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How A News SEO Conference Shaped A Community



How A News SEO Conference Shaped A Community

This post was sponsored by NESS. The opinions expressed in this article are the sponsor’s own.

“This has been a dream of mine for so many years, to do an SEO conference focused solely on publishers.”

– NESS & Founder John Shehata, Global VP of Audience Development at Condé Nast

Working in SEO is a constant learning experience – there’s always something new to discover, and when Shehata and Barry Adams founded the News and Editorial SEO Summit (NESS), they did with that principle in mind.

“People who say they’ve really mastered SEO are probably lying, or massively overestimating how good they really are.”

– Barry Adams, NESS Co-Founder & SEO Consultant, Polemic Digital

“No matter how long you’re doing it and how experienced you think you may be, you will always have those moments where you’re totally and utterly stumped, and just have no idea what’s happening.

“We always continue to learn. There’s never a dull moment in SEO. It’s a very fast-moving industry with search engines constantly evolving, user behavior constantly evolving, websites constantly evolving – so no one knows everything.”

– Adams

With NESS, Shehata and Adams are carving out a special community within the world of SEO for continued growth and discovery.

NESS Is A First-Of-Its-Kind SEO Conference

NESS is exclusively dedicated to news publishers looking to unite and share SEO knowledge.

Attendees of this online conference have the opportunity to learn from top experts in the news industry.

Whether you’re a journalist or editor involved with the day-to-day publishing of news content, or an SEO professional looking to upgrade your knowledge in the field, NESS is a valuable online conference you simply can’t miss!

NESS Is Creating A Community

When NESS officially launched in 2021, it was a longtime dream realized.

Seeing how underserved the news SEO community was, Shehata sprung into action.

“I went to many event organizers and asked them to do this conference, but I was turned down… And about two years ago, I decided that I’m going to do it, and I’m going to fund it myself, and I’m just going to go with it. And if it’s a win, it’s a win – if it’s a loss, it’s a loss. But I thought there would be a good community out there that may attend this conference.”

The goal for the inaugural event was to sell 100 tickets; they ended up with over 600 attendees from all over the world – more than 50% of whom were from outside the U.S.  

People from massive global publishing organizations down to micro news websites focused on small regional areas dialed in from various timezones to share their experiences, leave comments, give feedback, and exchange information.

“I think that’s something that sets our conference apart,” said Adams. “It’s a niche within a niche conference.”

Shehata and Adams quickly realized that news SEO was a niche worth servicing and specializing in.

“What struck me the most,” Adams continued, “is the generosity of the speakers and the attendees in sharing their knowledge and sharing their learnings with other people who are conceivably their direct competitors. There seems to be a genuine sense of community that ‘we’re all in this together, we’re all doing the same things, we’re not each other’s enemies, we’re each other’s allies, we’re trying to do the same thing, which is generate great journalism and make sure that the biggest possible audience gets a chance to read it.’ And I hope we can continue that over the next few years and continue to service that community as best we can.”

NESS Is Serving The Community

NESS is presented specifically as a virtual conference so it can have a low cost to attend. Shehata’s top priorities when creating NESS were knowledge sharing and giving back.

“A publisher can send 30 people to attend, this would never happen with a traditional conference where they charge $2,000 [per ticket]… The other thing is, I truly believe in giving back. Last year was the pandemic and it was a tough time for a lot of people, so we said, ‘How can we help?’ And last year, we gave about 30 free tickets for any SEO who got laid off or made redundant,” Shehata said.

“We also give free tickets to SEOs from developing countries who cannot afford the conference. So we’re trying every year to do good, and I think this is the ultimate goal. Regardless if you’re an SEO or not, you have to give back to the community and do good.”

This year, NESS also led a fundraising campaign for the Red Cross’s Ukraine relief efforts, encouraging attendees to donate and matching their donations up to $5,000.

NESS Pioneers Online Conference Community Engagement

Instead of a one-way stream with speakers simply talking at the audience, NESS promotes two-way engagement, allowing attendees to participate in the conversation.

The live chat feed allows guests to comment, ask questions, and vote during a presentation.

NESS also allows engagement through virtual tables of around eight people who can talk to the speaker, ask questions, network, and more.

NESS 2022 News SEO Conference Highlights

According to Adams:

“John and I, when we started planning this, we wanted talks that we ourselves would like to see delivered by experts in the field. So we selected topics and speakers based on: ‘What would we like to see? What could we learn from, in terms of SEO specifically for news publishers?’”

Here are some highlights from the NESS 2022 lineup, along with key takeaways from each segment.

How To Successfully Implement Paywalls Without Affecting SEO

Leonie Roderick, The Times, and Ben Dilks, Sunday Times, tackled the dilemma in which readers expect to read news content for free, but publishers still have to make money.

Top tips for implementing a successful paywall strategy include:

  • Have a great understanding of your target market and readers.
  • Offer a unique selling proposition that sets you apart from your competition, whether it’s better quality, analysis, or insight.
  • Don’t be a commodity publisher; have something that makes you stand out. If you don’t, readers will simply switch to another news site with a similar product.

Get all the tips in the recorded session.

