Discussion 3: Some Good SEO Questions to Check a Candidate’s Actual Knowledge or Expertise
What are some good SEO questions to check a candidate's actual knowledge?
I might be asked to interview some candidates for the position of Tech SEO, SEO research, and strategy. Can you guys suggest some good questions to gauge their actual expertise, please?
Upper-junior to mid-tier role:
• What kind of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) have you done in the past? Platforms, industries, business scales, etc.
• Do you know what is meant by Search Engine Result Page (SERP)/Search Engine Marketing (SEM)? (just generally shows insight into the trade, but not a big deal)
• Have you done any link building? (ask for some examples if they say yes)
• Have you used any programs or applications to help with SEO? (if yes, which ones? SEMrush, etc.)
• Ask if they've had much experience in client liaison if this is part of the role. Effectively managing client expectations if they're going to be reporting back to someone is a key part of the job and mismanagement or poor communication can cause you a lot of strife. They don't have to be overly charismatic, just able to convey information
• Ask an open-ended question about how they'd go about optimising a website for a bakery in a small suburb. Say it's not a test, you'd just like some insight into their process
More entry-level junior:
• What kind of SEO have you done in the past?
• Have you used any programs or applications to help with SEO?
• Ask if they've had much experience in client liaison
• Ask an open-ended question about how they'd go about optimising a website for a bakery in a small suburb
Source: Have interviewed people for SEO roles
Great. This is super helpful!
Ask them what tools they use and why! ANd especially what tools they use for technical and on-page SEO optimization. And why. Ask why do tech SEO users use Log files and what benefits it gives for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). In my experience SEO users use such tools:
Google Analytics (traffic and conversions from all channels)
Google Search Console (Organic impressions and clicks)
jetoctopus.com (Log files, Crawler, on-page, tech SEO)
screamingfrog.com (Crawler for small projects)
Ahrefs .com (external links)
SEMrush.com (visibility, rankings, keyword magic tool)
seranking.com (SERP dynamics)
Also you can ask are there any differences in promoting e-commerce website and enterprise (corporate) website. AND What is websites' architecture and is it important? and what are the main principles of perfect site architecture!
• We are changing our domain name, how can we ensure *zero* downtime and *minimal or no* ranking or traffic loss?
• We are expanding from one to five new countries, how should we handle that?
• Explain how you've created buy-in for SEO across development, content, and frontend teams.
• If rankings have not changed at all how can our organic traffic be going down?
• Create a basic web page for me using a text editor.
What are answers for those questions? I just started doing SEO, that's why I am asking
I've answered them in a couple of other replies just now. Aside from #3, all other questions are fairly easy to answer and are easy to Google. That said, unless you've had to do these tasks, or have enough web development experience to think through the potential issues changes like this can create answering these questions could be difficult. That's ok as the point of these questions are simply to understand what level the prospect is at. I can't really answer how long it will take anyone to gain the experience to answer these off the top of their heads, but I would expect a decent junior person to at least be in the ballpark.
I'm also curious what some good answers to these questions are, if you are able to give us some insight.
ok, here's the short versions of the three I didn't answer yesterday, but I'd prefer more detail in an interview:
• I'd expect the prospect to mention how to correctly redirect the site (usually 301 everything 1:1), and exactly what to do about all the internal and external links that are using the old domain (redirects should not be relied on so all internals should be fixed, and as many external as is possible as well). And in terms of no downtime I'd expect some mention of multiple servers and Domain Name System (DNS) changes (or similar method). I'd ask this question because many junior people will stop at redirects, won't think to fix all the links, and will have no idea about how to do this without downtime.
• I'd at least want to hear about the basics of hreflang, translating content correctly, and how to localize the web site. Many junior people won't know any of that, and many senior people won't think about the localization aspect.
• On this one, I'd want to hear about previous experience leading teams or at least getting enough buy-in that you were able to do your job effectively. SEO, especially technical, is still often a hard sell to some internal teams because it requires so much work. So, if you can't do this you can't be very effective at your job. The ability to do this well is rare as it usually comes from having a lot of experience working with these teams and/or the ability to present your requirements so well that the teams simply have to agree with you. I'd only expect senior-level people to be able to answer this one well, but I'd ask everyone because how they answer will say a lot regardless of their experience.
