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Your Comprehensive Guide to Becoming an SEO Expert – and Making Money While Doing It Whether you're looking to earn more money or grow your digital presence, becoming an SEO expert could be a major windfall.

By Zac Almeida Edited by Amanda Breen

Key Takeaways

  • Becoming an SEO expert can lead to a lucrative career.
  • Most businesses and online retailers need SEO support.
  • Growing organic search traffic requires a constantly evolving strategy.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a crucial part of modern digital marketing and a great skill to learn if you're trying to make extra money and grow your reputation online. Almost 50% of online shoppers start with a search engine query, which means a business's search engine position can make or break the company's bottom line. Even if a store has a brick-and-mortar location, local SEO is important. With 78% of local searches on mobile resulting in an offline purchase, every business today should include local SEO in their strategy.

Once you gain SEO expertise, you can put your skills to work by joining an agency full-time that focuses on SEO, launching your own consulting service, or using your knowledge to take a business's digital marketing efforts to the next level. In each of these cases, you'll find great opportunities to make a living.
Many factors determine your income as an SEO expert: education, certifications, work experience and additional skills. However, if you invest the time to become a pro at driving traffic online, you can easily net more than $100,000 annually. So, here's a look at the ways you can earn money from SEO.

1. Work for an SEO agency

By working at an SEO agency, you'll not only learn technical skills like website analytics, you'll also be exposed to business structures that help you develop valuable skills like time management, client pitching and more. You'll also have an opportunity to learn from senior team members and work with multiple clients. However, drawbacks may include the inability to select your own clients and a more rigid 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule rather than choosing your own hours.

2. Create an ecommerce website and sell products

If you have deep knowledge of ecommerce SEO, you can use search engine optimization to sell physical products through an online marketplace. According to U.S. Census data, ecommerce sales in the U.S. grew by nearly 8% in 2023 compared to the previous year. This trend is expected to continue in 2024.

Start by picking your niche and determining the product you'll be selling. You can do that by conducting keyword and audience research to understand which terms online shoppers are using and what goods they're most likely to buy.

For instance, if you find the phrase "stainless steel pasta maker" gets a lot of traction but there aren't enough companies selling this product, it could be an opportunity to fill that gap. By determining the demand for a particular product or a vacancy in the market, you can reap the benefits.

Make sure you also perform an in-depth SEO competitor analysis, which is how you'll know what it will take to rank highest for your target keywords. The ecommerce market is booming, which means it could provide meaningful income. But there's always an element of unpredictability as you look for customers or try to scale your business.

Best practices for ecommerce SEO in 2024

  • Optimize for mobile: Most searches now take place on mobile devices, so optimizing your website and content for mobile users is important. This includes ensuring the website has a responsive design, fast-loading pages and easy navigation.
  • Improve page speed: Page speed is critical to providing a great user experience and improving SEO rankings. The faster the page loads, the higher it will rank.
  • Leverage long-tail keywords: Long-tail keywords are more specific search terms with lower search volumes but higher conversion rates. For example, "buy affordable sneakers online" is more specific than just "sneakers." Optimizing for these keywords can help businesses reach their target audience.

Monitor metrics regularly: To understand how your SEO strategy is performing, businesses need to monitor their metrics regularly. This includes tracking page views as well as bounce and click-through rates (CTR). The more data businesses have on their website performance, the better they can refine their SEO tactics.

3. Dropshipping other products on your website

Say you've launched an ecommerce website and it's doing well, but now your customers are seeking additional products. Consider dropshipping, in which a third party handles manufacturing, storing inventory and fulfilling orders, most of which are at a wholesale price.

With dropshipping, an individual places an order on your website and you share the order information with your dropshipper. Once the order information is received, the dropshipper fulfills the order and mails the package to the customer.

Dropshipping allows anyone to set up an ecommerce business and focus on marketing and scaling rather than shipping and inventory logistics. It allows you to focus on what you do best: Attracting online customers to make a purchase. However, there are some drawbacks, including lower profit margins, no control over inventory, no control over shipping errors and fewer opportunities to customize or brand your products.

If you choose to use a dropshipper you'll want to harness your SEO skills, because with lower profit margins you'll need to attract an even larger volume of customers. Create original and unique product descriptions (instead of copying the same text from the manufacturer's website) to make the content stand out and ensure you have the right keywords and a personalized tone.

Related: Dropshipping Businesses: How They Work & Steps to Get Started

4. Offer SEO consulting services

Once you're an expert, you can make money by opening your own SEO consulting shop. If you can help clients increase traffic to their websites, boost sales and meet their business goals, your services will be in high demand.

