While talk prior to us recording this episode was focused around a video that Google put out we instead focused on all the other things you should worry about when hiring an SEO.

Think of this as a starting point to a Guide to Hiring an SEO. There is much more you should worry about than what we cover here but the questions and conversation we have should help you before you hire your next SEO Specialist, SEO Strategist, SEO Manager and even an SEO Director.

What to look for in a possible SEO hire:

Another way to put it is, “what do you need help with?”. Often few people really sit down and think through the type of SEO that they need to hire and instead just say “hire someone to do the SEO”.

  • Someone that is teachable (for an entry level role)
  • What tasks does your team or you personally need help with around SEO?
  • What is your budget?
  • What resources internally and externally do you have to support this person?
  • What is the person going to do? Manage external people? Manage internal people? Do the research work? Sit in 6 hours of meetings and make sure SEO is at the table? Manage the team that does the busy work?
  • What is their background? Did they come from somewhere that things were cookie cutter or did they come up with the tasks and strategy?
  • Of course you should look at if this person(s) are a fit culturally and will work well with the team(s) in place.
  • Are you a small business where Local SEO is super important?
  • Do you need a consultant? An agency? Do you need to hire an intern? Or do you really have enough work and budget and resources for a full time SEO?

What questions to ask internally prior to hiring an SEO:

Does this person need to be:

  • Technical?
  • Writer?
  • Data?
  • Project Manager?
  • People Manager?
  • Account Manager?
  • Some Combo?

Before you go and hire someone or even think to start talking to people figure out what your pain points are. What and where do you need help with your site to improve the site?

Officer Skills vs Enlisted Skills

Does this person need to be certified with X, Y and Z or should you focus on their creativity and ability to manage people, projects and solve problems?

Additional Recent Resources on Hiring an SEO

Full Transcript

Matt Siltala: [00:00:00] Welcome to another exciting episode of the business of digital podcast featuring your host, Matt  and Dave roar. Hey you guys, excited to be here with you on another one of these businesses, digital podcast. Thank you for joining us as always. And of course I have my trusty cohost, Dave. How’s it going, bud?

Dave Rohrer: [00:00:21] Top of the day, cause I don’t know what time you’re listening,

Matt Siltala: [00:00:26] top of the whatever to you,

Dave Rohrer: [00:00:28] top of the whatever.

Matt Siltala: [00:00:29] There we go. And of course, right

Dave Rohrer: [00:00:32] when we don’t know what date is anyway at this point. So

Matt Siltala: [00:00:34] yeah, it’s just day. That’s, I saw that meme and, and it, it like resignated with me, the one that’s all that, just kind of a blotched out the actual, like the sun of the mind or the two, like it’s just a, it’s all day now.


Dave Rohrer: [00:00:49] day. I like that.

Matt Siltala: [00:00:52] Yes, sir. So, um, we wanted to talk about hiring an SEO and so. Um, maybe one of you just get us [00:01:00] kicked off for today, Dave, and we’ll go from there.

Dave Rohrer: [00:01:03] We are not going to rehash what has already been talked about cause we’re recording this a couple of weeks after everyone posted and screamed at Google about it.

But we will mention it. I think it, it has, it should be mentioned since it was recent. Bill Hartzer had a good. Um, blog post about hiring, um, an SEO specialist search engine land. Um, why a technical SEO audit shouldn’t be part of the proposal process. Um, you know, it’s, Google made a video and people were upset about it, so we’re not going to rehash that cause everyone’s already hashed it a couple of weeks ago.

But what we thought we would do is spend some time. I’ve hired a couple people, I’ve interviewed bosses that were managers and directors and junior people, and hired some developers that were trying to be SEOs and so on and so on. And Matt, you’ve done the same. Yes, sir. At an agency and in house level. [00:02:00] So what we wanted to focus in on was if you are building your digital team in house, or maybe, you know, you’re a like me or you know, Matt, when he was starting.

And you’re looking to hire that one SEO person. And I know someone that just hired, um, like their very first intro person, and we should probably talk to Bobby down in Atlanta. He just hired his first, um, first staff like full time. I think it’s even so, I’m sure. You know. What’s that?

Matt Siltala: [00:02:28] That’s awesome. That’s

Dave Rohrer: [00:02:29] a big step.

Matt Siltala: [00:02:30] It is. I remember that. I remember the feeling of it. Sorry if this gets us off a little bit, but, um, I remember the feeling of going when you do something like that, when you. Start to expand you, you know, you go from worrying about putting food on your table and taking care of your family, to putting food on your first employees a table and taking care of all his family.

