As hard as it is to assess ANY job candidate’s knowledge, it’s even harder with SEO candidates because there’s so much gray area in the industry. This blog series presents questions you can pose to help you determine a candidate’s level of knowledge.
Tell me one on-page optimization factor that is commonly believed to be important but isn’t.
This isn’t a gotcha question so much as one that is designed to ensure your candidate doesn’t always play it safe. If they do try to go that route, giving an easy answer, prod them a bit. You want to hear their opinion on specific “known” ranking factors where they disagree with conventional industry wisdom.
Whether you agree or disagree with their answers is beside the point (unless they’re just so far off base it’s ridiculous). What you should get is an impassioned, reasoned, and thoughtful analysis of why this factor is not relevant.
Here’s how I would answer:
Keywords. I frequently have clients wanting us to add keywords to their pages in order to optimize them, or complaining that after optimizing a page it doesn’t have enough keywords in it. There is no doubt keyword research is still an important part of SEO, but working keywords into a page isn’t what it once was.
Following a topical line of thought is far more important than working in specific phrases. This means topically related words are the new keywords. It’s still optimization, but not so keyword focused.