What is it like being an SEO? 15 Professionals tell You!

What is it like being an SEO? 15 Professionals tell You!

So, in this post I did some outreach to a number of SEOs! I was really interested in this topic to see what people thought of becoming an SEO and what they were thinking about actually being an SEO.

So, I asked the following questions:

  1. How did get into becoming an SEO?
  2. What is working as an SEO like compared to your previous Job/s?
  3. What’s been your best and worst moment as an SEO?

I’ll leave the comment and underneath each comment is the person’s author bio, I thought it’d be better to have it under their response, as it gives a bit of illusion to whom the person is, as well as it means you can’t be bias towards already knowing the person 😉

My favourite answers came from James Norquay, Marie Haynes & Jayson DeMers, tell me who’s your favourite was in the comments!

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How did you get into becoming an SEO? 

I sort of stumbled into it. I was working as a lawyer and began investigating legal internet marketing options. I was also approached by other lawyers about building websites and what not. Seemed like there might be enough of an opportunity to support a full-time move. From building websites, it seemed natural to learn about marketing them. The next thing I knew, I was pouring over SEO websites, blogs and books.

What is working as an SEO like compared to your previous Job/s?

In some ways, being an SEO is like being a lawyer. It’s a lot problem-solving. Likewise, it presents new stuff to learn about, research and adapt to on a very regular basis. Unfortunately, both occupations also have a negative stigma with many folks. On the other hand, the practice of law has many more established standards. I think that’s something that the SEO community could benefit from.

What’s been your best and worst moment as an SEO?

The best moments are always hearing from clients about how well search performs in terms of generating new business. The worst are when SEO campaigns don’t meet a client’s expectations. The online legal landscape is fairly competitive. Unfortunately, many lawyers, at least in my experience, have extremely high expectations but aren’t willing to make the proper investments to be competitive.

Gyi Tsakalakis –

Heps lawyers put their best foot forward online because that’s where clients are looking for them. He’s a Co-Founder of AttorneySync, a law firm internet marketing agency.

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How did you get into becoming an SEO? 

A long story short. I started out as a web designer (and i built websites too) but was asked over a few years, more and more about how to get more traffic to websites and improve conversions. After a few months of dabbling,  I got really interested in SEO and Internet Marketing, I read copious numbers of blogs and looked through the code of high ranking websites to see just why and how they ranked. My mind is one which loves figuring out strategies based on analytics and also looking at user experience helps keep my design mind alive. A few years after I started researching SEO it had become 85% of my work for clients.

What is working as an SEO like compared to your previous Job/s?

Other than the odd part-time job Web Design and then SEO were always my jobs from when I left school, when I was at college and university I did them. I think I’m fairly lucky in that regard.

What’s been your best and worst moment as an SEO?

My best moment in SEO, its a hard one to answer. In all honesty I don’t have a single best moment, there are many and they are usually the moment when a client realises the work you’ve done and thanks you for it. Another “best moment” (well thing I am proud of) is when you work with a client so they can make their site(s) better and they really grasp what you are saying, understand it and together you create action more than either of you could alone, a great example of this is Kate Simpson, the communications manager at TotalPost, a client of RedStar. We have the same aim (of increasing visitors to the site) but different expertise. By working together, me bringing digital marketing and user experience expertise and Kate bringing the knowledge of her industry – the results so far are brilliant.

My worst moment would probably be when SEOAndy was being hit by a DOS last year. The site went down for a while but unlike previously it wasn’t me making changes that brought it down. Thankfully my hosting company SW Broadband were able to help mitigate the attack and we’ve now got system in place to prevent future attacks causing such mayhem and stress. I can’t thank SWB enough for their constant help and vigilance.

Andy Kinsey –

Founder and primary blogger at SEOAndy a free digital marketing resource for website owners. Andy is also the Head of Digital Marketing for RedStar Creative. You can also find him on twitter @andykinsey

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How did you get into becoming an SEO? 