Some of the SEO services you'll provide include keyword research and website auditing as well as implementing technical SEO strategies that can be used on various platforms. As a consultant, you'll also perform competitor analysis and share detailed plans on how to leverage this data, whether that applies to the content strategy, backlink strategy or particular keywords clients are using. Consultants can also recommend frequent content adjustments to account for new search engine algorithm updates.

While working for yourself may sound intimidating, it can be a very lucrative and enjoyable career, especially for someone who already has experience in an SEO agency. The pros include an opportunity to work with clients and brands of your choice, a flexible schedule and an opportunity to grow your own business. The drawbacks of SEO consulting, however, include the stress of managing clients, difficulty finding new leads and clients and the time it takes to develop experience.

5. Start a blog and monetize through ads and affiliates

If you have a well-established blog and are using SEO to drive significant traffic to the site, you can leverage your digital content by hosting sponsored posts and banner ads on your website. Paid ads allow you to earn money based on the amount of traffic you generate, while sponsored content typically involves featuring a particular brand or service for a predetermined rate.

Starting a blog gives you the freedom to choose your niche, whether it's technology, beauty, fashion or travel, and you get to infuse the content with your own style while building an online community of like-minded individuals. It also provides flexibility, as you can choose your hours to work, and it gives you a lot of creative freedom to experiment with new forms of content. Starting a blog does, however, require significant time and energy in order to produce quality content, and it may be difficult to regularly create engaging posts. Occasionally, you'll also have to deal with technical issues on the backend of your site.

SEO and CRO

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the practice of increasing the percentage of users who perform a desired action on a website. This action may range from scrolling through the entire page and filling out a form, to adding a product to a wish list or making a purchase. At the heart of CRO is a meaningful action the marketer wants a user to take.

While SEO increases the traffic to your website, CRO helps by making the visits to your site profitable. For example, SEO may help you rank well for the keyword "buy black jeans," but a good CRO tactic will help you increase your sales percentages by reducing abandoned carts or bounce rates. Here are seven ways to improve your CRO strategy:

  • Boost page load time: Your site is like a car — if it does not start right away, people will leave you stranded and find something faster. If your page is too slow or clunky, it will turn off potential customers.
  • Utilize neurodesign: Neurodesign harnesses the power of psychology and neuroscience to create visually captivating digital products. It does this by studying people's responses in different situations, like when they land on a website, and determines what triggers will make them more likely to purchase. Publishers like the New York Times have created "eye tests" to evaluate how people react to the positioning of their content.
  • Use dynamic content: You can personalize your customers' experience by tailoring the website to the user's needs. Dynamic content responds based on signals such as in-session behavior, user data (e.g., location) and other similar characteristics to deliver relevant information and products.
  • Leverage visual content: Videos increase time on your website. According to the video marketing platform Wistia, people spend an average of six minutes on pages that contain a video, as compared to about four minutes on pages with no dynamic visual content. Keeping people on your site is key to driving conversions.
  • Create quality content with long-tail keywords: According to Statista, nearly 96% of searches on Google have a query with four words or more. The people who make these kinds of searches tend to have higher levels of buying intent, which makes them perfect for targeting with quality content.
  • Consistently optimize web pages and blogs: More traffic often turns into more leads. So, it's important to always take user feedback, monitor your web pages and improve them or realign them based on user needs.
  • Add strong and relevant CTAs: A call to action is an essential part of any website, the lack of which could mean losing connection with your customers. Eye-catching and well-written CTAs — whether it's a prompt to follow, subscribe or purchase — will help optimize CRO and attract more traffic back toward the products being showcased.

6. Using PR and SEO

In the past, many business's brand teams have considered public relations and SEO separately and left SEO to their digital teams. But as the two disciplines grow closer together, brands are starting to see the benefits of integrating them. Here are just three ways this can happen:

Building your brand: Growing your brand is essential. As more people become aware of your business, it will begin to rank higher in search engines, particularly for keywords related to your goals. But SEO alone won't grow your brand. Public relations efforts including media outreach and partnerships with other businesses are necessary to build awareness.

Links: Backlinks from high ranking, influential websites can also transform your search engine rankings. So, how can you convince other websites to link to yours? This is where public relations comes into play. Compelling storytelling is a major component of PR, which can help you craft blog posts, case studies, or high-quality video content to attract the attention of target brands. In most cases, you will spend some time building a relationship before others backlink to you.

