From time to time, clients or prospective employers ask me to complete a questionairre that they use to determine my SEO skill level. I’ve decided to share those questions here, so that others can get a sense of what they might be asked on an SEO interview as well as gain a better understanding of what I think matters in SEO.
How long have you been doing SEO for? What is your technical SEO experience?
I was first exposed to the concept of SEO in 2004 but didn’t seriously start doing it until 2006. My technical SEO experience has been honed through the years by completing three part (technical, editorial and social) intake audits for clients, usually totaling between 60 and 100 pages. The technical audit covers things like canonical issues, crawl errors, robots.txt errors, backlink profile analysis, duplicate title and meta tags, weak title and meta tags, etc.
What pages have you gotten to rank on Page 1 of Google? For which keywords? How did you do it? What was the observed impact of achieving those rankings? (Use your most impressive examples)
Since about 2010, I’ve steered clients away from choosing #1 rankings as a relevant KPI simply because companies don’t sink or swim from being #1. Yes, niche sites and affiliates do well, but those companies and those types of sites are probably clients I’d wouldn’t work with anyway. UVPs, CTAs, message testing (via Content Experiments or Optimizely) and user testing (via UserTesting.com) all have more value in my opinion than chasing down #1 rankings. Rankings are a desirable side effect to being both relevant and useful to your target audience.
What is your link building methodology?
I build links via the creation and promotion of useful and relevant content. For example, I might contract an influencer to produce a how-to video for a product my client manufactures or sells. The influencer gets relevant content for his/her site and and I get the benefit of reaching the influencer’s audience.
If I asked you to get the page www.examplesite.com/peanut-butter-sandwich to rank on Page 1 of Google for the keyword “peanut butter sandwich”, how would you go about that process?
The textbook SEO answer is “build links on relevant sites with high PR using the anchor text peanut butter sandwich”. For me, that’s the quickest way to SEO irrelevancy. Yes, that will work in the short term but as G moves away from link metrics (it has to) and towards social scoring (it has to) I believe the best way to rank for peanut butter sandwich is to be the web’s best resource on peanut butter sandwiches. I would find owners of peanut butter sandwich stores (there are a few!) and interview them about what makes the best peanut butter sandwich along with reviews on each, how-to videos and social/influencer outreach.
Do you guarantee results in the search engines? Please provide an explanation.
I don’t guarantee results in the search engines because results need to match expectations. Once they do, then clients and service providers are happy. When they don’t, clients leave and service providers lose money. For that reason, it doesn’t make sense to provide any sort of service guarantee other than agreed upon hours of service and/or deliverables.
How do you identify the cause of a penalty on your website?
To identify the cause of a manual or algorithmic penalty, I check Webmaster Tools. Google has made this tool invaluable for tracking down the source cause of lost SERP positions. And yes, I do track SERPs but only for internal use and only for the purpose of quickly responding to issues that could be affecting site health.
How do you measure success of an SEO campaign? What are your favorite SEO tools? And Why?
I measure the success of an SEO campaign by how well the service provider’s results matched the client’s expectations. If the SOW calls for an intake audit, I won’t and cannot tie that out to increased traffic, sales and leads. If the SOW calls for content creation and promotion, the amount of time sold per page is a good indicator of how effective each may be (with less time meaning less effective pages). When expectations are properly set, some of my favorite KPIs are: lower home page bounce rate, higher form fill conversion rate and MoM keyphrase universe growth. My favorite tools are Open Site Explorer, SEMRush, Screaming Frog, WSOToolz, Optimizely, Crazy Egg, Quintly, Crowdbooster, Excel and of course, Google Analytics / Webmaster Tools.
What is a Domain Authority and how do we use this information to support SEO value?
DA is a metric and a powerful one of that. It’s a measure of how likely one website is to rank over another for related queries. DA is largely based on the number and quality of inbound links pointing to both the root domain and internal pages. It’s used to support SEO value in several ways, but most commonly, it quickly answers the client question why are my competitors ranking above me?
What is the purpose of analyzing linking C-blocks?
Inbound links need to originate from unique C blocks in order to pass maximum SEO value. A C blog is the 3rd set of numbers in an IP address. For example, a link from: domain A on IP address 18.104.22.168 to domain B (also on 22.214.171.124) wouldn’t page as much SEO value as a link from domain C on 126.96.36.199
Explain the difference between no follow links and follow links? Why does this matter to SEO?
No follow links do not pass (as much) SEO value as followed links. However, if the no follow link is relevant and useful to the client’s target audience, it is useful overall.