And it’s a big step. And, and uh, it’s crazy. Like how much that weighs on your mind, you know what I mean?

Dave Rohrer: [00:02:58] Well, I think that’s an important [00:03:00] thing to think about though. And I think that’s another topic we can talk about is just the. When is it right to hire in house, build that team and hire a specialist for SEO and not just a generalist and for an agency.

Um, you know, I’ve seen different people with different calculations of how much revenue and how much business you have to be generating per head count. Which is a completely, I think, different kind of thing to dig into, but I think we should actually talk about that. Making a note, um, we should talk about that at a later date, but I think just either building a team or hiring an SEO person, what are some of the things that you think about when you’re hiring for that position?

Matt? I’ll start with one or two.

Matt Siltala: [00:03:45] Well, I’ll, I’ll kind of go back to when I did, you know, when I decided, okay. This was too much for me. I guess. Uh, the, the things, you know, I started off, uh, you know, obviously just, you know, solo shop. [00:04:00] But, uh, my problem was back then I would never say no and I would always take on a project and, you know, if I got a really big project, I was like really excited cause you know, it meant more money.

But then I’d start working on and I realized, okay, well I went from working about 30 hours a week to work in about 50 hours a week and I don’t want to work this many hours. And so. What am I going to do here? And then another project would come up and to the, you know, pretty simple. You got to the point where, you know, I was working about two full time jobs and it was way more than I wanted to work, and I was starting to go crazy.

And so when went in and I got to the point where I was like, all right, I like this. But even if I take off half of these billable hours and give to someone else to help me or. Hire my quote unquote first employee. Uh, we did it a little bit different because one, when I got to that point, I had a couple of partners that were at some transition points as well.

And that’s basically how avalanche started. And so, um, you know, we, we got to the [00:05:00] point where I had, I was billing, you know, about 40,000 a month, uh, just me. And, um, I just landed a new, uh. Client that was around 12 K a month and it was going to take many hours. And so, uh, I just got to the point where I said, all right, you know, now we’re growing.

This is where we’re at. This is the point where we’re at. And, uh, you know, it was time. If, if it didn’t work out the way that it did with my partners and, and what we did, then I would have hired my first person. Um, I don’t think that that answers your question specifically about like what are the things that I look for, but at that point, um, the things that I look for.

Were some of that can help me with this load. It didn’t, it wasn’t someone that had to necessarily at that point, know everything that I knew about search engine optimization. Some of them had a good grasp on it. Some of that I could teach to do certain tasks that, Hey, these are things I need you to be able to do X, Y, and Z.

I can teach you how to do them, but I need you to [00:06:00] be able to do them and execute them and execute them well. And so basically it was just kind of like an extension of me. But me telling them what to do, and eventually you grow and you get past that point where you can’t even be in control of all your projects and you just have to hope that you’ve trained people right.

That continue to do things the way that you want them done, if that makes sense.

Dave Rohrer: [00:06:20] It does. I think,

Matt Siltala: [00:06:22] did I answer your question?

Dave Rohrer: [00:06:24] I think so.

Matt Siltala: [00:06:26] I kind of went off a little bit.

Dave Rohrer: [00:06:27] We’re recording some some podcasts today, and Matt’s can very long winded today. So these, these involvement

in the dog wants to join in.

Matt Siltala: [00:06:39] He’s, he smells the, the smoky,

Dave Rohrer: [00:06:42] the smarter going today. Luckily I can’t smell it. I think for me it goes back to the question of. What can you, what, where are you overburdened? So if you’re an agency and you’re too busy doing sales and you’re really good at face to face, then you don’t need [00:07:00] your, your SEO person to be a able to, you know, manage the account, manage the day to day, manage the email.

Um, do the sales. You need someone that just does the busy work. You need someone to go in and do

Matt Siltala: [00:07:16] so much better than me. Well, it just depends.

Dave Rohrer: [00:07:21] Um, it was my topics, so I had more time to think about it.

Matt Siltala: [00:07:24] Um, what I wanted to say. Well,

Dave Rohrer: [00:07:27] yeah, well, you just, you, you got to that point and your, you took a different Avenue and you just partnered with people that had those specialties.

Yeah. And so that you could do, and, and that was just a different way to do it. But I think if you’re an agency growing, um, or even in house, it’s like. It becomes a question of, okay, you have someone that’s really good at data, or you have a coder or we have a good writer. Okay, well that person, you know, as you grow your team, you, you go from generalist to specialist, and we’re kind of talked about that in the past.

