Data & Studies

SEO Salary Survey 2023 [Industry Research]

Chris Haines
Chris is an SEO director who has 10 years of experience in SEO, agency side. When not involved in SEO, he enjoys messing around with vintage synthesizers, walks on sandy beaches, and a good cup of tea.
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    How much do SEOs earn? I wanted to know, so I ran a survey at Brighton SEO and asked 111 attendees what they earned.
    Editor’s note
    We realize that this is a small sample set and not representative of all SEO salaries as it’s focused on UK and EU data. If you want to be part of the next Ahrefs salary survey, you can submit your details anonymously here.

    Here are the top takeaways:

    • The median annual salary for SEOs we polled was $49,211
    • The highest annual salary we polled was $229,652
    • To earn the higher salaries in SEO you need be a technical SEO expert—Heads of SEO, SEO Directors and SEO Leads all said that their main specialization was technical SEO 
    • Only 5.4% of respondents learned SEO through a course—most learned on the job (52.3%) or by themselves (42.3%)
    • 36.9% described themselves as content specialists, 30.6% described themselves as technical specialists, 6.3% described themselves as specializing in link-building
    • 49.5% of respondents worked in SEO agencies, 42.3% in-house and 8.2% were self-employed
    • Most respondents (28.8%) worked in companies that had 11-50 people
    • The average SEO experience of our respondents was 6.9 years
    • Self-employed SEOs earned the most on average ($60,232k)—the median annual salary for in-house roles was slightly lower at $56,789, and agency SEOs had the lowest median annual salary at $44,169

    There were also a few surprises:

    • Few SEOs in our survey said that they specialized in link building compared to technical and content. This is despite the fact that links are still one of the most important Google ranking factors.
    • The average level of experience between SEO Directors and Head of SEO is not that different—10.4 years for a SEO Director and 10.6 years for a Head of SEO—but the salary difference between the roles was ~$11,552—quite substantial.

    Overview

    RoleMedian annual salary ($USD)Average experience (years)Main specializationMain work location
    Head of SEO$92,98810.6Technical SEOAgency and in-house
    SEO Director$81,43610.4Technical SEOAgency and in-house
    SEO Lead$38,2897.4Technical SEOAgency
    SEO Specialist$49,2295.8ContentIn-house
    SEO Account Manager$43,8504.2ContentAgency
    SEO Consultant$49,2406All-rounderAgency
    SEO Executive$31,9563All-rounderAgency
    SEO Analyst$56,3935All-rounderIn-house

    Here’s how annual salaries broke down across our respondents:

    Chart listing average salaries of SEO professionals.

    According to the SEOs we polled, most of them learned SEO on the job or were self-taught. 

    Chart displaying how individuals learned SEO.

    Most of our respondents had a couple of years of experience under their belts. The amount of experience Head of SEOs had versus SEO Directors was not that different, at around 10 years.

    Average level of experience by role
    • Across all respondents, the average experience was 6.9 years
    • For Head of SEO, the average experience was 10.6 years
    • For SEO Director, the average experience was 10.4 years
    • For SEO Lead, the average experience was 7.4 years
    • For SEO Account Manager, the average experience was 4.2 years
    • For SEO Consultant, the average experience was 6 years 
    • For SEO Executive, the average experience was 3 years 
    • For SEO Analyst, the average experience was 5 years

    Technical and Content were the two top skills that SEOs we surveyed specialized in.

    Areas of SEO specialization

    The proportion of SEOs that said they specialized in links was much lower despite links being a major ranking factor.

    Our survey showed an almost 50/50 split between the UK and Europe. 48.6% of respondents were from the UK—perhaps not surprising given that BrightonSEO is based in the UK.

    Chart of countries SEOs are from

    Most of the respondents we spoke to worked in agencies or in-house. It does mean, however, that our salary data was mainly focused on these two employment types.

    Chart listing where SEOs work

    Across all respondents, the most common company size was 11-50. A large proportion of SEOs also worked for substantially larger companies that had over 1000 employees.

    Number of people in the company

    Here’s the full breakdown of each role.

