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40+ Top SEO Interview Questions: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced
Table of Contents
Understand that SEO is a discipline that changes very quickly. And people understand that. If you learned SEO a year ago, there may be some changes that you aren’t current on — it’s a constantly evolving discipline. SEO primarily deals with Google and Google isn’t entirely transparent with the modifications that it makes. Frequently, SEO experts need to “figure out” what’s really happening under the hood.
What does this mean to you? You need to be confident about your SEO knowledge with the understanding that things are always changing. During an SEO interview, the SEO specialist will want to know that you understand the basics and know how to keep up with these changes.
Basic SEO Interview Questions
Anyone in SEO should be able to answer these basic SEO questions. SEO interviews will usually start with some basic questions to gauge your understanding of the general market. If you’re at an SEO interview and you don’t know the answer to any of these questions, you likely need to take a refresher.
1. What is search engine optimization?
The most basic SEO interview question: What is Search Engine Optimization? SEO is the process of making a website rank highly in search engines for desired queries.
2. What is technical SEO?
Technical SEO can be broken down into two parts: server-side and client-side. Server-side technical SEO includes things like optimizing your robots.txt, sitemaps, ensuring that you’re not blocking search engines from crawling your site, and setting up 301 redirects if you’ve moved or redesigned a page.
Client-side technical SEO includes making sure your website is set up properly in your code. For example, if you’re using WordPress, are you using a child theme? Are you making sure to set your permalinks to the right format? Are you setting up canonicals between pages and posts? Are you using internal linking correctly? Is your site responsive for mobile users?
3. Why is SEO important?
SEO is important because search engines drive traffic and sales to websites. If no one can find your website online, you won’t be able to get sales or clients.
4. What is domain authority?
Domain authority is a score that Moz has created to gauge how authoritative and powerful a website’s presence on the internet is. This score is on a 100-point logarithmic scale.
5. What is the most important factor for a search engine?
The most important factor to a search engine is delivering the best results to its users.
6. What is the difference between organic and paid search results?
Organic search results are the listings that appear on the top of a search engine, these are free listings. Paid search results on Google or Bing are usually advertisements that appear on the right-hand side of a search engine or the top of a search engine.
7. Which meta tags are most important?
Meta tags that are most important include the title tag, the meta description (this appears in search results), and the meta keyword tag.
8. Where should you include keywords?
You should include keywords in the page title, body text, meta description. In the old days, one might “stuff” keywords throughout the body text. Today, it’s better to semantically include related keywords than trying to focus on a single keyword multiple times.
9. Which search engines are most important?
Google and Bing are the most important search engines. Google is by far the most popular and important search engine today.
10. What are alt tags and what purposes do they serve?
An alt tag is an HTML tag that describes an image. These tags are important for SEO because search engines can't read images, but the information in the alt tag tells the search engines what that image is.
11. What is Google Analytics?
Google Analytics is a free product from Google that shows you how your customers are using your website. It will tell you where they're coming from (organic, paid, etc.), what devices they're using, and their geo-location. The user interface can be a bit overwhelming, but it's important that you know how to use it.
Intermediate SEO Interview Questions
These intermediate interview questions are interview questions for an SEO specialist or advanced SEO experts. They assume that the person being interviewed has intermediate to advanced knowledge of the discipline and that they have worked within the discipline for some time.
12. What is Google Autocomplete?
Google Autocomplete is an algorithm that Google has created to search for terms that users may not know how to spell or when they're inputting a term into the search bar.
13. What is keyword frequency?
Keyword frequency is how many times a specific keyword or phrase appears on your site. When you're doing SEO, it's important to have the keyword or phrase appear multiple times on the page so that Google knows what the page is about. It should not be confused with keyword density. Having a keyword 5 times in 200 words is different from having a keyword 5 times in 2,000 words.
14. What is keyword density?
Keyword density is the ratio of a specific keyword or phrase to the total number of words on a page. For example, if your website has 200 words and your keyword is mentioned 5 times, that's a 10 percent ratio.
15. What is keyword volume?
Keyword volume is the total number of searches for a specific keyword or phrase. This is important to know because if your website is ranking for a very low volume keyword, it's unlikely that you'll get traffic.
16. What is keyword difficulty?
Keyword difficulty is how hard it is to rank for a specific keyword or phrase. Keyword difficulty (or KD) is calculated by taking the number of searches for a specific phrase and multiplying it by the page authority of the top 10 ranking pages. It's not a hard and fast rule but a general indicator of how difficult it will be to rank.
17. What is the definition of a long-tail keyword?
A long-tail keyword is a specific phrase that has low search volume but high buyer intent. It's usually 4-5 words in length. An example would be "buy red dresses online." Many people define a long-tail keyword as any keyword over four words. But on a broader level, a long-tail keyword is a more specific keyword that targets a smaller niche.
18. What is a bounce rate?
A bounce is when someone comes to your site and then leaves without staying on the page. The exit, or bounce rate, is the percentage of people who came to your site and left right away. If you have a bounce rate on your site of 40%, it means that 40% of people who came to your site left immediately.
19. What is robots.txt?
Robots.txt is a file that you use to tell search engines what pages on your site they can crawl and index. Many people use this to block out parts of their site that they don't want Google to crawl, or to otherwise emphasize their site structure.
20. What are backlinks?
Backlinks are links that other sites have to your site. Search engines look at these links when calculating how important a website is, or its domain authority. Having backlinks is important for SEO, but you should always remember that quality links are more important than quantity.
21. What is on-page vs. off-page SEO?
On-page SEO is anything that you can do within the confines of your website to help rank it. It's things like having a clear title tag, a meta description, and internal linking. Off-page SEO is anything you do outside of your site to help it rank higher, such as posting it on social media to generate activity and potential backlinks.
22. What is “black hat” SEO?
Black Hat SEO is any form of trickery used to rank websites. This includes things like hiding text on a website, keyword-stuffing, and manipulating links. This is not a recommended strategy for getting high rankings, as Google is constantly updating its algorithm to detect and penalize any such activity.
White Hat SEO is any form of ethical search engine optimization strategy. This means not using tricks or underhanded methods to rank your site. White Hat SEO is recognized by Google, which gives you an advantage when trying to rank your site.
23. What is the difference between SEO and SEM?
SEM is the acronym for Search Engine Marketing. This encompasses any form of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising you do on search engines, including Google Ads and Bing Ads. When someone searches for a phrase, the ads they see on the side of Google are SEM.
SEO is Search Engine Optimization, which encompasses the strategies you use to rank higher in organic search results without paying.
24. What is the difference between nofollow and dofollow links?
Nofollow links are links that have the nofollow tag applied to them. The purpose of a link can be twofold: to provide information or to rank the website/page you're trying to promote. The nofollow tag tells search engines not to give any weight or authority to that link when they rank your site. They see nofollow links as if they don't exist.
DoFollow links are regular, normal hyperlinks that do pass authority or weight. Search engines do not ignore these links when they rank your site.
25. What is a 301 redirect?
301 redirects are permanent. You can use them to send people or search engines from one URL to another. This is useful if you've moved your website, or if you want to make content easier to find by forwarding people to the right place.
26. How can you get a page indexed?
Getting a page indexed means that it is ready for search engines to crawl and index the content on your page. You can do this by using Google Search Console to submit your sitemap. You can also tell Google directly by submitting the URL of each page you want indexed individually. If you submit too many URLs, Google may be inclined to ignore them.
27. How do domains impact SEO?
A higher domain level is going to have a greater overall SEO authority. This means that if you use a .com when your competition uses a .net, you will likely rank higher in the SERPs. This is due to the amount of trust and authority a .com has earned in Google's eyes.
