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Old 06-13-2007   #1
luckyluc
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Hiring a Full-Time SEO

I've never really heard about a full-time SEO that doesn't work at/for an SEO firm, so I'd love some help in writing the job req to get one.

A little situational background (it's okay to skip this). I run all of the search at the company with which I currently work. Since it was a straight out of college gig, I've only known (that's right, known) about SEM in general for a shade under two years. Since then, I've improved upon and maintained our [now] vast PPC campaigns and have only been able to focus on SEO for about half a year now. It's something I'm really interested in and constantly learning, but I just don't know enough to be given the full-time SEO title, let alone maintain other online marketing efforts.

My first step is writing the job description, but since SEO is really an art and very subject it's hard to nail down set requirements. Here are some paraphrases for what I have so far for the SEO job req:

-Must be able to show at least two successfully optimized sites - show me a site that was optimized for specific keywords and that the site comes up #1 or at least very high in the rankings for said keywords (obviously, I'm not going to count όber-niche keyword optimized sites like "thundercats scripts" for thundercats-scripts.com). I figured at least two because I've even gotten lucky with one and repeat performance would tell me this person is in tune with SEO.

-Must be knowledgeable of SE algos and relevancy signals - they must be able to display that they know the differences between algorithms and how the different signals are weighted with each. However, I don't really know how to check this. I guess I just have to trust them.

-Must possess keen knowledge coding and the ability to optimize coding for SEO purposes - I'm not sure what kinds of coding though. I suppose at the very minimum html and php.

So that leaves me with a lot of questions still:
-What kinds of front-end and back-end coding should an expert SEO know?
-How many years in the industry would make someone an expert SEO? (I know it's not the amount of time, but what you know - please humor me!)
-What outright skillsets should an expert SEO possess?
-What SEO tools should they be familiar with or use?
-What are annual salary ranges for expert SEOs? (I know it will be high - don't hold back)
-What else am I missing?
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Old 06-13-2007   #2
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-What kinds of front-end and back-end coding should an expert SEO know?
html, xml, xhtml, css, javascript, they should understand 301 & 302 redirects, MOD REWRITES

-How many years in the industry would make someone an expert SEO? (I know it's not the amount of time, but what you know - please humor me!)
5+

-What outright skillsets should an expert SEO possess?
various (creative, marketing, technical)

-What SEO tools should they be familiar with or use?
brand names are not really important (spider simulator, http header checkers, keyword tools)

-What are annual salary ranges for expert SEOs? (I know it will be high - don't hold back)
80+

-What else am I missing?
must play well with others
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Old 06-14-2007   #3
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I think the best answer is, "it depends."

A lot depends on the needs of the particular business, and whether it's a one-man show or there's a team or a few individuals who work on the site. For an in-house position, there would be tremendous differences in different geographic areas, which is a factor to consider. Then again, there are SEOs who make well into six figures running their own sites who wouldn't think of going in-house.

It isn't only a matter of time, there are people out there who have been at it for many, many years but their abilities are still limited. Then, there are some who excel after only a year or so if they have a natural bent for it.
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Old 06-14-2007   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marcia
I think the best answer is, "it depends."

A lot depends on the needs of the particular business, and whether it's a one-man show or there's a team or a few individuals who work on the site.

It isn't only a matter of time, there are people out there who have been at it for many, many years but their abilities are still limited. Then, there are some who excel after only a year or so if they have a natural bent for it.
Well put Marcia!
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Old 06-14-2007   #5
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You may want to consider what role this SEO is going to play. Is the SEO taking charge of the entire SEO? Or a gopher for someone else? If the SEO is in charge of everything, then you need to fine one with experience in programming, coding, copywriting, marketing, etc. - AND knows how to analyze AND knows how to market for your particular industry.

If you are looking for an SEO to be a gopher and take direction from a manager, then you can look for lower skill sets. But then the manager will need to be knowledgeable about SEO.