Originally I had a friend back in 2003 who was running a “desktop wallpaper” website and he was ranking for a bunch of keywords in the US market and making $50-$100 a day from ads. As I was a teenager building rubbish sites at this time I decided to build a bunch of Music Based sites for the US market and needless to say they proved to be very successful. I was making a full time living as a student from my music sites. I was learning SEO by reading forums, blogs (back in 2004 most were junk), networking and I was hungry to get more and MORE traffic. The music sites ended up getting like 20 million organic visitors before I sold some of them to get into more SEO & digital consulting for big business.

What is working as an SEO like compared to your previous Job/s?

Well as I started in the website/ advertising/ SEO field as really one of my semi-first jobs, I have never really had many other jobs. The only other jobs I had when I was under 18 were mainly to help family, I even set up my own eBay business. Somes examples of short work stints I had before SEO:

– My uncle had a construction company, so I went and worked with him for a few weeks in my school holidays, it was good fun too see how the building industry works. Yet in comparison to online it is very hard work. I respect every one who works in construction. From this experience I really got to enjoy property, I really want to get more into development and renovations if I had bigger cash flow.
– When I was very young my mates dad has a business which handed out pamphlets for business. It was good fun because you use to get paid per 1000 pamphlets you handed out. We use to look for big unit complexes to dish them all out too. If you found a unit complex with 400 units almost 40% of your pay was made in minutes.
– I also use to sell items for family on eBay, I also pretty much sold all my personal items I no longer used or never needed. So I made some money from eBay as well selling a few hundred items. I guess its not a job its more a hustle.

Compared to SEO these 3 other jobs were far harder and involved more work, but you get results.

What’s been your best and worst moment as an SEO?

Best moment – Getting results for clients and the clients really been happy and looking after you which involves – giving you random gifts, taking you out to expensive events, dinners ect ect.
I had one client in 2009 which I did some great work for and they made a LOT of money the company CEO was always first to invite the 3 people in the Search team on the account out before any of the other advertising people hehe. I also use to work in a huge advertising agency so we were looked after very well, at one stage I was the only SEO so I acted like I was part of the Display team and got taken on holidays and what not as part of the work. Most of the display team were mates so they were all cool with it. If you have ever worked in a big agency display people are lucky mofos, they get looked after like crazy, hence I made friends with them all and if their were free tickets to events, I was one of the first to get a email about it.
Also the results from my own personal sites are a big point as well.
And finally on best moment would be when you train up employees and when they start they are noobs knowing nothing and then when you leave a business they are ninjas who are all over strategies like crazy it is a really good feeling to see people passionate about SEO.

Worst Moment – probably loosing one of your favorite clients because some one else in another department made F%$k ups and they take the WHOLE meida account, basically I use to work for one very large Mobile company, I was doing great work, I was even working in the clients office for like 1 year they were a kick ass company. We were getting CRAZY good results. We even signed off on a new contact for 12 months for 6 figures and then they said sorry we cant do it because the Media guys have lost the whole account which was under pitch. Blah blah Agency won it, needless to say Blah Blah came to me with numerous offers to work on the account after I left the agency.

James Norquay –
 
8 years experience in SEO consulting in Sydney, Australia. Have been making websites for 10 years. I can be found on my siteshttp://backlinks.com.au & http://jamesnorquay.com
On my weekends I like Football, Going out, gym and teaching others about search.

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How did you get into becoming an SEO?

In the 1990’s, I was working for a local telecom provider who eventually became part of Verizon Wireless. I left Verizon in 2006 and was later asked by colleagues to help manage their online businesses. They knew my experience was related to database development and project management, not SEO, but they wanted my help anyway so I decided to jump in. I started off by making every mistake possible. The internet was still growing at an amazing rate and, from a SEO perspective, you could make tons of mistakes and still wind up on top. In 2011, I decided to start my own agency and Vitopian was born.

What is working as an SEO like compared to your previous job/s?

