Recruit an SEO Manager; How To Hire Your Next SEO Manager

How To Hire Your Next SEO Manager

SEO, organic search, search marketing, owned media – however your agency packages this service, someone to drive your search engine optimisation offering forward is a vital hire for any digital agency. No two SEO Managers are the same, so what attributes, skills, and experience should you be looking for to make sure you’re making the right hire? In this guide, Alex Duthie, Head of SEO at Custard, outlines exactly what you should expect from an SEO Manager.

What do you want from an SEO Manager?

The very first thing to figure out is what you’re looking for. Setting out exactly what you want from your SEO Manager will help you to find the best person for the role. Every candidate will have their own strengths and weaknesses but knowing what you require them to be good at will mean you don’t end up making a hiring error. The different types of SEO Manager you might need depend on the agency set up and what your desired business outcome is. Do you need them to be primarily client facing? Taking sales meetings and winning new business? Focused on running, building, and training a team? Utilising their experience in hands-on work for high-value clients? You also need to consider where you want their knowledge strengths to be, depending on the focus of your agency. Are you more interested in finding a technical SEO marvel or someone who can create a ground-breaking content marketing campaign? Whilst an SEO Manager should be proficient in all areas of SEO, many will have a particular specialism, and this should align with what you’re looking for.

What do SEO Managers do?

SEO managers can be responsible for a broad range of tasks depending on how your agency runs and what your commercial objectives are. Generally, though, an SEO Manager will:

  • Manage team members workload and plan for future capacity changes
  • Set out what is required for each role within the SEO team
  • Recruit new staff members
  • Create client KPIs
  • Analyse clients’ organic performance and implement strategies
  • Project management if there’s no client services team
  • Understand clients’ end goals and ensure all activities align with them

Skills and experience

Whilst the exact level of skills and experience an SEO Manager needs will depend on your agency requirements; the below list outlines the areas of expertise you should be looking for:

  • Strong communication - It is imperative that your SEO Manager can discuss SEO matters across a range of knowledge levels, from introducing new concepts for junior team members to debating JavaScript implementation with your clients’ marketing managers.
  • Expansive knowledge of a range of SEO tools - Your SEO Manager should not only have extensive experience with industry tools (Google Analytics, Moz, SEMRush, Ahrefs, Deepcrawl, etc.) but should be able to discuss the positives and negatives of each and have a preferred suite which they can implement within your agency.
  • Analytical skills - Understanding how to use a suite of SEO tools is for nothing if your applicant can’t utilise this data to see patterns and trends and draw meaningful conclusions from them. They need to show an understanding of how they would manage large datasets and comb through them for insights.
  • Attention to Detail - As well as understanding how activities fit into the bigger SEO picture, your SEO Manager should also be able to focus on the finer points of a document or presentation to ensure they are perfect before being seen by a client.
  • Creative thinking - SEO doesn’t have a rulebook, whilst certain activities should improve organic performance for a site, that isn’t always the case. Being able to think outside the box for solutions will be crucial when clients are looking for answers.

Important qualities of a good applicant

As well as skills and knowledge, there are other less tangible qualities you should be looking for when you’re hiring an SEO Manager. Not all of these will be vital for an applicant to have, but they’re a great sign when you see them:

  • Passion- Passion is one of the key qualities in an applicant for any SEO position. Having an SEO Manager who lives and breathes organic search is vital. As Google can change the game at the drop of a hat, you need to find someone who can keep up with the pace and continually be at the cutting edge of the industry.
  • Proven results - Can your applicant talk through examples of their work and the kinds of results gained? Applicants for an SEO Manager position should be able to explain how they’ve achieved successes in previous roles.
  • Commercial focus - Your SEO Manager should be focused on making measurable improvements to clients’ KPIs. Although SEO best practice is the ideal course of action when working on client accounts, it’s rarely possible. Clients will have budgetary constraints and their developers will have other business priorities outside of SEO, so being able to focus on pushing through actions which will impact their bottom line is hugely important.
  • Management skills - Whilst having prior experience in management roles is ideal, not having it shouldn’t necessarily be a deal-breaker. Look for the qualities and knowledge that will be a good fit for your business and its culture, the rest can follow.
  • Experience - Whilst you will want candidates with some years of experience under their belt for an SEO Manager role, SEO as an industry moves at such a pace that if a candidate has not been keeping up with the latest developments, their knowledge can quickly become outdated and their previous SEO experience irrelevant.

To wrap up

The right SEO Manager for your agency should be a passionate candidate who can showcase recent, measurable results, go into detail on the strategy utilised, and explain how other team members and the client helped implement this. As a key hire within your business you also need to ensure they align with your value proposition and culture, as they will be dealing with numerous people inside and outside of your organisation, you’ll want them to reflect your own values. Keeping these points in mind when interviewing should lead you to get the right candidate, first time.