SEO Interview Questions – Part II

by TheMadHat on August 9, 2007

My previous post on SEO interview questions I had a commenter ask where they could find the answers to these questions. Most of them are purposely open ended to get an idea of the level of experience and knowledge of your candidate. I will take the more specific ones and provide some explanations. I have also added an additional question not on the original post. If you are looking to hire or want to dazzle your prospective employers at an interview this post may be helpful.

8) What areas do you think are currently the most important in organically ranking a site?
Obviously a subjective answer, but domain trust, inbound links/anchor text, and properly formatted title tags are a good start.

10) What kind of strategies do you normally implement for backlinks? What do you think about link buying, link bait, and other specific backlink strategies?
There are too many correct answers for this one, so let’s go with the wrong answer: “Reciprocal link requests”

42) What is the Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything?
42 of course. If your candidate doesn’t know this please shoot him with the Point-of-view gun.

22) What is page segmentation? (ever heard of VIPS?)
VIPS is a research paper from Microsoft that stands for Vision-based Page Segmentation which is just an offshoot of the general topic of page segmentation. It is an analysis of how a user understands web layout structures based on visual perception and is independent from the underlying code and technologies. Each section of the page is segmented into blocks and different degrees of relevance are put on each block. This explains one reason why links in content areas are more heavily weighed than sidebar and navigational links (another reason is through the use of shingling algorithms, which I’ll get into on another question). Since this is a visual topic, I’ll give you a visual example from the research paper:

Vision-based Page Segmentation

23) What’s the difference between PageRank and Toolbar PageRank?
Internally PageRank is constantly updated while toolbar PageRank is updated every 2-3 months. Toolbar PageRank is a single digit integer while the internally calculated PageRank is more like a floating-point number. And the final answer: Who cares?

24) What is Latent Semantic Analysis (LSI – Indexing)?
The process of analyzing the relationships between terms in sets of documents. The engine looks not only at the query, but also looks for common terms in the document set. Documents that are semantically similar will carry more weight than those that are not. This is often a misunderstood concept.

25) What is Phrase Based Indexing and Retrieval and what roles does it play?
Phrase based indexing is used to classify good and bad phrases based on certain criteria inside the entire document. The number and proximity are taken into account. It also is capable of predicting the presence of other phrases on the page and will assign a higher or lower value depending on if those phrases or present or not.

26) In Google Lore – what are ‘Hilltop’, ‘Florida’, and ‘Big Daddy’?
Hilltop: An old and often contested algorithm that calculates PageRank based on expert documents and topical relevancy. The theory behind it was to decrease the possibility of manipulation from buying high PR links from off topic pages. This was implemented during the Florida update, which is our next topic.

Florida: The highly controversial update implemented by Google in November of 2003, much to the chagrin of many seasonal retail properties. There were several theories as to what was included in this update; Over optimization filter, competitive term filter, and the Hilltop algorithm. This update had catastrophic results on many web merchants.

Big Daddy: A test data center used by Google to preview algorithm changes. This information was made public around November of 2005 by Matt Cutts and allowed marketers to preview upcoming SERP’s.

What is a shingling algorithm and how is it used?
A shingling algorithm is a page segmentation method similar to VIPS, but less resource intensive and more likely to be used in search engine algorithms. These shingling algorithms look for blocks of content that do not occur frequently across a web site and look for blocks with certain desired features. When the engine stores this information, the navigational, advertisements, and other non-content areas are omitted. This increases speed, saves on storage space, and theoretically makes the results more relevant because of the increase in unique content.

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Jem Smith August 22, 2007 at 5:53 am


this is an effective and help full question and answer


TheMadHat August 22, 2007 at 8:59 am

Thanks Anil! These interview posts are actually a couple of my most popular posts.

Clipping Path Services October 27, 2007 at 10:33 pm

Thanks so much. I’m gonna print all these for references.

