How to Become
an SEO Specialist

Best Education Tracks, Key Skills, and Top Certifications

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one of the most significant components of digital marketing. As a result, now is a better time than ever to become an SEO specialist. Businesses need these experts to help them reach their professional objectives.

An SEO expert aims to get the most out of search engines’ search results, so the web pages they’re working on rank first. The SEO industry demands widespread technical skills and years of experience to do this.

However, if you’re passionate about keyword research, clued up about Google Analytics, and knowledgeable about link building, it may be a good idea to become an SEO specialist.

What Is an SEO Specialist?

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An SEO specialist optimizes websites, so these sites rank higher on major search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. An SEO expert knows how to drive more website traffic through search engines.

These professionals have technical SEO skills for off-page and on-page optimization. They use their expertise to grow web traffic, enhance user experience, multiply lead volume, and accelerate brand awareness.

What Type of School Should You Attend
to Become an SEO Specialist?

As SEO is relatively new, many experts haven’t attended universities or colleges to attain degrees in this industry. The type of school and studying you choose depends on your finances, availability, and experience.

Read about the best education tracks to become an SEO specialist below.

Best SEO Specialist Education Tracks

To become an SEO specialist, experience is more crucial than academic qualifications. Yet academic qualifications make you a more desirable candidate for SEO jobs. Below are the various ways to become educated in SEO.


Vocational School

Vocational SEO training can last anywhere between one week to one year. This education track is more affordable than degree programs. Regardless of your experience level, vocational schools offer training in the basics and the most advanced techniques.

Vocational training lets you swiftly gain the vital technical skills to enter the workforce faster than a degree allows. For SEO, students can receive sub-baccalaureate certificates in marketing, information technology, business, and computer science.

On average, over 80,000 students receive training in business, and over 30,000 students are trained in computer and information sciences every year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). With countless vocational schools offering different levels of training, the average cost varies substantially.


Community College

The majority of community colleges offer a program in digital marketing, which covers SEO too. This might be a disadvantage for students who only want to learn or improve SEO skills.

Yet completing a two-year associate degree program at community college not only makes entry to university easier, but with experience, you can look for entry-level roles. Plus, the broader variety of content improves your digital marketing skills as a whole. This will positively impact your expertise as an SEO specialist.

According to NCES, the average annual cost of tuition and fees at a public two-year university is $3,812. This is something to consider when weighing your options.


SEO Degrees

A degree in digital marketing will go a long way as an SEO specialist. However, being an SEO specialist has a lot to do with experience. Therefore it makes sound sense to choose a degree program that includes an internship, or any hands-on experience.

Although there’s an ongoing debate about whether universities are preparing students for the workforce, a digital marketing degree and professional experience will make you the SEO specialist employers want. NCES data shows that the average annual cost of a four-year degree program is around $25,487 for in-state students. This includes room and board.


SEO Bootcamps

SEO bootcamps are an excellent way to gain job-ready SEO skills or master your current expertise. There are various bootcamps available depending on your SEO skill level, your career objectives, and preferred learning method.

A bootcamp will take as little as six months to complete. You’ll receive a certificate after completing technical training. You can get SEO training at bootcamps that have digital marketing programs, such as BrainStation. After completing a bootcamp program, you’ll have the basic SEO knowledge and skills to land an entry-level job.


SEO Courses

As SEO is part of digital marketing, and digital marketing is computer-based, there’s a vast selection of SEO online courses. You can also complete in-person courses if you prefer.

There are courses to teach you the fundamentals of SEO, and courses to teach you advanced knowledge. This depends on your current skill level. An SEO course will cover title tags, how search engines work, search engine marketing, other technical skills, and soft skills.

Unlike degree programs, vocational schools, and bootcamps, you might not gain hands-on expertise. However, within six months, you’ll have a certificate and an opportunity to enter the SEO industry.

Step by Step Guide

How to Become an SEO Specialist: A Step-by-Step Guide

Like we’ve discussed, becoming an SEO specialist requires experience. There are many ways to become an SEO specialist, as there are many ways to gain experience.