Assuming you are the manager, then your SEO should be skilled at coding, programming, and executing what you tell him/her. You, on the other hand, should know how to analyze the site and create action steps for the SEO to follow and do.
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Old 06-14-2007   #6
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IMO, your SEO needs to be more creative than a coder. If you have a web techninician (low/end), who can create clean html stemming from programer code or templates, you can have 1/one SEO creative manager who knowd the right HTML touch points instruct a very junior HTML coder.

Then you just need a stong SEO with basic HTMl skills, but strong keyword, research, testing,creative and copy skills.

Very Very Very Very rarely will you find an SEO with super coding skills and the rigth creative mind! Very rarely!
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Old 06-14-2007   #7
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Caugus, if the SEO is going to be an executer, then the SEO just needs the skill sets, not the mind. The price of the SEO would then be lower than an SEO with the skill sets AND the mind.

My point is, if the structure of the new hire is SEO = SEO Grandmaster of the Company, then the SEO they need must have all the skills already outlined.

If the structure of the new hire is SEO Manager > SEO Specialist, then the SEO specialist can simply be skilled with the coding & programming - while the SEO Manager tells the specialist what to do.

Option 1 = MORE MONEY to hire the person

Option 2 = Less money to hire the person
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Old 06-14-2007   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cryptblade
Caugus, if the SEO is going to be an executer, then the SEO just needs the skill sets, not the mind. The price of the SEO would then be lower than an SEO with the skill sets AND the mind.

My point is, if the structure of the new hire is SEO = SEO Grandmaster of the Company, then the SEO they need must have all the skills already outlined.

If the structure of the new hire is SEO Manager > SEO Specialist, then the SEO specialist can simply be skilled with the coding & programming - while the SEO Manager tells the specialist what to do.

Option 1 = MORE MONEY to hire the person

Option 2 = Less money to hire the person
I agree with your points. I am my companies SEO/SEM manager. Its funny, I admit, that I don't have the technical skill sets, because I don't create code or know HTML. But that is only part of the technical side. On the other hand, do know and fully grasp exactly what parts of the HTML that effects SEO, i.e. tagging, title, meta, h tags, alt stuffing, These are essential in getting high rankings, and I just communicate this to a very junior associate in order to execute.

I find the real SEO science comes in through linking, keywords, keyword research and strategy, and leveraging keyword density through creative and through the tags.

If I had the time I would learn html, but I don't, but it really is a would like to have in the arsenal.

Give me a decent BASE page rank, and I will get you indexed top 1-20 out of millions for sure is my motto!!!!

Last edited by caugas : 06-14-2007 at 03:33 PM. Reason: add edit
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Old 06-14-2007   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by caugas
I agree with your points. I am my companies SEO/SEM manager. Its funny, I admit, that I don't have the technical skill sets, because I don't create code or know HTML. But that is only part of the technical side. On the other hand, do know and fully grasp exactly what parts of the HTML that effects SEO, i.e. tagging, title, meta, h tags, alt stuffing, These are essential in getting high rankings, and I just communicate this to a very junior associate in order to execute.

I find the real SEO science comes in through linking, keywords, keyword research and strategy, and leveraging keyword density through creative and through the tags.
Exactly. You are the MIND. It takes the mind to analyze a site, know what needs to be fixed - then tell some junior associate to do the actual work of fixing.

I am convinced that if companies are serious about hiring internal SEO help, they need to build an entire online marketing team with a Senior SEO and Junior SEO (minimum). The Senior SEO needs to be like you - able to analyze what is wrong, what needs fixin', and how to fix. The Junior SEO has the skill sets to DO it - just not the know-how.

This way, the company's primary SEO HR cost is the Senior SEO not the junior; but it also creates an organized hierarchy and method to farm internal SEO talent.
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Old 06-14-2007   #10
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Talking

Thanks for your input guys! I thought I'd already replied in this thread to beu and Marcia, but it must not have posted. My replies:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marcia
Then again, there are SEOs who make well into six figures running their own sites who wouldn't think of going in-house.
Marcia, when you say "in-house" and "own sites" do you mean instead of working in-house for a company, they'd run their "own sites" as in sites offering SEO services? Even in the short time I've been in the general marketing industry, I've noticed quite a few people looking to get out of marketing agencies and going back to work on the client side of things. Is this not true for SEOs?

