How to become an SEO professional

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Origin and development

Definition: The "Search Engine Optimization" (English: "Search Engine Optimization", "SEO" for short) is one Online Marketing Discipline and, together with search engine advertising, forms that Search engine marketing (English: "Search Engine Marketing", "SEM" for short).

As early as the late 1990s, websites were optimized for findability in web catalogs (the forerunners of the search engines), but this was nowhere near as time-consuming as it is today. The possibilities were mainly limited to minor technical optimizations of the websites, which is why this task was mostly taken over by the web administrator or webmaster. The job description “SEO manager” or “manager for search engine optimization” did not emerge until the following decade, parallel to the success of the Search provider Google and as a result of the increasing importance of the search engine markets. Website and online shop operators recognized more and more that in addition to the possibilities of search engine advertising, search engine optimization can also contribute to the commercial success of their online presence.

The primary goal of the search engine optimization of websites, web applications and online shops is that they are listed as high as possible in the search results pages of search providers for the search terms (keywords) that are in demand and that are relevant for the online offer. In contrast to the advertising spaces in search engines, the positions within the search result lists (so-called “rankings”) cannot be purchased. They are generated by search providers on the basis of indexes specially created for this purpose, in which information on billions of websites is stored and continuously updated. Complex algorithms select suitable websites for the list of results on the basis of this database, depending on the search query and search intention. Then they sort the list based on Relevance and ranking criteria: at Google there are now hundreds (source: Google Howsearchworks).

Core task of SEO managers is to identify potentials for the search engine optimization of web presences and to generally ensure the improvement of rankings and website visits via organic search. Since many Internet sites are still insufficiently optimized for search engines, there is usually a lot for SEO managers to do: especially on the technical level, there are often deficits, e.g. B. in the area of ​​loading times ("page speed") or compatibility with mobile devices. Since the search engine algorithms are trying to understand what impression a website makes on visitors and how popular it is, criteria such as: B. in the areas of the visitor experience ("User Experience", "UX" for short), user friendliness ("Usability") and accessibility ("Accessibility") an increasingly important role. So nowadays more than in the past, SEO managers have to focus on the holistic optimization for the user instead of orienting oneself purely on individual criteria of the search engine algorithms or trying to "outsmart" them with SEO tricks. In order to be able to uncover these deficits at all and to be able to suggest appropriate optimization measures, SEO managers must have solid knowledge of e.g. B. in the areas of usability, web administration, web design, user experience and web development. Only then will they be able to identify relevant weak points and suggest optimization measures that can also be implemented. In this context, the analytical skills of SEO managers are particularly in demand. The proposed measures are usually implemented by a team of appropriate experts.

The trend in this job description is moving away from carrying out individual SEO measures almost single-handedly. Rather, the embedding of search engine optimization in overall strategies of online marketing is more and more the focus. B. can be combined with SEA campaigns or content marketing measures. It is also becoming more and more common to integrate SEO requirements as early as the conception phase and when relaunching web offers. Implementing SEO measures afterwards is often much more time-consuming and expensive. Since the search engine algorithms are constantly being further developed by the search providers, SEO managers also have to stay “on the ball” and ensure that the websites they manage are optimized or adjusted if necessary. More and more companies see SEO as a continuous activity and not as a one-time, time-limited project.

Development of demand in the job market 2012-2020

Demand for SEO managers

The demand for experts in search engine optimization was already high at the beginning of the last decade. The number of job advertisements for »SEO Manager« reached a provisional maximum in 2015 and 2016, but remained stable afterwards at a somewhat lower level. The reason for this is, among other things, that the discipline of search engine optimization has played a central role in online marketing for a long time. The constantly increasing complexity of search engine algorithms leads to ever higher requirements in the field of search engine optimization, so that well-trained and experienced SEO experts are constantly being sought.

