SEO salaries reported for 2022 reflects growth in SEO as a profession.
The State of SEO report responses indicate that more than half who filled out the survey are new to digital marketing.
Growth in entry-level salary reporting reflects this influx of new professionals and industry growth.
SEO Specialist Industry Growth
Of those who responded to the survey, a more significant percentage than in 2021 reported they are new to the industry.
28.7% of respondents reported having less than two years of experience, and 32.7% of survey respondents reported between 2-4 years of experience.
This statistic means 61.4% of respondents were relatively new to SEO, with less than four years of SEO experience.
There were fewer SEO specialists (percentage-wise) with greater SEO experience, with those reporting the most years of experience being the smallest group.
Percentage Of SEO Pros With More Experience
- 25.5% reported between 5-10 years of experience.
- 10.1% reported 11-20 years of experience.
- 3% of respondents reported over 20 years of experience in SEO.
Average Salary In SEO
The average salaries of entry-level SEOs were less than $34,000.
The total number of entry-level SEO professionals at this pay rate grew by 7.5% compared with 2021, indicating that the most growth in the SEO industry is at the entry-level.
Decrease In SEO Earnings At The High End
In contrast to the growth in entry-level positions, those reporting higher earnings higher experienced modest decreases.
Fewer SEO specialists reported earnings in the middle level, upper middle, and high end of the SEO pay scale.
Decreases In Higher Earning SEO Specialists
Several salary categories for SEO professionals decreased:
- 1.9% decrease in those earning between $35,000-$49,000.
- 3.12% decrease in those earning between $50,000-$74,000.
- 1.97% decrease in those earning $100,000-$149,000.
- 1.53% decrease in those earning $150,000-$199,000.
- 0.51% decrease in those earning over $199,000.
One bright spot is that those earning between $75,000-$99,000 increased by 1.05%
These data points do not necessarily mean that SEO salaries have gone down. They are percentages and not actual numbers.
The explanation is that the number of entry-level SEO jobs increased by a whopping 27.68%. That means that unless the other salary ranges experience similar growth, their percentages will naturally show a lower amount when expressed as a percentage.
Nevertheless, it shows growth in entry-level SEO positions, which could indicate a healthy amount of industry growth.
Salary Ranges Differ By Country
Another way to view the earning levels for SEO is across countries.
All earnings are noted in dollars, based on the exchange rate when the report was generated.
SEO professionals in Australia tended to earn higher rates, $91,989, even though 46.0% of respondents reported having five years or less of SEO experience.
This statistic indicates a high demand for Australian SEO specialists, with competition between agencies and big brand in-house positions driving a higher pay rate.
Australian-based in-house search marketer Ash Nallawalla confirmed this to be the case.
He said, “Agencies are not keeping their staff, and I see the same ones advertising the position over and over. AUD 110,000 seems to be the tipping point where they lose a staff member to private employment.
Agencies offer managers AUD 80,000, which is not competitive with in-house SEO salary rates. Companies are hiring in-house SEOs, and the larger ones might also have an agency on retainer.”
The United States also has indicators of solid demand for SEO workers.
62.0% of SEO professionals reported less than five years of experience and an average salary of $78,431, reflecting the strong demand for SEO among businesses.
The salary ranges in Nigeria, Bangladesh, and Pakistan had lower pay rates.
Many of the respondents from these three countries reported being brand new to SEO, so the pay rates reported in the survey may reflect the survey respondent’s newness to the industry but not necessarily of the industry as a whole in those countries. Those industries are likely more mature than the survey data shows.
SEO agencies in Pakistan and Bangladesh generally focus outward on working for agencies and companies based in Western countries.
Some Western-based agencies are run by Pakistani expatriates who can leverage lower-cost SEO expertise in their native country.
Many agencies in the West outsource work to countries like Pakistan because of the lower costs and high level of education, experience, and expertise.
