It’s easy to find someone who “does SEO”, but finding a rockstar SEO Manager requires a solid understanding of basic SEO principles, and possibly a degree of street smart to differentiate the big talkers from the top performers.

In this post, I’m not only going to provide you with a few tips on hiring a manager to oversee your paid and natural search marketing, but for those agencies out there who follow my blog, I’m also including a template job requisition you can use when you’re ready to hire that special someone.

SEO Manager Salary: What to Offer Your Rockstar

Back in 2006, starting pay for SEO Manager at a job I picked up was $60k per year and included full benefits and a few pretty awesome perks. In today’s market, the standard seems to be no perks and DIY benefits with a hybrid of salary and performance-based pay. In other words, it’s still starting at $60k/year.

Performance queues are often offered by agencies based on up-selling, meeting critical benchmarks, and just being all around awesome. So the $60k/yr SEO Manager has the potential to make upwards of $100k per year if they follow through with interview promises.

SEO Manager Job Description

Your rockstar is out there, but he’s 1/100 of the people you are going to interview. Fact is, a truly good SEO Manager is likely making enough money with his own projects and products that he doesn’t need a salary position. But not to fret, many of us SEO’s are over-confident in our abilities and have a tendency to make ignorant financial (or partnership) decisions that lead to, well, debt.

It’s easy to pick out the rockstar when he comes in, because his rapport and ingenuity will shine through, while your scam artists and black hat whiz kids will immediately start throwing around big words and complicated tactics that seem more like gaming results than earning natural placement.

So What’s in the Description?

Here are a few requirements I like to put in my SEO manager job description under Experience:

  • Have a thorough knowledge of search ranking factors and critical updates
  • Familiar with industry-standard bid management and SEO software
  • Have personally built and optimized a $10k+ per month pay-per-click account that met or exceeded specific business rules (such as CPA goals)
  • Have managed a team of content writers, link builders, and social media marketers
  • Comfortable working with API’s, advanced and integrated reporting

You’re also going to want to add sales and customer relationship management items to your experience list. Your SEO Manager’s bedside manner is going to be critical to continuity and retention. Even if you have an off month, if your client trusts your SEO manager, they are more likely to stick around an extra month or two if they believe in his/her abilities.

Responsibilities of Your SEO Manager

Aside from not blatantly lying to you and your clients, the SEO manager you hire should also be accountable to results and to you for being ahead of the curve with real-time search engine signal changes.

Here are a few bullets to consider:

  • Day-to-day management of paid and natural search engine marketing campaigns
  • Oversight and management of onsite and offsite SEO resources
  • Research and strategic planning for paid and natural search campaigns
  • Staying abreast of (and sharing) changes in search engine signals and market share
  • Improving and enhancing boilerplate project lifecycles based on signal changes

Interview Questions

Your interviewee can talk a good talk, but what does he really know about the SEO industry. Below are a list of questions you can ask (followed by their respective answers) to see you’ve got the real thing sitting in front of you or just another ego-maniacal tech guy who “thinks” he’s an SEO Expert. Oh, and as a bonus, I’ve thrown in what your scam artist might reply with as well.

  1. What would you consider to be the 3 most important principles of SEO?
  2. What types of software do you use before, during and after an SEO campaign?
  3. What are the primary differences between the paid and natural search engine signals?
  4. In mid-2009, Google updated their search results with a major enhancement. What was it called and what was the change?
  5. In May of 2010, thousands of business suffered ranking loss because of another major update. What was it called and what was the change?
  6. In 2011, another major update came with several “aftershocks”. What was the nickname and official name of the change and what did it impact?
  7. Talk to me about Local SEO. What factors come in to play with ranking in Google Places & Universal Search?
  8. It’s said that Google gives more weight to major brands. If this is so, was there a name given to the update and how does Google differentiate?
  9. For a new domain in a competitive keyword space, what link building and social media strategies might you employ and how quickly?
  10. How important is valid source code to SEO? Will a website get higher rankings if it is W3C XHTML and CSS valid?
  11. Around what percent of Google’s ranking equation do you believe social media impacts?
  12. Can you name a few websites that provide checklist-format ranking and optimization criteria?
  13. What blogs and Twitter users should I be following to stay in the know with changes in SEO and SEM?
  14. What happened with Overstock and J.C. Penny December of 2010?

