SEO managers help businesses rank at the top of Google’s organic search results. Learn more about the strategies they implement, the typical salary, and how to find the right one for you.

Here, you’ll find:

  1. What an SEO manager is
  2. What SEO managers do
  3. Skills a good SEO manager should have
  4. How to find the best SEO manager for you
  5. A typical SEO manager’s salary
  6. Questions to ask a potential SEO manager

With some jobs — pastry chef, dance teacher, surgeon — it’s relatively easy to imagine day-to-day life during work hours. 

Then there are jobs that give off more of a “transponster” vibe, where the duties are… elusive. An SEO manager, to the uninitiated, could certainly fall under that category. Luckily, we’re here to break it down.

SEO managers can help create a solid, informed search engine optimization, or help build and enhance an existing one that isn’t bringing about the results you want.

After all, search engine optimization (SEO) has become an indispensable aspect of any successful online marketing strategy. To maximize a website’s visibility and attract rush-hour levels of organic traffic, businesses often seek out the expertise of an SEO manager. But what exactly does an SEO manager do, and how can you ensure you hire the right one for your business? 

We’ll dive into the world of SEO management and guide you in finding the perfect match for your business. 

 What is an SEO manager?

An SEO manager helps businesses appear at the top of search results (on Google and other search engines) for relevant searches just below the ads. They do this by following the latest SEO best practices, keeping an eye on competitors, ensuring your business’s profiles are consistent across the web, and plenty more.

That’s a high-level explanation, of course. Just as SEO has various pillars (on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical SEO), so too does the job of an SEO manager

An SEO manager should be an effective communicator, with the ability to collaborate with various stakeholders, your in-house marketing team members, and external partners as needed.

An SEO manager should be an effective communicator, with the ability to collaborate with various stakeholders, your in-house marketing team members, and external partners as needed. (Image: Adobe Stock)

 What does an SEO manager do?

As one of HawkSEM’s experienced SEO managers, Suvi Utermohlen explains that her job description involves many aspects.

Those aspects include:

  • Looking at the competitive field within a client’s industry to gauge what search engines believe is useful content
  • Helping find CRO opportunities on landing pages
  • Identifying technical items that could be impeding the user experience, such as 404 web pages and slow site speed

Utermohlen and other SEO pros work with clients or brands to craft and implement a unique SEO strategy that ensures their online presence sets them up to reach the top of organic search rankings on search engine results pages (or SERPs). Here’s how they do it.

Keyword research and strategy

Our years of experience have taught us that effective SEO begins with understanding the keywords your target audience uses to search for products or services.

An SEO manager conducts thorough keyword research, identifies relevant terms, and develops a comprehensive strategy to target these keywords strategically throughout your website.

On-page optimization

Another vital aspect of SEO management is optimizing your website’s on-page elements to work well with search engine algorithms.

This includes optimizing meta titles, descriptions, URLs, header tags, and internal linking, so each element contributes to better search result visibility and a top-notch user experience (UX).

Content strategy and development

Content is the bedrock of any successful SEO campaign. An SEO manager collaborates with writers and creators to ensure high-quality content marketing (whether that be blogs, downloadable templates, social media, or all of the above and more).

“Quality,” in this instance, usually means the content aligns with strategic keywords, engages your target audience, and establishes your brand as an industry authority.

Link building and outreach

Building high-quality backlinks is crucial to strengthening your website’s authority and credibility.

An SEO manager can identify opportunities for link building, reaching out to industry influencers, bloggers, and owners of authoritative domains to establish partnerships that can lead to backlinks that boost your website’s visibility.

Performance tracking and reporting

An effective SEO manager consistently tracks the performance of your website using analytical tools.

They provide comprehensive reports on key performance indicators like organic traffic, search rankings, and user engagement, helping you make informed decisions and adjust strategies accordingly.

Implements an omnichannel approach 

While multiple facets make up a well-rounded digital strategy, they shouldn’t work in silos. Rather, these elements should work harmoniously for a result that’s greater than the sum of their parts.

In action, that looks like an SEO strategy where keywords can help inform other SEM (search engine marketing (SEM) efforts like PPC, or where you share well-performing content on LinkedIn and other social profiles to boost reach.

 What skills should good SEO managers have?

This is a big question, so we decided to take it to the pros. We tapped Angela Cuadros, senior talent specialist at HawkSEM, to get her expert insights into vetting and hiring SEO managers.

A focus on real results

“The first thing we’re looking for is quantifiable results,” says Cuadros. “There are what we call vanity metrics, and then there are the actionable metrics.” 

She adds that, when reviewing resumes to hire for roles including an SEO manager job, she takes a holistic approach, looking for how the potential hire has helped clients, driven actions, and helped increase sales. 

“Soft “skills

Cuadros explains that, as a client-facing agency, “we’re also looking for an element of experience communicating with clients and setting expectations.” Being a master of the technical aspects and having some years of experience are certainly important in an SEO manager role.

However, the right SEO specialist should also be able to connect with and provide feedback to clients in a helpful, professional manner. Since we know SEO results take more time than methods like paid search, building a rapport and gaining a client’s trust is key. 

Experience with time-saving tools

While not a requirement, it helps when your SEO expert is familiar with the tools your team uses to make SEO project management a bit easier. 

This means there will be less of a learning curve and a more seamless onboarding process. Some of our favorite SEO tools and platforms include:

  • Google Analytics
  • Google Search Console
  • Moz
  • Ahrefs
  • Semrush
  • Screaming Frog

Attention to detail

“Attention to detail is critical in this job because it’s easy to overlook important data when there’s so much data available,” says Utermohlen. “The ability to pivot your strategy depending on algorithm updates is also needed, as one strategy that works at the beginning of the year may not work by the middle of the year.” 

She adds that you also need to be able to keep track of several projects and initiatives at once. This means having a system of organization that works for you, whatever that may look like, is crucial. 

Strong language skills

While some SEO managers may be more focused on the technical or back-end side, being a well-rounded SEO pro means having a solid base knowledge of grammar and language concepts. 

“Strong language skills in whichever language you’re working in are vital,” according to Utermohlen. “I’ve found that I’ve needed to edit content for CRO, for meta descriptions, and in content pieces myself. If you have a difficult time with English spelling, grammar, or punctuation, this will be more challenging for you.”

The ability to break down technical concepts

SEO isn’t just more nuanced than paid search, but it’s often more nebulous as well. That means an effective SEO manager needs to be an excellent communicator.

For example, this is especially important when an SEO manager’s client or company needs to report on progress to higher-ups in the company or those who may not be as well-versed in the ins and outs of SEO.

Being able to condense or explain complex topics in a way that’s digestible can be a game-changer for building that bond of trust and retention.

Front-end programming knowledge

While it may not be absolutely necessary, Utermohlen says she’s found front-end programming knowledge with HTML and CSS to be incredibly helpful.

“Having worked with CMS [platforms] such as WordPress helps shorten the learning process,” she says. “The more CMS [plaftorms] you have experience with, the better.”

Pro tip: To stand out from the crowd, it helps to have an SEO manager who also has an eye for web design and basic knowledge of good UX practices.

Business, job interview concept.

Seek out those with a solid track record, high client satisfaction, and a deep understanding of the latest SEO trends and best practices. (Image: Adobe Stock)

 How to find the best SEO manager for your business

We get it: You don’t just want any marketing pro managing your SEO efforts. You want the best of the best.

What’s best for your business depends on things like your current SEO status, your goals, your bandwidth, and more. Here’s where to start. 

Define your SEO goals

Before initiating the hiring process, clearly outline your SEO goals and expectations. Determine what key performance indicators are important to you, such as increased organic traffic, higher search rankings, or improved conversion rates.

A competent SEO manager should understand and align their strategy with your goals.

Determine what level of expertise you need

There are two kinds of SEO managers, and the one you look for will depend on your company’s needs and goals. On one hand, there’s the SEO manager with experience in the field. On the other, there’s a digital marketing pro with experience in aspects like content creation or website management.

Decide what skills or experiences matter most to you. (For example, if you have a smaller budget or team, you may want someone who’s got a range of experience and can quickly learn the more advanced facets of the job.)

Research and vet candidates

Invest time in researching potential candidates to ensure their expertise aligns with your requirements.

Rather than simply looking at the last place they worked or whether or not they have a bachelor’s degree, seek out those with a solid track record, high client satisfaction, and a deep understanding of the latest SEO trends and best practices.

Conduct in-depth interviews

During the interview process, delve into the candidates’ experience, strategies, and the results they’ve achieved for previous clients.

Ask questions specific to your industry and try to determine how they plan to address your unique challenges. Knowledge, transparent communication, and adaptability are key qualities to consider.

Seek references and portfolios

Request references from their previous clients and ask to review their portfolio of successful SEO campaigns. This will provide insights into their ability to deliver tangible results and adapt their strategies to diverse business models.

Evaluate communication skills and values fit

An SEO manager should be an effective communicator, with the ability to collaborate with various stakeholders, your in-house marketing team members, and external partners as needed.

Gauge how effectively they explain complex SEO concepts and their commitment to keeping you informed about progress and strategy updates.

 What is a typical SEO manager’s salary?

An average SEO manager’s salary in the U.S. is between $74,000 and $90,000 a year, according to the latest stats from the top hiring websites. The actual amount will, of course, depend on a handful of factors, from title and years of experience to job description and more.

In contrast, SEO agency pricing (or a full-service digital marketing group that offers a la carte services) can cost you in the neighborhood of $3,000 to $10,000 per month for fixed rates. For local SEO, the monthly rate is between $500 to $1,000. For one-time projects, expect a range between $5,000 to $30,000.

 Questions to ask a potential SEO manager

Alright, so you’ve narrowed down your handful of candidates. Now, it’s time for the interviews.

While you should ultimately go with your gut after getting to know each potential manager, the below suggestions can help ensure you’re asking direct questions that’ll provide plenty of insight into whether or not they’re the right fit.

  • What’s an SEO success story that you’re particularly proud of?
  • How do you approach SEO audits?
  • What do you think the most important SEO rankings factors are today?
  • Have you worked with many clients in our industry before?
  • How long do you estimate to start seeing results from SEO efforts?
  • What are your favorite SEO tools to use?
  • How do you deal with sudden rankings changes or algorithm shakeups?

The takeaway

SEO managers play a vital role in helping businesses enhance their online visibility and organic traffic. 

By understanding the wide range of responsibilities they undertake and following a thorough hiring process, you can find the perfect SEO marketing manager who aligns with your goals and propels your brand’s online success. 

Remember, investing in building a strong online presence yields long-term benefits and sets your business on the path to success.

Contact HawkSEM for Free Consultation