    Head of SEO salary

    It’s probably not too much of a surprise that the Head of SEO role was our highest-paying SEO role surveyed. What’s more of a surprise was the variation in salary—our survey showed that a Head of SEO can earn anything from ~$25k to ~$229k. 

    head-of-seo-salary

    Average experience

    According to our survey, a Head of SEO has ~10.6 years of experience.

    Type of company

    46.7% of respondents worked for an agency, and 46.7% worked in-house. 6.7% were self-employed.

    Education

    66.7% of respondents said they were self-taught, 26.7% said they’d learned on the job, and 6.7% said that they had learned SEO from a course.

    Specialization

    40% said that they specialized in technical SEO, 33.3% in Content, and 13.3% said they were a generalist. The remaining 13.4% said they focused on people management. 

    This is surprising, as it implies that 73.3% of people in Head of SEO roles are actively providing SEO services for their clients rather than focusing on managing a team.

    Company size

    There were two company sizes that were most popular for Head of SEOs to work in. 40% of respondents said they worked in companies with 11-50 people, and 20% said they worked in companies with over 1001 people. 

    Location

    40% of respondents were from the UK, 13.3% were from the Netherlands, and the remainder were from mainland Europe.

    SEO Director salary

    The salary variation wasn’t quite as extreme for SEO Directors, but salaries ranged from ~$42k to ~$121k—still quite a difference.

    SEO Director salary

    Average experience

    SEO Directors in our survey had 10.4 years of experience on average.

    Type of company

    There was a 50/50 split between SEO Directors’ backgrounds, with 50% from agency and 50% from in-house

    Education

    62.5% of SEO Directors described themselves as self-taught, and 37.5% said that they learned SEO on the job.

    Specialization

    75% of them specialized in technical SEO, whilst 25% described themselves as generalists or Other.

    Company size

    According to our survey, SEO Directors typically work in medium to large companies. 25% said that they worked in companies that had over 1000 people, and 25% said they worked in companies that had 51-100 employees.

    Location

    Most SEO Directors we surveyed were from the UK (62.5%). The rest were equal splits between India, the U.S., and Germany (12.5%).

    SEO Lead salary

    SEO Leads typically have a lot of experience, but our survey shows that they only earn slightly more on average than SEO Specialists.

    SEO Lead salary

    Average experience

    SEO Leads in our survey had 7.4 years of experience on average.

    Type of company

    50% of SEO Leads came from an agency background, 41.7% came from in-house, and 8.3% were self-employed.

    Education

    69.2% learned on the job, 23.1% were self-taught, and 7.7% learned SEO through a course.

    Specialization

    30.8% of SEO Leads specialized in technical SEO, 23% specialized in content, and 23.1% specialized in links. 15.4% described themselves as generalists. The remaining 7.7% described themselves as specializing in SEO strategy.

    Company size

    46.2% worked in companies that had 1001+ people, and the remaining 53.8% worked in smaller companies.

    Location

    23.1% of SEO Leads came from the UK, with the remainder coming from the Netherlands, Italy, and Sweden (15.4% each) and 30.7% from other European countries.

    SEO Specialist salary

    SEO Specialists we surveyed had around 5-6 years of experience, but they typically got paid better than SEO Leads. Based on my experience, this may be due to in-house roles paying better than agency roles in the UK.

    SEO Specialist salary

    Average experience

    SEO Specialists in our survey had an average of 5.8 years of experience.

    Type of company

    41.2% of SEO Specialists came from an agency background, while 58.8% said that they were from an in-house background.

    Education

    58.8% of SEO Specialists said that they had learned SEO on the job, 35.3% said that they were self-taught, and 5.9% said that they had learned SEO through a course.

    Specialization

    52.9% of SEO Specialists specialized in content, 29.4% focused on technical, 11.8% described themselves as all-rounders, and 5.9% described specialized in links.

    Company size

    41.2% of SEO Specialists said that they worked in companies that had 11-50 people. Only 17.6% of respondents said that they worked in companies that had 1001+ people. 23.6% said they worked in companies between 51-500 people. The remaining 17.6% worked in smaller companies with less than 10 people.