Demand for expertise in the field of SEO / search engine optimization

SEO skills are not only required for SEO managers, but also for many other online marketing professions such as SEA managers (search engine advertising managers) or content marketing managers. At the beginning of the last decade, the number of mentions of corresponding knowledge in the field of SEO was already relatively high with a good 1000 mentions, but rose by leaps and bounds from 2016 to 2017 to almost six times. After a decrease to the previous level, there was a significant increase again in 2019. Here it becomes clear that many employers hold knowledge in the field of search engine optimization also relevant for other areas of responsibility and jobs in the field of online marketing. Because the success of many other online marketing disciplines depends directly or indirectly on the fact that the corresponding online presence is optimized for search engines.

Demand for knowledge of SEO tools

The most frequently mentioned knowledge of SEO tools in connection with job postings in the SEO area are Sistrix and the Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmastertools) with 33% each, followed by Searchmetrics with 13%, the crawler Screaming Frog with 7%, ahrefs and Semrush with 5% each, Xovi with 3% and Ryte with 1%. Other SEO tools such as link research tools, Majestics or Moz are only mentioned sporadically. SEO must therefore be familiar with the use of the Google Search Console and Sistrix in order to have good chances on the German job market. Knowledge of the Searchmetrics Suite is particularly in demand with large and more international companies.

use

SEO manager or. Search Engine Optimization Manager and similar job titles such as B. “Manager / in SEO”, “SEO Account Manager” etc. are not legally protected job titles in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. This means that every person can legally use the term as a job title and is often used in job advertisements, for example. The job title is also international SEO manager most common. Freelancers in the SEO field often call themselves "SEO experts", "experts in search engine optimization", "SEO consultants" or "SEO consultants".

However, anyone who uses the term in professional life (e.g. for applications or contracts) without having the appropriate qualifications may be violating certain laws, in Germany e.g. against the Unfair Competition Act (UWG) in the sense of misleading advertising. Under certain circumstances, the use of the job title "SEO Manager" can also constitute a criminal offense of fraud (in Germany according to § 263 StGB), e.g. in the form of employment fraud.

Work environments, areas of responsibility and main areas of activity

SEO managers or managers for search engine optimization work similarly to SEA managers in all types of companies and industries with different business relationships, with the focus on the B2C area. But also large corporations in the B2B area are discovering more and more the importance of search engine optimization for their online presences, e. B. because the relationship with the public and thus also with end consumers is seen as an important part of the overall marketing strategy with regard to image building and reputation.

There are a particularly large number of job postings in the E-commerce and at Online marketing agencies. Since the costs in the field of search engine advertising have risen sharply in recent years, companies and agencies are increasingly shifting the focus to SEO or are further expanding SEO. This also increases the demand for experienced SEO experts. The area of ​​responsibility therefore depends very much on whether SEO is already established in the company and is to be further developed or professionalized or it is in the process of introducing SEO measures and building up appropriate know-how for its own business field or for customers. For SEO managers this means that, depending on the initial situation, they either already start at a high SEO level and, under certain circumstances, can or should specialize in sub-areas of search engine optimization. Or: as an SEO all-rounder, first of all do development work in the company, create more awareness of SEO requirements and be accordingly flexible and versatile.

To the Core tasks of the SEO manager always count regardless of the type of company Demand, keyword and competition research in the search engine markets. You must also be able to create extensive SEO analyzes and catalogs of measures. In view of the abundance of ranking criteria, there is a risk of getting bogged down in details or overlooking important things. Therefore, the ability to keep an overview and to filter out the essentials from the multitude of options is particularly important.

One of the main tasks in the B2C and especially e-commerce sector (online shops, etc.) is almost always to bring more visitors to the respective landing pages and to increase sales by improving the rankings. In the case of B2B companies, on the other hand, the focus is on increasing visibility in the organic search of Google and Co, and mostly internationally.

If the online presences of companies are mainly geared towards Western Europe, this means for SEO managers that they mainly focus on the rankings in the various areas of the Google search need to concentrate. For international websites or online shops, depending on the region, SEO managers must also have experts for the criteria of other search providers such as B. Yandex, Yahoo / Bing and Baidu be.

