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15+ Technical SEO Interview Questions for Your Next Hires

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15+ Technical SEO Interview Questions for Your Next Hires

Technical SEO requires technical and analytical skills together with a good understanding of how Google and other search engines work.

A technical SEO must be familiar with the most popular CMS systems and know at least the basics of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

In addition to that, a good technical SEO should know the fundamental rules of SEO and be able to identify if a website breaks these rules.

Finally, a technical SEO must be able to offer possible fixes to the problems identified on the website and be able to determine whether the fixes were implemented correctly.

But how can you verify that your next technical SEO hire has these skills and knowledge?

In this article, you’ll find 15 sample job interview questions that will help you decide whether the person you are interviewing is the right candidate for a technical SEO position.

Let’s get started!

1. How Do You Check Whether A URL Is Indexed By Google?

The site: command is the simplest way to quickly check if a given URL is in Google’s index.

Every technical SEO should know the site: command and, ideally, a bunch of other Google search operators that allow for filtering and narrowing search results.

In addition, you may also ask the candidate how they would check how many pages are indexed by Google and what the most accurate way of doing that is.

Here your ideal technical SEO hire should demonstrate familiarity with the Google Search Console Coverage report and indicate how it differs from the site: command.

Screenshot from search for [searchenginejournal.com], Google, July 2021

2. How Do You Block A URL From Being Indexed?

With this question, you want to see whether your potential technical SEO hire actually knows the purpose of a no-index tag and does not confuse it with blocking a page in robots.txt.

They should know that robots.txt is for controlling and optimizing crawling while no-index tags are for keeping pages out of Google’s index.

In addition, you may also ask about the best ways to protect a page from being accessed by everyone, including curious people (i.e. protecting it with a password in addition to adding a no-index tag).

If the person says that you should block such a page in robots.txt, then it means they still have a lot of SEO homework to do.

3. What Are The Most Important SEO Ranking Factors, In Your Opinion?

Of course, there is no definitive answer to this question. But hearing the person’s perspective on Google ranking factors may tell you a lot about their knowledge & experience.

A good technical SEO specialist candidate will:

  • Back up their answers with data or – better – data based on their own experience or SEO tests they performed.
  • Be willing to show you their own websites and talk about the SEO strategies they used to grow the sites.
  • Avoid absolute statements (e.g. these things are Google SEO rankings factors with this amount of weighing for every website).
  • Understand the difference between correlation and causation.
  • Not be afraid of saying “it depends” or “I don’t know” where it makes sense.

4. What SEO Myths Have You Had Enough Of?

Only a person with at least some knowledge and understanding of SEO will be able to answer that question.

A complete newbie in many cases will often present SEO myths as ultimate SEO truths without offering any of their own insights and commentary.

If you are looking for an experienced technical SEO expert, ask them to elaborate on their favorite SEO myths and how they deal with them on a daily basis.

5. What Is Your Favorite Website Crawler And Why?

Website crawlers are probably the most important tools for technical SEOs.

You want to make sure that your future technical SEO uses a bunch of different SEO crawlers (both desktop and cloud-based), knows how to use them efficiently, and is able to perform advanced SEO analyses with their help.

Screaming Frog SEO SpiderScreenshot from Screaming Frog, February 2022

For example, everyone can plug the domain name into the crawler and start the crawl but only an experienced technical SEO expert will know:

  • How to configure the crawl to check exactly what they want to analyze (e.g. check the PSI metrics in bulk for all pages).
  • How to execute JavaScript to compare the rendered HTML with the source HTML.
  • How to change the user agent if the crawl does not want to start.
  • How to actually interpret the data the crawler presents.
  • How to prioritize the issues the crawler highlights.

You want your next technical SEO specialist to be familiar with all or most of the most popular crawlers, such as Screaming Frog, Sitebulb, Deepcrawl, JetOctopus, etc.

6. How Do You Analyze Page Speed And Core Web Vitals?

Your potential technical SEO hire should use both the Google PageSpeed Insights tool (the Google Lighthouse report) and the Core Web Vitals report in Google Search Console to analyze the speed and performance of the site before drawing any conclusions or giving recommendations.