In-house SEO work in Pakistan is difficult to obtain because of the high competition for positions working for big brands. However, the pay rates are not affected by the competition because the salaries are still competitive.
That high competition for work is reflected in the lower pay rates that the survey discovered.
According to Karachi, Pakistan-based freelance SEO Ozair Akhtar:
“The big brands here in Pakistan have SEO and other digital marketing teams as in-house teams. And they are well-paid. It’s quite challenging and competitive for any SEO professional to get a job in-house SEO at any big brand.
SEO is a well-known profession in Pakistan. And more and more marketers graduating from universities are joining in. There are many SEO specialists with more than ten years of experience and expertise in this area. But new people are joining too.”
According to those who filled out the survey, SEO practitioners in Spain, on average, earned the least, earning just $45,236 per year.
Where Are SEO Pros Getting Their Start?
Years of experience can affect how much SEO practitioners earn.
But the pay rates depend highly on the demand for SEO talent in any given region.
In some countries, such as Pakistan, jobs in SEO are a well-known option for highly educated university graduates. Competition for jobs is high as a consequence.
But in other countries, like Australia, there is less job competition. SEO expertise is in more demand there, meaning those with less experience have access to higher-paying jobs.
The survey indicates that, generally, countries that are financially booming and with a high currency value offer the highest-paying jobs for SEO specialists with less experience.
SEOs with less than five years of experience earn up to $99,000.
Of those earning between $75,000 to $99,000, 31% reported two years or less experience, while 34% had 2-4 years of experience.
Similar experience-related trends are visible in those earning salaries under $34,000 per year.
Experience Levels Of Under $34k Earners
- 45.1% had less than two years of experience.
- 29.6% had 2 to 4 years of experience.
- 17.0% had 5 to 10 years of experience
How To Earn Over $100,000 In SEO
Independent freelancing is a profitable area for those seeking top earnings.
Those who go it alone in business, the freelancers and founders, reported higher earnings.
A stunning 44.5% of respondents who are freelancers, founders, and contract workers earn over $75,000 to $149,000.
This statistic indicates that freelancing continues to be a profitable path.
That said, experience levels are higher for those earning over $100,000.
Of those earning over $100,000 per year, an overwhelming majority have more than five years of experience.
This earnings data indicates that regardless of region, higher experience levels are in demand and consequently necessary to earn over $100,000.
How To Earn Over $200,000
The experience levels for SEO specialists earning over $200,000 require extensive years of digital marketing experience.
34.0% of those who reported earning over $200,000 had 20 years or more of experience, indicating that deep industry experience is highly valued.
Is SEO A High Paying Job?
In 2022, SEO tends to be a relatively high-paying job, with at least 30% of positions that pay $75,000 to $99,000 given to digital marketers with less than two years of experience.
SEO is a profitable business in 2022, with more independent freelancers (44.5%) reporting higher pay rates relative to their experience levels compared to those who work in-house.
How Much Experience Do SEO Pros Need To Move Up?
According to the survey results, the first four years of experience offer many growth opportunities to move up the pay scale.
Survey results of roles and years of experience indicate that many digital marketers have opportunities to reach manager-level positions after having just a few years of experience.
The region of employment and other soft skills can also be a determinant of pay rates.
SEO Positions By Experience
Less Than Two Years Of Experience
Perhaps not surprisingly, most survey respondents with less than two years of experience held lower-level positions. However, nearly 25% have managerial-level jobs.
These are the roles and the experience levels:
- 66.4% were in junior positions.
- 23.3% were managers.
- 9.4% were freelancers or founders.
Two To Four Years Of Experience
Digital marketing professionals with two to four years of experience tended to have higher managerial roles.
The following is the breakdown of roles for SEOs with two to four years of experience:
- 45.6% were in junior roles.
- 39.8% were managers.
- 10.1% were freelancers or founders.
Five Or More Years Of Experience
The role levels achieved by those with five or more years in the industry appear to be the reverse of those with the least experience, with the majority reporting higher levels of roles.
