How to Successfully Negotiate Your SEO Salary: A Complete Guide

When it comes to salary negotiation, many people view it as a confrontation. Either you avoid it altogether, or you’re overly aggressive in an effort to win. It kind of feels like a lose-lose – but it doesn’t have to. When I talk to people about negotiating their salaries, I tell them to view it more like a conversation. 

The best salary negotiations I’ve had with companies are just me being a human telling another human, “Hey, this deal doesn’t work for me. How can we come to a compromise that does?” They understood and worked to get a deal I would be happy about, so I’d be excited about joining their team.

Many job seekers forget that it’s not just you on the line looking to find the right-fit job, but also a company hoping to find the perfect person to fill a role and help them succeed. It only makes sense that they’d want you to be happy, even thrilled, to join their team and work hard to keep and increase your salary.

Navigate This Post:

Why Is Salary Negotiation Important?

Aside from making enough money to pay your bills and afford the luxuries you love, negotiating your salary actually has benefits beyond you. Yes, negotiating your salary helps set you up for future career growth, helps keep you happy in your job, and can significantly impact your total lifetime earnings. But asking for compensation for the value you bring to your company also helps establish fair pay, promotes diversity, and contributes to a culture of openness and equity.

  • Promotes Equal Pay: By advocating for yourself, you’re helping establish a precedent contributing to broader industry norms towards equal pay.

  • Fosters Workplace Diversity: Data proves repeatedly that diverse perspectives at work are directly related to improved business outcomes, but economic barriers still disproportionately affect women and minority groups. Negotiating your salary helps ensure that diverse talents are not only hired but retained and valued equally, making negotiation a vital tool in the diversity and inclusion toolkit.

  • Contributes to Equity: Negotiation fosters transparent discussions about compensation, encouraging fair pay practices across the board. This transparency helps demystify the process and sets a precedent for equitable treatment. This means that all employees are compensated based on their merit and contributions.

Remember, a rising tide lifts all boats!

Understanding Your Worth

The value you bring to a company on any given day is based on multiple factors, some of which you can control and others you can’t. Your individual skills, past experience, wins, training, and other elements are within your control. However, factors like the economy, global pandemics, demand for your role, companies hiring, individual company financials, etc., are far beyond your influence.  [Read our state of the SEO job market article]

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, understanding your worth for a salary negotiation falls in the middle of the Venn diagram between these two sets of factors. There are ways to divine what a reasonable salary range is, though, for everything you’re bringing to the table for a company. 

We all know there are average pay bands for SEOs from entry-level to VPs of Growth and Visibility, but there are nuances to the different pay levels beyond years of experience and titles. Other factors to consider when researching salary bands include company size, technical skills, geography, and more. The easiest way to gather data on SEO salaries is to look at where people are honestly posting or being surveyed about salaries. Job posting sites that list salaries can also give you a good idea of what companies are willing to pay.

One thing AI can do well is estimate a salary range based on a job description. I asked ChatGPT 4.0, “What should the salary for this position be?” and copied job descriptions from LinkedIn that included salary ranges (but I left off the ranges for ChatGPT). It was spot-on for most posts, from a Director of SEO to an SEO Manager or SEO Strategist.

ChatGPT or another AI tool should not be your ONLY research strategy, as you can see that it tends to veer higher than the offered compensation. You can also look for similar job titles and responsibilities on job sites like, LinkedIn, and Otta. 

Some useful and popular tools for salary comparison include…

Understanding where you land on the spectrum of SEO skills can help you determine which salary bands best fit your current areas of expertise. For example, I know research and content strategy are my mainstays. Sure, I can dabble here and there in the basics of technical SEO, but I do not feel confident with access to the back end of a website to configure server-side settings or mess around in your theme files. It’s ok to emphasize where you are an expert and where you aren’t. If you’re in the right-fit job interview, they will appreciate your candor and understand how you benefit them.

Here are some top skills to understand and know where your SEO expertise ranges:

Technical SEO

  • Mastery of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript as they affect SEO.
  • Knowledge of server-side settings, response codes, and redirects.
  • Ability to optimize site structure, URL structure, and mobile responsiveness.
  • Familiarity with SEO tools like Google Search Console, Screaming Frog, or SEMrush.

Content Strategy

  • Keyword research and planning to target content effectively.
  • Understanding user intent and creating content that satisfies this intent.
  • Ability to analyze competitors’ content and identify gaps in the market.
  • Skills in optimizing content for search engines while maintaining user engagement.

Content Creation

  • Ability to write clear, compelling content in various formats (articles, blogs, white papers, etc.).
  • Creating or coordinating the production of visual content such as images, infographics, and videos to complement text-based content and increase engagement.
  • Maintaining high-quality content standards focusing on readability, grammatical accuracy, and informational value.
  • Developing unique and exciting content ideas that stand out in a crowded market.
  • Seamlessly integrating keywords and SEO strategies into content without compromising the user experience.


  • Proficiency in GA4 or Adobe Analytics and other data analysis tools.
  • Ability to create reports and dashboards for easy consumption of metrics.
  • Ability to track and interpret user behavior, traffic sources, and engagement metrics.
  • Skills in creating and tracking key performance indicators (KPIs).
  • Understanding of conversion rate optimization (CRO) and its impact on SEO.

Off-Page SEO

  • Developing strategies to acquire high-quality backlinks from reputable websites.
  • Influencing how often your brand is mentioned on other sites, whether linked or unlinked.
  • Collaborating with influencers to reach broader audiences and generate valuable backlinks.
  • Distributing valuable content across various platforms to earn links and mentions.
  • Utilizing traditional public relations tactics to manage and improve the perception of your brand can lead to organic mentions and links.

