16 SEO Interview Questions To Ask Before Hiring an Agency – [Infographic]

Every major Google algorithm update increases the need for businesses to continue implementing search engine optimization best practices. So whether you’re a solo entrepreneur or the chief marketing officer for a multi-million corporation, you know it’s important to find the right SEO strategist for your company goals.

Sadly, our team has had many conversions with business owners who were taken advantage of by so-called “digital marketers.” As the search industry continues to standardize, it’s become easier to see who knows their stuff and who doesn’t. So while we may catch a scammer quickly, we also realize one needs to know the right SEO questions to ask to identify an incorrect answer!

Using SEO best practices is critical to setting your website up for long-term success. Without SEO, your chances of pulling up the right search query decreases, and your risk of duplicate content increases.

We’ve compiled a list of 16 SEO interview questions for your next marketing hire. Use these before hiring an SEO agency to help your company have a great digital marketing experience.

SEO Interview Questions Infographic-1

Questions inspired by a great post from bruceclay.com

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#1. What is SEO?

While this may seem like an obvious or unnecessary question, in truth, the answer will vary significantly. This question aims to understand if they have a basic understanding of the industry.

When you interview an SEO agency, listen for an answer along the lines of, “SEO is the process of marketing a website to the search engines and its users to increase visibility and click-through rate. Additionally, SEO is both an art and a science.”

#2. How do you define success when it comes to SEO?

The answer to this question will vary from one SEO strategist to another. There are a number of outside factors like industry, competition, current site status, and company goals that will determine success. It may also shift as the search algorithm dictates different priorities. While the responses will vary, there is an answer that should raise a red flag. If immediate first-page results enter the conversation, you should be wary. Yes, SEO should improve your search engine rankings. However, this is not an instant strategy.

#3. What SEO Myths Frustrate You?

Only a person with a knowledge and understanding of SEO will be able to answer this one so if you receive an answer about preferring white hat SEO or making sure that content is focused on long tail variations – think twice.

A complete newbie, in many cases, will not only present SEO myths as ultimate SEO truths without offering any of their own insights and commentary, but they will also do so while displaying confidence.

If you are looking for an experienced technical SEO expert, ask them to elaborate more on their favorite SEO myths and how they deal with them daily. The answer here should be creative and honest – it may spark your creative thought process during the optimization of the website!

#4. How do you approach SEO day-to-day when working for a client?

This question will give you insight into how they do what they do. Listen carefully; you can learn clues about their work ethic, follow-through, and consistency.

#5. How often do you communicate with clients?

While SEO can be complicated, keeping clients aware of what’s happening helps make them feel more secure. In addition, since many have been burned in the past, open communication is essential. Some notable communications may include monthly reports, video conference meetings, or a dedicated Slack channel.

#6. How did you learn SEO?

Not all SEO is created equal. While most of us in the industry are self-taught, this question will help you understand how much someone prioritizes improving their SEO knowledge. For example, if someone notes a Udemy or Coursera course as their core training, it could indicate they have a narrow understanding of SEO strategies.

SEO skills are vast and develop and strengthen over time. It’s important to hire someone trained in SEO. If your strategist only focuses on certain aspects of the industry, they may omit necessary analytical skills to continue improving themselves and your website.

#7. Will you tell me about your keyword research strategy?

Google continues to move more and more towards understanding topics with AI that looks for the context of the content. Keywords words to incorporate as search terms. They are extremely important in helping search engine crawlers accurately categorize a website. Additionally, keyword stuffing can harm your search ranking opportunities.

Quality content attracts organic traffic by incorporating relevant keywords and avoiding keyword stuffing.

#8. What is the relationship between SEO, SEM, and social media marketing?

Successful online marketing is the result of using all of the tools available to help you get results. That said, if an SEO prioritizes social media marketing over search engine marketing, you may miss out on organic search opportunities. Relying heavily on referral traffic is not an SEO best practice. This question will allow you to understand the scope of someone’s abilities and knowledge of the industry.

#9. What SEO tools does your team use regularly?

Relying solely on Google Analytics and Google Search Console will not provide a complete picture of your website’s rankings. Today’s SEO world is full of tools, tools, and more tools. Some are better than others. If you aren’t familiar with a tool they use, ask them to give you more detail.

#10. How do you stay organized when working on an SEO project?

Monitoring an online presence is not a “set it and forget it” task. A great SEO keeps track of keywords, rankings, and the overall strategy. Without a proper workflow, this can get messy, really fast. If an agency has an organized system that will tell you a lot about how they work and the results you can expect from them.

#11. What is your strategy for link building?

While there are valuable citation strategies that help local businesses increase visibility. Link building is a strategy that can do more harm to a site than many realize. Adding bad links to a website will not help search engine crawlers with your website’s context. Further, link building is considered a black-hat SEO technique.

The answer you want to hear to this question is, “When you write excellent content that helps your target audience, you will earn external links naturally.”

Google continues to implement spam link algorithms that are designed to catch websites using outbound and inbound links to connect to irrelevant content. Just because the SEO you’re interviewing focuses on buying links or has an “outbound link outreach strategy” doesn’t mean you will gain relevant backlinks. Save money and avoid the risk of website spam by focusing on SEO best practices.

#12. How have you dealt with link penalties?

This is kind of a trick question. If they have been penalized in the past, that’s a good indication they have used some black-hat SEO tactics. But, conversely, if they’ve helped a site that’s been penalized recover, it shows their skills.

#13. What’s the ideal speed for a site to load a web page?

Simple: “53% of consumers using mobile devices expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less.” A faster website provides a better user experience, so it’s important that an SEO understands how to improve site speed.

#14. What method do you use to redirect a page?

There are two major types of redirects, 302 and 301. Knowing when and how to use them is crucial to passing page rank and indexing your site properly.

#15. Can you identify some technical SEO wins?

The answer here will generally depend on the kind of website and its current issues, as well as the level of technical difficulty and ease. Still, some broad patterns exist low-impact, high-impact, low-effort, and high-effort optimizations. For example, does your SEO agency implement schema markup? Does someone have a strategy for earning Rich Snippets and other SERPs? Do they note the importance of internal links?

SEO includes off-page SEO, technical SEO, and on-page SEO. Focusing on one without the others is unlikely to improve your online visibility.

#16. What metrics do you use to measure SEO success?

Success is measured in several ways. First, see what they find important and compare that with your idea of success. You probably won’t work well together if your vision and their vision don’t match.

The answers to this question will help identify if the SEO focuses on vanity metrics or prioritizes black-hat SEO techniques. SEO Specialists should have a clear idea of the best KPIs to measure for your goals. For example, tracking conversion rates on the correct pages will provide much more helpful information in reporting your website bounce rate.

While this isn’t a complete list of questions you could ask, it will help you better understand who the agency is and whether or not they know their stuff.

Here at SMA Marketing, we pride ourselves on delivering personalized SEO strategies that deliver business results. We start with an SEO Audit and Intensive to gain a clear idea of the best strategy for your unique business goals. To learn more about our SEO process, click here.

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Editor’s Note: This article was originally written on December 2, 2016, and has been updated with fresh content.

SMA Marketing Global Digital Marketing Agency Ryan Shelley Founder and CEO Headshot
Ryan is passionate about helping companies make a more personal connection online with their customers and prospects. He is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land, the largest and most popular SEO news site on the web. His works have also been featured on the HubSpot Blog, Business2Community and by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

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