SEO Career Advice from an Out-of-Work SEO

Filed in MY BEST POSTS, Off-Topic by Matt McGee on May 2, 2008 27 Comments

Today is the first day since the summer of 1990 that I’ve woken up without a job.

It’s true: Due to a reorganization at Marchex, my position was eliminated. Yesterday was my last day. It was a great 18 months, and I was fortunate to work with some of the smartest people I’ve ever met. To compare where my career was 18 months ago to where it is now … it boggles the mind. Night and day. I’ve been blessed.

Perhaps someday down the road I’ll look back in more depth, but this post is about looking forward (and helping another search marketer with a career question).

Where to Next?

What’s Next?

That’s the million dollar question. Should I start my own SEO consulting business? Should I go to work for another search marketing company? Should I apply to be the overnight janitor at Pixar? Should I take some time off? I’ve had very close, trusted friends suggesting all of those things to me this week. (Except the Pixar one; that was all my idea.)

Here’s What I Know

I’m going to take a couple weeks before making any decisions. I have some personal travel coming up soon and will be away from a computer for about a week. (Quelle horreur!) Might as well use that down time wisely.

I’m open to job offers from high-quality search marketing agencies or search-related companies. I love SEO, social marketing, local search, blog consulting, writing, training, and things like that. I’ve successfully managed client accounts and employees. I’m not a PPC guy, so count me out if that’s what you need. If you have a job that involves sales, I’m not your guy. (I’m a terrible sales person.) Also, and this is really important, if your job requires me to move the family, I’m not your guy. (Relocation is not an option, sorry.) If you’re a great company with an opening that might fit, send me an email.

I’m open to opportunities to do some freelance SEO consulting/training. Need some help via email or the phone? Need a site review, or some questions answered? Want me to come visit and train you and/or your team? Get in touch.

I’m open to accepting advertising on this blog. A guy’s gotta pay the bills while figuring out what’s next, and it would be pretty easy to change out those 125×125 speaking gig graphics on the right to advertisements. Your ad link will be no-followed. It will also be seen about 20,000 times per month – that’s my average pageviews since the start of 2008. Email me for rates. (One more change: When I get back online after this little break, I’m going to take down the registration wall on this blog and have open comments.)

If you have something to say or share that doesn’t involve job or consulting opportunities, but just want to offer some advice or words of wisdom, go ahead and hit one of those links above and get in touch. I’d love to hear from you! Meanwhile, if I’m going to ask for SEO Career Advice, I should be kind enough to share some, too, don’t you think?

From the SBS Mailbag

Ironically, the SBS Mailbag this week included a note from Josh, who’s having some career issues of his own:

I am fairly new to the industry. I have attended an SES and an e-Metrics. I keep up with about 60 SEM/online marketing blogs and I just recently began my own blog. Recently I interviewed for a search account manager at [company name redacted] and am interviewing this week with [company name redacted]. [The first company] felt that I was too inexperienced for the position, but gave me a whole new perspective on interview processes. Any advice you have for me would be much appreciated.

Josh, here are some thoughts based on my experience:

1.) Keep blogging. Regularly. Blogs are the new resumés. It’s an ongoing record of who you are and what you know. Blogging also makes you smarter, because it forces you to clarify and explain strategies and tactics that you use. Make sure you’re reading Darren Rowse, Brian Clark, and Dosh Dosh to learn to be a better blogger, and a better blog marketer. Last year’s SEMMY Blogging nominees list is also great reading.

2.) Speaking of reading, do it. A lot. I think you have to spend at least an hour a day following the industry’s trusted writers. And don’t just read; test the strategies and tactics you read about. Draw your own conclusions.

3.) Network with your peers via their blogs. Dropping me an email was a great start. If you’re not doing this already, start joining the conversations on other search marketing blogs. Get your name out there. Include your URL. As people read intelligent comments from you, you’ll get a trickle of click-thrus to your blog. Make it easy for them to find your best content and subscribe to your feed.

4.) Create “flagship” content on your blog. You’ll want to develop great content that will define you and your blog. Chris Garrett wrote about this a while back, and it still stands. In the summer of 2006, I wrote the Local Search Marketing Guide, emailed some new contacts about it, and Rand wrote about it on SEOmoz. (Others followed suit.) This blog has been on the map ever since.

5.) Continue to attend search marketing conferences when possible. Do it for the networking and learning. Whether it’s SBMU, SMX, SES, Pubcon or something else, conferences are another great way to network with your peers. Introduce yourself to people. Don’t be shy.

6.) Get on Twitter, Sphinn, StumbleUpon, Facebook, etc. More great ways to meet and chat with your peers.

7.) Get active on a marketing/search forum. More networking & learning. It’ll take time to develop, but the best job strategy I can think of is to have a network of peers/friends who want to help you along in your career by pointing you toward open positions, by giving you recommendations on Linked In or elsewhere, and so forth. Todd Malicoat kicked me into gear two years ago on the importance of networking, and trust me — this week was much easier thanks to great industry friends.

8.) Keep interviewing. You hinted at this in your question, and it’s true: the more you interview, the better you get at interviewing.

9.) Volunteer to help a local non-profit or small business. It looks like you have a job already, so I’ll put it at the end of the list. But if I were new to the industry and needed some work to put on my resumé, I’d take this route. There’s no better teacher than experience, and you have to get experience somehow.

Josh, I hope this helps. Readers, what advice would you share with Josh?

(Josh asked me not to share his last name. And because he’s looking for work, I won’t reveal his identity by linking to his blog.)

Comments (27)

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  1. RKF says:


    I’m sure that whatever you do you’ll be successful. Take time to make a considered decision.

    All the best,


  2. davidmihm says:

    Matt, I still say Marchex is silly for letting you go, even if they didn’t have an exact “fit” for you. They should look at what Rand has done @ SEOmoz–step one: find great people, step two: find a place for them.

