Most search marketers I know fell into SEO by accident. This can make it a little difficult to know what to look for when you’re looking for your next position, as the choices are quite broad. For example, deciding between in-house or agency, creative niches and competitive niches, skill sets you already know or skill sets you’re new to, etc.
For the record, I’m not the one who misspelled “paid” in this image :)
Here are a few things I’ve learned from both mentors and experience to help anyone looking for a new gig.
Agency vs In-house
This is a topic that has been covered several times, but is going to be the biggest differentiator between positions. Agencies are much faster paced and allow the freedom of bouncing between different niches. However, there are set budgets and limited ability to create elaborate projects.
In-house positions allow you to work and collaborate with several departments. This is a great way to learn how other departments function and are structured. However, you’re typically tied to your specific companies niche and things aren’t as quickly paced. This is both good and bad, it just depends on your taste.
- Chance to work on several different niches so you don’t get bored
- You get to learn how to quickly execute an SEO plan
- You’ll work amongst several experienced SEO’s with different strengths
- Ability to work on several different projects and collaborations
- Get the chance to meet and socialize with industry influencers
- Even though you get to work on several different projects and collaborations, you’re typically tied down to one task or skill
- It can be hard to excel into a new or advanced position
- Limitations to what you do, since some of it requires work on the clients end
- You get to work closely with different departments and see how they work first hand
- The chance to work on large collaborative projects
- Flexibility to expand your skill set into different departments
- You can see the functionality of each department and how it all comes together
- Typically a great sense of community, because each department’s influence is obvious
- A lot of flexibility in where and how you can spend budgets
- Things move a little slower since there isn’t as great a sense of urgency
- Although you will learn a lot, it’s not as focused on internet marketing
- Your colleagues won’t have as good of an understanding of SEO as in an agency
Note: This is a good read if you’re looking for more detailed pros and cons -
Agency vs In-House vs Freelance SEO: The Endless Debate
Startups vs Established Companies
Another factor that can completely change the office environment is the size of the company. The biggest difference is startup companies are budget conscious while established companies have a lot of red tape to climb through. There are other things to consider though like office perks and environment. Plus, start ups like to party (yes this sentence is just an excuse to use this image).
- You have more influence over what direction projects take
- Low number of employees so it feels more like working with friends than co-workers
- Chance to move up quickly in your career
- Startups have fun
- Surrounded by a lot of motivation to help the company grow
- There’s a much larger sense of accomplishment when goals are met
- Tight budgets, so every dollar has to count
- Limited resources to work with
- Job security relies primarily on how well the company does
- Employment perks including insurance and 401k
- Extended perks, such as personal computers, free lunches, conference passes, etc.
- More leeway on the time you have to complete projects
- Higher average pay rate
- Large budgets to work with
- Lots of resources available for projects
- A lot of steps and people to go through before anything gets confirmed
- Community events feel forced instead of natural
- Environment is less relaxed
- Legal considerations of any idea or project take priority
Competitive Niche vs Creative Niche
There’s a lot of stuff in between these two extremes, but I wanted to concentrate on the two ends of the spectrum. Now I’m not saying competitive niche’s can’t be creative, but it’s very rare that these worlds collide and stay in the same department. Usually the more creative you can be with one, the less competitive it is and vise versa. The aggressive markets I’m referring to include, payday loans, any form of insurance, gambling, mortgages, credit cards, anything medical related, etc. Creatives are typically unique products with few to no competitors, Sugru and Woot are great examples.
- You’ll learn a lot about the technical side of SEO
- There will be heavy link building, which gives you a great sense of what does and doesn’t work
- You’ll become familiar with a broad range of software
- These niches usually have great income, which means you get fat bonuses on results
- You’ll get a great understanding of how algorithms work
- All the pros are also cons. You’ll spend most of your time on all the technical and repetitive sides of SEO
- Strong focus on ranking #1 for large volume terms and panic ensues if it slips
- Little exploration into anything that doesn’t directly effect rankings
- They’re typically boring niches
- As long as you’re staying white hat, things can only get better
- A lot of leeway in methods for driving traffic
- Get to work closely with other departments on collaborations
- There is more time that can be spent on side projects and expanding into new areas
- Opportunity to work in other areas like conversion rate optimization, user experience, design, etc
- Typically a more relaxed environment
- Harder to adapt from a creative niche to a competitive niche than the other way around
- SEO isn’t as highly respected
- Low amount of man power dedicated to SEO
Other Things to Consider
Will you learn anything?
When looking for a new position, one of the most important things to consider is if you’ll learn anything. If your job isn’t helping you grow, it’s only holding you back. Look for jobs where you don’t know all the answers, but have interest in learning.
Does the community suit you?
You’re going to be in the same place around the same people every day. If it doesn’t fit your style, it’s hard to care. You should be around people that you would enjoy the company of, outside of work.
Will it help you reach your ultimate goal?
As an example, if you eventually want to work in user experience, make sure you have the opportunity to learn more about user experience. Don’t take a job that isn’t helping you achieve where you want to be in 5-10 years. Keep your future in mind.
Choosing your next job should never be a quick and easy decision. Just because it’s new and different from your current position, doesn’t mean it’s better. Take some serious thought into it and ask a lot of questions during interviews. You should be interviewing your employers just as much as they’re interviewing you.