The point with this question is to check that the person:

  • Really knows the difference between lab data (the data provided by Google Lighthouse) and field data (the data provided by the CrUX report) and knows which ones to prioritize (i.e. field data).
  • Knows when it’s best to use the GSC Core Web Vitals report (i.e. to check pages in bulk) and the PSI tool (to get an overview of one specific page, usually the homepage).
mobile performance reportScreenshot from Google Search Console, February 2022

Ideally, your candidate also knows other speed and performance tools, such as GTmetrix or WebPageTest, and knows how to use crawlers to analyze the lab performance of pages in bulk.

7. What Are Some Quick Technical SEO Wins?

In this question, you want your potential SEO hire to draw on their experience.

Even though there is no best answer here, you want to see that the person can really differentiate between low-impact, high-impact, low-effort, and high-effort technical SEO optimizations.

For example, it always makes a huge difference if you compress images on the website and convert them to JPEG or WEBP. Meanwhile, it may not really help a lot to rebuild the entire website (and use a ton of resources in the process) to get it from 92/100 score to 98/100 in PSI.

Sometimes a huge technical SEO win will be simply to get rid of that 10 MB image that loads on every page instead of asking developers to recode the site to save 0.1 s by better optimizing JavaScript.

8. A Site That’s Been Online 9 Months Is Getting Zero Traffic. Why?

Ask for the possible reasons that come to mind.

Sometimes the solutions to problems in SEO are simple – for example, the site has no organic traffic because a no-index tag has not been removed or simply GA is not working correctly.

Other times, they require a ton of technical and data analysis that goes well beyond checking the indexability of pages.

With this question, you want the person to demonstrate their ability to look for solutions, think critically, and be creative.

Performance ReportScreenshot from Google Analytics, February 2022

9. How Do You Check If Googlebot May Have Problems Accessing Site Content?

A good technical SEO expert must know something about JavaScript rendering and the potential problems that JavaScript-based websites may face.

Here you want the person to demonstrate:

  • At least basic knowledge of the topic of SEO & JavaScript (i.e. their familiarity with Martin Splitt from Google).
  • Their knowledge of tools that allow for comparing rendered HTML with source HTML, such as Screaming Frog, Sitebulb, Rendertron, and – obviously – the URL Inspection tool in GSC.

10. What Example Errors May An XML Sitemap Have And How Would You Handle Them?

I see people focus too much on XML sitemaps with small websites (a couple of hundreds of URLs or less) and too little on that for huge sites (multi-million-page sites).

When it comes to XML sitemaps, you want your next technical SEO hire to show that they know:

  • What XML errors can be classified as low-impact (e.g. using deprecated parameters) and high-impact (e.g. indicating non-indexable pages).
  • When it is important to put a lot of focus on the XML sitemap (e.g. with huge sites that may have indexability and crawlability issues as opposed to small websites).
  • How to use XML sitemaps to improve and optimize the crawl budget of the site.
  • What pages should be included in the sitemap and how different CMS systems generate XML sitemaps.

11. How Do You Perform A Technical SEO Audit?

With the help of this question, you want to check if the person has their own SEO process for auditing a website.

Do they use a set of different tools to do that? Or do they rely on a fully automated audit where the tool (not the person) decides what issues the site has and what their priorities are?

At this point, you may also:

  • Ask the person to show you the examples of technical SEO audits they have performed.
  • Get them to explain how they approached particular issues.
  • And have them talk about the results their recommendations brought (if they have been implemented).

12. You Discovered That A Website Has Hundreds Of Duplicate Pages. What Do You Do?

With this question, again, you want the person to demonstrate their critical thinking abilities and desire to look for solutions.

There is no right answer here but an experienced technical SEO specialist should mention the following in their answers:

  • Checking the index status of these pages to make sure that these duplicates actually create a problem.
  • Checking the user-declared and Google-selected canonicals for these pages (possibly with the new URL Inspection Tool API).
  • Checking where these pages are in the internal linking structure of the website.

