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Finding a real good SEO expert to handle all of your website needs can often be a tough task. Having interviewed many, these are a solid list of 10 questions to make sure your potential SEO knows.
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from markymark 2390 Days ago #
Votes: 1

I was expecting this to be the usual tiresome ’what to look for in an SEO firm’ type thing, but I’ll be using these questions when I’m looking for a new in-house SEO for my company. Loved #2 - that’s the kind of thing that separated the men from the sheep.

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from emanuelh 2390 Days ago #
Votes: 1

There is absolutely no relation between the answers Frank Antonellis expects to hear from an "SEO Expert" which is in his opinion worth hiring and the quite rare ability of a real SEO expert.A real SEO expert will tell Frank that his questions are silly and so, I guess, he won’t get hired. Look for instance at # 5: Can you describe or produce a recent successful SEO campaign? Anyone can produce a long list of successes in noncompetitive arenas and you cannot know whether that arena was indeed highly competitive just by the search query. A real SEO expert would rather show interesting failures, for instance a case of very high competitiveness in which he used special expertise and ingenuity but the budget allocated by the client proved to be insufficient for achieving and/or maintaining the top ranking.   

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from markymark 2390 Days ago #
Votes: 3

"A real SEO expert would rather show interesting failures, for instance a case of very high competitiveness in which he used special expertise and ingenuity but the budget allocated by the client proved to be insufficient for achieving and/or maintaining the top ranking."I’m not sure I follow your logic here. Are you suggesting that ’a real SEO’ is defined by his or her failure to succeed and blame someone else for that failure?That’s not my idea of a ’real’ SEO. 

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from iBrian 2390 Days ago #
Votes: 4

Sorry, I’ve had to Desphinn this and make the comment very clear:"Just another misguided list accordingly to what one person does, trying to define what everyone else should do."Here’s a couple to rip into for starters:1) What Search-related blogs/forums do you read and enjoy? SEO blogs are 99% WANK. I really need to underline that. The number of SEO blogs which actually provide real life usable competitive knowledge you can count on one hand - some haven’t updated in months, and others you have to push past volumes of posts on positioning to read.The only way to learn SEO is via real-life experience - that’s what separates an "expert" from a "beginners" - it’s not the knowledge, it’s the real life application.People who are reading blogs a lot of time, are making the statement that they do not know their job very well, and additionally aren’t doing their job because the only people in SEO who have time to read blogs either run very well run delegated campaigns, or else are still trying to learn the basics.5. ) Can you describe or produce a recent successful SEO campaign?Client confidentiality is so important in marketing - anyone happy to rush into giving real examples breaches that confidentiality, and more importantly, exposing the competitive advantage of their work and the risk they’ve had to managed for the client is showing either rampant stupidity or else rampant little real work a monkey couldn’t have done.6) Do you have any technical skills you are confident about or any type of website programming/design experience?This has almost nothing to do with SEO. Sure, there are great coders who are great with SEO (and affiliate programs because of it). But great SEO’s do not need to have any coding knowledge - simply the know-how of how to get something done.7) Name tools that you use for SEO:Best and only required tool is the human brain. Seriously. A good SEO can do great SEO with only search engines.8) Do you own your own website or blog?Anyone who doesn’t run at least one website or blog has no real life experience - anyone who runs only one blog is still lean on experience. People don’t learn SE algos by sitting around being told - they track, they monitor, they observe, across a wide spectrum of the wild.Anyway, my FTP job is over, so rant against yet another positioning post over. :)

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from emanuelh 2390 Days ago #
Votes: 2

@ <font color="#186318">markymark</font>: Showing off with examples of high rankings belongs indeed to the primitive stage of SEO, when almost nobody optimized their websites and those who did automatically raised in rankings.The problem today is that for almost every search query there often are hundreds or thousands of websites trying to get into Google’s Top 10 rankings, and those precious 10 pigeonholes are not even vacant! So the question is whether the rate at which you’re going to make your client’s website gain relevance score in the next few months is not smaller than the rate at which the websites now ranked in the Top 10 will gain relevance score during the same interval. Because if they do you’ll never catch up and you are doomed to fail. Consequently, since for each search query hundreds of SEO "experts" service hundreds of websites, but only ten of them can prove success, the common experience of SEO "experts" is failure. 

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from iBrian 2390 Days ago #
Votes: 1

In real life I’m actually a friendly, cheerful "buy everyone a pint" kind of guy. :)But online, I’m working, I’m visiting sites in between breaks and as a hands-on person that means my time is short, so rather than spend ages thinking how to compose a reply in the most diplomatic manner possible (as I used to do) I now only have time to reply stating a blunt opinion.Sometimes this comes across kind of harsh, but coming onto Sphinn, billed as an "Internet Marketing News and discussion forum" to find lead stories anoymously voted to the front page are filled with misconceptions, misinformation, and misunderstandings, somebody has got to be that little boy in the crowd who dares to say the Emperor is wearing no clothes. Nothing personal - it’s just information vs information.Anyway, back to work. :)

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from boorishamerican 2390 Days ago #
Votes: 1

markymark - "Loved #2 - that’s the kind of thing that separated the men from the sheep."I had this happen to me in an interview a couple months ago. I am a PPC guy but still if you actually did that to someone you could come across as wildly douchey and even if you had someone good in the room they would probably never consider working for you.

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from crazycat 2390 Days ago #
Votes: 1

I’m not an SEO expert but these questions help somehow.

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from KevinCheng 2390 Days ago #
Votes: 1

Interesting and entertaining list, but I cannot agree with all of them.I think I have been asked a couple of the questions before, and at the time of the interview I felt that those questions were somewhat silly.  I mean, anyone could pretty much make up or memorize some of the "correct answers" without any actual experience in SEO.  Any good presenter could play the whole interview perfectly and get the job.I’m not saying the list is bad, I just think that any interview is the same, sometimes you will need to use your instinct along with the candidates’ portfolios and performance in the interview to determine if he/she is a good fit in the organization.

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from SEOpranos 2390 Days ago #
Votes: 0

As author of this blog post, I love the fact that this has been Sphunn and De-Sphunn. I think everyone makes some great points. Glad it sparked some conversation and even criticism. I guess I wouldn’t be hired by (nor hire) any of the De-Sphinners and we’d have a great debate, but I’d love to hear some of the questions they would ask a good SEO candidate. I wonder if I’d agree with them. Thx again! - Frank

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from study5 2390 Days ago #
Votes: 0

This post gives me some advice to become a seo expert, thank you. :)

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from iBrian 2389 Days ago #
Votes: 1

"I guess I wouldn’t be hired by ... any of the De-Sphinners"To be honest I don’t think it’s a case of that - it’s not SEO knowledge that is being put on trial here.I think the pointer is that repeatedly posts are Sphunn which aim to provide a clear and easy way for a business to choose a SEO company. Unfortunately, rather than help, they tend to obfuscate, as we simply end up with a indication of an individual working method, rather than an objective standard that could be more widely applied.

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from mridout196 2389 Days ago #
Votes: 1

@ iBrian You certainly have brought up some good points, especially about client confidentiality.1) What Search-related blogs/forums do you read and enjoy? -  Yes 99% probably are but its that 1% that you should be aware of.6) Do you have any technical skills you are confident about or any type of website programming/design experience?True you dont need technical skills to be an SEO, but it helps with company resources and timings, which are essential when producing costings for the client.7) Name tools that you use for SEO:Sure all you need is a human brain and a search engine but tools out there save time - which is essential when managing multiple campaignsJust my 2 cents on your comments

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from MikeBradbury 2389 Days ago #
Votes: 2

I don’t think these are questions that will define an expert, but I definetly think they are questions that will help you pick out a mid-level SEO.  To comment on some of the other comments:I like the blog reading question.  I think its great.  Are you actively participating in the community?  Yes or No?  I don’t care if you read crap or if you read gems, the purpose of the question is to find out if you’re actually interested in seo.  If these are questions for a mid-level, I think that is a fair one.I don’t know about this ’marketing client confidentiality’.  Is BBDO concerned about this?  Not really.  Is anyone in any traditional media concerned about this at their interview?  No.  You bought TV spots for Kraft Foods?  You make sure the person you’re interview with knows that.  Technical Skills:  This is an earmarking point for me.  knowing HTML, CSS, java script and some server applications is the differentiator for me between two equal candidates.   It speaks to the well-roundedness of the individual, and their understanding of the internet.  I always want this.You can’t do SEO without tools?  Analytics is an SEO tool.  Adwords is an SEO tool.  I don’t understand how you can do SEO without tools.  Even if you could, the purpose of this question is not neccessarily to see where the applicant is picking good tools, but where they are picking poor ones.  It speaks to their knowledge of the industry.I don’t know where this critcism is coming from.  I mean, again, I look at it as a resource for finding a mid-level SEO, not an expert.  From that standpoint, I think these are excellent questions.

