Hiring an SEO expert for your business is an exciting opportunity to improve your performance and grow your company. However, if you don’t have substantial SEO knowledge, it can be an intimidating process. Even if you don’t know anything about SEO, you can use this guide to determine if they have the right skill set to help take your business to the next level.
Before diving into the skills your SEO expert needs to have, let’s define the role of an SEO specialist.
What Does the SEO Specialist Role Entail?
An SEO specialist, or Search Engine Optimization specialist, is an expert who is responsible for researching, analyzing, and implementing the best SEO strategy for your business. SEO will become a vital part of your digital marketing team.
Their overarching goal is to use SEO best practices, innovative techniques, and keyword research to increase your site’s traffic and search ranking, all while complying with Google’s guidelines.
According to research by SEMrush Academy, Google tools, an understanding of programming languages, and keyword research were among the top 10 skills required by employers hiring for an SEO position.
To ensure that your business is set up for success, here are some key skills you should be looking for in any candidate that you are considering for the role:
- Analytics Skills
Analyzing data is a key part of the SEO job role. Not only should your SEO have an analytical mindset, but they should also be familiar with the following applications:
- Google Analytics
- Google Search Console
- Screaming Frog
- Heatmap tools (Crazy Egg, TopSpot, etc.)
- Backlink analysis (RavenTools, SEMrush, Ahrefs, etc.)
To establish an SEO strategy for your business and monitor its effectiveness, the specialist should be able to thoroughly analyze key performance indicators (KPIs) including website traffic, time on page, bounce rate, and conversion rate, among others.
- Research Skills
An important aspect of helping you reach the first page of Google is your SEO’s ability to research industry trends, search behavior, and the competition’s strategy in order to maintain your site’s performance and evolve your approach.
To adequately research, any SEO worth their salt should be experienced in these applications:
- SEMRush or MOZ (According to research by SEMrush Academy, these are the top two most in-demand tools that SEOs should be familiar with.)
- Google Keyword Planner
- Google Trends
- Keywords Everywhere
- Answer the Public
Using these tools, your SEO specialist or manager can thoroughly investigate a variety of factors that can impact your business’ performance in search.
- A Decent Knowledge of HTML
While an SEO doesn’t need to be a coding expert, they should have a basic understanding of HTML. Knowing a bit about HTML allows your SEO to identify and make recommendations for some of the most important on-page SEO factors that need to be optimized.
To determine whether they have a background in HTML, you can ask them if they can provide any previous projects or a portfolio that shows their skill level.
- Soft Skills
In addition to the technical skills they need to have, there are some soft skills that make certain candidates a better fit for the role.
- Strong work ethic: As with any employee that you bring into your organization, you need an SEO specialist who is driven and dependable. In fact, this skill is so important that 73% of hiring managers specifically look for candidates with a strong work ethic.
- Communication: From explaining their strategy to other team members to creating content that resonates with consumers, an SEO specialist should have exceptional communication skills.
- Creativity: When developing any kind of strategy, especially when it involves aspects of marketing, creativity is essential.
- Self-starter: Since being an SEO expert takes constant skill development and research, you need someone who will be proactive.
While you might be on the fence about what’s more important when hiring an SEO expert to join your team, consider the fact that 77% of employers say that soft skills are just as important as hard skills. As such, weighing all of the above factors will help you make the best hiring decision.
How Can You Determine Whether an SEO Has These Skills?
Now that you know what you are looking for when you consider an SEO candidate, you need to know how to gather this information.
Ask the Right Interview Questions
An interview is a good opportunity to determine whether an SEO specialist is experienced or not. During the interview, you should ask specific questions relating to the aforementioned skills and their work for previous clients. Some questions that can help you uncover this information include:
- How did you learn SEO?
- What SEO tools do you use?
- What are the most important on-page optimization factors? What about off-page factors?
- How do you stay current with SEO best practices?
- How would you define a successful SEO campaign?
- What kinds of reports do you provide?
While these questions are a good place to start, you should tailor your interview questions to your business’ priorities.
Following the interview, many employers ask candidates to complete an on-site assessment. For an SEO specialist, you may consider getting a measurable evaluation of their skills with these online tests:
- MOZ’s SEO Expert Quiz
- Search Engine Land’s SEO test
- Interview Mocha’s SEO Skills Test
Ask the candidate to leave the results page open when they leave so you can see how they did. If you have an SEO manager in-house, you can also create your own evaluation.
While asking them about their previous clients will give you some insight into their experience, the information they provide will be coming from their perspective.
To truly get a read on their capabilities as an SEO expert, you should contact the clients that they provide as references. This way, you will have the opportunity to get a well-rounded view of SEO skills. When you speak with their clients, ask them specific questions, like:
- Were you able to achieve your desired results with their help?
- Were they transparent about their work?
- How satisfied were you with their services?
Knowing what skills to look for on their resume and these three verification measures should help you find a true SEO expert.
During your search for an SEO specialist, keep in mind that they should possess these key skills and demonstrate that they are proficient in most or all of these tools. An SEO expert who illustrates these capabilities will be a vital asset in growing your business by taking your strategy to new heights.
Samantha Rupp holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. She is a contributing editor as well as runs a personal blog, sjruppy .