72 SEO Interview Questions and Answers to Help You Get Your Dream Role10 Feb, 2021 12 mins
About to take the next step in your SEO career? In this guide, we outline some of the questions you’re likely to be asked in a job interview — helping you give the answers that show your full potential.
SEO is a competitive industry, but preparation can put you ahead of your peers.
We’ve separated our guide into the following sections so you can get the full picture of the topics that may be covered:
Every interview will include questions about yourself.
Inevitably, your interviewer will ask some cliche questions, such as “What are your biggest strengths/weaknesses?” or “Tell me about a time where you resolved a problem.” It’s worth preparing answers for those generic questions, but here we’re focusing only on your SEO experience.
Even though these questions are industry-specific, there is still no one correct answer as they depend on your personal experience and opinions.
These may include:
How did you learn SEO?
This is your opportunity to tell your future employer about your SEO experience and how you developed your skills.
Be honest and use specific anecdotes and examples where possible.
How do you measure SEO success?
There is no specific answer to this.
The interviewer wants to make sure you understand different key performance indicators (KPIs) and test your business acumen.
Consider things like increasing organic traffic and growing conversions. Explain how you measure SEO success and outline your method and metrics. Talk about some of the tools you may use, such as Google Analytics, and how you have used them previously.
How do you approach keyword research?
Again, there is no one answer.
The interviewer will be assessing both your experience and your critical thinking skills. So, show them how great both are.
Make sure you demonstrate what sort of keywords or phrases you would prioritize and always explain why. You can also reference the tools you would typically use and point out how you overcome common challenges.
Tools commonly used for keyword research include:
What qualities do you think are required to be effective in an SEO role?
How you should respond to this is subjective. It may even depend on the company culture of the organization you’re interviewing for. Take the time to do your research, and you can tailor your answer appropriately. The original vacancy listing should tell you the qualities they are looking for.
Employers require general professionalism and communication skills for any SEO role. Still, you may also want to think about research and analytical skills, as well as the ability to adapt to change.
In your opinion, which SEO analytics don’t get enough attention?
Once again, there is no right or wrong answer.
Say what you honestly think. But be prepared to back it up.
If you’re struggling to think of an answer, take some time to analyze your SEO views and think broadly about related topics. Joining in on industry brainstorming can help you formulate opinions that may be useful for future interviews.
How do you stay up-to-date on the search algorithm changes?
This question is to test how well you keep up with the ever-changing world of SEO. Try and use specific examples such as publications like Search Engine Land or Search Engine Journal. You could also talk about key Google news sources you follow such as:
What are some common SEO mistakes you’ve seen in other agencies/companies?
As always, be honest. But also be careful.
You won’t necessarily know your interviewer’s background or client base. You don’t want to awkwardly complain about an SEO strategy that the potential hirer is somehow involved with.
For common mistakes, keep it general. Explain errors you have seen elsewhere and be diplomatic by anonymizing brands unless asked to be more specific.
It’s a good idea to use this time to say how you would do things differently, too. You want to appear as someone who is always looking for a solution, not just finding problems.
That’s why you should keep criticism of past employers down to a minimum.
What is your approach to developing an SEO strategy?
Speak from experience and outline your process concisely and engagingly.
If you have the time, you can go into more detail by talking about how you would tailor your approach to suit clients in different industries or facing particular challenges.
As well as this question, it is also possible that you will be given a practical assignment based on a real-world challenge. How you respond to this is relatively subjective and is dependent on your own experience and way of working. However, the interviewer will be looking at how you approach a task and plan to achieve the campaign's objectives and KPIs. Ideally, it would be best if you used examples and anecdotes where possible.
What’s your greatest digital marketing success story?
This is your time to shine.
Think of this question as an opportunity to show what you are capable of.
Make sure you say what the project's objectives were, what the solution was, and the results (in relation to the objectives).
Take the time to explain how you achieved your excellent results and, if you can, memorize important statistics in advance of your interview. Knowing a precise percentage increase in traffic, for example, helps the interviewer understand more about the success rather than vague references to something performing ‘well’.
What is your experience with managing a marketing or SEO team?
