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A Career Guide for Women in SEO

By: Tabitha Wilson

As an industry, SEO is pretty innovative: remote work was common for SEO professionals long before the pandemic, asynchronous and decentralized work is often the norm for SEO agencies, and there’s a more significant emphasis on your results and performance than the hours you spend at a desk.  However, there’s one key area where the SEO industry could do better: the gender gap. 

There’s no way around it: SEO is a male-dominated industry. A 2020 survey of SEO professionals revealed that men outnumbered women two to one in the industry. This extends to how men and women in SEO are paid and how much they charge for their services. While the SEO industry is largely progressive, and many prominent female SEOs find success, working your way up the ladder may take some research and consideration. 

That’s where this guide comes in. At Resolve Marketing, we dedicate ourselves to supporting women in the SEO industry and helping them succeed. This guide is one way for us to help you find your way in this fast-moving industry. We’ll break down the SEO gender gap, give you advice for finding your first job, and provide plenty of resources for your job hunt. 

What Do SEO Experts Do?

Since the SEO industry has multiple disciplines and specializations, the day-to-day work of an SEO expert can vary depending on who you work for.

In general, though, SEO experts either work for a specialized SEO agency or provide in-house SEO services to a larger company.  When you do comprehensive SEO for a company, you do a bit of everything: onsite optimization, content creation, schema markup, and link building when you have time. If you work for an agency, your work will be more focused on specialty areas of SEO — you may only write blog content, send outreach emails for link building campaigns, or work entirely with clients unfamiliar with SEO standards. 

But whether you work for an agency or do SEO for a larger company, your most important job will be staying up to date with Google algorithm updates. Working in SEO means constantly reading, learning, and observing to ensure your methods are suited to the modern search engine landscape. 

illustration of two women discussing digital marketing

Are SEO Jobs In Demand?

SEO jobs are definitely in demand, and the sector shows signs of continued growth. A report by Backlinko reported that major cities like New York, San Francisco, Austin, and Chicago have the highest demand for SEO professionals. The search volume for SEO-related jobs has been rising annually, with a significant surge noted during the COVID-19 pandemic that has continued into recent years​. 

While jobs early on in SEO development were highly focused on technical SEO, the field is expanding. Non-technical SEO roles such as strategists, managers, and writers provide a pathway into the SEO industry without learning coding or web development (though those skills do come in handy!). Other sectors are also learning how crucial good SEO is in the modern digital age, and the demand for high-quality SEO services is projected to grow. As demand for high-quality SEO services grows, more positions will be created to manage that demand and help businesses connect to the talent they need. 

How Much Do SEOs Make?

Again, the salary for SEO professionals can vary widely — mainly depending on the country, experience, and specific role they hold. Recent salary data from Manaferra showed a fairly wide salary range on geographical lines:

  • In the USA, SEO professionals earn an average of $78,431 annually.
  • In Canada, the average salary is about $81,385.
  • In Australia, SEO specialists can earn approximately $91,989 annually.
  • In the UK, the average salary is around $55,116.

This, of course, doesn’t take into account the number of years one has worked in SEO or what their specialty is. Many SEO professionals also work freelance or as consultants, making these figures even more nebulous. 

illustration of two women using their computers while speaking on the phone

Salary Gaps for Women in SEO

There is a significant gender gap in pay in digital marketing, and it’s unfortunately pronounced in SEO. In 2023, Search Engine Land found that men in SEO make, on average, 26% more than their women coworkers. This disparity is even more pronounced in leadership positions and senior roles, where men may earn nearly 30% more than women in similar positions. 

A few different factors contribute to this. For one, a 2020 survey from North Star Inbound Marketing found that women in SEO are almost twice as likely to work freelance as men. Because freelance work is often more inconsistent than regular full-time employment, this may exacerbate the existing income discrepancy. However, the same survey showed that men are making more, even among freelancers and consultants. Male freelance SEOs charged more for their product, and their average retainers were 28.6% larger than those of female freelancers. 

The survey also found that the median hourly rates for male SEOs are 16% higher than for female SEOs. Because many entry-level SEO positions are paid hourly, this can disadvantage early-career SEOs in a way that’s difficult to make up later. 