28. What’s the best way to get backlinks?
The best way to get backlinks is to build them naturally. This means posting your website or content on social media, writing guest posts for other websites, or getting featured in articles where other people are talking about your industry.
29. What is Google My Business?
Google My Business is Google's free directory listing tool. It allows you to list your business on Google Maps, and it also lets you update your business profile. This is important for SEO because it gives Google the information they need to display your business in relevant search results.
30. What is a competitor analysis?
Competitor analysis is a report that details the SEO strategies of your competitors. It lists all of their ranking keywords, and it also shows you how they are performing in the SERPs.
Advanced SEO Interview Questions and Answers
These are advanced SEO specialist interview questions. These SEO job interview questions will assume that someone has been in the industry for a few years and has even led teams in SEO strategy. These are interview questions for SEO manager positions; someone in an entry-level SEO position wouldn’t be expected to know the answers.
31. What is Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI)?
Latent Semantic Indexing is a method of indexing that increases the relevancy of search engine results. This helps search engines match search queries with the best possible pages.
32. What makes a website search engine friendly?
Search engine-friendly websites are coded with SEO best practices in mind. They have plenty of relevant content, reliable navigation, and fast load times.
33. What makes a website mobile-friendly?
A website is mobile-friendly if it looks good on smartphones and tablets. It should fit the screen without any scrolling, be easy to navigate with one hand, and have content that is easily readable.
34. How do you measure success in SEO?
There are several factors to consider when looking at your SEO success: ranking keywords, traffic, and conversions from organic search. You will need to set your business goals in order to measure your SEO success.
35. How do you geo-target a website?
Geo-targeting a website is generally done by adding location names in meta page titles and text and by writing about events and attractions within a specific area. For brick-and-mortar businesses, geo-targeting is an essential process.
36. How do you approach keyword research?
To approach keyword research, you need to understand how search engines work. These days, the best keywords are longer and more specific. They target people who are looking for very specific products, services, or information.
37. What is link building and why does it matter?
Link building is the process of acquiring inbound links. These incoming links show Google that your website or blog is authoritative and trustworthy. They also send traffic to your website. Link building is very important for SEO success.
38. How can you improve page speed?
You can improve your page speed by using a CDN, adjusting image sizes, and finding ways to reduce the number of redirects on your site. Google also has a Page Speed tool that can help you diagnose performance problems, and tools like WebPagetest allow you to test your website on real mobile devices.
39. How can you win a Google Featured Snippet?
In order to win a Google Featured Snippet, you need to have high page authority, the right structure, and some luck. In some cases, winning the Google Snippet can result in a dramatic increase in organic traffic—but it’s hard.
First, page authority. If you don’t have good domain authority, you’re simply not likely to win a snippet. But if you’re prepping for a big push, you might want to include snippets from the start with the understanding that you won’t win them right away. When it comes to snippets, page authority is relative. If you see that a page with lower authority than you currently has a snippet, that’s a snippet you can probably win.
Second, you need the right structure. Recipes, lists, definitions, comparisons, and “best of” snippets perform better. Google is looking to give the searcher the right answer right away when the searcher is asking questions like:
- What’s the best CRM solution?
- How do you cook a chicken?
- Should I choose a Subaru Outback or a Subaru Forrester?
As you can see, these snippets are also usually in response to a direct question.
Finally, there is a component of luck. Because we don’t know Google’s algorithm, you can’t “guarantee” a snippet. What you can do is make sure that you have an option for a snippet in every high-quality piece of content you post. This increases the chances that you’ll achieve snippets throughout your site.
40. What are Some Common SEO mistakes you’ve seen?
Be prepared to describe your own background and some of the most common SEO mistakes. Common SEO mistakes include keyword stuffing (adding too many keywords to a page), keyword cannibalization, or simply adding keywords to a page without any strategy. Also building the wrong type of links that can be harmful and get your site penalized.
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The Most Important SEO Tools
Apart from general questions, SEO interviewers will frequently ask about specific technologies. These are industry-standard technologies. It’s possible that you may not have used them extensively, but you will likely have at least encountered them. It’s a good idea to brush up on these tools before an interview.
