9 Interview Questions to Ask Your SEO Hires

Talent is hard to find. Good talent is nearly impossible, especially when it comes to SEO and digital marketing where there are far too many people who can talk the theory but come up dumbfounded when it comes to the execution.

You aren't just hiring someone who can optimize a site, build a couple of links, and mull around your analytics. That's what an SEO professional does, and showing they can do those things and more is important.

But above all, you're hiring a culture fit. You're hiring someone you can depend on. You're looking for someone who you know will do the right thing when you aren't there looking over their shoulder.

Here are nine questions you can ask applicants that separate the good talkers from the good talent.

1. What's your specialty? Tell me about it.

Basic, but tells a lot. You're looking for someone to fill out that T-shaped marketer – we call them "general specialists" – someone who understands the breadth of all digital but has immense focus in one area. Pry them on their specialty. You'll be able to see who's really passionate.

2. What blogs do you read? Tell me about an article you recently read that stuck out to you.

You want to see that keep up with the industry, but asking about a specific article will let you know they actually read them rather than naming a laundry list of blogs they've heard of. Probe them on the article's details.

3. Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses? Why?

This question separates the single-task people and the multitaskers, but it catches people on their toes. Either answer can do depending on what you're looking for, but make sure they back it up.

4. A client asks you to build a strategic plan for their website. What steps would you go through?

You're looking for consultative here. They mention a few questions they would ask clients to understand the business goals. Bonus points if they ask you to clarify if it's for a new or an existing website.

5. How do you measure success?

If they say rankings, you can immediately cross them off your list. Bonus points if they talk about different things they've tried measuring and explain what worked and didn't. If you really want to get deep, have them log into their analytics and walk you through what they see.

6. How do you scale?

SEO professionals and digital marketers could spend 1,000 hours testing different things. Sadly, we have to adhere to these pesky things called budgets. Here, you're looking for examples of tactics they've implemented that can scale to multiple clients, and it's not just a one-and-done thing.

7. Explain to me how you make a BLT.

You're looking for detail here. If they just slap the bacon, lettuce, and tomato between two slices, they're probably not great at details. If they launch into a 3-minute explanation that leaves your mouth watering, you've got a detail-oriented person on your hands.

8. Tell me a story in 90 seconds. Your time starts now.

Clients put us on pressure all the time, and you have to be ready at a moment's notice. This question will show you if they're prepared to handle it. Look to see they're well spoken and can talk comfortably, even if it isn't the most exciting story.

9. What's your favorite website? Analyze it for me.

A live website audit is harsh but could tell you more about the person than any of the previous questions. Have them talk aloud while they analyze the site, showing what they look for and why and what their finding. Sometimes, I'll even pull up my company's website and ask them to walk me through an audit.


The biggest thing to note is if they're carrying on a conversation. It shouldn't be a one-way barrage of questions. Talent will talk to you, ask you questions, get your thoughts and opinions on what you asked them. Remember: You can only blame yourself for bringing on the wrong person.

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New Study Finds Google+ Shares Don't Cause Higher Search Rankings

Stone Temple Consulting announced the results of a new study this morning that found Google +1's don't cause higher ranking. This latest finding takes conventional wisdom in the industry and stands it on its head.

The whole question was raised by a series of correlation studies by Searchmetrics, Moz, and others that found "amazing" correlations between Google +1's and higher search rankings.

These studies prompted Google's Distinguished Engineer Matt Cutts to find the politest way to debunk the idea that more Google +1's lead to higher Google rankings.

This, in turn, prompted a serious discussion about the difference between correlation, causation, and coincidence.

And this is what prompted Stone Temple Consulting to conduct a study of the impact of Google+ shares on search rankings. This is not a correlation study, but an actual measurement of causation. And the most surprising finding was: "Google Plus Shares did not drive any material rankings changes that we could detect."

This means that Cutts was telling the truth. However, in this industry, even this finding will probably prompt yet another round of comments and debate.

Eric Enge, president of Stone Temple Consulting, provides the gory details of his new study in an article that appeared on his website this morning, "Measuring Google Plus Impact on Search Rankings."

Enge also spoke at SES San Francisco last week and provided some hints about today's findings.

In addition, Search Engine Watch interviewed Enge – under embargo – about his study, which had three major goals: to see if Google+ would drive discovery, indexing, and ranking.

In terms of discovery, Enge said, "In my opinion, it is highly likely that Google+ drove discovery of the content."

In terms of indexing, Enge found that Google+ shares probably drive indexing, as well. However, of the six articles tested (three test pages and three baseline pages), all six articles initially appeared in the Google index 10 days later.

"We saw no evidence of Google+ shares driving ranking," Enge said. "Once we saw that a page was indexed, we were immediately able to find search queries for which the page ranked. However, this does not mean that the shares were driving ranking. As per the original Sergey Brin - Larry Page thesis, each page on the web has a small amount of innate PageRank. This PageRank by itself might cause a page to rank for certain types of long tail queries, even in the absence of any other signals."

