To go in-house, or to not go in-house, that is the question that many businesses are asking themselves these days.  According to a recent study we’re seeing a 50% increase in enterprises moving SEO in-house in 2020 which is not a trend that can or should be ignored.

That stat proves that the in-housing movement is growing and will likely continue into the future as companies realize the benefits of housing an SEO team within their own walls.

But how do you choose the right SEO?

In my 12+ years at Conductor, I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of building 3 teams and people frequently ask me what makes a good SEO hire — so I decided to nail down some rules, with the help of some friends who have done their fair share of SEO hiring.

You can download a printable version of this guide here:

hire seo professional

Where should you start? First up, you need to make sure you ask the right questions of your candidate.

What questions should you ask in an interview?

When I asked talented industry leaders which SEO interview questions they ask, their responses centered around three main lines of questioning. First and foremost, you need to find out how your SEO candidate thinks and solves problems when they occur. The mind behind the techniques.

hire seo professional

    • • Can you give me an example of an instance in which you identified an SEO issue, how you identified it, what you did to address it, and what the results were? Kara Alcamo, VP, Digital Activation, R2integrated
    • • What was the last thing you searched for on Google? Why did you click on the result you did? Did you find what you were looking for? How could have the results been even better? Grant Simmons, VP of Search Marketing,
    • • What do you read in the marketing space and what do you like about their points of view? What do you disagree with? John Doherty, Founder
  • • Explain to me how you optimize a website. What tactics do you use and why? Sarah Dryden, SEO and Social Media Director, Path Interactive 

You’ll also want to be sure that your candidate is up-to-date with his or her technical knowledge. Are they staying on top of the advancements and news in the field? Are they consistently growing and learning?

hire seo professional

    • • What is your favorite grey-hat SEO technique that still works?Morgan Chemij, Director of Marketing & CRM North America, HP
    • • Out of the three skillsets that make-up SEO (technical, on-page optimization, off-page linking), which of these do you consider your strongest and weakest skill? Stephan Mack, Sr. Manager Search Marketing, Getty Images
  • • How do you forecast organic search revenue for both on-going and new projects? Adam Dince, Director of Digital Marketing, Arrowhead Holdings

But, technical skill and knowledge will only get someone so far. It’s important you choose someone who can work well with the rest of your marketing teams – product, demand and content.

hire seo professional
And you’ll need your hire to be able to communicate projects and wins across the rest of your organization. Can your candidate communicate both with your team and with external and internal stakeholders?

seo professional

Your SEO hire needs to be detailed-oriented and inquisitive, and have strong analytical skills to match. So, I asked our experts, “What are the top 3 skills you look for in a professional SEO and why?”

hire seo professional

    • • Attention to detail – I need someone to start by disregarding any assumptions and inspect everything to understand where they are starting and what they are being asked to accomplish. Jason Monaghan, SEO Manager, Fortive Sensing Technology Platform
    • • Cross-department skills. Someone who’s had experience in paid search, PR, organic social, copywriting, or other areas that SEO touches on not only makes an SEO more effective in their job, it speaks to a broader view of marketing and seeing the big picture. Herndon Hasty, SEO Manager, The Container Store
    • • Willingness to add deliverable checks / balances (client work output review & approval) in ongoing contracts. Ability to deliver progress and report results. Alan Bleiweiss, Contractor, Alan Bleiweiss Consulting
  • • Ability to manage both projects and their own time. Someone who is able to create a realistic approach to manage the project to ensure all the goals are hit within the timeline. Saurav Rimal, Digital Marketing Manager, Gazelle/ecoATM

And again, it came down to the technical skills. How deep is your SEO candidate’s knowledge base?

hire seo professional

    • • Knowledge of HTML. So much of SEO’s success starts in the back end or the design phase, where the magic happens. A strong technical knowledge of a clean HTML structure can go a long way in securing the future of the SEO program. Missi Carmen, Senior Marketing Manager, Time4Learning
    • • Search engines work within a system of algorithms. To master and manipulate that system, you really need a great understanding of the components those algorithms analyze. Nobody understands those components better than developers. Dan Cristo, Director of SEO Innovation, GroupM
    • • With tools being as sophisticated as they are now, almost anyone can pull data and make it look pretty.  And that’s fine for the CEO who just wants to look at impressive charts.  But in the end, I look for people who can dive into the data, look at the numbers and give me something that is actionable. Something that will move the needle. Eric Richmond, Principal, Expert SEO Consulting
  • • You also need someone with relationship-building skills. The ability to remember the user behind the data. 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. Wil Reynolds, Founder, SEER Interactive

While you determine if this candidate has the qualities you need, don’t forget to watch for the red flags.

hire seo professional

    • • Guaranteed rankings. There are too many factors involved to know how you will rank for sure. Frank Pipolo, Director of Digital Marketing, SalonCentric
    • • Lack of very recent examples of content wins, ranking wins, innovation, etc – a good SEO should always be on top of things. Morgan Chemij, Director of Marketing & CRM North America, HP
  • • Talking about penalties / what is or isn’t fair with Google. Penalties are about tricks, algorithms, and Search Engines. Not about people or revenue.  – Wil Reynolds, Founder, SEER Interactive

The Takeaway

The dangers of a bad SEO hire are numerous. Hiring the wrong SEO professional not only wastes your company’s time and money, but could lead to unforeseen penalties with search engines or technical errors that could even shut down your site. 

Your online presence says a lot about your brand. In fact, your position in search represents your position in the market. This is how modern consumers rank brands and make decisions, by who shows up for what they’re looking for.

You need an SEO expert on your team who can see the larger purpose of your online efforts, and is able to quarterback the SEO process through the finish line. Not one who falls for spammy short-term results that only cause damage overall, or is unable to collaborate with key stakeholders across your organization.

Use these bits of wisdom from those in the field to hire an exceptional and talented SEO team player that will help you reach your audience in a cost-effective manner.

If you take the time to choose the correct hire from the beginning, the ROI will be worth it. After all, content may be king, but only if properly executed.

Bringing in the right talent is just the first step. Do you have the technology to drive results? See what Conductor can do for your global digital marketing strategy.

Want to hear more from the Conductor team? Sign up to hear from us!

3 Responses to How to Hire an SEO Professional: SEO Interview Questions From 19 Experts

  1. Awesome article! Definitely gonna show this to prospects and clients! Thanks!

    • Avatar Stephan Bajaio says:

      Glad you liked it. Check out our salary guide as well, we update it each year and it can be very helpful when validating spends.

  2. Avatar r1seo says:

    Thank you Stephan! Very interesting to see what is in the minds of potential clients on hiring what they consider to be a good service.

    I would seriously hope that unless a potential service provider cited “None, I never use them” in answer to Morgan Chemij’s question “What is your favorite grey-hat SEO technique that still works?”, that whomever was doing the hiring just ran!

    Great article, great insight for SEO consultants and hiring firms alike.

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

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