When it comes to assessing certifications and specializations in your salary negotiation, there are multiple factors to consider:

  • What level are you at in your career? Sometimes, more general degrees and certifications are more beneficial the further along you move. Does an MBA benefit an SEO directly? Probably not, but it could be beneficial for a VP of Organic Growth who’s dealing with budgets, HR, financial management, and more.
  • What’s in demand in the market right now? As of this writing, we all know AI in SEO is the next big thing. Google is investing in it, and many companies rely on it for their marketing strategies. Knowing what the market is calling for can help you determine if it’s somewhere you can invest time and money to learn more and ask for more compensation in the long run.
  • Will it actually be relevant to your role? Sure, everyone loves a Google Analytics or a HubSpot certification, but if you’re not even using those tools daily, what’s the point of investing time and money there? Certifications that don’t benefit your on-the-job skills can’t be leveraged for much in salary negotiations.
  • Does your employer value it? Depending on your current or future employer’s mission, industry, or potential areas of weakness, a certification might be a valuable negotiation tool. If you’re an SEO project manager, getting PM certified might be vital to them. If you’re marketing to accountants, having accounting classes under your belt could be a boon. Find ways to market yourself to your employer’s needs when it comes to certifications and continuing education.

One key thing to remember is that your years of experience in one area don’t necessarily equate to years of experience overall. For example, I once talked to someone who was transitioning careers from more of an internal communications role to a content marketing role. With over 10 years of career experience, he told me he was considering asking for an entry- to mid-level salary at a job he’d been interviewing for. His logic was that he had entry-level content marketing experience. 

I disagreed and told him to ask for A LOT more.

When measuring his experience level, he only accounted for the few things he’d done in his previous role that counted as “content marketing.” But there were MANY transferrable skills, projects, experiences, certifications, and more from his internal communications role. You’re not starting at ground zero with any job –  even if it’s your first job, even if you took extended leave, even if you were fired from your last job, etc. You have transferable skills that will work for your current or next position; the key is marketing them in a way that proves your employer needs them.

It’s all about how you spin it!

Preparing for Negotiation

You can never be too prepared when it comes to salary negotiation. It will help you make your case, and you’ll feel calmer being overprepared than when trying to scramble at the last minute. 

In my first job, I didn’t really plan to negotiate, and when they asked me what I’d like to make, I threw out a random number. I didn’t know what people made in first-time jobs. I didn’t know a reasonable hourly rate for the position I was taking. I didn’t even know what I needed to make to pay my bills. I was so underprepared and then wholly embarrassed when the manager told me they don’t pay people that little.

He offered me $4/hour more than I’d requested, and I walked away knowing I’d left money on the table.

Once you know what salary range you need to be asking for, the key is to showcase why you’re worth that to your employer.

Document your SEO successes and contributions to past roles. This is hard to do after the fact, so if you’re reading this, start now. Open a Word or Google Doc and create a win list: 

Ask people you know what you do best. 

  • Make sure at least one is a colleague:
  • Translate soft skills into business benefits: “My ability to communicate across siloes has come in handy multiple times before in interdepartmental disagreements. I’ve been able to help both sides see each others’ points of view and reach an agreement to move projects forward and keep stakeholders happy.”

Make a list of your superpowers

  • Include how you use them to affect others: “I have a very high EQ. I understand, manage, and effectively express my own emotions, as well as understand and influence the emotions of others. This enhances team collaboration, promotes a positive work environment, reduces conflicts, and improves team cohesion. It also makes me a better manager because empathetic leaders are more effective in motivating and supporting their teams”

Brag about yourself

  • Collect positive quotes from emails, Slack messages, or people’s comments about you
  • Compare the scope of your original job description to what you’re doing now: “When I first started, my role primarily involved content research. However, over time, I’ve taken on additional responsibilities, such as educating the writing team, creating content strategies from scratch, and submitting all SEO tickets to the web team through Jira. These expanded responsibilities demonstrate my growth and adaptability within the company.”
  • List out all self-motivated initiatives/opportunities/successes where you asserted yourself: “I have proactively sought out opportunities to contribute beyond my assigned tasks. For example, I noticed a gap in ongoing technical SEO maintenance for new site pages and took the initiative to create automated reports for the web team. This resulted in a 50% reduction in technical errors. These initiatives showcase my ability to identify needs and drive impactful changes independently.”

Create a system where you can track this!

Preparing a portfolio of work to demonstrate your expertise is also helpful. Obviously, it’s not a good practice to leak your employer’s or clients’ information, so redact what you need to, but keep what you can that showcases your skills. Here are some examples of portfolios you can build:

  • Website Audits and Reports: Include examples of comprehensive SEO audits you’ve performed.
  • Content Strategy Plans: Showcase your content planning and how it aligns with overall business goals.
  • Technical SEO Fixes: Demonstrate your ability to identify and resolve technical SEO issues.
  • Link-Building Campaigns: Provide details on successful link-building strategies and outcomes.
  • Analytics Dashboards: Show the essential metrics to track and improve SEO.

Unfortunately, for most companies, money does not grow on trees (though sometimes it seems like it does). The tech hiring boom and then the post-COVID layoff bust are examples of that. You want to ensure you’re informed about the company for salary negotiations and make sure you’re making a smart career move. 

How Company Finances Work

Researching the company’s financial health and industry standing is one way to do that. If the organization is publicly traded, you can get this information from its annual reports. These include detailed financial statements and insights into the company’s revenue, profit margins, expenses, and overall financial health. Don’t worry; there are generally news reports about it if you’re like me and not a financial guru. 

Another way to gauge a company’s financial health is to look for recent news about them, such as product launches, mergers, acquisitions, or layoffs. These events can impact the company’s financial health and ability to negotiate salaries.

