These days just about anyone can call himself an SEO manager. We all have access to online resources to learn the basics. New studies and strategies are published on a regular basis. We can even communicate now with the experts themselves through their social media and blogs. SEO knowledge is readily available and is ready for consumption.
That said, how would one determine which one’s a poser and the real deal? What should you look for when hiring an SEO manager? What questions should you ask?
- Qualities to Look for in SEO Managers
- How long has he been doing SEO?
- How deep is his knowledge of SEO strategies?
- What sites has he worked on in the past?
- Can he handle online marketing?
- What are his long-term plans for your site?
- How well can he work with others?
- What are his self-development plans?
- Being a T-shaped person
- People respect another
- People Crave Mastery
- People get creative
- People can back each other up
- What specific skills should an SEO manager have?
- Content Strategy
- Press and Public Relations
- Analysis and Insight
- Social Media
Qualities to Look for in SEO Managers
Here are some questions as well as qualities to look for when interviewing candidates.
How long has he been doing SEO?
You want someone who has been in the game for a long time. Experience is the best teacher there is. The world of search engine optimization is a crazy one. There’s been a lot of ups and downs over in the last few years alone. Google algorithm updates like Penguin, Panda, and Hummingbird sent SEOs panicking.
SEO is not something you can master in a short amount of time. Look at it as you would the art of making sushi. Sure, just about anybody could cook rice, roll it, add fish, and cut. But you know the true masters have invested years developing their craft. Only the experienced sushi chefs can dish out the best.
It’s the same with SEO management. No newbie should even dare to call himself an SEO manager.
A beginner would fall short when faced with the tough decisions. That’s a guarantee. Why? The needs of every website are different. Knowing the difference between strategies and applying the correct solutions are key to building a successful brand. You need someone who can operate at a high level.
A true expert would be able to look at your site and tell you what action items to take immediately. You want your SEO manager to be experienced.
How deep is his knowledge of SEO strategies?
A manager could say he has years of experience. That’s great. Now you have to check how deep that person’s knowledge goes. What tricks can he pull out of his hat when the time comes. SEO has many facets. SEO tasks would usually fall into one of three categories:
- Technical – refers to changes to your site structure so search engines can find you
- On-page optimization – refers to the keywords and metadata you use to make your pages discoverable by search engines
- Off-page optimization – refers to social media and other link building practices to drive traffic back to your site
The ideal SEO manager is someone who has dealt with problems involving all three categories. No person can be an expert in everything but having some training in all fields would be paramount. After all, you’re hiring someone that’s going to oversee every aspect of your online marketing.
You want your SEO manager to be knowledgeable.
What sites has he worked on in the past?
If your candidate says he has the knowledge. How do you confirm that? It’s simple, really — ask for references. He doesn’t have to name each one but he should at least be able to provide the most recent ones. His previous clients or employers should be singing his praises if he is as good as he says he is.
This is an easy way to separate the pretenders from the contenders. Your SEO manager should be proven.
Can he handle online marketing?
SEO is not limited to site optimization. There comes a point when site optimization takes a step back and online marketing efforts take over. He would need to be able to figure out what customers are looking for. Whatever your business has to offer needs to be stated clearly. Eventually, he’ll be dealing with web analytics, user experience, web design, content production, and social media to name a few.
Your SEO manager should be well-rounded.
What are his long-term plans for your site?
The candidate should be able to convey what his long-term plans are for the company. Doing SEO is one thing but without goals, the whole thing becomes a pointless exercise. While SERP ranking is important, it shouldn’t be the only goal. How does he plan to make your audience convert (making them customers)? What’s his target as far as inbound traffic is concerned?
We all know how Google likes to update its algorithm every so often. Ask how he deals with sudden changes to strategy. See if he is agile enough to adapt to the ever-changing SEO landscape.
Your SEO manager should be strategic.
How well can he work with others?
Your manager will be working with a lot of people. More than his subordinates, he will be communicating other departments on a regular basis. He has to. We’re talking IT, customer service, developers — all of them. The success of your business depends on being able to implement necessary changes to the entire site.
He should have the ability to communicate and coordinate everything he wants to happen. Not just to them but you, the business owner. Not knowing where marketing is headed is a scary thought.
An effective manager also knows how to listen. Collaboration is important in SEO. In fact, most SEOs learn by talking to one another. The strategies you read about online are byproducts of collaborative efforts done by experts. A good manager should be able to acknowledge that the only way to grow is by listening to others.
During the interview, ask about previous collaborations and his takeaways from working with other teams. This is your chance to see if he’s a good fit for your team.
Your SEO manager should be an effective communicator.
What are his self-development plans?