41. What is Screaming Frog used for?
Screaming Frog is an SEO crawler that sends data about your website to the software. You can use this information to spot problems and opportunities on a website.
42. What is SEMrush used for?
SEMrush is an all-in-one SEO software. Search engine marketers can use it to research competitors, track their results, monitor rankings, and find the best keywords to target.
43. What is Ahrefs?
Ahrefs is a comprehensive SEO suite that includes competitor analysis, keyword research, link building, and more. With Ahrefs, companies can strive to improve their domain rating and Google ranking.
44. How do you use Google Search Console?
The Google Search Console can give you key insights into the performance of your pages, including where your pages are currently ranking on the search engine results page and how your website is trending in popularity over time.
What Should You Say in an SEO Interview?
Introduce yourself and discuss your background and history in SEO. Further, discuss what you’re doing to improve your knowledge of SEO, your goals in the future, and what you want to learn next. SEO is a constantly evolving industry; your interviewer wants to know that you’re willing to improve your skills.
Tips for Acing Your Interview
It’s not enough to just be able to answer point-blank questions. You need to have a thorough understanding of the field and be confident enough to display it. SEO is a very rigorous profession; a lot of it requires digging into analytics. You’re not expected to be able to generate an SEO campaign around a keyword within a few minutes; you’re expected to know the fundamentals that would allow you to do that.
Follow SEO blogs like HubSpot, Ahrefs, and Backlink.io.
These SEO blogs will illuminate the most current SEO tactics. They will also explore new strategies and new theories. You’ll be abreast of the most recent developments, while also being able to dig deeper into the fundamental principles of SEO. Frequently, an interviewer will ask you something like “Where do you get your SEO news from?” or “What’s something you recently learned about SEO?” Be prepared to answer these questions by reading more about the current SEO landscape.
Dig into SEO tools like Screaming Frog and SEMrush.
If you aren’t experienced with Ahrefs, Google Analytics, or other industry-standard products, the time to look into them is now. Most of these products are intentionally designed to be relatively easy and intuitive to use. That’s because the majority of being an SEO expert is about strategy; these tools don’t do everything for you, they just give you the information that you need to create the right plan.
Talk about your experience in SEO and what you’ve learned.
While you’re at your interview, talk about what you’ve done in the SEO field up until then. You might be surprised to find out how impressive your credentials already are. Because SEO is such an emerging industry and because it changes so frequently, people are often the victim of “imposter syndrome.” But if you’ve managed any positive results for clients in the past, you’re already winning at SEO. For the most part, SEO interviewers are less concerned about your ability to describe technical terms and more concerned about your ability to show actual results.
Prepare to walk someone through your SEO process.
What do you do when you get a new SEO client? What’s your process each time you start a campaign? Load up a page from a local business and think about how you would create a new campaign strategy for them. Prepare yourself to walk someone else through your SEO process, not just what you do but why you’re doing it. This is going to give them more insight into how your mind works and how much you understand about the process.
Write down some questions to ask them about their process.
Remember that an interview is also a chance to learn. Write down some questions in advance about what you’d like to know from them. What tools do they use? What keywords do they select? How do they figure out which pages they want to go after? What’s their process for refreshing older pages and how do they ensure that their technical SEO is up to requirements? All these questions will actually prepare you for future interviews and your future with the company.
An SEO interview is both a chance to get a job and a chance to flex your skills. Apart from brushing up on SEO, think about it as an opportunity to learn more about the industry and find out more about what other companies are doing. What tools are they using? What principles do they follow?
The SEO industry moves so fast that there is rarely a “wrong” answer, there’s just a wrong process. You need to have a thorough understanding of what SEO is and how it works — but beyond the basics, understand that the technology will change.
For now, you can dig into SEO tutorials, learn more about how Google works, and look into the technical side of website optimization.