Quote:
Originally Posted by cryptblade
If the structure of the new hire is SEO = SEO Grandmaster of the Company, then the SEO they need must have all the skills already outlined.

If the structure of the new hire is SEO Manager > SEO Specialist, then the SEO specialist can simply be skilled with the coding & programming - while the SEO Manager tells the specialist what to do.
Good point cryptblade - allow me to clarify! I'm looking for a SEO Grandmaster more than a talented coder. The coder will only get me so far when an SEO Grandmaster would be able to communicate to other coders what he/she wants to happen allowing him/her to focus on other SEO items.

I forgot to mention that this SEO would need to be knowledgeable about linking, both internal linking structures as well as external linking strategies as this is an area in which I feel we suffer greatly (another thing I'm not sure "just a coder" could do). Also, using sprucing up PR efforts with effective SEO is currently absent and needed.

Most importantly, I think I, as a Junior SEO, can learn a lot by watching a veteran SEO in action. That's what really excites me about this position.

It sounds like a Grandmaster is definitely what I'm looking for. Before that, however, I have a few more questions
-I've heard positive things about Bruce Clay and SEMPO certs. Should an expert SEO have either one of these?
-Where is the best place to post a job looking for an expert SEO?

Last edited by luckyluc : 06-14-2007 at 05:38 PM.
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Old 06-14-2007   #11
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Thumbs up

Quote:
Originally Posted by luckyluc
Thanks for your input guys! I thought I'd already replied in this thread to beu and Marcia, but it must not have posted. My replies:



Marcia, when you say "in-house" and "own sites" do you mean instead of working in-house for a company, they'd run their "own sites" as in sites offering SEO services? Even in the short time I've been in the general marketing industry, I've noticed quite a few people looking to get out of marketing agencies and going back to work on the client side of things. Is this not true for SEOs?



Good point cryptblade - allow me to clarify! I'm looking for a SEO Grandmaster more than a talented coder. The coder will only get me so far when an SEO Grandmaster would be able to communicate to other coders what he/she wants to happen allowing him/her to focus on other SEO items.

I forgot to mention that this SEO would need to be knowledgeable about linking, both internal linking structures as well as external linking strategies as this is an area in which I feel we suffer greatly (another thing I'm not sure "just a coder" could do). Also, using sprucing up PR efforts with effective SEO is currently absent and needed.

Most importantly, I think I, as a Junior SEO, can learn a lot by watching a veteran SEO in action. That's what really excites me about this position.

It sounds like a Grandmaster is definitely what I'm looking for. Before that, however, I have a few more questions
-I've heard positive things about Bruce Clay and SEMPO certs. Should an expert SEO have either one of these?
-Where is the best place to post a job looking for an expert SEO?
Most good SEOs have a site and are making money even if they also have a day job. I'd take results over certification any day of the week! Post the job to the job board here on search engine watch most "Expert SEOs" come here a few times a day!
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Old 06-14-2007   #12
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Thanks beu!

One last thing. Is there a diplomatic way to state that I want a full-time employee AND (most importantly) this employee would have to be comfortable sharing/passing on teachings and techniques.

I know most SEOs have closely-guarded secrets - I've even caught myself fighting the urge to keep some secrets at work.
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Old 06-14-2007   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beu
Most good SEOs have a site and are making money even if they also have a day job. I'd take results over certification any day of the week! Post the job to the job board here on search engine watch most "Expert SEOs" come here a few times a day!
Beu's right about this. Certifications, particularly for natural SEOs, are not much good. You gotta evaluate the certification programs. But even the sites that they have you will need to evaluate as well. No good if they have "seo'd" a site for terms that are NOT competitive (like..#1 for "colorless green ideas sleep furiously").