Company Budget Cycles and Negotiation 

Companies operate on fiscal years, which may not align with the calendar year. Budgets are typically planned and approved in the months before the new fiscal year when departments submit their budget requests and financial plans.

The best times to negotiate are often just before or during the new fiscal year when budgets are being set because departments may have the most flexibility to allocate funds. Many companies plan their annual performance reviews around this time, too. However, some companies have mid-year reviews or budget adjustments. These can be opportunities to negotiate if you can demonstrate significant contributions or changes in your role.

Each department typically has its own budget, which includes the salary and benefits of everyone in it. Some departments may also have discretionary funds for merit increases, bonuses, or unforeseen expenses.

Salary Caps and Company Budgets

Companies often establish salary ranges or caps for different positions and levels. These ranges are based on market rates, internal equity, and budget considerations. Pay bands categorize positions into different levels, each with a minimum, midpoint, and maximum salary. For many larger organizations, set bands are predetermined for certain role levels and types, so moving beyond the maximum typically requires promotion to a higher band or role level. 

When it comes to negotiations for new jobs with set pay bands, you may be constrained to negotiate to the higher edge of the band or prove that the job requirements are beyond the level the company is asking to fill. Like, “Hey, you’re saying this is an SEO Specialist-level role, but the responsibilities are actually more that of a Manager.”

If you’re at the top of the range in your current job, you may need to negotiate for a promotion or reclassification to achieve a significant salary increase. Salary caps are sometimes adjusted periodically to account for inflation or cost-of-living changes.

Find a friend or colleague who’s willing to practice your negotiation speech and “the talk” with them as your boss or manager. While you’re practicing the conversation, take note of where you feel yourself getting nervous and what topics elicit that heart-racing feeling. Figure out what’s really going on there.

Putting on my Therapy Hat™: A lot of how we approach negotiation is how we feel about ourselves. Ye Olde Imposter Syndrome starts creeping in, and we find ourselves asking weird things like, “Did I really accomplish all this, or did I happen to fail up?” And “Do I even know SEO?”

No, you didn’t fail upward and yes, you know SEO. Examine how you feel about yourself and your career and see how that could hold you back in the negotiation. Practice your negotiation conversation repeatedly until it feels like you know it by heart and have encountered any objection your role-playing counterpart can throw at you.

Here are some examples of things to practice:

Value Proposition

“In the last two years, I’ve successfully increased organic traffic by 29%, improved keyword rankings for high-value terms, and boosted conversion rates by 10%. These results have directly contributed to our overall growth and online presence.”

Evidence-Based Arguments

“For instance, the SEO campaign I led for our B2B SaaS product resulted in a 52% increase in new leads from organic search, which significantly increased our sales pipeline. And my content strategy streamlining project led to a 100% increase in content produced by the writing team, enhancing our user engagement and retention.”

Alignment with Company Goals

“For the last two years, our company’s main goal for our departments has been to increase market share and improve customer acquisition – and my efforts directly contributed to a large chunk of our success. By continuing to refine our SEO strategy, I am confident we can achieve even greater results moving forward.”

Salary Request

“Considering my contributions and the current market rates for similar roles, I believe a salary adjustment to $98,000 would be fair and reflective of the value I bring to the team. I’ve done some research, and this adjustment aligns with industry standards for SEO professionals with my level of experience and expertise.”

Remember, don’t be shy or embarrassed about asking for a rate you’ve researched. 

The Negotiation Process

Avoid surprising your manager with a money chat if you’re negotiating in your current job. You wouldn’t want them to surprise you with a meeting like that, so do them the same courtesy. Don’t catch them off guard by bringing up salary unexpectedly. Instead, set clear expectations for the meeting’s purpose. If you’re in-office, arrange to meet in a neutral location, such as a conference room or a coffee shop, rather than their office. This can help balance the power dynamic and make you feel more comfortable. 

  • “I’d like to schedule a time to discuss my performance and how I can advance within the company. I see your calendar has an opening on Thursday at 10. Would that work for you?”
  • “Hey! I’d like to discuss my performance and future career path in our next one-on-one. Could we add that to the agenda?”

If you’re negotiating for a new job, I recommend setting clear salary expectations as soon as possible. No one wants to go through multiple interviews and a test project just to get a lowball offer. I suggest you be the first to state your desired salary. If your number is based on market research and you can support it with evidence, anchoring high sets a strong starting point. This approach is preferable to letting them set a potentially low offer. 

However, if you prefer not to state a number first for any reason, consider using these scripts:

  • I’d love to give you a figure, but could you share your budget for this role? I want to ensure my expectations align with what you have in mind.”
  • “Based on my research, the typical salary range for someone with my experience is X to Y. As a top performer, I’m suited for this range’s higher end.” Then, provide specific examples of your achievements that justify the higher rate.
  • “You have a reputation for offering competitive salaries. I expect to fit within your salary band. Can you share what that range is for this position?”
  • “I’m considering job opportunities in the range of X to Y.” 
  • “I know that the market for people with my skill set is between X and Y.”

The formula for a clear and precise salary request is pretty simple: talk about your research, define your range, and justify your request. The key is staying calm and confident. Again, you’ve done the research, you’ve done the hard work, you’ve earned this ask. If what you’re looking for is within reason for all of this, there’s no reason not to be confident.

Opening the Conversation:

“Hi [Manager’s Name], thank you for meeting with me today. I’d like to discuss my performance and explore the possibility of a raise and/or promotion based on my progress and contributions in my role here at [Company].”

Presenting Your Achievements:

“Since joining the SEO team, I’ve taken on several key projects and initiatives that have significantly impacted our organic search performance. For example:

  • I led the SEO strategy for the [specific project], which resulted in a [specific percentage] increase in organic traffic over [time period].
  • I optimized our on-page SEO, leading to a [specific percentage] improvement in our keyword rankings for high-value search terms.
  • I implemented a comprehensive backlink acquisition campaign that increased our domain authority by [specific points].

