How to hire an SEO specialist

Search engine optimization (SEO) is all about creating Google-friendly digital content, consistent website management and data-driven marketing initiatives. You’re looking for someone who can get your website to the top of people’s Google searches without having to purchase any advertisements.

SEO makes the difference between someone finding your website or finding your competitors. When a potential customer is looking for services you offer, don’t you want your website to show up? An optimized website appears higher in search rankings and gets significantly more impressions online.

You might be asking yourself, what makes someone an SEO specialist? That title is really pulled from two things, a person’s skillset and the tasks they’re given.

In order for someone to specialize in this field, they really have to understand what gets a website on the first page of Google, how to track a website’s success and how to strategize improvements.

The tasks an SEO specialist takes on could be anything from data deep dives, to website audits, page updates, copywriting, social media and competitor research.

In order to get one of these multi-talented workers or an agency on your team you need to first think about what your business needs. Brand new businesses will need a different SEO approach than an established business looking to expand.

You might need fresh new content or maybe you need help with research to guide your decisions. If you aren’t sure exactly what deliverables you need, then your newly hired SEO specialist needs the skillset to plot out your next marketing steps.

Regardless of where you’re at, you’ll want to help your SEO specialist hit the ground running with clear goals.

Define your SEO goals

When a friend or loved one asks you for a favor, don’t you always wish they’d tell you what the favor is first? Taking on an unclear task can be challenging or unappealing.

That’s why in order to hire an SEO specialist that can truly help your business, you should try figuring out what issues you’re having. Here are some 10 common website concerns that business owners have:

  • When I search for my business name, my website doesn’t come up
  • When I search for services my business offers, my website is below my competitors
  • I am not getting any phone calls or messages on my website
  • My business doesn’t show up in Google Maps
  • I don’t know how to get Google Reviews 
  • I have no idea how my website is performing online
  • I am not sure what content my audience will respond to
  • I don’t know if my website has enough information to attract visitors
  • My business doesn’t show up on directories or lists online
  • I think my website has been penalized by Google

After you identify what’s prompting your SEO specialist search, the next step is crafting a job posting that specifically outlines what you need.

Hot and ready SEO deliverables

When you’re looking to increase your marketing footprint, think of those goals with deliverables in mind.

Your deliverables are any tangible services, products or documents you need from your SEO specialist. This could be a monthly SEO report, technical audits, website updates and optimization, location landing pages, keyword research and more.

Any or all of these possible tasks should be clearly listed in your job description and brought up during discussions with your candidate.

The better you explain what your expectations are, the easier it’ll be to attract qualified applicants or match with an agency that offers those services.

A good way to gauge what you can be doing is to indicate what SEO information you are lacking. You may want to better understand what terms people are using to find your website or you might want to know how they’re finding your competitors. If your website isn’t reaching the first page you’ll want to make sure backend issues like speed and security aren’t holding you back either.

Another way to determine possible tasks for your SEO specialist is to look at what your competitors are doing. Is everyone else in town writing phenomenal blog posts? Have you noticed that competitors’ homepages seem much longer than yours? Maybe their Google Business Profile is stacked with reviews and posts.

Many SEO specialists can help you get there too or guide your writing to make sure it’s search friendly.

What to expect from an SEO specialist

If you’ve never factored SEO into your marketing efforts, or if you’ve never spent time on marketing your business, it can be hard to set your sights on metrics.

Maybe you want more page clicks, maybe your website visitors always leave too quickly or maybe you have services that customers are overlooking online.

If you’re first embarking on your SEO journey, changes won’t be immediate. Many websites need a lot of help and substantial edits to become more search friendly.

But don’t worry, if you’ve hired a strong SEO specialist they can increase your site traffic. You’ll also get to see data like where your visitors are coming from, what links they click, what search term got them to you and how long they’re spending on your website.

To help yourself and your prospective SEO specialist out, you should let them know what you hope to see from their services. Tell them exactly what data you’d like them to track and the tools you’d like them to use.

There are many common software and IT competencies an SEO specialist needs:

If you’re not quite sure what you’re looking for, you can also make that clear. SEO agencies and experienced SEO specialists can often guide you in the right direction and take on more autonomy.

SEO specialists don’t grow on trees

It is not very common for a business to hire a full-time employee to work on SEO strategy and other marketing tasks. Mostly because these high-level specialists are going to cost you a pretty penny in salary, overhead and benefits.

SEO specialist salaries start at around $50,000 a year and can increase to $100,000 a year. The more skills your SEO specialist has, the more expensive they’ll be to hire.

The hardest part about justifying your next hire is that part of your payroll expenses include overhead costs accrued by workers.

Instead, businesses outsource these tasks to freelancers, consultants or an agency. With this option you are only paying for your deliverables.

