Interviewing an SEO Marketer

15 Essential Questions to Ask When Interviewing an SEO Marketer

When it comes to hiring and interviewing an SEO marketer, knowing the right questions to ask can be a game-changer. We’ve gathered fifteen insightful responses from SEO specialists to founders, providing a range of perspectives. From asking candidates to solve a current SEO problem to questioning about aligning offline and online marketing, this article offers a comprehensive guide to interviewing SEO marketers.

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Interviewing an SEO Marketer and Solve a Current SEO Problem

When interviewing an SEO marketer position, I ask them to tackle an SEO problem that I am currently dealing with. This is a 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 instance, 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 notorious for creating not totally human-friendly 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, PPC, and Facebook ads. If you’re paying for 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.

interviewing an SEO marketer with Jugnu Nagar

Jugnu Nagar, SEO Specialist, Help In Homework

Biggest SEO Mistakes

When interviewing an SEO marketer, my question is, “What’s the biggest SEO mistake that you or your team made?”

Depending on how much they’re willing to share up front, I would ask the following follow-up questions:

  • “Why was this a big mistake?”
  • “What were the business impacts? Short term? Long term?”
  • “How was the situation managed? What did you do to correct the issue, and how long did that take?”

What I’m looking to learn from this question is to understand: (1) How honest are they – will they come to me if they’ve made a mistake? (2) What’s their business acumen? (3) Do they take agency in solutions and resolution? (4) What was the scope of the projects they were working on before.

interviewing an SEO marketer with Amanda Thomas

Amanda Thomas, Managing Partner and Director of Client Strategy, Konstruct Digital

Failed SEO Strategies

While interviewing an SEO marketer, I ask candidates to detail a time when an SEO strategy failed and their response to it. This reveals their problem-solving abilities, adaptability, and critical thinking, which are crucial in SEO’s dynamic environment. It also displays their analytical prowess, ability to learn from mistakes, and understanding of SEO metrics and Google’s algorithms. Follow up by asking what they would change in the future to distinguish experienced marketers from novices.

interviewing an SEO marketer with Jitender Ahlaawat

Jitender Ahlaawat, Founder, Local Web Rankers

Understand Their Optimization Process

I’ve been interviewing an SEO marketer over the years and have learned that you can easily waste a lot of time talking about the ins and outs of Google’s algorithm updates and the right SEO success formula, such as whether you should buy links or use generative AI to write content at scale. The truth is, no one really knows the secrets to Google’s algorithm, and almost every SEO you interview will be knowledgeable enough to talk a good game.

So, for this reason, I ask every SEO, “What is your optimization process?”

The most capable SEOs, the ones that have made a significant commercial impact in their previous roles for their employer or their agency’s clients, will set out several logical steps of a continuous process of optimization and improvement.

More than SEO-specific tactics, I’m looking to see that it starts from gaining a deep understanding of the business and its target audience, its goals and resources, and that it includes rigorous observation and testing.

interviewing an SEO marketer with Laurence O'Toole

Laurence O’Toole, CEO, Authoritas

Biggest Wins and Losses in SEO

When interviewing an SEO marketer for potential hires, I’ve always liked to ask about the interviewee’s biggest wins in SEO, and their biggest losses. As SEOs, the results of our work can be determined by countless outside influences, and the same strategies can have wildly different results depending on the web properties they are applied to. 

All we can do is our best—if that’s not enough, I need to know that you at least understand why, and what could have been done differently to achieve a better outcome next time.

interviewing an SEO marketer with Matt Davies

Matt Davies, Freelance SEO, Slingshot Search

Tailor Questions Based on Candidate’s Level

We’ve hired a good amount of people, I have been interviewing an SEO marketer, both junior and senior level. For junior SEOs, I want to see some basic SEO knowledge as well as an interest in the industry, so I’ll ask what the basic SEO principles are, as well as what publications they read. 

For a senior-level person, understanding their approach to SEO is much more important, so I’ll give them a scenario and ask them what their approach would be to help out the client.

interviewing an SEO marketer with Isaac Hammelburger

Isaac Hammelburger, Founder, Search Pros

Examples of High Rankings Achieved

Having been in the SEO game since 2006, I know there’s a lot to cover when interviewing an SEO marketer. However, when it comes to meaningful questions, I would say the biggest and most important would be:

“Provide examples of high rankings you have personally achieved, and talk me through the process you took to rank them.”

This will eliminate most of the fluff and puts the candidate into a position whereby they have to provide some substance—actual rankings they acquired—and tangible strategy to achieve results.

interviewing an SEO marketer with Joe Ryan

Joe Ryan, Founder and CEO, Digital Search Group

Use a Quiz and Ask for SEO Influences

I usually have a quiz when interviewing an SEO marketer to qualify their knowledge. It will ask what type of topics are best to go after, how to set up a redirect, and how to go about building links. However, I’ve found the best way to gauge an SEO’s knowledge is to ask them who they follow in SEO. If they say Neil Patel, it’s almost always a red flag. But if they say Chris Long or Mike King, I know they know their stuff.

interviewing an SEO marketer with Taylor Scher

Taylor Scher, SEO Consultant, TaylorScherSEO

SEO Strategies for Customer Acquisition

I have substantial expertise in this area. One question I find most illuminating when interviewing an SEO marketer is not the standard, “How will you improve our search rankings?” but rather, “How will your SEO strategies directly translate into customer acquisition?”

I’m not saying traffic and rankings are irrelevant; they’re the stepping-stones. But the end game is always customer acquisition. We once worked with an SEO marketer who, instead of opting for high-volume keywords, focused on long-tail keywords that our target B2B decision-makers were likely to search for. The result? A 30% increase in qualified leads within a quarter.

It’s essential to cut through the dominant SEO narratives and seek innovative ways to add real business value. The right question can make all the difference in the hiring process.

interviewing an SEO marketer with Roy Lam

Roy Lam, CEO and Co-Founder, GeniusHub Digital Marketing

Effective SEO Strategies Implemented

As someone who has experience hiring digital marketers, the question I ask when interviewing an SEO marketer is, “What strategies have you implemented or advice can you give to ensure that your SEO efforts are effective?” 

This question allows me to get a sense of the potential hire’s knowledge and expertise in this field. It gives me an opportunity to learn more about their thought process and whether they have experience with either keyword optimization, content marketing, link building, etc.

interviewing an SEO marketer with Alex Murray

Alex Murray, Search Director, Tilious

Favorite SEO Analytics Tools

When interviewing an SEO marketer, I ask, what are your favorite SEO analytics tools that you’ve used in the last two years? I want this to be a quick response, as analytics are everything in SEO, and knowing that your SEO marketer is actually leveraging their analysis skills rather than spitballing keywords is very valuable during an interview. Recent platforms are best, as the field moves quickly, so having examples from the last few years is also pretty useful.

interviewing an SEO marketer with Kate Kandefer

Kate Kandefer, CEO, SEOwind

Hypothetical Negative SEO Attack

When interviewing an SEO marketer, I challenge them with real-world scenarios to assess their technical know-how, problem-solving abilities, and composure. A favorite question involves a severe negative SEO attack. I ask candidates to detail their response steps, immediate actions for damage control, client communication strategies, and long-term preventive measures. This evaluates their proficiency in SEO practices, ability to handle crisis situations strategically, and communicate effectively under pressure. 

It ensures we hire well-rounded individuals capable of safeguarding our clients’ digital presence and rebuilding their online reputation. If the SEO rankings have taken a hit, I delve into their recovery strategies. I ask how they plan to bounce back, clean up the negative SEO impacts, and what specific strategies they would implement to regain lost ground and strengthen the site’s resilience against future attacks.

interviewing an SEO marketer with Arthur Valverde

Arthur Valverde, SEO Consultant, Arthur Valverde

Keyword Research Methodology

When interviewing an SEO marketer, I ask a set of questions. Could you describe your methodology for conducting keyword research and offer an instance of a fruitful keyword strategy you’ve previously employed? The purpose of this inquiry is to evaluate the candidate’s fundamental competencies. 

A key component of SEO is keyword research. This test assesses the candidate’s knowledge of one of the most important search engine optimization components. By requesting a detailed example of a keyword strategy that has worked, you’re pushing the applicant to present hard copies of their prior work, which will demonstrate their practical experience. 

While interviewing an SEO marketer, You may assess someone’s analytical skills by knowing how they go about doing keyword research. A strong response should demonstrate the capacity to find pertinent keywords, evaluate competitors, and choose the best ones for the task at hand.

interviewing an SEO marketer with Jeff Romero

Jeff Romero, Founder, Octiv Digital

Troubleshooting Unsuccessful SEO

When interviewing an SEO marketer, What is your process for figuring out why your SEO isn’t achieving the best results? While I would love it if everything we did with SEO instantly bore fruit, I have enough experience to know that troubleshooting terms and campaigns is something that you will need to do a lot as an SEO marketer. 

By asking the candidate how they approach it while interviewing an SEO marketer, lets me know that they are used to adjusting their campaigns for the best results and will serve as a good benchmark for their level of experience.

interviewing an SEO marketer with Onno Halsema

Onno Halsema, CEO, Contentoo

Aligning Offline and Online Marketing

In interviewing an SEO marketer, it’s crucial to consider the integration of offline and online marketing efforts to create a holistic approach. I would ask the candidate about their experience and strategies for aligning offline marketing initiatives with SEO strategies. 

For example, I would inquire about how they have coordinated SEO campaigns with print advertising or events. Their answer will provide insights into their ability to think strategically and leverage diverse marketing channels for maximum impact.

interviewing an SEO marketer with Ben Lau

Ben Lau, Founder, Featured SEO Company

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