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.
“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!”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
Esther is the Content Marketing Manager at Conductor. When she's not deciding what to eat for lunch, she helps to manage and edit content for Conductor, the leading enterprise Organic Marketing platform.