For example, one of the test pages had 10 search phrases. As the chart below shows, there is no pattern to the rankings since the page appeared in the Google index:

Here's my complete interview with Enge, which is available on the Search Engine Watch channel on YouTube:

In addition, Enge will be holding – appropriately – a Google+ Hangout on Air entitled "Documented Google Plus Impact on Search Rankings" this Thursday at 4 p.m. ET to discuss the study's findings. Joining him to discuss the study will be an all-star panel that includes Mark Traphagen of Virante, Pete Meyers from Moz, Joshua Berg of Google Plus SEO and SMO, and Marcus Tober of Searchmetrics.

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How to Build Links With Location Relevance

Searcher locality is starting to influence regular search results for almost every query. Because this location is auto-detected you can't omit it from a search. You can only change is to another location within your country.

Even very generic searches are influenced in extreme ways. That is why local links are getting more important, also for your important keywords.

The example below shows how a very generic search for "www" (which I use to get generic authorities from Google) returns "dortmund" specific authorities first, just because my proxy is located there.

You can try your own examples in English on Google.co.uk (Google.com only works for US readers, while UK allows locality for everyone). Set your "Search tools" -> "Search near …" to any UK city to see how that influences the results. https://www.google.co.uk/#changed_loc=1&q=www. Non-UK visitors need to set it manually, but UK visitors aren't able to get results without their locality as a personalization factor.

How Does This Change SEO

To dominate a search theme for every visitor from any location, adding city-specific pages and texts to your website increases your chances. City-specific links also seem to increase your chance, even when you leave out any textual reference to the city on your site.

So what is local link building and how do you acquire locality relevant links? For years I've been active in local link building for websites like job portals, business listings, and other sites that cover multiple locations.

Link Building for Location Relevance

Location relevance needs to be addressed city-by-city. Some cities will have a positive effect on their boroughs and neighboring cities, so it is logical to focus on larger cities first.

When you Google for just a city name you get results like:

Local government and public services (e.g. town hall, fire department, and local transport).Universities and schools.Tourist information.Sport clubs and associations (e.g. football club, hobby clubs, and churches).Local news (e.g. papers, radio, TV).Recurring local events (e.g., marathon or conference).

These websites are the most important link partners for a city name. A strategy focused on a service in one city can probably be copied to the same service in each individual city. Here are a few examples:

Sponsor the local fire department: For a job portal I created information about hiring volunteer and on-call firemen that can be summoned at any time for emergencies and need to train often and hard. This requires a lot of flexibility from employers, so we created a list of attractive employers that would hire on-call people. Many fire department websites added our information and links to their "join the brigade" sections.Sponsor a couple of smaller local events: Bigger events might bring you more link value, but their sponsorship can also become very expensive. If link value is the thing you are after you can probably sponsor smaller material things that the organization needs and still get a link in return (just not on the main sponsor page). Smaller events are often much happier with your sponsorship and they don't realize that they can bring you some hard to grasp concept like local link value. You can ask for almost anything on their website.Buy old campaign websites: Local government often links to information campaigns that are no longer active and local elections also involve domains with no future use. Contact the current owner and take control over all that link value.Be Local

Even if you offer your services nationwide, Google has hereby declared being local an important ranking factor. Do whatever you can to cover the most important cities before some smaller local player takes your place. Prepare for the increasing role of local!

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YouTube to Add Offline Viewing to Mobile Apps

YouTube will add an offline mode viewing option to its mobile applications in November.

At the moment to view videos on YouTube on a mobile device, you have to be connected to some sort of Internet connection. That will change in November, however, with YouTube revealing plans to add a new offline mode to its applications.

It's unclear exactly how it will work, but YouTube said that the feature will let users watch videos for a "short time" without a 3G, 4G or WiFi connection, likely by allowing users to download and store videos on their smartphone, tablet, or laptop.

It's also unclear for how long users will be able to save content, although 48 hours is doing the rounds in the rumor mill at present.

Google said on the YouTube Creators Blog:

We're always exploring ways to bring more viewers to your content. As part of this effort, later this year we'll launch a new feature on Youtube's mobile apps that will help you reach fans - even when they're not connected to the internet.

This upcoming feature will allow people to add videos to their device to watch for a short period of time when an internet connection is unavailable. So your fans' ability to enjoy your videos no longer has to be interrupted by something as commonplace as a morning commute.

The offline mode likely will be added to YouTube's iOS and Android apps, with Windows Phone and Blackberry still lacking an official YouTube app.

This article was originally published on the Inquirer.

Last chance to save on SES Chicago
Nov. 4-7, 2013: This year's SES Chicago agenda focuses on aligning paid, owned and earned media to help you drive quality traffic and increase conversions.
Register today and save up to $400!
Early Bird rate expires October 3.