This article is a continuation of our SEO Salaries Guide for digital agencies and organizations to effectively gauge the market rate for the SEO Manager role. This article is also very useful for SEO Managers wanting to benchmark their current salary or for aspiring SEO practitioners to learn more about expected salary ranges at the Manager level.
What is an SEO Manager?
SEO Managers, or SEO Leads, are either responsible for managing an SEO team of people. In agencies or organizations where they are the sole individual responsible for SEO, they are virtually identical to the SEO Specialist however the distinction of “Manager” in the job title implies a greater emphasis on SEO in the organization – and potentially a higher average salary. Furthermore, “Manager” implies a team of people who this individual would be tasked with managing.
SEO Manager Roles and Responsibilities
An SEO Manager role typically involves management of SEO duties but depending on the organization it can also involve execution of SEO duties and/or management of others in the SEO team. We'll break down the typical list of responsibilities in two ways: firstly for SEO Managers who are the only person with an SEO role in the organization and then secondly for SEO Managers who manage an SEO team.
SEO Managers who are the only SEO role in the organization
These SEO Managers tend to have a more diverse workload since they need to be able to do everything related to SEO. This may include any / all of the following:
- Auditing on-page SEO and making recommendations to improve performance
- Conducting keyword research (optimization and identification of new opportunities)
- Analyzing metrics and SEO performance in Google Analytics, Google Search Console and other SEO tools
- Researching and developing link building strategies
- Running outreach and link building initiatives
- Evaluating search results and search performance across the major search channels
- Performing competitor analysis to identify content gaps and areas for improvement in website structure & design
- Writing content briefs or making suggestions for search-optimized content creation
- Producing search-optimized content for pillar pages, landing pages and blog articles
- Suggesting structural changes to websites including information architecture, landing pages and content structure
- Providing keyword insights and SEO advice for other teams within the organization
- Communicating overall project deliverables, timelines, and results of the project
- Staying up to date with SEO and digital marketing industry trends, tools and practices
SEO Managers who manage an SEO team
These SEO Managers generally have less hands-on execution duties and might be more client-facing (ie: running WIP meetings with clients or management), presenting SEO strategy, etc. However, this is not always the case. Some SEO Managers are highly executional and at the same time, lead a team of others. This means, for some SEO Managers, their role encompasses all the responsibilities above as well as any / all of the following:
- Managing the SEO team, including hiring, 1-on-1’s and performance reviews
- Defining the overall strategic direction of SEO in the agency
- Managing budgets, timelines, team capacity and team productivity
- Reporting to senior management about team performance
- Managing client relationships, WIP meetings and quarterly/monthly reviews
- Defining and writing processes, SOPs and agency briefs
- Implementing software, workflow and team collaboration tools
Different types of SEO Managers
The responsibilities of an SEO Manager in any digital agency or company can vary substantially depending on the size of the organization. Let's break this down by typical organization type & size:
Small agencies (headcount under 10)
The SEO Manager in a small digital agency is very likely to be the only person with SEO responsibilities in the agency. They are certainly managing the SEO work however they are also doing everything such as planning, executing, reporting and perhaps even managing the client relationship. What they don't manage is people. This is an important distinction because 'people management' generally commands higher pay.
Mid-size agencies (headcount between 10 and 50)
SEO Managers in mid-size agencies still might be the only SEO person in the agency but there's a good chance there are more people with SEO skillsets (or a dedicated SEO team), especially given the growth and demand in digital marketing from clients. It is typical for the SEO Manager to work with others in a cross-functional team.
Charlotte-based digital agency Premier Marketing is a good example of a mid-sized agency with a headcount of 10.
The SEO Manager might still be the only person with "SEO" in their job title however they work with and can pull resources from a wide array of others, for example: Data Analyst, Paid Media Manager, Digital Copywriter or Digital Account Manager.
Large agencies (headcount over 50)
Large agencies are more likely to have a dedicated SEO team (for example, a team of 4 consisting of a Junior SEO Analyst, an SEO Specialist, an SEO Manager and a Head of SEO). But it is still possible that for more traditional agencies, there is still only one person with 'SEO' in their job title.
Dedicated SEO agencies
Even a small SEO agency with a headcount under 10 can have multiple SEO professionals in the agency given their strict focus on SEO projects. In fact, it's entirely possible that everyone in an SEO agency has an SEO role.
Senior SEO Managers
In some agencies, the SEO Manager job title changes to SEO Lead, SEO Director, SEO Group Director or Head of SEO. At this very senior level, responsibilities extend to cover multiple clients / group accounts. These individuals are SEO leaders in the agency and have oversight across the whole agency's client base in terms of all SEO projects.
