What Makes a Good SEO Hire?

We are hiring! In fact, a lot of agencies, advertisers, and technology providers are hiring right now, within the region. With every turning year, the region expands, develops and becomes more of a force to be reckoned with. Internet World Stats reports that Asia currently accounts for around 42 percent of worldwide Internet users.

However, with this development, comes growing pains. And one of the most visible growing pains we see, hands down, is hiring. It is relatively easy to win new business, but always more difficult to hire against that business. And within the varied and always evolving world of digital, SEO consistently seems to be one of the most difficult positions to fill. Particularly within Japan, due to the heavy language requirements needed.

These past two months we have been actively seeking for new SEO talent and this has forced me (in a good way) to sit down and really define what we would classify as an “ideal candidate” for someone to bring into the group. This is a work in progress, but I thought I would share these initial key ingredients of an SEO hire in this article with the hope of getting some feedback and insights from the readers on what you think.

SEO is such a specialised skill and therefore requires a unique blend of skills. Below, I have grouped these skills into four main buckets: technical, insights, media, and business.

Technical

It is critical for someone to have a solid foundation of HTML. They don’t need to be a rock star coder, but they do need to know what goes into building a web page, a deep understanding of all the SEO relevant tags that affect rankings, and will need to be aware of how the search engines work, and more importantly, how to make them work for you. In addition, a familiarity with the principles of web design, site structures, taxonomy, and usability basics will be preferred.

Insights

There is absolutely a strong correlation between SEO and both behavioral analysis and psychological theory. Someone with a loose background and/or interest in these areas along with general consumer insights and who has the ability to leverage disparate data sources to pull out meaningful and actionable insights will be a strong candidate. This would involve working with various technologies like Google Analytics, AdGooroo, etc. to turn data into stories.

Media

SEO does not work in a silo. And to a large extent the success of your SEO program is becoming more and more impacted by what other activities you have in market – Paid Search, Social Media, TV, and Display. Having someone with knowledge of these channels, particularly Paid Search and Social Media will be important. With Paid Search we can work to build a more holistic search strategy and with Social Media we can look to obtain links while also ranking for social content we create.

Business

Our SEO’ers do not sit in a dark basement glued to their monitors 24/7. They are very much a part of our business, whether managing vendors or dealing with clients, and because of this, a level of business acumen and professionalism is expected. They need to be trained in new business pitch situations, negotiations, and client presentations. Because SEO can sometimes be this “black box” for clients, we need to be able to sell our services in a very simple and understandable way. Therefore, salesmanship will be critical.

Beyond these four main buckets, awareness in understanding what makes good content, e-commerce basics, mobile principles, and culture in terms of local market nuances, among other areas will be a bonus for any new hire.

Being in Asia, the additional challenge we have is to find people who met these requirements, but who are also bilingual. This bilingual piece tends to filter down our pool of candidates and forces us to compromise on the quality and experience of our candidate.

I would love to hear your thoughts on what makes a good SEO hire and if there are any factors I’ve left out from my list.

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