In addition, you may also ask the person when duplicate content is not an issue and how to check if the site actually has this problem.

If the person is saying that the site may get penalized for duplicate content, it means they have some catching up to do.

13. What Do You Use Google Search Console For? What’s Your Favorite Use Of That Tool?

Google Search Console, in most cases, should be the number one SEO tool for technical SEOs.

You want your future technical SEO hire to share with you how they use the tool and how it helps them to achieve their SEO goals.

Google Search Console coverage reportScreenshot from Google Search Console, February 2022

There is no single correct answer to that question again but you probably want them to mention the following:

  • The Coverage report and what its specific buckets are for.
  • The Page Experience report and its limitations.
  • The Crawl Stats report and how it can be used to analyze how Google crawls the website.
  • The Security report and how you can use GSC to check if a site has been infected.
  • Ways to use GSC to analyze internal linking.

14. How Do You Check If The Site Uses Structured Data And Whether It Is Valid?

Structured data can be a specialty itself within SEO but you still want your technical SEO to:

  • Be familiar with tools, such as Schema Markup Validator and Google Rich Results Test and know the difference between them,
  • Know how to use crawlers, such as Screaming Frog or Sitebulb to analyze structured data in bulk for many pages,
  • Be familiar with SEO Chrome extensions like Detailed SEO that allow for quickly looking up what types of structured data are used on a particular page.

Here, you may also ask the person about the difference between structured data, rich results, and featured snippets.

People often confuse these.

15. What Are Your Favorite SEO Resources?

This is a totally open question but the more resources the person cites, the geekier they are.

An absolute must is that they are familiar with Google Search Central, read the Google SEO documentation, and watch the SEO office hours with John Mueller.

Google Search CentralScreenshot from Google Search Central, February 2022

If you hire an SEO geek, you can be sure they will never miss any meaningful SEO news and will be happy to test and implement new strategies.

Bonus: Yes Or No Questions

Open questions are great for seeing how a person thinks and how deep their knowledge actually is.

However, yes and no questions may also help you check if a person updates their knowledge frequently and really knows this stuff.

Here are a few yes and no questions about technical SEO to ask your potential hire.

Ask them to justify their answers to get even more insight:

  • Is structured data a Google ranking factor?
  • Do errors in the Coverage report in GSC always indicate an error on your website?
  • Can you use Google Search Console to analyze internal links on the website?
  • Can Google penalize you for duplicate content?
  • Is it possible for Google to treat a 302 redirect as 301?
  • Can you inform Google about the new domain for your website in a different way than through a 301 redirect?
  • Should you noindex category and tag pages?
  • Should a non-existent page always return 404?
  • Does Google always use the canonical URL you declared?
  • Does Google always respect the nofollow attribute on links?

Final Thoughts On Interviewing Technical SEOs

If your prospective technical SEO hire managed to get through all of these questions and gave you satisfactory answers,  congratulations!

Chances are good that you have a pretty smart and experienced technical SEO wanting to work for you.

On the other hand, even if the candidate wasn’t able to answer all of your questions currently but has a willingness to learn and genuine interest in SEO, they may still make a brilliant technical SEO expert in some time – if you give them a chance.

More resources: 


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System Builders – How AI Changes The Work Of SEO

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Kevin Indig's Growth Memo for SEJ

AI is terraforming tech. The content and SEO ecosystem is undergoing a massive structural change.

Human-written content gains value faster for LLM training than for end consumers as the pure profit licensing deals between LLM developers and publishers show.

Publishers struggle to survive from digital subscriptions but get millions that go straight to their bottom line for providing training data.

Content platforms, social networks, SaaS companies and consumer apps coat their products with AI. A few examples:

  • Spotify DJ (AI-generated playlist).
  • AI Overview (AI answers in Google Search).
  • Instagram AI personas (celebrity AI chatbots).
  • Ebay’s magical listing (turn a photo into a listing).
  • Redfin Redesign (try interior designs on real house pictures).
Image Credit: Kevin Indig

The quality of machine-generated content (MGC) challenges human-generated content (HGC). I ran an experiment with my Twitter and LinkedIn followers: I asked them to choose which of two articles was written by a human and which by a machine – and they had to explain their answer.

