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Changing career: Is SEO a good choice?

by Fiona Mellink | 11.05.2021

Changing careers is a big decision, regardless of how far into your working life you are. I’d been working for five years when I decided to make a change and it’s certainly not an easy call to make, particularly in the current climate. I joined Tug as an SEO Outreach Executive in February 2021 and am so glad that I made the leap!

When I was looking at moving jobs I struggled to find much information about changing careers into SEO so thought it would be apt to write my first blog post on this. I hope it’s useful!

My background

I have an Economics degree from Durham and joined the big four straight out of University. As far as first jobs go it was great – I learnt a huge amount, travelled a lot, and made (what I hope to be!) lifelong friends. After almost four years at Deloitte, predominantly in strategy and operations consulting, I was offered an opportunity in a tech start-up. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in the long-run and the start-up role allowed me to get my hands into a little bit of everything. It was here that I got a taste for digital marketing.

How did I know I needed a change?

The first thing for me was that I wasn’t particularly enjoying my role at the time. Many people say that nobody loves their work, but I had friends who actually seemed to, and I wanted that.

I started to look for jobs in line with my previous experience, but I couldn’t even convince myself that I wanted the role, let alone someone who would have to interview me. I knew at this point that something needed to change.

How did I land on SEO?

It was certainly not an epiphany or love at first sight. We had a gap in our team’s knowledge, so I started reading – I remember being perplexed by SEO and not understanding why we were making such a fuss about it. I was, however, quite taken with digital marketing more generally and seeing the impact which it could have. This led me to start getting more involved in any way I could, and I started speaking to friends in the industry. A side note here that the industry has been amazingly welcoming; everyone can’t seem to do enough to help, even if they’ve never met you before.

Part 2 of my journey involved coding. I’d always been interested so decided to get underway with a bit of front-end web development (HTML, CSS and JavaScript) in my spare time. If you fancy giving it a go I highly recommend looking at Treehouse’s courses. Coding ended up being a key factor in my decision, and I still enjoy playing around in my spare time, but it is absolutely not necessary.

So, at this point I knew I was interested in digital marketing, I enjoyed coding, and I knew that SEO and coding were a good combination. However, I still didn’t understand SEO, or why people seemed to be so bothered by it. I spent a little more time reading and doing a few online training courses and that’s when I came across Moz’s beginner guide to SEO, and finally the penny started to drop! After this, the more I read the more I wanted to try it.

Agency or in-house?

My background in consulting meant I was used to having clients, and I love what comes with this. It adds an additional layer of diversity to your work as you get to know different businesses, and you meet some fascinating individuals along the way.

For me, the agency choice was relatively straightforward. I wanted to get as much exposure as possible, as quickly as possible, and to have access to the latest industry knowledge. That’s not to say you don’t get this in-house, but I personally think there’s a greater chance in an agency.

What to expect?

I’m now 12 weeks into my first SEO job and so far, I’m loving it. I can’t vouch for anywhere else but the atmosphere at Tug is refreshing and supportive, and that’s despite having joined remotely during the coronavirus pandemic. I’m yet to meet my colleagues in person, or make it into the office, but am looking forward to doing that soon!

When I started considering SEO, I did lots of research about what to expect from my first role. There are, however, a few things I’ve realised which weren’t obvious until I started:

I’ll write a more detailed post on what I get up to and the career path for SEOs once I’ve been here a little longer. In the meantime, if you want some more insights into life as an SEO, the Tug blog and Tug grad chats have some useful information.

Is SEO the right choice for me?

SEO is pretty diverse in that you can have SEOs who are more creative and focus on content and link building strategies, or more technical working on on-page optimisations. There’s lots of scope and therefore flexibility to find your niche, or to stay as a generalist.

I’d say the three main factors which would make me suggest SEO are:

  1. Being interested in continually learning, and needing to keep your knowledge up-to-date.

Google’s algorithm updates constantly keep us on our toes – you never know what’s coming next and the impact it could have in terms of rankings. SEO’s have to be proactive to protect the good work they’ve been doing on a website and so it’s really not just a one-off fix up job. That said certain factors remain a constant so it’s not like you’re continually having the carpet whipped out from under you, more of an incremental learning journey.

Because SEO’s are basically governed by Google (and other search engines to a degree), there are no written rules telling us what to do and what not to do. It’s a case of trying to work out what helps and what hinders. As an industry it’s very collaborative with everyone working together to try and piece together the puzzle, particularly after an aforementioned unexpected algorithm update!

There’s no overnight fix to improve rankings. Don’t get me wrong, there are often things we can do straight away, but the changes aren’t immediately reflected. As such, SEOs tend to work away in the background seeing improvements here and there and sneaking up the rankings. The value to companies is huge (I knew it was valuable but didn’t quite get the extent of it until I started at Tug). It’s not as flashy as Display or PPC but, partly because of that, you get to go on the journey with your clients. It’s also quite fun to have an openly visible way of comparing yourself to competitors too!

There are lots of factors which might influence your career decision, and ultimately it needs to make sense to you. Work is such a big part of our lives that it’s definitely worth doing something you enjoy, even if that means taking a few steps sideways to forge the career that you want. If you’re considering a move into SEO, please feel free to reach out with any questions. Speaking to people in the industry really helped me to figure out if it was for me and I’m keen to help anyone who thinks they might be interested.