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SEOs: Will You Negotiate a Salary Increase in 2013?

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Last week SEO Software company, Conductor, released an infographic which compiled data from Indeed and Payscale that illustrated SEO role salary ranges across the USA. Unsurprisingly the highest rates are paid in New York and San Francisco, with higher rates paid in general on both the East and West coast, but nonetheless, it seems that roles are well paid across the country, with Chicago, Seattle, Atlanta and Dallas also paying high rates despite a generally lower cost per living.

It seems that it is a pretty nice lifestyle to be a search marketer right now. And investing in "the good life", rather than riches, seems to be satisfactory or reasonable compromise to both employers and employees.

Whilst Conductor's infographic is useful to see whether you are being paid what you are worth right now, standing alone this infographic doesn't provide many clues as to the direction of the industry or how you can increase your salary. And that latter is what you want to know right? 

What Can You Reasonably Expect to Be Paid?

In June of 2011, the search marketer's industry body, SEMPO, released a survey of salaries and job titles among search marketers which revealed that with three to five years of experience, search marketers are paid an excellent salary compared to some other professions - in the vicinity of $70,000. This seems to be in line with Conductor's findings.

Some of the SEMPO survey highlights included:

  • The average search marketer salary is $75,542
  • The majority of respondents with 0 – 3 years of experience in search marketing earn $30,001 to $60,000
  • Approximately 20% of respondents with 0 – 3 years of experience earn $60,000+
  • Respondents making $60,000+ more than doubles to 50% for respondents with 3-5 years’ experience
  • With 5–7 years of experience, 78% of respondents make more than $60,000

At the time, Chris Taylor, Director, Executive Search for Onward Search Internet Marketing Division, said, "The recession is long over in digital marketing. We are in a supply-constrained market. Job postings for SEO and PPC managers and related roles are off the charts. Positions between $60,000 and $100,000 have fierce competition and good candidates are getting both counteroffers and multiple job offers. Employers must be prepared to contend with these current job market conditions if they want to secure the best talent."

Following that, Onward Search put out an infographic in December 2011 about where to land the best paying SEO jobs and in April 2012, they released another infographic on where to land the best paying PPC jobs. In both cases, the salary data compiled from Indeed was encouraging and supported the same themes which emerged from the SEMPO survey that, in general, that salaries for the search marketers accelerate quickly after the first 3 years of experience.

Essentially, the hottest spot in the market are mid-level roles. Again, this is ratified by Conductor's latest survey - but it's worth noting that Onward Search and Conductor both pulled data from Indeed.

What Employee Benefits Can You Reasonably Expect to Have?

A point of interest in SEMPO's survey was also that where search marketers were reporting lower than average salaries they were also reporting higher than average perks that any other industry. SEMPO reported that a whopping 65% of search marketers are permitted to work on "other projects" outside of the company, giving employees the ability to not only improve their skills outside of their current role but also supplement their current income through freelancing.

Other positive quality of life indicators reported in the survey were that over 50% of employees enjoyed the full suite of company benefits such as insurance and pension and more than 2 weeks vacation time. Further indicators that search marketers and the companies hiring them are on the whole more interested in lifestyle factors than equity was that many employers permitted telecommuting - which not only reduces cost for the employee but also serves as a means for the company to lower their overheads.

The theme of search marketers being empowered to make a "lifestyle choice" also emerged from SEOmoz's 2012 search marketing industry survey in which they described their 'typical' respondent as "a man, 26-34 years old, based in the United States. He likely works in-house at a 2-5 person company and started in-house, as well. He makes $30,000-$45,000 per year."

Where Can You Go From Here?

Thus, inside of the wider context, Conductor's latest survey is very encouraging for search marketers, whatever city you live in. The need to migrate for higher salaries is low and the ability to make your current salary work better for you is high. If you are wondering whether your current salary stacks up to industry peers, then it might be worth looking at negotiating the benefits of flexible working conditions.

The evidence on the table seems to be that employers are open to it and possibly even expecting to offer "lifestyle benefits" as a means to compete for or retain talent - remember: employers are selling their reputation to you just as much as you are selling your skill sets to them.

If you are in the market for a new role in 2013, the advice from all these sources is to diversify your skills. For example, start by looking at how your free and paid toolset expertise stacks up against SEOmoz users.

And heed the advice of Chris Boggs, Chairman of SEMPO, who told Search Engine Watch (SEW), "Jobseekers should be very clear in their resumes what they are responsible for. Discuss your skill sets and have the attitude of 'if you've got it, flaunt it'. If you can export Google Analytics data into a Excel Pivot Table and then make sense of it, tell people! Also be streetsmart about social media. Tell employers what communities you interact with and if you have moderator or administrator roles on forums for example."

That such tactical and analytical skills matter to employers is further underlined by research from SEW and Conductor's collaborative survey, published earlier this year, which found that SEO metrics are informing other areas of the business and that 7 out of 10 SEO's are reporting a bigger seat at the boardroom table.

Conductor Salary Survey 2012


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