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5 Things to Consider Before Hiring an SEO Department

by Amanda DiSilvestro on September 5, 2012

SEO helps businesses reach out

It is no secret that tracking Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is getting a bit out of control.

Google’s algorithm keeps changing, new tools are constantly surfacing, social and SEO are becoming more intertwined, and videos from the search team always seem to give you a little I-didn’t-know-that type of surprise.

Keeping up is tough, but gaining visibility on major search engines such as Google is crucial to the success of your business (especially if you’re a new business).

Although it is entirely possible for a new business owner to read about and learn to understand the many layers of SEO, it is time consuming.

When you’re worrying about your new businesses finances, training your sales staff, and trying to manage your marketing efforts, SEO can seem overwhelming. You can’t help but ask yourself: Where do I even begin?

The truth is that many companies are finding that they need to hire an SEO department. SEO has officially become a full-time job, and after a while it simply isn’t realistic for a business owner to assume that he/she can it alone. Fortunately, getting started hiring an SEO department doesn’t have to be difficult.

Top 5 Questions to Ask before Hiring an SEO Department

Before your company evens begin the process of hiring an SEO department, it’s critical to develop a list of goals. Talk with your executive staff and decide why you want an SEO department and what kind of results you’d like to see. Although these will surely change with time, it’s a great starting point.

Once you know a few of the things you want out of a department, you should ask yourself a few of the following basic questions:

1.     Should they also be in charge of social media efforts, or should that be separate?

This is a common question that business owners have to discuss. Because SEO and social media are becoming so connected, many companies intertwine the two tasks.

However, if you do decide to take this route, it’s important to understand that you will likely want to hire one person who really understands SEO and one person who really understands social media (if not more). Although the two tasks are related, they are still different.

2.     Should I hire an agency or an in-house expert?

There are certainly pros and cons to each.

Hiring an outside agency is usually the best move for companies with little SEO knowledge because other SEO experts will surround the agency employees.

They will typically know how the process works, and the outside agency will usually do the hiring to make sure that their employees really understand SEO. An agency is fast and simple and allows you to focus on other aspects of your business.

However, some companies still prefer hiring in-house because it gives you more control. That experts or that team of experts will be focused on the SEO of your company and your company only, and they’ll be right there to talk you through what they’re doing. Which route you choose should really depend upon your goals and your management style.

3.     How can I interview a company or expert if I’m not an expert myself?

This is always tricky. SEO isn’t something that too many people understand right away, but conducting an interview shouldn’t be too difficult.

Make sure that whomever you’re interviewing does NOT guarantee any type of SEO results, and make sure they mention some of the tools they use to complete their job (SEO requires lots of analytical software).

4.     How should I track the success and progress of the department?

The easiest way to track the progress of the department is by completing an A/B test.

Before the department starts, do an analysis of where your company ranks for specific keywords. As time continues, keep checking where you rank for these keywords. You can use tools such as Google Analytics to help keep your data organized. It’s also a good idea to ask your department to track its progress so that you can see how they think they’re doing.

5.     How many people should work in the department? Are there different positions within the department that I should implement?

This depends upon the size of your company. It’s best to start small and then let your employees see if they think there is more work than there are workers. Typically, an SEO department for a medium sized company (50-100 employees) consists of anywhere between five to ten people.

The older the department becomes, the more information you will have to really analyze their work. More questions will surface as time goes on, but asking these basic questions should give you the tools you need to create a good, solid department that will last.

What were some of the questions that you wish you would have asked when hiring an SEO department? Let us know in the comments below!

Image courtesy of Flickr user Aphrodite .

Amanda DiSilvestro is a graduate of Illinois State University.

Although she graduated with an English Education degree, she found herself working as a full-time blogger at Highervisibility, nationally recognized as one of the best seo companies in the country. Connect with HigherVisibility on Google+ and Twitter to learn more!

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