How to Make Millions with SEO

There isn’t a digital marketing professional out there who doesn’t want to live comfortably off of their hard work. Indeed, we ran an informal survey and over 90 percent of the search engine optimization professionals people we asked said they wanted to become rich through SEO.

We’re not saying that SEO is a viable way to secure financial freedom and we’re not saying that the advice here will work for everyone. However, it’s clear that the demand for SEO services continues to go up and the supply of SEO professionals remains comparatively low. Simple economics dictates that, given such a situation, the value of SEO as a service should go up, consequently creating opportunities for making money.

That said, not everyone gets rich because of SEO. However, we know quite a few people who did. Their paths to financial success all differ in their specifics but they do share a few things in common.

If you want to emulate the successes of the best SEOs in the Philippines, be prepared to do the following:

1) Learn the Basics

A lot of people dive into SEO as part of an ongoing project, with little, if any, education on the subject. There is nothing wrong with that. After all, most of us learn best by doing. However, this seat-of-the-pants approach often results in SEO professionals who only understand an extremely narrow part of their discipline.

As much as possible, anyone just getting into SEO should learn the basics of how search engines work as well as the thought processes to go into their design. From there, one can begin looking into the finer details of the craft.

Learning the basics will put you far ahead of the pack. You’d be surprised at how many so-called SEO professionals are unable to explain how the fundamentals of their field work. Don’t be like them and try your best to build up a solid grip on the foundations of search engines and SEO.

2) Pay Your Dues

A career in SEO will almost always begin with you clawing your way from the bottom, where financial security is close to non-existent. However, if you have the right attitude, you can use this ordeal to build upon your theoretical SEO knowledge with real-world experience. Unfortunately for the more impatient people out there, getting good at SEO requires a lot of practice and plenty of patience.

You will fail a lot at this early stage, and that’s OK. Focus on consistently improving your skills, gaining experience, and producing success stories and you will eventually get where you need to be.

3) Advance Your Skills

Associate-level salaries for SEOs are far from the worst but they will not give you financial security. If you want to move beyond the associate level, you have to start investing in your skills.

In an ideal world, your boss will help you do this. Of course, this is highly unlikely to happen, particularly in the Philippines. But regardless of whether you get upskilling support at work, you have to consider going beyond your immediate responsibilities if you want to make real money from SEO. Whenever possible, make an active effort to learn data analysis skills and try to get into projects that help with big-picture SEO or digital marketing projects.

Here are some tips for upskilling within the SEO industry:

  • Apply why you’ve learned. There’s no better way to get better at being an SEO than applying your theoretical knowledge in real-world scenarios. If your current job only gives you a narrow range of responsibilities, consider applying your SEO knowledge to personal projects or try freelancing.
  • Join reputable SEO agencies. There’s nothing wrong with being an in-house SEO. However, unless your company owns multiple websites, the types of challenges you will face will be relatively narrow, making it difficult to build up your skills. If this is the case, joining a reputable SEO agency might be a good option. Joining an agency will allow you to see tackle a range of SEO scenarios, giving you the breadth of experience you need to exceed your current limits.
  • Meet other SEOs. Networking with other SEOs can help establish you as a knowledgeable and trustworthy SEO. If other SEOs become aware of your experience, skills, and expertise, it may even result in you becoming an industry influencer. You might not know it yet but the reputation that you do build at this early stage will be important if you want to start your agency, scout talent, or find clients to work with.

4) Climb the Job Ladder

Going up the ladder in an in-house marketing department or SEO agency allows you to become more familiar with the different processes involved in SEO and other digital marketing campaigns. This familiarity puts you in a position to get promoted and earn a larger salary in a directorship or C-suite position. If the higher salary grade isn’t enough for you, you can use your knowledge and network to start your own SEO agency one day.

It’s worth noting that, once you become an SEO manager or director, you’ll get a respectably high salary which may be enough for you to be financially secure in the Philippine setting. In any case, becoming an SEO manager and having the compensation package that comes with it should also give you the financial breathing room to save up and start your own agency, should you choose to take the plunge.

5) Make a Name for Yourself

Regardless of whether you want to start an agency or continue your climb up the corporate ladder, other people must know what you are truly capable of. Sure, you can go through the typical influencer route but you should also consider putting yourself in a place where other people will be happy to spread the word about you.

To raise your profile in the industry, it helps to attend conventions, conduct talks, and freely share your SEO knowledge. A lot of SEO professionals may disagree with this approach, reasoning that sharing one’s achievements and methods will somehow erode their competitive advantage.

However, the benefits of sharing your knowledge outweigh the short-term gains that you’ll have by keeping your SEO tactics a secret. It’s worth understanding that these knowledge-sharing activities can gain you significant trust and mindshare, particularly with people who hold the keys to the SEO budgets in their companies — including your own. Thus, by sharing your knowledge, you help communicate the value that you bring to the table, which is a good thing regardless of whether you’re staying in a corporate job or starting your own agency.

6) Start your Own SEO Agency

The salaries for director-level and c-suite positions in the Philippines are no joke. Highly-experienced and talented SEOs that manage to make it to these positions can expect to earn anywhere from P150,000 to P400,000 in local companies and, perhaps, substantially more in foreign multinationals. Snagging these positions is nothing to sneeze at and can already be considered a success for most people.

However, if you’re not satisfied with the financial returns that you’re getting as a marketing director, VP, or CMO, starting your own agency is pretty much the only way you can get even more money as an SEO professional. The good thing about SEO agencies is that you typically don’t need an external investor to be profitable — skills and hard work are all you need.

As for profit, we’ve always aimed for a modest 30% profit margin at Searchworks. By doing this, it’s possible to hit an income range of PhP1.5m to Php3m per month after two years of operation, given current market conditions. For a small agency with just a few people, this potential income may already be enough to quit their corporate job.

Of course, ensuring the sustainability of your business is another matter altogether. If you want the agency to last and bring you to the next level of financial security, you have to invest in the right people and allocate cash for growing the business. Doing this may mean that you and your partners may have to sacrifice personal wealth to grow the business — something that a lot of small ventures are not willing to do.

To ensure that your agency is sustainable, you may have to pivot your responsibilities from solving SEO issues to ensuring a steady cashflow and year-over-year growth. When it’s time for this transition, be sure to hire competent people to manage the money and legal details as well as agency production. Though it’s tempting to just focus on SEO because of all the time you invested in it, if you want to keep growing your finances, it may be a compromise you’ll need to make.

7) Consider Diversifying Income Sources

By year 3 or 4, you may be able to consider diversifying the business into other areas of digital marketing, such as PPC, web design, web development, SEM, social media marketing, content marketing, and others.

Provided you don’t bite off more than you can chew, this kind of diversification makes it possible to keep your cash flow stable and can help your agency be more resilient against external market movements. In turn, you should be able to enjoy multiple streams of income while ensuring your agency continues to grow and become more resilient.

Final Thoughts

There are basically two major paths to achieving financial freedom through SEO: climbing the corporate ladder or starting your own SEO agency. Which path is best for you entirely depends on whether you prefer the long but stable grind of climbing the corporate ladder or the risky yet potentially more profitable path of building your own agency.

Regardless of which path you choose, you have to work to make your financial security a reality. SEO may be in demand but becoming financially secure from it takes consistency, humility, and devotion to self-improvement.

Still not convinced? Get in touch with our team to learn about the business side of SEO.

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