Common questions on (real) SEO interviews, and how to answer them - 2022

It's a new year, and the SEO world is on FIRE. Not just because the globe is warming up until the point of extinction, but because many companies are moving to a fully remote, partially remote, or hybrid model. This cultural change represents an excellent opportunity for SEOs from different countries to obtain better salaries and working conditions.

Partially Remote: Working remotely from a specific country. You are considered an employee and are protected under the labor laws that of that country.

Fully remote: Working remotely from any point in the world, even moving between cities or countries as you wish. You are considered a contractor and have absolutely no labor rights. However, you get a (much) bigger salary and absolute freedom to work from wherever you want. The ideal lifestyle of a digital nomad.

Hybrid: You work from your house 2-3 times a week and 2-3 days you have to go to the office. You are considered an employee, and you have to live in the same city and commute to the office often. Not ideal, in my opinion, but it is the most common scenario for SEO managers or above, who have to deal with C levels and other representatives.

From an SEO expert perspective, there is almost no need to work in the same office with developers or content creators. This newly opened job market is a golden ticket to build links and running Sitebulb while drinking piñas coladas.

I have compiled some common questions, including the questions I usually ask when hiring a entry level SEO, and adding some more complex questions for SEO Managers or similar roles, that require a deeper understanding of marketing and business.

SEO Interviews

Let get started with the obvious: most of the time, SEO interviews are performed for a person that fits in one of these two categories:

  • A headhunter with little to no SEO (or technology) knowledge and everything they ask is just filling the checklist. Expect some dumb questions because they don't understand what they are asking.
  • An SEO expert with little to no training in recruiting. Interviews tends to get messy because they don't have a framework for hiring and are prone to ask highly technical (but often irrelevant for the specific job) stuff.

This is not the complete list of things that a headhunter can ask in an SEO interview. Many of the lists you find on the web are stupids lists with questions like:

  • What is the primary purpose of using keywords in SEO? (It is like asking an architect what are the primary purpose of bricks in building)
  • Why is SEO so important to businesses?
  • What are the differences between SEO and SEM? (sorry, I wasn’t aware that this was a entry-level position, my bad)
  • In which year was Google founded? (yeah, I found this one on a list that doesn't deserve a link)
  • What is AMP, and how is it useful? (AMP is useless, and it's fucking dead)
  • Why many Google updates are names after an animal? (Who can give a fraction of a fuck about this?)

I rather prefer to focus on more important aspects. Besides, I am adding no questions related to specifics (like salary, personal life, benefits, and so on).

And, like in other important aspects of my life, I have zero responsibility about the accuracy of these answers.

General Questions

Why SEO? How did you get into the SEO world?

It is not a relevant question by itself. There are no good or wrong answers. It is more of get to know you and understand your experience a little bit better. It is a very frequent question, so have a nice speech prepared.

Do you have SEO experience in <THIS SPECIFIC INDUSTRY>?

I've worked in many different industries, so I could likely have some ideas. However, I found that it is way more important to understand the fundamentals of SEO and the technology that your company is using than knowing the industry itself. I can get a good grasp of any vertical in 2-3 months of working on it, but it will take much more time to understand the tech stack you are using and improve its SEO performance.

What does passionate you about <THIS SPECIFIC INDUSTRY>

I don't have a passion for <THIS SPECIFIC INDUSTRY>. I like my area of expertise (SEO/Digital Marketing/Traffic Acquisition), and I like to learn how to apply it and improve in all possible verticals and scenarios, including this one. BTW, I don't believe that you should feel passionate about something for doing it well.

Technical Questions

How do you measure SEO success?

Of course, we need to answer this according to the company you are applying to. But most of the time, I like to begin with fundamentals:

Impressions, Rankings, Organic Traffic. But invariably with the business in mind.

Impressions, Rankings, Organic Traffic for each each business line, compared to competitors, in the context of changes made and time/effort invested.

Those are not KPIs. Those are metrics. Are they necessary? Yes, but only for a granular level for a deep understanding of the progress. But here is my question: what makes you sell? Domain rating or traffic?

Which SEO tools do you regularly use?

My SEO stack is (most of the time) what I have on this page. It is unlikely that you will have to show real expertise in those tools, but having a couple of case uses isn’t bad.

Also, make sure that your experience matches the type of tools you used. A good selection of tools is an indication of a wise SEO expert. For instance:

  • Tracking rankings for thousands of keywords isn’t something that you’ll do in desktop based tools.
  • You shouldn't even mention Google Ads Keyword Planner as a tool for Keyword Research.
  • Some corporate-level SEO tools are way overrated, such as Conductor, SimilarWeb or BrightEdge, but some people like to hear you know them.

What is your approach to SEO for JavaScript frameworks such as React or Angular?

I do prefer Server Side Rendering all days of the week. IMHO, using so much JS is overrated, and many sites don't need it on the public pages. On the other hand, using HTML5 is more manageable and, often, faster to develop and implement for basic functionality.

What are five high-value quick wins you always look for when auditing a website?

You know, I don't like the "quick wins" mentality, but I'll try to answer anyway.

1) Robots.txt and 2) sitemaps. They are fast to fix (You can use an external tool and upload them). 3) Broken links 4) Redirect chains (An external tool will help you find them, and almost any website will have an interface/admin dashboard to manage this without development). The number 5) depends on the type of website and the possibilities you have, so I'll throw a few: Getting (buying) some links OR finding the pages with most organic traffic and slightly optimizing those with a few tweaks in content changing some metadata.

In short, anything you can do without the intervention of more people tends to be the more straightforward thing to fix, so I'd start with those.

What change in SEO from the past year have you capitalized on your work?

I try to get any new schema as soon as they are shown in SERPs. Also, I always look for new features in Search Console (anything new can provide an edge, since most companies are too slow to capitalize something in less than 6-12 months).

How would you structure your SEO team?

This is a question that merits a long answer, that you can find in this post: Crafting the perfect SEO team.

Have you ever worked directly with developers?

This question can have two different meanings. The first one is to know if you have worked with a developer in small teams, especially in "startup-mode". In this case, making many changes and fine-tuning code changes on the fly is common. Explicit language, be with devs shoulder to shoulder, and soft skills are pretty essential.

The second one is working with developers in corporate environments. Most of the time, you must understand some agile framework (Scrum or Kanban) and how the changes are implemented over time. Creating User Stories, defining Acceptance Criteria, and Definition of Done. Knowing how specific tech stacks are being used to create pages and manage content is also useful to define what can be done, in which time and the priority these changes have in the overall strategy.

Do you have more common questions for an SEO job interview you'd like to have an answer? Let me know.

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