Only a handful of people figured out that AI wrote both pieces. I intentionally framed the question in a leading way to see if people would challenge the setting or believe that one piece was written by a human if told so.

  • Not an isolated experiment: A survey of 1,900 Americans found that 63.5% of people can’t distinguish between AI content and human content.1
  • People seek help: Google search demand for [ai checker] has reached 100,000 in May 2024 (Glimpse).
  • Dark side: scammers use MGC to make money, as 77% of AI scam victims lost money.2
Search demand for AI checkerImage Credit: Kevin Indig

The quality level of LLMs pushes SEO work towards automating workflows and learning with AI, while writers will take content from good to great instead of zero to one.

Boost your skills with Growth Memo’s weekly expert insights. Subscribe for free!

How AI Changes The Work Of SEOImage Credit: Lyna ™

System Builders

Clients, podcasters and panel hosts often ask me what skills SEOs need to build for the AI future. For a long time, my answer was to learn, stay open-minded and gain as much practical experience with AI as possible.

Now, my answer is SEOs should learn how to build AI agents and workflows that automate tasks. AI changes the way search works but also the way SEOs work.

AI + No-code Allows SEOs To Automate Workflows

A few examples:

1/ Cannibalization

  • Old world: SEOs download search console data and create pivot tables to spot keyword cannibalization.
  • New world: SEOs build an AI workflow that sends alters, identifies true keyword cannibalization, makes content suggestions to fix the problem, and monitors the improvement.

2/ Site Crawling

  • Old world: SEOs crawl websites to find inefficiencies in internal linking, status code errors, duplicate content, etc.
  • New world: SEOs build an AI agent that regularly crawls the site and automatically suggests new internal links that are shipped after human approval, fixes broken canonical tags and excludes soft 404 errors in the robots.txt.

3/ Content Creation

  • Old world: SEOs do keyword research and write content briefs. Writers create the content.
  • New world: SEOs automate keyword research with AI and create hundreds of relevant articles as a foundation for writers to build on.

All of this is already possible today with AI workflow tools like AirOps or Apify, which chain agents and LLMs together to scrape, analyze, transform data or create content.

Moving forward, we’ll spend much more time building automated systems instead of wasting time on point analyses and catalogs of recommendations. The SEO work will be defining logic, setting rules, prompting and coding.

building automated systems Building workflows with AirOps (Image Credit: Kevin Indig)

You Can Learn (Almost) Anything With AI

I never made the time to really learn Python or R, but with the help of Chat GPT and Gemini in Colab, I can write any script with natural language prompts.

When the script doesn’t work, I can paste a screenshot into Chat GPT and describe the issue to get a solution. AI helps with Regex, Google Sheets/Excel, R, Python, etc. Nothing is off-limits.

Being able to write scripts can solve problems like data analysis, a/b testing and using APIs. As an SEO, I’m no longer dependent on engineers, data scientists or writers to perform certain tasks. I can act faster and on my own account.

I’m not the only one to figure this out. People are learning to code, write and many other skills with AI. We can learn to build AI workflows by asking AI to teach us.

Search demand for coding with AI is explodingImage Credit: Kevin Indig
Search demand for write with AI is explodingImage Credit: Kevin Indig
Search demand for learn with AI is explodingImage Credit: Kevin Indig

When you can learn almost anything, the only limit is time.

The Work Of Writers Changes

Against common belief, writers won’t be crossed out of this equation but will play the critical role of editing, directing and curating.

In any automated process, humans QA the output. Think of car assembling lines. Even though AI content leaps in quality, spot checks reduce the risk of errors. Caught issues, such as wrong facts, weird phrasing or off-brand wording, will be critical feedback to fine-tune models to improve their output.

Instead of leg work like writing drafts, writers will bring AI content from good to great. In the concept of information gain, writers will spend most of their time making a piece outstanding.

The rising quality work spans from blog content to programmatic content, where writers will add curated content when searches have a desire for human experience, such as in travel.

