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Web Work: Searching for Hitmakers

Among the jobs showing growth as the unemployment rate hits 7.2%: search engine optimizers. They're the people who figure out ways for a Web site to pop up prominently on the "results" page of search engines like Yahoo! (YHOO) and Google (GOOG). The number of SEO jobs listed on, a help-wanted site, grew 20% in 2008, from 2,234 to 2,698. Salaries range from $30,000 to well into six figures, depending on the particular job. The demand for SEO skills reflects the intense competition for eyeballs on the Internet at a time when advertisers' budgets are tight. "More and more, advertisers want proof that their spending works," says Matt McGowan, publisher of, which follows the SEO industry. What kinds of SEO positions are employers—including Fox Entertainment (NWS),, and Union Bank of California (UB)—looking to fill? They need strategists, who conceive a Web site's approach to roping in visitors. Companies are also looking for "link builders," who work to steer traffic from other Web sites to their employer's. (A site's ranking on a search engine's results page depends partly on how many reputable sites link to it.) Also sought: SEO copywriters, who insert specific search terms into a site's content to draw desired visitors.

Levisohn is a staff editor at BusinessWeek covering finance and personal finance.

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