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The Average Salary of a Search Engine Optimization Specialist

by Rick Suttle

Corporations and online companies rely on search engine optimization -- or SEO -- specialists to increase their rankings and exposure on major search engines such as Google and Yahoo. They create keyword phrases, algorithmic formulas and content to help their companies or clients increase traffic and sales. If you're proficient with computers and Internet programming, the job as a search engine optimization specialist may be the perfect career. Expect to earn an average salary of more than $50,000 annually.

Salary and Qualifications

Search engine optimization specialists earned average annual salaries of $55,000 as of 2013, according to the job website Simply Hired. To get a job in this field, you'll likely need a bachelor's degree in computer programming, information technology, business, marketing or communications, and three or more years of experience in search engine optimization. Other essential qualifications include a knowledge of HTML, or hypertext markup language -- the main Internet programming language -- attention to detail, and analytical and organizational skills. You may also need proficiency in CSS, or cascading style sheets, the programming language used to create a website's appearance and format.

Salary by Region

In 2013, average salaries for search engine optimization specialists varied considerably in the four U.S. regions. In the Northeast region, SEO specialists earned a low of $49,000 in Maine and a high of $66,000 in Massachusetts, according to Simply Hired. If you lived and worked in the West, you'd earn the lowest salary of $44,000 in Montana or the highest of $62,000 in Alaska or California. Expect to earn $43,000 or $86,000 per year, respectively, in Mississippi or the District of Columbia, which represented low and high salaries in the South. These professionals made $43,000 to $58,000 in the Midwest -- with the lowest and highest earnings in South Dakota and Minnesota, respectively.

Contributing Factors

Experience is one of the most important factors in earning a high salary as a search engine optimization specialist. You may qualify for higher-paying jobs when you have five or 10 years' experience in this field than when first starting out. If you're self-employed, your clientele will likely increase as you gain proficiency in the field. You may also become quicker at optimizing websites. Both client size and your ability to facilitate projects can lead to higher incomes. Additionally, certain industries pay more than others. For example, as of May 2012, computer programmers earned some of the highest annual salaries working for security and commodity brokerage firms, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics -- $100,740 versus an average of $78,200. You may also earn more in the securities and commodities industry as a search engine optimization specialist.

Job Outlook

The BLS doesn't report job trends for search engine optimization specialists. It does predict job opportunities for information security analysts, Web developers and computer network architects who'd work with you in this field. Jobs for these professionals will increase 22 percent in the next decade, faster than the average 14-percent growth rate for all occupations, according to the BLS. Many of your job opportunities will arise from a growing necessity for companies to have an online presence for competitive purposes.

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