Amit November 6, 2007 at 2:04 pm

Hi, u r genius…would u mind to post more interview questions and answers. What r the top blogs/websites for SEO guys? doubt ur site is extraordinary. Please post something about the prospective of SEO. And one thing, is that true GOOGLE is Unbeatable?

TheMadHat November 7, 2007 at 10:26 am

Not quite a genius. Go visit Bill at SEO by the SEA and you’ll learn a lot more than you will here.

And no, Google isn’t unbeatable. Sometimes it’s quite easy in fact.

Dito's SEO Strategies January 13, 2008 at 6:27 pm

possibly the most informative single post I have come across in months. tyvm

Michael Martinez January 14, 2008 at 7:13 pm

Hilltop was developed by Krishna Bharat and rolled out in 2002 for Google News Search.

Some day, the SEO industry may let go of the myths and nonsense it piles up around these concepts.

I would never ask anyone about Hilltop or Florida as a qualifying question in an SEO interview and I would get up and walk out if someone ask me about them.

TheMadHat January 14, 2008 at 7:40 pm

Good for you, what’s your point?

If the person’s answer was:

“Hilltop was developed by Krishna Bharat and rolled out in 2002 for Google News Search.”

I guess they would pass then. And for some reason I don’t think anyone would be interviewing you anyway for a intermediate level SEO position. If you’re too good to get asked a stupid question by some know-nothing marketing person without walking out like the “SEO superstar” you think are then stay the fuck home.

This post wasn’t for someone with your level of SEO theory expertise. If you don’t find it helpful, write your own.

internetagentur skuub January 15, 2008 at 7:23 am

Great Q&A! Another question I came across was: tell me three things you would do/change if you start working for us from tomorrow on? No answer here, but you should know the company you apply for. Why do they need an SEO?

Matt Keegan March 7, 2008 at 5:16 am

I’m glad that you whacked “reciprocal link requests” when that point came up. I tell my customers “that is so 2005″ when they suggest this type of campaign!

thePav March 26, 2008 at 1:16 pm

nice work. Although I knew about page segmentation and LSI, I wouldn’t have ever remembered that’s what they were called if asked directly. Good refresher-bookmarked in case my feeble brain fails again.
And Michael should worry about getting his company’s site ranked before he bitches about people promoting “seo myths”- obviously HIS techniques aren’t accomplishing much.

Soko May 4, 2008 at 1:02 pm

Very good, nice done Q&A! For some of things i really did not pay
enough attention before.

jay paul May 12, 2008 at 7:47 am

i enjoy and learned lots of things from part-I and now from part-ii.

i am glad you’ve pointed out for raciprocal links, that’s correct.

i’d like to learn more from this types Q’s, sure this will help to many seo interviewrs.


vicky May 23, 2008 at 2:37 am

i enjoy and learned lots of things .Although I knew about page segmentation and LSI, I wouldn’t have ever remembered that’s what they were called if asked directly.


Anirban May 30, 2008 at 1:57 pm

Hi !

Great post !
It helped me a lot in recruiting seo personals in my company.
Will wait for next set of interview questions for hiring seo guys.


Palaboy July 7, 2008 at 9:16 pm

wow… thanks for this i learned a lot… hope you can post more Q & A. I can use this for my future applications.

Webkinz August 2, 2008 at 11:07 am

I never heard of VIPS. Thanks for sharing that, because it definitely is a very interesting read.

pycobb August 5, 2008 at 5:22 am

wow… Greate dude. I like your post.

Dubai Web Design, Development August 15, 2008 at 2:36 am

Great answer. What we do if some one or client as that can u get my website ontop 10 in google. What should be right answer of that, because i can’t give guarantee but one thing i can give them with good quality backlinks. It is very difficult to answer that i will listed your website in top 10 guaranteed. Is it really ?

mithilesh March 13, 2009 at 1:43 am

great post, very helpful, some new points which we learn

Herry Parker April 7, 2009 at 6:07 am

very affective question and their answers

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