inbound-marketing-salary-guideThe 2016 Inbound Marketing Jobs Salary Guide is here! In this post, we’re focusing on a single significant finding: SEO jobs and salaries have declined this year in the US. But don’t forget to download the full infographic for the breakdown of inbound marketing salaries by job title and cities in the United States, Australia, Canada, and the UK.

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Back to today’s headline: should the decline of SEO salaries worry inbound marketers? Does it confirm the dreaded “death of SEO”?

The opposite is true: the decline in inbound marketing jobs and salaries actually means that SEO is on the rise. Instead of existing as a siloed function, SEO is expanding into a common skill universally featured among different roles.

But first, the data:
 

7% Decline in Number of SEO Jobs in the Top 20 Cities

 The overall number of SEO-related jobs has declined by 7% in the top cities in the United States.

seo-job-decline

From our data in 2015, 70% of the 20 cities we looked at saw their SEO-related job listings go down. The larger cities saw a modest increase in number of jobs or remained flat.
 

6% Average Salary Decline in SEO Job Titles Evaluated

The average salary decline was 6%, with SEO Coordinator seeing the highest decline at 19%. All job roles saw a salary decline except the Account Manager role, which saw a slight salary increase of 1%.

seo-jobs-average-salary-2016
 

SEO Becomes a Universal Skill — Why Job Decline Is Good for SEO

A 7% decline in jobs and a 6% decline in average salaries might sound scary for those in the SEO industry, but it actually points to a maturity, not a deterioration, of the SEO industry.

Instead of SEO as a job skill held by a single marketer on a team, SEO is becoming a needed skill for a diverse set of professionals across the organization.

SEO is leveraged by executives to understand drops and gains in revenue, by content marketers to make sure what they create is found by a larger audience, and by product managers to ensure they’re creating and naming products to align to their customers needs. The list goes on; SEO now touches many more roles as a foundational part of how companies function and grow.

Here are some thoughts from industry leaders on how the decline in SEO jobs is in fact good news for the industry.

1. Rand Fishkin (Moz): SEO Continues to Grow in Importance

“I strongly suspect this is indeed because SEO is becoming less a job title and more a job requirement/skill. We saw that trend beginning a couple years back, and I think it’s getting stronger and stronger.

As a skill, SEO continues to grow in importance. We saw it move up on LinkedIn’s list of skills that get people hired all the way to #4 – the highest it’s ever been.

The growth in the number of jobs that require SEO as a skill would, naturally, lead to the average salary going down as more entry-level and less-experienced folks enter the profession. In our survey data, we see that years of experience strongly correspond to salary increases, as do more expensive geographies (and the broadening of SEO to less expensive job markets would also be a downward driver of average salary).

None of this is to say that folks in the industry should ignore the numbers here – just that we should balance them against a full picture of the field’s trends.”

rand-fishkin-seo-salary“I strongly suspect this is indeed because SEO is becoming less a job title and more a job requirement/skill… The growth in the number of jobs that require SEO as a skill would, naturally, lead to the average salary going down as more entry-level and less-experienced folks enter the profession.”
-Rand Fishkin, Moz

2. Brian Dean (Backlinko): The Changing of the SEO Role

“It looks like the idea of an “SEO” is changing fast. More and more executives realize that some of the best people out there to boost search engine rankings DON’T identify themselves as “SEO professionals.”Instead, they call themselves “inbound marketers” or “content marketers”.

I also imagine, instead of hiring 10 SEO people, companies are hiring 5 SEOs and a mishmash of UX pros, content marketers, designers and copywriters. In other words, the marketing team of the future.

That being said, there will always be a role for a true SEO within a marketing team. So I expect this trend to stabilize soon.”

brian-dean-seo-salary“It looks like the idea of an “SEO” is changing fast. I imagine, instead of hiring 10 SEO people, companies are hiring 5 SEOs and a mishmash of UX pros, content marketers, designers and copywriters. In other words, the marketing team of the future. That being said, there will always be a role for a true SEO within a marketing team.”
-Brian Dean, Backlinko

3. Patrick Reinhart (Conductor): SEO is Still a Young Profession with Ebbs and Flows

“It’s an interesting finding, although not a surprising one in my opinion.  SEO is still a relatively young profession when you think about it, and it’s not surprising we saw such staggering growth over the last few years. It’s also not surprising that we are seeing it level out now that more companies are aware of its importance.

As SEO has been put more into the spotlight at larger brands, my gut tells me that most of these companies are looking internally for someone to take on the work first and prove it’s worth the investment before they look externally and add budget for it.

As for the average salary declining, I can see that being a result of companies bringing more entry-level workers in to aid senior strategists who are already established, or more senior strategists leaving to become independent consultants looking for more work / life balance outside of a larger entity.