    Location

    23.5% of SEO Specialists said that they were from the UK, with the remainder from Europe.

    SEO Account Manager salary

    SEO Account Managers in our survey were one of the most consistent salary bands earning between ~$40k and ~$55k.

    SEO Account Manager salary

    Average experience

    SEO Account managers in our survey had 4.2 years of experience on average.

    Type of company

    85.7% of respondents worked for an agency, and 14.3% worked in-house.

    Education

    71.4% of respondents said they learned SEO on the job, and 28.6% said they were self-taught.

    Specialization

    42.9% said that they specialized in content, 28.6% described themselves as an all-rounder, 14.3% said they were technical SEO, and the remaining 14.2% said they specialized in links.

    Company size

    42.9% of respondents said they worked in companies with 11-50 people, and 28.6% said they worked in companies with over 1001 people. The remaining 28.6% was split equally between people who worked in companies with between 2-11 people or 51-100 people.

    Location

    85.7% of respondents were from the UK, and 14.3% of the remainder were from Europe.

    SEO Consultant salary

    SEO Consultants we surveyed earned up to ~$87k, which was lower than I was expecting—because our SEO pricing post suggested that SEO consultants charge between $100-150 per hour. 

    But as the data is UK-focused, the likely reason for this is the £85k VAT tax threshold

    SEO Consultant salary

    Average experience

    SEO Consultants in our survey had 6 years of experience on average.

    Type of company

    63.3% of respondents worked for an agency, and 36.7% worked in-house.

    Education

    45.5% of respondents said they were self-taught, 36.4% said they’d learned on the job, and 9.1% said that they had learned SEO from a course. The remaining 9% said they’d learned from other ways.

    Specialization

    27.3% said that they specialized in technical SEO, 27.3% in content, and 27.3% said they were a generalist. The remaining 18.1% said they focused on management and strategy.

    Company size

    SEO Consultants typically worked on their own or in smaller agencies according to our survey — 36.4% of respondents said they worked on their own, and 27.3% said they worked in companies with 51-100 people. The remaining 36.3% said they worked in companies with between 2-50 people.

    Location

    36.4% of respondents were from the UK, 27.3% were from the Netherlands, and the remaining 36.3% were from Europe.

    SEO Executive salary

    SEO Executive salary

    Average experience

    SEO Executives in our survey had 3 years of experience on average.

    Type of company

    80% of respondents worked for an agency, and 20% worked in-house.

    Education

    80% of respondents said they were self-taught, and 20% said they’d learned SEO from a course.

    Specialization

    40% said that they specialized in technical SEO, 20% in Content, and 40% said they were a generalist. 

    Company size

    80% of respondents said they worked in companies with 11-50 people, and 20% said they worked in companies with 1001 or more people.

    Location

    80% of respondents were from the UK, and 20% were from Belgium.

    SEO Analyst salary

    SEO Analysts typically had a few more years of experience than SEO Executives, but it looks like they earned roughly the same as them.

    SEO Analyst salary

    Average experience

    SEO Analysts in our survey had 5 years of experience on average.

    Type of company

    33.3% of respondents worked for an agency, and 66.7% worked In-house.

    Education

    33.3% of respondents said they were self-taught, and 66.7% said they’d learned on the job.

    Specialization

    33.3% said that they specialized in technical SEO, 33.3% in Content, and 33.3% said they specialized in News SEO.

    Company size

    33.3% of respondents said they worked in companies with 101-200 people, and 66.7% said they worked in companies with over 201 people.

    Location

    SEO Analysts came from a range of locations 33% of respondents were from Portugal, 33.3% were from Brazil, and the remainder were from Serbia.

    Sidenote.
    We didn’t get many respondents for the SEO Analyst role—so take these results with a pinch of salt.

    Final thoughts

    SEO salaries aren’t often discussed in detail within the industry, so getting a snapshot of their current state from one of the biggest SEO conferences in the UK was insightful.

    For our next salary survey, we’ll be opening it up to all SEOs. If you’d like to take part—you can enter here.

    Got questions? Ping me on X (formerly known as Twitter)

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