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Nine Questions to Ask When Hiring an SEO Expert

August 15, 2011  

If you're not an SEO expert, you might wonder what to ask when hiring SEO staff or consultants. How do you tell the difference between someone who knows exactly what he or she is doing and someone who just knows a lot of lingo?

To help out, Rand Fishkin created an interview primer for a "Whiteboard Friday" video at the SEOmoz blog. He divides SEO-centric questions into three categories:

General Knowledge. First, determine whether the candidate is well-versed in the SEO basics. "You want to see that sort of knowledge that indicates ... they're really deep into the process of doing SEO," Fishkin explains. "They live and breathe this stuff. They know it like the back of their hand." He suggests you ask questions like:

  • What is rel=canonical? (What does it do? How does it work?)
  • How do search engines treat the meta refresh?
  • What's an image title versus an alt attribute?

Strategy and Tactics. Then it's time to go beyond general knowledge and find out how well a candidate can handle SEO:

  • How would you create a site to rank for this set of keywords?
  • What are some of your favorite scalable link-building tactics?
  • How would you get video content into Google?

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  • by Will Mon Aug 15, 2011 via web

    Great questions but make sure you know the answers to them before you start the interview. Otherwise you won't know if they're "well-versed" or not.

  • by Nick Stamoulis Tue Aug 16, 2011 via web

    Will makes a great point. If you don't know what answers you're supposed to hear, asking the right questions doesn't make much of a difference. That's where a lot of business owners get hung up. The reason they are hiring an outside expert is because they don't have the knowledge themselves.

  • by Sam Bishop-Strand Tue Aug 16, 2011 via web

    If you already know the answers to these questions you don't really need an SEO expert. They feel more like a "test" rather than questions you'd ask when interviewing a potential consultant, designed more to catch someone in a lie than to flush out the strong SEO experts.

    Some of the questions are pretty detailed, if I was interviewing for this role, I'd be hesitant to share my best practices and favorite techniques, assuming if somone was already asking the rest of these questions, they already know how to do SEO and are just looking for free tips on a few things they may not already know.

    More important questions to consider would be: who else have you worked for? What kind of results can I expect and when? Can you provide real life examples?

  • by Lynda Goldman Wed Aug 24, 2011 via web

    I agree with Sam Bishop-Strand. Anyone who can ask those detailed questions already knows SEO and probably doesn't need to hire you. Most of my customers don't know the difference between a key word and a keyword phrase. Maybe I'm working with smaller companies, but I think too many SEO experts are so into their own heads, they have no clue what the average customer knows or doesn't know. In fact, many web-savvy people I know look at me in puzzlement when I say I do SEO Copywriting. I think we need to tone down the jargon and use real language, so we actually communicate with customers - not just with each other.

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