A mini guide to Los AngelesTripadvisor’s attraction pages feature human-curated sections. (Image Credit: Kevin Indig)

Unfair Advantage

As often with new technology, a few first-mover people and companies get exponential value until the rest catch up. My worry is that a few fast-moving companies will grab massive land with AI.

And yet, this jump in progress will allow newcomers to challenge incumbents and get a fair chance to compete on the field.

AI might be a bigger game changer for SEOs than for Google. The raw power of AI might help us overcome challenges from AI Overviews and machine learning-driven algorithm updates.

But the biggest win might be that SEOs can finally make something instead of delivering recommendations. The whole value contribution of SEOs changes because my output can drive results faster.

Survey: ChatGPT and AI Content – Can people tell the difference?

Artificial Intelligence Voice Scams on the Rise with 1 in 4 Adults Impacted


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12 SEO Meetups You Should Have On Your Radar

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12 SEO Meetups You Should Have On Your Radar

Want to meet other people interested in SEO offline? Give an SEO meetup a go.

In my experience, it’s one of the best ways to meet like-minded people and provides a more relaxed, informal setting than a bustling SEO conference. Who knows—you could make new friends at a meetup or even land new SEO clients.

But with so many events worldwide, it’s impossible to mention them all. So, here are some of the most talked-about SEO meet-ups I think you should have on your radar.

Okay—so I may be a little biased, but I wanted to start by sharing our Ahrefs’ SEO Events. We’ve run five Beer and Snacks Meetups in Singapore. We’ve also hosted an SEO Workshop and Networking meetup the day before BrightonSEO, and we just launched our London Meetup.

Tickets to the London Meetup sold out in a day and a half—it was our fastest-selling ticketed event ever.

Tim Soulo, Joshua Hardwick, and Ryan Law will speak at our inaugural event, covering topics such as improving your rankings, competitor research, and content marketing. To stay informed about our next event, follow our events page.

Sidenote.

Missed our meetups but still want to catch up with the Ahrefs team and a host of world-class speakers? Get Ahrefs Evolve tickets ✨

London SEO XL MeetupLondon SEO XL Meetup

The LondonSEO Meetup hosts an evening of networking with industry peers and leading experts featuring SEO speakers like Itamar Blauer, Steph Hugman, Reina Hanada, and many more.

The bigger XL event has even hosted prolific search engine news chronicler Barry Schwartz in 2023.

Search London Meetup PhotoSearch London Meetup Photo

With over 2,800 members, Search London is a popular meetup that has been around for over a decade.

Events are organized every 8-12 weeks, and members are from a mixture of agency, client-side, and start-up businesses.

The meet-up is open to anyone in SEO, PPC, or social media—and offers marketing professionals and first-time speakers a safe, supportive space to share their industry knowledge and experiences.

Search 'n Stuff Meetup PhotoSearch 'n Stuff Meetup Photo

Search ‘n Stuff meetups are an energetic and all-embracing community tailored to empower digital marketers, startups, in-house teams, and professionals. Expect sharings centered on strategies, campaigns, and other relevant SEO topics.

Neurodivergents In SEO Meetup PhotoNeurodivergents In SEO Meetup Photo

Neurodivergents in SEO provide a safe space for neurodivergent SEOs to network and learn.

The group holds in-person meetups at BrightonSEO, both in the UK and the US, and monthly pub quizzes with great prizes.

If you’re an SEO or marketer and identify as neurodivergent, you’re more than welcome to join the community. You can do so by signing up here.

Search Norwich PhotoSearch Norwich Photo

Search Norwich launched in 2018 as a free marketing meetup event. It often features top industry speakers who share their knowledge, tips, and advice with the search marketing community. At Search Norwich there are no sales agendas, fluff, or pitches—just valuable insights.

SEOFOMO Meetup PhotoSEOFOMO Meetup Photo

The SEOFOMO meetups are run by SEO superstar Aleyda Solis, who is a well-known SEO speaker and founder of SEO consultancy Orainti. She’ll also be the headline speaker for our first Ahrefs Evolve Conference.

