During Q&A on day one of the SEOmoz Pro Training Seminar, I was asked “What makes for a good SEO Manager?” by one of the attendees. Good question. While researching this post, I found it surprising that there’s a near total lack of content on the subject of SEO Management that I could find. Awesome, I thought. Here’s to writing in an under-served niche, and hopefully creating a useful blog post.
Photo by: saschapohflepp
What makes for a good SEO manager?
Finding decent SEO Managers is no easy task. I’m recruiting SEO Managers in the US and the UK and I’m finding the same challenges exist on both sides of the pond. A candidate, who comes across exceptionally well in a telephone interview may fail when they attend their first face to face interview. Why is that? Being a brilliant SEO doesn’t qualify you to be a brilliant SEO Manager, but this doesn’t mean you can’t learn and develop the management skills you need.
Proven SEO background
While the length of someones experience in the SEO field isn’t particularly critical to qualifying as an SEO manager, their success in the field is. I’d feel uncertain about appointing an SEO manager that couldn’t demonstrate multiple examples of successful SEO campaigns on different domains for different companies. The more campaigns, the better. Why? Whether you’re in-house or part of an agency, your SEO campaign architecture will vary wildly based on external factors such as market competitiveness and internal factors such as organisational buy in, development resource, technology platform and budget. The more campaigns you’ve been responsible for, the wider your experience with each will stretch.
Ability to focus on and manage tasks via an SEO team
Micromanaging is rarely the path to success. Being surrounded by talented people is a good thing, but knowing how to delegate tasks to them is a skill not always easily developed. Keeping a task list of your own is a powerful way to stay on top of things, so as you delegate, create task lists of your own for your individual team members. The aim of the game is to stay on top of your individual team member’s tasks, setting deadlines as each item is assigned. Getting some skills in project management would be a very smart choice, too.
Commercial Search Engine Optimisation strategist
Understanding individual search engine ranking factors and the ability to deploy that knowledge is an important skill, but having an understanding of the commercial ecosystem that you live in is core to developing long term SEO strategy. A commercially aware SEO should be able to show genuine insight into the economics of a website’s revenue model, a strong awareness of the environmental factors that affect that revenue model and an in-depth view of the competitive landscape.
An ability to spot strengths and weaknesses in people
Spotting strengths and weaknesses in people is part of good people management. Developing the skills and knowledge inside your team makes the website you’re working on much more competitive, so what’s not to like about a bit of SEO training? A good SEO Manager should be able to recognise the development needs of individuals in their team and should set tasks to give them space to learn the skills they need to grow as SEO consultants.
Great sales person, strong communicator
Part of being a strong SEO manager is having the ability to communicate and present well. In an interview situation, I try to imagine a candidate giving a board level presentation or speaking at a conference. It’s a critical part of the job where being able to translate complex subjects into meaningful discussion can really help you get ahead. Your speaking, communication and presentation skills can be learned and improved with the right amount of practice and feedback.
Continually refining their own skills
Even the most expert SEO’s work regularly to improve their own skills and knowledge. This point really applies to everyone in the industry, but I believe that, as a Search Manager responsible for the training and development of other SEO’s that a great SEO Manager will be always able to discuss areas they’re currently exploring or passionate about, be it learning about a new tool, following an industry development or mastering a new technique.
An ability to spot talent during the recruitment process
Selecting a new recruit can be an exhausting process. I gave some advice on recruiting SEO’s including tips on running group interviews and traits to watch for. Building an SEO team can be extremely rewarding, but challenging. A great SEO Manager however, can only ever be as good as the people in their team.
In your experience, what makes for a good SEO Manager?