Your interviewer may ask you this question to determine your leadership experience and skills.
This question depends on the seniority of the role you are applying for. But if you are going for a management role, make sure you have lots of examples of your experience with managing people - including the challenges and successes.
If you haven’t previously been in a management role, think about other times where you have been a leader - perhaps on a particular project or training junior colleagues.
How do you see SEO changing in the near future?
SEO changes so fast that you need to show your interviewer that you always have one eye on future developments in the industry.
This question tests your analytical ability and your knowledge of the industry in general. Try and have some examples or the latest news and insights ready to discuss.
But if you disagree with some SEO influencers’ predictions, you don’t need to say you agree. Equally, you shouldn’t be contrary for the sake of it.
What will be your next steps if your SEO methods or technique don't work?
Being able to adapt is an essential skill. The right candidate will be able to deal with and learn from failures as much as their successes. As so much in SEO relies on testing, analyzing, and keeping up with algorithm updates, this is particularly important.
Show that you are confident in deploying various SEO tactics by explaining what your back-up plan would be. You can also use this time to show your awareness of other digital marketing aspects - fundamental if you're interviewing for a multi-service agency or will need to work with a broader marketing team.
What would you include in an SEO audit?
This question tests your knowledge of SEO best practices and finds out your personal opinions and methods. You might first want to demonstrate your knowledge by talking about the difference between technical and content audits.
Things commonly evaluated in SEO Audits include:
- Keyword targetting
- Content gap analysis
- Keyword cannibalisation
- Title tags and meta descriptions
- Internal linking
- Page layouts and UX
- Image and video optimisation
- Structured data/Schema markup
- Duplicate content
- Site structure and taxonomy
- Crawl visibility and indexation
- Parameter handling
- Crawl errors and redirect handling
- Page speed and core web vitals
- Use of no-index tags, canonicalization and robots.txt
- Mobile usability
- International optimisation and hreflang usage
- Sitemap optimisation
How would you explain SEO to a beginner?
Your interviewer may roleplay as a beginner here.
This is to test your knowledge of SEO and your ability to articulate technical concepts concisely - a skill that is particularly useful when explaining to a non-technical stakeholder.
For this question, avoid jargon. Keep it simple and outline the fundamental principles of SEO and why it matters.
Think about how you explain your role to family and friends from outside of the industry. You could even test your response to this question in social situations when people ask you about your job.
The history of SEO
SEO is continually evolving. Understanding its past helps you prepare for its future.
Showing your knowledge of changes also helps you demonstrate that you stay up to date.
If this is a subject you want to revise, visit our guide to the history of digital marketing.
Some of the questions your interviewer may ask you include:
Which are the major Google updates that have impacted SEO?
This question centers around your understanding of the history and context of SEO as it is today. Listing and explaining some of the most significant updates will help show your knowledge of the discipline and how Google's algorithm works.
Think about Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, Mobile, RankBrain, Medic, E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, and Trust), YMYL (Your Money Your Life), BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers), etc.
How has Hummingbird changed the landscape of search?
You need to be confident to expand on Google updates beyond just naming them - Hummingbird included.
The Hummingbird algorithm helps Google to interpret search queries with regards to searcher intent and context.
While individual keywords and keyphrases continue to be important, Hummingbird makes it possible for a page to rank for a query even if it doesn’t contain the exact words the searcher entered. It uses a combination of natural language processing that relies on latent semantic indexing (LSI), co-occurring terms, and synonyms.
You could use a question like this as an opportunity to explain how you have taken advantage of Hummingbird, outlining how you respond to updates with new tactics.
What was Google Penguin?
Google Penguin is another major update that you may need to explain.
This was a major update to Google's search algorithm that focused on low-quality links. The aim was to downrank and penalize sites that looked like they had a spammy or unnatural link profile.
Penguin forced SEOs to rethink their approach to link building and stop buying links from link farms and private blog networks as a legitimate SEO tactic.
Again, you can use this as an opportunity to explain how you responded. Think about how you now approach link building in a post-Penguin ranking landscape. We’ll cover more likely questions on link building later.
What was Google Panda?
