Search engine optimization is a field that never stops evolving. If you try to get a job with one of the SEO agencies, you will have to demonstrate your knowledge of the latest trends in search engine optimization. They must see that you understand how to optimize websites today, and not how we optimized them ten years ago.
Let’s start with 10 questions you may face in your interview. Do not forget to read also my notes below the questions, for additional tips on how to walk away with a new employment contract.
Define SEO.What does it mean for you?
Beside the basic definition (search engine optimization, trying to improve the positions and maximize the traffic from Google) you should cover also other sources of traffic, such as social media in your answer, because you can influence ranking on them as well, and they can bring loads of traffic if one works with them properly.
Why is SEO important for every business?
No traffic means no business. And none other traffic converts as well as the organic traffic from search engines, Google especially. Show the interviewers that you understand the correlation of traffic numbers and revenues of the business.
In an ideal case, you should make a reference to their core business directly–what role does SEO play in their business model, and what difference it can make if done properly.
What is your opinion on WordPress and Joomla? Which CMS is the best one when we talk about on-page SEO?
As a good SEO specialist, you should be able to optimize any website, regardless of the content management system they use. Ensure your interviewers that you can work with all common CMS, and are ready to optimize each website that you have access to.
Having said that, WordPress is the most popular solution, it has the most SEO plugins (not that they make a lot of difference but can make your job easier), and hence it is the easiest one to optimize properly for the search engines.
Define the main factors that influence the position of the website in SERPs nowadays.
To start with a quality relevant content and topical authority of the website will be a good answer on any given day. Trends in SEO change every year, but top-notch content (written for readers) and website authority, have stood tall in the test of time.
Then you can talk about more specific stuff, such as having a secure website, quick website, and of course gaining some authority with powerful mentions on other websites (the so called backlinks).
What do you consider the future of search engine optimization?
A good answer to this question changes from year to year, but in the beginning of the third decade of the 21st century you can go for mobile optimization, local SEO, and user engagement. At least that’s what I think, but I may be wrong, because nobody really knows anything for sure when it comes to future of SEO.
Website speed will become an ever more important factor as well, and on-page metrics, such as long average time on page or low bounce rate (depending on the niche). You can include these metrics in your answer.
Try to describe SEO to someone who has never heard the expression.
Use a simple language, avoid technical terminology. You may need this skill when talking to a client, or to a prospect. It is always better to talk in the language of a business person than in the language of a technician.
You can always explain it in the most simple way–“SEOing” the website, you helps to bring more prospects on the website, and more prospects typically mean more business (if the sales funnels work as they should).
Have you ever used any black-hat SEO techniques? If yes, tell us about the results you achieved with them.
I recommend you to say that you are aware of the techniques, but have never used them. You can also say that you understand that the risk/reward ratio associated with black hat SEO is not favorable for most clients of the agencies. No need to show off in an interview, at least when we talk about black hat SEO.
Can you show me a website that you have optimized for search engines?
This is one of the most important question. If you have not done any SEO before, at least with some success, it will be difficult to get the job. But hopefully you did, and have something to show them.
When illustrating your work, try to clearly explain the steps you took to optimize the website, and how it led to an improved ranking of the site in the major search engines.
Show them that you monitor the progress, and know exactly what you did with each website. Keeping track of your steps and results is crucial in this field. If you pay for a tool to monitor the progress (such as SerpBook or SerpRobot), you can show them the charts to illustrate the results you achieved.
Why do you want to work for a company, instead of pursuing a freelancing career?
A tough question indeed. The truth is that the real SEO experts work on their own websites, or sell their services to third parties.
However, you can say that you’d struggle to find new clients, that marketing and sales are not your strengths. Or you can simply say that you prefer the corporate environment, having contact with other people, and getting a regular monthly paycheck…
What programming languages do you know?
Programming languages do not play a major role in a work of a SEO specialist. As long as you can get around basic HTML and CSS, you are good to go.
Needless to say, it is always good to show that you strive to learn new things, and become better in whatever you do. Saying that you try to learn a new programming language will only be a plus for the hiring managers…
Special tip – is SEO more an art, or a science?
Some people believe that SEO is more an art than a science. On the top of that, two experts in the field can have a different opinion on a certain SEO strategy, either because what works for one website does not necessarily have to work for another, or because they consider the given strategy black-hat (illegal, risky, etc).
The key is to show your interviewers that you have an opinion, that you have some experience and know how to optimize websites. At the same time, however, you should stress that you are always ready to learn new techniques, and adhere to the strategies they use while working with their clients.
Three things to remember when you interview for a SEO job
- Always speak about opinions, not about facts. To say “My opinion is that anchor text does not matter in 2021” is very different to “Anchor text does not matter anymore”. Do not pretend to be sure about everything, since nobody in this industry can be 100% sure about anything.
- Try to have the same philosophy as the person who leads the interview with you. For example, if they support guest blogging, you should mention that you also prefer it to other forms of link building. A good research should help you to understand what they prefer in the company. Check their clients’ website, have a look at their backlink profile and on page SEO, and understand how the agency proceeds with optimization.
- Try to avoid mentioning black hat SEO. We all have heard the stories of websites that reached a peak one day and crashed another one. This is exactly what happens when you apply black hat SEO link-building techniques, and when you do it on a big scale. It is all right to experiment with these techniques on your own websites. But once client’s business is at stake, you should stay away from any black hat methods.
Other questions and a practical test
Interview for a job of a SEO specialist is not only about your technical skills. You will work in a corporation, and interact with other people. That’s why your communication skills matter, as does your attitude to work and to other people from the company. Employers will use some behavioral questions to assess all of that.
They may ask about conflicts you experienced in the past, how you handled the pressure, how you managed to cope with a tight deadline, etc. For a longer list of these questions, and good answers to them, have a look at our article dedicated to behavioral interview questions.
A short practical test of your skills can also follow the questions, typically at the end of the interview. The interviewers will show you a website, or even just an HTML code. Your task will be to suggest the way to optimize it for search engines.
You should approach the exercise responsibly. Study the code, and use free tools that allow you to analyze the website, and search for improvements. Make a list of steps you would take in a process of optimization, and clearly explain them to your interviewers.
Show them that you have a clear system in your work, that you are organized, and can work independently on any website they’d assign to you….
May also interest you:
- How to overcome interview nerves – You need to be on your very best when trying to get any great job. And it is tough to show your best if you experience anxiety, and cannot let go…
- Behavioral interview questions – Inquiring about your past, we try to understand how you would act in your new job, while facing various challenges and tasks. Behavioral questions belong to every interview, and you should prepare for them.
- IT & Technology – Various IT jobs, interview questions for programming languages and technology jobs.
* You can also download the list of questions in .PDF format, to easily print it and practice your answers before the start of an interview: