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Questions & Checklist for New SEO Clients: A Collaboration

by Jon Cooper
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Ever wonder what are the right questions you should be asking new SEO clients?

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. That’s why I decided to hunt down a few of the biz dev SEOs at one of the leading companies in our space: SEER Interactive.

This post is a collaboration between David Cohen, Shawn Cohen, John-Henry Scherck, Saurav Rimal and I.

We created a Word Doc (.docx download, .doc download, Google Drive) of the questions so it’s as easy as just hitting “Send” in your inbox to get the client info you need.

Enjoy!

Questions

Step #1: Get to know the client

The first thing you need to do once you & the clients agrees to beginning work is to get to know why their brand exists and what makes them unique. Here are the types of questions you should be asking:

  • What purpose does your brand serve?
  • How do you differentiate your brand from the competition (what is your unique value proposition)?

Step #2: Understand the business

The best ROI an SEO can deliver on is revenue, so understand how they make money! Here are some of the questions you should be asking:

  • What conversion actions can visitors take on your website?
  • Who is your target audience? (Define personas.)
  • What are your main business goals?
  • What is the average life time value of a customer?
  • What does the sales cycle look like?
  • What are the current conversion rates?
  • Is your business or any of your products seasonal?
  • How much revenue are you currently generating from organic search on a monthly basis?
  • Are you currently doing any Pay Per Click advertising?

Step #3: Understand the community

In some cases, the client’s brand doesn’t have any type of a community, but it never hurts to ask. These are the types of questions you should be asking:

  • Does your brand have a voice and personality?
  • What is your community like?
  • Do you have a blog, forum, or newsletter? How much interaction do you see from them?
  • Is there anything else we should know about your community or the community of this vertical as a whole?

Step #4: Understand their SEO/Marketing background & expectations

While some might make this Step #1, the other questions before this are a lot of times the most important. So here are the directly SEO related questions that now need to be asked:

  • What are the basic keywords you want to rank for?
  • What are a few of your main competitors you want to beat?
  • Describe your previous experience with SEOs.
    • Was it good/bad? Why?
    • What’s making you change SEO vendors now?
    • What do you wish your old SEO did for you?
  • Define exactly what your expectations are for us from an SEO perspective.
  • Have you or a past SEO vendor done anything, to your knowledge, that is, or could be, considered against Google’s Webmaster guidelines? Define exactly what and be as detailed as possible.
  • What are some of the previous marketing & PR initiatives you’ve done? Are there any that you or a separate department is currently working on?
  • Do you do any offline marketing? If so, please define exactly what you’re doing.

Step #5: Define the resources you have to work with

In a lot of cases, clients have a fair of amount of resources that you as an SEO can take advantage of. Here’s a sampling of questions to ask that can uncover those:

  • Can we have access to a company email address?
  • Can we have access to Google Analytics?
  • Do you have any in-house or contracted web developers? Designers?
  • Are you in the process of making any changes to the website?
  • Can we have access to executives for questions & interviews?
  • Do you have any available budget for linking initiatives such as sponsorships & content assets (i.e. graphics, videos, white papers, etc.)?
  • What organizations or associations are you a part of?
  • What businesses/consultants have you contracted with in the past?
  • Define every business you currently have a working relationship with. (i.e. suppliers, manufacturers, partners, etc.)
  • Is your company involved with in anyway any charities or non-profits?
  • Are you working with a PR agency?

Step #6: Client-specific questions

Since every client is different, each will need to be looked over for questions specific to their business. Here are a few broader examples.

  • If there’s a blog: what is your blog’s editorial plan?
  • If they’re ecommerce: can I know your margins or have access to your daily/weekly financials?
  • If they recently launched a new product: What do you wish to achieve from this new product? How does it compare to your competitor’s?

All in all, it’s hard to be specific, as each client will be different.

