9 Important Questions To Ask Before Hiring An SEO

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Hiring an SEO can be a nerve-wracking process due to the sheer amount of noise in the industry. Add in the fact that SEO takes time to see results and you can understand why there are still many people who are SEO adverse.

But all is not lost!

If you think about it, SEO is just like building a great team, which often involves adopting a ‘hire slow, fire fast’ mentality. Just make sure you ask the right questions and get a good feel for your prospective SEO and you’ll have a significantly higher shot at a successful SEO campaign.

Here are some 9 questions to ask before hiring an SEO:

  1. Tell me about your expertise with SEO. – this is an open ended question that lets the prospect reveal as much(or as little) as they can about their SEO knowledge. It’s a question that requires people to think of a great answer on the spot.
  2. Tell me about 3 SEO projects that you’re most proud of and why you’re proud of them. – this is a powerful question that can separate the wheat from the chafe because it gets into specifics. I often see people stumble at this question because they start referring to individual keyword victories rather than talking about specific traffic and conversion improvements. SEO is more than about a set of keywords, it’s about making the ocean of content you have on your site more discoverable to search engines.
  3. What’s your #1 rule with SEO? – another open ended question that will allow you to see just how experienced your prospect might be. Are they the gambling type to push campaigns to the limit? Are they the squeaky clean white hat SEO that treats top SEO blogs as gospel? More importantly, are they the right fit for your needs?
  4. Tell me about your biggest failure with SEO and what you learned from it. – just how deep does your prospect explore SEO? This question will reveal how complex your prospect’s thought process is. Ask for specifics about the failure and what they would do differently if they could do it again.
  5. What are your go to SEO tools? – there are quite a few tools in the industry and some are popular in the SEO world (such as SEOmoz, Citation Labs Link Prospector, Majestic SEO, and Raven Tools). When used correctly, tools can significantly increase a skilled SEOs efficiency. This is not to say that tools are required, but it’s nice to see what they know about tools and what they think about them.
  6. How do you carry out competitive analysis of keywords/SERPs as part of the keyword research process? – keyword research is critical to any SEM campaign so you need to see if your prospect has a good process for this.
  7. Let’s say you’ve done 6 months of SEO for a site and there haven’t been any improvements, how would you diagnose the problem? – How confident will you feel with a prospect when they are actually in the trenches doing the grunt work? This question will help you answer that question.
  8. Have you ever outsourced SEO work? Give me one example. – sometimes, an SEO campaign might have many moving parts and you won’t be able to juggle all the balls at once. If you need to outsource frequently, then chances are your prospect will need to as well. So the question is does your potential hire come with management experience?
  9. What are effective metrics for tracking return on investment from SEO? – the answers you’re looking for here can include, but aren’t limited to: organic revenue, organic traffic, # of organic keywords. Average order value and conversion rate can be included if you group SEO and conversion rate optimization together.


This is by no means a conclusive list of SEO hiring questions. You have your own needs and it’s up to you to figure out what other questions might be important to the hiring process. What these questions can do is help you make a more educated decision. The last thing you want is to spend months of time and money only to find out that you brought the wrong person on board.

What are some other questions you use to hire great SEOs?



Image credit: Shutterstock /karen roach

Eric Siu
Eric Siu is the User Growth Lead at Treehouse, an online technology school that teaches coding, web design, how to build startups, and more. Feel... Read Full Bio
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  • Mike

    Thanks for the tip. I’m actually planning on hiring an SEO. I’ll be using these questions for the job interview. 😉

  • Media3

    Hello Eric,

    It’s very good questions but if you can post answers by thinking of yourself is an Employer, what answers you will give for the given questions. I hope you understand what I am saying?

    Anyhow it’s good job. I am awaiting for your reply for this post.

  • Brandon Stern

    I have worked with a number of SEO experts in the past and had a number of successful SEO campaigns already.

    What I usually do is ask them just 3 key questions:
    1. What are your work experiences? (This helps me gauge how significant their experiences are and would give me an idea of how vast their knowledge of the matter is)
    2. How would you help our site rank? (A very general question that helps me identify how familiar the candidate is with search engines and major SEO techniques)
    3. How would you help in the branding of our site? (This is more on the marketing perspective and helps to assess the flexibility and capability of the candidate)

    It doesn’t matter where you hire them. I got contract workers at elance and odesk. I got my full time SEO experts at Staff.com. I asked all of them these questions. Their answers are the basis of my first impression. From there on, I would know if they would greatly help me or not that much.

  • Nick Stamoulis

    If you don’t know much about SEO (hence why you need to hire someone) it’s hard to know what kind of questions to ask and what kind of answers you should be getting. I’d say the most important thing is to make sure the person is white hat all the way. You don’t want to bring someone in that is going to put your site at risk.

  • Anthony

    How would you go about finding out if an agency is truly white hat Nick?

  • Felipe Veiga

    I am also looking for SEO companies. I have looked for freelancer and companies over the web but they provide nothing but link spamming, which is actually hateful. I don’t want any of that, as @Anthony.
    Does anyone can point us out in the right direction??

  • Jose Darrel Bella

    Nice tips. I think the 10th question should be, “How updated your knowledge is on SEO? Do you also change your strategy when Google changes algo? What’s your post-penguin strategy?”.

  • Andrew

    Hi Eric….really like that list. I have tried my own list in the past with several SEO agencies and also platforms/networks such as Build My Rank….luckily with this one I only used a site that wasn’t to important, because that one got hammered! I personally found that most around won’t really answer to Question # 2 …SEO and especially paid links is still a touchy subject in the eyes of google. There are only two companies that really made a difference for my sites: LinkWorth and teliad – by the way, both answered MOST of my questions…maybe try your list with them 😉

  • David Burdon


    A nice piece and one obviously based on substantial experience. However, I’d also ask a more direct question: Have you ever undertaken any activity that has resulted in a website being banned or heavily penalised by Google?

    Our clients are surrounded by people following all sorts of dubious SEO practices. In my opinion the net is closing in.