[00:08:00] Um, but you start moving down more of a specialist role and it’s like, okay, well now I know someone that either, you know, lives and breathes SEO, or I live in degree’s SEO, so I just need them to take off the busy work for me. And I think that really should be the first question. And before you even get to the person, cause so many times I’ve interviewed for places and one of them was a really, really big company in the Chicago land area and I won’t throw them under the bus even though I probably have in the past, um, complete cluster of the interview process.

Um, they, the job title was a really weird one, but it was literally just down the street from my house. So I was interested. Um, cause I was going to have to move and it would have been like the shortest commute ever. Right. Um, cause I, the time I actually drove past their office to get to my other job. So I was like, Oh, that’s like, it would actually cut my commute by like, Oh God.

But it cut my commute by like 25 minutes or so, if not more. It would’ve been [00:09:00] like a 10 minute commute. Um, but I got in there and I talked to a bunch of people and I talked to the hiring manager and. Uh, by the time I asked more questions about what are you trying to hire? Like they had no fricking idea.

Like they were like, Oh, we just need someone to do SEO. I’m like, well, is this someone that’s going to sit in meetings in a really big company and have to argue with people and fight for, you know, scraps or fight for projects to get done? Is this a person that’s going to be sitting in a back room just doing a lot of writing and a lot of research and.

You know, writing all of the stuff and working with the devs. Are they a writer or did you need a developer? Like what do you need? They hadn’t been no idea.

Matt Siltala: [00:09:41] No idea.

Dave Rohrer: [00:09:43] Um, and I think that’s what it is. Like where, where are your pain points for your website, your campaigns, your marketing, um, before you go and talk to people.

If you don’t know that, I don’t know how you can hire the right person. Yeah. So, you know, the whole questions of can you do an [00:10:00] audit. I don’t even know if that matters. If you don’t even know what you need, you know, do you need a writer? Do you need someone that can manage writers? Is you, are you all about the content marketing or do you have 15 or 50 sites?

And you really just need someone that’s like a project manager that can manage agencies and understands enough SEO to do that.

Matt Siltala: [00:10:22] Yeah. Well, and that’s, and that’s kind of like my thoughts when we. When we got beyond that part of where, you know, that’s when we formed the agency and we were starting to get our first hire, so to speak, to run an ad, quote unquote SEO division.

You know, that’s the thing that we, you know, that, that we had mapped out and we were like, look, we have the systems in place to be able to create the content. We know the kind of content. We know the link building. We know, you know, all the on page. We have the audits taken care of. But what you’re, what we need you for is we need you to communicate all [00:11:00] this with the, um, client.

Like you need to be the, the face. You need to be the person that they can go to. You need to be the first person that they can feel good at, because at the point, we’re doing all the work, but we’re so busy doing all the work that we’re not having as much time to communicate with the client. Of course, we all know that, that makes clients scared.

And so if I have a person that’s able to communicate that continuing to communicate what’s being done, and you’re able to help us with this, you know, the, that’s, that’s an area as well too. But it goes back to your point, Dave, that that absolutely, you need to have that part of it figured out. Like, Hey, we need you to be this, um, you know, account manager, so to speak, but we also need you to work on developing any clients that come through here.

We need you to develop their content strategy. Any clients that come through here, you need to be the audit person or whatever it may be. But yeah, having that, the find and you knowing what, what you need and where [00:12:00] you need help, I think is key. And I think that’s the only way that you’re going to be able to hire.

Right. So those are just some thoughts that I had on it. But

Dave Rohrer: [00:12:10] yeah, and I think that it, I interviewed with one company in the Chicago land area long ago, and. They were coming off of, they wanted a technical person because they’d had a content person and they said, you know, they were very content focused for a long time, but the, the ship kind of drifted away and that person didn’t really know anything about technical.

And then by like five minutes from looking at the website, there was just glaring technical issues because they had very laser focused on content, content marketing, and just, you know. Off the page kind of link building stuff, which you will do.

Matt Siltala: [00:12:51] Well, no, you bring up a great point right there. Like it, things need to evolve.

Like for example, we, you know, we started this agency stuff way back in the day [00:13:00] when, you know, link-building was like a huge focus. Obviously, you know, links are still important, but I mean, you would do directory submissions. You would make, I mean, you had someone that you wanted to be a de MAs expert because, or Yahoo direct, you know what I mean?

And so. Like, but the thing is, if, if that’s what our focus still was today would be dead in the water. So, you know, where as this person’s focus may have been on, you know, directory submissions or article submissions or whatever it might be. Link-building that needed to evolve and that needed to change.

