Are you considering starting a career in SEO, or currently filling an SEO position? If you’re looking to enter the field, you likely want to know your earning potential, and—if you’re already in—it’s crucial to know the market value of your role so you can negotiate effectively during job interviews or salary review meetings. This knowledge is necessary whether you’ll be working as a freelancer or in-house on a team.
An SEO specialist salary varies based on location, industry, and experience. There can be a wide disparity, but it is generally a well-paying field that is gaining recognition with time. This recognition will lead to an increase in demand for SEO specialists in all types of organizations and better compensation.
In this article, we compare the average salaries of SEO specialists based on different factors so you can have a clear guide. We’ll cover the following:
- What does an SEO specialist do?
- SEO specialist salary by location
- SEO specialist salary by industry
- SEO specialist salary by years of experience
- How to become an SEO specialist
- Next steps
You can use the clickable menu to skip ahead to any section. Let’s get started!
1. What does an SEO specialist do?
An SEO specialist works to help their client’s website rank highly for relevant results on search engines like Google and Bing. This typically leads to increased website traffic, creating an opportunity for more profit.
SEO specialists use several strategies to achieve high search engine rankings. This typically involves on-page SEO, off-page SEO and technical SEO. Most specialists have an understanding of all three types, but some may choose to focus on only one. They often perform tasks like keyword research for content, monitoring website performance, and improving the domain authority using link outreach.
An SEO specialist typically works within the marketing team but may also have to collaborate with other teams, such as the development and product teams. The goal is to drive growth and profit for the company. The specific scope of their role will usually depend on the general organization of the marketing team.
For example, if you’re with an in-house SEO team, your work as an SEO specialist may be streamlined, but if you’re a one-person SEO team, you may have more deliverables.
Find out more about the role of an SEO specialist in this post: What Is an SEO Specialist? Role Description & Career Guide for 2023
2. SEO specialist salary by location
Location can be a significant determinant of the SEO specialist salary. This is due to the effect of factors like the demand for an SEO specialist, the cost of living, and local tax rates. An increase in the cost of living and local tax rate will more likely cause an increase in salary for the same role. Therefore, if you work for a company that adjusts salaries based on location, you might earn less than your colleagues who live in a more expensive area.
This is worth considering before relocating to close the salary gap; living expenses may even them out.
Let’s compare the predictions of the average SEO specialist salary based on location. All salaries are shown as U.S. Dollars (USD).
- U.S.: $53,872 (Indeed)
- United Kingdom: $35,556.83 (Glassdoor)
- United Arab Emirates: $16,952 (Indeed)
- Switzerland: $108,396.60 (Payscale)
- India: $3,625.85 (Payscale)
- France: $49,794.76 (Glassdoor)
- Australia: $85,830 (Indeed)
- Canada: $64,468 (Indeed)
- Japan: $40,423.43 (Glassdoor)
- Germany: $62,244 (Salary.com)
- Spain: $44,166 (Salary.com)
- Greece: $33,208 (Salary Expert)
These figures will differ based on the cities or states within a country. For example, according to Indeed, the average SEO specialist salary in California is $60,736, which is relatively higher than the average salary of $49,458 in Wyoming. Although location is a huge factor in determining salary, these salaries also fluctuate based on your industry and experience.
3. SEO specialist salary by industry
An SEO specialist salary will vary across industries due to the profit margins of some industries and the amount of SEO work they require. The size of the company also matters since a multinational will typically have more money to spare for SEO than a small business.
According to Glassdoor, the following industries pay more for SEO specialists.
- Pharmaceutical and biotechnology: $84,131
- Human resources and staffing: $79,021
- Information technology: $74,758
- Management consulting: $70,404
- Media and communication: $68,448
Even within these industries, there are still low payers, so read the job description and estimated compensation and benefits carefully.
4. SEO specialist salary by years of experience
Employers also consider the amount of relevant experience you have had in a role or similar role before making an offer. Generally, more years of experience command a higher salary.