These contributions have driven measurable results and aligned with our company’s goals of increasing online visibility and driving more organic leads.”

Making the Request:

“Given these accomplishments, I believe it’s an appropriate time to discuss a raise and potentially a promotion. According to my research, the market rate for an SEO specialist/manager with my experience and performance level is around [insert market rate or range]. I’m currently earning [current salary], and I’d like to discuss adjusting my salary to [desired salary] to reflect my contributions and market standards better.

Additionally, I’ve taken on responsibilities beyond my initial job description, such as [mention any additional tasks or leadership roles]. I believe a promotion to [desired position, e.g., Senior SEO Specialist, SEO Manager] would be a natural next step, allowing me to contribute even more to the team.”

What Not to Say:

Do not cut yourself down at the knees. It’s important to project confidence and professionalism (fake it til you make it). Avoid statements that undermine your position or convey doubt. By avoiding self-deprecating language and confidently presenting your case, you enhance your chances of a successful salary negotiation.

Tl;dr: Avoid giving them any reason to decline.

  • “You probably won’t agree to this…” 
  • “I’m not sure this is a good idea…”
  • “I’m no expert, but…” 
  • “I may be way out of line..” 

Sometimes, the money just isn’t there right then (we’ll discuss handling objections in the next section). That doesn’t mean you have to walk away from a negotiation empty-handed. 

Total compensation refers to the complete package of pay and benefits that an employee receives from their employer. It encompasses all forms of pay and non-monetary perks that are part of your employment agreement. Understanding total compensation is important because it gives you a comprehensive view of the total value you’re getting from a new job or a promotion beyond just the base salary.

Components of Total Compensation

  • Base Salary
  • Bonuses and Incentives: Performance, sign-on, and retention bonuses
  • Benefits: Health insurance, retirement plans, and life and disability insurance
  • Paid Time Off (PTO): Vacation days, sick days, paid holidays, and parental Leave.
  • Equity Compensation: Stock, Restricted Stock Units (RSUs), and Employee Stock Purchase Plans
  • Other Financial Benefits: Commuter benefits, tuition reimbursement, and professional development
  • Non-Financial Perks: Flexible work, wellness programs, or childcare reimbursements

So, when negotiating either a new or existing salary, make sure you evaluate the complete value of the whole offer. This holistic approach can provide some leverage during negotiations and help you make more informed decisions. For example, if the base salary offer is lower than expected, a robust benefits package or significant equity compensation might still make the offer attractive.

My advice here is that money in your pocket is always the first step. More money can be spent however you want, but once we’ve exhausted our base salary negotiation options, consider negotiating total comp. Here’s how to prep for that conversation in advance:

Note: This is part of the prep process. Practice this as part of your role-playing asks because you want to know what go-to total comp aspects are worth it to you to ask for and how to ask for them.

  1. Identify important benefits and perks TO YOU: Determine what benefits, perks, etc. are most important to you. If you don’t have kids, a childcare reimbursement is useless.
  2. Prioritize your preferences and assign them number values: Figure out what an extra week of vacation or a tuition reimbursement means to you. Would you take $2000 less if it meant you could go to a big SEO conference every year, all expenses paid?
  3. Present your request for benefits AT THE END of other negotiations: When asking for total comp benefit, clearly state the benefits you want and why they are important to you. Link the benefits to your performance or contribution to the company’s success where possible. “Going to MozCon this year will help me hone my SEO skills and improve our company’s SEO strategy with the latest techniques and trends.”

Handling Objections

Of course, even at the best time of times with the most prep and fair warning to your employer, there’s a chance you could encounter some objections. You don’t necessarily have to fold and say, “OK, sorry I asked! See you at the all hands!” Remember, negotiation is a conversation; you can ask for ways to make the arrangement mutually beneficial. Being prepared to handle these objections can help you maintain a positive and productive dialogue and keep you from getting flustered. Again, practice these in your role-playing and prep for any that could come your way.

Whenever you hear “no,” try to figure out why and suggest another avenue. When you hear that the company “cannot,” recognize that it often means “will not.” Companies can and do make exceptions all the time, so it’s important to find out why they aren’t willing to make one for you. 

“We just don’t have the budget for that right now.”

“Thank you for sharing that. I understand budget constraints are a reality. However, given my contributions and the market rate for this role, I believe my request is justified. How could we explore other forms of compensation, such as additional vacation days, professional development opportunities, or a performance-based bonus structure to bridge the gap?”

“Unfortunately, this is the standard pay range for this position.”

“I appreciate that this is the standard offer for this position level at [Company]. Also, I believe my experience and the results I’ve delivered—such as [specific achievement or project]—warrant consideration for a higher salary. How much flexibility is there to adjust the offer to reflect my unique contributions and the value I bring to the team?”

“We need to maintain internal equity.”

“I totally understand the importance of internal equity. I also think that my role and responsibilities have grown and evolved significantly since I first joined. I’ve taken on additional duties beyond my initial job description, such as [list your extra job duties here]. What options do we have to adjust my title or work towards a promotion that reflects these additional duties and that would justify a salary adjustment while maintaining internal equity?”

“We’ll review your salary in six months.”

“I appreciate the willingness to review my salary in the future. Considering my current contributions and my impact, I believe a more immediate adjustment is warranted. How can we structure an agreement for a smaller increase now, with a commitment to a more substantial review in six months based on specific performance goals?”

“We just don’t know what’s going to happen with the economy right now.”

“I completely understand economic concerns and why the company may be veering conservative. Also, the skills and results I bring to the table are crucial for navigating these uncertain times. [Talk about wins/added responsibilities.] Investing in my compensation now can drive further success for the company. How can we approach something like a phased salary increase, starting with a smaller raise now and planning to revisit the discussion in a few months?”