And I think that’s kind of what you were talking about as well. And I think that that’s, um, that, that’s what that made me think of when you were talking about that. Like, this needs to be a progression for them.

Dave Rohrer: [00:13:42] An SEO. I think also a lot of the time I see, I’ve interviewed people where they came from a very structured agency, um, and I want to say cookie cutter, but everything was cookie cutter. Like they worked in the automotive space. They worked in lawyer space. They worked in [00:14:00] a very regimented, strict, um, cookie cutter.

Like. Every time a business that’s a restaurant comes in, here’s what we do, we put you in these five directories and we do this and we this and that. Like literally there’s just a checklist and that’s what they would do. When you interview people, I would always try to understand what part of the SEO, what part of the strategy, what part of the past wins where directly from them and from their innovations.

Right. And they’re, you know, thinking versus them just executing something that was given to them.

Matt Siltala: [00:14:41] So is that a question for you? When you’re hiring an SEO, do you ask them what’s the Florida update, or is that gone?

Dave Rohrer: [00:14:49] Um, I don’t know if it matters. I mean, you know, just because it wiped away lots of my affiliate revenue and made me very, very sad.

Yes. I made a lot

[00:15:00] Matt Siltala: [00:14:59] of

Dave Rohrer: [00:15:00] people’s. Oh, that was a junky site. I knew it was thin and you know, whatever. But um, yeah, that cost me a lot of money. That one did that. I did not like that update. I’m sorry. I brought up

Matt Siltala: [00:15:12] the painful Florida. I know

Dave Rohrer: [00:15:14] it’s too early for to have a beer and pour out some beer for my, my last, that’s silly revenue.

I used to get tons of checks from our.com. Um,

Matt Siltala: [00:15:22] cj.com from me,

Dave Rohrer: [00:15:24] um, to, um, all of them. The, the, uh. Yeah. I just, if, if you don’t know what you’re hiring and you know, and then you find a person. And, uh, aside from the cultural fit, I think it has to be a, if, if you have developers and you’ve always had problems speaking to developers, or if you have writers and they just don’t care to listen, you know, or maybe you don’t have writers and you always have to work with outsourced writers.

Can this person that you’re talking to and does your job description. Give that off, [00:16:00] or is it say, you must know how to use Moz. You must be Google certified. Uh, you know, must understand WordPress. None of that tells me anything about really what one, the job is, and two, it doesn’t help you prequalify the people that your mind can be talking to.

Matt Siltala: [00:16:18] Well, it’s because of, it’s something that the both of us know is some of the best SEOs that are around. There are people that we don’t even know about it. They’ve never spoken at a conference. I mean, for example. There’s a guy in my neighborhood that I’ve partnered with on some stuff. He’s one of the most brilliant technical SEO people that you’ll never have even heard of.

He just runs his own businesses, does his own thing, and so, you know, there’s lots of of that kind of stuff out there as well.

Dave Rohrer: [00:16:45] Yeah. I don’t usually care if you’ve worked for a large company, I’m sorry to slam on big companies, but a lot of the times you say you don’t do SEO, you spend your days fighting for SEO.

Right? Like [00:17:00] you outsource the busy work to an agency or junior people and then you spend all day creating charts and graphs so that your a hundred K a month budget or that your, you know, head count doesn’t get reduced or so that, you know, the people in PR actually do what they need to do so that they don’t tank a campaign.

Um, yeah, you spend all day just putting out fires and

Matt Siltala: [00:17:20] stuff. Here’s another angle that we can answer really quick. I know that we’re pushing up time, but um. You know, something that I thought of, because it happens a lot, like all have worked with some local clients and have them ranking really well, and you get to a point where you just don’t have to do a whole lot anymore.

But then, you know, they come to you and they’re like, uh, you know, Hey, you know, you’ve done everything that you should do and that we wanted you to do. Is there anything else that can be done? Should I hire someone to maintain this? Um, what could they do? And so. You know, that’s where you have to also know how to answer that as well, because there’s always something to do.

Um, but you do [00:18:00] get to a point in certain things where you just don’t have to do as much anymore, but then you could focus on the other things. Like, let’s say that we’re really good with ranking in the maps, but we haven’t really done a really good strategy with content or with videos. And so there’s other avenues, or like, let’s say we haven’t really done a lot or focused on social.

So there’s other things that absolutely can be done. So when I answer those questions, like, look, there’s always, there’s always stuff to do with marketing. Um, but again, we were going to have to answer, is this video gonna get us leads? Is it gonna make a sells? Like what’s the purpose of it? Is this content?