SEO Manager Salary
The average SEO Analyst Salary is US$69,629 per year in the United States. (source: ZipRecruiter)
The SEO Manager average starting salary is US$51,500 per year. Since this is nearly $19,000 under the average it means these roles are likely to not involve managing a team. Instead starting salaries around this range are more likely to be sole practitioners in a small agency or small organization.
At the higher end of the scale, Senior SEO Managers who manage larger teams and have many years of experience average US$112,000 per year but can be as high as US$161,000+ per year.
SEO Manager Salaries outside the United States
We’ve combined and averaged multiple pay & salary benchmarking sources including CWJobs, Glassdoor, IIDE, Indeed, PayScale, SalaryExpert and ZipRecruiter to provide an indicative average annual salary and range for each of the following countries:
- Australia: AU$89,502 per year ranging from AU$62,472 to AU$118,000
- Brazil: R$125.000 per year ranging from R$102.969 to R$183.690
- Canada: CA$64,336 per year ranging from CA$51,000 to CA$102,000
- France: €55.000 per year ranging from €33.000 to €65.000
- India*: ₹4,11,246 per year ranging from ₹3L to ₹8L
- Pakistan*: Rs 928,400 per year ranging from Rs 240k to Rs 2m
- Philippines: ₱547,400 per year ranging from ₱62k to ₱1m
- Singapore: SG$73,050 per year ranging from SG$60,000 to SG$125,000
- Spain: €38.000 per year ranging from €27.000 to €60.000
- United Kingdom: £42,750 per year ranging from £29,700 to £61,155
* In compiling these salary averages we noticed big differences in benchmark salary data particularly for India and Pakistan. We've taken the average even within a very wide range of "averages". Regional and city pay fluctuations are also worth noting, particularly for India. This dynamic is broadly in play for most of the other countries but doesn't drastically affect the average as much as it does in India.
How do you become an SEO Manager?
The perfect candidate for an SEO Manager role is an SEO Specialist or SEO Analyst looking to take the next step up in their career. If you think about prerequisites for the role, most SEO Manager job descriptions list an average minimum of 4 years experience in SEO. This prerequisite highlights the need for potential SEO Managers to have sufficient practical experience in SEO with proven success across their SEO projects.
4 years is a decent amount of time to master a profession in digital marketing. A long-running Quora thread on the topic suggests SEO mastery to take anywhere from a few months to a few years depending on how you learn, what you do, how you work and how fast you adapt.
Most potential SEO Managers have all the theory and technical skills but lack the people management experience. Another related key skill is communication at all levels: to your team, to your clients and stakeholders and to management. Often the best communicators are the best leaders. If you're wanting to take the next step in your SEO career, you may need to invest time and resources in upskilling:
1. Formal education
There are plenty of management qualifications and short courses you can do to acquire people management and communication knowledge. Depending on your prospective employer, theory only without actual management experience may be sufficient to attain a manager-level role.
2. Internal promotion
The most common way to move up to an SEO Manager level is through internal promotion within the same organization. Showcasing your abilities and demonstrating consistent success to management (ie: effective communication) will help your chances of being promoted.
Vikas Kalwani is the SEO Manager at Denver-based digital agency uSERP. He has since moved up to the Head of Partnerships role and was promoted twice in just one year! Clear proof that there's great career progression in SEO.
Of course, this is only possible in organizations that have an SEO team. This is why marketing graduates usually start their careers at large agencies or large organizations as they can benefit from being promoted up the hierarchy over time which gives them the experience in more senior roles where they can acquire people management experience and hone their communication skills.
3. Get a mentor / work closely with a manager
Being mentored by someone in a role that you hope to have one day is a great way to level up. Mentors can potentially help you unlock career opportunities or can advise on any career choices you might have in junior roles.
Career Progression for SEO Managers
The SEO Manager role is a great career choice full of interesting challenges in an ever-changing landscape with the potential to remunerate at or above the average annual salary in most countries. But we might be a little bit biased so for an objective indicator, look no further than the growth of the SEO industry overall. In 2018, organizations spent $72 billion on SEO globally. By 2021, that amount had exceeded $80 billion.
At some point before the middle of this decade, spending on SEO will eclipse $100 billion globally. This trend confirms the SEO industry is a high-growth area within the digital marketing profession.
Industries that grow at that speed and at that size require significant amounts of human resource - therefore the high demand in skilled SEO talent will only continue to fuel the high average annual salaries.