It can be very confusing and difficult to understand when and what type of marketing hire to do.
When reviewing applicants, their job titles often don’t tell you what they actually do on a day-to-day basis, and on the other side of the coin, you may know what you want your new hire to do, but can’t quite find the job title that represents what that is. As a result, many hiring managers struggle to hire marketers who align with and have a deep impact on the business.
SEO, in particular, is a bit of a conundrum when it comes to knowing when it’s the right time to hire someone, what you want them to do, and how to tell if they’re doing a good job or not.
What does an SEO specialist do?
Let’s see what someone who specializes in SEO does to get a basic understanding first:
- Technical reviews and repairs of your website so that it is optimized for both search engines (and not just Google!) and people, in addition to day-to-day site management
- Build a backlink strategy by getting links to your site on other sites – this can also be a very social aspect of the job, often through outreach and communication with other sites
- Reporting and analytics, diving deep into the behavior of what people do on your site, where they come from and how to optimize it
- Review content submitted by other team members or freelancers to ensure it is SEO optimized before publishing
- Track keywords, placements, and traffic sources, and make suggestions to other team members who manage search ads
And of course, what they do not Doing:
- Write content
- Manage or create ads
Moreover, SEO is a rapidly changing specialization, so a specialist needs time to keep up with the changes, to learn continuously and to further sharpen his profession.
When does it make sense to hire an SEO specialist?
Let’s go through a little checklist:
- Does a large portion of your website traffic or sales come from organic search?
- Are you at risk of losing significant revenue if organic search stops working for you?
- Have you invested a lot of time and/or money in content?
- Do you do a lot of PR as part of your growth or marketing strategy?
If you answered yes to two or more of these, it’s probably time to consider hiring an in-house specialist, otherwise an advance freelancer might make sense for you, depending on your size.
One thing to watch out for, if you have a freelancer on loan, and every week or month they send you a report of your keyword rankings, but no mention of what they actually did look for a better one in that time.
A desk may be of no use in this situation because it is too “in the middle”. Either you’re not getting enough out of it because you need more time and attention than an agency would give to a given client, or you’re getting too many bells and whistles that you can’t really take advantage of because you’re not that far advanced yet.
If you’re already using an agency for your overall marketing, and SEO is just one part of it, you’re probably doing the right thing.
A second checklist:
- Is the majority of your sales through partner networks or through outbound?
- Do the keywords that most apply to you have low search volumes?
- Are you creating something that is a totally new product category?
- Do you need quick results or want to achieve ROI in the short term?
If you answered yes each of these, you are better off investing your time and effort in a marketing channel other than SEO.
How do you know if someone you’ve hired is doing a good job?
SEO is a long-term game. You can’t always tell if you made a good hire within the first few weeks or even months. But you still need a way to measure your rent — whether they’re in-house, freelance, or agency.
Aside from the fact that the employee can clearly communicate what they see (conducting an audit), what they are currently doing (current work), and what they intend to do (milestones and longer-term goals), SEO is a very collaborative role .
Do they check in with team members running paid search ads? Do they check in with the team doing PR to find backlink opportunities? Are they building a two-way street with content writers so they can understand the purpose of the content and make recommendations to better achieve those goals?
Your team should be able to share with you how well this hire is working together and if they feel the momentum is building.
SEO is far from a solo venture. Keep an eye out for employees flying under the radar. Do they do that on purpose or because they are busy with their work? Encourage them to share their work early on to build that expectation, even if it’s not to share results, but instead a hypothesis, idea, or suggestion.
Longer term, you may have an unfortunate situation where the employee’s hypothesis was wrong and it took some time to validate. Don’t blame them for this. When they start out, they take some time to fine-tune, and with a long-term game like SEO, it also means there’s a chance your long-term game won’t work right the first time around.
All in all, the plus points of someone who really knows what he’s doing far outweigh someone who does ad hoc SEO. When it comes to a dedicated internal hire, the difference is really night and day.
Whether you’re just starting your SEO strategy with a freelancer, already have an agency working on it, or convinced to do an in-house hire, good luck!
- Kayla Medica is a B2B SaaS marketing leader and author of Mehdeekathe newsletter for solo marketers and small teams.