Checklist

Outside of asking those questions, here is a quick checklist of things you should be doing on your own when you’re taking on a new client:

  • Find out if your client has any lead generation forms. Fill them out and experience what it’s like to be one of your client’s leads.
  • Sign up for their newsletter
  • Read their blog
  • Read their press releases
  • Use a tool like Topsy to listen to what people are saying about the brand & their products
  • Setup web alerts so you can see when their brand or products are mentioned. Also setup alerts for their competitors
  • Do a Google search for CEO, board of directors or brand name
  • Do the same for a lot of the above for their competitors

Closing thoughts

100% of your clients are real humans, so the more energy we put into thinking about the human side of the business relationship, the more we can retain our clients and stay with them as their business grows.

Make sure you’re asking these questions, because the more you know about your clients, the better job you can do for them. Sometimes golden opportunities are left on the table because you’re not asking the right questions, or you might go in blind and do more harm than good if you’re not fully educated.

Thanks again to David, Shawn, John-Henry, and Saurav for helping me put this together!

Are there any questions or checklist items you’d add? We’d love to hear them in the comments!

Also – if you’re an SEO interested in mastering the art of link building, check this out.

This post was written by...

Jon Cooper – who has written 119 posts on Point Blank SEO.

Jon Cooper+ is an SEO consultant based out of Gainesville, FL who specializes in link building. For more information on him and Point Blank SEO, visit the about page. Follow him on Twitter.

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16 Comments
  1. Backlinko says:

    Solid resource, Jon.

    I wish I had this when I first started taking on SEO clients.

    The only question I asked my clients when first starting out was: “Paypal or check?”.

    Needless to say I got myself into some sticky situations.

    Now I’m a bit more picky about the clients I take on, mostly by asking good questions like these.

  2. chris says:

    Hi Jon
    For me the timing on this post couldn’t be better , I’m about to take on my 1st few freelance jobs and last week Ive spent trying to create a checklist seeing this on inbound this morning was a great

    Cheers
    Chris

  3. James Hunt says:

    Wow, what started as another hour of procrastination, has turned up one of the most useful docs i have seen in a looong time!

    this is why i love this industry so much…so many great people creating such great content and sharing it!

  4. Nick says:

    Great resource. Most of the clients that has some previous SEO experience think that SEO serves only to manipulate the SERP and nothing else. It’s very important to explain clients that SEO is done not for search engines, but for people. People need to find high quality, interesting and unique content.

  5. Neil Ferree says:

    Excellent resource Jon (aka) best dam cheat sheet I’ve seen on what a real SEO needs to know.

  6. Dev Basu says:

    Brilliant job Jon – We’re going to steal this list and convert it into a Basecamp ‘to-do’ list for new clients. Cheers!

  7. Daniel Ezquerro says:

    Thank you for sharing this Jon, actually I started a lot of times a list like this I never finished one :) you just have made me really happy.

    Anyway, this is maybe one of the most important points when you start with a new SEO client (or any type of client) and a lot of people forget it.

  8. A really useful list, thanks Jon, David, Shawn, John-Henry, and Saurav.

    The only thing I would add is to ask if the client has verified their website with Google Webmaster Tools and if you can gain access to that data? If not can we help them set that up?

  9. Hey Jon

    Thanks for the checklist, there are some great questions that I have added. Thanks for letting us use and download them, really appreciate it.

    It sounds obvious but we do ask what other SEO firms that have been with but didn’t go into details as to these:

    Describe your previous experience with SEOs.
    Was it good/bad? Why?
    What’s making you change SEO vendors now?
    What do you wish your old SEO did for you?
    What strategies were they using to gain rankings?

    Thanks again for these Jon.

    Danny Howard

  10. Dave Young says:

    Awesome post Jon, thanks. For someone who is just starting to dip their toe into the murky waters, that’s a fantastic check list. I thank you kindly Sir!

  11. Just read this….so amazing! I’ve been working on a checklist like this for my clients, but there is so much more here. I’m implementing these questions right away!

  12. DUDE this is genius! I can’t even wait to start using this. Thanks for sharing such a great resource.

  13. calin says:

    Very good information, hard to find somewhere else. We, as a new small company we learn allot reading this steps.
    Thank You

  14. Jon, this is a great article. Very informative and it’s going to help me prepare for when I have an SEO agency asking me questions.

  15. David Smith says:

    Awesome list and quite a few things that I’ll be adding to the list of information I check and ask new clients.

    Thanks for putting this information together.

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