Using Automated Articles Successfully: Is It Possible?

This segment of the conference was presented by Carolyn Shelby, VP of Growth at Dawn Patrol LLC.

Matt Southern, Senior News Writer at Search Engine Journal and NESS 2022 attendee, noted his key takeaways from this talk:

“As much as SEO can assist with the distribution and visibility of news stories, it shouldn’t guide the direction of news coverage. Shelby spoke at length about using SEO to help machines understand your stories better. She cautioned attendees not to allow SEO to change their journalistic standards. Covering a story because it presents an opportunity to rank for a popular keyword versus covering a story because it’s the most newsworthy is an example of writing news for SEO. As a reporter, your top priority is to cover the most relevant stories for your audience, while SEO is a tool to help your audience find those stories.”

Top Stories: State Of The Union

This detailed presentation by Shehata featured data from NewzDash, a Google news monitoring system and rank tracker specifically for news publishers.

“With all the tools that John has innovated,” said Adams, “he has this wealth of data about what works in top stories, what is showing in top stories at any given time, and how things have changed.”

Career Growth Panel: What Is Your Next Move?

One of the highest-rated sessions within the conference, this panel included various types of SEO professionals who spoke about their experiences in the industry, how they got to their positions, skills that are needed, etc.

“The importance of committing yourself to a particular practice within SEO was a key takeaway,” said Southern. “SEO is such a diverse field that aspiring to become an expert in every facet of the trade isn’t as realistic as in the early days of search marketing. Moreover, the roles companies are hiring for are getting more specialized. If you’re an SEO who is passionate about news, becoming an expert in News SEO is a viable career option.”

Get access to the full session, now!

Search Engine Journal’s NESS Experience

Our own team members attended the conference; here’s what they had to say:

“As a reporter covering industry news in SEO and digital marketing, NESS was an intersection of my career disciplines. It opened my eyes to the fact that there’s a growing segment of SEO professionals focused solely on optimizing news articles for search engines.”

– Matt Southern, Senior News Writer at Search Engine Journal and NESS 2022 attendee

“It was a blast! NESS is one of the most valuable SEO conferences where experts share their practical experience in publishing, which one can quickly turn into a practice and apply. If you are running a publication or a blog, it is a must-attend.”

– Vahan Petrosyan, Director of IT and Infrastructure at Search Engine Journal and NESS 2022 attendee

Missed this year’s NESS event? You can access video recordings and presentations on their website.

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How do you hire an SEO manager?



How do you hire an SEO manager

30-second summary:

  • Business leaders struggle to hire SEO managers, and often wonder if they need one
  • SEO visibility is key to business success and is hard to increase your customer base and sales
  • SEO is a great contributor to brand growth and essentially needs the right mindset
  • This is a checklist to help you hire the right fit for your business

If you’re looking to improve your website’s search engine ranking, you may be wondering how to go about hiring an SEO manager. It can be a daunting task, but with the right information, it can be more straightforward than you think.

In this article, we will discuss some of the things you should consider when hiring an SEO manager. We’ll also provide some tips on how to make sure your team works well together and gets the most out of your SEO manager.

Why hire an SEO manager?

Without an SEO manager, it’s often difficult to know where to start when it comes to improving your website’s search engine visibility. And without valuable organic traffic, it’s hard to increase your customer base and sales. SEO can be a big contributor to brand growth.

An SEO manager can help you identify the best strategies for improving your website’s search presence. They will also be able to monitor overall performance, spot potential improvement opportunities, and create effective tactics to get the best results from your website’s content.

This includes conducting keyword research and creating SEO content, optimizing existing website pages, analyzing traffic sources, managing link-building campaigns, monitoring search engine performance, and regularly reporting on the progress of organic traffic. An SEO manager will ensure that your business sees SEO progress much more quickly.

What responsibilities does an SEO manager have?

The primary responsibility of an SEO manager is to ensure that your website ranks as high as possible in search engine results (not just Google, but Bing, and Amazon too).

If you’re not on the first page of Google for your most important keywords, you’re missing huge sales opportunities. This is particularly true for ecommerce SEO, where a poorly-performing website and SEO strategy can literally be the difference between a thriving business and bankruptcy.

It is crucial to hire an SEO manager who understands all aspects of SEO, including technical SEO, content-related tasks, analytics tracking, website performance, and link building.

They should have the ability to assess the current health of a website, developing plans to improve ranking in organic search results. The successful candidate should also be able to track and analyze performance metrics, such as click-through rates, conversion rates, and bounce rates.

What characteristics make a good SEO manager?

When looking for an SEO manager, you’ll want to find someone who is knowledgeable in the field, has good communication skills, is a self-starter, and can work independently.

Personality traits are key too. The person should be creative, persistent, and have a passion for problem-solving. They should also have good organizational skills and the ability to prioritize tasks.

It is important that the SEO manager you hire is a team player, and can take direction from upper management. Having the ability to build relationships with stakeholders and clients is also essential.

The importance of project management

Project management skills are essential for an SEO manager as they will need to coordinate activities between multiple teams and departments, manage timelines and budgets, and report on project progress.

Without good project management skills, an SEO manager will struggle to get results and could cause delays in achieving desired outcomes.