The Gender Gap in SEO

Historically, technical and senior-level positions within SEO, such as technical SEO specialists or heads of SEO, have been more likely to be filled by men. The North Star survey showed that nearly twice as many men had expert-level technical SEO roles than women. These roles are perceived to have higher authority and better career mobility. In contrast, women in the SEO field are more frequently found in content-oriented roles, such as SEO content writers or social media managers. The study did find that women were more likely to be promoted to management positions, but even then, they were often paid less than their male peers. 

Addressing this disparity requires consciously encouraging diversity in all SEO roles and promoting equal advancement opportunities across gender lines. Efforts to mentor young professionals, regardless of gender, in highly valuable technical skills alongside soft skills are crucial to close this gap. 

Where is the Biggest Gap Between Men and Women?

However, not all countries show the same discrepancies. Here’s where the ratio between men and women working in SEO is widest, as found by North Star. 

  1. Central and South America: With a striking ratio of 5:1, this region exhibits the most significant gender gap in the SEO industry. 
  2. Australia and New Zealand: The ratio here is 4.6:1, indicating a substantial gender gap that challenges the progress towards equality in these developed markets.
  3. United Kingdom: In the UK, the gender ratio in the SEO industry is 3:1, reflecting significant challenges in achieving gender balance. This is especially prominent in higher-level and technical roles.
  4. Asia: With a ratio of 2.6:1, Asia shows a somewhat lower, yet still prominent, gender gap in SEO. 
  5. United States: The USA has the lowest ratio among the listed regions at 2.4:1, but it still highlights an evident gender gap within the SEO industry. 

These ratios highlight the need for global investment in career development for women in SEO. While many social and cultural factors can contribute to these discrepancies, the world of SEO can offer women worldwide equal footing to their male peers. 

Degrees and Education Needed for a Successful SEO Career

Because SEO is such a new and changing industry, there aren’t really formal education paths for SEO. In fact, a recent study showed that as many as a third of SEO professionals do not have a college degree at all! Of those who do, many majored in marketing, communications, English writing, or journalism. People of all paths come to SEO as a career, so don’t worry if you went to college for dance or music and want to pivot into a new industry. 

Just because you can’t get a bachelor’s in SEO doesn’t mean educational courses and programs exist. Women can greatly benefit from structured SEO education early in their careers before starting a job. 

The SEO community is robust with forums and courses, including Google’s SEO Starter Guide, courses from platforms like Udemy, and certifications such as those offered by Google Analytics Academy. Industry blogs and webinars from Moz, Search Engine Journal, or HubSpot are also invaluable for staying up-to-date with the latest SEO strategies and algorithm updates.  In SEO, practical experience and a personal commitment to learning open more doors than traditional educational pathways.

illustration of a desk with a laptop and computer monitor displaying a link

How To Find Your First SEO Job

Whether you’re seeking an SEO position straight out of college or making a mid-career pivot, finding a job in SEO may be easier said than done. Entry-level SEO jobs are often highly competitive; finding one that suits your lifestyle may take some research and clever resume crafting. 

If you’re totally new to SEO, take some time to read through materials from popular SEO publications like Search Engine Land and Search Engine Journal. Taking introductory SEO courses from sites like Coursera or LinkedIn Learning is also a great idea.  

However, what’s most important to most hiring managers in SEO isn’t education but practical experience. Even if you’ve never taken a marketing class in your life, you can still impress a hiring manager by showing them that you have done this kind of work before. Consider starting your own blog or website to familiarize yourself with SEO and content basics, or volunteer to run SEO for a local business or nonprofit organization. Not only will these enterprises teach you SEO fundamentals in a hands-on way, but you’ll also start to build a network of professionals who can speak to the quality of your work. 

Once you have a portfolio and basic familiarity with SEO, it’s time to apply. Use websites like LinkedIn or Indeed to find entry-level listings in the SEO field. Many entry-level SEO roles focus on linkbuilding or content creation, which are excellent ways to learn the Google landscape from within. 

Advancing Your Career as a Woman in SEO

Because changes to the Google algorithm are as predictable as death and taxes, learning every day is key to staying competitive in the SEO world. Once you’re in an SEO role, read up on industry trends and developments each week. Engage with other SEO communities online, posting on sites like LinkedIn to find other potential professional connections. Online visibility could be the key to your next role. 

