Are your SEOs making too much money?

There’s no doubt about it, finding good SEO talent is hard. Part of the reason for this is it doesn’t take a rocket scientist SEO to know that you can make a lot of money just by participating in affiliate programs or other offering out there.

It’s been suprising to me, however, recently to learn just how much some of these in-house SEOs are making in their spare time. I won’t name any names, but I’ve recently been in contact with no less than 4 different SEOs who either work for an agency or an in-house marketing team that claim to make more than 6 figures on the side.

My question is this…if you are making 6 figures in your spare time, what the hell are you doing going to the office every day? Is it for the benefits – if so, I can find you some good health insurance you could probably pay for in the time you spent at home instead of at the office. Is it for the comraderie? I’ve held a ton of office jobs, and have lots of friends from them – but if I was making 6 grand from side activities I’d find other places to make friends.

And what about the employers? I know most large advertising firms have strict rules against moonlighting. But is running an affiliate deal really moonlighting? You’re not in competition with your employer, who probably won’t touch the deal with a ten foot pole.I’d be interested to hear from others on what their employers do in regards to this phenomenon. And I’d like to hear from some of the folks who are making this "scratch" (as one person told me to call it). Why do you stay at your job?  If it’s for the money, couldn’t you make twice as much if you spent the time you spend at the office working more deals?

There is one other option. All of these people are lying to me to make themselves look good. I doubt that, but it’s always a possibility. In the meantime, I’ll be looking at some affiliate deals to start up. Hey, I know search as well as the next guy. Why can’t I make 6 figures in my spare time?


  1. Actually, I don’t work the affiliate game outside of work, but offer freelance SEO services. My employer is that of a very niche industry, so as long as I don’t take clients in that niche, they don’t mind. In fact, they encourage it. They feel that I could learn and bring experiences to my full time with the tactics I use in my freelance.

  2. Well, I guess my itch is different, cause I don’t scratch as much (do numbers after the decimal count?), but there is definitely a market out there. I offer freelance web services to friends, small businesses and non-profits that don’t have a budget to work with my agency.

    I think the main reason I stick with a full-time gig is stability (OK, I’m skeered). Plus, there’s so much shady business in the affiliate world that doesn’t jive with my idea of what a website should do, I’ve never really jumped into affiliate stuff all that much.

    But yes, we definitely experience this problem with recruiting. Almost every SEO who has any experience has found that they can work for themselves and make just as much or more. Personally, I’m not sure that’s the best long-term career plan, but I could be wrong.

  3. I’m not making nearly six figures with my affiliate scratch (of course I just recently got into it)… but even if I was my full time job is like my lab. I get to try out stuff with clients that I probably wouldn’t if I were on my own – company credit card pays for me to have fun and try new things out.

    Even if I were making six figures on the side I’d still come in if only to try stuff out… plus the company pays me to go to cool things I want to go to like SMX New York and affiliate summits in Vegas.

    I’d get really lazy and stop learning if I didn’t have this job and in a couple years my scratch could go away because I wouldn’t know how to keep up with new SEO trends.

  4. I’m a SEO working a full-time day job, and I make 6 figs on the side.

    I work mainly because I like SEO… it doesn’t even really feel like a job to me. And most importantly, it helps me get better at SEO.

    Although I make 6 figs right now, the Internet is fast paced and you have to constantly be improving in order to stay ahead of the herd.

    I take what I learn from work and apply it to my personal sites.

  5. I can attest to this. I was working for a dot come and was doing my own stuff on the side. Mostly black hat and internet marketing related, but it generated 5 figures a month while I was doing SEO for a company.

    Like others have said, its always better to learn, test and see results with other people’s money. Most can relate who have started small and then eventually go out on their own.

    I’ve since started my own marketing company.

  6. I left my info anon since I don’t want some of my friends or client to know I wrote this…

    Anyways, I also like having a full time gig in order to ‘test’ and learn more for the projects I do on the side. As an example, I get a lot of PPC and SEO clients from my day gig that expose me to areas and industries I would never have learned about on my own.

    All the research from these clients really gets me deep into their niches and industries while being paid for it. I learn their market and what works/doesn’t work within PPC and SEO while getting paid to do it. I learn their lingo, competitors, SERPs, keywords, ADs, ROI, CPA, etc…

    I then take that knowledge and apply it to my after hours activities without risk pretty much because I already know what works. I could run a successful PPC arbitrage campaign on my own based on the info I learned that day most of the times.

    Does it cause a conflict of interest with my day job? Maybe, I am sure it does most times.. but I never compete directly with my clients for offers or products. It also doesn’t mean I can not do something in the same industry with the knowledge I gained from helping them and using that to build up my own sites and offers.

    It also enables me to build a site of my own within their niche, rank it well, and sell it to them as secondary site as well to hog up space in the SERPs.. all along helping them and me getting paid more.


  7. Excellent article and commentary!

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