So if you followed my SEO specialist resume and cover letter guides then you may be ready to start applying and getting interviews.
Or maybe you got your first interview but don’t quite know what to expect.
In this post, I’m going to walk you through 15 of the most common questions that are asked during an SEO Specialist job interview, and my thoughts on how I would answer the questions.
So hopefully by reading my responses you can better prepare, but I do want to preface that, every company is different.
So there is no guarantee that they will ask these specific questions or in this specific order.
Also these are just my thoughts, I would encourage you to use what I wrote as inspiration on how to craft your own response.
So I would use this list for preparation, but not to regurgitate what I said.
If you need help getting ready for interviews, check out my preparing for SEO specialist interview guide.
Also, if you’re having trouble getting interviews in the first place, then you may need to brush up on your skills or tighten up your resume.
For more information, read my SEO specialist career guide.
If you prefer to watch, I created a video you can watch below:
Alright, let’s get into the post.
1. Tell me about yourself
Okay, so I would tackle this question by keeping it simple and to the point. I would tell the recruiter my name, where I’m from, what I like to do for fun, and what is my reason for joining an SEO.
So when I’m talking to my interns, I always tell them that it’s important to have a story or some reason for how you got into SEO.
And here’s the thing:
Your story doesn’t need to be whimsical, overly funny or made up; it can be very simple.
A story I would tell recruiters for how I got into SEO is I started doing it for my friends and family and I was helping them work on their WordPress websites.
And eventually, I realized how much I loved it and I started freelancing, and educating myself more on how to do it.
So a good story always sells.
2. Why SEO
If you have a good story, you already pretty much answered this question for recruiters, but a lot of them will definitely ask this anyway.
The reason why is they want to make sure that you’re doing SEO because you’re actually qualified to do it and not just because you’re looking to get money on the side.
One thing that makes this career field unique is that mostly everyone is self taught, but don’t let recruiters get it confused.
Make it clear to them that you also educate yourself so this is the time to bring up courses and training you’ve done.
Maybe if you got any certifications, bring them up as well.
The goal is to show that you are not an amateur but a qualified professional.
3. Here’s a random URL walk me through how you would audit it
I’ve had recruiters ask me this question and it can be a bit unexpected because they are asking you to perform on the spot. But don’t be alarmed.
So here’s what I would do in no particular order:
- Check Title Tags, Meta-descriptions, Headers, and Alt text for presence, keyword density, and relevancy
- Check link health via Screaming Frog
- Check Robots.txt file
- Check for XML sitemap
- Run Google page speed insights to check for site speed
Now if you start off with step 1 then chances are the recruiter will be impressed enough and tell you to stop, but it is still good conversation to tell them what you would do next.
4. How do you do keyword research
From all these questions I’ll probably get asked this the most.
The way I often tell recruiters is I pull up some type of SEO tool, I would mention SEMRush or Ahrefs because a lot of recruiters know them.
Then discuss how you would plug the keyword into the explorer.
Then you look at the report and you gauge the quality of the keyword on these metrics.
- Search volume
- Competition score (how many backlinks does the top page have)
- Search intent
- Relevancy to the business
But again just make it clear that you use some type of tool to find these keywords.
You can even mention Google keyword planner, or that you use the Google search bar.
But again I will make it clear that you use some type of tool because a lot of recruiters want you to know at least one of them.
Read my keyword research guide for more information on how to answer this question.
5. How would you go about fixing technical errors
I would tackle this question by mentioning that you check for link health. So you see if there’s any 404 broken links or 500 server errors, and then if there are say how you would redirect them using 301 redirects.
Any even mention that you checked for them via Screaming Frog. I would also mention that you pull the Robots.txt file to check if it’s valid.
If the file is wrong or missing just say you’ll write one and you’ll make sure you disallow pages that are sensitive and allow search crawlers to crawl pages that are important.
Also mention that you check for the presence of an XML sitemap.
For the XML sitemap I would bring up that you make sure that it is included.
Now for website speed, I would just simply say I would run Google pagespeed insights or Lighthouse for ways to optimize website speed.
You can mention:
- Compressing photos to Webp or AVIF
- Reduce unused plugins
- Get better web hosting
Of course I am simplifying my responses, but in your interview make sure you go into detail.
For more things to mention, check out my technical SEO guide.
6. What SEO tools are you familiar with and what’s your favorite
So this is a common question, here are some tools I would mention. I do want to preface that these are not paid brand mentions, I am just bringing up these tools because they are commonly used.
- Screaming Frog
- Google Search Console
- Google Analytics
- Google Page speed insights
At the bare minimum I would definitely know Google Search console, Google analytics and Screaming Frog.
7. Have you ever done any data reporting and if so, how do you do it
When recruiters ask this question, they’re really checking to see if you are able to get good results and showcase them. So are you able to tell an interesting data story.
So this is the time to mention if you know Excel, Google data studio, and Search Console.
Also mention any KPIs or key performance indicators you track.
- Click Through Rate
- Average Position
- Total Backlinks
- Contact form submissions
- Bounce Rate
- Time On Page
Don’t be afraid if you don’t yet have a huge amount of achievements to showcase. Just make it clear that you’re good at pulling data and showing it to decision-makers.
8. Have you ever worked with a team
I love this question too because this is a great opportunity to highlight how you would function in an environment and not just by yourself.
Part of being on an SEO team, you will not just be working with SEO’s you could also be working with web developers, content marketers, legal counsel, engineering teams, and that’s not even getting into vice president‘s or even a CEO.
