SEO job description

What is an SEO Specialist?

The mission of an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Specialist is to maximize the volume of inbound organic traffic from search engines to a website. This is accomplished through a combination of on-page and off-page techniques, including link-building, social media strategy, viral marketing, metadata sculpting, site speed optimization, content strategy, information architecture, and more.

As a result of the daily changes in the search algorithms of Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other leaders in search, an SEO expert works in a dynamic environment that requires them to be continually learning, fine-tuning their skills, and experimenting to discover how the industry is shifting.

There’s no college program to train an SEO, few industry standards, and many misconceptions and outdated ideas connected to the industry. Professionals in this industry break into their positions through experience, success, research, and trial and error.

At Paladin Staffing, we specialize in placing SEOs in excellent positions throughout the USA — from Silicon Valley to Silicon Alley and beyond. If you’re seeking work in the industry, we invite you to browse our jobs or apply online to have one of our specialists contact you today!

The SEO’s skill set

  • Experience with Google and Bing’s services, including Analytics and Webmaster Tools
  • Experience with Google’s Keyword Tool
  • A functional understanding of HTML and CSS
  • The ability to work with back-end SEO elements such as .htaccess, robots.txt, metadata, site speed optimization, and related skills
  • Proven success in link building and viral strategies
  • The ability to deploy an effective local and long-tail search strategy
  • A deep understanding of mobile strategy and how it relates to SEO
  • A solid grasp of how blogging, press releases, social media, and related strategies go hand-in-hand with SEO
  • Experience in building inbound organic search traffic and improving SERPs
  • A background in creating reports showing web analytics data and site evaluations
  • An up-to-date, working knowledge of current, past, and projected trends in the SEO industry
  • Familiarity with the best tools in the trade

Supplementary skills: PHP, UX, IA, CRO, SEM, Content Strategy, Social Media

Related job titles: SEO (Expert, Associate, Coordinator, Specialist, Analyst, Strategist, Marketing Pro), Search Engine Optimization Specialist, Organic Search Manager, Local Search Strategist, SEO Content Strategist/Writer

Related certifications & qualifications

There are many SEO certifications available online, but the general consensus is that a large number of them are not widely accepted within the SEO community. However, the certifications provided by Google are viewed in a positive light, and there are a number of SEO certifications that are well respected in many circles. Below is an incomplete list of a few certifications we recommend:

Three types of SEO Specialists

People working in search optimization generally work in one of the three categories: In-house, Agency, or Freelance. For both the employee and the employer, each category comes with its own set of implications, as well as pros and cons. Before accepting work, the SEO will have to decide if their job type will fit their lifestyle and personal preferences. One safe way to navigate this decision is to accept a few temp jobs in SEO, so you can try out a few different work environments and see what's right for you.

In-House SEO

An in-house SEO works as a full-time employee for a single company, or underneath the umbrella of several sister companies. You’ll be able to become specialized within a niche industry, have greater ownership over the projects at hand, and will be able to take full credit for your brilliant successes (or failures) along the way. Do a great job, and you'll earn a solid, stable job, and a respected name for yourself among your industry peers.

A company generally hires an in-house SEO to work exclusively on a small set of websites, choosing an in-house over an agency so they can have a more hands-on, responsive approach to SEO. They appreciate the SEO's in-depth understanding of their specific industry — an understanding that’s hard for an agency to guarantee.

As an in-house SEO, you may be the only one with strong SEO knowledge in your company. This means that the burden of educating and "selling" your team on SEO is on you. You will need to be good at communicating, working with corporate road blocks, and eliminating the fear of risk (or instilling them with a little fear, as the case may be), along the way. If they don't get on board with your strategy, it could definitely slow you down.

Agency SEO Specialist

When an SEO works in an agency, they enjoy the fast-paced learning immersion that a team of related professionals enjoys — a team that they can quickly add to their professional network. Their resume builds quickly with case studies from high-profile brands and companies, and they’re able to build their success on a time-tested groundwork of best practices and a history of data-driven success.

A company will generally work with an agency when they’re looking for a low-cost, "safe" option. They’re drawn to the wider base of experience — they’re not gambling on the skills of a single professional.

Despite all the glamor, agencies often have a high turnover, as SEOs are poached by competing companies and lost clients can lead to employees being phased out. While the pay is solid and the benefits are good, there’s a "Live by the sword, die by the sword" philosophy, and an inherent stress level with it that may not be right for you.

Freelance SEO

A freelance SEO takes on a much more dramatic set of challenges and opportunities than an in-house- or agency-employed professional. You’re your own boss, and you’re completely free to choose your work, choose your salary, and choose your benefits.

On the other hand, you’re the biggest fish in a pond of one. If you’re stuck, it’s up to you to dig yourself out. You’re going to have to do all your own marketing, negotiating, and networking on your own — and the companies that come to you are often going to be looking for a "deal". You're going to have to deal with an erratic workflow, and you’re going to really need to know your stuff.

Some of the biggest challenges that a freelance SEO encounters is in communicating the value (read: cost) of SEO for a website, establishing realistic expectations (and a time frame for those expectations) for the client, and operating in an environment where you’re essentially a "wizard for hire", whose results are magical and hard to measure, and operate within a mutable universe.

Prepare for these 15 job interview questions

The best way to approach a job interview for an SEO position is to come in prepared with a solid understanding of the company’s existing websites and documented suggestions as to how you would improve their SEO on the short-term and long-term. Additionally, be prepared to tackle these challenging questions:

  1. Which SEO tools do you use?
  2. Which industry thought leaders do you follow in SEO?
  3. In your previous roles, what metrics did you track, and what kinds of reporting did you provide?
  4. How have you adapted your SEO style to align with emerging best practices and the recent changes in the Google algorithm?
  5. What is your mobile strategy?
  6. How do you approach an SEO-friendly content strategy?
  7. What do you feel is the three most important elements to on-page SEO?
  8. What do you feel is the three most important elements to off-page SEO?
  9. What actions do you recommend to integrate Social Media into your overall SEO strategy?
  10. How would you describe your link-building process? Do you have a viral strategy?
  11. How will you integrate your SEO knowledge in with our creative and design team?
  12. What are some examples of how you've brought an increase in organic traffic in your previous organic search campaigns?
  13. Which peripheral skills (coding, html/css, content strategy, IA, etc.) do you have that can supplement your SEO skills?
  14. When would you use robots.txt vs. a robots meta tag?
  15. How would you apply an SEO strategy for a client who had a website programmed in Flash?

Brush up on your SEO knowledge

Search engines are evolving — to stay relevant within the industry, an SEO must build a culture of ongoing learning into their lifestyle. And as SEO becomes increasingly social, there’s a lot of value to building a strong professional network — both in person and within the digital narrative. To this end, we recommend that anyone in SEO check out the following blogs and events.

Top SEO Blogs:

SEO Conventions & Training Events:

Other Resources

Apply for a SEO job with Paladin Staffing

If you’re looking for the next step in your career, Paladin Staffing is ready to connect you with an excellent SEO opportunity in your area. Launch the next stage of your career by browsing our job listings or apply online to connect with one of or recruiters today!