“We have a strict policy on salary increases.”

“I respect the company’s policies. Still, exceptional circumstances and performance can sometimes justify exceptions. Given my significant achievements here, such as [specific examples], what possibilities are there for making an exception in this case? What other benefits or incentives could we consider to bridge the gap?”

  • Maintain Composure: Keep your tone positive and professional, even if the objection is frustrating.
  • Listen actively: Show that you understand their concerns by listening actively and acknowledging their points. “What I’m hearing is…”
  • Document your achievements: Have specific examples and data ready to demonstrate your contributions and justify your request.
  • Doing market research is key: Provide evidence of market rates for your role to support your salary expectations.
  • Offer alternative compensation as a last resort: Be open to negotiating other forms of compensation, such as bonuses, benefits, or professional development opportunities.
  • Consider a phased approach: Suggest a phased approach to salary increases if immediate adjustments aren’t possible.
  • Highlight your unique value: Emphasize your value to the company and how your performance supports the organization’s goals.
  • Link everything to results: Connect your achievements directly to the company’s success, showing how investing in you benefits them.
  • Create a follow-up plan: If an immediate raise isn’t possible, agree on specific goals and a timeline for a future salary review.
  • Get everything in writing: Ensure any future review commitments are documented to avoid misunderstandings.

When you receive a low-ball offer, the knee-jerk reaction can go two ways: You stare at your screen and say, “AYFKM?” Or you start to doubt yourself and think, “Wait, maybe that IS all I’m worth…” If you’re like me and want to tell someone to GFY, you have to remember to respond professionally. And if you’re the latter, you must reply assertively to negotiate a better package (listen to your hype song before you respond!). Here are some effective ways to handle it:

  • Express Willingness to Discuss Further: “X is a great starting point, but I’d like to discuss this further.”
  • Counteroffer Strategically: Choose counteroffers that position your target halfway between their offer and your desired salary.
  • Express Surprise and Cite Market Research: “I was a little surprised at the base salary. It came in lower than what I’ve seen in the market…” (Then remain silent and let them respond)
  • Collaborate to Close the Gap: “What can we figure out together that will close the gap?”
  • Inquire About Signing Bonus Flexibility: “Is there any wiggle room in the signing bonus?” (Many times bonuses come from a different pot of money and are easier for managers to access.)
  • Show Understanding and Flexibility While Stating Your Needs: “I definitely understand budgeting issues, and I want to be as flexible as possible to work with your team. I’m still very excited about joining your group and would like to explore whether $60,000 is possible given my specific experience and skill set.”
  • Offer Immediate Acceptance for a Specific Condition: “If you can get me X, I’ll accept the offer immediately.”

One of the two keys to managing a successful negotiation conversation is to shut up and stay calm. Okay, aggressive, but that’s the basic idea. Maintaining composure and being strategic with your words can significantly impact the outcome of your negotiation. Keeping your cool can also help you think on your feet to find creative solutions, too, like a phased approach with a performance bonus—instead of getting nothing.

Silence Is Your Friend

Some people cannot handle silence. They like to fill it constantly. My husband is one of these people. I can hear him on work calls blabbing on, and then he’ll come downstairs and tell me that no one on his team had any ideas for the brainstorm. And every time, I remind him that if he doesn’t fill up the silence, someone else will. 

Yes, it will feel awkward. It will feel unnatural, but silence is your friend in salary negotiations. It gives you time to breathe. It gives you time to think. And it gives other people the same! Plus, over-explaining can weaken your position. Silence is only awkward if you make it awkward. So practice making an ask and STFU. You could even try making a micro-ask and being quiet. See how it goes. 

Keep Calm and Carry On

Practicing your ask with a friend or colleague can help you figure out where you start to get flustered, emotional, or stumble on your words. When they come back with objections, it can tell you what sort of gets you in the heart – what makes you mad or nervous or want to cry. 

When you’re feeling emotional – any emotions – acknowledge it internally and redirect your focus to the negotiation points. It’s totally normal to feel your feels, even happy ones. When you start to get caught up on emotions here are a few tips:

  • Again, take a second. Let silence be your friend.
  • Start taking notes so you don’t get off track.
  • If you’re about to cry, jut your chin out. It helps keep the tears inside until you can feel more even-keeled. (Then go somewhere and cry afterward.)
  • Repeat what they said for clarification: “Did I understand correctly that you are saying that…?”
  • Slow your breathing. Slow, deep breaths can help reduce anxiety and bring your focus back to the present moment.
  • If the negotiation becomes too intense for you, requesting a short break is okay. Stepping away for a few minutes for a bathroom break or a glass of water can help you regain composure and return to the discussion with a clearer mind.

Gabriella had informed Simon in April that she required a salary of at least $85,000 plus a $12,000 bonus opportunity to consider the role. Perhaps Simon forgot that conversation, or maybe his HR department or higher-up leaders rejected the idea of a $97,000 package for Gabriella.

Gabriella’s offer letter included a base salary of $78,500 and a bonus potential of 10%, or up to $7,850.

This meant Gabriella’s total first-year cash compensation could be as much as $86,350, which is $10,650 less than she needed—and less than she knew she was worth.

Gabriella wanted the job and enjoyed working with Simon, but she was also ready to continue her job search if she couldn’t reach her $97,000 target. Therefore, Gabriella decided to call Simon and discuss her offer.

Gabriella received the revised offer letter 72 hours later and signed it. Gabriella valued an extra week of vacation time at $2,500 (a bit more than her weekly salary, but she needed sufficient vacation time!) so her total package was only $5,000 off her $97,000 target.

Gabriella was confident she can get Simon to approve a $5,000 increase or spot bonus at her 90-day review.

Gabriella improved her job offer because she had prepared for her conversation with Simon and didn’t take “Sorry, it’s out of my hands!” for an answer. Gabriella knew that Simon had a need. By the time Simon offered Gabriella a job, he knew he needed her — not just anybody, but Gabriella specifically.

Gabriella sweated the negotiation conversation as much as Simon did because Gabriella was not excited about any of her other job possibilities. However, she was not willing to take the job working for Simon for much less money than she had already made clear she required. She knew that her response to Simon’s offer letter would set the tone for their relationship for as long as it lasted.

Gabriella said to herself before she called Simon, “If Simon gets me and thus deserves to have me on the team, he will work with me to try to reach an agreement. If he tells me that there’s nothing he can do, then I have my answer! In that case, he is not the boss for me.”

Luckily, things didn’t work out that way.

You can negotiate a job offer the same way Gabriella did. All it takes is preparation and a strong belief in your own talents.

What to Do In a Standstill

Negotiating a job offer can sometimes hit a deadlock, but that doesn’t have to mean the conversation is over. It just means both sides need to find other areas where they can compromise and give a little. If your job negotiations hit that dead end, don’t panic. Start by reevaluating what’s most important to you and where you might have some flexibility If things still aren’t moving, be prepared to walk away if the offer doesn’t meet your essential needs—sometimes waiting for the right opportunity is the best move.

  1. Reassess what matters most Take a moment to think about what’s most important to you in this job offer. Is it the salary, the benefits, the work-life balance, or something else? Think about what your future plans are too. Are you planning to grow your family soon? Will you need flexibility to support an aging parent? Are you focusing on saving for a new house? Identify your non-negotiables—those things you absolutely need from this job for now and the future—and figure out where you have some wiggle room. This self-reflection will help you stay focused and clear-headed during the negotiation. 
  2. Find the middle ground Be prepared to offer innovative or outside-the-box solutions that can meet your needs and the employer’s constraints. Maybe you can suggest a phased salary increase after a certain period or based on performance. You could also explore other benefits like additional vacation days, flexible working hours, or expanded professional development opportunities like conferences or college courses. Showing flexibility and willingness to find a middle ground can often break the stalemate. 
  3. Talk about total compensation Don’t get hung up on the base salary alone. Think about the entire compensation package. Yes, money in your pocket now is the best option, but if everything else about a job fits the bill, don’t pass it up just on money alone. Think about bonuses, stock options, health insurance, retirement plans, and other perks like remote work, wellness programs, or company-provided equipment. Sometimes, these additional benefits can make a lower salary more attractive and valuable in the long run. 
  4. Take a pause for the cause If you find that discussions are going nowhere, suggest taking a break. This is especially helpful when things are getting heated or when your feelings are getting the best of you. This isn’t a sign of defeat but a strategic move. Both you and the employer can take this time to reassess your positions and come back with fresh perspectives. It can also give them time to talk to their manager and see what they can do for you. Sometimes, a little distance can help both sides see the bigger picture and find common ground. 
  5. Be prepared to walk away It’s crucial to remember that you don’t have to accept an offer that doesn’t meet your needs. If, after all your efforts, the offer still falls short of what you need, it might be best to walk away. I repeat: It is ok to walk away! Accepting a job that doesn’t align with your values or meet your needs can lead to burnout and resenting your job. It’s better to wait for the right opportunity that truly fits you.

Navigating a negotiation standstill can be challenging, but you can make the best decision for your career and personal well-being. Here’s how to handle a deadlock conversation:

Actively solicit feedback as you go along. Make sure you’re conducting a dialogue rather than making a demand and waiting for a decision. Continually confirm that you’re on the same page with phrases like:

  • “I’m eager to hear your thoughts on this.”
  • “What do you think we should do?”
  • “Did I understand correctly that you are saying that…”

Anticipate the pressures the other party is under and address them proactively. Avoid making statements or asking questions that easily elicit a “yes/no” answer. Acknowledge their concerns and goals, which will help build a collaborative atmosphere. For example:

  • “I understand that the budget is tight this year, so what can we do to find a solution that works for both of us?”

Instead of saying something like, “The situation isn’t working,” bring a positive attitude and problem-solving approach to the negotiation. Avoid ultimatums and do focus on shared goals. Use communal language and be mindful of your body language. Don’t cross your arms. Do lean forward and make eye contact to show engagement. Express appreciation and empathy, emphasizing phrases like:

  • “We can find a solution together.”
  • “I appreciate your willingness to discuss this further.”
  • “Our goal is to reach an agreement that benefits both of us.”

Believing in your worth and holding out for the right fit can make all the difference.

When to Walk Away vs. Accept the Job Offer

You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em. Know when to fold ‘em. Know when to walk away. Know when to run. What’s true in cards is the same in negotiations. Sometimes, things come up in the negotiation that make you think, “I’m not sure I want to work for these people after all!” And that’s ok. Better to escape unscathed than to risk the wrong career move.

Deal breakers are indicators that the company doesn’t value you as an employee, doesn’t value their customers, or has overall “bad vibes.”

  • They offer a salary WAY below market value: If the salary offered is significantly below market rates and the employer is unwilling to negotiate, it’s probably not a place you want to work. If they don’t value their employees enough to pay them a fair salary, then there are probably other, hidden red flags, too. 
  • There isn’t any opportunity to learn or grow: If you’re in a phase of your career where you’re looking to learn grow, and move up, it’s important to find a company that offers those opportunities. (BTW, it’s totally fine to just vibe at a chill job that doesn’t stress you out or that feels easy. These are great for different phases of your life. If you’re not looking to move up ASAP, no shame in that game!)
  • They have a bad company culture: If the company culture does not align with your values or work style, pass! I’m not about that 60-hour work week life. If you are, good for you. But I won’t work at a company that expects that from me, so it’s important I flag that up front un any interviews or negotiations. 
  • They don’t offer “standard” benefits: If essential benefits (healthcare, retirement plans, etc.) are lacking or below your expectations, take that into consideration. You’ll end up paying for these out of pocket, so a salary increase may not offset these expenses if they’re not offered. 
  • They have unreasonable expectations for work-life balance: If the job demands are incompatible with your personal life and well-being, it’s super important to find out ASAP. I saw a video of a woman who got written up at her job for taking her available paid sick days when she was … sick. That’s not a company I’d want to work for. 