Here’s what the average SEO specialist salary can look like based on years of experience.
Entry-level SEO specialist salary
Entry-level SEO specialist roles usually require up to two years of experience. Typically, your employer would expect you to perform tasks like keyword research, site audit, on-page SEO, and have a working knowledge of analytical tools. You’ll be learning a fair amount on the job.
Here’s what the average salary for entry-level SEO specialists looks like, generally, in the U.S.:
- $45,060 (Salary.com)
- $53,689 (Glassdoor)
- $46,989 (Talent)
It’s not a bad start, and these salaries tend to increase as you gain more experience.
Mid-level SEO specialist salary
Mid-level SEO specialist roles typically require 2-5 years of experience. At this stage, you should be able to work independently with SEO tools and implement and monitor SEO strategies. It was hard to find average salary figures for mid-level SEO specialists, but a reasonable estimate is between $50,000 and $60,000.
Senior level SEO specialist salary
Senior-level roles are usually one of the most paid positions in a company. They require 5-8+ years of experience in SEO or SEO-related roles.
At this stage, your employers expect you to have advanced SEO knowledge, drive SEO strategies and tactics for the company, and report SEO performance to clients and stakeholders. You’ll likely be managing a team with a job title like head of SEO.
Here’s what the average salary for senior-level SEO specialists looks like in the US:
- Payscale: $64,546
- Glassdoor: $78,796
- Salary.com: $67,918
- Indeed: $72,939
The performance bonuses senior SEO specialists receive may increase these figures greatly in some companies.
5. How to become an SEO specialist
No four-year degree will make you an SEO specialist. SEO is constantly evolving, and a degree course may be outdated before you’ve graduated.
However, for job applications, employers typically request a bachelor’s degree in a related field like marketing, communication, and business or experience in a related role. Others may require a stipulated amount of experience in the field.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to becoming an SEO specialist, but these are vital steps to get you there.
Learn SEO fundamentals
If you’re new to SEO, learning the basics should be your first step. You’ll need to understand topics like how search engine algorithms work and how to perform keyword research. You can read several articles on the subjects, but for a more intensive and detailed approach, consider taking courses—whether paid or free SEO courses—or attending a bootcamp.
Taking a digital marketing course will not only give you the fundamentals you need to succeed within the field of SEO, but within digital marketing as a whole—making you more valuable to any company you join in the future.
The certificates you’ll typically receive at the end of these programs will prove to employers that you’re familiar with SEO concepts. However, experience is highly valued in this field.
Build a portfolio
Now that you’ve learned the concepts and techniques in theory, it’s time to get your hands dirty. Get familiar with using SEO tools like analytic software and keyword tools. Start a blog and apply the different strategies and techniques you’ve learned. After some time, that website can serve as your portfolio, and you will have gained relevant experience.
Apply for internships
Now that you have hands-on experience, you can start applying for internships either on a digital marketing team or an SEO agency. You’ll learn how to collaborate with people, which is an important aspect of being an SEO specialist, and particularly with agencies, you’ll learn the peculiarities of working with clients from different industries. This way, you will get a broader experience that will make you more confident in your skills.
Stay up-to-date with SEO trends
Remember, SEO is constantly evolving, so you need to stay aware of trends. Follow industry news, read SEO blogs, subscribe to SEO newsletters, follow experts who share information on their social media pages, listen to SEO podcasts, watch YouTube videos and be active in forums and communities.
6. Next steps
Now that you know the different SEO specialist salaries and how they vary based on location, industry, and experience, you can have realistic expectations. Be confident enough to ask for what you’re worth in skills and experience. Note that a freelance SEO specialist salary can vary considerably from the average numbers based on the number of projects they take on.
Earning potential is one of the major factors to consider while choosing a career path. From this salary guide, it’s clear that being an SEO specialist is a well-paying career with room for growth.
If you want to get a hands-on introduction to digital marketing first, try out this free, 5-day short course. You may also be interested in the following articles: