My Business is Looking for an SEO Specialist, and I am Getting Tasked to Interview Them


New to interviewing SEO candidates, I've seen a pattern where they focus on SEO specific metrics to define success while all I want for my business is simply more leads. Is it a common misconception in the industry?

Hello SEO folks,

My business is looking for an SEO specialist and I've been tasked to interview them as a tech guy with basic SEO knowledge.

One common topic while going through their experience and abilities is how they would measure their success. They all focused on SEO specific metrics (keywords rankings, domain authority, backlinks, etc.). None of them brought up improving leads acquisition and lead quality. Which is all my business cares about when investing in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and what I would assume all businesses care about actually.

I understand they correlate most of the time but to me they're missing the big picture and the real purpose of SEO.

So, is there something I've missed and should rethink my expectations? Or is it a common misconception in the industry?
51 πŸ’¬πŸ—¨

Yeah. Do you want a ton of traffic or SALES. Been in the game for 15 years, and all the freelancers I've hired save one don't even set up Google analytics with a thank you page to track conversions.

Holy f*cking shit. How? Lmao

Setting up conversions is literally one of the first things I learned starting out as an intern at a small agency. It was always drilled into my head that nobody gave a shit unless we could point to increased revenue from our efforts. That's always been the goal.

Marketing is here to drive sales. SEO is part of marketing. Granted I got my start as an SEO nerd but I expanded from there.

What the f*ck is Neil Patel teaching kids these days

It is totally fine to state that you want more leads. I'd be specific about what your targets are for SEO.

"Our goal is to get more leads. We currently receive 50 leads/month from organic search. What is your approach to getting us more leads?"

In your current interview format, the SEO users are skipping the bottom of the funnel stuff and just immediately jumping into the weeds.

It's like this:
β€’ As SEO, my job is to improve organic traffic to our site. In turn, this traffic will drive more leads .
β€’ Step 1 – I'll audit our current SEO, competitors, Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs), and prepare a plan. I'll also do some conversion rate optimization analysis of key landing pages.
β€’ Step 2 – The plan will be doing XYZ, which will take this long to execute, these other team's involvement, and this long to see results
β€’ Step 3 – I will provide monthly check-ins and continuously iterate on what I'm doing, but please note, SEO changes can take 2 months – 6 months+ to really get cooking

With this basic road map and based on what I've been able to accomplish in the past I anticipate we will grow organic traffic and leads each month…

tigitz ✍️
I've assumed increasing leads is the only target of SEO for a business and didn't feel the need to specify it to someone who's working in the industry.

What you've listed is what I would expect every SEO candidate to list. Unfortunately their success metrics were all SEO specific, nothing really related to the business it brings.

SEO users don't necessarily deal with lead generation. In a b2b world SEO is simply competitor blocking. The lead generation happens on the website or outside of the website. The SEO just gets people to it if that is the intention.

You need a marketer to sort the lead generation and funnel out for you!

tigitz ✍️
Is it wrong to assume a SEO specialist job would be to analyze the highest conversion rate keywords and establish a plan to work and rank better on them? Improving lead generation in consequence.

To me, it seems like SEO specialist is a good position to actually bring more leads.

How much control does someone doing SEO have on whether the person answering the phone converts the call to a customer?

Most SEO pros focus on ranking the site and driving traffic (hopefully relevant). Depending on the site's strength, it might not be realistic to rank top for the most competitive keywords right away.

Sounds like OP might do better with lead gen if the focus is really on generating leads. Find a good lead gen company to work with and make a significant Return of Investment (RoI) on the cost of leads.

Good SEO is to partner with techdev to build an online product that solves problems for existing and new customers in a way that produces scalable and programmable content that can be discovered and indexed by search engines. Approaching SEO in this way produces content that targets keywords that produce website visits most relevant to your product or service and delivers your value prop at scale, resulting in more leads and sales at a lower COA.

Anyone who doesn't approach SEO in this way will never fully actualize the potential of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to drive explosive cost effective growth.
It's a very mixed bag in the SEO space. The same goes for digital marketing or copywriting.

I think you might want to look for a marketing manager, SEM, or lead generation specialist that works with SEO. Somebody that can look at the larger picture.

Not all SEO people will have the skills for a holistic approach to business – even though they claim so. If an SEO states they can increase your business sales – by all means, grill them on it.

An SEO users job is to gain you visibility via organic channels. It's just a piece of the lead generation part of the business. SEO is a marketing channel and should be treated like so.

You could hire a Social Media Marketing (SMM) and ask the same questions. They really only care about engagement.

Some SEO users can and often do specialize in other areas too, Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO), copy, content marketing, Pay Per Click (PPC), etc. You could find one that has these other specialties too.

