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The Big, Bad List of Pre-SEO Questions You Need to Answer, Part IV

This is a continuing series of questions that you need to ask and answer for yourself before you start your much needed SEO campaign. In Part I we started off with questions about in-sourceing your SEO campaigns, specifically addressing questions about doing it yourself. We continued to discuss in-sourcing in Part II, asking and answering questions about doing it yourself with the help of another individual. In Part III we answered questions regarding hiring an inexperienced person to manage your SEO campaign in-house.
In this installment we'll look deeper at the concept of hiring someone to manage your campaign in-house, specifically answering questions about what it takes to hire someone who already has experience.
Question 25: Do I hire someone with experience? In Part III we answered questions related to hiring someone without experience in order to give you an idea of some of the struggles and pitfalls that you'll find yourself in. The other option is to look for someone that already has significant SEO experience. Such a person can hit the ground running and you have to worry less about initial on-the-job training and out of pocket expenses as they get up to speed.
Question 26: How much is that going to cost me? Without a doubt, anybody with even a basic knowledge of SEO is going to come with a higher salary price-tag than someone who does not. And the more experience they have, the more money they'll want. That's not to say they will always be priced out of your range, only that you'll need to weight carefully the payroll costs of hiring someone with experience verses the training costs of someone without. The upside is the more knowledge you hire the more effective they'll be on the onset of the campaign.
Question 27: How do I know they can do what they claim? This is a tricky one because many people who claim to have SEO knowledge may not know as much as they may claim. Or even as much as they think they know. In order to get an understanding of their knowledge level you'll need to ask them some very pointed questions in the interview process. You'll need to judge their knowledge, assess their strategies and verify their accomplishments. But no matter how much you try to get an understanding before hand, inevitably it'll come down to whether they can make results happen for you, and that will only be verifiable once they've been on the job for a few months.
Question 28: Will they have all the skills necessary? SEO isn't just about throwing keywords on a page and monitoring the search engines. A good SEO needs to be able to be a decent copywriter, excellent keyword researcher, decent link builder and have a basic grasp of social media marketing and usability. While each of these areas requires a very specific skill set a decent SEO should be well versed enough to be passable in most of the areas necessary to succeed. If more expertise is needed then you'll have to answer the next question.
Question 29: Will I have to pay additional dollars as they sub-contract out specialty work? Rarely will you find one person who is excellent in all of the areas that fall under an SEO campaign. Unless you're willing to hire a full team, you'll simply have to find someone who you are confident can accomplish what needs to be done and can either make due with the other areas or sub work out as appropriate. You'll want to figure this out in your budget. If you hire someone with less experience you may have to sub-contract out more areas of your campaign. However, the more skilled of a person you find the less sub-contracting out you'll have to do.
Question 30: How much will I have to pay to keep their knowledge current? Even experienced SEOs still need to be kept abreast of the latest trends. Be prepared to allow your in-house SEO time for reading blogs, contributing to forums, engaging in social media like twitter and reading books. Since your SEO is in-house these are activities that you need to allow them to do "on the clock." The more knowledgeable your SEO is the better results they should be able to achieve for you.
Question 31: Will they expect to attend all the major SEO trade shows? Along with the daily educational activities your SEO needs to partake in, they will likely want to attend some of the major SEO conferences. This can be a significant expense once you add up airfare, hotel and conference registration. You'll want to plan and budget wisely for this. While the big conferences are always fun, sometimes your SEO (and your budget) will be better served by sending them to smaller training seminars on a specific topic.
Question 32: What if the SEO engages in "black hat" activities that screw up my site or get me thrown out of the search engines? You may want to get a sense of your SEO's overall philosophy regarding what tactics they employ and where they think the line is in crossing over from white hat to black hat activities. While you may not want to discount anybody who engages in "black hat SEO" you will want to make it clear that anything that jeopardizes your long-term success is unacceptable.
There is great benefit to hiring an experienced SEO for in-house campaign management. The learning curve is far less, but that doesn't eliminate the risk all together. Finding the right person isn't as easy as hiring the first person you find that has "experience." You want to check them out and verify before you commit to a certain salary.
The first four parts of this series have covered all the questions you need to know when choosing to manage your SEO campaign in-house. With the next installment we'll start a whole new line of questioning regarding outsourcing your SEO campaign entirely to an off-site consultant or a SEO firm.