Okay, if the person you were interviewing didn’t already run out the door screaming, then here is how you check their answers:

The Interview Answers

  1. The 3 most important principles of SEO are 1) Relevancy/Content, 2) Popularity/Visibility & 3) User Behavior/”Click & Stay” post-search
  2. Keyword research tools (WordTracker, Google AdWords, SEMRush, existing Google Analytics data), competitive research tools (OpenSiteExplorer, Compete, Hitwise, site scapers, etc), keyword-tracking tools (Webmaster Tools, SEOmoz.org Campaigns, Raven SEO, YieldSoftware)
  3. The primary differences between PPC & SEO algo’s are bid and budget amounts, keyword-level Quality Score, and PageRank (paid search doesn’t account for external links)
  4. In mid-2009, Google announced their Caffeine Update which significantly improve the crawl, indexing and display time of Google search results
  5. In May of 2010, the Mayday Update impacted long-tail keyword traffic in an attempt to deliver better quality results.
  6. In 2011, the Panda Update (nicknamed “Farmer” out the gate), impacted websites with heavy volumes of advertisements, and sites dynamically created by duplicate content
  7. Local SEO involves location-based landing pages, microformats, links AND citations (name, address, phone or NAP), business reviews, mobile & suggestive search
  8. The Vince Update, named after the guy at the Googleplex who was responsible for it, does give more weight to brands, mainly because brands have better “reputation”, “trust” and “authority”.
  9. For a new domain in a competitive space, a well-paced link building plan should include PR, industry blogger outreach (not pay-per-post), and definitely an array of social media campaigns (contests, widgets, link bait, etc)
  10. Matt Cutts debunked source code as a factor several years ago. User experience is important, but code does not need to validate to rank well
  11. About 7% of the search engine results ranking signal comes from social media (approximately)
  12. Websites that provide excellent audit lists include David Mihm’s Local Ranking Factors, seomoz.org’s Search Ranking Factors and (if I’m lucky) they will list Steve Wiideman’s SEO Audit List. Don’t ding them if they miss the latter.
  13. If you’re really an SEO Expert, you should be following @randfish, @aaronwall, @dannysullivan, @lisabarone, @danzarrella, @chriswinfield and maybe even @graywolf and @WebsiteMagazine. Important RSS feeds to subscribe to include: Search Engine Land, Search Engine Journal, SEO Roundtable, Google Webmasters Blog (Official), Yahoo! Search Blog, the Official Bing Search Blog, and of course, seomoz.org.
  14. In late 2010 and early 2011, JC Penny and Overstock were penalized for buying links

You might have had some interesting answers to the above. If you heard anything like the answers below, run. No, I mean it, you’re going to hurt your company more than help. These are the warnings that you have a resource who has a total disregard for search engine optimization ethics.

Not the Right Answers

  1. These are NOT SEO principles: keyword density, having more links than competitors, search engine submission, hiding text, cloaking, doorway pages, paying for +1’s
  2. Potentially Harmful Tools & Services: Linkvana, SEO Link Vine, 3-Way Links, Pay-Per-Post/ReviewMe (any link scheme), blog comment blasters, any automated link building tool or paid link service.
  3. Any answer that involves automating and emulating click behavior is wrong for PPC/SEO algo differences
  4. Anything other than above
  5. Anything other than above
  6. Anything other than above
  7. Local SEO is NOT review syndication, linking to Google Places, or stuffing keywords in Google Places profiles
  8. Anything other than above
  9. Ranking a new domain in a competitive space should not include buying thousands of links or gaming click-through rates
  10. If they answer that W3C validation is an important SEO factor, they are incorrect
  11. Anything other than above
  12. Any answer containing the phrase “black hat” is wrong
  13. Again, any answer containing the phrase “black hat” is wrong
  14. Anything other than above

Find an SEO Manager

Below is a list of several places I would go to find an SEO Manager. I’m sure you have your own secret list, so take mine for what it’s worth.

Well, I hope that helps. Below is the link to the Template I promised you. Please share this post if you found it useful. Happy searching!

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