SEO users focus on traffic and ranking as they are working to get you more eyeballs. If those eyeballs aren't converting you need to let them know. Domain Authority (DA) and backlinks are small pieces. If they highlight these I wouldn't talk with them. If you need more backlinks you can hire a specialist for this too.

tigitz ✍️
Thanks a lot for your input. It helps me understand that there might be different roles for purely SEO stuff and managing lead generation. The lead generation topic would be the responsibility of the Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and not the SEO specialist in this case. So it's expected that their mesure of success would be different.

I still think it's reasonable to expect our SEO specialist to grasp the full picture of his work but I'll definitely keep that in mind and nuance my judgment if the candidate comes from this type of team organization.

But also keep in mind that performance marketer is commonly stuffed into the PPC side of things.


What industry are you in?

How did you come to the idea what you want to hire is a SEO specialist?

I think you want more traffic. Everyone does. But is Search Engine Optimization (SEO) the way to go about it? Paid Media may be a better/quicker avenue.

Lead gen and SEO are two separate things. Yes they are both in the marketing realm, but so is logo design and you wouldn't hire a SEO specialist to design your logo.

Some lead gen marketers are also specialized in their own platform they don't touch page design.

An SEO specialist will focus on the things you mentioned (keywords rankings, domain authority, backlinks, etc.) which will increase leads quantity and quality if they are targeting the correct keywords.

Most aren't going to be focusing on the whole picture of where to place a Call to Action (CTA) on the page, testing if different verbiage, offers, etc entice more or fewer leads.

SEO is not big picture marketing. It is one piece of the marketing puzzle.

tigitz ✍️

What industry are you in?

Storage and moving industry.

How did you come to the idea what you want to hire is a SEO specialist?

Because we're experimenting every acquisition channel we can to increase our leads volume and SEO is one of them.

Your logo design analogy is good, I would indeed feel unreasonable to expect a designer to tell me it's mesure of success is how many sales his new logo generated. I guess your point is that it's the same for SEO? Even though one can be tracked while the other can't?

If I might ask. Why would you hire someone full time (at least, that's what I understand) instead of a freelancer or agency?

Personally, I work at agency and have a moving and storage client that ranks well for 1 city.

Hiring someone internally seems like a large investment, but that's just my outside perspective.
tigitz ✍️
I guess we evaluate that it would be more cost effective to have someone in house.

Also, our service is quite innovative in our area. We have the feeling that someone believing in our product, really understanding it and has the drive to make it successful at the personal level would be more effective.
Yeah I understand that. In terms of cost. An agency could run you $1500 more or less. Someone in house with the skills you require could be north of 50k.

They'd need SEO skills, lead generation, conversion optimization, content writing, web dev (if you don't have someone already), link building which is part of SEO obviously.

SEO is long term and once this person gets trained up, integrated within your company and starts seeing results, they'll want a raise or they might leave for better opportunities. That leaves you right where you left off.

Unless your willing to pay big dollars for someone in house I'm not sure it's cost effective.
tigitz ✍️
Got it now, thanks.

They should be able to explain how domain authority and backlinks will improve keyword rankings, which will generate more leads. But most SEO specialists are just selling snake oil.

In my opinion, they should have a good understanding of your business; what are the relevant keywords that will bring in business, and what keywords are attainable given your current website.

They should also be able to explain how they'll capture website visitors into leads.

SEO works best if you also have a solid brand. It'll get people to your website, but you'll need to have a credible website, good 3rd party reviews, authoritative content, and easy ways to fill out their contact info or talk to sales.
Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a bit of a different area. Not a lot of SEO users do SEO Split Testing or optimize for conversion rates. Also the main purpose of SEO is to get you leads via organic traffic so organic traffic is the focus, after that you need to have a sales funnel set up to capture those leads and turn them into sales, but that's the hard part and it usually involves more resources than the SEO users are given.

There's a few article about it and I think you should read up on it. Some SEO users will have CRO experience, but most companies hire SEO for organic traffic leads. If you want an SEO with CRO experience say that in your job postings or when you are talking to them so they know that you want to know how they optimize conversion funnels to get you leads.
Metrics are a waste of time. Heck, I don't even give most of my clients any kind of ranking reports.

We talk about traffic and leads/sales and ways we can bring in more traffic and leads/sales. Anything else is mostly just noise.
I have a small business and had a few people work on Search Engine Optimization (SEO). On for a year. A few others for 6 months each. I just gave up. None helped my site rank better to create leads.

Like you said. Small businesses just need more leads.

The biggest trap for us is it takes months for SEO to work and then after months it's only then you realise it's not working & all that money and time is wasted.

I had weekly reports send to me but it's all meaningless until the money starts coming in.


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