SEO Salary Survey 2023 [Industry Research]

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

Role
Median annual salary ($USD)
Average experience (years)
Main specialization
Main work location
Head of SEO
$92,988
10.6
Technical SEO
Agency and in-house
SEO Director
$81,436
10.4
Technical SEO
Agency and in-house
SEO Lead
$38,289
7.4
Technical SEO
Agency
SEO Specialist
$49,229
5.8
Content
In-house
SEO Account Manager
$43,850
4.2
Content
Agency
SEO Consultant
$49,240
6
All-rounder
Agency
SEO Executive
$31,956
3
All-rounder
Agency
SEO Analyst
$56,393
5
All-rounder
In-house

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

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

Average level of experience by role

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.

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

What areas of SEO do they specialize in? 

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

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.

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.

How big are the companies they work in?

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.

How much does each SEO role earn?

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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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