Let’s review the easiest and best method to become an SEO specialist.

Gain fundamental SEO training

You need to know how search engines work, basic concepts of SEO, and the true meaning of SEO. Any of the education tracks we discussed can train you in this knowledge. It’s also vital to learn machine learning, data signals, and algorithms, as these factors influence how search engines rank web pages.

Learn how to use SEO tools

To increase your job opportunities, and develop your SEO knowledge, get familiar with SEO tools. These include keyword research tools, domain authority checker tools, and tools to find trending topics.

Choose an SEO niche

Most employers don’t want generalists, but rather specialists. Determine which aspects of SEO are your strengths and specialize in that. However, don’t ignore areas outside of your specialties. It’s ideal to have more than enough skills than not enough.

Master your SEO skills

Practice using SEO tools and applying SEO concepts. Most employers want an SEO specialist with years of experience because this isn’t a theoretical job. The more practice you have, the better you can refine your SEO skills and iron out any challenges.

Demonstrate your SEO skills

Start a website as proof of your SEO knowledge and expertise. If you can apply advanced SEO concepts to your website, making your blog posts and content rank high on Google, there will be little doubt of your ability. If your clients can’t see that your website is optimized, they may doubt your skills.

Gain a certificate

Getting certified confirms that you have the SEO expertise you claim to have. Many digital marketing organizations offer short courses to award you a certificate.

Keep your SEO skills updated

Digital marketing is a fast-paced world, and because of this, you need to keep updated with the latest SEO tools and techniques. You can attend SEO bootcamps or take short courses to polish your areas of expertise.

SEO Specialist Skills

Key SEO Specialist Skills

As an SEO specialist, you need to have a balance of soft skills and technical expertise. The most essential of these skills are knowledge of HTML and CSS, keyword research, and Google tools.

Here are the details of each of these highly sought-after skills for SEO specialists.


Although you don’t have to be a master in HTML, understanding the basics is vital for SEO. This same goes for understanding CSS. You have to learn HTML as this code structures the web pages that an SEO specialist optimizes. For search engines to crawl and index your page, HTML is a vital skill.

It’s just as important to learn CSS. CSS creates the layout of web pages for various devices. Without this knowledge, SEO experts can’t make web pages mobile-adaptive.

Keyword Research

Keyword research is one of the first skills you’ll learn for SEO. The quality and quantity of your keywords affect how search engines crawl and index your page. When SEO specialists use well-researched keywords with high search volume and low competition, they can curate content that ranks first on major search engines.

Google Tools

A dominant aspect of becoming an SEO expert is managing and translating data on consumer trends. This data is essential for SEO. You’ll create content based on trending topics that consumers are searching for.

The most crucial Google tools to be adept with are Google Analytics and Google Search Console. If employers can see you know your way around these tools, they’ll have more confidence in your abilities.

SEO Specialist Salary and Job Outlook

According to ZipRecruiter, the average annual salary for an SEO specialist is $54,144. Unfortunately, the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not state the job outlook for SEO specialists. However, its statistics for advertising, promotions, and marketing managers will give us an idea of what to expect for SEO experts.

The projected job growth for these professions is six percent by 2029. This figure reveals that SEO is a quickly expanding industry. SEO experts can expect professional opportunities for almost the next decade.

SEO specialists can work full-time or part-time. These professionals can also choose to work as freelancers.

Min salary


Average salary


Top salary


Entry-Level SEO Specialist Job Requirements

For an entry-level job as an SEO specialist, you need to have at least a certificate in SEO, and two years of professional experience. ZipRecruiter states that the average annual salary for an entry-level SEO job is $42,243, which equates to around $20 per hour.

What Does an SEO Specialist Do

What Does an SEO Specialist Do?

As an SEO specialist, you’ll write engaging, high-quality, SEO-optimized website content, keep the content and links updated, and set SMART goals. Below we explore these tasks in greater detail.