SEOFOMO is a laid-back, free event perfect for learning, connecting, and sharing with other SEOs.

SEO Mastermind PhotoSEO Mastermind Photo

SEO Mastermind is a supportive, free, and friendly SEO community where you can grow your skills, meet like-minded people, and get answers to all your organic marketing questions.

SEO Mastermind meets around eight times a year, mainly in the Netherlands and Belgium—but they also occasionally have meetups in other locations, for instance, at Brighton SEO and ISS Barcelona.

Organizer Jeroen Stikkelorum told me that SEO Mastermind is on a mission to build the most valuable Dutch-spoken SEO and organic marketing community in The Netherlands and Belgium. So if you’re local, give it a go.

SEO Lager Fest Meetup PhotoSEO Lager Fest Meetup Photo

SEO Lager Fest is a fun SEO meetup that (apart from drinking) enables you to network with like-minded folks in the SEO industry. They hold an SEO quiz, run case study competitions, do AMAs, and even do SEO charades.

SEOnerd Switzerland Meetup PhotoSEOnerd Switzerland Meetup Photo

SEOnerdSwitzerland is a volunteer-run association that organizes events for SEOs in Switzerland and beyond.

Dedicated to fair opportunities and diversity, they provide training and coaching for people wanting to break through as a public speaker in the SEO industry.

SEOnerdSwitzerland also offers training and coaching for speakers, aiming for a diverse and inclusive panel.

WebSchrona Meetup Photo, Salzburg, AustriaWebSchrona Meetup Photo, Salzburg, Austria

WebSchrona is a free monthly meetup for SEO and online marketing professionals in Salzburg, Austria. They meet every second Thursday at 6 p.m.

There’s no fixed agenda, so discussions are often unplanned and spontaneous and often involve a drink of some description.

Organizer Alexander Außermayr tells me that everyone is welcome to join their SEO meetups. The aim is to provide a regular, uncomplicated meetup in an open space—often a beer garden, if the weather is good.

SEO Benelux Meetup PhotoSEO Benelux Meetup Photo

SEO Benelux started in 2018 as a Facebook community for Dutch and Belgian SEO specialists. The meetup grew into the largest in the Benelux region, with more than 3,000 members.

There are four meetups each year, two in Belgium (Ghent and Antwerp) and one in the Netherlands (mostly Amsterdam). Each meetup attracts 70–90 people and features three speakers.

If you don’t live in a big city, it may be difficult to find a good meetup, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any in your local area.

Here are my tips to help you find new meetups near you.

Tip 1 – Use Google’s advanced search operators to uncover new meetups

As new meetups pop up all the time and often without notice, it’s worth doing some digging to see what’s out there.

You can just do a regular ol’ Google search, but we’re SEOs—so let’s use some advanced search operators and spice it up a bit.

In this example, I searched for the phrase “meetup” in the title, plus my location and my favorite SEO tool, and it managed to uncover Tim’s tweet on our London Meetup.

Advanced Google Search Operators ExampleAdvanced Google Search Operators Example

This is just a very basic example, and you could use any website or location, but it shows how you can uncover information about new meetups with a little research.

Tip 2 – Trigger the Events SERP feature

By searching for events or events near me, you can trigger the Events SERP feature. In the example below, I found a few SEO-related events by prepending “SEO” to the search.

Triggering the Events SERP Feature ExampleTriggering the Events SERP Feature Example

Once you’ve triggered the feature, scroll down until you find an SEO meetup that catches your eye.

Tip 3 – Use Meetup to find an SEO meetup

If you can’t find anything on Google then it’s a good idea to run a quick check on a specialist community platform.

One of the most popular platforms is Meetup. It allows you to find events near your location on any topic.

Meetup.com screenshotMeetup.com screenshot

Over the years, I’ve attended a lot of smaller meetups through this website, and they have always been interesting and a place to make new connections.

Tip 4 – No SEO meetup in your area? Start your own!

I started my own mini-meetup in 2018 on WhatsApp with some former colleagues, imaginatively titled #seodrinks.

