SEOHow to Hire & Retain SEO Talent in 2013

How to Hire & Retain SEO Talent in 2013

Whether you’re doing SEO in an agency environment, in-house, or as a freelancer, your success depends heavily on the talent of your employees, who will create and execute performance-driving SEO campaigns. Here’s how to find and keep them.

hiring-talented-employeesOne of the most overlooked necessities required to execute performance-driving SEO campaigns is talent.

Whether you’re doing SEO in an agency environment, in-house, or as a freelancer, your success depends heavily on the talent of your employees. A lack of talent hurts the service your agency provides, the results your in-house department drives, and the amount of money you make as a freelancer.

Over the last three to four years, the availability of talent in the marketplace has failed to keep up with demand. There are many reasons for this, some of which are chronicled in this article. A few of his points we agree with, others not so much.

Either way, this has created fierce competition for middle and upper management SEO jobs. So how can you hire and retain SEO staff in 2013?

Train & Develop Junior Staff

The most eligible candidates for any mid-level SEO opening should already work for you. Investment in entry level employees leads to a steady pipeline of qualified candidates.

Most companies face three common barriers when hiring mid-level staff:

  • Lack of talent in the marketplace.
  • Opportunity loss of the vacant position (recruiting time).
  • Cost.

Promoting from within your organization guarantees quality candidates, significantly reduces recruitment and transition time, and minimizes cost. As a bonus, promoting from within is a great way to increase employee morale and retention.

Hiring & the Value Proposition

The fact that I have the word “SEO” in my title guarantees me the pleasure of interacting with tons of recruiters, most via LinkedIn. The most powerful tool any of these recruiters and hiring managers have is their value proposition.

Creating a compelling and unique value proposition for potential employees will make recruiting mid- and upper-level talent much easier.

The majority of companies use this infamous combo to pique interest: money and titles. While the current marketplace enables recruits to demand plenty of both, it’s not unique.

Every recruiter in the industry is going to offer a $5,000, $10,000, even $15,000 salary bump (depending on level) to virtually any qualified candidate. In addition, 95 percent of hiring managers target recruits where a title increase can be leveraged.

Developing a creative and unique value proposition will help you stand out from the pack. This includes aligning your value with what SEO candidates are looking for. Some examples include:

  • Transparency from executives: Some employees need to “be in the loop”. Does your company align corporate goals with personal employee goals? If so, leverage this information in the recruitment process.
  • Entrepreneurial environment: Some SEO candidates may desire to work in a setting that fosters and rewards initiative. Having freedom to be creative and test new strategies is critical to the success of SEO campaigns. While some companies are extremely process oriented, those who aren’t may have an edge. Recruits may also be looking to expand their job responsibilities organically. If employees recognize areas for growth and new opportunities, can they pursue them in your company?
  • Unique corporate culture: If you work at an agency, you most likely already have an appealing culture. Most SEOs are young, so mentioning fun company events, happy hours, and other cultural benefits can be a huge draw. What new employee doesn’t want to play some ping pong in between doing some blogger outreach?
  • Being part of a talented, passionate staff: Most talented employees want to be surrounded by other smart individuals. Do you have any standout or notorious employees on your staff? Leverage your existing talent to help recruit new employees. Ask these employees to message potential candidates to give real testimonials. Most of the time candidates respond better to peers or potential managers than they do to recruiters.
  • Working for large brands: We’ve all seen and heard brand name dropping on resumes or in meetings. Some candidates will sacrifice other benefits for the chance to put a large brand on their resume. Specific to SEO, larger brands will see incremental lift from on-site optimization quicker than smaller companies. For on-site SEO specialists, this opportunity can be appealing. The PageRank of the clients’ site can also be appealing if it’s high enough. Who doesn’t want to work with a PR 8 or 9 site?

These are bare bone examples that may not apply to your individual company. Taking the time to define and communicate a compelling value proposition will enable your company to stand out and successfully recruit a higher level of talent.

Talent Retention

Employee turnover is bad for business due to a variety of reasons. The cost of recruiting talent is high. Client relationships and/or campaign performance can suffer when team members leave.

The perception that your company is a “chop shop” and doesn’t treat employees well can hurt future recruiting efforts. So what can you do to retain your talent?

  • Close new business: The majority of retention tactics rely on closing new business to create opportunities. If you aren’t closing new business, it will be extremely tough to retain talent. A strong sales funnel can also be used in your value proposition for filling open roles.
  • Establish career paths: Take the time for stellar employees to craft out custom career paths. Does an employee aspire to manage people or be a tactical expert? Identifying opportunities for growth that align with personal interest will increase retention.
  • Aligning goals: Employees need to understand how their work contributes to the overall goals of their department and/or company. A large percentage of candidates mention this specifically when responding to the question “What are you looking for in a job that isn’t being fulfilled currently”. Aligning goals from the executive level down and communicating the progress toward these goals will increase employee satisfaction and retention.

Stay Competitive: Invest in SEO Talent in 2013

Agility and creativity are required to drive incremental organic performance. Processes and procedures aren’t agile or creative, but people are.

Talented employees within your organization will be responsible for creating new strategies and tactics required for success. Investing in hiring and retaining talent will ensure you organization remains competitive.

Setting the standard is always better than following it. Leverage your talent to set new standards and continue driving SEO performance in 2013 and beyond.


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