Negotiating a job offer is an important step in advancing your career, but sometimes the process reveals underlying issues that show you the opportunity isn’t the right fit. It’s essential to recognize these warning signs and trust your judgment on whether to proceed with the offer or step back. A successful negotiation should lead to a satisfying and rewarding position with a company you like working for, but ignoring red flags can mean a crappy job with a boss you dislike at a company that’s awful. Knowing when to walk away from a job offer is just as crucial a skill as negotiating, and it ensures you don’tt compromise your professional values, career and life goals, and overall well-being.

Unwillingness to Negotiate

If the employer is inflexible on key issues and unwilling to find a middle ground, it indicates they may not value your needs or contributions. This lack of flexibility can be a red flag about the company’s overall attitude towards employee satisfaction and growth.

Red Flags During Negotiations

The negotiation process itself can reveal a lot about the company’s culture and values. If you notice unprofessional behavior, lack of transparency, or dishonesty, it may be wise to reconsider the offer.

  • Unprofessional Behavior: If the employer or hiring manager behaves unprofessionally, such as being dismissive, disrespectful, or unresponsive, it could be a sign of the company’s broader culture.
  • Lack of Transparency: If you encounter evasiveness or unclear answers when asking about key aspects of the job, compensation, or company policies, this might indicate deeper issues.
  • Dishonesty: Any indication of misleading information or dishonesty should raise immediate concerns.

Gut Feeling 

Your intuition can be a powerful guide. If you have a strong sense that something isn’t right or that you won’t be happy in the role, it’s important to listen to that inner voice. This is especially the case when you’re in a bad job situation and trying to get out. Don’t jump out of the frying pan into the fire. If you sense that it’s just not the right fit, it’s ok to take your time and find the best next job for you. Don’t rush it!

Walking away from a job offer isn’t a decision anyone makes lightly, but sometimes you just have to in order to protect your professional and personal interests. If you’re running up against inflexibility, dodgy behavior, lack of transparency, dishonesty, or just overall bad vibes, it’s important to trust your judgment and consider other opportunities. Prioritizing your long-term career goals and well-being is always the best strategy.

Accepting a job is about a lot more than just getting the highest salary you can negotiate. You want to make sure it’s the best fit for everyone involved, that it matches where you want to head with your career, and that you can bring your whole, truest self to work every day. Eight-plus hours a day is a long time to fake it or hate where you work. Here’s how to determine if an offer aligns with your professional goals and personal needs.

Evaluating the Overall Job Offer

When evaluating a job offer, it’s essential to take a holistic view of what you’re being offered and compare it to your current situation. This includes not just the salary, but the entire package and the environment you’ll be working in. 

  • Look at Overall Company Culture: This will have a huge impact on your job satisfaction and overall happiness. If your job sucks, it’ll bleed over into your everyday life. Cultural fit is just as impotant as compensation.
  • Ask about Future Growth Opportunities: Does the company offer opportunities to grow, learn, and expand your skill set? Do they promote internally?
  • Prioritize Work-Life Balance: There’s more to life than work, and your company should know that. People do their best work when they can be humans: take rest days, visit their grandmothers, and go to school conferences, etc.

Making a Final Decision

After comparing and thinking through all the different aspects of the job offer, it’s time to make a final decision. Think about how this role fits into your long-term career plans. It’s important that the job aligns with where you see yourself in the next few months and even years in the future. Create a list of pros and cons to help clarify the overall value of the offer and how it fits in with your needs and lifestyle. Talk to your friends, family, and trusted professional advisors about it. Sometimes, an impartial point of view can provide valuable insights and help you see things you might have missed. Ultimately, though, your gut feeling about the job and the company can be a big indicator

Deciding to accept a job offer is a BIG step so don’t jump into it lightly. It’s ok to take some time, make a spreadsheet if you’re like me, discuss it with your family, and meditate on it. It’s a decision that can potentially affect the trajectory of your career and life. It’s worth the time to choose what works best for you. It’s YOUR life, you’re the one who’s got to live it.

8 Job Negotiation Red Flags: When to Avoid a Company

When your gut tells you something is off, it probably is. But just in case you aren’t sure, there are surefire signs that something is amiss. You can check a company’s reputation and employee satisfaction by researching reviews online and even talking to current or former employees if you can. Also, just take notice of how you feel during the negotiation process. Yes, you might be nervous and feeling scared, but your gut will tell you when it’s actually the interviewer who’s being hostile or unprofessional. To CYA, make sure that the final offer is clearly outlined in writing with all agreed-upon terms included.