Thank you! I've learned a decent amount of SEO through my time in marketing, but aside from my very first job (link building) I've never done seo, I moved into paid ads and then management from there. But I try very hard to learn and stay up to date on my own as much as possible, so I wanted to see what you would say to see if what I thought the answers should be would align. And also, to research anything you said that I didn't know. I appreciate the response!
The following questions you can ask candidates to check their SEO knowledge are:
Why is SEO important in digital marketing?
• The difference between white, black, and grey SEO
• Why is Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate important in Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
• Is Website UI, loading speed affect SEO?
• What is Backlinks
These all questions play an important role in SEO activities. It is important to know all answers to fulfill the requirements for the SEO job
If you don't know the questions you should be asking then you shouldn't be doing the interview. Sounds like someone that knows even less than you do is asking for help that doesn't exist.
You should be honest and say "I don't know and I will have to post to somewhere like Reddit (to even half ass this job)".
My question is: how important is SEO to this business?
Based on what you are saying, it's not very important at all.
I mean technical SEO? Unless you are an engineer that understands marketing then this shouldn't be your responsibility. The person should have a complete understanding of developing dynamic websites AND has DEMONSTRATED this in multiple ways at reputable businesses.
OR…you are just gambling! Sounds like a a typical sh!t show where SEO is grossly undervalued.
Discussion 2: What are the Key Questions to Ask When Searching for an SEO Company?
What are the key questions to ask when searching for an SEO company? Does anyone have a recommendation for an SEO manager or company specializing in home services? Our ad agency is looking for a partner to service a client and hoping to learn from your lessons learned. Thanks in advance. Any insights you can offer are greatly appreciated.
Please delete if not allowed
Let me give you some insight as it pertains to contracting with someone or hiring an SEO, that way you don't end up in a situation in which you feel jaded or took advantage of, as that frequently happens in our industry.
1. Please remember the goal is never SEOSearch Engine Optimization (SEO) helps you get to your goal, but defining what your goal is will help you and your SEO of choice understand what are "Acceptable" milestones and Key Performance Indicators (KPI)s when working together. Is it more clients? To educate the community? Etc etc
2. Vet whoever you choose to work with extremely well. Ask them for examples of websites they have completed in your niche, that also meet similar goals, and for references. Without these two things, whatever they say, promise or suggest should be taken with a grain of salt.
3. See if said person/company has reviews. It's important to know how they resolve issues, treat their clients well and preform adequately in their soft-skills, outside of just being able to do Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This will prevent a lot of disagreements down the road if they know how to properly communicate.
4. When working with an SEO, try to understand what their methodologies are. Or in essence, are they more concerned with on-page authority building or off page. On page authority building keeps the authority in your corner and wheelhouse, where as of-page authority building gives the power to other websites through back-links and citational resources that at some point could be taken away.
5. Working with an SEO takes a lot of trust. You're putting your business's future in their hands. Make sure your principles align, and you feel a synergy. There's no sense in working with someone who you don't think you can build trust with. An SEO is your partner, and your resource for accomplishing your dreams – please do not take hiring one lightly.
True. There are a lot of companies and individuals out there that are only interested in the client's money. Giving false hopes, and taking advantage of naiveness about SEO. These tips are very helpful for business owners who want to hire a SEO company or SEO personnel.
Andre ✍️ » Mew
Thanks for your detailed reply!
Hi Andrew, totally agree with Schieler. My company offers white label services to agencies if you are interested in partnering with a company. We are located in the US and can provide you with references and examples of our work. We work mostly with home service type of clients but also work with lawyers, financial companies etc. If you are interested feel free to message me.
Great, yes I would be interested in learning more about your company.
Matty Jake Hundley 🎓 » Andre
What do you mean home services? Our agency specializes in the landscaping and lawn care space, but we do work with other home service-based businesses.
I second everything Schieler said.
I will add that people who are overly promotional or salesy are likely not the best.
Also, if people make things seem complicated and can't simplify stuff, then I'd be wary.
There's a saying I really like:
"Professionals simplify things to prove their expertise. Amateurs complicate them to achieve the same goal."
Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) services
Matty Jake Hundley 🎓 » Andrew
Let me know if you have any questions. Same general principles apply to our industry
Schieler brings up some great points to help guide you on your search as well as several others.
Are you looking for a contractor to complete the work or a consultant to help you define what needs to be done? A contractor can cost a lot more in the long run if you don't have solid processes in place. I have worked with several different agencies, one home service based agency, to help them define their SEO and website tracking processes. Being a niche agency, once you have the processes down, it's all about hiring the right people to follow them.
100% agreed here with everything Schieler says. SEO takes time and different methodologies result in different results, both positive and negative.
Understanding your goals or conversions desired for the website (email signups, discovery calls, product sales, etc.) should guide your thinking and your approach to SEO in general.
@andrew what kind of client? Are you looking to refer or whitelabel?
HVAC services. Our agency is serving as the digital manager so it will be a white label set up; however, there will be full transparency so our client will know which SEO company we are working with.
Discussion 1: 40 KPIs Mixed Questions to Ask Someone Interviewing for an SEO Job?
What are the best questions to ask somebody interviewing for an SEO job?
• Walk me through your interpretations of a few key algo updates and tools in Google's arsenel: rankbrain, the "medic" update, BERT, and the most recent core updates
• High level: how does User Experience (UX) influence SEO, if at all?
• What metrics do you use to evaluate SEO success?
• How does national SEO differ vs. local SEO vs. YouTube SEO?
• How do you handle a website recently impacted by an algorithmic update or a manual action?
• How do you determine whether or not a backlink is worth getting?
• Walk me through how you direct related disciplines, specifically graphics, content, and dev.
• Please explain Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to me as if I were a prospective client
• Why would someone invest in SEO vs. other mediums, such as Google or Facebook Ads?
• How do you report on SEO, both internally and to clients?
These are great, thank you.
What are the answers to these questions? I am learning all about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and this is INCREDIBLE to learn. Thank you so much for posting these questions!!!
Walk me through your interpretations of a few key algo updates and tools in Google's arsenel: rankbrain, the "medic" update, BERT, and the most recent core updates
RankBrain helps Google understand how users are engaging with Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) and the results within it, specifically surrounding their intent behind searches.
High level: how does UX influence SEO, if at all?
Poor UX is felt in its impact: poor on-site engagement, high bounce rates, low time on site, etc. It adds friction to the search experience.
Good UX facilitates the user's goal, whatever that may be. Effective UX means sites are easy to navigate, content is easy to consume, and answers are easy to find.
What metrics do you use to evaluate SEO success?
• Organic traffic changes
• Average ranking over time
• Improvements in major on-site metrics
• Leads generated organically (local SEO), page goals met organically ("regular' SEO)
How does national SEO differ vs. local SEO vs. YouTube SEO?
• National SEO: links are more important; proximity is less of a factor; on-site metrics matter more; content is king
• Local SEO: proximity matters a great deal, citations still sort of matter, reviews are very important; Google My Business (all of it)
• YouTube SEO: like/dislike ratio, engagement after publishing, video transcription/description, user engagement statistics
How do you handle a website recently impacted by an algorithmic update or a manual action?
• Wait; give the change time to "normalize" a bit
• Review sites that benefitted from the algo update- what are they doing better?
• Make a hypothesis based on industry consensus (if you don't have a large data set) or data gleaned from your own portfolio
• Incremental change based on hypothesis, measuring the impact of each change over an appreciable data set (whether its time or traffic)
• Review backlink profile and see if there are any links in there that need to be removed or disavowed (I still do this)
How do you determine whether or not a backlink is worth getting?
• Topical relevance
• The brand/value of the website in question
• Social engagement – do people actually care about this site/brand?
• Link footprint – where are they getting their links?
Walk me through how you direct related disciplines, specifically graphics, content, and dev.
• Graphics: provide accurate scopes/briefs for assets called out
• Content: ensure content meets standards for quality, depth, and effective use of basic "writing for the web 101" stuff
• Dev: provide priorities re: implementation, ensure on-site basics are covered, ensure that all changes improve or do not degrade on-site performance; ensure mobile experience is badass.
Please explain SEO to me as if I were a prospective client
• SEO is not a black box where money goes in one end, a bunch of who-knows-what happens, and then customers come out the other end; it's about understanding what a user is searching for and providing an experience that helps them meet their goals
• SEO is about helping Google understand that the above point is what you're doing; best accomplished via effective content
• A major portion of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is about building the popularity of your website over time, obtaining links (votes) from authority sites and sites that matter in your space
Why would someone invest in SEO vs. other mediums, such as Google or Facebook Ads?
• For Small and Medium Business (SMB) clients, you don't; don't talk to me about SEO until you have some form of performance marketing play in place; Pay Per Click (PPC) pays for SEO, SEO pays your mortgage
• For content sites, SEO helps capture long-tail keywords and generate natural backlinks (which in turn help the whole site holistically)
How do you report on SEO, both internally and to clients?
• A simple ranking report calling out movement for target keywords, changes to organic traffic, and its impacts to the client business…
• … with a video breaking it all down. Short, sweet, and accurate.
Thank you soooo much. Omg, thank you
I don't work in SEO and I can answer all this questions.
Thing is that I wouldn't ask all these questions. Also, nobody asks about the history of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and if they do, it's probably a red flag that you are talking with someone in HR that has a list to cross out.
That said, case studies, reports, and some good communication skills would be the winning combination for any SEO job or any job in general.
Ps No offence
If you're thinking I'm asking the history of SEO, you're misinterpreting the question. I want to see understanding of the algorithm, as each change I asked for has a tangible impact on how you should be thinking of SEO.
as each change I asked for has a tangible impact
I understand that but I wouldn't ask that since historical data don't translate into "future success", necessarily. As I said earlier, I would ask for case studies and more importantly the rationale behind the decisions.
Hey man, we hire differently. That's cool. I don't ask for case studies because, in my experience, they're irrelevant. It's very easy to either copy someone else's work and say the "right things" or flub your way through.
When I drill into asking how you evolved your approach to language use in copy after BERT, you have a chance to demonstrate how you think about SEO.
You are also still not quite understanding what I'm asking. Of course historical data doesn't indicate future success, but how you chose to react to those changes tells me how you think about SEO. I'm looking for people that have an understanding of the philosophy of SEO, and importantly, what Google is trying to do.
In my experience, a case study doesn't demonstrate that. That isn't to say that they aren't valuable, but also looking at a Jr. role (per the OP's request), chances are that applicants don't have much in the way of case studies to show regardless.
I would divide the interview into the following categories of questions:
• Technical questions (what does a site's audit look at, what is the difference between SEO and local SEO, is there any experience in the usability of sites, how does it work with a link, is there any experience in removing sites from Google filters, SEO reports, etc. )
• How are his achievements on current projects? (positions, traffic, leads)
• How does the optimizer develop as a specialist? (Does he go to conferences, watch webinars, take courses)
• What projects would you like to do? (large sites with a lot of traffic, or an SEO agency is interesting for gaining experience and working with several projects)
• What expects from a new job? Who does he see himself in 5 years?
When I interview someone for an SEO position, I ask them to tackle an SEO problem that I am currently dealing with. That is a real quick way to grasp someone's SEO knowledge and how they would deal with a particular issue. It also helps me weed out the typical "generalist" answers. For example, I was trying to get a client back on the first page for a particular keyword. The website we were looking at was built on 3D cart. One applicant pointed out that the URL was dynamic (3D cart is nefarious for creating not totally humanized URLs). That's one of the aspects of 3D cart that one must live with.
One thing to take note of in some of the answers provided below. I don't like thinking of making someone choose between SEO, Pay Per Click (PPC), and Facebook ads. If you're paying for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) only, PPC only, or FB only, you're not going to succeed long-term with marketing. You have all these things as part of your marketing budget.
Thank you for this response. I agree with giving them a challenge. Also, I believe jobs should be separate. SEO is SEO. I'm a writer by trade but have been having to take on SEO, PPC, and more. I am by no means an SEO expert, but I always want to learn more and hope to hire someone I can learn from.
SEO cannot be separate. Without an understanding of content, User Experience (UX), dev, etc… you aren't hiring an SEO.
SEO isn't "SEO" anymore and hasn't been for a while.
I agree with this, too. I wouldn't necessarily consider hiring an "SEO" guy. I'd consider a marketing guy. I remember the first time our agency dumped me in front of a Facebook marketing campaign. It was stressful but I learned a lot. I learned about what other marketing channels can support when I am weak on a keyword in organic search.
Another thought –> Ask someone what good books they've read about marketing in general. One question I always ask in an interview is if they've read Web Analytics 2.0.