SEO exam questions: A sample

Ian Lurie Feb 7 2012

I’m working on a set of SEO test questions at my company. The objective: Figure out each SEO analyst’s strengths and weaknesses, then tailor training to them. I thought I’d share a few. They’re supposed to start off pretty easy and get more difficult:

  1. TRUE or FALSE or BOTH: The ‘nofollow’ attribute is good for SEO.
  2. When are drop-down menus bad for SEO?
    1. Always
    2. Never
    3. If they cause unnecessary pagerank ‘leaks’.
  3. How many times should you repeat a key phrase on a page?
    1. Come off it, Ian, there’s no right answer to that.
    2. 3% of the total words on the page.
    3. 5% of the total words on the page.
  4. What’s the most important on-page SEO element?
    1. The DESCRIPTION meta tag
    2. The TITLE tag
    3. If they cause unnecessary pagerank ‘leaks’.
  5. What’s the best choice for a server response code if a page no longer exists on your web site?
    1. Not here
    2. 404
    3. 302
    4. 200
  6. What’s the correct way to redirect visiting browsers and bots from a page that is permanently gone to a replacement page?
    1. 301
    2. 200
    3. 302
    4. 666
  7. Under Google’s Panda update:
    1. The overall quality of an entire web site no longer matters.
    2. A site with 10 great pages and 1,000 lousy ones is in trouble.
    3. We should all have pictures of bamboo on our web sites.
  8. TRUE OR FALSE: Site performance can impact search rankings on Google and Bing.
  9. Pick the most important SEO performance indicator, if your client is an e-commerce site:
    1. Rankings.
    2. Sales from organic search.
    3. Visits from organic search.
  10. Pick the most important SEO performance indicator, if your client is a lead generation site:
    1. Rankings.
    2. Leads from organic search.
    3. Time on site.
  11. What are the first 3 things you check when doing an SEO audit?
  12. List five things that impact a site’s authority.
  13. You got something totally wrong. What do you do?
    1. Hide it at all costs.
    2. Find the solution, then tell your manager what happened and how you’re fixing it.
    3. Call the client right away and tell them you screwed up.
    4. Blog about it.
  14. A client’s confused as heck. You’ve tried explaining something to them 3 times via e-mail. What do you do?
    1. Call them on the phone.
    2. Keep e-mailing.
    3. Stop e-mailing and have someone else at Portent give it a try.
  15. What’s a fast way to add links to a web site’s link profile that won’t violate the Google and Bing Terms of Service?
    1. Buy links.
    2. Start a content campaign.
    3. Fix broken incoming links.
  16. Define canonicalization.
  17. Describe blended search.
  18. A client is panicked. They’ve just fallen out of the rankings for the phrase “foo bar”. That was their top traffic generator. They want to shut down all onsite content and technical SEO and focus 100% on links. What do you tell them?
  19. Tell me what you think PageRank is.
  20. What’s a “headless browser”?
  21. What’s a reverse index?
  22. To you, the One Ring is:
    1. Sauron’s jewelry.
    2. A horror film.
    3. A movie starring Orlando Bloom.

And, of course, if you have additional questions you’d like to give me for free, please stick ’em below in the comments:

tags : conversation marketing


  1. Quite a few interesting questions there, Ian.

    One point I would raise though:

    “TRUE or FALSE: The ‘nofollow’ attribute is good for SEO.”

    This isn’t a true or false question. The nofollow attribute is both good and bad when looking at it in a general point of view like the question suggests.

    • Ian Lurie


      Hmmm good point. Might be fun to watch everyone’s heads explode, but I’ll edit that one.

  2. Jon


    Good questions, only one that stumped me was #21.

    Putting together a similar test for my team, and I’ve stolen a question on two. Thanks :)

  3. Those are some great questions Ian. Apart from what Peter pointed out, question #4 seems to have a very out-of-place answer c.

    Here’s a question you could add ‘Why use a sitemap’.

  4. This would be awesome for the interview process. There are many self proclaimed SEOs out there who think its all about keyword placement and meta. This is an instant BS detector- place in front of bad SEOs and watch them cry.

  5. Simon


    Nice questionaire. I was tripping on the nofollow question too.

    Favourite answer is 13d ;)

  6. Jey


    I remember all these questions except one. Where’s the math problem that you gave me? xD

    Also, thanks for putting the reverse index question in Ian, I had difficulty remembering this question and I’m doing the necessary reading on it as we speak here.


  7. Thoughts on these –
    * How often should you refresh the content on a website?
    * How many inbound links are required before SEO is positively affected?
    * Do live pages hidden from the main navigation factor into SEO?
    * Can PDFs be indexed?
    * what’s the best way to re-publish a post on your site that you first wrote for someone else’s site? Is a simple citation and link out to the original acceptable?


  8. I like number 18.

    Me to client: “What did you do now?” :)

    It’s kind of a trick question to if you don’t read it correctly. It took me a couple of reads to notice what was “really” being asked there.

    Nice work Ian!

    Now do I get some follow juice for this comment? ha

  9. What’s a reverse index?

    I have no idea.

  10. Nice quizz… you might add some few open questions such as :

    What technical aspects of a website would you look at for auditing a website ?
    How can you choose keywords for your customer ?

    or some tricky ones like :

    What is the best for SEO : Content or Links ?

  11. Any answers for some of us less experienced SEO enthusiasts? I’m so confused about that last question… :)

    • Ian Lurie


      Coming soon :)

  12. I can’t be sure about the answer to any of these and as such I feel like a dunce :(

    I need the answers so I can bore my wife to death on long car journeys!

  13. Here are my answers. And no I didn’t go looking for the answers elsewhere. This all came from my little brain — which is why many of my answers aren’t quite up to par. Thanks for the morning brain stretch Ian.

    1. Both
    2. C.
    3. A.
    4. B.
    5. 404
    6. 301
    7. B.
    8. True
    9. B.
    10. B.
    11. Quantity/quality links to the website, title tags, quality of content.
    12. Unique/quality content, links from authoritative sites, clean coding, page load speed, natural and releveant social media mentioning the site.
    13. B.
    14. A.
    15. C.
    16. Can’t remember, I need to review your article on that!?!
    17. Don’t know.
    18. Content is what helps to bring you links. Focusing only on links is shortsighted and can appear spammy which will hurt your rankings even more.
    19. PR is Google’s Miss America Pageant
    20. ? A browser with no head.
    21. ? An index that starts from the back and moves forward.
    22. B.

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