Here are some warning signs and red flags:

  1. They refuse to talk about salary or any compensation upfront: If a company hesitates to discuss salary at the start, it could suggest that it is not open or competitive with its pay packages. There’s nothing as disappointing as getting three interviews in only to discover that the pay is $30,000 less than what you make now. 
  2. They have unreasonable noncompetes or NDAs: Be cautious of non-compete agreements that appear overly restrictive or harsh. These clauses may hinder your job options and hint at the company’s unethical stance on employment contracts. Plus, in April 2024, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) voted to ban most non-compete agreements between employers and workers in the United States, effective 120 days after the rule’s publication. 
  3. They get a ton of negative reviews online over long periods of time: Reviews from current and former staff members might indicate underlying issues within the organization, such as poor leadership, limited room for growth, or an unhealthy work atmosphere. I generally take Glassdoor with a grain of salt (a big burst of bad reviews could have been a layoff or a one-time event), but consistently bad reviews over time indicate something fishy. 
  4. You detect ANY signs of discrimination: Any signs of discrimination, whether explicit or subtle cues during interviews are warning signals. For example, if every man on a panel interview overtalks the one woman on the call, that’d give me an icky feeling. Actions like that point towards an unsafe and uncomfortable workplace environment. 
  5. They’re weirdly vague about job duties or use made-up titles: Not being clear about what a job entails or frequently changing the job description during negotiations can indicate disorganization and a lack of direction within the company. An “SEO Wizard” isn’t a real title, and it won’t help you move up in your next job, so be wary of places like that. 
  6. LinkedIn snooping tells you there’s high turnover: A high turnover rate in a company may signal issues like poor management, lack of employee support, or an unsatisfactory work environment. Ask why the position you’re interviewing for is open and snoop for former employees on LinkedIn, too, and ask why they left. 
  7. The hiring team doesn’t have their ish together: When the hiring team displays poor communication, disorganization, or unprofessional behavior during negotiations, it reflects negatively on the company’s culture and its treatment of employees. 
  8. They don’t have an idea of how the position will grow: If a company doesn’t prioritize career development or offer paths for advancement, it could suggest a work environment with limited opportunities for professional growth

Finalizing the Agreement

Finalizing a job offer is an important step that requires attention to detail and clear communication. First, make sure all the terms you’ve negotiated, like salary, benefits, and job responsibilities, are included in the written offer. This document serves as your legal protection and ensures both you and the employer are on the same page. Take your time reviewing the offer letter to make sure everything you discussed is there. Don’t hesitate to ask for clarification if something’s missing or unclear. It’s also a good idea to get a second opinion from a trusted advisor or colleague further along in their career. By doing this, you can sign the agreement with confidence, knowing that your interests are well-protected.

Getting the final offer in writing is a must. This written document serves as a legal protection for both you and the employer, ensuring that everything you’ve discussed and agreed upon is clearly outlined. It eliminates misunderstandings and provides a reference point for your employment terms. Without a written offer, you’re relying on verbal agreements, which can be easily misinterpreted or forgotten.

Once you receive the offer letter, take the time to review it thoroughly and ensure all negotiated terms are included. Here’s how to make sure everything is in order:

  1. Confirm everything is as you agreed: Make sure the salary listed matches what you negotiated. Look at the benefits package in detail, including health insurance, retirement plans, bonuses, and other perks. If you discussed additional benefits, ensure they are included.
  2. Make sure the job duties match: Check that the job title and description are exactly what you discussed. Make sure all the responsibilities and duties are clearly defined to avoid any surprises once you start.
  3. Review additional terms and conditions: Look for NDAs, confidentiality agreements, or other legal terms that might affect your future career moves. These clauses can have significant implications, so it’s important to understand them fully.
  4. Ask Questions if you have them! If there’s anything in the offer letter that’s unclear or doesn’t match your expectations, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification. It’s better to address these issues now rather than face complications later.
  5. Consult an adult: Just kidding, I know we’re adults here, but I never feel like one. Consider getting a second opinion from a trusted advisor, mentor, or even a legal professional if it was a complicated negotiation. They can help you understand the terms better and ensure you’re making the right decision.
  6. Look at the offer as a whole: Beyond just the salary and benefits, think about how the job fits into your long-term career goals and personal life. Is the company culture a good fit? Are there opportunities for growth and advancement? Make sure the offer aligns with what you want for your future.

Negotiating your SEO salary can seem scary, but it doesn’t have to be. Always remember to think of it as a conversation rather than a confrontation. The best negotiations are simply two people working together to find common ground and BOTH of you want to reach a fair deal. It’s not just about securing the highest possible paycheck but about setting yourself up for future career growth, establishing fair pay, and contributing to a culture of openness and equity.

Evaluate your skills and experience, research the market, and know what you bring to the table. Practice your negotiation pitch so you feel confident in how you can present these aspects to the interviewer. This confidence will help you negotiate better and ensure you’re asking for what you truly deserve. Remember: If you’re respectful and you’ve done your research, you have nothing to fear!

If negotiations hit a standstill, don’t panic. Evaluate your priorities, seek compromises, and consider the total compensation package. Stay positive and empathetic, involve the other party in finding solutions, and be prepared to walk away if the offer doesn’t meet your essential needs.

Always get the final offer in writing and review it thoroughly to ensure all negotiated terms are included. This will protect your interests and ensure you and your employer are on the same page.

By taking these steps, you can navigate the negotiation process with confidence and poise, ultimately getting an offer that aligns with your professional goals and personal needs. Remember, this is YOUR life and you’re the one who’s got to live it, so it’s worth making certain it’s the right fit for you.


  • Carolyn Lyden

    Carolyn Lyden is a seasoned SEO expert and digital marketing strategist with over a decade of experience in the industry. She is renowned for her deep understanding of searcher behavior, content strategy, and data-driven marketing approaches. Carolyn has worked with a diverse range of organizations, from startups to Fortune 500 companies, helping them enhance their online visibility and achieve their business goals. She is also a sought-after speaker at industry conferences and writes on SEO and digital marketing trends.

    Beyond her professional expertise, Carolyn is passionate about advocating for salary negotiation and pay equity in the workplace. She has spoken at multiple industry events, podcasts, and webinars, sharing her insights and strategies to help others navigate these critical issues. Her commitment to fostering fair and equitable work environments has made her a passionate voice in the digital marketing community.

    View all posts