The Good And The Bad Of Hiring SEOs

Monday, March 10, 2008 by Mistlee

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The Good And The Bad Of Hiring SEOs

By Lee Odden

As a growing mid-sized online marketing agency, TopRank has had opportunities to interview well over a 100 people for various search engine optimization and internet marketing positions. We've been fortunate to hire and develop an amazing team of professionals. We've also experienced the flip side.

There are increasing numbers of resources from which to attract or find candidates whether it's traditional online job boards like, SEO job listings at SEMPO or sites dedicated to SEO recruiting. Making sure actual SEO skills and experience are in alignment with company/client needs is as important as setting accurate expectations for job responsibilities and work environment.

Hiring more experienced internet marketers in the hopes of bringing a knowledgeable outside perspective to a constantly evolving set of processes can seem promising. However, finding experienced SEO professionals who are willing to work for an agency can be challenging. This is especially true if working remotely might not be an option. Also, the fact that there are many opportunities to generate substantial income from building, promoting and monetizing one's own web sites provides less incentive for some to work for a company.

A few options for finding or attracting experienced SEO talent include those working for agencies where SEO is not the primary marketing offering, sole operators that are tired of wearing all the hats of a small consulting business and search marketers that work in-house for companies.

Many client side search marketers who have been in the same role for 5+ years at another company or companies tend to have become comfortable in certain ways that may not make absorption into a fast moving, ever changing environment productive - either for the employee or the company. This is especially true in larger companies where people can get lost within bureaucracy and the minutiae of process without being holistically accountable for all aspects of the company's search marketing program.

Solo SEO consultants tend to want to keep their clients while performing SEO work for the agency, which is understandable, but technically working for the competition. Financial and HR managers have a tough time accepting the idea of paying someone while they build their own consulting business with the potential to take clients. You can't have an effective non-compete in place (at least I haven't seen one) where SEO consultants work both for themselves and for an agency. For many SEO agencies, intellectual property is the biggest asset and needs to be protected.

Hiring people that have worked a year or three for another agency that offers token SEO services but isn't a specialist often times brings people who over value their own expertise. Having been a big fish in a small pond, there's a tendency to become unrealistic in self assessment of skills.

In these cases, everything looks good on paper, but when the rubber hits the road, jaw dropping comments like, "You don't actually think I'm going to write web page copy, do you? I'm an SEO, not a copywriter. I do keyword research!" make hiring managers white knuckle it all the way to the server room.

Some agencies won't hire more tenured SEOs due to the perception of "baggage" and some will only hire recent college grads preferring to train them up. What's important for agencies is to put forth the proper effort to define responsibilities, both anticipated and unanticipated as well performing the due diligence of testing actual skills, checking references and ensuring there is a personality fit with the rest of the organization.

What's important for SEO candidates is to be honest in their ambitions, self assessment of skills and willingness to focus as much or more on meeting client needs as they are on meeting their own.

Continue reading this article...

About the Author:
Lee Odden is President and Founder of TopRank Online Marketing, specializing in organic SEO, blog marketing and online public relations. He's been cited as a search marketing expert by publications including U.S. News & World Report and The Economist and has implemented successful search marketing programs with top BtoB companies of all sizes. Odden shares his marketing expertise at Online Marketing Blog offering daily news, interviews and best practices.

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