There are many similarities in that I am still working in an office and in front of a computer most of the day. What I love about SEO is the challenge. As a software developer, the goal is ultimately to build or maintain software. The team is constantly under pressure to complete projects within timelines and budgets, resolve bugs, add functionality and so forth. SEO offers entirely different challenges. We have an opportunity to make a very direct and meaningful impact in the lives of our clients. Seeing clients hit by Google penalties for manipulative links and content issues is heartbreaking. Many small to medium businesses have closed as a direct result of these penalties. Others have been forced to lay off employees. Helping these clients recover and turn their business around provides a fantastic feeling unlike anything I had experienced in past jobs. It really is a high to see the impact of our work.

What’s been your best and worst moment as an SEO?

The worst moment is when I am unable to convince clients of the need to accept change. Many clients were successful for years with an approach of building crappy links or creating low quality content. There have been times where, despite my best logical arguments, I have ultimately been unable to convince a client of the need to abandon what worked in the past and invest in creating quality content. The result is invariably losing the client’s business or not achieving the desired goals.

The best moments are when we work with Google’s Spam Team to resolve a client’s manual penalty. Some client’s approach us absolutely terrified stating they have worked with multiple other SEOs, spent large amounts of money yet they are still penalized. We jump in and the penalty is revoked. These are moments to celebrate. Clients often look at us like heroes…as if we had completed a super-human task.

Ryan Kent

Founder & CEO of Vitopian, Sacramento based SEO Agency.

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How did you get into becoming an SEO?

I was led to SEO as an outgrowth to my web development, project management and marketing experience.   My career has continually refined, shifted, and adapted to each next opportunity I had an affinity for that built on my previous work.

What is working as an SEO like compared to your previous Job/s?

Since I’ve always done my best to continually refine what I do in terms of what I enjoy, what I’m willing to deal with, the types of people I’m willing to interact with and how my work allows me to have a more balanced life, I’d say it compares pretty much as “the most epic point in my career so far”.   As far as the type of work goes, since I specialize in site audits (mostly on sites that are suffering massive organic search failings), I get to work with a much broader range of client types across many more industries than ever.  And when I am able to help clients break through, it feels that much more rewarding than much of my previous work.

What’s been your best and worst moment as an SEO?

My best moment in SEO?  Standing in front of a couple hundred people enjoying one of my #EpicDinner events and seeing how much they enjoy themselves.

My worst moment as an SEO?  Having to inform a client that given their finances and the level of crisis their site was in when they came to me is so severe, that it may not make sense for them to stay in business.

Alan Bleiweiss –

Forensic SEO consultant, specializing in site audits for medium, large and global scale clients around the world. With 18 years of experience in web marketing, Alan is also an industry speaker, author and blogger living a blessed life in Santa Monica, California.

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How did you get into becoming an SEO?

I had to learn SEO for my first consulting job. I was brought in to help track penguins in the antarctica for a tech job back in 98′. The researcher was also an avid photographer and wanted to sell prints of a unique blonde penguin. I helped him setup an online retail shop that would rank for unique penguin prints. It was a very niche market and extremely hard to differentiate between being the only site available and if we were actually ranking well.

What is working as an SEO like compared to your previous Job/s?

SEO changes all the time. 5 years ago I would have said I hated it. Today it’s a different story. Being able to work in SEO is full of fantastic opportunities and the work is actually fun now!

What’s been your best and worst moment as an SEO?

I think the highlights for me are when I rank well for a high competition phrase in which I genuinely believe my content is the best answer. Not only is it a marketing victory, but there is also a certain satisfaction in beating bigger companies with more resources. That tickles my soul.

Justin Hammack –

I’m the founder and marketing expert for Wine Folly (.com), which is the best online educational resource for getting started in the vast world of wine. I spend most of my days drinking wine in my underwear at home while I battle SEO demons. Wine Folly gets over 500k uniques a month and is one the top ranking websites for commonly asked wine questions.

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How did you get into becoming an SEO?

