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So, You Want to Be an SEO Professional

An SEO specialist identifies and applies strategies to position a website in a high rank in Internet searches

How much money can you make?
What type of training will it take?
And what does the job actually entail?
Read on to find out whether this is the job for you.


What will I be doing all day?

A search engine optimization (SEO) specialist identifies and applies strategies to position a website in a high rank in searches on Google and other search engines, thus increasing the number of visitors to the website and the potential for sales and growth.

Responsibilities can include:

programming the website to ensure it is accessible and user-friendly

conducting PPC (pay-per-click) sponsored online advertising campaigns

writing content for websites

making technical recommendations to developers

monitoring website performance by checking search terms, rankings, and analytics

identifying and connecting to related businesses to build affiliate links to drive people to clients’ websites

building internal links and backlinks within websites

utilizing social media to disseminate content

developing and implementing content marketing strategies

keeping up to date with search engine algorithms

Do I have the personality for it?

A good SEO professional is analytical, curious, and creative; has good communication skills, particularly written communication; and has an eye for detail and a lot of patience.

What kind of career options do I have?

SEO professionals can work in-house, at an agency, or as a freelancer. As SEO is used on a diverse range of media platforms, it can be helpful to specialize in a particular platform or skill. This includes specializations in coding, writing, graphic design, social media, video, and more.

In addition, an expertise in SEO can be used in a variety of related fields, such as digital marketing, social media management, copywriting, marketing consultant, web development, and more.

What kind of training do I need?

A formal academic degree is not necessary for the field, though a bachelor’s degree in a related field such as marketing or communications can be helpful. Most training takes place on the job.

What can I expect to make?

The average salary range is $60,000–$100,000, but the earning potential is much higher, especially as an agency owner.

Freelancing hourly prices can range from $40 to $120 and above.



RUTI DADASH, Jerusalem, Israel
Years in Field: 8


My Typical Workday

My job as an SEO is to make sure Google knows what my client’s website is about, and ensure that it’s better than all other websites on that topic. (It took me years to distill SEO into this one sentence!) Practically speaking, this entails keyword research to see what people are typing into Google, competitor analysis, creating a strategy, producing content briefs for the writers, optimizing content (think being an editor but with specific rules to implement), fixing up technical elements, adding internal links, and more.

I am personally more involved in the strategy while my team handles almost all of the implementation. Because of the time zone differences, my mornings are more likely to be spent with my team (answering questions, running training sessions, etc.), and my evenings are often spent answering emails or meeting with US-based clients. All my meetings are held on Zoom — I’m one of the few people who used Zoom before Covid hit.

Beyond the actual SEO work, I also handle lead generation for my agency, which means I spend a lot of time in meetings or on Zoom calls with business owners or marketers to discuss whether SEO is right for their business. The rest of my time is spent creating or tweaking our processes and workflows to ensure my team does amazing work as smoothly as possible.

How I Chose the Profession

Hashem led me right into SEO! When I moved to Israel, I got a job as an SEO specialist at my friend’s father’s company. I received full training on the job, and taught myself everything else on my own time. I began freelancing in my “free time” until I was able to quit my job and freelance full time as an SEO consultant. Eventually I hired an assistant, then another, until I decided to open up an SEO agency.

What I Consider My Specialty

My specialty is getting results in tricky situations. This means something different for different types of businesses. For example, for B2B companies, it can be hard to target the right audience. For tech start-ups, their target population often hasn’t even heard about what they offer, so they aren’t searching for it. For brand-new websites, the challenge is how to compete with established giants.

True, there are some businesses for whom SEO won’t work, but in many cases, it just needs a bit of creativity and determination.

What I Love Most about the Field

I enjoy SEO because it combines my mathematical brain with my creative side. I often say that SEO is a science, until it becomes an art. You begin by following instructions and checklists, but over time you develop a professional sensitivity and can begin answering the trickier questions for which there is no one right answer. (Many SEO jokes are built around the idea that an SEO’s answer to every question is, “it depends.”)

This is where you can start crafting more creative strategies. Some of my most successful SEO campaigns were the ones where we did something completely different from every other website in the niche, and were able to outrank some giant websites for key search terms.

What I Find Most Challenging about the Field

Setting appropriate client expectations. It can take a few months to have an impact, especially for a website with barely any web presence. Clients are often impatient to see results from their investment, and don’t always understand that it’s supposed to take time. This is why I insist on a minimum commitment of six months.

