How to Hire an SEO Expert in 5 Easy Steps

In the ever-evolving digital landscape, the importance of having the right SEO strategy is paramount. As you strive to expand your business’ visibility and reach online, Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is a critical part of your strategy that can’t be ignored. 

But if you’re not a digital marketing expert, navigating the complex world of SEO isn’t easy and hiring the right SEO professional can be the difference between earning big bucks, and sending your money down the drain.

So how do you make sure you’re hiring the right person for the job? First identify your SEO goals and set your budget for the role. Write the job application and post it in the right places. Then take a critical look at the applications that come in and prepare for the interviews. 

In this blog post, we will take a more in-depth look at the process and show you how to hire an SEO expert. 

1. Identify Your SEO Goals

As you begin your search to hire the right SEO expert, it’s important to first identify your SEO goals. Begin by assessing your overall business objectives and how a strong online presence helps you get there. 

Audit Your Current SEO Standing

First, take an honest look at your current SEO performance. Even if you’re not an SEO expert, you can conduct a basic audit of your current SEO standing. 

Use free online tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console to examine your website’s traffic trends. Identify the number of visitors, popular landing pages, and bounce rates. Take note of any noticeable patterns. 

Explore your website’s navigation. Go to the website as if you were a user. What’s the experience like? Are there any broken links or slow-loading pages? Simple observations about your site’s functionality and user engagement can offer valuable clues about areas that may need improvement. 

At this point you’ll have a better understanding of your website’s current standing and this will serve as a foundation for discussing specific challenges and opportunities with potential SEO candidates. 

Define Your Objectives

Now that you have a better understanding of what your site might need, it’s time to identify your SEO objectives. Ask yourself these questions. 

  • Are you looking to increase website traffic?
  • Do you want to improve search engine rankings?
  • How important are conversions? 
  • Would you like to be seen as an authority in your industry?

Understanding these overarching goals will help shape the specific SEO strategies that need to be implemented.

2. Consider Your Budget 

Now that you know what you need, it’s important to identify how much you can spend on getting there. As you begin your search for the right candidate, you’ll find that SEO services can vary widely in cost. Determining a realistic budget will help you find the right person that aligns with your financial parameters. 

On average, businesses may budget anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars a month for comprehensive SEO services. Basic SEO audits and consultation services might fall on the lower end of this spectrum, while more extensive projects, such as ongoing optimization, content creation, and link-building strategies, would be on the higher end. 

While it’s tempting to opt for the lowest-cost option, it’s crucial to remember that quality often comes with a price. Be prepared to invest in expertise and strategies that will yield long-term results. 

3. Write Your Job Application

Once you’ve set your SEO goals and assessed your budget, the next step is creating a job application that attracts qualified SEO experts. Start by outlining the specific responsibilities and expectations for the role. 

Make sure you clearly address the goals you’re trying to achieve and emphasize key performance indicators (KPIs) that matter most to you and your business. If you’re looking for someone who can lead the SEO strategy for an extremely large 500,000 page enterprise website, you’re going to need someone who is a dedicated SEO professional and has a lot of technical SEO expertise. 

This person would be responsible for:

  • Crawling and auditing the entire website
  • Making site architecture and navigation recommendations
  • Recommending overarching SEO strategies

If you’re looking for someone who needs to manage SEO for a small B2B site with a few dozen service pages and a blog, you would be better off getting someone who is more of a well rounded digital marketer or a content marketer with some SEO experience.  

This person would be responsible for:

  • Non-technical SEO tasks
  • Keyword research
  • Writing blog content
  • Writing title tags
  • Updating page copy, etc

And remember, as much as you’ll be interviewing potential candidates, they’ll be interviewing you too. Be sure to provide a snapshot of your company culture and values, as this can play a significant role in attracting candidates who align with your organizational ethos.

4. Find Your Expert

Now it’s time to find your expert. I’ve been interviewing and hiring in the SEO space for fourteen years and I will tell you firsthand, SEOs are a tough role to hire for.