    You’re the best of the best, man, and whatever company you sign on with (especially if it’s your own, wink wink) will be so lucky to snare you.


  3. havoc says:


    I am almost in a similar position as far as looking for a job. I was brought in as someone with moderate search experience, but have the ability to learn very quickly. I have a unique past history of internet marketing success, so the hire made sense to my company to integrate search into their services.

    Flash forward 6 months and couple big contracts later, my small company restructures (fires half the company), and my CEO sees dollar signs in his eyes and wants to turn his company into a ‘fast-food’ search marketing agency.

    You know, “Oh you want search? Would you like to super-size your directory submissions from 200 to 1000?”

    I believe in a very holistic approach to search, don’t get me wrong, I buy links… and sometimes go shades of gray, but most of my work is with large companies who face daunting development & infrastructure issues and I can rely on my programming experience.

    So recently looking to leave because of my boss, and join up with search agencies (no big players) in the area or companies who have a need for search, I find a couple things to be true:

    a) Other SEOs on staff are immediately threatened and try to diminish your results

    b) People have no idea what search marketing really is and they parallel it to a magic trick

    c) A lot of people throw around way too many buzz words they do not understand

    I think it is an excellent time to be in search because there is a pain-point for it in the market, but interviewing can be a bitch.

  4. aaronmccall says:

    I hope your break is both refreshing and illuminating. I totally agree on the not moving…but then again, as a Mid-Columbia native, I may be biased. Wishing you the best!

  5. Matt McGee says:

    @havoc — interesting comments, and I agree that it’s a great time to be in this industry. I think it’s important that the job seeker interview the company as much as the company interviews the job seeker. Hopefully that helps avoid situations like you describe, but maybe not always.

    @all — thx for the kind words and support. 🙂

  6. AnitaC says:

    Matt, Like I said in my email, for someone of your skills and abilities, you have wide-open opportunities ahead of you. Of that I know.

    And I appreciate working with you, and look forward to further association with you.


  7. John Lessnau says:

    Hey Matt, I only just met you through Twitter but you seem like a pretty sharp guy. Heck you make the Times and they let you go? Marchex’s loss your gain.

    I am sure you will land on your feet and do better than ever. For some cash while you are unwinding take a look at

  8. Matt and Josh, hang in there. I’ve been there before early on in my career and know its pretty difficult to go through a lay-off situation.

    I guess from what I’ve learned I would say diversify. Even if you are FT at a company or run your own SEO company have some other projects, outsourcing work or blogs/websites with ads/affiliates on the side. Don’t rely on one method for income. I chose to open my own search engine marketing company instead of working for another company. Pretty happy with the decision over the years. You can’t get laid off if you own the company. 😉

  9. RKF says:

    @searchinnovation I’m heading down the ownership path right now, just 3 months into launching my own company. It’s true, the owner doesn’t get laid off, but the captain does go down with the ship 🙂

    Still, wouldn’t trade it for the world!

    I’d hire Matt in a heartbeat, but my current budget only allows me to pay him in Canadian foodstamps 😉


  10. Miriam says:

    Matt, this is one of the most powerful posts I’ve ever read here on your blog.

    You are going to do really well! I just know it.

    I really would love to see you becoming your own man in this…working for yourself. I think you’d love it, and I have no doubt your family would love to have you around more!

    I am sincerely wishing you good luck.

  11. Jon says:

    Hi Matt.

    Selling skills is necessary if you’ll be going to consulting route.

  12. Matt drop me a line if you are looking to go it alone. I am a lonely SEO consultant as well. Maybe we can work on a few projects together.

  13. I you have sufficiant skills this won’t last, good job hunting !

  14. juliemarg says:

    Good luck Matt

    The search business is a strange one. I recently looked through the entire list of consultants on SEOMOZ and couldn’t find any in Northern California that targeted the small business market. They all seemed to have the tech side down, but no sales force. How do they get their customers?

    If you need any advice from the sales side of the house msg me.

  15. David Temple says:

    Wow, am I always the last to hear about things? Been “dark” for about a month and come back to see this. No sweat, keep the faith, God has something exciting in store for you! Enjoy the extra time with your family and keep on bloggin’

  16. Marty says:

    The wonderful good you put into this world will come back many times over. I hope this means you’ll get some extra family time in prior to your next exciting position. Best of luck friend.

  17. Dave says:

    If you have good SEO&SEM skills there’s no reason to go to another company (unless you’re in need of some hard $$$).

    You can start your own consulting biz but you can alos consider to start some of your own e-commerce projects. There’s a lot of money to get there if you choose the right niche.

    Good luck anyway !


  18. Jen says:

    When one job ends, it’s hard to know exactly what to do next and when to do it. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking some time to figure out exactly what it is you want to do and where you want to do it. In fact, it’s probably better than jumping into the first thing that comes to mind or that you’re offered and regretting it later.

  19. Adil Iqbal says:

    SEO is part of Internet Marketing and internet marketing is here to stay. Lets be optimistic. Google wants us optimizers because in the end ethical SEO helps Google SERPs ultimately.

  20. habib says:

    To become a SEO, these tips and guidance are awesome. I really going to implement them.

  21. Kiren says:

    Well Habib to be frank the best seo teacher is experience i guess even the author will agree with me

  22. Pieter says:

    After reading all this, is there an update somewhere? I see you’re doing SEO consulting, but I’m wondering how things are going after those years. What did work for you? What didn’t?

    • Matt McGee says:

      Hi Pieter – I’m not doing much consulting these days. My work with Search Engine Land and Sphinn is a full-time job. I do have a couple clients that I’m still working with, but it’s more in the role of an on-call consultant than anything.

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