It’s kind of a long story, but the first trigger was an accidental move to Greensboro NC. I was walking my dog by a neighborhood pub one day and another guy was walking his dog. We chatted for a sec and decided to go inside and let the dogs play. After chatting about tech and computers for a while he mentioned he was starting some sort of company and asked me if I’d like to come on board. I didn’t entirely understand the concept, but it sounded interesting. That guy was Jay Young. Him and his wife, Julie Joyce, had started Link Fish Media and soon after I was working as a link builder.

What is working as an SEO like compared to your previous Job/s?

Well… I never really did anything even slightly related. I’ve bar tended, worked construction, worked at a pet store, worked as a digital designer, worked customer service at a call center, sold fruit on the side of the highway, and several other random jobs. I always got bored and would change jobs and the city I live in. I think since SEO, and digital marketing in general, are always changing, I never get bored. It’s the first field I’ve ever been in where I didn’t feel like changing.

What’s been your best and worst moment as an SEO?

Best – Getting a link on a PR9 (when PR was still a measurement)

Worst – Cursing someone out only to find out they were Opra’s PR. Digital hell ensued.

Peter Attia –

Director of Marketing at Skinny Limits and the founder of Cucumber Nebula. You can find him on twitter at a <href=”http://www.twitter.com/peterattia/””>@PeterAttiaInktweb.nl.

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How did you get into becoming an SEO?

During an intership I learned about SEO. What good rankings can do for a business, and how competitive it is. I loved it. I was given access to a basic website and was free to do with as I pleased. Basically, I jumped right in and started doing the things I read about online (mostly link exchanges and some keyword research).

What is working as an SEO like compared to your previous Job/s?

Honestly I don’t have a lot of job experience outside of online marketing.

What’s been your best and worst moment as an SEO?

Worst moment was when I realised that doing it the _right_ way is really no guarantee for good rankings and the more spammy / greyhat tactics work better and yield quicker results (even today). Best moment on the other hand is seeing your ideas being implented on a website and reaping the results. There is nothing better in SEO than creating something that both the users and the search engines love.

Martijn Oud –
Online marketeer working in-house at Inktweb.nl. An e-commerce store which sells ink cartridges and toners

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How did you get into becoming an SEO?

I’ve worked with computers my entire adult life.  I was really interested in programming and building websites, so I taught myself how to code.  Building websites brought me great joy, and I decided that I wanted to share my skills with others.  Building an awesome website is one thing, but getting other people to actually take notice of it is completely different.  I began researching how to generate traffic to websites, learned how to game search engines to manipulate rankings, and had some good successes.

Over the last handful of years, search engines have adapted and evolved, and so have we.  I’ve changed my strategies alongside the search engines.  As SEO tricks and tools changed, so has my approach.

What is working as an SEO like compared to your previous Job/s?

Working as an SEO really isn’t that different than programming.  There are rules and guidelines to follow, but there is a lot to be gained from pushing the envelope.  Very few people have found success by doing things that have already been done countless times.  Innovators are what drive our society, and innovators in SEO and Marketing find the most success.

Of course, there is risk when pushing the envelope.  One small misstep, and you could get burned.  If I make a mistake when I’m programming, fortunately I’m usually able to correct it right away.  If I make a mistake as an SEO, it’s often much more difficult to recover from.

Ultimately my work is to serve people.  As an SEO, I’m not optimizing websites for search engines, I’m optimizing them for human consumption.  Search engines aren’t my clients, people are.  The same goes for when I work as a web developer.  I build websites for people, not computers.  Even though computers dictate the rules of the programming language I’m using, the end result is for people.

What’s been your best and worst moment as an SEO?

My best moments as an SEO can’t be measured in traffic or profit.  My measure of success is when people I’ve learned from reach out to me, and as me for assistance.  These moments are personal validation for me.