Google Panda is another one of the most famous algorithm updates. This changed the search algorithm that looked at a page's quality in general.
Google Panda cut down on thin or spammy content stuffed with keywords, as well as duplicate content and plagiarism.
Who are the founders of Google?
A potentially less obvious question, but an interviewer may still ask you this to test your broader knowledge.
The answer? Larry Page and Sergey Brin started Google in 1996 as part of a PhD project while at Stanford University. They officially registered the company in 1998.
It may also pay to be familiar with other key Google figures such as the name of their Head of Search or the Alphabet CEO.
General SEO questions
As well as taking into account your experience, your interviewer may want to assess your level of understanding by asking general questions about SEO.
Some popular questions include:
Which SEO factors are not in your control?
If your interviewer asks you this question, a good - but not necessarily obvious - answer is Google (and other search engines).
The biggest challenge to an SEO practitioner is Google itself. We don't know how Google ranks a web page, and we can't always predict when they are rolling out a big core update that can change the landscape. All we can do is strategize and implement tactics based on available evidence and be reactive to changes.
You might also talk about business competitors. The SEO activity of these can have an impact on your own search performance.
What makes a website search engine friendly?
An SEO friendly website is one that Google and other search engines can easily crawl each page of, interpret the content correctly, and index in their database.
Once a website is indexed, search engines serve the most relevant and authoritative web pages to their users based on what they search for. For that to happen, the website needs to be technically optimized to current best practices, the content must be useful and clear, and the site must be organized and mapped out effectively.
Consider the importance of a crawl-friendly website that can be read by search engines’ robots, offers an excellent user experience, has an up-to-date XML sitemap, and hosts SEO-optimized content.
How would you do SEO for a video?
For video content to rank, it needs to have relevant and enticing copy for the header and description, and an appealing thumbnail that people want to click.
Adding a video transcript and relevant schema markup will also help bots crawl the content and make sense of it.
Optimizing video for search isn’t something everyone thinks about, but it may come up in your interview.
If you don’t know how to optimize a video this way, take the time to research it. It’s likely that if an interviewer asks this, it’s something you’ll have to do in your potential new role, so it’s worth learning.
Make sure you are also aware of how Artificial Intelligence is impacting different elements of Google search, including video.
Which meta tags matter?
As you’ll know, some meta tags do matter. But some don’t.
You’ll want to talk about the meta tags that do matter, such as:
- Title tag - you should have a unique and descriptive title on every page on your site
- Meta description - this pulls through to the SERPs and tells readers why they should click through to your site
- Viewport and Content-Type - these ensure your page renders correctly in different browsers and devices
- HREF Lang - if you have multiple sites/pages in different languages, you’ll need this to declare the language of your site
Other useful meta tags include:
- Canonical tag
- Alternative text (alt) tag
- Robots meta tag
- Social media meta tags (Open Graph and Twitter cards)
- Responsive design meta tag
However, there are some meta tags that you can completely ignore. You can show your knowledge of this by naming a few of them, such as the keywords, generator, geo meta, and the revisit after tags.
What is on-page SEO?
Your interviewer may want you to demonstrate knowledge of the difference between on-page and off-page SEO.
On-page SEO refers to all tactics taken directly within your website to rank higher in the search engine results pages (SERPs). This includes the content on the page, meta descriptions, and page titles.
What is off-page SEO?
Also known as off-site SEO, off-page SEO refers to links and other 'off-page' signals that give a website authority.
Building up a website’s link profile or focusing on digital PR are considered off-page strategies.
What are some black hat SEO practices?
Black hat SEO practices are frowned upon by search engines and can get your site penalized.
Demonstrate your knowledge of what black hat SEO involves by outlining some ill-advised tactics, such as keyword stuffing, doorway pages, link schemes, and hidden text or links.
It’s a positive sign when an interviewer asks you this question. This means they understand that black hat SEO is not wise.
You can find a full list of various black hat practices and their definitions on Google's webmaster guidelines.
What is keyword stemming, and why does it matter?
Keyword stemming in SEO is the process of using modifiers on the original root keyword to make it into different variations. For example, 'search' could stem into 'searches,' 'searcher,' 'searching,' etc.
