Expert Searchologist - Salary for a Seattle SEO Specialist

Name: Jon Lanman
Job Title: Expert Searchologist / SEO Specialist
Where: Seattle, WA
Employer: Self-Employed
Years of Experience: 3 years in Marketing
Other Relevant Experience: Marketing Assistant, Event Marketing, Publicity Intern
Education: B.A. in Communications
Annual Salary: Use PayScale’s Research Center to find SEO Specialist Salaries.

In this Salary Story we take a look at the day-to-day duties of a Seattle SEO Specialist. Self-proclaimed Searchologist, Jon Lanman shares his passion for SEO, and gives advice on how to begin a career in SEO.

Job Description of an SEO Specialist:

Jon: My job revolves around the development and implementation of online marketing strategies. My areas of expertise are in SEO (search engine optimization), PPC (pay-per-click), and site analysis. So on a typical day I’m usually performing keyword research, editing articles for optimization, setting up blog posts and tracking progress on keyword rankings. I’m also usually working on at least one of several different PPC (pay-per-click) ad campaigns. Depending on the day, that can mean writing and testing ad copy, performing keyword research to expand the targeting of a current campaign, or managing the campaigns daily budget.  

PayScale: What made you interested in becoming an SEO specialist?

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Jon: Ever since reading David Ogilvy's Ogilvy on Advertising, I wanted to be an ad copywriter. Of course, advertising and marketing has changed a lot in the twenty plus years since that book was published. Marketing has evolved, and SEO is the crossroad where technology and marketing have merged together.

As the internet has developed into a prominent place for commerce, the demand for SEO has grown. So, I first became interested in SEO mainly as a way to apply my interest in copywriting while broadening my skill-set as well. As I started to learn the trade though, I started to become really fascinated by the way that search engines operate. I feel like it’s such a unique field to be in. It combines the creative, psychological aspects of marketing, and adds a technical component as well.

PayScale: What is your favorite thing about SEO?

Jon: I like SEO because it brings together so many different elements of thought. At one moment I’m using analytical skills to troubleshoot webpage accessibility or to analyze user behavior. At the next moment, I’m performing keyword research or writing content. SEO really incorporates a lot of different skills.

When you completely sound it out - search engine optimization - it sounds so technical. And of course, it is technical, but there’s still a major human element to it, just like all marketing. The end goal of what you’re doing still is to connect with people. If you’re not speaking to their concerns or needs, you’re not going to achieve positive results.

As an SEO, you have to know how search engines operate, but you also need to understand how people behave within an online environment. That’s partly why I like to call myself a Searchologist rather than an SEO Specialist. While SEO specialist sounds so technical, searchologist sounds more all encompassing to me. I study the various aspects of search the same way a sociologist studies the various institutions of society, so wouldn’t searchologist be just as appropriate? Honestly though, I really just like the way searchologist sounds.

PayScale: What are the biggest challenges you face as an SEO specialist?

Jon: I think one of the major challenges of SEO is the same challenge that has always faced marketers. It’s the same challenge that causes companies to spend millions of dollars on television advertising campaigns each year. And that is the challenge of making your product, or webpage stand out amongst a crowd of competitors. With online marketing, the size of that crowd can be surprisingly large as more businesses, large and small, voyage onto the world-wide-web to stake claim to their own piece of the new-world commerce.

PayScale: What is the most interesting part of being an SEO specialist?

Jon:
There are a lot of interesting facets to SEO. But I must say that I thoroughly enjoy the research aspect of it. Whether I’m preparing a blog content plan, PPC campaign, or trying to optimize a certain webpage, I do a lot of keyword research. It’s so interesting to see how people are using search engines to find information. When you look at the aggregated search query data, you can identify some pretty interesting trends.

Google has actually used its aggregated search query data, to track the spread of the flu virus. As people come down with flu symptoms, they often search the internet for remedies. And using that aggregated search query data, they are able to track and estimate flu activity up to two weeks faster than traditional systems used by the CDC. So, when you take that into consideration, it’s pretty interesting to think about the different possibilities.

PayScale: What advice would you give to someone who wants to learn SEO?

Jon: I’ve noticed that there are more classes being offered in internet marketing these days. But I think the best way to learn SEO is to do it firsthand. If you want to learn, and are willing to work hard, there are a lot of people willing to teach you the tricks of the trade. Find someone who has been doing SEO and is familiar with the industry. This is the best way to learn because not only do you get to learn the skills firsthand, but you start building your network within the SEO arena.

Also, there’s a lot of really good SEO information to be found online. Beings the industry is changing so rapidly, this is a great way to stay up to date. But you do have to be careful about where you get your information. Make sure you get it from a trusted source. If you apply the wrong strategies you could do a lot of damage. The best place to start is SEOMoz.org. They have a ton of information. Check out their Beginners Guide to Search Engine Optimization.

PayScale: What’s the strangest or funniest thing about being an SEO specialist?

Jon: When you’re doing keyword research, you can find some pretty silly keywords that people are searching for. And I do have one particular keyword phrase that is my favorite.

I live on Whidbey Island, and being a self-proclaimed searchologist I’m naturally curious about what people are searching for in my surrounding area. So, I did a little bit of keyword research on Whidbey Island one day, and according to Google’s search query data, inquiring minds want to know: “Are there bears on Whidbey Island?”

While we’re on the subject I think it’s important to just take a moment to clear things up for people. From my own experience, I can personally say that I’ve never seen a bear on Whidbey Island. Then again, I go to Yosemite Valley every year, and I’ve never seen one there either. So on second thought, maybe we should leave that inquiry open for debate.

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