Thought leadership: Becoming recognized as a thought leader in your industry can be transformative for your SEO, as your name will appear on other websites and will become a part of industry public relations. A comprehensive public relations effort will help you present yourself to others as an expert in your field.

7. Keep UX and SEO in mind

Search engines are shifting focus to human behavior and experience, so improving your website's rankings means you need to focus on your site's usability. There are several aspects of UX design integrated with SEO best practices, including fast loading times, mobile-friendly use and easy-to-navigate pages with engaging content.

One of the biggest UX signals that Google can measure is bounce rate, which is when a user visits a site from a Google search, doesn't find what they are looking for and clicks back to Google without having visited any other pages on that website. It's a clear sign that users are unable to find what they're looking for. Websites with lower bounce rates are usually doing a better job of helping users find what they're searching for and often rank higher, typically on the first page of results.

Is SEO still worth it?

Business owners can employ many digital marketing strategies, including social media, email marketing, influencer marketing and pay-per-click (PPC) ads. However, SEO is still one of the best places to focus your efforts for three primary reasons:

  • Low barriers to entry: It's relatively easy to get started with SEO. Most website builders optimize your website for search engine crawlers by default, and you can find many tools to make it easier to plan and execute your strategy.
  • Strategic flexibility: There's more than one way to practice SEO. In fact, there's practically unlimited strategic flexibility here. No matter what your goals are, or what challenges await, you can find a way forward.
  • ROI: Return on investment (ROI) is commonly considered the "gold standard" for measuring digital marketing effectiveness.SEO can have a high ROI, particularly because implementing content-level updates can be done for cheap.

How SEO has changed

SEO has changed in many ways in the past several years, which is why experts are constantly recommending tweaks to businesses strategies. These are just some the biggest changes over the past decade:

  • More competition: Back in the 2000s, SEO was a somewhat obscure strategy known only to a few digital marketers. Today, even people completely outside the marketing community are aware of SEO. This has led to a massive surge in competition, which makes the strategy more difficult for everyone to execute effectively.
  • Stricter quality standards: Most people in the SEO community are familiar with Google's E-A-T guidelines for content quality, which stands for expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness. Google has now added another E for experience and has stepped up its quality evaluation efforts, cracking down on questionable content and link-building practices.
  • Localization: SEO practitioners have heavily invested in more localized efforts, optimizing for local keywords and serving local audiences. These searches have become more popular and more powerful in terms of visibility, and it's a good way to avoid national competitors.
  • Dependence on user data: Searches have also become more individualized, with search results fluctuating based on individual user data. This has made it more difficult to predict the average user's search experience, though it has made search results more relevant.

SEO tools

The key to building and sustaining organic traffic is knowing the best SEO tools to leverage for your specific needs . Whether you're a search engine optimization specialist or just starting to learn how Google works, these are some of the best SEO tools for keyword research, link building, traffic analysis and understanding the competition:

  • SEMrush: One of the most popular SEO analysis options on the market, SEMrush allows you to track paid traffic, social media-driven traffic, desktop and mobile traffic, and more. It also offers a popular keyword research tool.
  • Ubersuggest: This free program lets you gather data related to a keyword or domain name, offering a keyword's volume, the average cost per click, and the rank difficulty. It also suggests related long-tail keywords and shows the top site rankings for different keywords.
  • Keword.io: Another free SEO checker, Keword.io helps conduct keyword research on a number of different platforms including Google, Amazon, Youtube, Alibaba and Wikipedia. If you're looking for keywords beyond Google, Keyword.io is a useful starting point.
  • Ahrefs: One of the most comprehensive SEO tools for auditing your website, Ahrefs can crawl every page on your website and create reports for you in a matter of hours.
  • Google: Not only is Google the world's most popular search engine (with more than 80% of all search market share), it has a suite of free products that help you better understand SEO. With Google Keyword Planner, you can compare keyword analytics and see which words within your industry will resonate best. With Google Search Console, you can see how a website appears in a search, including its frequency and highest performing keywords. Using Google Analytics, you can monitor where your traffic is coming from — search, social media, referral, etc. — and make informed decisions about your SEO strategy.

Zac Almeida

CEO of The SEO Hustler

Zac Almeida is a senior SEO consultant with over 20 years of experience in web marketing. He is an expert in technical and enterprise SEO as well as content strategy. He's currently the CEO at The SEO Hustler, where he helps clients reach their organic-traffic and organic-revenue goals.

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