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SEO Salaries - How Much Do They Earn?


SEO Salaries - How Much Should You Make (updated Jan. 2011)

Public Relations
This is going to be a tough and contentious issue and one that isn't easy for me to write about. Along with the obvious internal conflicts of interest in disclosing salary numbers, there's bound to be a lot of companies and individuals who will come away feeling that my numbers are wrong (or that their employers are cheating them). That said, it's a topic that needs to be addressed and if my experience can help (and inspire others to open up with their own data), then the accomplishment is well worthwhile.

What I'll do is simply list the job titles that are common to the SEO world, the salaries I'm familiar with and the effects of geography, experience and demand on the numbers. All salaries are per annum and in US dollars.

In-House SEOs
Some of these are bound to be rough approximations, as there isn't industry standardization. Hopefully, the descriptions of duties will help identify who in your organization might fit these roles.














VP/Director of Search Marketing
$100,000 - $350,000+

This individual is ultimately responsible for setting direction and strategies for large companies with earnings from $25MM-$1Bil+. Since this position can create or lose incredible amounts of wealth for a firm, the salaries will often reflect executive-level compensation (just ask Joseph Morin, who turned down an offer on the high edge of this range). When a hiring manager from a large, Fortune 500 software company recently called to ask me what I thought would be a reasonable price, I replied that I knew of a similar position where the pay level was ~$250K/year.

Director/Manager of Organic Search
$75,000 - $150,000

This person is responsible for managing a team of SEO personnel in-house and reports to the VP of Marketing / CMO. Large companies have layers like this, and someone like Disney's Terry Cox (who manages their in-house team in Orlando) or MTV Networks' Shimon Sandler) would fit this bill.

SEO Lead/Guru
$50,000 - $100,000

The "guru" is typically running an SEO team (or possibly operating as an independent) for a small-mid-size firm earning $5-$50MM. They have final authority and responsibility for all of the SEO activities at a company, and for many of those firms who rely on the Internet as a primary sales channel, their decisions are make or break propositions. They may report to a director of marketing or VP marketing, but just as likely might not have that layer and report directly to a CEO/President.

Campaign Manager
$55,00 - $100,000

The campaign manager would report to a director, but manages a team focused on specific campaigns for a site, keyword set, content area, etc. The compensation could go into six figures primarily due to bonuses, which are often given to campaign mangers who can churn out consistently excellent results.

SEO Specialist (Links, Content and/or KW Research)
$45,000 - $85,000

An SEO specialist is the true "worker" of the search team - optimizing page content, researching keywords, building links, adding content, etc. The range is very wide due to experience and opportunity - an SEO-newbie just starting out won't have the same independence, reliability and skill as someone who's played in the space for several years and knows the engines.
























SEO Director
$70,000 - $120,000

The SEO director leads up the SEO team (sometimes several teams), providing strategy, overseeing processes, providing training and occassionally getting their hands down and dirty in the SERPs. When SEOmoz had a consulting department, Lindsay was our director and earned in the middle-high end of this range).

Search Marketing Consultant
$60,000 - $200,000

A search consultant is a rare breed - these folks work for an SEO agency, but are basically consultants in their own rights. They have the skills, talent and sometimes, reputation to manage a campaign or client independently without outside guidance (they may even be more knowledgable than anyone else on the team). Some marketing agencies have brought folks like this into their fold and its a position I've been offered many times. For those who remember, a good real life example might be when Todd Malicoat (Stuntdubl) worked with Jim Boykin's group (WeBuildPages), though I'm certainly not suggesting that Jim or Todd is smarter/better than the other.

Link Builder
$35,000 - $100,000

The link builder is, in many ways, a mythical being. At the early stages, they follow direction and strategy from an SEO manager or even a CEO (in small companies), but later on, if they grow in power and ability, their value can become so high that its tough to retain them (hence the massive salary range). A true link ninja is so invaluable as to virtually name their price - the return on investment makes it worthwhile.

Content Writer
$35,000 - $75,000

A great content writer is a critical part of an SEO firm, particularly with the focus on linkbaiting campaigns. Writers, like link builders, can grow in value over time, but since it requires a much less specialized knowledge, there is far more supply in the marketplae (hence the lower salary ceiling).

SEO Researcher
$30,000 - $60,000

Researchers pursue data for content writers, keywords for campaigns and may even contribute to link building and/or content building efforts. Web research is a somewhat easier skill to acquire, though certainly the best of these folks (someone like Gary Price might fit that bill) will be found in higher positions in the industry.

Client Relations Coordinator
$35,000 - $75,000

Often inaccurately dubbed "project managers," a client services coordinator is responsible for maintaining an SEO project's tasks, keeping in communication with clients and keeping the team and mangers informed of progress. Andy Beal describes this position as someone who serves as the "consultant" for a specific project and though their levels of knowledge may not be at expert, they can refer back to the team or their higher-ups for direction in how to answer questions or handle issues.



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