11 Industry Superstars on Hiring an SEO Expert

Hiring anyone new for your team is always challenging. But when it comes to hiring an SEO, the traditional hiring rulebook goes straight out the window. For such a uniquely dynamic field, you’re looking for someone prepared to roll with the punches. Keep a strict eye on your competitors. Stay ahead of Google’s frequent algorithm changes. Oh yes, the struggle is very real.

That’s why we’ve rounded up the pros and thought-leaders of the marketing industry and asked them to offer their best piece of hiring advice. Whether you’re a CMO looking for an SEO expert or an SEO looking to be hired, these hiring tips from industry experts provide valuable insight into the most sought-after career in marketing.

Click through the slideshow for highlights. Scroll down for a more in-depth look at what you need to know before you hire an SEO.

Hiring an SEO Expert? 11 Tips from 11 Leaders

wil reynolds

Wil Reynolds

Founder of SEER Interactive

“Hire the things you can’t train.  Ethics, hard work, pride in work, curiosity, optimism, I mean placing too much value in what they know about SEO is not smart, SEO is a moving target.  The skills I needed to rank a website well in 2003 are entirely different than than skills I needed in 2013.  But the fact that I had pride in my work, I worked hard and was curious about how things worked.  That allowed me to move from learning how to use cloaking scripts to doing RCS!  It was that curiosity.  SEO is a business where tenacity often trumps tenure, remember that!”

missi carmen

Missi Carmen

VP, SEO at M&T Bank

“SEO impacts so many teams (content, analytics, social, IT). Internal education about the benefits prior to hiring an SEO is a great idea to get multiple teams involved in the decision and process.

Arm your SEO with a budget for tools and education. This will prove fruitful for the business if SEO has the resources and a community to share ideas, case studies and best practices.”

annie_cushingAnnie Cushing

VP Marketing at

“Look to see if the SEO you’re looking to hire has written for a reputable publication. Most of the SEOs in the industry who haven’t been able to hold up to scrutiny are very reluctant to write for any peer-reviewed publications. There are certainly SEOs who are very good who don’t have a public forum, but then their reputations usually make up for their reticence.”

17db1e0Jeff Gold

Director of SEO at LivingSocial

“When hiring an in-house SEO, what matters most to me is that they have noticeable energy for web marketing, a deep curiosity and ability to learn new things quickly, and can empathize with the searcher or consumer.

You can judge energy and curiosity by gauging what authors or blogs they read, and if they’ve ever created and optimized their own websites.

When hiring an agency/consultant, I’m making a decision on their expertise. One can gauge expertise by analyzing what an agency writes or speaks about, and how they think critically about SEO.”

aj-kohn-seo-adviceAJ Kohn

Owner of Blind Five Year Old

“For larger companies it’s about performing due diligence. Look at where they’ve been and how those sites perform. Look at their blog and socials streams to see what they’re writing about and sharing. Look for a healthy mix of content, not just sheep mentality shares.

You want an SEO who understands the technical side but is also a marketer. Because SEO is a user-centric activity.”

brian_mcdowellBrian McDowell

Director of Search Intelligence & Co-Founder, Conductor

“When hiring an SEO, I look for 2 distinct traits – social and scientific.  First and most importantly I am looking for verbal communication skills.  Successful SEOs need to influence multiple levels and silos within an organization in an authoritative, educated and empathetic way.

Secondly and most obvious is a prospects first hand experience. The amount of experience in years is not as important as the amount of theories one has tested.  Failure is always an option and every quality person I have met in the industry has at least one story about data collected from a test that failed.  Hiring managers need to make sure that implementation of new strategies is methodically executed with both risk and sustainability in mind. Experience on multiple sites (CMS) and business types is a huge plus.”

lisa weinbergerLisa Weinberger

SEO Director at

“When businesses are looking to hire an SEO, accomplishments listed on their resume can be checked through a few simple searches. If the candidate references personal or professional sites on their resume, make sure to review those sites to observe the candidate’s SEO tactics. It’s important to do an audit of those sites to confirm that what they have listed on their resume is actually true. I also suggest taking a look at their social media accounts to see how they converse with others. That can give you a good feel of how they’ll do in positions that require outreach components.”

mark traphagenMark Traphagen

Senior Director of Online Marketing, Stone Temple Consulting

“Spend a good amount of time having them walk you through (in great detail) the steps they took to resolve a really bad SEO problem. In addition to judging their technical competence, pay careful attention to their ability to make what they are doing understandable for you.”

0c0a67bDori Cerulo

Manager, Content Strategy & SEO, MetLife

“At a big company, my advice is to hire an SEO who understands business. They’re few and far between, but an expert SEO who also has a solid marketing or finance background will be able to communicate the value of SEO in language stakeholders understand. They’re also great at deciding where to focus efforts to align with company goals, which is a major help in creating successful in-house SEO programs.”

adam-dince-profilepicAdam Dince

Director of Earned Media, Deluxe Corporation

“Hiring the right person for a SEO role can be a challenging task. Over the years, I’ve found that asking a candidate to present an assignment during the second interview is a highly effective technique. This allows you to assess how well a person: thinks, presents, communicates, and solves problems.

I typically have HR email the assignment upon scheduling a second interview and give the candidate enough time to complete. The seniority of the role should dictate the level of complexity of the assignment. Of course, if the candidate is recommended by a highly trusted source, I’ll may skip the assignment portion of the interview.”

andrew shotlandAndrew Shotland

Founder of

“It’s pretty straightforward. Ask for references from clients. Happy clients are the best gauge of the SEO’s work.

I also think it’s smart to ask for examples of engagements that didn’t work out. We all have projects that went wrong. Gives client the chance to see how transparent the SEO is and leads to a discussion of risk re the client’s project.”

Are you looking to build your own SEO task force? Read what makes up an effective digital team here: Building a Web Presence Team from the Ground Up.

  • Integraphix

    SEO is definitely a great combo of technical things with creativity. We look for both in any SEO person we hire at our Phoenix SEO company .

  • Beth Jackson

    We have more sales and higher search rankings with the help of Realize Online – an Australian provider with local clients who have businesses of all sizes. What I like most is there holistic approach to online success and they have a full team of professionals who helped us with a range of services. They know the importance of having a great website or store that ranks high in major search engines, they know how to make it happen, and keep it happening. They are worth checking

  • What a nice post. I always use to read your post and all the time I went
    through your post then I always got knowledge about the topic. Well coming on
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  • actualseomedia

    We do this scientifically – almost surgically – so that we get the most bang for each of your bucks. The World Wide Web can be long and rocky. There are short cuts and detours you should never take. But when you employ professionals like Seo Houston, you can safely leave driving along the information super highway to us.

  • There are too many good SEO companies offering their SEO service. SEO is one of the cost effecting online marketing strategy which can help business for better online exposure. Its important to understand everyone how much SEO is effective.

    G Web Pro

  • Claire Carradice

    The perfect article for what’s been on my mind lately. Many people have no clue about how to hire competent SEO people. These suggestions are brilliant and I am sure they will be of tremendous benefit to many companies/people.

  • organizein

    Thumbs up for such great suggestions. I would love to read more of your articles. Please tell me when will you post a new blog? Waiting anxiously.

  • Md. Iqbal Hossain Hridoy

    SEO Specialist
    Wow, that is amazing article and also helpful article. This article can help to know how to hire SEO expert. Thank you author for your valuable post.

  • Its good to search in search engine then hire SEO Persons


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