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The job: Search-Engine Optimization (SEO) marketer

The role: When you type a query into a search engine, it uses a complex algorithm to provide you with the best possible results. The role of an SEO marketer is to land their employer, company or client as high up on those search results pages as possible.

"Ultimately we convince search engines that we provide the best answer to a question someone might ask," said Tony Tie, a senior SEO specialist for travel website Expedia. "If you're number one, if you're higher up on [the results page], people are more likely to click on you, which leads to more transactions."

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There are a number of techniques SEO marketers use to improve their client or employer's ranking, which Mr. Tie breaks into three broad categories. One is technical, which may encompass anything from how quickly the page loads to how it's coded; second is content, ensuring the page best answers the question users search for; and the third is online buzz, or how many others have shared that page.

Salary: The salary of an SEO marketer will range depending on their level of experience, the additional skills they bring to the table and whether they're employed by an agency or work in-house.

"Entry level, when you're starting off, expect anywhere between $35,000 and $45,000 as an annual salary," Mr. Tie said. "As you get to more senior roles, like a manager, anywhere between $60,000 and $80,000 and when you're talking about a director role, about $90,000 to $150,000."

While in-house roles are often harder to come by, Mr. Tie says that their compensation typically lands one full bracket higher than those employed by an agency. He adds that having a proven track record or some technical development skills could increase salary expectations as well.

Education: There are no formal education requirements to become an SEO marketer.

Since the rules of the search engine algorithm are subject to change at the whims of the provider, the industry values self-directed learners more than those with formal educational backgrounds. Enrolling in crash courses, e-learning programs and reading through the content provided by the search engine providers themselves is a great way to build a knowledge base.

"A really good SEO person has the ability to be fairly scrappy with their learning," said Mr. Tie, adding that they're often expected to remain active in online communities and forums. "Anybody who up-plays their education paints an image that they may be more of an academic than a practitioner."

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Mr. Tie adds that it's good for SEO marketers to know the basics of HTML coding, but that doesn't necessarily require formal education.

"Many of the best SEOs I know have had degrees in arts or unrelated fields," Mr. Tie said. "The only thing that might be important is engineering or computer science; that will give you a bit of an advantage."

Job prospects: London, England-based content and SEO platform Conductor has tracked the SEO industry in nine countries, including Canada, since 2012. In its 2017 study, it was revealed that SEO jobs are at an all-time high, after seeing a decline in both job opportunities and compensation in 2016. The report concludes that while the need for SEO skills is increasing, they are often being rolled into other content-marketing roles. As a result, the need for SEO skills is growing faster than the rate of dedicated SEO positions.

Challenges: Mr. Tie says one of the biggest challenges SEO marketers face is managing their employer or client's expectations, as results are not as immediate as other marketing efforts. "SEO is a slow burning process in terms of results," he said. "It can take months, even more than a year, to yield results."

Mr. Tie adds that staying up to date on the ever-changing standards and algorithms is also a common challenge.

Why they do it: SEO is increasingly recognized as a key pillar of any digital marketing strategy, and those with SEO skills are able to put them to use in a lot of different arenas. "SEO is the hardest marketing channel to learn, and if you can do SEO you can do anything else [in digital marketing]," Mr. Tie said.

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Misconceptions: Many confuse SEO marketing with what is known as "paid search," or paying to appear at the very top of the search rankings as an advertisement. SEO is instead a form of what's called "organic marketing" and focuses on improving results rankings on merit alone.

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