Looking back, I think that the only clients we’ve had who weren’t success stories were the ones who pulled out early.

I’ll Never Forget When

A few years ago, I did SEO for one of the largest defense and weapons manufacturers in the world. Tanks and armor and missiles and warships… I can see how some people would be in their element, but I was bored out of my mind.

Something I Wish People Knew About SEO Professionals

The entire industry of SEO is pretty much trial and error, with some hints (and the occasional misdirection) from Google. SEOs are constantly testing and sharing their results, and many of the established standards came about through experimentation.

That being said, there are so many myths about what works and what doesn’t. If you’re getting instructions that don’t seem right to you, trust your gut and check it out.

How I’ve Seen the Field Change Over the Years

SEO is a constantly evolving field. While the essentials are the same, many elements are very different from what they used to be. With every algorithm change, Google has been focusing more on delivering a positive user experience, and websites have had to keep up.

It used to be easier to game the system (known as blackhat SEO) and do shticks that would get you ranking fast; nowadays it’s more likely to get you a penalty and lost rankings. There is a huge focus now on quality content that provides value to the user, and stuffing keywords awkwardly into your text is not the way to go.

Technically speaking, it’s so much more important now to ensure your website is fully mobile responsive and loads fast.

Backlinks — links from other websites back to your website — are now only valuable if they’re from authoritative websites. Buying hundreds or thousands of backlinks from Fiverr is a surefire way of running your website into the ground. We’ve started incorporating digital PR campaigns too, which is a system of naturally obtaining links from news websites, and have seen good results there.

How I Predict AI Will Impact the SEO Field

“SEO is dead” has been said so many times that it’s become a very popular meme in the SEO community.

ChatGPT and Bard aside, the potential biggest threat right now to SEO as we know it is SGE — Search Generative Experience. It’s the new face of Google search, and incorporates AI in several different ways. With SGE, users don’t have to open a new program to get information (and then fact-check it to spot hallucinations), they simply search in Google as normal and receive a much fuller, upfront answer without needing to click through to any websites.

So how will this impact SEO?

There are two types of Internet searchers — those seeking information, and those ready to buy a product (commercial intent). Until now, SEOs targeted informational searches by creating plenty of informational articles targeting those keywords. ChatGPT made it far easier and cheaper to do that at scale. SGE now makes this somewhat redundant, as many informational queries will be answered without the user having to click through to these articles.

However, if someone is looking into their options for buying a product or service, they will still have to click through to websites to get the information they need.

In practical terms, this means that vacationing sites may see fewer clicks to their posts about packing tips and traveling advice, but their pages about booking beach vacations or city breaks will still be doing well. And so, SEOs will have to pivot to focus more on commercial intent keywords, building out strong sales pages for their products.

While some SEO agencies currently get away with mass-producing poor-quality content, this will start working less and less. In short, the new advances will make the difference between bad and great SEO agencies much starker.

My Advice for People Starting Out

You don’t need any formal qualifications for SEO. What you do need is experience, which is why the best step you can take is to launch your own website and do SEO for it. Everything is out there on Google. Learningseo.io has collated plenty of free resources, and it’s a fantastic place to start.

SEO SPECIALIST, Wall Street Journal Global Headquarters, Manhattan
Years in Field: 7


My Typical Workday

SEO is essentially the practice of trying to understand users and their needs as well as Google’s preferences. Combine those two, along with the needs of your company, and you’re good to go.

My job is to give the various offerings on the Wall Street Journal website, from Live Blog coverage and articles and everything in between, the highest chance of being seen by readers via Google and other search engines. There are hundreds of factors at play in optimizing an article or a site so that it appears at the top of Google’s search results. Figuring out why a page isn’t ranking well and how we can change that is what we’re tasked with on a daily basis.

This is both fun and tricky, as there are constant new developments to deal with, both from Google’s ever-evolving algorithm and from the endless news cycle.

I start my day by sending communicating with the broader newsroom regarding the latest happenings and news that are making waves around the world. I give SEO recommendations and article ideas based on potential reader interests and on what would be most important to cover from a broad perspective. I then work on technical issues within our site, finding ways to essentially allow Google to crawl and our website as efficiently as possible, giving us the best chance to rank well. This can all be interrupted by a breaking news event somewhere in the world. Being on top of the latest news is vital for any news SEO.