What’s the purpose of it? Like, what’s the purpose of this person that we’re going to hire? Because if our goal was to just get the phone ring and from what we’ve done with, you know, getting you on the maps and that optimized, and that’s happening, then. You know, no, I don’t see a need for it. But if it’s beyond that, and if there’s other stuff that you’re wanting to do, then that’s something that you have to think about as well.

Dave Rohrer: [00:18:57] And along those lines, episode eight, which was [00:19:00] forever ago, we talked about should your business hire, um, an intern. Then 11, we talked about w w um, things to know about your marketing budget before you hire an agency and consultant, which I think goes to that, what you were just talking about, where. You know, all of the stuff we’ve been talking, like if you don’t know what you need, how do you know who to hire?

How do you know what questions to ask them?

Matt Siltala: [00:19:23] And that’s what it comes back to.

Dave Rohrer: [00:19:24] Yeah. And, and, and if you have no resources to create content, or you have no dev resources to make changes, hiring an SEO, you really need someone that can either write or do dev. And so whenever you’re hiring an SEO, there’s a lot of questions I think that you can ask no matter what they do, whether it’s a PPC person or social media or social paid social or developer, you know, whatever it is.

I think you first have to start with what are your strengths and weaknesses currently. What does your team have? We’re, what kind of resources do you have? [00:20:00] Um, in the past when I’ve interviewed and they were like, Oh, you’re going to come in and you’re going to manage paid and you’re going to manage SEO and this and that.

And I was like, okay, well what dev resources do we have? What writers do we have? How much budget do I have for content marketing and writers? Do I have any budget? You know, what does the pipeline look like for those developers that you say, I have? Do I get one developer? Do I get what a. Part time developers, can I outsource what CMS is, are beyond, because I was trying to understand, okay, if I say yes to taking this job, what am what like am I

Matt Siltala: [00:20:35] saying yes to?


Dave Rohrer: [00:20:37] Yeah. What am I, what am I saying yes to, but am I set up for success or am I going to walk in and suddenly they go, well, you were going to have, you know. Two head count and three more in the year. But now really we only have one and you have no budget for anything. So go build links, go build content, and also you need to fix the site.

Matt Siltala: [00:20:57] And also we’re going to yell at you why you didn’t do certain [00:21:00] things when you have our interviews, because you know, you’re busy doing these other things.

Dave Rohrer: [00:21:04] And that’s what I wanted to, you know? So as an SEO, I’m asking those questions and if you can’t answer them, why are you trying to hire me?

Matt Siltala: [00:21:12] Yeah. I


Dave Rohrer: [00:21:14] this was supposed to be about hiring an SEO, but, um, I think if you don’t do your internal, look at your own needs, look at your own team and look to see where someone can help.

You’re just going to be wasting 40, 50, a hundred, $150,000, whatever that salary is on this person, and then think that it’s a failure. But actually it was you who set them up to fail,

Matt Siltala: [00:21:39] and we’re just here for you. We’re looking out for you. So

Dave Rohrer: [00:21:41] trying. Yeah. So I think

Matt Siltala: [00:21:43] those are great tips.

Dave Rohrer: [00:21:46] Yeah. I think my final thought is look internally at your resources, what you need, who you need, right?

That just job description that fits that need, and then ask questions that help you understand if someone [00:22:00] was left alone with some budget, with resources, what would they do? How would they approach it? Do they understand how to approach it? You know, it doesn’t even matter if it’s paid or CRO or social.

Um, for SEO. You know, it’s like if I left him alone, do they know how to get our site from here to there and you know, increased traffic, increase leads, and police sales. If not, then they might not be the person for you.

Matt Siltala: [00:22:25] Perfect. All right guys. Well, hopefully this gives you a little bit of insight. Also, we have some links that, uh, we’ve talked about and some other links that are related to this topic that we’ll share as always on the website.

In the writeup. If there’s any other questions that you have for Dave or I, because we have been doing this for a long time, feel free to reach out as always. Also, anyone that has listened to this podcast, um, or if you’re new or old and you haven’t gone and given us a review on iTunes, please go do so. Um, we’ll make it easy.

You just have to, you know, give us a rating, you know, [00:23:00] give us a five star rating. You don’t even have to write anything if you don’t want. So. We appreciate it guys. And uh, thank you for your time for Dave Roth Northside metrics. I met Soto with avalanche media and I will talk to you guys on another one of these.

Dave Rohrer: [00:23:12] thanks all.

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