SEO requires left brain analytical thinking for the technical side, and right brain creative, bigger picture thinking for the marketing side. The ideal candidate is someone that is highly technical and creative at the same time. 

With this in mind, it’s also important to identify what kind of SEO role you’re hiring for. In my experience there are three different options. 

  1. In-House
  2. Freelance
  3. Agency

Hiring an In-House SEO Professional

An in-house SEO professional is someone who will be on your staff and paid as an employee. To find a candidate for this role, post your job on sites like Indeed and LinkedIn, but consider reaching out to the SEO community directly. 

Screenshot of Moz's online SEO forum

Job boards and threads on websites like Moz and Search Engine Journal are great. Posting your job opening on these platforms ensures visibility among candidates who are actively seeking roles. 

Hiring a Freelance SEO Professional

Depending on your SEO goals and needs, a freelancer might work well for you. Freelance platforms such as Upwork, Freelancer, and Fiverr can be valuable resources for finding experienced SEO professionals. 

screenshot of Fiverr homepage

These platforms often showcase candidates’ portfolios, reviews, and ratings, giving you insights into their past performance and client satisfaction. Freelancers can provide a flexible and cost-effective solution, particularly for short-term projects or specific tasks within a larger SEO strategy.

Hiring an SEO Agency

Hiring an SEO agency might be more aligned with your overall goals. These folks live and breathe all things SEO every day and are up to date with the changes in the industry. 

Hiring the right SEO agency is important. Discuss your specific needs with the agency, and they can make recommendations based on your objectives and budget. This collaborative approach ensures that you’re tapping into the expertise of professionals who are accustomed to delivering results in a team environment.

5. Interview and Hire Your SEO

Now that you’ve identified your SEO goals, defined your budget, written your application and posted it in the right place it’s time to interview and hire your expert. 

When hiring for an SEO position, there are three things I look for:

  • Vague “SEO experience”
  • Overqualified candidates
  • Demonstrated professional growth

[See here for more tips and interview questions to ask when hiring an SEO expert to your team]

Watch out for: Vague SEO experience

Some people list “SEO experience” on their resume, but what does that really mean? Just because an applicant has done keyword research and placed some keywords on a page, that doesn’t make them an SEO expert. Some people will also take the leap and say they’ve been doing SEO for five years, only to find out that they worked on various SEO projects throughout the last five years that had some SEO elements to it. 

Specifically, I’ve seen a lot of content marketers and freelance writers list SEO as a skill because they had a job where they had to write “with SEO in mind”. This type of tertiary SEO knowledge is very different from the SEO who runs Screaming Frog crawls, obsesses over page speed, and writes schema code.

Watch out for: Overqualified candidates

Don’t make the mistake of hiring a seasoned SEO veteran for a mid-level SEO role. You might think to yourself, “the candidate knows more than enough to handle the role that I’m hiring for”.  Once they start, they’ll quickly get bored and realize that the role isn’t challenging enough for their career.

Keep an eye out for: Professional growth

If I’m looking at a resume showing a history of SEO experience, I always try to look for a clear pattern of SEO growth.  If they started out somewhere with light SEO responsibilities, and it grew into a full SEO specific role – that shows a strong interest in SEO specifically.

Or, maybe they started learning SEO at their last role, and they want to take their SEO skills to the next level. That person will likely be a good SEO hire. 

Prep for the interview

Now that you’ve sorted through applications it’s time to craft your interview questions. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Be sure to check out our blog post that outlines the Best Interview Questions (and answers!) for Hiring General and Technical SEO Experts 

Ready to Hire an SEO Expert?

Hiring the right SEO expert is a pivotal step in enhancing your online presence and driving digital success. As you begin your search, keep in mind that the investment in a skilled SEO is an investment in the sustained growth and visibility of your business.

Choose wisely, communicate transparently, and set the stage for a partnership that takes your business to new heights. 

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