Specializing in a particular area, such as technical SEO or content strategy, can make you particularly valuable. Knowing how to handle complex issues with ease can help you command a higher salary. As you explore the SEO industry, find a niche that fits your natural skillset and develop your career from there. For instance, if you’re a writer by trade, go into content development roles. If you’re better with spreadsheets and databases, you may decide to go into a project management role. 

Finally, you can only go so far without proper networking. Attending industry conferences, participating in SEO forums, and joining professional groups can connect you with peers, mentors, and potential employers. These relationships can offer new opportunities and insights unavailable through conventional job markets. After all, nearly 85% of jobs today are found via networking. Connecting with other women in SEO empowers you and the women who follow in your footsteps. 

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Jobs Available to Women in SEO

Once you’re searching for a job in SEO, you may be overwhelmed by all the different titles and listings online. Here’s a quick breakdown of the most common roles you’ll find in the industry. 

Local SEO

Local SEO specialists focus on attracting customers through relevant local searches. They enhance local search visibility by managing online reviews, local citations, and Google My Business listings.

Technical SEO

A Technical SEO specialist ensures that a website meets the technical requirements of modern search engines. Typical tasks include optimizing site structure, improving page speed, and ensuring the website is crawlable. 

Copywriter

A copywriter creates compelling and persuasive content for various marketing mediums. Their work includes writing product descriptions, blog posts, advertising copy, and other content that engages audiences. 

Project Manager

Project management entails planning, executing, and finalizing projects according to strict deadlines and within budget. This includes acquiring resources and coordinating the efforts of team members and third-party contractors or consultants to deliver projects according to plan.

Link Builder

A link builder acquires high-quality backlinks from other websites to improve search engine rankings. Their strategies include content marketing, building relationships with influencers, and outreach campaigns.

Content Manager

A content manager oversees the creation and publication of content across various platforms. They plan content strategies, manage content creation teams, and ensure content is SEO-friendly and aligns with the brand’s voice.

Consultant

Typically working in a specific niche, a Consultant provides expert advice and guidance to improve business performance, optimize operations, and implement best practices based on thorough analysis and expertise.

Digital PR Manager

This role focuses on building and enhancing a brand’s reputation online through digital media channels. They manage press releases, develop relationships with online media, and handle crisis communication.

SEO Manager

An SEO manager develops and implements strategies that help a website increase its search engine rankings. They oversee on-page (site content, structure) and off-page (link building, social media) SEO efforts.

H3: Web Developer

A web developer designs and builds websites, ensuring they are visually appealing and user-friendly. They are also responsible for the technical aspects of the site, including its performance and capacity.

Director of SEO

This leadership role oversees the SEO team and sets the strategic direction of search engine optimization efforts to align with the organization’s goals. They manage budgets, track SEO performance, and integrate SEO with overall marketing strategy.

Though there’s a definite gap in how women are trained and paid in the SEO industry, it’s still a promising field to enter and advance in. By networking, continuously learning, and building a solid portfolio, you can rise to the top of the SEO industry. 

Resources for Women Entering the SEO Industry

We’ve curated this list of resources to help women enter the SEO field. As fellow women in SEO, we’ve turned to these sites and courses for success. 

SEO Resources for Beginners: Tutorials, Infographics, and More

  • Moz’s “Beginner’s Guide to SEO”: This comprehensive guide breaks down the fundamentals of SEO in an easy-to-understand format. It covers everything from how search engines operate to how to structure your website and content for better search engine visibility. Moz updates this guide regularly, ensuring it stays current with the latest SEO best practices.
  • Google’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Starter Guide: Who better to learn SEO from than the master of search engines themselves? Google’s starter guide provides essential SEO tips to help any newbie get started. This resource is particularly useful in understanding how Google views SEO and what it considers good practices.
  • Search Engine Journal’s SEO for Beginners: This collection of articles, infographics, and tutorials is designed to help beginners understand SEO basics. It covers a wide range of topics, from keyword research to SEO-friendly content creation, and it’s frequently updated with the latest information and trends in the industry. 
illustration of a computer screen with five people interconnected and talking