Those with five more years of experience tended to have the higher management level roles in digital marketing, with the most significant proportion, 43.7%, occupying the department head level.
Here are the roles of SEOs with greater than five years of experience:
- 43.7% Manager or head of a department.
- 20.4% C-level and Director.
- 18.7% Founder, freelancer, contractor.
- 17.2% Junior/mid-level positions.
Career Paths In SEO
There are at least three general paths for earning more as a digital marketer.
One path is to put in the time and move up the ranks while working in-house or at an agency.
The second path is to accrue experience and skills while working in-house or at an agency and then branch out as an independent SEO in the role of a founder, freelancer, or contractor.
The third path is to start as a freelancer and build your skills, then leverage your experience to gain a full-time position or push into higher earning brackets independently.
There’s no way to accelerate how many years of experience one has.
But skills and accomplishments, particularly working at a name brand company or agency, is helpful.
Experience doing things and learning skills remain essential, as the survey results show it only takes two to four years of experience to gain a higher role in SEO.
But ultimately, skills gained from experience will determine how well an individual can move up within an organization as an in-house professional or earn more as a freelancer with their ability to satisfy and retain clients.
Those with the role of founder account for the highest earnings in the group identifying as freelancers.
Unsurprisingly, founders tended to earn the most among those in the freelance wing of SEO professionals.
Part of that success comes from stepping back from the actual work and hiring others.
Jason Hennessey, CEO at Hennessey Digital, attributed his success as a founder to hiring the right people.
Jason shared, “I’d say one of the best things I’ve done is investing in good leadership, putting intelligent people in place for their specific roles, then getting out of their way. I create the vision, and they help me execute it.”
Michael Bonfils, Global Managing Director of SEM International, recommended that a founder should, in the beginning, learn how to do most tasks in the business, eventually handing off those tasks to employees.
Michael shared his secret to being a successful founder,
“A founder should be doing everything themself at first. It gives them grounding and basic knowledge of sales, marketing, and accounting in addition to the actual work.
Eventually, you find people who do a better job than you do, especially stuff you don’t like doing. And you keep handing off responsibilities until you are doing just the things that you enjoy doing.”
How To Become A Better SEO
Years of experience are important for earning more, but the key word here is experience, not years.
Learning skills is paramount for moving up the SEO industry ladder.
There are many resources available for helping people launch their careers in SEO or to improve their current skills.
Learn SEO: Beginners
Search Engine Journal
Search Engine Journal publishes a comprehensive series of articles that provides a foundation for understanding digital marketing.
This is a resource for those who are beginning their journey or have just begun learning about SEO.
It begins with a description of the history of SEO, the fundamental basics, and then the strategy.
Clocking in at thirty-five chapters, Search Engine Journal’s introduction to SEO makes an excellent foundation for any aspiring digital marketer.
Learn SEO: Intermediate
Google publishes a starter guide that offers a level of SEO information appropriate for those already in charge of a website in some capacity.
This guide is not for those with little to no knowledge of SEO.
It is most appropriate for those with a basic website knowledge level.
This guide provides little actionable SEO information in terms of strategy.
But it does provide invaluable information for understanding a wide range of knowledge about how search engines work and the technical level of managing search appearance.
The guide covers sitemaps, canonical URLs, robots.txt, featured snippets, local search, and debugging tips.
Google’s starter guide begins with a glossary of terms to help build the foundation for the somewhat technical information that comes next, which is a lot.
The guide consists of four sections:
- Crawling and indexing.
- Search Appearance.
- Monitoring and debugging.
- Site-specific guides (ecommerce, international & multilingual, education websites).
How To Obtain SEO Certifications
Google also offers an online certification program.
It is not a replacement for a university degree. It is a training certification to help a worker transition to a new job in digital marketing.
This program focuses on helping people learn the skills necessary to obtain an entry-level position in SEO.
Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal