SEO Cover Letter
Jack T just asked me this question:
Hi Kevin, thanks for the email tips – you work hard on them!! Nothing like the other emails I get from people where they’re just ads! Yours is real, and I can see you put a lot of effort in, so thank you!
Here’s the thing, I have been studying seo for a ages, I have created lots of websites and got them to page 1 google, some no1 pos’s, I’ve done some SEO work for friends of friends, etc, but I don’t earn enough with affiliate marketing and things, to pay the bills, maybe one day I will, but I’d like to become an SEO person for a company. But if you’ve not done SEO for a company before, how would you approach someone? Can you help me out with a cover letter?
Thanks in advance
Hello Jack, thanks for your email – and the kind words!
First of all – if all you’re looking for is some help with cover letters then see amazing cover letters, Guerilla Resumes & Oneclick cover letters but if you’d like more insight about getting a job in SEO, then keep reading.
First of all let me say, that I think you’re making a great decision. If you like SEO, and you need a job for stability – then looking for an SEO job is a GREAT idea!!
Many people who are wanting to make money online (and I did this at first!!) are so keen to live the perceived web marketing lifestyle of getting up whenever, working from a laptop in a cafe, having complete freedom and watching the cash flow in.
This is a nice vision – and there are some who achieve this – most don’t however, what we have to keep in mind is that it’s a business, whether you’re affiliate marketing, consulting, whatever – it’s a business, it’ll take your time up, you’ll prpbably end up working way longer hours if working purely for yourself, and often you’ll earn little – all in the aim of one day achieving that amazing position of having lots of residual income, and not having to work much – problem is, far more people go broke (or nearly go broke and end up looking for a job) on the way to achieving this, and never get there.
So my advice to myself if I could go back in time 12 years or so, would be to work on the web marketing stuff in the background while holding down something stable, and putting away money so you have a buffer when you go for it. Be patient and go it alone only when you have some back up funds, and some residual income flowing, don’t be impatient and make the leap of faith, because often times it results in landing on your face! I’m speaking from experience, I have made that leap a number of times, and landed flat on my face, god only knows how I’m still so handsome!! . Just remember, that it’s difficult to jump from a wobbly platform, the more stable the ground you’re on, the higher you can jump – and the more unstable, the more likely a leap will end up in an injury…Even now, years on, I’m still suffering from making that leap too early on more than one occasion – the first time I did it, we had to sell our first house & downsize as a result (loved that house too!)…And the second time I took a leap like that, we nearly lost our home – with two young children… not great – luckily my wife is incredibly patient & tolerant! Don’t put too much stock in old wives tails like “you need to be brave” – you may as well say “you need to be stupid” , it’s a fine line – if you’re being brave, it probably means you’re overcoming fear to do it – fear is your friend, if you feel fearful of something, listen to that fear in the same way that a fear of falling to your death would prevent you from stepping of a cliff. Fear may be a sign that you’re not ready, financially or otherwise, to be running your own business or self employed, it may be you infinitely more wise subconscious portion of your intelligence telling you “you’re not stable, you have no back up funds, don’t do it!” What’s more, don’t forget how your decision in this area can impact upon others, if you have a partner, and / or children, there’s more than just yourself that will be effected if you decide to quit your job & go it alone prematurely.
If you enjoy SEO, then what better job could there be for you, than doing something you like doing in order to keep some stability while you keep working on your web marketing stuff? SEO tends to be fairly well paid, comparatively speaking. There’s a big bonus too, in that when you work for a company in SEO, they will usually pay for things, for instance premium memberships for sites like SEOMoz which gives you all of their tools, content syndication networks such as traffic kaboom, and some of these memberships & tools are multi-site, meaning your own sites can benefit from them also (you may want to make sure this is OK with your boss first, most don’t mind that you have your own stuff going on to make extra money, and as long as it doesn’t cost them any more money, and that you’re not doing it in your working day while you’re on there time, many firms will be fine with this, more so if it’s client-side, rather than agency-side where things tend to be more strict & there tends to be more of a hierarchy.) Not to mention stuff like training, attending seminars & so on.
I’ll get to the SEO cover letter shortly, first of all though:
Agency Side or Client Side SEO Job?
So if you know you want a job in SEO, the next question is, agency or client side? Client side is where you work for a company on their own SEO – Agency side is where you work for an SEO firm and do the SEO on their clients sites.
Client side tends to be more relaxed, easier, less hassle, less politics, and less of the stuff that many SEO and SEM people hate, like sales meetings, training sales staff, sitting in on sales meetings with clients, creating reports for clients, phoning clients & explaining their monthly reports, fire fighting when a client isn’t happy, and various other stuff that comes with working within a marketing agency.
Client side is usually not quite as well paid as agency side – but also client side can be a more stable position, if you get a job as the SEO person for a well established company, this is often a much more secure position than a position within an Search company or Agency, as many seo firms are not so well established, and it’s not uncommon to find when you check out the financial stability of web marketing firms, including some of the larger ones, that they’re in risky positions – and there does often tend to be a more “hire & fire” mentality with agencies, than there is with client side positions for established companies.
I’ve done agency side, as SEO manager for a UK agency, parts of it is nice, work with some nice people, team spirit, the money tends to be better than client side – but for me, there was a lot I didn’t enjoy, such as having to try to keep clients happy while the management wanted me to do more & more stuff which had nothing to do with SEO, politics within the company – of which there was lots, and this can come with the territory with marketing agencies.
Client side can be a very cushy number, it really depends on the company. There are people in client side SEO jobs who are under very little pressure, encouraged to do well rather than put under pressure, and in environments where it often doesn’t even feel like work. Of course, there are positions where people are put under extreme pressure and expected to do the unexpected & perform miracles – so just do your research and make sure that duriung the interview you see it that you’re interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing you.
By the way – midway through writing this post, I left the laptop & drove to a local farm to buy some food for our hens (we keep hens & ducks, fresh eggs every morning, yum!) , and it’s Lambing season at the moment, so I asked the farmer how much sleep he got last night – he told me with a smile “went to bed at 5 AM, and was back up & working at 6.30 AM” – I nearly fainted from exhaustion at the mere suggestion of someone working physically all day, through until 5.30 AM and then having only one and a half hours sleep before starting again. I asked him how long this lasts, he said a couple of weeks. I asked what his working hours are outside lambing, and he said he starts working at about 7am, until it’s dark, but then at night he usually has things he needs to do also.
This really brings it home – there are jobs out there that are ridiculously hard, where you have to work physically, for long, long hours – not just farming, there are many jobs that are real hard work, us web marketing folk don’t know we’re born! We’re incredibly fortunate that we’ve somehow got ourselves into an area which involves just sitting at a computer, and where the pay can be way better than most physically exhausting jobs! OK we have to learn stuff, but so do people in physically demanding jobs. Just makes me appreciate how fortunate I am that I got into SEO and web marketing, instead of ending up in agriculture or one of hundreds of other jobs which involve real hard work!
So anyway, back on topic – have a think about what suits you better, agency side or client side, because the cover letter etc., will be different depending on which way you decide to go.
SEO Cover Letter
If you want some help with the cover letter, see amazing cover letters, Guerilla Resumes & Oneclick cover letters – but the cover letter is not the be all and end all of getting the interview. ANYONE can have a program like the above, and crank out a professional cover letter – the cover letter is important, but in combination with the advice I’m giving you here, you have a lot more chance of landing your perfect SEO job.
Think of what you’re doing as creating a written sales pitch, you’re selling yourself as someone who can acheive the results that your prospective employee is looking to achieve, and your cover letter is the entry into this pitch. So there’s some prep work that I’d recommend you do first, for much better results in terms of impressing a potential employer.
Examples / case studies & testimonials / references.
You need to put together some proof that you know what you’re doing & you can get results. If you already have a bunch of sites that you’ve worked on, either your own or for clients, then create a case study of each site, explain the search terms targeted, roughly the work that you did (but I wouldn’t go into infinite detail here, just breifly explain what was done), over what period of time, the starting & finishing rankings, traffic increases, and increases in sales / enquiries.
If you can get a few examples of sites you’ve worked on for clients – then this is great, because coupled with a testimonial from the client, it’s much stronger proof than an example of your own website.
If you haven’t done any work for any clients, and if you’re not desperate to get into an SEO position right this minute, then consider asking around, offer to work free or very cheap for friends, friends of friends etc, ask anyone you know who’s in business or has a family member or friend who’s in business – you may well find that someone with a small – medium business would be very happy indeed for you to work on their SEO free or cheap as an example to help your career. Just make sure you focus on websites & search terms where you know that you can make a decent impact without too much time passing – if you can work on sites which are currently terrible for SEO, where you know you can make a big difference just with on-page changes alone, then these are the kinds of sites to work on, as you can get some good results for the client, get a glowing testimonial / reference, and dramatically strengthen your chances of landing a great job in SEO.
Put together the best case study or case studies possible, don’t make them to technical or full of jargon and waffle, just focus on the results you achieved, the before & after, and the testimonial / reference if applicable. Take care of presentation, make sure it’s not a dogs dinner, you want to put yourself forward as being professional & on the ball.
Then, find out who’s responsible for the position, who should you write to? Never write to “Dear Sir or Madam” – imagine if they receive 30 applications, and yours is addressed to the correct person, when the rest aren’t – not only will yours get more attention, yours will probably get to the decision maker first.
Before starting the cover letter, make sure you fully understand what the role is, for instance is it SEO only, is it an SEM position, is it “web marketing manager” to includer SEO, pay per click, display, affiliate management, web master, etc? Only apply if you think you’re right for the position – if you don’t think it’s right for you, for instance if it’s mainly PPC and you’re not that in to PPC, or if you don’t like the industry, or if it’s client side and you only want agency side, or agency side and you want client side – or if there’s anything that makes you think it’s not right for you, don’t waste your time on it, select those which appear to be the positions which suit you the most.
