Why an SEO Specialist Should Never Be Your First Marketing Hire

More and more lately, new startups and established, growing businesses are looking to develop marketing teams. Unfortunately for those new marketing hires, the term “team” is only loosely applicable.

That “team” that these fast growing or newly funded businesses hires is all too often a team of one and that’s an SEO Specialist.

A single, lonely marketing hire that is, almost always, someone who focuses on SEO.

And, because hiring marketing people is often a new endeavor for the folks doing the hiring and budgeting, they all too often budget far too little and expect far too much.

An SEO Specialist Isn’t Meant to Work Alone

Hiring an SEO specialist to work alone is a disaster waiting to happen for your marketing.

You may get some early wins through paid search, or the technical updates they can work for you, but the wins of a solo SEO specialist are going to be short term. An SEO specialist is great at search engine optimization; they’re not experienced in developing or implementing a larger scale marketing strategy. If they are, then they’re probably not looking at positions at a specialist, or entry, level.

Don’t get me wrong! Having an SEO specialist or even experienced SEO expert on your marketing team can be a truly essential hire – once you have a marketing strategy and team in place to begin with.

But that’s just it.

You need a marketing strategy and a team to support that SEO specialist before you even think about hiring one.

Before You Optimize For Search Engines, You Need a Strategy to Optimize For

The reason that hiring an SEO specialist should never be your first hire is because search engine optimization specialists work best when they have a strategy they can bolster.

What you need is a plan.

You know, that thing that 70% of marketers say they lack a consistent or integrated strategy for? Yeah. That.

Those poor SEO specialists you’re underpaying can’t do their jobs effectively if you don’t have a goal for them to work towards.

They can make specific pages optimized for specific keywords, but why?

What’s the point?

Are you that confident that your website is just magically going to generate leads for you from that traffic? What happens to traffic after it arrives on your site? What happens to new contacts that convert on your site? Do you have a plan for them?

That kind of strategy is what’s needed for your newly hired SEO specialist to be effective. And without it, they can’t do their jobs effectively.

Your First Hire Should Be A Marketing Strategist – or an Agency That Can Provide Strategic Direction

What you need before you ever consider SEO is a marketing strategy.

Not the general type of direction that your CEO or President is going to provide; you need a strategy that’s both big picure and able to be drilled down into for actionable activities. Your senior leadership can provide big picture, but they may lack the understanding of modern marketing tactics or methods for achieving the big picture goals they want to target.

Instead, what you need to focus on is the marketer, consultant, or agency, that will help you develop the strategy that helps your team achieve that big picture goal.

As talented as an SEO specialist may be, they’re not experienced in developing strategy or project management. Expecting them to come up with your business’s big marketing plans is like expecting your accountant to come up with your business’s revenue targets.

It’s not that either the SEO specialist or the accountant aren’t capable of doing great things, aren’t smart, or aren’t able to think big picture. It’s just not what they’ve developed their skills in, and they’re unlikely to be all that great at directing where your company should go.

You Need to Have the Right Expectations of Your Marketing Hires

Your SEO specialist isn’t going to have the chops for your marketing strategy.

That being said, your marketing strategist isn’t going to be a god among men, either.

You need to have clear, actionable business goals and an overall business plan in place to help your marketing strategist (whether they’re a direct hire or outsourced) develop the marketing strategy you hired them for.

If you’re building your marketing plans and actions from the ground up, you need more than a few entry to mid-level hires. An SEO specialist working with a marketing strategy can accomplish a lot, especially if you have nothing to compare it to.

But compared to what your specialists and strategists can accomplish with the help of a dedicated CMO? Someone with the experience and background to guide them?

Your first hire should be a CMO – a big picture person. Not the folks who handle the day to day implementation of those big picture ideas.

CMO? Strategist AND an SEO Specialist? Just where is all this budget money coming from?

Reading about hiring more than just an SEO specialist, but a strategist, and a CMO too, might be making you cringe just thinking about the budget required.

Hiring one SEO specialist will run you about $45,000 annually here in San Diego, but nationally, the salary for a specialist is a comfortable $37,000. That’s not excessive, and for a new hire, it’s downright affordable.

But that’s less than you’d spend on a decent (or not so decent) marketing assistant – much less an experienced, talented marketing strategist. When you start hiring a legitimate team, the cost of salaries starts climbing significantly.

Rather than hiring a slew of entry level specialists and assistants, spend more initially on a CMO – and outsource your marketing.

Let the CMO steer your marketing ship, and take advantage of an agency or specialized consultant (or three) to handle the necessary marketing tasks for significantly less than hiring a team yourself.

Even if you don’t have the budget for a qualified, capable CMO – seeking the services of an agency or consultant experienced in your industry may be a much better use of your budget than hiring a single person.

Your $45,000 a year for an SEO specialist in San Diego translates to roughly $3750 a month. With that, you can easily hire a specialized blogger, social media manager, as well as a contractor to handle your SEO needs.

When you’re ready to talk about just how far you can stretch your marketing budget through outsourcing, talk to the Oinkodomeo team. You can do more with less when you have a plan.


Our guest blogger is Jennifer Greene, Founder and CMO of HubSpot Certified Tyrannosaurus Marketing, and Oinkodomeo Partner. 

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