Since the focus in the agency sector is the customer relationship and customer business, SEO managers are often so-called account managers in this environment. Customers then have to be looked after professionally (keyword “customer care”) and often also trained. In this context, conducting SEO workshops for customers is one of the main tasks of an SEO manager. In this customer-oriented business field, an SEO manager also needs solid knowledge of Project management: he has to organize and lead SEO projects. The trend is moving away from project management based on the waterfall model and towards agile project management methods (e.g. Scrum). It is definitely beneficial for a career if an SEO manager has the appropriate additional qualification or professional experience. In the agency business, SEO managers also have regular offers such as B. for new customers (sales support) and on the basis of SEO analyzes and catalogs of measures, provide cost estimates, cost calculations and budget forecasts for the implementation of the SEO measures.

SEO managers wear as account Manager often high responsibility. Newcomers or young professionals are introduced to account management and initially look after smaller customers. B. the job title "Junior SEO Manager". Over the years, due to their greater experience and suitability, they are given greater responsibility for more important customers and higher budgets. B. to the "Senior SEO Manager". It is not uncommon for job titles such as B. "Senior SEO Account Manager" is used. Sometimes they even take on the role of a key account manager, e.g. B. because they focus on a single major customer and should further expand the SEO business with him.

in the In-house area Account management is not the focus of the activity and the job description. SEO is done here for the company's or corporate group's websites. Here, the employer's goals determine the general SEO strategy: The performance of SEO managers is then measured by how well they achieve the relevant targets and use the given budget efficiently.

The main areas of activity vary greatly depending on the size and orientation of the company. The following core tasks are described particularly frequently:

Search engine optimization in general

  • Carrying out keyword research, search engine market analyzes with regard to demand, competition and language usage primarily for Google.
  • Development of sustainable and holistic and possibly international SEO strategies, e.g. B. to increase visibility and customer acquisition including evaluation of ranking opportunities for individual keywords and subject areas. In doing so, consideration of the specifics of the company or customer's sector and the competitive situation in the respective market segments, regions and search engines.
  • Conception of search engine optimized landing pages, microsites and specials e.g. B. in the form of catalogs of requirements.

Planning and implementation

  • Implementation of SEO analyzes (SEO audits) and creation of SEO measure catalogs or SEO requirement catalogs, possibly including project plans, roadmaps and management of SEO projects
  • Creation of link building plans and catalogs of measures for offpage optimization
  • Checking for content expansion or supplementation options in order to improve the ranking chances of landing pages. Summary of corresponding suggestions for the further development of the content strategy.
  • Maintenance, expansion and optimization of SEO campaigns with regard to technical and content-related on-page optimization, as well as supporting off-page measures e.g. B. in the area of ​​link building or social SEO
  • Independent implementation of individual SEO measures e.g. B. Content creation and optimization (SEO copywriting) as well as backlink construction. Writing SEO articles for the company blog
  • Implementation of technical SEO measures such as B. Configuration of the robots.txt - control file for search engine bots, checking of sitemap.xml files, optimization of HTML codes for website templates, etc.
  • In the agency environment: preparation of offers for sales support including cost estimates and budget calculations for SEO projects as well as determination of minimum budgets; Implementation of presentations and customer workshops. In addition, often also support for bookkeeping e.g. B. in relation to accounting
  • Selection and support for external service providers such as B. Link builders, authors and content producers including quality control
  • SEO or rank tracking: Setup and configuration of rank tracking and ranking reports in SEO tools such as B. Sistrix, SearchMetrics, SemRush, Moz, ahrefs and others