Not every year is going to be booming, and this is most likely just the normal ebbs and flows of this still very new profession.”

patrick-reinhart“SEO is still a relatively young profession when you think about it, and it’s not surprising we saw such staggering growth over the last few years. It’s also not surprising that we are seeing it level out now that more companies are aware of its importance.”
-Patrick Reinhart, Conductor

SEO salaries and jobs have declined. But it’s obvious, SEO is still as important as ever. What are your thoughts on this new data? Share in the comments!

inbound-marketing-salary-guide

Make sure to download the infographic and get salary data for inbound marketing jobs by title and city!

This study was created in partnership with Blue Nile Research.

  • TheFounder

    I’ll tell you what happened. It’s simple. Google Happened. Last year with 3 ppc ads on the top, a number #1 position could roughly count on X percent of traffic. This year, with 4 ppc ads, amp pages, image links, and news links .. all above the fold.. in some cases the #1 organic result is almost on page 2. Meaning Organic now delivers only Y traffic instead of X … which devalues high organic results. #1 today doesn’t mean the same thing as #1 last year to a company. So salaries need to be readjusted to match.

  • James Tyler

    Why are you using SEO Coordinator, SEO Specialist, SEO Marketing Manager and SEO Analyst/Strategist as 4 different positions? Don’t they all fall under 1 position? Do you really pay 4 different employees to do such a small job?

    SEO is considered a tiny component in the digital marketing world. Simply put, SEO is the process of improving site’s quality to increase search engine ranking in order to drive organic quality traffic.Salaries can’t be determined based on mostly SEO related experience.

    Digital marketing includes but not limited to marketing automation, inbound marketing, paid advertising, search engine marketing, content marketing, social media marketing, email marketing, mobile marketing, affiliate marketing, display marketing, PR marketing, influencer marketing and so on. Digital marketing also includes non-internet-related mediums such as TV, touch screens, kiosks, etc… SEO is the simplest marketing component that marketer are expected to know, master and do as an initial step in the digital marketing industry.

    With today’s modern technologies, you as a marketer can only thrive if you master growth hacking techniques such as using omni-channel solutions, utilizing demand generation tactics, predictive intelligence, customer segmentation, rationalization, ICP, CRO, A/B split testing, attribution, metrics and analytics…just to name a few. How well does a marketer know all of these and how efficient is he/she at taking advantage of such a knowledge? Salaries differ based on years of experience, efficiency in getting results and knowledge. A seasoned growth hacker’s salary is different than a CMO, a marketing manager or a person that knows just SEO. Just my 2 cents.

    James Tyler
    Founder & CEO
    Marketing Engines, Inc.
    https://marketingengines.net/

    • Joey Gonzalez

      Hey James,

      SEO by any marketing means is not “tiny” and you can’t just “improve a site’s quality” to increase search traffic to a site, that’s part of it, and a strong and experience SEO would know that it takes much more than just onpage efforts to bring in qualified traffic to a site.

      I work with a billion dollar company and those titles SEO Coordinator, SEO Specialist, SEO Marketing Manager and SEO Analyst/Strategist, do different things when you have massive websites your dealing with.

      I agree with everything else you have to say about being a digital marketer.

    • Andrew Cilio

      SEO is a “tiny” portion of anyone’s digital marketing….if you build a site with flash and put effort into making it as difficult as possible for a search engine to understand anything about the website’s purpose, of course SEO is “tiny”…

      Your personal website is probably the worst example of SEO I’ve ever seen from anyone carrying digital marketing on their resume, and I’m even trying to sound harsh here.

      For the rest of us, SEO is a technical rabbit hole that goes too deep for any one person to handle in a medium or large web-based company, and one that involves tons of technical complexities that no marketer already handling another channel is going to be able to spend the time studying and keeping up-to-date with.

      • Roman M

        pwnd!

      • http://marketingwithsergio.com/ Sergio Félix

        At least he managed to get a backlink to his site from Conductor lol 😉

        • James Tyler

          The link back isn’t only to get a link back. If the moderator was nice enough to reward me for my time invested on his page, then I will be back tracing my foot steps so I can revisit and get back to people such as you and Andrew. While I support the controversy here, I didn’t literally mean “tiny”. So my apologies if you’re taking this personally, but I just don’t think it is in any CFO’s interest to pay 4 salaries to 4 different people handling SEO. Can someone please explain to me the difference between SEO Coordinator, SEO Specialist and SEO Strategist? Thanks for sharing

          • Sergio Félix

            Hi James, I actually work as an SEO Analyst. The company I work for has 1,000+ physical stores and we’re one of the largest retail stores in Latin America and they don’t have any other SEO positions (except for mine) but I can tell you right now, that it is in fact, a incredibly challenging job.

            It’s not just running a free online SEO “audit” and then trying to figure out how to fix the errors found (I wish it was that easy!).

            But to answer your question and not just rant about on this, I do believe it all depends on how many projects you are working on at any given time and how big each of these projects can be.

            If we are in fact, talking about optimizing a “tiny” website (or a few small websites) you shouldn’t even have an SEO guy in the first place but if you manage a big marketing agency that has thousands of clients, I can definitely see and justify having and paying for all of these SEO positions.

