SEO

What You Should Know About Hiring an SEO for Your Team

This article about hiring an SEO is an excerpt from Brian McDowell’s white paper Building a Web Presence Team from the Ground Up. Get the full resource for free on the Conductor Learning Center.

Expanding and protecting your web presence is not just the smart thing to do, it’s an absolute necessity. What sets you apart from your competition is having an agile, cross-functional SEO team that can respond to your constantly changing customer with the content they want to consume.

That’s why it’s imperative to hire the right people for your SEO team. Here are some hiring and interview pointers:

Don’t Underestimate Training Time

SEO, social media, and content marketing are all juvenile marketplaces. Since 2006, there’s been over a 1900% increase in the amount of companies looking for people with SEO experience. That means that most likely companies are hiring beginners or professionals with little exposure for their web presence team.

With that in mind, make sure whomever you have executing the training on your team has the bandwidth to accommodate a large ongoing project. Bringing somebody up to speed who might come fresh out of college or with very little experience is a large investment. The opportunity cost of not checking their work or guiding them through impact could cost your companies millions of dollars (we have seen this happen).

Make sure whomever you have executing the training on your team has the bandwidth to accommodate a large ongoing project. Bringing somebody up to speed with very little experience is a large investment.

Budget both their salary and the initial reduction of your training time when building out your proposal for additional resources. That person will literally take 25% to 40% of that person’s time to train them, especially for the first month to two months. So you have to understand that your production will actually initially decrease when you bring somebody on board. Of course, that will eventually pay off many times over, but you have to be prepared for the initial hurdles.

Now, this purely my opinion: Unless you have the time to dedicate to train and look over work on a regular basis, hiring somebody fresh out of college for an SEO position is dangerous. Other roles on the web presence team, like content optimization, would be better fit for junior staff. In my experience fresh young professionals do not get much buy-in within the organization when compared to professionals with years of experience.

Bring Someone Over From Paid Search

One tactic that I’ve found works very well is to bring somebody with paid search experience over to your web presence team. Bringing them onboard as a natural search specialist pays great dividends.

If you think about it, there are a lot of similarities between organic and paid search. With paid search, you’re doing keyword research to identify competitors and bidding opportunities, much like what you do in natural search. Optimizing landing pages in paid search will increase your quality score and yield a lower cost to click. Many of the same optimizations points in these exercises have a positive impact on natural search as well. Paid search professionals will ramp up much faster than other candidates.

Must-Know Tips When Interviewing an SEO

Interviewing for positions on the SEO side of a web presence team is difficult. You have to make sure that the candidates who claim to know SEO really do. Even if they have prior SEO experience, it may not map to your particular site.

With that in mind, I’d strongly advise people not to ask candidates to analyze their own site during the interview process. You may think, “Well, if somebody’s coming in, I want them to look at my site and tell me what they see.” Sure, let’s get that free consulting.

You have to make sure that the candidates who claim to know SEO really do. Even if they have prior SEO experience, it may not map to your particular site.

If somebody comes into an interview for an SEO position, I will assume that they’ve already looked at my site. They have likely already looked at my portfolio and done their research. Maybe the candidate has been preparing for some time or perhaps they worked with a buddy in the industry to put something together for the interview.

When someone comes through the door, I get them to talk about one of their favorite hobbies. If they have a hobby around Ford Mustangs, for instance, I would open a publisher and an ecommerce site in real time. I would say, “Here are a couple sites around Ford Mustangs. Go ahead and review those from an SEO perspective and tell me what you see.”

how-to-interview-seo

What you’re doing is you’re throwing them a curve ball. They claim they know SEO but they’re ready to talk about your site. Now you’re having them look at an ecommerce platform which will likely have duplicate content and highly technical ranking issues. You’re also looking at a publisher site from a technical point of view where there’s a wide variety of content that’s released on a very frequent basis (shorter shelf lives and good evergreen content). How do you manage SEO for each of those individual types of sites?

From there I want them to use their computer. If this is a remote interview, I’m going to let them know in advance that I might ask to see their screen. Either way, give them control so you can see what tools and processes they use, how they go to source code, what they look at, and how comfortable are they moving through their sites. Do they use any third-party tools? What third-party tools? Do they use any plug-ins?

What plug-ins are they using? This is where you really get to know how somebody works. Any time you’re interviewing for an SEO position, it has to be more than Q&A. It has to be interactive. You need to see them work. That would be my biggest advice to somebody who’s looking for an SEO specialist on a web presence team.

This article is an excerpt from Brian McDowell’s white paper Building a Web Presence Team from the Ground Up. Get the full resource for free on the Conductor learning center.