How to hire an SEO Specialist



The gist of what you have to know

SEO can be incredibly lucrative since it’s “free” (meaning you’re not paying to be in a higher SERP position or paying a premium for top ad positions), any revenue generated is both high margin, and often long-lasting.

Long story short, it’s a high-value channel. In fact, customers convert 14x higher when coming from SEO than any other marketing channel. For comparison, traditional strategies like print ads and direct mail have a 1.7% average conversion rate.

57% of B2B marketers stated that SEO generates more leads than any other marketing initiative.

As a CEO, it’s important to make sure your organization is investing in SEO.

What is SEO?

SEO can be broken down into four basic components you should be aware of:

Access: This is all the stuff you need to do to make sure the search engines can get to all the parts of your website you want them looking at.

Indexing: Once search engines get to your content, you want them to be able to read it properly.

Authority: You want to make sure the content you’re creating is authoritative. That means using the same phrases your target customers use, and giving them the best experience possible.

Popularity: Search engines use backlinks as a ranking factor – meaning they’ll look at how many quality websites are linking back to you. So the more popular your website, the higher chance it has to rank well.

How do you measure the success of SEO?

SEO can impact two major avenues: your business and your brand. The main KPIs you want to focus on are:

SEO metrics to track the impact on your business:

  • Revenue from SEO
  • Traffic from SEO

SEO metrics to track the impact on your brand:

  • Click-through rate
  • Impressions
  • Keyword rankings

How do you hire for SEO?

The answer to this question generally depends on where you are in your business life cycle. If you’ve just gotten your seed round of funding, or series A, it’s probably most helpful to hire an outside agency. You’ll get a team of experts, dedicated support, and won’t be sacrificing anything on the cap table. If you’re further along, then odds are you’re ready to bring SEO in-house and should look for someone who has experience in the niche you currently occupy. Here’s the reason why: SEO differs greatly depending on what industry and business model you’re using.

Because SEO is not one-size-fits-all, doing SEO for an international marketplace with tens of millions of pages in Google’s index is going to differ greatly from what’d you’d do for a local franchise or even a content heavy business like Credit Karma. The strategies are different, the tactics are different, and the results are different.

Google even has different standards depending on your industry. If you’re in Fintech, Finance, Sextech, Health and Fitness, or Insurance verticals, your content, recommendations, and strategies need to be much more buttoned-up because you’re affecting people’s money, life, and health.

How to hire an SEO agency

The first thing you’ll need to know is the difference between an SEO agency and an SEO consultant. Knowing the difference between a consultant and an agency and hiring the right one for your business is often the make-it-or-break-it part of the whole hiring process.

Consultants are generally a one-man (or woman)-band that will provide audits, recommendations, and strategies. But will rarely execute those strategies. Normally it’s a handoff to your internal marketing team or developers to handle. If you have an existing marketing team and developer bandwidth, and you’re further along in the lifecycle of your business, this is usually a good option.

Agencies are generally a team of people (including specialists, project managers, developers, and account executives) that are dedicated to supporting you. They also provide audits, recommendations, and strategies. But will also normally execute those strategies. Or at least as much as possible before handing off to developers. But they’re much more hands-on with the little things that often make-or-break your SEO success.

General SEO hiring process

  1. Conduct a two-way interview: if the person doesn’t show interest by asking exploratory questions, then don’t do business with them. They’re not paying attention to detail, which is a big SEO need.
  2. Check references: This includes happy customers or past employers. A general rule of thumb: would you want to be stuck next to this person for 8hrs a day? If not, thank you, next.
  3. Request an Audit (or proposal): You may have to pay for an audit, but a proposal usually gives you high-level suggestions that they would execute or include in an SEO campaign. Ask a lot of questions – see how well they can elaborate and explain things to you.
  4. Decide if you want to hire: Make sure your whole organization is on board. Without internal cooperation, SEO campaigns won’t ever get off the ground.

Thinking of getting one of your employees to take over SEO?

If you’re thinking you’d rather have all this in house without needing to hire an external resource (be it as a full time hire or an agency), make sure you set up your employee for success. Hire an outside consultant to work with the employee to help train them and bounce ideas off of. Otherwise it’ll take your business a good 18 months to see any impact as this employee tries to stuff the necessary 3-5 years of sweat equity under his or her belt in a short time.

Bottom line

SEO can be a huge driver of success and long term growth. Make sure you’re setting yourself up for success. Even if it’s hiring a consultant to help train your employees or help you make the right in house SEO specialist hiring decision.