When you work with a freelancer or consultant you’ll be working with one specific person who will usually set their own rate and list their skills and capabilities up front. You might find a more data-minded specialist, someone who has perfected site optimization or someone who is better equipped to help with the copywriting needed to increase your website quality.

The other thing you might find with these workers is that depending on how many hours you give them each week, they might be less focused on deliverables. Instead you may receive guidance on what content to create and how to update your website.

Your last option is the one that brings businesses the most bang for your buck– SEO or digital marketing agencies.

When you work with an agency, you might have one point of contact but you’ll get the benefit of several experts. Your business’s marketing will be handled by teams often including SEO experts, web designers, copywriters, social media managers and more.

This team-based approach can result in the best possible user experience and a heightened understanding of how to rank well on Google.

Narrowing down your SEO options

Every business owner knows that you’re never going to get two workers with the exact same skills or identical personalities. Even each agency will have their own tone and approach. When it comes to finding an SEO specialist with the right experience and excitement for your business here are some things you should look for:

Find someone with experience in your industry

Some businesses like personal injury law, restaurants and real estate agencies are going to face high levels of competition regardless of where they’re located. Other industries like IT or finance can involve the use of highly technical terminology.

That’s why, when possible you want to enlist the help of someone who already has experience working with similar businesses.

You’ll probably want to approach this broadly. For example, if you’re a local business, look for someone who can help you grow in your region and has already helped others.

If your website contains an e-commerce portion then you’ll want to ensure the person you hire has experience optimizing products for Google searchers.

Find someone who can work on your website

Every website is different but many use the same few content management systems. When you’re looking for an SEO specialist you’ll want to ensure that they’re comfortable making edits to your website, can easily track your metrics and can fix small issues as needed.

Find someone with a history of results

Consider if your SEO specialist has actually helped other businesses grow through SEO.

You can ask them for proof of past SEO success such as case studies, reviews from former clients or references from previous employers.

SEO work involves a lot of data, you can always ask for examples of how the specialist has previously improved key performance indicators for other clients or employers. You should hire someone with a track record of bringing in more leads and revenue for businesses.

Conduct multiple interviews

The key to good SEO is understanding your audience and their search behaviors. You’ll get the best SEO results when working with a specialist who can project your voice and connect with your customer base.

That’s why it is best to conduct multiple interviews. If you’re working with an agency this multiple interview approach is often already built in. You’ll usually start with an initial phone call then move onto a consultation and lastly take part in a meeting or discovery session. This gives you and the agency a chance to develop a comprehensive strategy.

If you’re going with a consultant or freelancer instead, the process could be similar or you may have to establish you’d like to do a screening interview with them before proceeding with a longer and more formal strategy session.

Don’t be afraid to shop around. The agency or specialist who sounds the best on paper may just not understand your mission. Consider your options before you make your final decision.

An agency approach to SEO

After reading this you might be thinking the stress of hiring and training an SEO specialist is too much. You’re almost definitely concerned about cost, hiring someone is not a small undertaking.

But, your SEO doesn’t have to be handled in-house. You don’t have to go through the hassle of hiring, onboarding, training and everything in-between.

Marketing agencies were created to make SEO available to businesses everywhere. You can easily access professionals in the marketing field and only pay for what you need.

Don’t let the term marketing agency scare you. An agency approach isn’t just for the big advertisers like Geico and Coca-Cola. Your small business also deserves an expert team to help them grow.

That’s why Emerge was created. We were once the little guy and our team knows how important it is for local businesses to succeed.

Your livelihood depends on your website’s success, don’t put organic search engine growth on the back burner.

Call today and get started with a free SEO consultation.

Related Articles

What is Fractional Marketing?

What is Fractional Marketing?

Monthly marketing to help grow your business Do you have someone organizing and keeping track of your marketing efforts? Small businesses usually struggle with resources for setting, creating and analyzing marketing campaigns. That means in most cases marketing...

How to create a small business marketing plan

How to create a small business marketing plan

A quick guide to marketing your business You know you’ve got an amazing small business but how are you letting other people know that? The only way to truly get the word out is to start marketing. You could try building a website, making posts on social media,...

Why is my website not showing up on Google?

Why is my website not showing up on Google?

Listing the ways websites get on Google's bad side Estimated reading time: 5 minutes When you search on Google for your business, does it show up? Have you searched for the exact title to one of your web pages and you’re still seeing other websites instead? Your...

Grow Your Business

Like what you’re hearing? Let’s talk about growing your business!

Top Web Designer in Richmond


Emerge is a boutique marketing firm that helps you grow your business through affordable web design in Richmond, VA. Our websites are built to be Google-Friendly so you can have the best possible chance of success.

© Emerge Richmond | All Rights Reserved

Emerge Richmond is a subsidiary of Key Web Concepts