An average afternoon can have me working on content from various places: A bank run occurs and the stock tanks, all while a natural disaster occurs overseas. But wait, the White House just put out a statement.

A massive part of my job is education: explaining to editors and reporters the best ways for their articles to get the most eyeballs on Google. And I also need to educate myself; understanding the news landscape and what lies ahead is a massive part of the job, as well as being nimble in the moment when breaking news occurs. I need to really delve into Google’s search results and Google Trends to understand exactly what readers are searching for.

All the while, I’m working with various teams on fixes for technical problems that might impact our search rankings in the normal course of operating a website as large as the Wall Street Journal.

It’s a lot of hopping from problem to problem; I like to say that my ADHD has been a benefit in this job!

How I Chose the Profession

My education trained me to be a rabbi; I studied in yeshivah until age 24. In 2017, after some brief internships, I started working with Chabad.org as an editor and an SEO. This was my entry point into the editorial world. I then went to work as the first official SEO for Business Insider.

The fun part of SEO is that even if you were to learn it in college, most of what you learned would be outdated by the time you graduated. I learned on the job and it snowballed from there.

How I Chose My Specialty

SEO is quite broad, and there are specific niches within the industry. I specialize in news and commerce SEO, though I’m also a generalized SEO. I’ve always had an affinity toward articles and news, and this was the perfect marriage of the two.

The WSJ was my dream job. When I saw an opening in 2020, I applied and hit it off with the team. Then Covid hit and hiring paused, but a year later, I reached out again and finally got the job. Now here I am, a proud frum Jew rocking the beard, yarmulke and tzitzis while my desk is 20 feet from the editor-in-chief’s desk. I handed out homemade challah in the newsroom —that was a big hit!

What I Love Most about the Field

I love how in news SEO, you never really know what your day will look like, because things change so quickly. An average afternoon can involve interacting with editors in New York, D.C., Israel, London, and Asia.

What I Find Most Challenging about the Field

The biggest challenge is impostor syndrome. Even the most experienced SEOs can face challenges when trying to understand Google’s algorithm. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, an article may not perform as expected. In such instances, it’s crucial to remember that the ultimate goal of SEO should be to create valuable and relevant content that meets readers’ needs and enhances their experience. You must remind yourself that you can’t win them all.

On a personal level, I have the unique challenge of having a stutter. Though at times it can be difficult, I never use it as an excuse but rather as a springboard to better communication. People know that they have to wait a bit extra when speaking with me and they always feel it’s worth it.

My grandfather also stuttered, and he’d always quietly worried about me and what kind of career I’d have. I was able to tell him the good news that I’d been offered a job at the Wall Street Journal (he was a lifelong fan) just two months before he died. Hearing that I’d be okay professionally was comforting for him in his waning months.

I’ll Never Forget When

When I was introduced to the then editor-in-chief of the WSJ as an SEO and a rabbi, I was admittedly a tad nervous to hear his response. He shocked me when he shared his excitement about my unique path and related that his father, too, took an untraditional path later in life and became a priest.

Something I Wish People Knew About SEO Professionals

There are so many aspects of our job. You need to have people skills, technical skills, product management skills, editorial skills, an understanding of general trends — and the skills keep growing!

How I’ve Seen the Field Change Over the Years

The field is changing all the time. Google’s search engine algorithms are constantly evolving; there are hundreds of updates each year, which means there’s never a dull moment in this field. With the evolvement of AI, the SEO space will become even more interesting.

AI has a lot of potential to make waves in our space, so keeping on top of the latest developments and trends will be really important. We’ll have to navigate the advent of AI in Search. The trick is to try to stay ahead of the curve and use it to your advantage.

My Advice for People Starting Out

Start with the basics. I started with a basic SEO course and learned on the job. Trial-and-error is the best teacher. And know that if you really want it, there’s endless opportunity out there.


JOSH TERNYAK, Plymouth, Minnesota
CEO, Growtha, LLC
Years in Field: 3 (Working in web development since 2016)


My Typical Workday

I run a digital marketing agency for health care service providers throughout the US out of my bedroom. We build websites, develop and manage content strategy, produce content, and apply SEO and Google ads to get millions of people to our customers’ websites. We primarily work with health care service providers, including ABA therapy, alcohol and drug rehab companies, and nursing homes, among others. Today, we work with nearly 30 clients, and we’re adding more every week.

Initially, I was in a frenzy as a team of one, busy with the day-to-day tasks of designing and building the websites, writing all of the content, brainstorming and implementing SEO strategies, and communicating with clients. Thankfully I have been able to hire a talented team of writers, designers, and web developers and delegate lots of the work to them.

Today, most of my time is spent working on making sure my clients are ranking number one in Google and getting the most ROI from my services through lead generation, as well as getting their website into tip-top shape to maximize conversion rate optimization.

How I Chose the Profession

My older brother, Daniel, introduced me to SEO and the world of building websites, and he’s a big part of why I’ve been able to gain so many skills in such a short period of time. I started building websites when I was 11 years old.

After my brother introduced me to web development and SEO, I was hooked. I took a ton of online courses to build my website development skill set and my SEO skill set. I learned how to do SEO by researching it diligently for ten hours a day for about two to three months, and then by working on several of my brother’s websites to gain real-world experience. After I was able to help my brother take a site from scratch to generating hundreds of thousands of dollars through my SEO efforts, I knew I was ready to start taking on clients professionally.

Growing up, I wasn’t very interested in the school curriculum, and when COVID-19 began in March 2020 and schools were closed down, I had already managed to start generating a meaningful income from my SEO efforts on a few sites I was managing. So, I convinced my parents that working full-time on my SEO business would be better than suffering through online high-school classes. I dropped out of high-school at the age of 15 and then worked very hard on building up my professional skill set. (I ended up getting a high school diploma by taking the GED test two years later, when I was legally old enough.)

After I dropped out of high school, I moved to the Five Towns to join the Shaar program, a unique yeshivah focused on baalei teshuvah. During this time, I grew tremendously in my spirituality, thanks to the amazing rebbeim and Five Towns community. I’m grateful that I was able to continue to build and grow my business during my time in yeshivah, due to the unique setup of the Shaar program.

How I Chose My Specialty

I specialize in helping local health care businesses (businesses that service customers in specific states or locales) rank number one in Google. Local SEO is actually a whole different ball game from regular SEO, as many of the tactics that apply to local SEO don’t necessarily apply to optimizing an e-commerce site or an affiliate site.

I got into the health care industry because I was introduced to a client in the ABA therapy industry last year. Baruch Hashem, we were able to grow his traffic and inbound leads significantly, and he ended up referring me to many of his friends in the industry. The rest is history!

What I Love Most about the Field

I love SEO because once it starts to work, you can get hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of people actually reading your articles and looking at your website on a monthly basis. You can help businesses grow tremendously by knowing how to get them to show up as number one in Google for the keywords their potential customers are searching for. It’s flexible, you can work remotely, and you use a lot of creativity.

What I Find Most Challenging about the Field

I’ll tell you something that one might have expected to be a challenge for me but isn’t — my age. Even though I’m only 18, I don’t find it difficult for clients to take me seriously. I love what I do so much that my biggest challenge is stepping away from the computer.

I’ll Never Forget When

I’ll never forget when my first website started to rank number one in Google. I was so proud to see that the work I had been doing finally paid off.

Something I Wish People Knew About SEO Professionals

Building connections in the field is much more important than you think. This is true both for networking to find clients, and for connecting with other SEO professionals to learn more about the field.

How I’ve Seen the Field Change Over the Years

I’ve seen SEO change drastically over the last few years. Google’s algorithms are constantly changing. However, I’ve noticed the same trend happening over and over again — if you make very good content consistently, build high-quality backlinks, and make your website look very professional and easy to use, you should be able to get to the top of Google’s first page. SEO is all about adding value to your readers, and if you combine valuable content with SEO, you’ll be able to consistently get lots of people visiting your website every month.

My Advice for People Starting Out

For people starting out in SEO, I recommend finding a niche that you are passionate about, and funneling your passion into generating content to educate your audience. If you’re creating the best content, Google will eventually recognize that and send more traffic to your site. After you have traffic, you can start to monetize it by adding affiliate links to your site.

There are so many potential paths you could take in your SEO career. Expand your horizon, research different industries, and see what problems business owners face with their current SEO provider. If you do that, you’ll have a good chance to expand your skill set, network, and transform your day-to-day projects into something much more engaging, meaningful, fun, and (most importantly) profitable.


Coming up: dentists


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 975)

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