly demanded by employers, and if you want to go off on your own, you can do that too.

You can either start your own business as a solo gig with very little overhead, or even create your own website and monetize it through things such as affiliate marketing and advertising.

5. You can become an expert for free

Most SEO’s (including myself) are self-taught. The amount of free SEO learning resources on the internet is truly astounding. Simply search “SEO basics”, “Learning SEO”, etc. and read them. Interestingly enough, if the website wrote the article ranked your search term up top, they know their stuff.

So click, read, and learn! Here’s where I suggest you start: 6 Steps to Learn SEO for Free.

6. No specialized degree required

As mentioned, most SEO’s are self-taught. Also, as far as I’m aware, an “SEO Degree” doesn’t even exist.

A degree in marketing, computer science, writing, or public relations will help help with some of the fundamental principles of SEO, but really all that matters for an entry level job is that you are relatively tech-savvy and willing to learn!

7. It encompasses both creative and analytical tasks

Are you a creative person? Are you analytical? Are you a bit of both? Do you not know yet?

Well, the beauty of SEO is it is one of the few careers that encompasses the most extreme sides of each spectrum. Technical SEO, web development, and data analysis will be on the highly analytical side, and content writing, web design, and graphic design will be on the creative side.

Depending on how big of a company you go to work for, you will either be doing one, some, or all of these things.

8. It’s fun, rewarding, and fulfilling

The creative side of SEO is fun because you get to create stuff. The analytical side is fun because its like you’re solving a puzzle. It’s rewarding & fulfilling because when that puzzle comes together it is extremely satisfying both on a monetary and personal level.

7 reasons an SEO career can be a bummer, man

Photo: Working Title Films

But why do SEO jobs suck? Like every job, SEO can have its downsides. Here are some of the bummers to consider:

1. It’s a desk job

Yes, that desk can be on a beach in Bora Bora, but at the end of the day, it still requires a large majority of your time (if not all) to be in front of a screen. If you like to move around, then maybe you would be better-suited working a more physically active job.

2. It requires patience

SEO, even when done perfectly, can take months to start working. That is because Google’s algorithm has a “crawl budget”. I won’t get too nerdy on you, but basically search engines take their sweet time to pay you back for your SEO efforts.

It can be very discouraging working hard, doing everything right only to see little to no results.

3. It requires lots of work

At the end of the day, SEO really isn’t as complex as some people like to make it out to be. Also, anyone who can turn on a computer and has the drive can learn it.

However, it is not easy. It takes lots of disciplined work and time. If you’re looking for a get rich quick solution from SEO, you probably won’t find it.

4. There can be unrealistic expectations

As mentioned, even when you do SEO perfectly, it can take a long time to start working. Many employers and clients don’t understand this, and they can be unrealistic with their expectations regarding the speed of results.

5. It can get a bad rap

SEO gets a bad rap because of the “fake gurus”, spammers, and downright scammers out there. The unfortunate reality is those people/companies do exist, and many people have been burned or annoyed by them in the past, thus view SEO in a negative light.

SEO is commonly misunderstood. It’s not about “tricking” search engines or spamming people. What it is about is creating valuable content that humans love in order to create a positive impact on businesses. But some people don’t get that, so be prepared for some pushback from ignorant people.

6. Some of the work can be tedious or downright boring

I must be honest with you. I talked up the content writing side of SEO as being a fun & creative outlet, but it can be hard to get joy out of writing 50 articles about life insurance. At times, you will be stuck with boring topics or tasks.

7. It can be isolating

The big benefit of independence that SEO brings can also be a disadvantage.  If you work from home or as a solo gig, you can struggle to meet your needs for human interaction. This was the most commonly listed disadvantage of an SEO job from our survey.

The Bottom Line

SEO is a high demand, high paying job that happily employs many people around the world.

Overall, it is an excellent career for analytical and creative people alike.

I’m Ryan, founder of Clicked SEO. I’ve worked in SEO for almost a decade. Have questions about SEO as a career? Just fill out this form to email me directly, I’d be happy to help point you in the right direction.