Written By – Joseph Scaglione
I’m sitting at my computer, browsing through job boards, searching the title “Content Creator.” Not much to choose from. The available openings call for experienced candidates, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications, Journalism, or related fields. Someone with strong writing and editing skills, a flexible style, and a portfolio of work. Finally, in big bold letters: “SEO IS A MUST” or “MUST HAVE SEO EXPERIENCE.”
What is SEO?
For those who are unfamiliar, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It is the use of keywords throughout an article, headline, subtitle, or video description that search engines use when creating the display order of a search results page. The more relevant keywords used in a piece of content, the higher it ranks on a results page. Thousands of articles and tutorials litter the internet offering tips on the best SEO practices.
When hiring, an HR director or employer will analyze a candidate’s hard and soft skills. Hard skills refer to technical knowledge gained from formal training or experience, while soft skills are personal habits and traits that shape your work, for example, being a self-starter. SEO is a hard skill…kinda. It requires technical knowhow. A writer should understand what keywords to lace into their articles to get attention from search engines. However, SEO is not be the key to getting attention from your target audience. SEO is great for generating exposure, but are the right people viewing your content?
If you still crave a candidate with SEO skills, look on their resume. If they have ANY SEO experience, check off the box, then review their portfolio. The reason is, Google and other search engines constantly update their keyword catalogue and search engine results pages. SEO is not a difficult concept to learn. A dedicated candidate will pickup good techniques within hours. Creating good content is difficult and takes years of practice. It cannot be learned in an afternoon.
If Not SEO, Then What Should I look For?
How do they write and what do they write about? Even if their writing is off-topic from the values of your brand, see if their style would appeal to your audience. Do you like their writing? Would you personally subscribe to their blog? Chances are, as the business owner, you are a reflection of your customers, and you have brand identity and marketing goals in mind. So if you like the candidate’s content, there is a good chance your customers will like it too.
WHAT DOES THEIR WRITING DO FOR YOU?
Let’s say you have a line-up of candidates who all obtained an MBA from Harvard Business School. They’ve all worked for Fortune 500 companies and of course, they all know SEO. They’ve checked off all the hard-skills boxes. Now soft-skills become important to differentiate these candidates. Which candidate do you like the most? Which candidate can you see yourself working with daily? This is the candidate that will get the job. Hiring a content creator follows a similar process. Which creator builds content that you can happily to post on your site? Content that connects with your customers, regardless of what keywords are used. That is the person you should hire.
Did the candidate find a niche? Do they have a steady stream of readers, viewers, and engagers? This shows the candidate can reach a specific audience by modifying their content. Most content issues are not solved by adding a keyword to a title or description. The content itself needs to be changed. If you managed to run a successful SEO campaign, and people are viewing your content, but no one is buying into your message or brand, then the problem is in the content itself. The worst summer blockbusters often have the highest marketing budgets because they know people aren’t going to watch the movie based on word of mouth.The exact same principle holds for content with paid ads and SEO.
Looking Outside SEO
Good content spreads like wild-fire. Take Netflix’s smash hit Tiger King. Low-budget, no advertising. Netflix users discovered it, found value, and shared with friends looking for interesting content. No keywords, no special phrases, just honest reviews and acclaim from a trusted source. Pure word of mouth.
If you’re familiar with YouTube, you’ll know the ins and outs of “Clickbait;” a catchy title and thumbnail used to get viewers to click onto a video (it’s SEO in a nutshell, only for people, instead of search engines). David Dobrik is one of the masters of clickbait. However, in addition to clickbait, Dobrik provides quality content. The viewer doesn’t feel ripped off for clicking on, unless they find absolutely no value in his videos. Chances are, if you like one Dobrik video, you’ll like them all and binge watch them. You like and subscribe to his channel, leave comments, and it won’t matter what he puts in his title, or what thumbnail he uses, because he’s already sold you his brand and style. You trust that his content will be exactly what you’re looking for.
This level of trust between you and your customer is not built through SEO. It is formed through a team of content creators who can cater their style to fill the needs of your target market. Find someone who can provide your audience with content that reflects your brand and leaves them with something, a takeaway; whether it be entertainment or knowledge. Put SEO experience aside, and focus on finding a candidate who can create content that makes your audience feel something that will keep them coming back, spreading the word, and sharing your content.