With this question this is definitely the time to really highlight how you’ve been able to work with other people. Also even bring up how you have been able to cooperate with clients so if you’ve been freelancing; how do you handle a client that is upset?
Again, highlight for the recruiter that you are able to work well with others.
9. How do you stay up to date on SEO best practices and trends
For this question I like to bring up any recent Google algorithm updates. I also like to tell the recruiter what SEO blogs I frequent, and online courses I’ve taken.
The point of this question is to see whether or not you are an expert.
So don’t be like one of these pseudo-SEO-experts that claim they’ve been doing it for 15 years. Make sure you stay in the loop on what’s current.
10. Why do you want to join the team
So this is one of those questions that can “trip you up”.
Don’t be that person who goes into the interview not having done your research.
Recruiters will ask questions like these because they just want to check to make sure you’re not just looking for a quick opportunity.
So before you interview, take the time to go to the company’s website and write down three or four facts that you learned about them.
So when they ask this question, you have an answer prepared.
11. Where do you see yourself in 5 years
For this question I would make it clear you are looking for a full-time opportunity and you are just focused on that. Unfortunately there can be recruiters when they hear your response may disqualify you because they fear that you are doing side work. So again make it very clear you are focused on a full time opportunity for right now.
12. How do you go about building backlinks
So for this question they might say external or they might say how do you go about building backlinks.
You can mention:
- Email outreach
- Guest blogging
- Help A Reporter Out
- Content marketing
- Broken link building
Again don’t bring up anything about buying links because this is black hat.
13. Are you still freelancing and working with clients
This is another one of those “trick” questions.
As a digital marketer you have a sense of flexibility with your time that you may not have in other professions. But don’t ever let a recruiter think that you’re looking to split your time between more than one obligation.
So what I would honestly tell you is to get rid of all your freelancing or side projects before pursuing a job and during your interview make it very clear to recruiters that you are just focused on a full-time opportunity.
Not only is it illegal to work multiple full-time jobs at the same time but it also looks bad on you as a person.
You can choose to follow my advice that’s totally up to you, but again at least make it clear to recruiters that you are just focused on their job.
14. What is your greatest strength, and biggest weakness
So for this question, I would go into detail on what you are really good at in relation to the job.
What I mean by that is bring up things that are not related to SEO but can still make you an asset to the company, like:
- Writing skills
- Researching skills
- Communication skills
- Project management
- Data analysis
- Paid Ad Management
- Web Development
Now for the weakness question, I wouldn’t spend too much time answering this question.
Keep it short and to the point, maybe mention that you aren’t too good at technical or coding.
Oftentimes these are advanced SEO skills, and when you mention your weakness talk about how you’ve overcome it.
This will show recruiters that you are able to take on challenges and overcome them.
15. How do you stay motivated
This is another one of those “ trick questions”. When a recruiter is asking this question they want to see if you are a hard worker or someone that is possibly unreliable.
SEO is definitely a career field for people who are self starters, as in you are able to self motivate yourself to stay on task and get things done.
So again for this question, I would make it clear to recruiters that I stay motivated by working with teammates to learn new things, and by taking on new responsibilities.
16. What is a Canonical Tag
One thing I am finding is that job recruiters are starting to ask more basic questions like this. Here’s how I would answer, you can use mine for inspiration for your own answer.
A canonical tag, coded as;
<link rel=”canonical” href=”url_of_page” />
Is a piece of HTML code that you add to the <head> section of a webpage that you deem to be duplicate content or web pages that contain the same information on them.
Essentially the code tells the Search engines that a particular piece of content is another copy of the original, and that they should only serve the original in the Search results. (Google Search Central, n.d.)
This is often a better solution for duplicate content than just the No Index Meta Tag
17. What is Anchor Text
Anchor Text also known as Link text is the visible, clickable text that you see when you place your mouse cursor over a hyperlink on a webpage. (Wikipedia, n.d.)
Think of the Anchor text as the name you are giving to the destination of the link.
Anchor text should include keywords so that Search engines may be more likely to crawl them.
18. How many H1s can you have on a page?
This is a trick question, you can have as many as you want, Google has mentioned that:
“You can use H1 tags as often as you want on a page.” and that “There’s no limit, neither upper or lower bound… Your site is going to rank perfectly fine with no H1 tags or with five H1 tags”. (Google Search Central, 2022)
But generally you should have only one to make it clear to Search engines the structure of the document.
19. How have you dealt with a difficult client
Many SEO jobs are client facing, so for this question I would mention an instance where you worked with a client, they were frustrated about something, and you worked hard to give them a solution.
“I had a client that was upset about the number of phone calls they were getting. I first listened to the client to hear their frustrations, then I analyzed their Google analytics dashboard to see what the problem was. It turns out that their phone number had been changed on their Google My Business, I fixed it and then reported back to client”.
Now it’s time to get the job
Hopefully by reading these questions and seeing my responses you now feel comfortable with interviewing for your first position. but again like I said if you are not getting call backs then chances are it is because you need to tighten up your skills or resume.
If you are interested, I have an SEO career starter pack that includes a customizable resume, cover letter, and project template that you can edit to apply to your jobs.
These templates have helped me get my specialist and now manager job, so I would definitely recommend them to somebody who is a beginner and looking to get some traction.
Join my Email List to get FREE access to an SEO Specialist resume, cover letter and project template!