How to Hire an Technical SEO Web Developer

A programmer is a programmer, right? Wrong. There are so many variables to consider when hiring someone as your in-house webmaster that it’s almost impossible to figure out where to start. Programmers are a culture all of their own. Depending on their specialization, they may have personality characteristics you should know about before hiring them, or worse, your coder might loath project management systems or search engine optimization requirements and purposely hose your SEO to spite your SEO specialist.

There are coders who have been scripting HTML, CSS and JavaScript for over 20 years (predating server-side scripting) and either kept up with the time or are mentally locked into a specific way of doing things and hate to be told what to do. Then there are programmers, who rarely use the web and have been coding software for computers since the 70’s. The latter is not likely who you want handling your SEO-friendly website coding.

Finding the right coder for your SEO company or digital marketing agency also requires understanding your web hosting environment, programming languages, and content management systems. Below we’ll explore personality traits, platform requirements and provide a coder job requisition template for a “typical” 2013 SEO agency.


Coding requires focus and concentration, testing, experimenting and researching sample code to start with. It can be very frustrating to a programmer to be interrupted, which might explain why you’re here and likely upset that your current coder won’t respond to your emails or calls.

Your programmer MUST be not only willing to listen and collaborate with creative marketing folks, but must participate by repeating back the desires of the marketing team with pseudo code when possible, or at least with a mockup (if not a wireframe or information architecture diagrams).

They should be able to manage their time as to allow for interruptions during specific periods and set clear expectations of how and when to contact them so they have blocked out windows of time where everyone leaves them alone.

A coder must respect your SEO specialists regardless of how frustrating responsive and mobile design requirements may be, or how difficult it might be to score all A’s and an checkmark at When the SEO expert asks to remove an H1 tag from a logo or add ALT attributes to images for accessibility, the coder should say “sure, no problem”, not grunt and mutter to themselves about how much they hate SEO people. Afterall, 6 months down the road when the site is profitable, it’s that SEO specialist’s suggestions that would have produced enough new revenue to give that programmer new equipment and possibly even new staff.

Platform Requirements

There are programmers who build primarily on IIS/Windows using server scripting such as .NET or ASPX who speak a whole different language than the more common (these days) Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP (LAMP) programmers. If you’re building a website to market with, using a .NET programmer would be like throwing a shovel at something that requires a spoon. A simple install and setup of WordPress is likely adequate.

If you’re a “typical” SEO company, you likely need a coder who can install, setup and optimize WordPress (with the help of an SEO specialist) with basic functionality. They should be able to port over content through plugins or Export/Import options within the CMS. They should be able to create rules in external style sheets and JavaScript to reduce the amount of in-line scripting required on each page. A basic knowledge of “hooks” and “short codes” is definitely a plus.

For heavier programming, such as custom forms with upload capability, custom API’s with social networking websites or anything that requires “functionality”, your coder should be able to build a project brief and outsource to an external vendor on Scriptlance, oDesk, Guru, or Freelancer and make very clear that the functionality should not alter the ability to upgrade plugins or WordPress itself.

Coder Job Description

Here’s your job description, assuming you’re an SEO company or digital marketing firm and not a software design firm.

LAMP Coder/Programmer Position Available with Online Marketing Agency

Join a group of talented online marketers. We’re in search of an experienced website coder, comfortable with SEO, responsive design and mobile requirements, who takes pride in having their code W3C compliant and isn’t afraid of a challenge. We work with multi-million dollar brands, as well as medium and small businesses, providing landing pages, blogs, and on occasion entire websites built to be found in search engines and that are built to maximize visit to conversion ratios.

You’ll have access to design talent, but will be required to take PSD’s and build custom WordPress themes that are compatible with industry standard plugins. You will not be required to build ecommerce systems, as we understand the value, scalability and portability of using out of the box CMS systems.


  1. Work with our SEO team to build and improve site migration and site build protocols
  2. Convert PSD designs to menu and plugin-compatible WordPress themes
  3. Install and configure WordPress plugins with aid from our SEO team
  4. Create short codes and simple custom plugins when needed
  5. Migrate websites with attention to robots.txt exclusions, title & meta importing, and redirections
  6. Setup website goal and event tracking via Google Analtyics
  7. Use structured data on all webpages where the snippet may be useful to a user
  8. Build responsive designs that look fantastic in all browsers, particularly on tablets
  9. Work with WP Touch Pro (or other plugin) to create mobile experiences on the same URL the desktop version


  1. Associates degree or greater in Computer Science preferred
  2. 3+ years of programming experience
  3. Can code a 5 page website without a web editor
  4. Experienced with dynamic HTML and HTML 5
  5. Well versed in responsive and mobile design
  6. Extensive experience coding custom WordPress themes from a PSD
  7. Comfortable creating simple WordPress plugins & short codes
  8. Able to write a project brief for SSI or custom functionality
  9. Experience with flow charts, wireframing, and mockups
  10. Must be able to collaborate with eccentric marketing teams
  11. Time management is critical; you must set good expectations
  12. Experience with basic SEO best practices a must

Please send your resume and references to {email address here} along with at least references, and a portfolio of web projects you have worked on (along with what your specific role was on the project).

Did We Miss Anything?

What else would you add to this coder job description? Let us know in the comments below.