How can you ensure that your team gels well?

The key to creating a successful SEO team is finding people with complementary skills who work well together. This involves looking for individuals who have experience in different aspects of digital marketing, such as content writing, web design, and analytics.

You don’t want to hire a team of people who are all experts in the same field, as this will limit your team’s ability to think creatively and come up with innovative ideas.

It is also important to ensure that your SEO manager has good interpersonal skills. Having an open-door policy where everyone can easily communicate with each other is essential. This will help build trust between team members and ensure everyone is on the same page.

Having an open dialogue between all team members will also be crucial. This will ensure their feedback and input on how best to optimize the content or improve strategies.

Ideas for welcoming and onboarding your new hire

This could include creating an onboarding checklist, setting up regular meetings, assigning tasks to the team members, and scheduling time for team-building activities. Do make sure your SEO manager has face time with key leads from across the business to get a strong understanding of the business and its needs. This pays off in the long run.

Hiring in-house vs SEO outsourcing

When it comes to deciding if you should hire an in-house SEO manager, outsource the work to an SEO agency, or simply get a freelancer – you need to gauge the pros and cons.

Hiring in-house may be more expensive but can provide a greater level of control and allows for closer collaboration with the team. You totally own your processes and have granular input on everything.

On the other hand, outsourcing to an agency or freelance professional may be more cost-effective and can provide specialized skills that are not available in-house. Many SEO providers will offer types of monthly SEO packages, which make costs predictable and controllable. And depending on the terms of a contract, you likely have the freedom to cancel whenever you like. This can be much less hassle than employing someone ­– a poorly-performing employee, which can be more troublesome to resolve.

  Hiring in-house Hiring an SEO agency or freelancer
Pros • Greater control and collaboration

• Easier to monitor progress

• Assign tasks quickly

• Affordable

• Access to specialized skills

• High level of expertise and experience

Cons • Can be more expensive

• Limited experience level

• Can be difficult to find the right candidate


• Lack of control over the process

• Communication can be more difficult

• Accountability can be less clear

Interview questions to ask your potential SEO manager

When interviewing a potential SEO manager, you should ask some specific questions to make sure they are the right fit. These can include questions about their experience with SEO, how they stay up-to-date on algorithm changes, and what strategies they would use to improve your website’s ranking.

Example starter questions

  • What experience do you have with SEO?
  • How do you stay up to date on algorithm changes?
  • What strategies would you use to improve our website’s ranking?
  • How would you optimize our content for search engine visibility?
  • What kind of link-building tactics do you employ?
  • What do you consider to be the most important SEO trends?

Common mistakes to avoid when hiring a new candidate

When hiring an SEO manager, there are some common mistakes you should avoid:

Not understanding the responsibilities of an SEO Manager

It is vital you have a clear idea of what the job entails and that the candidate has the relevant skills for the position.

Not considering the team’s current culture

When bringing someone new onto your team it is important to consider how they will fit in with existing colleagues.

Not asking enough questions during interviews

Make sure you ask any potential candidates about their experience and qualifications, as well as their ability to work with the team and manage client relationships.

Not setting clear goals for the role

Setting clear expectations will ensure that everyone is on the same page from the outset and that any targets are achievable.

Not agreeing on a budget

Before you start your search, make sure to set a realistic budget for this role. This will help you determine how much you can afford to pay, and what kind of person is best suited to the job.

Not conducting background checks

Background checks are important when hiring an SEO manager as they will provide insight into their past experience and any qualifications they may have. It’s also a good way to make sure that there are no discrepancies in their resume.


Q: How do I find an SEO manager?

A: You can look for SEO managers on job boards, or hire a freelancer or agency. Make sure to ask them questions about their experience and qualifications, as well as their ability to work with the team and manage client relationships.

Q: What should I look for in an SEO manager?

A: A good SEO manager should have experience with SEO, and up-to-date knowledge of algorithm changes and strategies to improve a website’s ranking. They should also be able to optimize content for search engine visibility, employ link-building tactics and keep track of the latest SEO trends.

Q: How much does it cost to hire an SEO manager?

A: The cost of hiring an SEO manager will depend on the level of experience, skills, and services required. Generally, in-house managers can be more expensive than agencies or freelance professionals. It’s important to set a realistic budget before you start your search.

Q: Is it a good idea to hire an SEO manager overseas to work remotely?

A: This depends on the situation. Hiring a remote SEO manager can be beneficial if they are highly experienced and able to deliver results, however, communication and accountability can be more challenging with remote workers. It’s important to weigh up the pros and cons before making your final decision. There may also be legal or compliance issues when employing internationally.

Closing thoughts

Finding the right SEO manager is an important step in ensuring your website’s success. Make sure to ask potential candidates plenty of questions and take into account their skills, experience, and ability to fit into the team culture before making a decision. Consider both the benefits and disadvantages of hiring an in-house employee or outsourcing to an agency or freelancer, and don’t forget to set a budget. With the right candidate on board, you’ll be well on your way to achieving long-term SEO success.

Joe Dawson is Director of strategic growth agency, based in the UK. He can be found on Twitter @jdwn.

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