#SEOdrinks meetup logo#SEOdrinks meetup logo

It started from humble beginnings in a room in a small pub in London, and it’s still in a room in a small pub—somewhere in London. (If you want an invite, let me know on LinkedIn.)

We only have semi-regular meetups in London and a small group, but every meetup has to start somewhere.

If you want to start your own SEO meetup, platforms like WhatsApp and Telegram are the best free places to start, but if you want a more specialized paid option, you could try Meetup or another similar platform.

Final thoughts

You don’t always have to attend a big SEO conference to meet other amazing people in the industry. Some of the smaller meetups I’ve been to have resulted in making more contacts than the bigger conferences.

As such, SEO meet-ups are one of my favorite ways to meet people who are just as interested in SEO and marketing as much as you are.

Did I miss an SEO meetup? Add your SEO meetup here, or let me know on LinkedIn.



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How to Combine SEO and Content Marketing (The Ahrefs’ Way)

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How to Combine SEO and Content Marketing (The Ahrefs’ Way)

SEO and content marketing are different marketing channels. But you don’t have to choose between them. They’re complementary.

In fact, you should combine them for greater effectiveness in your marketing.

Two main reasons:

1. Content marketing and SEO are like peanut butter and jelly—they work well together

Content marketing is the process of creating and distributing content to attract and retain customers.

Here’s how SEO helps content marketing:

The web's largest traffic referrersThe web's largest traffic referrers

SEO is the process of improving a website’s visibility in search engines to get more traffic.

Here’s how content marketing helps SEO:

  • It helps you get more search traffic — If you want more search traffic, you need to rank for more keywords, which requires you to make more content.
  • It makes SEO more effective — Thought leadership content acquires backlinks, gated content generates leads, and sales enablement converts traffic into sales.

2. The same amount of investment in effort, money, and time can generate results for both content marketing and SEO

We’re the perfect example. Our content ranks high on Google and generates hundreds of thousands of monthly search visitors:

Ahrefs blog trafficAhrefs blog traffic

It also attracts links and shares on social media because we make sure each piece is unique and not just regurgitation or “AI content”.

LinkedIn comment on how we blended an SEO-friendly term with a contrarian point of viewLinkedIn comment on how we blended an SEO-friendly term with a contrarian point of view

Finally, each piece of content introduces visitors to our product and educates them on how to use it to solve their problems. (Keep on reading and you’ll see it in action too!)

Example of how we introduce our product in our contentExample of how we introduce our product in our content

It hits all content marketing and SEO goals at once:

  • Acquires search traffic ✅
  • Builds thought leadership ✅
  • Attracts links ✅
  • Generates sales (over the long-term) ✅

How do we do what we do? Believe it or not, there’s a method to the madness. Here’s one line that summarizes our entire SEO content marketing strategy:

We create and maintain high-quality, product-led, search-focused content about topics with business potential and search traffic potential.

Let me break down how we combine SEO and content marketing:

If you want to acquire search traffic, you need to target topics that your potential customers are searching for.

The easiest way to find these keywords is to use a keyword tool like Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer:

  1. Go to Keywords Explorer
  2. Enter a few broad keywords related to your site or niche
  3. Go to the Matching terms report
  4. Filter for keywords with traffic potential (TP)
Matching terms report in Keywords ExplorerMatching terms report in Keywords Explorer

Sidenote.

Traffic Potential is the estimated monthly organic search traffic to the top-ranking page for a keyword. Since pages tend to rank for many keywords, Traffic Potential is a more reliable estimate than search volume.

Go through the report and pick out the keywords that are relevant to your site. For example, if I were an ecommerce store selling coffee equipment, this could be a potential keyword to target:

The keyword "best coffee grinder"The keyword "best coffee grinder"

A keyword’s business potential is how easy it will be to pitch your product while covering a certain topic. It’s our ‘trade secret’—it’s why we can easily introduce our product and its features in every piece of content we create.