Worst moment?  Unfortunately, I don’t have many horror stories.  I’ve never had a manual penalty placed on any site I’ve worked on *knocks on wood* but that isn’t to say I haven’t been tested.  My worst moments are when I look back on months of hard work and find that I’ve made little to no impact.  It’s a difficult and uncomfortable conversation to have with a client that expects results.  When I face these challenges, I find myself rethinking everything I’ve come to know.  I’ve always felt that if I or anyone else feel that a subject  has been mastered, then nothing has been learned at all.  SEO is no different.  I’m no master of SEO.  I’m always learning, always adapting.  It’s an interesting journey to say the least.

Brad Knutson –

Brad Knutson is a Web Developer and Inbound Marketer from St. Paul, MN. He has helped many small businesses and start-ups build and improve their websites. He blogs about anything and everything to do the web, including programming, WordPress, marketing, social media, and more.

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How did you get into becoming an SEO? 

Back in 2003 a partner and mine got into the medical supply businesses.  At the time we didn’t have huge budgets and we spent a good deal creating an ecommerce website.  After we launched the website we keep wondering why we weren’t getting any traffic.  We were completely clueless on how search engines work.  Our web design agency said we would need to hire someone to do search engine optimization for us.  Having spent what we thought was a small fortune at the time on the design the only other thing to do was to learn SEO ourselves.  Actually, I handled the SEO and my partner handled the most of the daily operations of the business.

What is working as an SEO like compared to your previous Job/s?

Prior to working in SEO I preformed various roles in retail management from General Manager to Regional Operations Manager mostly at designer clothing retailers.  Those two professions could not be more night and day.  Although there are defiantly parts of my previous career that are transferable skills.  ie. client services, leadership

What’s been your best and worst moment as an SEO?

The best moments of SEO is when you get emails or calls from clients that are thrilled with the results.  One of the more exciting calls I got was for a contractor which we were able to double his sales within seven months.  He was so thrilled he couldn’t believe the impact a good SEO could have.

On the opposite end is Google or the other search engines doesn’t always get it right.  No matter how many good links you get or how many social shares there always seems to be a spam.  One of the more frustrating things is when you have a few spam sites outranking you.

Stuart McHenry –

President of McKremie an SEO Company based in the USA.

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How did you get into becoming an SEO? 

After graduating from college, I was hired to become the online marketing manager for a business intelligence publishing company. My job was to drive leads for various online digital assets. I didn’t have many tools at my disposal, so I started learning about other ways to increase website traffic and drive more leads. In the process of doing so, I learned about SEO. I began putting what I read into practice, and the results were fantastic. I was soon hired by an SEO agency to become a client manager, and then left shortly thereafter to start my own business.

What is working as an SEO like compared to your previous Job/s?

Well, my previous jobs were mostly SEO-related, but I did work some summer jobs while I was in college. I was also the manager of the campus bike shop for a little over a year. SEO is all about customer service, setting expectations, and understanding the nuances of the game. Come to think of it, those aspects were all really important in the other jobs I worked, too. So I guess SEO is more like an alternative outlet for the same types of attributes needed to work at many other jobs.

What’s been your best and worst moment as an SEO?

Best moment? I suppose any time I get an email or a phone call that thanks me and my team for the work we’ve done to improve their business’ online presence. Worst moment? The first Google Penguin update. Like many folks, we got caught in that crossfire, which was quite stressful. Luckily, we learned from it and adapted. Penguin 2.0 didn’t touch us 😉

Jayson DeMers –
CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based content & social marketing agency. Follow him on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.

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How did you get into becoming an SEO? 

Several years ago, I went to a seminar to learn how to help my husband improve his Google rankings for his real estate site.  The advice was pretty bad – mostly stuff about meta keywords other outdated things.  But, it got me really interested in learning how Google works.  I have been fascinated with SEO ever since then.  I started off by asking pretty naive questions in forums.  If you know me from an SEO forum, you probably know me as “Dr. Marie”.  This is because I was a veterinarian.  People in SEO forums were often snarky to me telling me that I had a good profession so stop trying to do SEO part time and go ahead and hire a professional to do my SEO.  This is probably good advice for most people who are trying to do DIY SEO. However, I was so obsessed that every minute of spare time I had was spent learning and implementing SEO.