While, in theory, this could open up your topic and allow for more traffic, you need to know that as Google becomes more sophisticated, it can differentiate between the different terms and offer different results depending on the context.
For example, a search for 'Air Force One' could result in the presidential plane, but a search for 'Air Force Ones' could show the Nike trainers.
So, you must demonstrate that you understand stemming isn’t as simple as it can sound. You have to know the context of any search term variant when making your strategy - the easiest way to do this is by checking the SERP (search engine results page) for that term.
What are rich snippets?
Rich snippets are search results that have more visual appeal. For example, Google can show additional information displayed alongside the title, description, and URL. For instance, with recipes, Google may show review stars, time to make, and calories.
Your interviewer may ask you to explain the difference between rich snippets and rich features. There is still a lot of confusion in the industry on exactly which terminology to use, including Google's definitions.
What is RankBrain, and why does it matter?
RankBrain is a part of Google's algorithm that uses machine learning to provide better results.
It operates by using mathematical processes and advanced language semantics to learn why people are searching for a specific term and then applies those learnings to future results. RankBrain is particularly useful in interpreting ambiguous or rarer search terms.
As well as the definition, you should explain how you think RankBrain impacts or affects SEO.
What is PageRank, and why does it matter?
PageRank is a mathematical formula that calculates the value of a page based on the quantity and quality of websites that link to a web page.
Until 2016, it was a public metric shared by Google, but it has since been made unavailable. Although it’s now hidden (possibly to deter people from using spammy link building tactics to increase their score), Google still uses it as part of the algorithm which is why it continues to matter.
Surprisingly, its name doesn’t link to web pages. The formula is named after Larry Page, one of the Google founders.
What is Domain Authority?
Domain Authority (DA) is a metric created by Moz.com. DA is used to estimate a website's perceived authority by Google.
A DA rating goes from one to 100, with higher scores corresponding to a greater likelihood to rank. According to Moz, it's “calculated by evaluating multiple factors, including linking root domains and the number of total links, into a single DA score.”
If your interviewer asks you about this, make sure you explain how this would be relevant (if at all) to your SEO strategy.
What is LSI in SEO?
LSI stands for Latent Semantic Indexing. LSI is a method of retrieving information based on the relationships between concepts.
So, in SEO, we'd talk about LSI in relation to keywords. Therefore, LSI helps Google understand the context of particular words and phrases based on the words surrounding them.
Remember to explain how LSI is relevant to your SEO strategy, too.
Can you name other search engines than Google?
Some other search engines are:
- Duck Duck Go
Make sure you give a brief overview of the individual search engines, if needed.
What is a SERP?
SERP stands for Search Engine Results Page.
SERP is often used in shorthand to describe the results page you receive when you have entered a search on Google (or other search engines).
What is a long-tail keyword?
A long-tail keyword is a longer and more specific search query. Often,
long-tail keywords have less search volume because of their specificity, but that can also mean less competition.
Make sure to explain the value of finding and targeting long-tail keywords in your SEO strategies.
What are social signals?
Social signals are likes, comments, and shares that your content receives on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.
In terms of SEO, it is unlikely that Google still uses these metrics in 2021 to directly influence rankings (although evidence suggests that Bing does). However, the more eyeballs on your content, the higher chance of gaining other measurable authority signals such as links - which can be a direct ranking factor.
What is the Google knowledge graph?
The Google Knowledge Graph is a database of objects or concepts (such as people, places, organizations, colours, or feelings, etc.) and the relationships between these entities.
This knowledge base allows Google to be more accurate with its results. For example, searching for 'boy who lived in a cupboard under the staircase' would show results for Harry Potter even though we didn't mention his name. Plus, it helps Google display rich panels of information on the SERPs.
What is Google My Business?
Google My Business (GMB) is a business listings service for businesses and organizations to manage their online presence, including locations and reviews across Google, including search and Google Maps.
Make sure you explain how a presence on GMB is beneficial for local SEO.
What are the most important Google ranking factors?
In many ways, this is a trick question.
Make sure you acknowledge that no one knows the answer to this question — apart from Google themselves.
