As you can imagine, we do some pretty advanced search engine optimization (SEO) at TripAdvisor.
Recently, I was asked to help find a rockstar Senior Director of SEO to run our SEO at TripAdvisor. Apply here if you think you’ve got what it takes.
So, what does it take to lead SEO for what many consider to be one of the best ranked sites in the world?
Sure, you need to know the basics, read all of the blogs and know the ins and outs of how the engines work and how to rank, but if you know me, you’ll already know that I’m not interested in finding an average search engine optimizer …
I’m looking for a Rockstar SEO.
So, I’ve been putting a lot of thought into what makes a Rockstar SEO. What makes them stand out from the rest and what are indicators that they’ll be better than an average SEO.
Generally speaking I break SEOs down into 3 categories:
SEO Hacks (70%): These are the ones who’ve updated a few title tags, have read a few blogs and books and know the basics but not much more.
SEO Professionals (29%): These ones know SEO. They’ve been doing it for a long time and have seen some good results, although they might not know exactly why what they did worked. These ones will get the job done but would struggle trying to rank in hyper-competitive industries.
SEO Rockstars (1%): The rockstars know SEO cold. They know that black-hat tactics aren’t a good long term strategy. They could write the book but they don’t because they’d rather not share their tactics with everyone. This tiny sliver at the top is what I’m looking for. I think 1% may actually be generous. I’ve only ever met a few SEOs I would put in that top slice, and most of them already work ( or have worked ) here.
So, what separates them from the rest?
- They innovate. If an SEO can’t tell you at least one thing they did that they think was innovative that no one else has done before ( or few have ), they’re just following the pack.
- They know that Google Analytics just isn’t good enough for true analysis. These SEOs dig deeper by rolling their own reports from logs and data warehouses ( or by using much more advanced tools ) .
- They read the SEO blogs & books but run tests to come up with their own theories and knowledge.
- They test, experiment and (most importantly) verify that SEO changes made a quantifiable impact to traffic & revenue. This is a big signal. Although sometimes you need to follow your gut, from my experience most SEOs use their gut as their only tool to make SEO decisions and rarely test to see if what’s been done had any measurable impact.
- Although they may not be hands on anymore, they are (or were) engineers and hackers.
- They don’t trust what they read in the blogs. This is a big one for me. In my experience 99% of SEOs take what they read on SEOMoz and other SEO blogs as gospel. Although I think those blogs are useful, you’d be surprised how many times you read something that just isn’t true. The real SEOs run their own tests to find out what works and what doesn’t.
- A great question I love to ask is: "Tell me something I don’t know about SEO". Now, I know SEO … but I don’t know everything. That said, I’m pretty sure I could think of a dozen cutting edge things we’ve done that would be new to other SEOs. If you’re trying to hire in the top 1%, they should be able to teach you something pretty novel about SEO.
- They’ve worked in competitive industries, and have had amazing results. When reviewing their experience, keep in mind it’s easy to look like a rockstar when your customers & colleagues are clueless about SEO so don’t put too much weight into previous company SEO experience unless you personally know the level of SEO at those companies.
Top all of the above off with the experience and desire to be a world-class leader and that pretty much sums up what I would define as a rockstar Sr. Director of SEO.
Now comes the cold-hard truth. These people are nearly impossible to find but they’re out there.
… and I don’t give up easy, so let the search begin!