Derek Gerber is the global marketing director at Active PDF, the leading global provider of automated, server-side PDF tools. Derek...
Hey everybody. My name is Garrett Mehrguth. I am the CEO and co-founder of Directive Consulting and today we’re going to talk about the ideal skill set for a search marketer.
I was on Twitter and a lot of the people in the industry were discussing what they think is required to be great at SEO or do great paid search work or to just be a great search marketer in general. After doing hundreds, if not thousands of interviews and looking at thousands of resumes, I’ve noticed trends as to some of the character traits that make a great search marketer and I want to talk about those with you today.
Whether you’re in-house and hiring your own team or you’re an agency hiring specialists or account managers, the people that you hire dictate the quality of the work. Marketing is still at a place where it’s driven by individuals with thought processes, opinions, that are about doing — hopefully — great work and those characteristics make up what the ideal search marketer can look like.
Now one of the number one things that we found that separates the top performers in search marketing is that they’re helplessly curious. They can’t help but do better research, do more research. They’re constantly consuming new information. They’re active in the community so, in the search marketing world, the primary community is Twitter. They’re active on Twitter. They’re following information. They’re consuming new information. They’re constantly reading from top blogs. They’re involved, they’re invested, and they’re deeply curious on how they can be better.
If you’re interviewing someone for this role, ask them things like:
- Who do you follow on Twitter?
- What blogs do you read?
Start to see how deeply curious they are. If they haven’t developed their expertise, the fact that it will be developed is almost guaranteed when someone’s deeply curious for their own industry and want to be the best.
Resilience & Grit
The second thing we look for is around the idea of resilience or grit. Search marketing has really long time frames. Even though there is this myth that “PPC happens quickly” (which we try to dispel here and add clarity to) — in general, SEO and PPC take time to really impact a business. There’s a lot of bumps in the road. Resilience, the ability to look at what you’re doing and even when you’re not seeing the progress or results immediately, having the faith and the attitude to just continue and keep grinding out great work, knowing that if your inputs are of high quality, you’re going to get to that high-quality output in due time. That resilience, we found, makes for exceptional marketers, when it comes to search.
The third thing we’ve caught on to is that they’re very trend sensitive. They look at the causation. The most talented search marketers, here, are able to notice that “every time I’ve done X, within a certain amount of time, I’ve noticed Y occur“. They start to build this knowledge base, this feel, and understanding of which changes, which tactics are going to make the biggest impact. That ability to notice trends and shifts naturally — when I do this, X occurs — and differentiate, obviously, between correlation and causation, makes for exceptional, talented marketers.
The “Why Factor”
Fourthly, we have what I like to call the why-factor. This why-factor is an innate ability to take a business and look at what they’re doing and just ask why. They ask questions like:
- Why do you offer that product?
- Why does someone choose you?
- Why does someone not choose you?
- Why did you want to go after that keyword?
- What’s the real business reason for you targeting that?
- Why is our cost per acquisition set at this?
- Why are we using that landing page?
This ability to incessantly ask why allows the search marketer to gather new information that’s nuanced, deeper and allows them to properly align themselves with either the in-house agency or with their team. This idea allows marketers to constantly improve the quality of their work. Positioning drives growth exponentially more than tactics. Having talented individuals who understand the tactics but more importantly understand the “why“, can get incredible results.
Now the second to the last trait or characteristic we’re looking for is creativity. This doesn’t mean that every search marketer needs to be creative. It’s an industry that has, in my opinion, vastly overvalued technical expertise over traditional marketing basics or an understanding of those values and has undervalued being creative and different.
It’s a copycat industry. Rand Fishkin writes a post on a tactic, people implement the tactic. Neil Patel writes a post on a tactic, all the affiliate SEOs and everybody else copies the tactic, and then every person who’s copying the other people experience diminishing marginal returns from that amazing case study that they pitched you on, because as it is in marketing, with time and noise, tactics diminish their value.
Instead of copycatting, we want people who are creative, who can look at a situation or a problem and come up with a creative solution, where they can pull on that trend factor, that causation or correlation ability and think of all the other things they’ve done and then put it in context of the situation. Because they’re deeply curious, they reach out to the network they’ve built, the community they’ve built, they start to get feedback and then execute with resilience. All these characteristics make up the ideal search marketer.
Desire to be Technical
The last characteristic that I think is the least important yet still required is a desire to be technical. Now, I say a desire to be technical because not every person inherently knows how to program. Not every SEO or PPC person is a master at Excel or really understands a high-level BI or run data analysis. That’s not inherently required, but it is something that we want people to have a desire to learn. It’s good to have a desire to learn HTML. It is good to have a desire to become great with Excel. It is good to have a desire to learn how to use big data. But it’s not required.
What I don’t want to see happen is our industry gets to the point where it loses its creativity, it loses its resilience, it loses its hunger for new knowledge and simply thinks that every problem has a technical answer or a solution. Technical skills are great, but for us, we’re really looking for people that we can develop technically who already have strong basis in their characteristics and who they are as a person.
Hopefully, this helps you when you’re looking to hire that next marketer or if you’re looking to hire an in-house SEO or an in-house PPC. As always, please feel free to leave a comment and reach out to us. I’d love to help. Please subscribe. Have a good one!