We can only speculate what the most important ranking factors are, based on observations and experience.
How can I see which pages Google has indexed?
One way to do this is to Google ‘Site:yourdomain’ and look at the pages Google has returned in the SERPs. This information is also included in Google Search Console, and tools like Ahrefs.
You can do this in multiple ways, so feel free to suggest more than one method to show your knowledge.
What is referral traffic?
Referral traffic describes the people who come to your website from other websites, excluding search engines.
This means they have landed on your page without searching for you on Google or typing your URL.
What is mobile-first indexing?
Mobile-first indexing means Google predominantly uses the mobile version of your content for indexing and ranking.
Historically, the index used the desktop version of a page's content when evaluating a page's relevance to a user's query, but this is no longer the case. That's why being mobile-friendly is crucial for SEO.
What methods would you apply for decreasing the loading time of a website?
There are multiple tactics you can use to reduce the loading time of a website. This includes:
- Checking the size of any images used on the site and making sure all file sizes are as small as possible
You can expand on this answer by giving examples of the times you have applied these methods and the success you have achieved. You could also talk about tools you may use such as Google PageSpeed Insights, Chrome DevTools or GTmetrix.
What is user intent in SEO?
User intent or search intent is about understanding the goals and intentions behind a search term. Often, these can be categorized, e.g. whether the intent is transactional or informational.
Make sure you explain how understanding user intent can be central to a good SEO strategy.
What is semantics in SEO?
Semantic search refers to search engines' ability to understand search phrases' contextual meaning when serving a result.
In SEO, this means that the content you write doesn't need to have the exact keywords to be served - it just needs to discuss the keyword's topic.
Links and Link Building
Link building is a crucial area of SEO.
Your interviewer may ask you questions about the importance of links, such as:
What is link building?
Link building is the process of acquiring links to your site from other websites.
Links are an important ranking factor because they measure how much authority a website has.
Make sure you can explain the difference between a good link building strategy and a spammy one.
What are backlinks?
Backlinks are a link to your site from another website.
The more quality backlinks from high authority sites you have, the more search engines will value your content above others.
What is the difference between a do-follow and a no-follow?
A do-follow link is the default state for any link. It allows search engine crawl bots to follow a link and to pass Page Rank.
A no-follow link has a piece of code in it that tells bots not to follow it. No-follow links are often used on social media, blog comments, forums, and sponsored content. These were introduced to try and limit black hat or spammy SEO link building techniques.
Make it clear that you understand that do-follow links are the most valuable in SEO. However, it’s worth noting that Google may still pass Page Rank through no-follow links if they believe it is appropriate.
Why do you need to know about backlinks to competitors’ websites?
Backlinks are a measure of a website's authority and a ranking factor that search engines use. So, it's essential to know how your competitors are doing in terms of links. It can also give you ideas for your link building efforts.
What is a link audit, and why should you do one?
A link audit looks at your site to see how many and what type of links you have.
As not all links are of equal value, it's important to understand how your site performs in this area. You may discover you need to increase your link building efforts or make a plan to recover from penalties.
When asked this, you should discuss how you would use link audits as part of your SEO strategy.
Why do internal links matter?
Internal links help Google discover, index and understand all of the content on your site. They also help to pass authority around your site.
In particular, internal links help to establish hierarchy and context. Internal links also help users discover other content on your site.
What are outbound links?
Outbound or external links are links from your site to another website. They are often used to source information or facts.
What is considered as more significant, creating content or building backlinks?
Creating quality content is the cornerstone of SEO and the internet in general.
If the content is good enough, it should attract backlinks organically, which Google and other search engines prefer. Focusing on backlinks instead of content can be detrimental if the links don't appear to have been gained naturally.
What is anchor text?
Anchor text is the visible text used in a link. Ideally, the text should be relevant and specific to the link instead of generic copy like 'click here.'
Technical SEO skills will be essential to your new role. So, your interviewer is going to want to find out more about your knowledge and experience.
We’ve put together some common questions and suggested answers below.
In addition to providing explanations, be prepared to discuss particular aspects in detail and explain how you overcome related challenges.
What is page speed?