Writes High-Quality Content

SEO specialists must write engaging, informative content as blog posts, and page descriptions. This content is paramount to SEO. Search engines will scan the content of web pages to understand what the content is about and rank it according to its algorithm.

The content SEO experts write should prompt readers to take the website owner’s desired actions. This includes sharing the content on social media, subscribing, or purchasing a product.

Updates Links and Content

Occasionally, links in your content will break. When a web page gets taken down or removed, this causes broken links. Broken links can be harmful to your SEO performance. Audit the website’s SEO regularly to avoid this.

It’s also crucial to keep your content updated to prevent giving readers false or outdated information.

Set SMART Goals

SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. Experts set these goals for an SEO strategy to determine if their strategy works. Setting SMART goals should be the first thing SEO specialists do for every new project.

SEO Specialist Certifications

Although you don’t get professional licenses as an SEO specialist, various courses will award you certificates. You can choose from a broad scope of course providers based on your strengths. Below are a few of the best courses that award certificates for SEO specialists.

HubSpot Academy

HubSpot has a free course for SEO experts, which includes three lessons divided into 15 videos. The content requires a maximum of two to three hours to complete. You have to pass two quizzes to gain the certification.

However, this course only covers the introduction to SEO. So, you’ll need more training to adopt professional SEO skills and knowledge.

Moz SEO Essentials Certificate

This course comprises six video modules totaling nine hours of content. You have to pay $595 for the course, and you must pass five exams to receive the certificate.

This course goes into the fine detail of SEO campaigns, strategies, and techniques. Nonetheless, you’re mostly paying for the Moz reputation more than the actual content.

Google Digital Garage

You can access this 40-hour course for free, and there are 26 modules to complete. Although super-proficient SEO experts won’t benefit from this course, beginners will find all the key elements of SEO.

A few concepts you’ll learn about are content marketing, social media, mobile marketing, and paid advertising.

How to Prepare for your SEO Job Interview

How to Prepare for Your SEO Specialist Job Interview

When you’re looking for an SEO specialist job, you need to ace your job interview. To do this, determine how you develop, manage, and track an SEO campaign, the details about the SEO tools you use, and how you would solve common SEO challenges.

Below are some common questions that an interviewer may ask you.

SEO Specialist Job Interview Practice Questions

  • What is your SEO process for videos?
  • What is your approach to keyword research?
  • How does data impact your strategy?
  • What’s the most vital component of an SEO campaign?
  • What are recent changes in Google Analytics, and how does this affect your SEO process?

How Long Does It Take to Become an SEO Specialist?

Becoming an SEO specialist can take as little as two years. Within those two years, you need to gain professional experience, and at least one certificate. The more training you have, the better positions you can apply for.

To further your SEO skills and knowledge, consider a Master’s Degree in Digital Marketing after completing a bachelor’s degree. You can also take short courses and bootcamp programs to improve in areas you find the most challenging.

Associate degree


Should You Become an SEO Specialist in 2021?

You should definitely become an SEO specialist in 2021. Studies project the job growth to increase. Plus, there are so many ways to gain the expertise and skills for SEO. Students can develop SEO skills through bootcamps, short courses, vocational training, or degree programs.

SEO specialists can also work as freelancers. For many people, this is an easy profession to manage from your kitchen table. Does this sound like what you need in a career? Then start gaining the skills to become an SEO specialist, pronto.

SEO Specialist FAQ

What do SEO Specialists do?

An SEO specialist sets SMART goals to track their SEO performance and writes high-quality content that ranks high on major search engines. They have to keep website links and content updated too.

How do I become an SEO specialist?

To become an SEO specialist, you need basic SEO training to understand the fundamental concepts and how search engines work. You also need to gain certificates so that employers will trust your SEO skills and knowledge.

How much do SEO specialists make?

The average salary for an SEO specialist is $54,144 per year. For an entry-level job, SEO specialists can expect to make around $42,243 annually.

How long does it take to become an SEO specialist?

It can take as little as two years to become an SEO specialist. Within those two years, you need to gain work experience and earn certificates that validate your SEO skills and knowledge.

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