A colleague is in the process of hiring a marketing manager and wanted to know what traits I look for in a general marketer. I’ve hired quite a few marketing and SEO managers in my career, so I shared some of my thoughts with him.
I realized that this might be helpful to plastic surgeons and cosmetic surgeons who are looking to hire one, so I’m reprinting my answer here.
I think this just as applicable to an SEO manager as it is a generalist marketing one, because SEO is multifaceted and requires several skillsets that parallel those of marketers. In fact, to me SEO is just another form of marketing. If you’re looking for an SEO specialist, consider these when hiring one.
First, realise that SEO has three core areas. The SEO tripod is a combination of three facets: 1) technical SEO, 2) on-page SEO, and 3) off-page SEO. An SEO specialist may have skills in any one of those three areas more than others, but a manager or director needs to have at least a grasp of all three.
They need to have an understanding of technology, web development, UX/UI design, and perhaps coding languages to some degree. Most SEOs have, at some point, created their own websites. So they have at least a basic understanding of what makes a good website — and a website good.
They’re writers or strategists who at least know what informs and connects with people. They have a basic understanding of how to create content that answers users’ questions and meets their needs. To do that, they obviously need to know how to research audiences and what they’re looking for.
Off-page SEO is about creating more visibility outside a website — from being prolific and prominent, to being persuasive and pervasive. Whether it’s getting others to link to them, engage with them, or share their audiences with them, they have some understanding of what it takes to move people.
Some SEO experts specialize more in one area than the other two.
For example, some SEOs are more tech-savvy and specialize in technical SEO, like Jamie Indigo or Glenn Gabe. Most SEOs are, to some degree, writers and communicators. But some SEOs specialize in content strategy and content marketing specifically, like Heather Lloyd-Martin, Rand Fishkin, or Brian Dean.
An SEO specialist can be skilled in one area more than others. But a well-rounded SEO expert, particularly an SEO manager, needs a bit of everything.
That said, there’s one other trait I look for.
I believe all (or at least all good) SEO experts should have this trait.
To me, that skill is just as important as the above three. Because, whether it’s SEO, marketing, or sales, our job is to constantly solve problems:
- The problems that an audience experiences.
- The problems of finding and reaching those audiences.
- The problems of connecting audiences with solutions.
And above all…
- The problems of dealing with and adapting to changes.
Some say that a good SEO is both creative and curious. Creativity can help you brainstorm ideas while curiosity can help you analyze data. I think having both is what makes you a creative problem-solver.
Said in a different way, marketing, including SEO, comes down to two fundamental things: understanding people and understanding numbers.
Some are data-driven, others are people-driven. Some look at code, others look at content. Some measure success by the rates they generate, others do so by the stories they inspire. Some look at how to reach and convert more people. Others look at how to understand and impact more people.
Admittedly, looking for someone who is 50/50 is asking for a unicorn. But when I want to hire someone, I tend to look for someone who has a little of both to at least to be able to manage others who focus on each area and to know what to look for when they do.
That’s the kind of person I would be looking for.