To evaluate their level of talent, make sure that they first know how to analyze a website.

Test what they look for when evaluating a website. If they know how to evaluate a website for SEO, then they should know what to fix - and tell you how to fix it.

Things to look for: Do they know how to look for duplicate content? Do they look for backlinks? Do they check the code? Do they know how to check for indexed pages? Do they know how to evaluate keywords? Etc.
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Old 06-14-2007   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by luckyluc
Thanks beu!

One last thing. Is there a diplomatic way to state that I want a full-time employee AND (most importantly) this employee would have to be comfortable sharing/passing on teachings and techniques.

I know most SEOs have closely-guarded secrets - I've even caught myself fighting the urge to keep some secrets at work.
Keep your SEO happy and he or she will return the favor!
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Old 06-14-2007   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cryptblade
Beu's right about this. Certifications, particularly for natural SEOs, are not much good. You gotta evaluate the certification programs. But even the sites that they have you will need to evaluate as well. No good if they have "seo'd" a site for terms that are NOT competitive (like..#1 for "colorless green ideas sleep furiously").

To evaluate their level of talent, make sure that they first know how to analyze a website.

Test what they look for when evaluating a website. If they know how to evaluate a website for SEO, then they should know what to fix - and tell you how to fix it.

Things to look for: Do they know how to look for duplicate content? Do they look for backlinks? Do they check the code? Do they know how to check for indexed pages? Do they know how to evaluate keywords? Etc.
That's actually a great point! Thanks for the tip!

It looks like this thread is fulfilled - thank you all for your help. One last thing, and this either speaks to my search skills or SEWs site layout , where is the job board here on SEW?
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Old 06-15-2007   #16
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Old 06-15-2007   #17
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Folks don't necessarily have to know how to code/program, but they need to know what needs to be done. I don't remember the whole story in detail, but the main point can be made, so here's how it goes:

Once a man had a horrible plumbing flood in his house, so he called in a plumber to fix it, which took 10 minutes, and he was presented with a bill for $300.

The customer gasped, "$300 for 10 minutes work??!?"

"No," the plumber replied, "it's not $300 for the 10 minutes it took to plug the leak, it's for KNOWING HOW AND WHERE TO FIND THE LEAK that needed to be plugged."

For example, it's easy enough to make changes to HTML and text on pages for an HTML coder who's paid $25 an hour, but it's not so easy to figure out why a site has been penalized or banned or filtered out of the SERPs and know how to get it fixed.

Last edited by Marcia : 06-15-2007 at 12:15 AM.
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Old 06-15-2007   #18
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Knowledge is power
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Old 06-15-2007   #19
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Quote:
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Knowledge is power
Agreed. And knowledge is what's paid for.

That's why I still can't understand how people can bill by the hour. It can take 20 minutes to fix something or 5 minutes on the phone to tell someone what needs to be fixed, but it can take weeks or months (or for some things years) to arrive at the conclusions about what's causing a particular problem.

Sometimes I think it can be more about knowing what NOT to do and other times knowing what needs to be UNDONE than it is about what to do.
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Old 06-15-2007   #20
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Well, let's not get off topic and change the conversation over to our SEO fees.

The point is that it's knowledge that's paid for, and in-house positions are a different thing entirely. Figure it's a 40 hour week, with a steady, secure paycheck and benefits - including medical and dental for the whole family, etc.

It's a fairly stable, secure situation and what don't exist are the headaches that go along with clients who need a lot of hand-holding, and those who are - let's be honest and call it what it is - time bandits.

A company based in Smallville, MidwesternState, USA doesn't have to deal with the same kind of payscale required to live in a place like Los Angeles, for one thing. In many places a nice new home can be purchased in a good neighborhood for less than $200K with land, several bedrooms and a couple of baths. You'd be lucky to find a small condo in the slums for that in Los Angeles.

That's only one of the variables. Many are on the job skill requirements, and a travel company certainly has a different need level than a local company with a refrigerator repair or dog grooming site.
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