            This is not the definition of what you’re looking for but the way I see it goes like this: A coordinator would never does any operation related activities but they do manage their team and the people who actually roll up their sleeves to fix things around.

            The strategist is the person who analyzes the specific situation and comes out with a plan of attack for everyone else to perform (it’s not just meeting up with the SEO guy of the company; this can include several meetings with the commercial team, getting to know the limiations of the own business rules, their policies, the platform technicalities, etc).

            And finally, the specialist is the one who actually does the dirty work and/or pays the on-site visits to the client (if needed).

            Again, the strategist evaluates post-SEO work impact and the coordinator presents the final results and the direct achievements by improving rankings, authority, more on site time, etc.

            Hope that sheds some light on this and again, this is just my personal opinion.

            And just for the record, I didn’t take this personally. I think I was just expecting to see a state-of-the-art improved site when you shared your opinion on SEOs, that’s all.

          • http://www.marketingengines.net/ James Tyler

            Hi Sergio,

            Thanks for taking the time to explain the difference between all of the positions.

            Are there marketing agencies that provide a wide range of marketing services such as marketing automation, inbound marketing, paid advertising, search engine marketing, content marketing, social media marketing, email marketing, mobile marketing and so on or do agencies just specialize in 1 or 2 services?

            If a SEO department needs a minimum of 3 positions to handle SEO tasks, would it be fair to assume that a large marketing agency with 100+ active clients will require 100 employees to handle their SEO? If that’s a true case, would some please be kind to name a few large agencies with 100+ employees just in their SEO department?

            Thank you.

          • Surya Ram

            Hey James,

            I worked for a large automotive client and we had 16 SEO’s supporting the US and over 30 Globally. This was for a single client. When you have an agency supporting multiple clients with varying business sizes and demographics, you can have large SEO teams. The SEOs generally support multiple projects and have different functions.

          • Tye

            “Why are you using SEO Coordinator, SEO Specialist, SEO Marketing Manager and SEO Analyst/Strategist as 4 different positions? Don’t they all fall under 1 position? Do you really pay 4 different employees to do such a small job?

            SEO is considered a tiny component in the digital marketing world.”

            So you didn’t literally mean “tiny” yet you used the word tiny and you referred to it as “such a small job?” How else should one interpret that? Like someone else pointed out, I was expecting to see an incredible website that ranked well for multiple queries in your industry. I found none of that. You remind of Jason Demers. You know nothing about real SEO.

    • Tye

      WOW. All this from someone who’s digital marketing company DOES NOT RANK for any of the keywords in your area. SEM Rush says you are likely getting little to no organic traffic based on your organic positioning. Another weird thing I noticed is if SEO is so tiny to the overall digital marketing plan, why does your title tag have SEO in it and it is listed before any other service name? You have no content on your site and not to mention your site is not structured to silo around your keywords? Where are your internal links that point around to each page in those silos and point from each silo to the top of other silos? In fact where in the heck is the rest of your website? You have FOUR pages on your site. Here is why you think SEO is sooo tiny and can be done by a half of a person. It is because you have no clue what real SEO actually is and you are too lazy to build an authoritative and expert site on the industry you supposedly work in. You probably think SEO it is just optimizing a title tag and adding some keywords on page. You have ZERO links to your website because you have no one out promoting your site and earning links which is still the backbone of Googles algorithm. You have no idea what you are talking about and I bet IF you even have clients that let you handle their SEO efforts, they are not ranking and getting organic traffic/conversions after you touched it. People like you that comment and write blog posts on this subject do incredible damage to SEO and companies who could benefit from it. It is irresponsible and hope more people chime in and check you on it.

    • Stephan Bajaio

      I have never really thought of SEO as tiny, but It very much depends on how you view organic search. I think organic search is much more than a tactic and rather a looking glass into audience demand and supply (in that order). Meaning what is searched and what is ultimately found informs a business far more than the optimization of a single page for a term to try to attract traffic.It helps define what, where and how to market and interact/influence.

  • Fahad (Eddie)

    As I know SEO is engage in all marketing activities now. Now Community and Content Marketing is one of the part of SEO. According to Rand Fishkin , “Great SEO is NO Longer Just SEO.” Please review the Image Below.
    I agree with Esther that Salaries and Job Requirement is down compare to last few years but they divide into content marketing, brand optimization and other relatives field.

    Thanks

  • Kathy Custren

    Where do the writers fall in this spectrum of positions? As a writer and editor, should I consider myself a “SEO Specialist” and wish I made that average salary? I think there may be a good portion of the work force (or marketing team) left out of the equation….

    • Esther Chung

      Hi Kathy — you’re right, writers/editors are integral to the marketing team, I should know… 😉

      In this post, however, we just compared positions from our study last year, which were more SEO-specific.

      In our overall study, we looked at the Content Marketing Specialist role, which is closer to what you’re looking for: http://www.conductor.com/learning-center/marketing-jobs-salary-study-2016/

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