How do you build an SEO dream team?

Emma North, Head of SEO at Koozai, explains how to mould promis­ing grad­u­ates into ded­i­cat­ed SEO spe­cial­ists, and how to build a great SEO team.

Emma North By Emma North from Koozai. Join the discussion » 3 comments

Here at Koozai, our peo­ple are our dri­ving force, and are far and away our most valu­able asset. That’s why we focus on mak­ing sure we have the right peo­ple with the right skills and the right atti­tude.

I believe that as an agen­cy we have tak­en some key steps towards carv­ing out our “SEO Dream Team”, and here are my learn­ings from our jour­ney that could eas­i­ly be trans­lat­ed to oth­er SEO agen­cies to cre­ate the strongest pos­si­ble SEO force.


Our vital migration from Digital Marketers to SEOs

Until last year, our search mar­ket­ing team was made up of dual-trained Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing Exec­u­tives who worked on both SEO and PPC for their range of clients. This gave us flex­i­bil­i­ty when it came to resource avail­abil­i­ty, and it did have some perks, such as clients hav­ing a sin­gle con­tact man­ag­ing both ele­ments of their project.

How­ev­er, whilst we could all work on being great at both dis­ci­plines, this arrange­ment meant we would nev­er be the best. The biggest rea­son for this is the dra­mat­ic growth in PPC over recent years, where stay­ing on top of all the updates, changes, betas and paid adver­tis­ing chan­nels is a full-time job in itself.

We each worked out where we fit­ted in best, and our SEO and PPC teams were born. This was one of the best busi­ness deci­sions we ever made, and the dif­fer­ences between the skillsets of the two teams are now mas­sive.

In addi­tion, it meant that we opened our­selves up to a wider pool of stronger can­di­dates – spe­cial­ists in their field whom we no longer required to have exces­sive expe­ri­ence in oth­er areas.

For me, effec­tive recruit­ment is anoth­er key area to get right when it comes to build­ing a team of SEO rock stars.

What I look for in an SEO candidate… and it might not be what you think

The key to a good agen­cy and achiev­ing the best results undoubt­ed­ly lies in build­ing a strong, skilled and pas­sion­ate team of spe­cial­ists. But that doesn’t always mean hir­ing the most expe­ri­enced or most knowl­edge­able can­di­dates. In fact, I often hire mar­ket­ing grad­u­ates with zero SEO knowl­edge or expe­ri­ence.

But how, I hear you cry, can some­one with no knowl­edge of SEO, who will need poten­tial­ly months of train­ing, be a viable hire over an expe­ri­enced self-starter?

To some agen­cies, this idea would sound ludi­crous. But at Koozai, our grad­u­ate scheme has pro­duced some of our finest, most reli­able SEOs. They pos­sess qual­i­ties that are hard­er to come by in expe­ri­enced mar­keters, includ­ing:

  • They’re already used to learn­ing hard and fast from uni­ver­si­ty, mean­ing a hands-on grad­u­ate role with heavy train­ing is almost an exten­sion of their degree and a foot in the door of an indus­try that can oth­er­wise be hard to crack.
  • A pas­sion and dri­ve to carve a career for them­selves in an indus­try that keeps them on their toes and gives them the oppor­tu­ni­ty to chal­lenge them­selves con­tin­u­al­ly.
  • A fresh mind, not cloud­ed by the SEO tac­tics of yes­ter­year, that makes them eas­ier to mould into mod­ern, white-hat SEOs who embrace the Koozai way of work­ing.

Essen­tial­ly, the qual­i­ties we look for in an SEO can­di­date are rel­a­tive­ly sim­ple:

  • A pas­sion for mar­ket­ing and a clear desire to be part of our cul­ture.
  • The abil­i­ty to learn fast, which we judge using a home study project and ques­tions in
    the sec­ond inter­view.
  • Strong com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills and hon­esty about what they do and don’t know.
  • Most impor­tant­ly, team fit – a quick “would I be hap­py to sit next to them at the
    Christ­mas par­ty or every day in the office?” is usu­al­ly enough for us to under­stand this

As my CEO says, “any­one who wants to learn and has the beans, we can teach them SEO; but we can’t teach any­one not to be a jerk”.

Agency investment in staff training and personal development

Regard­less of a new starter’s knowl­edge or expe­ri­ence lev­el, effec­tive train­ing is essen­tial, and this nat­u­ral­ly comes with a finan­cial invest­ment.

At Koozai, we pio­neered the KoozA­cad­e­my to give our spe­cial­ists access to some of the world’s indus­try lead­ers for bespoke train­ing. Rather than reg­u­lar­ly send­ing our team to indus­try con­fer­ences, we bring the con­fer­ence to us by invit­ing some of the most reput­ed experts to deliv­er the exact train­ing our team needs. From expert inter­na­tion­al and mobile SEO advice from Aley­da Solis to a deep dive into back­link analy­sis with the Majes­tic suite by Dixon Jones, the KoozA­cad­e­my has allowed us to give our team a real edge in terms of knowl­edge and skillset.

Alongside train­ing, it’s impor­tant to give your team time to devel­op per­son­al­ly and work on what they want to achieve out­side their career. Reg­u­lar Per­son­al Devel­op­ment Plans and time for employ­ees to work on their own devel­op­ment go a long way to build­ing teams of pas­sion­ate mar­keters who want to do well for them­selves and the agen­cy.

Lastly, make it fun!

Last but by no means least, the friend­ly, almost fam­i­ly-like atmos­phere we strive for means the team isn’t just a set of employ­ee num­bers. Every­one is unique and val­ued and brings some­thing dif­fer­ent to the table.

We hold quar­ter­ly events, from go-kart­ing to Glo­ri­ous Good­wood and sum­mer bar­be­cues to ensure our team nev­er for­gets to have fun!

So, what’s the recipe for build­ing an SEO Dream Team?

  • Have ded­i­cat­ed spe­cial­ists who are experts in their field, not jacks of all trades
  • Hire the right peo­ple for the com­pa­ny based on pas­sion and dri­ve, not nec­es­sar­i­ly exist­ing skillsets
  • Invest in the right train­ing that your staff actu­al­ly need and will ben­e­fit from
  • Nev­er take the fun away, and keep a team of experts as pas­sion­ate about the agen­cy as they are about the indus­try.
Emma North

Written by Emma North

Head of SEO, Koozai

Emma is the Head of SEO at Koozai, with a decade of SEO experience under her belt. She is a passionate search marketer with a particular affection for technical SEO.

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3 Comments on "How do you build an SEO dream team?"

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Jonathan
Member
10 months 18 days ago
For a Dream SEO Team you must have the­se skills = Dev + Mar­keter + Ana­lyt­ics. And I think its best that every per­son on your team has the­se skill sets. How do you under­stand whats work­ing with your mar­ket­ing efforts if you don’t under­stand how track or ana­lyze your met­rics? Also how do you under­stand how to opti­mize a site if you don’t know dev or how a web­site works or is sup­pose to work? Ive seen too many SEO’s fail even socall “experts”. Why? SEO has changed and if you can’t adapt quick­ly then your in the wrong… Read more »
michael_hodgdon
Member
10 months 16 days ago

Hey Emma, Great post!! We still real­ly focus on SEO’s with expert lev­el skills when hir­ing but you def­i­nite­ly raise some solid points to con­sid­er. Thanks for the read!

Kamaraj Mathiarasan
Member
5 months 20 days ago

Great share, we are also build­ing up our team. We will try to uti­lize your com­mands too.

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