This article is the third part of the series about hiring SEO services. If you are wondering whether it is better to hire an agency or an SEO specialist, I suggest you read the first article of the series.

In case you have decided to hire an SEO specialist, you will have to determine the goals first (just as if you were hiring an SEO agency). We have covered this topic thoroughly in the first and the second article of this series, so we’ll skip it here.

Of course, in this situation, you have the opportunity to choose an SEO expert on your own, or to hire someone to do the job for you. It can be an HR agency, or maybe even an SEO agency or an SEO consultant offering such a service. Naturally, the CV, reference letter and recommendations will have an impact on narrowing the choice to a few candidates who will be asked to attend the interview.

Previous experience

Previous experience of an SEO specialist is of utmost importance. First of all, you do not want to take on a single person only to realize that he/she does not have enough experience. For this reason, such a position would be suitable for a senior SEO specialist, or a mid SEO specialist in the worst case. Nevertheless, even if it’s just industry seniors we are talking about, the differences can be huge. They can be first spotted in different places where SEO professionals gained their experience; perhaps they were working in an SEO agency, or they were employed as in-house SEO specialists. Moreover, it is important if they have been dealing with only a certain SEO area, or they have experience from all fields (technical SEO, content creation and optimization, link building, keyword analysis, and so on).

SEO specialists with an agency experience

Working in an SEO agency is a remarkable experience for an SEO specialist. If they had the opportunity to work in a quality SEO agency, an SEO specialist had the chance to meet clients from all walks of life, from small company businesses to global multi companies. In addition, they were able to use various useful tools and to test different strategies on several distinctive clients. They probably had some kind of training within their company and were exchanging experiences with other colleagues, thus gaining enormous experience.

However, when talking about someone who used to work in an agency, what can be interpreted as his/her flaw is the possibility he or she is extremely specialized in only one SEO area (e.g. only the technical SEO, or just link building).

In-House SEO specialist

A person who has already worked in a company as an SEO specialist has experience in working with only one client as their advantage, which will help them get organized at the beginning, compared to the SEO specialist who has only worked in an agency. As well as that, they will probably be experienced in working with bigger resources. Furthermore, they probably had to be introduced to all aspects of SEO while working on one single project.

As for the downsides, one of them could be the lack of experience when it comes to working with different clients and industries, so there’s a chance an in-house SEO specialist would stick to the strategy which worked in the previous business, thinking how this kind of strategy always helps.

Interview questions for an in-house SEO specialist

Regardless of an SEO specialist’s previous experience, there are several questions which should be asked since they can help you with your decision to hire the right employee:

  • Have you ever had a client in our industry? (follow-up question: Could you tell us more about it?). Of course, any experience is welcome.
  • How much do you know about our industry?
    Proper knowledge about the client’s industry is the key to a successful SEO campaign. From conducting keywords research to coming up with creative content and link gains, they are all limited unless one knows the industry well.
  • Which SEO tools have you used so far? Do you find some of them necessary for your work, and could we use some free alternatives?
    The answer to this question will show you how much tool experience an SEO specialist has, and how much extra that is going to cost you, too. If an SEO specialist demands to use certain SEO tools, this will cost you extra as well. Of course, by using free (but at the same time poorer quality) alternatives this can be avoided (to a certain extent) if it’s necessary.
  • Could you also cover the SEO campaign’s needs for design, writing and other activities (it’s not impossible, though it is unrealistic to expect someone to be good at doing SEO work, be a good designer and a high-quality writer at the same time…)?
    Some SEO specialists are able to write articles should the need arise, create graphic content and take care of similar tasks necessary for SEO campaigns. Such activities would certainly take up a lot of their time (you could consider hiring one more person as a helping hand). Still, if the SEO specialist does not possess such knowledge, you will have to hire someone for that work, either as freelancers or some employees within your own company.
  • Simply check just how much the candidate knows about the SEO industry.
    If you have only one person in charge of your SEO, you want that person to have as broad SEO knowledge as possible. Therefore, you will wish for them to possess knowledge of technical SEO, link building, keyword research, recovering from penalties, content promotion, Google Analytics…
  • And the most important question: Do you have an idea for an SEO strategy?You have asked a candidate to come to the interview and they certainly had a few days to study your website and your business. If they don’t have any ideas, that’s certainly a bad sign. This question will most probably leave the greatest impression on you.

Eventually, you will be able to fully estimate the candidate only when they start working for you. Naturally, the best option would be to hire a candidate who has both agency experience and in-house SEO specialist experience (preferably, in the industry you are dealing with).

Bear in mind that SEO costs money. An SEO specialist of this kind does not come cheap, and you will probably have to invest some extra funds besides their salary, withholdings, and contributions. If you expect from one person to be an SEO specialist, to maintain your website, create designs, do copywriting, deal with social media and AdWords campaigns (yes, there are business ads requiring these), then you should be ready to pay this person their six salaries, because it is six jobs we are discussing here. Or at least expect from the employee not to dedicate enough time to each of those things.

A high-quality SEO campaign requires only two things: dedication and resources. As for the latter, it comprises knowledge (SEO knowledge and knowing the industry you work in) and the money needed for the following elements of SEO campaigns, such as design, content writing, tools, and so on.

In the end, talk to your SEO specialist and ask if they can take care of the whole campaign on their own, or they will need a team. Do the math and you’ll see if the investment is worth it.

Milos Mudric

Milos Mudric is an SEO consultant and tech enthusiast. He is the founder of Silver Fox Digital and and he occasionally writes interesting stories about SEO, but sometimes also about Blockchain, IoT, Fintech and other topics.