Job Postings and Salaries for SEO Are on the Decline

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SEO job postings dipped an average of 7% and salaries dropped by an average of 6% in 2016—but this decline may actually be positive for jobseekers.

Job postings and salaries for inbound marketing—specifically SEO—are on the decline, according to “The 2016 Inbound Marketing Jobs Salary Guide.” The study, conducted by Blue Nile Research for Web and SEO management company Conductor, found that for the first time in four years there's been a noticeable year-over-year decline in search engine optimization jobs in the top 20 U.S. cities. 

A deeper look at the data, however, reveals a less obvious, but surprisingly more positive, trend for jobs in search engine optimization, researchers say.

Analysts at Blue Nile Research culled data from job search company Indeed and online salary company Payscale to take a comparative look at the job landscape for inbound marketers. They compared a 2015 snapshot to 2016 by examining several specific roles: account manager, content marketing specialist, director of marketing, SEO analyst/strategist, SEO coordinator, SEO marketing manager, and SEO specialist. According to the data, there were 4,038 job postings in March—a 7% drop from the 4,320 jobs at the same time last year.

Esther Chung, content marketing manager at Conductor and coauthor of the guide, says the reason for the decline in SEO positions isn't as bleak as it sounds. “SEO is changing, and this is an obvious reaction to that,” she says. “SEO is now becoming [part of] most digital marketing positions. It's no longer a specific SEO role that companies want. Most positions in online marketing will have to have some part in SEO. So even though it sounds like the SEO role is going away—because job listings are going down—it's actually the complete opposite.”

Asked about the recent findings, HubSpot CMO Kipp Bodnar agrees with Chung. “Companies using inbound marketing practices [can] see three times higher ROI on their campaigns. That means it's working. It also means that all facets of inbound marketing are becoming core competencies for marketers across the board and less of a specialty,” Bodnar says. “As that shift occurs, we'll likely see fewer titles that call out those specific functions."

There was also a 6% average salary decline for the job titles mentioned in the study, with SEO coordinator taking the biggest dip (-19%), followed by SEO specialist (-14%), SEO analyst/strategist (-7%), and director of marketing (-4%). Account manager saw a small increase at one percent.

Surya Ram, digital marketing manager at Conductor and coauthor of the study, says that, in light of the findings, inbound marketers have to think differently about SEO skills and how those abilities can draw more interest from hiring managers and command higher salaries. “If say a content writer has a skill of being able to do SEO, as well, they can not only identify personas, but can also write to them based on the topics [those] personas would be searching for,” Ram says.  “Putting all of those skills together allows you to stay ahead of your competition.”

Also in the report are 2016's top U.S. cities for SEO jobs. New York and San Francisco, respectively, are the top two cities for the number of SEO job postings for the fourth straight year. Chicago holds steady at number three, while Los Angeles takes a leap from seventh in 2015 to fourth in 2016, and Atlanta from tenth to fifth.

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