Online SEO Training Courses and Certifications

  • Google Analytics Academy: Google offers several free courses that are perfect for learning more about SEO and analytics. The Google Analytics for Beginners and Advanced Google Analytics courses are particularly beneficial. These courses provide certifications upon completion, which can significantly add to your resume.
  • SEMrush Academy: SEMrush Academy offers a comprehensive array of free courses and exams that cover various aspects of digital marketing, including SEO. The SEO Fundamentals Course with Greg Gifford is a popular choice. The certification you receive upon completion is widely recognized in the industry.
  • Moz Academy: Known for its extensive suite of SEO tools, Moz also offers detailed training courses in SEO. Moz Academy provides courses catering to beginners and advanced users, and they often run promotions for free access to their paid courses. Their certification can testify to your expertise and commitment to the field.
  • HubSpot Academy’s SEO Certification Course: HubSpot provides a comprehensive SEO certification course covering everything from SEO basics to advanced strategies. The course is free and includes video content along with practical exercises. This certification is recognized across the industry and is particularly useful for those looking to understand how SEO integrates with inbound marketing strategies.

Networking Guides for Women in SEO

  • “Career Survival Guide for People Who Hate Networking” by Forbes: This article provides practical tips for women who may feel uncomfortable with traditional networking. It covers alternative networking strategies that feel more authentic and less sales-oriented, such as building genuine relationships and leveraging online platforms to connect with peers.
  • “The Introvert’s Guide to Networking” from the Tennessee Technological Society on LinkedIn: Tailored for introverts in the tech industry, this guide offers valuable advice on networking effectively without stepping too far out of your comfort zone. It suggests leveraging social media and attending smaller, more intimate events where meaningful conversations can happen more naturally.
  • “How to Network on LinkedIn Like a Pro” from Business.com This online guide offers practical tips on using LinkedIn effectively. It covers optimizing your profile, engaging with content in meaningful ways, and reaching out to new contacts without being pushy. The guide emphasizes using LinkedIn features like groups and recommendations to enhance visibility and credibility within your network.
  • Lean In Local Networks: These networks provide a searchable database of regional and city-specific circles where women can join forces to support each other’s personal and professional development. Each local network hosts regular meetings, workshops, and events designed to foster networking, mentorship, and collaboration among women committed to helping each other succeed. 

Resources for SEO Freelancers

  • Yoast SEO Plugin: Especially useful for those managing SEO for WordPress sites, Yoast SEO offers comprehensive tools to improve on-page SEO, including content analysis, readability checks, and automatic technical SEO improvements like canonical URLs and meta tags.
  • Upwork is a leading platform for freelancers in various fields, including SEO. It allows freelancers to create profiles, showcase their portfolios, and bid on projects posted by clients worldwide. It’s an excellent place to find SEO projects that match your skill level and preferences.
  • Google Search Console: A free tool provided by Google, Search Console helps freelancers monitor, maintain, and troubleshoot their site’s presence in Google Search results. It provides insights into which queries bring users to the site, how often the site appears in Google Search, and how pages are indexed.
  • Moz Pro: Moz offers an extensive suite of SEO tools that are invaluable for freelancers needing to conduct in-depth keyword research, site audits, and competitor analysis. Moz Pro provides insights into search engine rankings, link building, and content optimization, which are crucial for developing effective SEO strategies.

Resources for Finding A Job In SEO

  • LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a vital tool for professionals in any field, including SEO. You can use LinkedIn to search for SEO job listings, connect with industry professionals, and share your content and achievements. The platform also offers LinkedIn Learning courses that can enhance your SEO skills, making you a more attractive candidate.
  • Indeed: This job search engine aggregates listings from thousands of websites and allows you to search for SEO-specific roles. You can create job alerts to receive updates about new SEO jobs as they become available, ensuring you don’t miss out on any opportunities.
  • Glassdoor: Glassdoor goes beyond job listings to provide company reviews and employee salary data. This can be particularly useful for SEO professionals who want to find jobs with companies with a good industry reputation and to understand what salary ranges might be expected for specific SEO roles.
  • AngelList: AngelList is the go-to resource for those interested in working with startups. It connects job seekers with startups worldwide looking to hire talent, often including roles in SEO and digital marketing. This platform is perfect for finding positions in innovative companies that value new ideas and approaches to SEO.

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