Data analysis and effectiveness measurement / monitoring and reporting

  • Cost and performance optimization of SEO measures based on defined key performance indicators (KPIs), target and budget specifications.
  • Establishment and regular checks of the webmaster tools of the search providers z. B. with regard to the crawling behavior of the bots (crawling frequency, crawling budget, etc.), possibly error messages or messages
  • Ongoing monitoring of web analysis data from e.g. B. Google Analytics: Evaluation of organic traffic, visitor behavior and KPIs defined depending on the project
  • Regular monitoring and reporting of SEO performance based on ranking reports and visibility processes; Presentation / communication to supervisors and / or customers (account management) mostly on a monthly basis
  • Monitoring trends in the field of search engine optimization in general; Careful monitoring of the further development of search engine algorithms with regard to new or changed ranking and relevance criteria. If necessary, adaptation of the SEO strategy and measures.
  • Preparation and presentation of campaign results as well as reporting e.g. B. with Microsoft Powerpoint, Microsoft Excel or SEO tools z. B. Ranking reports and web analysis reports
  • Assumption of budget responsibility (basic knowledge of business administration is required)

Depending on the weighting in individual cases, there may be major deviations from this exemplary list.

Competencies

SEO managers must be familiar with all areas of modern search engine optimization. These include, for example, technical SEO, content SEO, image / video SEO, mobile SEO, social SEO and link building. Furthermore, they should have good industry knowledge in the corporate environment and know various SEO strategies. You need to have a feel for writing target group-specific texts. They are able to determine the SEO strategies of the respective competition and find ways to lead their SEO projects to success despite the sometimes complicated and highly competitive situation in search engine markets.

You have an in-depth understanding of the interrelationships and developments on the Internet and are always up to date with regard to trends in search engine optimization. Since nowadays more and more “outside the box” knowledge is required and required in job advertisements and in everyday SEO, they also bring knowledge in other online marketing disciplines with them. There is a particularly high affinity here to social media marketing and content marketing. This is also reflected in job advertisements that contain interdisciplinary job titles such as B. Use "Senior SEO / Content Manager" or "SEO / Social Media Manager". But you should also have profound technical knowledge in the area of ​​server configuration and web programming.

In addition, a good knowledge of web analysis and relevant SEO tools is particularly important: Thorough knowledge of Google Analytics is often required. The familiar and professional use of SEO tools such as B. SearchMetrics, Sistrix, Moz etc. is taken for granted or expected.

As a professional Core competencies General skills are to be mentioned, to carry out complex keyword research and analyzes, to develop powerful SEO strategies, to implement them efficiently and to evaluate them on the basis of SEO performance data.

  • Knowledge of other marketing channels: Not only for online marketing managers, but also for SEO managers it is important that they have a solid basic marketing knowledge, e.g. B. with regard to the forms of pull marketing and "below-the-line" marketing and be able to determine the importance of search engine optimization within the entire marketing strategy of the company.
  • Soft skills: Especially in the agency business, SEO managers (like SEM and SEA managers, by the way) are the interface to customers and / or work with internal or external developer, creative teams and other online marketing experts, e.g. B. in the area of ​​content editing closely together. Internal and / or external communication is then a core element of your work. You must therefore have a high level of social competence, the ability to work in a team, negotiation skills and very good communication skills up to and including multilingualism on all channels.
  • Lifelong learning, self-taught skills: The technologies and framework conditions on the Internet and especially in the area of ​​search engine optimization are constantly changing and becoming more and more complicated. As an all-rounder, SEO managers therefore have to be versatile and talented or specialize in a sub-area of ​​SEO at an early stage in order to be successful in their professional life.
  • Resilience, flexibility and patience: Since SEO managers often work under high time and success pressure and have a high budget responsibility, they should be resilient, concentrate even in a hectic environment (open-plan offices) and be able to organize their day-to-day work well. SEO managers have to live with the fact that the performance of SEO projects can deteriorate suddenly due to short-term and unfortunately often unannounced changes in search engine algorithms: There is no guarantee of good rankings! However, you must not let yourself be disturbed by such often temporary fluctuations in the rankings, you have to analyze the situation with a "cool head" and adjust your SEO strategy if necessary.
  • Communication skills and a talent for persuasion: In view of the complexity and certain unpredictability in the area of ​​search engine optimization, it is always to be expected that superiors or customers will question or criticize the performance of SEO campaigns or the SEO strategy. SEO managers have to be able to withstand this and need a lot of diplomatic skill and patience in dealing with these groups of people in order to convince them of their own campaign strategies or the need to increase the SEO budget. Often, superiors or customers simply underestimate how high the effort in the SEO area is in order to achieve and maintain top positions in the search.
  • languages: In addition to perfect German, English skills are essential. For this reason, they are almost always required in job advertisements. More and more language skills are expressly requested in job advertisements, especially in internationally oriented companies.
  • PC application programs: Managers for search engine optimization should have a good knowledge of common office programs (word processing, presentation). Because of the regular use of data and numbers, you should have a very good knowledge of Excel. B. be able to work with formulas, S-references and pivot tables.