Page speed is a measure of how fast a web page loads. Google measures this and will likely rank your page lower if it is slow to load. These days, Google also looks at how quickly your page responds to user input as well as the initial load times.
What method do you use to redirect a page?
There are different ways to redirect a page, depending on how your website is built.
For example, if your website was built in WordPress, some plugins will help you implement redirects instead of manually writing code.
It's also important to know about the different types of redirects that exist. If the redirect is permanent, then you should use a 301 code. But if the redirect is only temporary, then you should use a 302 code.
What is 301 redirect?
A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect. It tells bots that the original page no longer exists and that the search engine should use the new page instead.
What is AMP?
AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages and is an open-source framework developed by Google.
The idea is that the AMP version of your content will load a lot faster and be a better user experience for mobile users.
What is Googlebot?
Googlebot is the name for Google's main web crawler. It crawls the web via links looking for content to index.
What is robots.txt?
A robots.txt file tells search engine crawlers which pages to crawl and index, and which pages to ignore.
What do we mean by a top-level domain?
A top-level domain is a domain at the highest level in the hierarchical Domain Name System - for example, www.yourcompany.com
What is a canonical URL?
A canonical URL is a way of telling search engines which version of a similar URL with duplicate content is the one it should index.
What is an HTML sitemap?
HTML sitemaps are sitemaps that are built specifically for users to see and read.
This differs from an XML sitemap, which is primarily for bots.
What is an XML sitemap?
An XML sitemap is a list of all the URLs on your site.
This acts as a roadmap for crawlers to navigate and index your site easily.
What is structured data?
Structured data is data created using fixed schema markup. This is a way of giving more context to your content for search engines.
From an SEO perspective, correctly marking up your site with structured data can help you get rich results in the SERPs such as reviews, or adding your content to Google's Knowledge Graph.
Being highly skilled with SEO tools is a valuable skill for any role in the industry.
Before you go to your interview, re-read the job description and familiarize yourself with any mentioned tools. They may specifically ask you about these, but it's OK if you use other tools. Be ready to talk about your preferences and your experience across a wide range of software.
Some of the questions your interviewer may ask you include:
Which SEO tools do you regularly use?
How you respond to this question will depend on your own experience. Some common SEO tools you may want to reference include:
General SEO tools
These tools cover a range of functions including keyword research, rank tracking, content analysis and backlink analysis
Content analysis tools
Rank and performance tracking
Backlink analysis tools
Technical and crawl analysis tools
Make sure you can explain how and why you would use each one you mention in your answer.
What data can you get using Google Analytics?
Google Analytics provides a lot of useful information to help you understand how users are interacting with your site.
- Time on page
- Bounce rate
- Traffic source/medium
What information can you get from using Screaming Frog?
With Screaming Frog, you can crawl a site to find out exactly what content is on it, including information on metadata, links, technical errors, duplicate content, and more.
Screaming Frog is particularly useful for performing audits.
What is bounce rate?
Bounce rate measures 'bounces' on your site.
A bounce is when a user opens a single page on your site and then exits without triggering any other requests to the Analytics server during that session. It is useful to measure users leaving your site without interacting with the content or navigating to other pages.
What is time on page?
Time on page is a metric used in Google Analytics to show the average time users spend on a page.
This metric can be beneficial to see how well people are engaging with your content. For example, if users are only spending a short time before bouncing away, it might be worth checking there isn't something wrong and evaluate the content.
Short time on page may suggest that the page's content isn't engaging enough to hold people's attention. But, sometimes, this means your website visitors are finding the answer they are looking for quickly and then leaving, so it's not always a sign of poor quality content.
What is Google Trends, and why might you use it?
Google Trends shows the rise and fall of the popularity of specific search terms. It is useful for identifying seasonal peaks and troughs or new trending topics.
You could expand on this by providing an example of when you have used Google Trends and why this has been useful.
As you can see, there are a lot of questions that you could be asked in an interview for an SEO position.
Of course, it’s very unlikely that you’ll be asked all of these. You’ll probably only be asked a small selection. But it’s important to be prepared.
So, if any questions seemed particularly difficult to you, take the time to practice how you’d respond to those before your interview.