Posted by KameronJenkins
I was a new team lead. I knew the ins and outs of being a good SEO and a good content creator, but within my first month as a manager I faced a challenge I had never had to tackle before…
Someone left and I had to find a backfill.
I started desperately Googling things like “interview questions” and “what to look for in a new employee” but quickly realized that was too generic for what I needed. There was really no guidance available on what makes a good SEO manager. I had to wing it.
What I wish I would have thought of back then was creating an SEO assessment. My organization had test projects for content developers based on writing prompts, but there was really nothing comparable to gauge a prospective SEO’s skillset.
An assessment like this might be good for a second stage interview after your candidate has passed a basic round one interview. If you already know you like this person, the next step is to make sure they can walk the talk.
There are so many things you could cover in an SEO quiz for your prospective new hire.
Generally though, there are three main pillars that I think represent SEO well on the whole: technical (the foundation), content (the house), and links (authority — yeah, yeah… I couldn’t keep up with the house analogy).
A good test of your prospective SEO manager’s skills should hit somewhere in the middle.
Just keep in mind that, while I think this is a good representation of SEO on the whole, it’s not comprehensive. For example, local SEO isn’t addressed here, so if you run a local SEO agency then you could choose to focus on GMB optimization, NAP, etc. Cater your assessment to your unique needs.
There are three main types of SEO assessments that I’ve seen:
While all have their merits, none of them felt 100% appropriate for gauging a potential new hire’s SEO chops. That’s why I landed on a hybrid.
You’re not just handing your prospect a website and saying “see what you find,” but you’re not just having them color-by-number either. What you’re doing is asking them guiding questions about a specific website, such as “what’s wrong with this?” “Why?” and “How would you fix it?”
There are a few considerations you need to make before handing them the test and wishing them good luck. For example:
This section will focus on gauging how well your candidate understands what type of content it takes to perform well in the search engines for particular queries.
Here’s what I might suggest asking:
This will show you if they have a good grasp of what search engines like Google consider low quality content, and what viable courses of action exist for remedying it.
For example, you might expect to get back something like this:
Example.com/page-two/ is low quality because it is a near-duplicate of example.com/page-one/. It’s also getting little-to-no organic traffic. If it’s necessary to keep /page-two/ on the website, you could add a rel=canonical to indicate which version of the pages is the primary/original. If /page-two/ needs to remain in the index, consider modifying the content so it’s unique. If it’s not necessary to keep /page-two/ on the website, consider 301 redirecting it to /page-one/.
Again, you’re just looking for whether they understand what low-quality content is, how to find it, and how to address it.
Other content-related questions you might want to consider asking:
This section would focus on gauging how well your prospective SEO Manager understands inbound links (backlinks) and their effect on a domain/page’s performance in search results. Again, without giving too much away, I would instruct them to:
For these types of questions, you might expect to get something back like this:
Example.com has a number of inbound links utilizing exact-match anchor text that are not nofollow and appear to match Google’s definition of a link scheme, specifically “low-quality directory or bookmark site links.” They do not appear to be harming the site’s performance in search results, but you could add these links to their disavow file preemptively.
Other link-related questions you could consider asking:
“Technical” is broad and not everyone agrees where the lines are drawn between technical and non-technical activities, but here, I’m using “technical” to refer to uncovering your prospective SEO Manager’s competence at diagnosing and fixing any barriers to crawling, issues with the indexing of a site’s content, areas for improving how a search engine understands the website, and areas for improving the user experience.
In response, you might expect to get an answer such as:
As is common with many e-commerce websites, this one uses a faceted navigation. However, because these filters are open to crawlers, crawl budget is being wasted on non-unique, thin pages. Disallow crawlers from crawling non-valuable facets in robots.txt to save crawl budget.
Other questions you might consider asking to gauge their technical chops:
I hope these tips on developing an SEO assessment help not only make the hiring process easier, but help you get the best SEO talent you can — your team deserves it!
But we also know that adding a new member to your SEO team involves so much more than this. You’ll need to work with your organization’s hiring manager to put together the job posting and you’ll also need to invest in training this new employee so they can hit the ground running quickly to start making an impact for your team.
We hear ya — that’s why we also put together “The Agency’s Guide to Finding & Onboarding New SEO Managers” white paper.
If you’ve ever been tasked with finding, assessing, hiring, and training a new SEO manager, we’d love to hear from you! What methods have been successful for you in the past? What mistakes can you help others avoid? Share them in the comments.
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