Don’t Hire a Director of SEO

Don’t Hire a Director of SEO

29th October 2013

marketing strategyOne of the things we all love about this industry is that times change and it means wonderful job security. All of the changes lately are about moving more toward online marketing (State of Digital!). SEOMoz is now Moz, Search Engine Land has Marketing Land, and Lee Odden just blogged the same idea. Companies should be following suit to ensure that the right decisions are being made for your brand and online successes.

Recently, I was approached about a position as the Director of SEO — and my first reaction wasn’t what it used to be. A few years ago, nothing about the position would have phased me (I love Distilled and still not going anywhere), but this time I sat back and thought “well, that job title is going to change soon.” A director level position should not just be focused on SEO any longer. A Director or C-Level position should be more online marketing focused with SEO as just a small part of that.

You can actually already see it in the market. Check out the Director of SEO job ads on Indeed. As of the writing of this post, I see Director of Content, Director of Online Marketing (Walmart), and Digital Marketing Director. There are many companies that see how our roles are changing, but some have yet to catch up. You might be in that position and asking who you should hire if SEO isn’t what you need.

Hiring for Online Marketing Success

In the next few years, there will be a large influx of people wanting SEO jobs, but you will want someone that can do more. They will be able to assist with a site migration, fill in for your social media team, work with customer support, and be a helper at your next (offline) company event.

online marketing

Online marketing success in the future relies heavily on branding, customer communication, product development, company culture and so many other things that don’t exist solely on your website. These things can’t be checked off a list, keyword researched or added to a meta tag. You will need someone who can participate in and lead meetings between vendors (online and offline), lead multi-functional teams, and think outside of the box.

This person will need a thorough understanding of search and usability, but few if any companies will need someone that only works on SEO. If that position is needed, let’s say for a number of company sites, it should be more of a junior role. SEO is still very important, but it’s a portion of the whole marketing success pie. You need someone that is going to make SEO a part of the process, not a separate process. 

Therefore, I would say take a page from the companies already headed in that direction. Look for someone that knows SEO, but also PPC, digital ad buys, social media, PR, content development, usability, conversion, analytics, reporting, video, and more. Check out this job description [PDF] from 1-800-Flowers for some inspiration.

Seeking Employment?

After saying all of that, let me make one thing clear: a title is just a title – it means nothing in the end, but it can be an indicator of the mindset of the company you might be applying with. A company that gets business and marketing will be looking for a well rounded online marketer. If you are looking for the best job and your passion is in online marketing, you should be preparing yourself for the shift in roles.

Go Broad

Knowing search is imperative, it really isn’t going anywhere, but it’s not going to be as big of a driver as it was 7 years ago. Google Now, Facebook, Instagram and everything that has yet to launch are changing the landscape. If you want to be able to grow a business using online traffic, you are going to have to get to know all of these mediums. Early in your career, even if it’s focused on SEO, spend time with the social people, with the graphic designers, and the UX people. Don’t have those people at your company? Go to a Meetup. There will be people there that want to learn more about search and you can exchange ideas.

Work on Side Projects

You are going to need experience with all facets of marketing. My guess is that you are slammed with work during the day, which means you will need to take on some side projects. Talk to friends that run their own business or go to a Chamber of Commerce meeting and find a small business looking for help. Applying for top positions with awesome stories of how you helped grow a local business 300% online by doing specific marketing things (keep up with the details!) will make you stand out from the crowd. Don’t constrict your accomplishments by what you do at work now.

Ask Questions

Participate in forums, volunteer, get out in the community, and find a mentor. The more you do and participate in, the more you will get insider access to the people doing the hiring. Participating not only gives you answers, but shows off your intelligence and people will notice that. Most top positions are filled by people that are recommended, and you can only get recommended if you get your name and talents out there.


Whether you are hiring or looking to advance your career in online marketing (read: SEO), it’s time to change your way of thinking. SEO is important but the role needs to have responsibility and resources to touch so many other areas of the business to have the most impact. Get SEO out of it’s silo and get involved with wider online marketing.

[Online marketing image credit]


Written By
Kate Morris is the Director of Client Strategies with Outspoken Media. She is a well seasoned online marketer with a passion for teaching others. For the last 10+ years she has covered the paid, natural, and social sides of search.
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