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from alexmcarthur 2389 Days ago #
Votes: 1

Some questions were much better than others.  However, I found one or two to add to my interview questions that I have a tendancy to forget...so thx.

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from iBrian 2389 Days ago #
Votes: 1

@Mike - I’ll try to answer your questions:1. SEO’s read SEO blogs just to keep tapped into the discussion, and see if there’s anything potentially new being discussed IMO. The danger is, people thinking that reading SEO blogs is a method of learning, which can only apply to the sort of person a client absolutely should have reservations about employing in the first place.2. SEO is founded on two platforms - on-site and off-site. The off-site work is increasingly important as emanuelh alluded to above, because a larger number of websites are search-engine friendly, so it’s the link dev work that absolutely provides the edge, and the difference between an optimised site being Top 5 positions instead of Page 5. Anyone who reveals too much info on off-site work to someone outside of the client organisation is handing details of their competitive edge on a plate, and additionally, raises extra risk factors via Google’s campaign against link buying.Sure, TV is different, but if I asked Kraft foods to give a full round-up on their marketing strategy and details of implementation I would expect them to tell me to go jump. Additionally, many large companies write NDA’s into their agreements anyway. 3. My own focus is link dev, so that probably helps with context. Certainly for on-page with extensive dynamic sites you need people on board who known the lingo - but the SEO only has to manage achieving objectives and doesn’t necessarily need to be hands on with the work, simply ensure a standard of completion.4. You’ve really mentioned PPC tools which have a long history, but all too often I see people jump into using SEO tools such as ranking and link checkers which simply provide numbers, without the means to interpret them. Therefore many small business owners particularly interpret them in the basest sense possible, ie, link volume = link value. Even where accomplished SEO’s are using tools properly, using these alone loses the context of the data. Some of the best link placements and algo moves are spotted precisely through manual checks and would otherwise be easily over-looked on a number crunching basis only. Numbers have context, and that context is essential to the creative side of SEO.Overall, I think the key pointer remains that many SEO’s have different working methods - heck, there’s a surprising amount of specialisation across SEO alone, let alone SEM as well (analytics, metrics, etc). The danger is - as raised on the "standards" discussion, is of one company method being seen as the over-riding standard, which unfortunately is the impression given by the original Sphunn post - an attempt to educate people in an objective manner, but really falls down to the subjective practices of the individual.2c.

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from alwoodman 2389 Days ago #
Votes: 1

Really good post, enjoyed the read and especially useful as we are recruiting for another in house SEO.

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from SEOpranos 2389 Days ago #
Votes: 1

great comments by all and excellent feedback. iBrian, u are one passionate dude. Love the strong opinions & I can def see ur passion. Mike Bradbury makes some great points too and I’d be curious to hear some of the more advanced level questions (to add to my own list). ;-)

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from emanuelh 2389 Days ago #
Votes: 0

@ alwoodman: since you are recruiting another inhouse SEO (so you’ll have at least two?), how about the definitive interview question: "How are you going to prepare us for Google’s next algorithm shift?"  

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from iBrian 2386 Days ago #
Votes: 0

SEOpranos, I just wanted to apologise if it sounded like the comments on the topic posted sounded personal - that really wasn’t my intention at all.By your comments, you obviously know a thing or two about SEO and are simply trying to take part in the knowledge transfer process.I think my beef is that there have been a string of posts like these, which unfortunately remain fixed in different working methods rather than a more universal reference point, which is what I was critical of in general here, rather than specifically about you.

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from SEOpranos 2384 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Hey iBrian, thanks, I actually enjoyed the debate so we’re definitely cool. Frank

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from iBrian 1929 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Just another misguided list accordingly to what one person does, trying to define what everyone else should do.

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from TheMadHat 1929 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Five years ago maybe these questions would have been applicable.

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