Search industry divided on salaries, study finds

By Chris Lee

The UK’s search marketing industry is growing fast. According to an Econsultancy report in March 2012, the UK search engine optimisation (SEO) market grew 18 per cent in 2011, rising from £436 million in value in 2010 to a record £514 million at the end of 2011.

A new report into the salaries of the SEO specialists within this growing sector has produced some interesting findings. The organisers of the BrightonSEO conference quizzed nearly 400 UK SEO professionals and found that the best salaries for senior SEO professionals were actually for Brighton-based roles. Freelancers were found to be better rewarded than in-agency peers with the same experience and that freelancers were also the most satisfied with their salary. Agency versus in-house

According to BrightonSEO, the results show that disparity exists at the lower end of the salary bracket, with pay for trainees and executives differing wildly across the country. A quarter (25 per cent) of SEO trainees were found to be more highly paid than executives within agencies. In-house professionals were also found to be better compensated than their agency peers on the whole.

Executives, unsurprisingly, were least satisfied with their salaries, whilst freelancers and managing directors or founders are most satisfied. Those who earn between £51-£75,000 per annum are more likely to be satisfied with their level of pay than those who earn more. North-south divide?

While managing directors and owners were found to be highest paid in Brighton, heads of department and managers at London-based agencies receive higher salaries than those elsewhere in the UK. Manchester, Leeds and Edinburgh were found to be largely on a par when it came to SEO salaries, with lower bracket salaries largely similar to those in the south of England. However, senior professionals based in London and Brighton were found to be better paid than their northern and Scottish counterparts.

Kelvin Newman is director of strategy at SiteVisibility, the company behind BrightonSEO, and he believes that one of the biggest challenges facing digital marketing companies is recruiting and retaining top talent.

“What we hoped this survey would do is make that a little bit easier. So many people in digital have no idea if what they are paying/being paid is ‘fair’ and reflects market rates,” he told NMK. “Hopefully this survey will make that benchmarking process a little easier. One thing that surprised me about the data is the difference in salaries per location. My gut instinct was London always paid better but that’s not always the case and in some cases actually the lack of supply of talent outside the capital can lead to some pretty substantial pay packets.

Brighton SEO happens at the Brighton Dome on 14 September 2012.

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