Lee Odden

Pros and Cons of Hiring SEOs

Lee Odden     Business of SEO

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 Monster.com, 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.

Within TopRank we have a mantra that guides the way we do business:
Client > Company > Self.

This sequence prioritizes decision making to ensure those paying the bills (clients) are first and foremost in all aspects of consulting/operations. Emphasizing client success makes both the company and the individuals that make up the company successful.

Overall, it’s a mix of hiring experienced professionals as well as individuals with a few years of post University work experience that share a never ending passion for learning, tolerance for ambiguity and a keen interest in both creative and technical problem solving that makes ours an effective team.

Segmenting the process driven tasks of a search engine optimization campaign from pure consulting creates an environment that allows for entry level hiring and an upward mobility path for advancement.

Incidentally, the punch line of this post is of course, that TopRank is hiring. There are two positions currently open for Online Marketing Specialist:

TopRank is looking for an equally creative and technical marketer for an Online Marketing Specialist position. No stranger to acronyms like “SEO”, “SERP” and certainly “ROTFLMAO” this search engine and social media marketing enthusiast will navigate curiously named Web 2.0 sites like MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Del.icio.us, Digg and StumbleUpon promoting a variety of client projects.

As a instrumental part of our Online Promotions Team, the Online Marketing Specialist will creatively concept and implement web content and social media promotions as well as a variety of link building tactics for our clients. Measuring results with our social media reporting tools as well as web analytics to the Account Teams is all part of the magic provided on a daily basis by the TopRank Online Marketing team.

Please contact: hr at toprankresults dot com or visit the TopRank Online Marketing web site.

Hiring SEOs Search Engine Optimization Jobs” originally published at Online Marketing Blog

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he’s the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on integrated content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he’s likely on a beach somewhere doing absolutely nothing.