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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