8 Retention Strategies to Keep Your Best SEO Talent From Fleeing

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Understanding that retention strategies are unique to each individual is the key to keeping your team intact.

Tailor management to individual employees

To effectively retain someone, you must first understand what motivates them. The classic question, “Where do you want to be in 2 — 3 years?” is cliché but essential.

Responses vary; one might aspire to only do keyword research with a balance between family and work life, while another might aim to become the manager of the SEO team. For the former, job security, a predictable routine, and flexibility for family time are crucial. Training, new challenges, and opportunities to grow are essential for the latter.

Equally important is understanding what demotivates your SEO team members. Ask them what would upset them, and commit to avoiding those triggers. You create a tailored environment conducive to retention by directly addressing both motivators and demotivators.

What do they actually want?

When training managers at Hallam, I emphasize specific questions to help understand what an individual seeks from their work. Having recently trained two new managers in our SEO team, I’m reminded of the lasting relevance of these questions.

We’ve identified that employee desires often fall into these categories:

  • Job title: The most common response, as many aspire to a better title and the perks it brings, which often includes aspects of other categories.

  • Money: A classic response, but not usually the first one mentioned.

  • Responsibility: The opportunity to work on different internal projects.

  • Status: Similar yet distinct from job title, it’s more about the sense of importance than the title itself.

  • Learning: Opportunities for professional growth, like attending conferences or developing new skills.

  • Bigger or different clients: This is particularly crucial for agency SEOs, especially those progressing from smaller to larger clients.

Understanding the stated desires, their true meanings, priorities, and how they evolve over time is critical. For instance, technical SEOs with a dev background might initially prioritize learning, but as life circumstances change, such as starting a family, financial aspects could become more significant.

If someone expresses a desire for a promotion, probe deeper. What exactly do they seek from it – the title, the pay, or added responsibilities? One of our SEOs explicitly wanted a higher salary, not for luxury but to achieve salary equity with their partner.

You can better support each team member’s career path by grasping these motivations and goals. However, it’s also crucial to recognize when you cannot fulfill their ambitions and communicate this transparently to maintain trust, a critical component in any relationship.

2. Create a positive work environment

At Hallam, we’ve found that the additional benefits, the culture, and the working environment are far more important to SEOs than their salary (as reflected in Chima’s poll). No one enjoys mundane tasks, chaotic surroundings, or feeling unfulfilled at day’s end.

During exit interviews, we ask, “What did you enjoy about working here?” In 95% of cases, the overwhelming response is “the people.” People yearn to collaborate with colleagues who enrich their work lives — those who offer support during challenging times and managers who empathize with personal struggles.

Our workplace ethos

We have a poster in the office — right next to where the SEOs sat pre-pandemic. It reads: “Don’t work for assholes, don’t work with assholes.”

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