In your cover letter, address the person who’s responsible for the position, give a bit of background, sell yourself, not just in terms of your abilities but in terms of how you get on with people and work well both individually and as part of a team, explain that you believe you’re a perfect match for the position and why, and that you have enclosed some proof of your abilities in the form of recent case studies, and references (or testimonials, same thing). End by saying something along the lines of “I would very much welcome the opportunity to meet you, and to find out if I am a good fit for the company culturally, to ensure a long and mutually successful relationship between my self and the company.” or words to that effect – don’t use these exact words, write how you would right, but in other words you’re saying that you know you’re the right person to achieve the results they want achieving, this isn’t in question – but what you’re eager to discover, is will you fit well in the company, will you enjoy the environment, get on well with the people, will they get on with you.
This makes it very easy for the employer, they can see by the proof you’ve shown that you can do what they need you to, you’ve also shown that you’ve done your research and you know what the position entails, and you’ve shown that you’re not jumping at any opportunity because you need the job, but you’re looking for a long term move, so you want to make sure that you’re a good fit for the company.
Do the above, send along with the case study or studies, and a well developed CV – and you should find a VERY good conversion rate from letter to interview.
If you don’t have a good CV, then write one – or find someone to help you to write one (I’m not a CV expert) – but, if you do as I’ve suggested above, the CV will be a lot less important, in fact some employers will look with interest at your cover letter, case studies & references & will just briefly scan the CV with little interest, as they’re already sold that if they like you when they meet you, then you’re the person for the job.
Don’t forget, when someone is employing, they have a real challenge to find the right person. I know from experience, it’s not easy – you have to sift through some junk – and by junk, I mean that people will send CV’s with no cover letter, a cover letter with spelling errors or silly statements which make me throw the whole thing in the bin without even reading the CV! I’ve had CV’s which don’t have their phone number on, and no phone number on the cover letter so how can I call them to offer them an interview? I’ve had typo’s all over CV’s, CV’s with dirty marks on them, covering letters sent to “Dear Sir!” when my name was even on the job ad… so beleive me, when you put in the effort to send something of quality to a potential along the lines of what I’ve suggested above, you will get their attention.
Next step – the job interview
If you do the above well, you’ll get some interviews, or send me a hat and I’ll eat it!
This is the important bit, you need to make sure it’s the right company for you. Don’t go in there completely focused on you being right for the company, and on answering their questions – it’s a two way thing, and you need to make sure that the company is right for you.
When you’re offered the interview, ask is it a two step interview or one step. If it’s only one step, insist that the interview includes being introduced with everyone that you would be working with (if it’s 2 interviews this will usually happen at the second interview). If they question you about this, reply that you’re looking for a position that you’ll be happy in for at least the next five years, and you’re not going to make a decision about whether the company is right for you without meeting the people you’ll be working with. If they’re funny about that, move on to the next potential employer – because if they don’t see the value in making sure it’s a perfect fit, then the chances are it’s not going to be a great company to work within.
Be yourself, don’t try to act differently, if you’re a character – be a character, if you’re funny – be funny, obviously don’t go over the top, but the important thing is that they like you. We like people when we know they are who they are, when we sense someone is being fake, acting for the interview, it’s just not the same. If you’re yourself and they don’t like you – good, you just saved yourself an uncomfortable period of employment! What’s more, if you’re more relaxed and yourself, the employer is likely to be also, so you’ll get a better feel for who they really are too. And of course the more relaxed and normal you are, the less difficult it’ll be, so you will find that you’re not dreading interviews as much as you may have in the past.
Ask questions – make sure you know exactly what the job is, is it SEO only, is it SEO & PPC, if it’s PPC what programs? (just adwords, or other PPC also?) Will you be part of a team, or the sole SEO guy or web marketing manager. (if it’s agency side, more than likely you’ll be part of a team unless it’s a web dev firm branching out into SEO, in which case just be careful as that can be a tough gig, with sales people selling stuff that you may find difficult to deliver!). Are you taking over from someone, why did they leave. What are their goals, etc etc, write lists of questions, not just lip service though – you want to find out, is this going to be a nice place to work, and will you enjoy the job.
ASK ABOUT MONEY. Some careers advisers say not to do this – complete balls – you’re not going working there to pass the time, you’re doing it in return for money, so talk about it. Don’t make it the first thing you mention, but make sure it’s discussed. Find out if there’s a bonus scheme, or any form of incentive. Make sure you talk long term, employers usually hope that you’ll be with them a few years, they don’t want people in & then out in a few months, so ask about things like pensions, things which put forth the impression that you would be hoping to stick around (even if actually you hope to only be working for a year before you can go it alone, if that’s what you want to do).
So there you go – this is my advice on getting an SEO job, including the cover letter – I really hope this helps you Jack, and anyone else reading who has a similar question.