SEO

3 Answers from Wil Reynolds on SEO Skills & Hiring Talented Marketers

Chatting with Wil is always a treat and this time was no different: our conversation varied from his undying love for his city, Philadelphia, to the rapid growth of our industry.

With SEO salaries on the rise, our conversation naturally turned to what it takes to be a good SEO, and, on top of that, how to find great talent.

Did you know Seer is actually in the process of hiring, as well as, moving out of the Search Church and into a new location? They’re taking over 85% of this new building and even just hired its 100th employee:

Of course, that’s why it made sense to share with you his insights into what it takes to hire a really good marketer. And who else better to know what makes for a great SEO than Wil Reynolds himself?

What SEO skills do you look for in a marketing hire?

Curiosity. Our industry is such a moving target, that even if you were “the man” six or eight years ago – today, you are valueless. You are valueless. Although, people will say, “You’ve been in the industry 15 years,” there’s not one thing –10, 12, 13 years ago, when I was optimizing for Northern Light, White Coast, Hot Bot, and Snap — that I learned from that applies to what I do today.

People overweigh seniority. Old SEOs come with all this baggage of wanting to do what we did back in the day, which was easy and lazy. I would just swap out a keyword and do some cloaking, and I didn’t have to actually understand psychology or how people think. Those SEO skills aren’t relevant anymore.

Old SEOs come with all this baggage of wanting to do what we did back in the day, which was easy and lazy. I didn’t have to actually understand psychology or how people think. Those SEO skills aren’t relevant anymore. twitter-icon

The thing that’s made me relevant today isn’t how long I’ve been in the industry. It was the curiosity of how Google was moving around, and the fact that I got off on trying to understand that.

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On top of that, you’ve got to be data-driven. You got to understand brand. But your best SEOs get their rocks off on beating somebody else out. That’s how you can identify real SEO skills.

Because that’s the other thing about search that I love. It’s a business of seeing a competitor who is not nearly as good as you, outranking you; that just means that they’re smarter than you. And you have to look at it this way versus, “Oh, well, they’re a big brand. So I’m happy with a 3rd ranking.” A part of you just has to get pissed off about that.

And I can’t train somebody to get pissed off. I can train somebody on basic SEO skills like canonical tags and all that shit all day long. I can’t train them on getting pissed off. twitter-icon

What is the most difficult part about finding a marketer with great SEO skills?

Talent. Oh, my God. If you aren’t figuring out a way to get really savvy college students or graduates, into your company early you’re never going to be able to hire enough of the high-level people you need. There’s just not enough people with great SEO skills out there.

I’m watching people swap from this company to that company. I’m watching how little time SEOs are spending in their jobs.

By the time you train them and get them to understand your processes, they have one foot out the door because recruiters are calling like freaking crazy. If you don’t build your pipeline at the early stages, and find an SEO when you need an SEO — you’re screwed. twitter-icon

If you don’t build your pipeline at the early stages, and find an SEO when you need an SEO — you’re screwed.

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People are out there every day, looking. I see clients put a bunch of money to the problem. It doesn’t matter, because some other company will pay that guy or girl another $30,000.

You want to go and hire five, six in-house marketers with SEO skills over the next year? Calculate the opportunity cost of the fact you’re only going to get one or two of them. And by the time you get the fifth one, the first two are already out the door. It’s so hard to get talent in this space.

Where do marketers who develop the best SEO skills come from? Is it PPC? Is it copywriters? Is it previous IT experience?

P fucking R. Because here’s the thing: Google has realized that not everybody is going to be at the same technical level. Technically, you can’t expect an everyday brand to be able to flip a switch and go, “Oh, I’ll just this shape up.”

What I love about PR people is they can build me assets, promote those assets, and get conversions all while I’m still waiting for the tech team to implement the shit I’ve been saying. Because they know how to build stuff. SEOs have got all kinds of little do-dads and tricks and quick things we can pull and get links.

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PR people never have any tricks, really. They’ve always had to get really good at understanding the user and the customer, and figuring out how to pitch them something they would see value in. Whereas, I’ve been able to do shit that, like, nobody sees any value in, but Google likes.

They only know how to build quality outreach. The ability to really build relationships, not just get quick fixes, are the SEO skills you should be looking for.

They know how to build quality outreach. The ability to really build relationships, not just get quick fixes, are the SEO skills you should be looking for. twitter-icon

I will say recently I was super surprised when a person with 8 years experience was giving us a hard time because some of our high value links were “nofollow.”  There was no thought to the traffic that came from the link or the relationship we built. Nada. 

I would recommend that every person hiring, throw out some bait: give interviewees 10 prospects, ask them to place them in order of importance, and then ask why.  You’ll hear people say, “Oh I put them lower because their pagerank was x” or “they have nofollows on their links.” That is very different if someone says, “oh I placed them lower because they don’t have a lot of social engagement” or “they don’t respond to people on social media.”

You can also ask them what their outreach would look like. You’ll see some people love scaled outreach whilesome others take that one-on-one approach. Depending on what you need or want, it’s your call; but I hope these couple tips here help you find the right SEO professional for you.  Can we even call it SEO anymore, I hate the label but got to figure out our way – that is why I wrote this post

Want more details on Wil? See this in-depth interview on his time in the industry: Wil Reynolds on the Past, Pain, and Philadelphia and follow him on Twitter: 

  • As always Wil, you tell it like it is. Keep up the fantastic work and well-representing SEOs or whatever you call us. Stephan, great article my friend.

    • wilreynolds

      Thank you @AdamDince:disqus.

  • Totally on point!! “But your best SEOs get their rocks off on beating somebody else out. That’s how you can identify real SEO skills.”. To this day the love of that shiny object can get me distracted from the bigger picture on occasion 🙂 Great Article!!

  • Thanks always to you for sharing this great informative article. I learn about new things again, I just try to start about this world of digital marketing, and I feel really grateful to you.

  • Charity

    I love the 100th employee video so much! You guys rock.

  • Simeng

    Awesome article! I am doing marketing plan for a production company right now, so I keep looking for great stuff on this site that can help me with my SEO skills

    • Stephan Bajaio

      You keep consuming we’ll keep producing helpful content! Glad you are enjoying the blog.

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