Best Interview Questions (and answers!) for Hiring General and Technical SEO Experts 

Hiring the right SEO for the job is important. Whether you’re hiring a SEO professional, or a digital marketer with some SEO skills, you need to try and quickly figure out their SEO experience level during the interview process. 

Here we’ve laid out sample interview questions (and answers!) for each role to help you better reach your SEO goals. 

Key insights: Best practices for SEO Interviews

Before we dive in, here are some key takeaways for preparing for your SEO interview as both the interviewer and interviewee. 

For the interviewer

  • Be clear about the role you’re hiring for 
  • Look critically at the resumes 
  • Assess applicant’s technical proficiency 
  • Evaluate whether the applicant is the right fit for company culture 

For the interviewee

  • Be clear about your experience and background 
  • Showcase results and impact (with real numbers) 
  • Highlight collaboration and communication skills 
  • Ask questions about company culture and role expectations 

What type of SEO Role are You Hiring For?

When reviewing resumes of candidates for your SEO position, there are two categories applicants may fall into. SEOs, whereby they have specific job experience in search engine optimization, or general digital marketers whose relationship with SEO strategy is more tangential.

  • SEOs: People with a long history of SEO experience. Their resume should contain explicit work with search engine optimization like local SEO, keyword research, technical audits, site migrations, and other aspects of page optimizations.
  • Digital Marketers: People who have worked on various SEO elements, but SEO hasn’t been their core responsibility. They may have experience working with SEO tools, or implementing recommendations from an in-house SEO expert or partnering SEO agency.

It’s important to identify what you need for a specific role and then tailor your interview questions to that SEO type. One is not better or worse than the other, it really depends on what is the best fit for the role you’re hiring for.  

General SEO Interview Questions:

Once you’ve screened the resumes, you want to make sure the interview process has some detailed, SEO-driven questions to dig deeper on your candidates.

Here are a few SEO questions to ask an “SEO expert” that anybody with SEO experience should be able to answer.

(Of course, you’ll need to know the answers yourself, so I’ve provided those too.)

Question: “What is Domain Authority? How does it affect your rankings?”

Answer: Domain Authority is a score developed by Moz (an SEO tools company) that gauges the strength of a website. It’s measured on a logarithmic scale from 1-100.  The higher the score, the stronger the website in search engines, and the easier it will be for that domain to rank for competitive keywords.

Quote box: "Domain authority is a crucial element in SEO because search engines, like Google, factor it into their algorithms.

Question: “Name at least one popular tool for checking backlinks.”

Answer: Some commonly used tools include Link Explorer (by Moz), Ahrefs, Majestic and SEMRush. These tools offer valuable insights into the quality of backlinks, helping users assess the authority and relevance of the linking domains.

Pro tip: You can also ask how they have used the tool. If they have used the tool to analyze competitors that is good.

Quote box: "One widely used tool for checking backlinks is Ahrefs"

Question: “What is Google Search Console?”

Answer: Search console is a collection of tools and reports that Google offers free to webmasters to help them (and SEO professionals) monitor website performance. Basically, it’s Google’s way of letting you know if they see anything wrong with your site. Some of the reports include ranking reports, links to your site, Index status, crawl errors, sitemap submission, and more.

Quote box: Google search console is a free web service Google offers that allows website owners, admins, and SEO professionals to monitor and optimize visizbility.

Question: “What is a disavow file and what is it used for?”

Answer: A file is used to “disavow” links that are pointing at your website from other sites. The need for this arose when Google started penalizing sites for spammy link building practices.

A disavow file is submitted to Google via your Search Console account. It should list all inbound links that you want disavowed. The disavow file is simply a way to tell Google that you don’t want those links to count toward your reputation.

Quote box: a disavow file is a text file that contains a list of specific urls that a website owner requests search engines ignore.

Question: “What does a site map help search engines do?”

Answer: A sitemap helps search engines crawl and index your website pages faster. This is especially helpful if you publish new content on a daily basis to ensure that Google gets a fresh feed of all your new content. However, it DOES NOT help your pages rank higher. If you don’t submit a sitemap Google will still come around and crawl your site eventually.

Quote box: a site map serves...

Question: “Name three “On-Page” ranking elements.”

Answer: Any of the following – title tags, URLs, page copy, H1 tags, image name and alt-text.

quote box: three on-page ranking elements

Technical SEO Interview Questions for SEO Specialists

If you’re looking to hire an SEO beyond a generalist, you’ll need to ask some more tech-specific questions to better understand their SEO techniques. It’s important to understand that the candidate has a deeper understanding of what impacts search engine results, and knows how to apply technical changes using long term strategy.

Question: “What is a robots.txt file and what is it used for?”

Answer: A robots.txt file is a simple text page that is placed on the root level of the server (usually located at www.website.com/robots.txt).  This file is used to exclude certain pages on your site from getting indexed by search engines. You can also use the file to exclude your entire website.

quote box: a robots.txt file placed on a website's server to provide instructions

Question: “What is a 301 redirect? What is it used for? How is it different from a 302 redirect?”

Answer: A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect of a URL or a domain. This is mainly used to redirect old or inactive pages to a newer page. A 302 redirect is a temporary redirect and does not pass any link equity.

If a site 302 redirects an old URL to a new one, none of the rankings associated with that page or domain are going to get transferred to the new URL. It’s important to always use a 301 redirect in order to ensure that link equity is passed.

quote box: a 301 redirect is a permanent redirect

Question: “What is a canonical URL tag and what is it used for?”

Answer: A canonical URL tag is a meta tag that is placed on a page to tell search engines which version of a page is the “preferred” version. It is primarily used to reduce duplicate content on your site.

A good example of when it is used is on e-commerce websites when there are 1,000 products in a category, which results in dozens of category pages for the same category. All of the “duplicate” category pages would have a canonical tag pointing to the first main category page. This helps search engines rank your main category page for the intended key phrase.

Graphic: Text box that includes this quote: “A canonical URL tag is an HTML element used to communicate to search engines the preferred version of a webpage when multiple versions of the same content exist. It is employed to address issues related to duplicate content and helps search engines understand which version of a page should be prioritized for indexing and ranking.”

Question: “Can search engines crawl Javascript and how do you test it?”

Answer: Yes, and you can test for it with Search Console. Using Search Console, you’ll be able to fetch and render any page to see which elements are read and displayed correctly. Search Console identifies elements that cannot be rendered so they can be fixed

Question: “Can search engines crawl content in PDF files?”

Answer: Yes, search engines can crawl content in PDF files. Not only does Google crawl and index them but PDFs will come up directly in the search results for some searches. Usually forms, templates and other documents like that.

<<Graphic: Text box that includes this quote: Yes, search engines can crawl and index content within PDF files. Search engines, particularly Google, have the capability to analyze the textual content embedded in PDF documents, making it searchable and accessible to users through search engine results.” >>

Question: “What aspects of technical SEO interest you the most?”

Answer: (Varied) The goal of this question is to see where a candidate may demonstrate the most passion for their work. Some may be extremely interested in competitor research, finding keyword gaps and producing detailed strategies for creating quality content. Others may be more interested in getting in deep with Google Analytics 4 to track metrics and SEO campaign performance like conversion rates and keyword rankings.

Ready to Interview Candidates?

If your candidate doesn’t know the answer to the above questions and you’re hiring for an SEO specific position, then they’re obviously not a great fit. 

However, if SEO is a small portion of the role and they know the answer to some or most of the above questions, they might be a better fit than somebody who has a ton of SEO experience, especially if they have some of the other general skills you’re looking for.

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