Here’s how to score a topic’s business potential:

Business potential scoring chartBusiness potential scoring chart

So, taking the above example, the topic “best coffee grinder” would score a “3” (provided we sell coffee grinders) whereas a topic like “does decaf coffee have caffeine” would score a “1” or even a “0”.

You should prioritize topics that score high on business potential, i.e. a “2” or a “3”.

What does all of the jargon mean? Let’s break it down.

Search-focused

Part one of being ‘search-focused’ is finding keywords that people are searching for. Part two is to figure out why they’re searching for those particular keywords. This ‘why’ is known as search intent.

Given that Google’s goal is to always rank the most relevant content, we can look at the search engine results (SERPs) to uncover search intent. Take your target keyword, enter it into Keywords Explorer, scroll down to SERP Overview, and click Identify intents:

Identify intents feature in Keywords ExplorerIdentify intents feature in Keywords Explorer

So, we can see that searchers looking for the keyword “best coffee grinders” want detailed reviews and expert recommendations on the best coffee grinders. Not only that, we can also see that searchers want a list that is fresh.

Identified search intent for "best coffee grinder"Identified search intent for "best coffee grinder"

If we’re targeting this topic, making it search-focused means matching this search intent—we’ll need to create a list of the best coffee grinders for the current year.

Product-led

Product-led means ensuring you’re not just creating content for the sake of it; you’re also ‘selling’ your product. You want to be aware of which use case, feature, or service you want to weave into the narrative. Naturally, of course.

Scoring a topic’s business potential would have done 90% of the work here. If you’re creating content about a topic that scored a “3”, then your product pitch would be natural. For example, we could easily add links back to our coffee equipment store after covering the best coffee grinders. Or, if we make our coffee grinders, we could pitch them as one of the best. (That’s why I say the business potential score is our secret ingredient.)

The challenge comes when you’re covering topics that score a “1” or “0”. It’s not impossible, but you’ll need to be creative.

For example, I recently covered the topic “SEO specialist”. It had a business potential of “1” and was tough to include a product pitch. Fortunately, I noticed that some job listings asked for experience with different SEO toolsets (including us.) It was the perfect segue to introduce our product and certification course.

An example of how I managed to pitch Ahrefs in a post with a business potential of 1An example of how I managed to pitch Ahrefs in a post with a business potential of 1

High-quality

This is subjective. Everyone’s standards are different. But here’s how we think of quality:

  • Accurate — No hype, no lying. Every statement we make should be as accurate as possible.
  • Clear — No fluff—delete all unnecessary words and sentences. Use jargon only when needed. When necessary, create illustrations to expand on ideas and concepts.
  • Helpful — Being product-led is important but the content should not just be aimed at pitching. The content should be focused primarily on helping visitors solve their problems, while creatively weaving our product into the context.
  • Unique — One way to make your content unique is to have skin in the game—conduct experiments, run data studies, and write from personal experience. If having skin is difficult, then interview practitioners. Focus on did, not could.

The deterioration of your content is inevitable:

  • Search-focused — Your rankings may drop because of competitors. Or you didn’t even rank the first time round. Or your target topic’s search intent changed (e.g., the word corona’s search intent changed during the void years of 2020-2022.)
  • Product-led — You may have new features, services, or use cases to introduce. Or your team has depreciated certain features or abandoned some services.
  • High-quality — Statements may become inaccurate over time. Or your unique idea was so successful that everyone else copied you (and outranked you.) Or you might have better ways to reword sentences and paragraphs. Or just simply the ideas, screenshots, and content has become outdated.

That’s why you don’t build a train track and disappear. You have to actively maintain it to keep it working. (I’m looking at you London tube.) Same goes for your content.

The way to maintain your content is to conduct regular content audits. We do this every quarter—Each writer on our blog team goes through their portfolio of articles and selects at least three pieces to update. Each writer may also choose a couple to do a full rewrite.

I highly recommend going through our content audit template so you can see what went wrong with your content and what to do with it next.

Final thoughts

SEO and content marketing may be different marketing types, but that doesn’t mean you need to do one to the exclusion of the other.

Both channels are highly compatible and as you see above, can be designed as an entire strategy that hits all important marketing objectives.



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