In 2012, my husband and I were expecting our second child.  While pregnant I was put on bed rest and had to stop my work as a veterinarian.  I was in heaven…I spent 16 hours a day on my laptop digging in to SEO.  I became obsessed with Panda, Penguin and manual penalties and made it my mission to know absolutely everything I could on these subjects.  I created a website to help people diagnose their website’s traffic drop problems (MyTrafficDropped.com) and I spent the entire day helping people in forums.  Eventually I decided I knew enough that I could charge something for my time.  My earliest clients got a 10-20 page thorough traffic drop report for a grand total of $89!  Since then I have mostly taken on manual unnatural links penalty work.  I now consult with many different types of businesses including some very large brands.

What is working as an SEO like compared to your previous Job/s?

People think that I am crazy to give up a veterinary career to do this kind of work.  I loved being a vet, but I love what I am doing now even more.  I work from my home and can make my own hours.  I had a good income as a vet, but it is significantly better now.  Also, I tend to get bitten a lot less these days.

How did you get into becoming an SEO? 

I have a lot of things that could probably qualify as my best moment.  I think that one of the most exciting things for me was the first time that I logged into WMT and saw a new message saying, “Manual spam action revoked“.  My worst moment is probably something that happened on May 22 when Penguin 2.0 came out.  I had been avoiding doing Penguin consultation because I didn’t feel that I knew enough about Penguin to be able to advise a site on how to recover.  A friend of mine convinced me to help her with her site.  She had some horrible backlinks and was likely going to be in trouble the next time Penguin updated.  I went ahead and audited her links and we did a pre-emptive disavow.  And when Penguin hit her site plummeted out of the organic results.  As a result, her family business has suffered greatly.  I have a number of theories on what happened here and it’s more than I can write here.  But, the lesson that I learned here is not to take on clients unless I really know that I can help them.

I still feel that I know a lot about Penguin.  And eventually I will be at the place where I am recovering Penguin hit sites.  I think that there are very few people in the SEO world who can truthfully claim to be able to recover Penguin hit sites reliably.  For now I will stick to what I know well and that is getting manual penalties removed from sites.  For some sites, if there are not many good links, then penalty removal doesn’t result in much improvement, but for others I have seen sites that had been severely hit return to first page rankings and that is an awesome feeling.

Marie Haynes –

The CEO and resident Doctor of His Web Marketing.

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How did you get into becoming an SEO? 

I became interested in SEO during three time I was working in the investment banking industry during three time l when intent companies were becoming popular and companies like AOL went public.  I found it very interesting how these companies are commanding high valuations and so much attention from wall street. Soon I was sold on this new and exciting industry.  Three rest is history.

What is working as an SEO like compared to your previous Job/s?

It’s really three most interesting and challenging work I’ve ever done mostly because every client and every day brings a new  challenge.

What’s been your best and worst moment as an SEO?

I have not ever had a bad moment.  It’s all about taking any thing negative and turning it into a positive learning expedience.

My best experience is the satisfaction of reaching a clients goals and surpassing their expectations.

Bernadette Coleman –

CEO & Executive Director of Advice Interactive Group, an award winning Inc 500 digital agency focused on improving visibility for clients across the digital universe. Considered an industry expert and skilled in search engine marketing, social media, design, and development.

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I hope you enjoyed these as much as I did and I’d like to thank all those who participated!

If you’re thinking of becoming an SEO or want to share your story and didn’t get a chance, why not drop a comment below?

Charles Floate
I'm a UK based Search Engine Optimisation and Search Marketing Consultant. With over 5 years in the Search Industry, I'm hoping to build up God of SEO as a Dedicated Internet Marketing Blog with tons of Information for the Community to engage with.
Charles Floate
Charles Floate
Charles Floate

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