requirements

People who want to train as an SEO manager or manager for search engine optimization should meet the following requirements:

School requirements

University entrance qualification, technical college entrance qualification or an intermediate educational qualification.

Computer knowledge

Interested parties should have several years of experience with PCs and smartphones and have at least one operating system (e.g. Windows or Mac OS X) and standard office applications (spreadsheet, word processing, presentation).

Internet user skills

The job generally requires a high affinity to the medium of the Internet and especially to the topic of SEO, so interested parties should navigate the Internet safely and as a matter of course and know the most important ranking criteria well.

Communicative and social skills, scientific streak

Communication in all its forms and often also the ability to work in a team is at the center of the job as an SEO manager. He is often faced with the challenge of dealing with the sometimes complicated facts and requirements of his SEO work for laypeople e. B. to convey it comprehensibly and convincingly in conversations, lectures and workshops. Furthermore, the passion for search engine optimization and a certain thirst for research are part of this professional profile. Determining the causes of changes in the rankings often requires a scientific approach and a corresponding talent for logical thinking

linguistic proficiency

Very good written and spoken German and English, as fluent as possible. Additional language skills are often expressly requested in job advertisements.

Initial and continuing education

Relevant training in marketing or a degree in business administration, marketing or business informatics is often the entry into the field of activity of an SEO manager. The specific knowledge in the areas of the Internet and search engines is usually acquired through further training; there is no state-regulated training specially tailored to this activity.

Private institutes and training centers offer a variety of courses, seminars and courses for SEO managers. The spectrum ranges from courses lasting just a few days (“crash courses”) with a very limited range of topics to full-time courses lasting several weeks. Interested parties can choose between face-to-face events, distance learning and online courses. The search providers such. B. Google does not offer its own certification programs in the SEO area.

The Webmasters Fernakademie Nuremberg offers a comprehensive in the SEO area Further training to become a SEM manager included Certification , which also includes in detail the subject area SEO:

The state-approved distance course SEM Manager and Web Analyst with the qualification "Certified SEM Manager and Web Analyst" provides a thorough and up-to-date introduction to the three disciplines of SEO, SEA and web analysis. In addition to specialist knowledge of search engine marketing, the training also provides solid practical knowledge in web analysis and the use of Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager.

It also offers the distance learning course to become a Certified SEO Manager, which focuses exclusively on this specialist area.

Furthermore, the subject of search engine optimization is also dealt with in detail in the distance learning course to become a Certified Digital Marketing Manager.

Career paths

A typical career path is towards Team leader, because SEO has become so complex and time-consuming that SEO teams have emerged or are just emerging, especially in larger companies. Job titles for the SEO team leader are often "Teamlead SEO" or "SEO team leader". This position usually mainly comprises the technical and project-related management of the SEO team, not the disciplinary one. The latter is usually part of the area of ​​responsibility of an SEO department head or "Head of SEO", who then also takes on personnel and budget responsibility, but usually has no power of attorney. SEO department heads can usually only be found at very large agencies in the online marketing area.

Another development option for SEO managers is to focus on a sub-area of ​​SEO such as B. to specialize in link building or SEO content creation (SEO copywriter): Real experts for z. B. Technical SEO or Offpage SEO are in great demand, especially with larger agencies.