It’s so easy to fall into a habit. Building SEO strategies are exciting but the tasks that go along with them can be repetitive. It can lull SEO experts into a false sense of security. Sadly, this is why some SEOs have become complacent. They lose the desire to learn new things.
You want someone who’s always excited about the next big thing. An expert who would go out of his way to investigate the latest trends so he can be ahead of the curve. Ask how he plans to improve his SEO knowledge.
Determine his hunger for new information. Ask about some of his most recent discoveries and how he can apply them to your site.
Your SEO manager should be passionate about SEO.
Being a T-shaped person
IDEO CEO Tim Brown described in an interview with ChiefExecutive.net his approach to talent management. While the article talks more about management in general, you want an SEO manager that subscribes to this mentality in some fashion.
The idea is that the vertical stroke of the T would allow them to contribute creatively to the team. The horizontal line is the disposition for collaboration across all disciplines. Rand Fishkin of Moz.com was able to relate this to SEO by creating an illustration he calls the T-Shaped Web Marketer.
Having the right knowledge in a broad number of fields helps marketing teams to develop desirable qualities in SEO. Rand noticed four qualities emerge through this model.
People respect another
As every member of the marketing team grows new skills, they grow to appreciate the contribution of each one. When problems arise, they start communicating more and are able to pull through trying situations without conflict. SEO managers should foster an environment that allows their personnel to learn new skills.
People Crave Mastery
Marketers started yearning to learn new things. They want to be able to work autonomously, master their craft, and develop a sense of purpose. The T-shaped model accounts for all three. Your manager should assign tasks that allow a person to grow. He should not be assigning someone entry-level tasks over and over.
People get creative
As people learned new things, people started getting creative with their solutions to pressing concerns. A manager that uses the T-shaped model will encourage his team to invent and evolve remarkably unique answers to problems.
People can back each other up
It’s not good when only one person can perform a specific task. What happens when that person calls in sick or leaves for another company? A manager that lets his employees grow will have redundancies available in the event something like this happens.
What specific skills should an SEO manager have?
Qualities are one thing. But there are specific skills an SEO manager should at least be familiar with. Let’s try to look at a few:
Let’s start with the basics. Your SEO manager should know how to do keyword research — the basis for SEO campaigns. He should be familiar with link building concepts. URL structuring is also a skill he should have. Creating metadata information is just as crucial.
UI/UX stands for user interface/user experience. You want your users to have the best experience when browsing your pages. This can be done by making changes to your site. A good manager would be able to learn what customers are looking for and place them where it makes the most sense.
Site speed is an important factor in Google’s algorithm. Your manager should know how to make your site load faster. He should also be able to make your site responsive to mobile users.
For your reference, here’s a cheat sheet from Moz.com for web developers.
Being able to create a content calendar and publish relevant posts to your business is another skill managers should master. Proper keyword usage in posts would result in better search rankings. He should not have a habit of stuffing keywords in articles as that’s a practice Google frowns upon. Knowing what actions result in penalties is a standard requirement.
SearchEngineLand.com released a few years back a Periodic Table of SEO Factors for content that’s still relevant today. Your SEO manager should be familiar with these concepts.
Press and Public Relations
This is important because it’s how you build inbound links to your site. You want reputable websites linking back to you as these improve your credibility in your field of business. Having the confidence to talk to industry leaders will get you places.
Analysis and Insight
Probably the most important skill of all, your SEO manager should know how to analyze site performance and generate insight. This is especially true if your company does not have a dedicated analytics team. If your SEO manager can do this, he can put your entire company in an advantageous position.
He should understand your key performance indicators (KPIs) and tell you the results of your strategy. Your manager must grasp what works, what doesn’t, and what your recourse should be. Have him establish key metrics for your business.
It also helps if your manager is able to do competitor analysis. That way, you can gauge how well the competition is doing. This will also give your marketing team an idea what terms they’re ranking. Having this list will allow you to go head to head with them.
Your brand needs to be on social media. And these days, that job falls under the SEO manager. Having an online presence is crucial if you want to have a better online reputation. He should stand as the middleman between your content and social media team. Both teams may have different jobs but the goal should be the same.
The SEO manager may not grasp all social media channels but he should be able to comprehend how each one works in general. He won’t be able to build a campaign otherwise.
It may seem like you’re asking a lot out of your SEO manager and that’s because you are. A good SEO manager already knows what the job entails. He knows he has big shoes to fill. For him to be effective though, you must also do your part.
Give your manager room to grow. Provide him all the tools he needs. Hire a marketing team that will complement the skills your manager brings to the table. Do that and your team will absolutely take your business to the top.