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Hot to Hire: SEO Strategy & Implementation

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A conversation with 24 Seven Director of Recruiting, Nabeel Chowdhury, about some of the most in demand talent in Digital Marketing today.

SEO is white hot right now. What are hiring managers clamoring for in terms of experience, focus, and skill set?

SEO strategy is huge. Companies want that and combining it with or having a separate skill set for hands-on content/technical implementation. In the past companies expected these two skill sets all in one person, but now those areas of expertise are separating out a bit more – especially at bigger companies. This is particularly true on the strategy side – we’re seeing a greater emphasis put on that than ever before.

What type of organization is driving this demand? Are you recruiting for corporations? Are you recruiting for agencies?

It’s definitely both. On the corporate side, I would say these are larger organizations, think a tech firm for an example or a retailer’s e-commerce organization. Most of them are trying to build out their own SEO teams. But it's not easy to do, so often they'll rely on their outside agency to do that, meaning the actual advertising firm or the traditional marketing firm. That’s why talent demand is coming from both organization types. Now, because this is a newer skill set, especially with strategy, a lot of those agencies aren't staffed up yet with their own strategists, so then they'll often leverage a firm like 24 Seven to help build out their stable of talent. And they will say, "Hey, Nabeel, we probably need somebody for about 24 hours a week to start off to do deep dive strategy for about three, four weeks right now. Who can you send us?" And that's when I typically will start my recruitment, and we'll look for people who have done deep SEO strategy for companies (ideally similar to the client they are working with) and hopefully ones that have worked at agencies before in the past, too.

And so are you finding that corporations and agencies are scrambling for the same talent?

That's absolutely true. It's a very competitive market, and it’s even more intense in this situation because SEO strategy isn't something that's been defined for too long. You're not going find somebody who had an SEO strategist title 15 years ago because no one was really doing that back then. The strategists have emerged in the last ten or so years, which means there's not a lot of people doing it period.

Might hiring managers consider a freelancer for these types of role?

Absolutely. Both the SEO strategist and SEO implementation areas are very freelance-friendly because often those skill sets are not needed year-round.I think for in-house corporate teams, they would love to have it, but if you think logically about why the company might even go to the agency for it, SEO strategy isn't something you necessarily need to have someone doing full-time every week. It's something that's a little bit more cyclical. The company may want to spend Q1 focusing on their SEO strategy, and the rest of the quarters during the year are more for implementing the strategy determined in Q1. When approached like this, it makes more sense to go to an agency and grab a strategist for three months or a freelancer for three months than it does to have that person on-boarded full time.

What's the best advice for hiring managers looking to SEO talent?

Employers have to be willing to train certain things. I find that sometimes clients, especially agencies, can be a little bit inflexible, looking for five specific items on a resume. But that's often a wish list that they can never find. It's just not out there, especially in a tight market. It’s really about figuring out what are those top two things that you absolutely need. Because everything else should be trainable.

In this hiring market, candidates are in the driver's seat. What would you say are employment features these SEO candidates expect?

Of course, candidates are looking for flexibility. There's got to be some sort of work from home policy or a way for them to maybe do some hours in the office, some hours outside of the office. Technology is always changing, and these candidates were smart enough to think ahead and specialize in these SEO areas, especially strategy. They took that risk three plus years ago and are now in the position to pick and choose for whom they work.They know that they're talented, and it's a tight market, and if a client is willing to offer them the opportunity to work from home and match their compensation requirements at the same time, there's no reason for them to even consider another employer that’s coming up short in both those things.

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