Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Important Questions to Ask Before Taking on SEO Clients

Taking on SEO clients can be tricky, especially at the start. Usually, you meet a client, prepare a questionnaire and ask important questions about what they’re looking for and what kind of a SEO campaign you would be able to design for them in order to achieve what they want to achieve.

Experienced SEO professionals usually know how to initiate things, but often times, inexperienced or new SEOs and SEMs fail to ask the right set of questions and get all the information that they need in order to design a SEO campaign for their clients. As a result, they end up being overly reliant on follow-up correspondence and at times, are unable to help the client with their SEO in the best possible way.

It is essential to go in prepared when meeting a client for SEO. For this purpose, here is a list of important questions to ask them in that first meeting, that will allow you to assess what sort of a SEO campaign you should design for them, and leave a positive impression on the client as well!

1. What do you want to achieve by putting your business online? Does the client have a specific objective(s) – a specific purpose or perhaps something that he intends to achieve from this project – such as more sales, increased revenue, offering a new product or service, or simply more exposure?

2. Do you have a website? Or better yet, what kind of a presence do you have on the internet – including (but not limited to) a webite, or a blog, Facebook page, etc.?

It is essential to know what kind of presence your client already has on the internet. If he doesn’t already have a website or a blog, will you be responsible for designing it? Designing a website is a whole new task in itself, so make sure you communicate this to your client, and make this as clear as possible.

3. Structure of the website: It is essential to understand the structure of the website. Does it use a popular CMS (such as Wordpress, for instance), or is based on custom-designed HTML pages? Knowing this will allow you to assess whether you or your organization would be a good fit for designing an SEO campaign for this sort of website or not, and how exactly will you go about doing it.

4. Niche and competition: In addition, it is also essential to understand the niche or the industry the website targets. Start off with a general niche, such as weight loss, technology, etc. and narrow this down to a sub-niche. This will allow you to better judge the client’s requirements, devise a SEO strategy, as well as determine the keywords relevant to the client (see below) and what kind of a competition exists for those keywords.

5. Assuming that the client does in fact have a website or a blog already, ask about what kind of SEO has already been used on the site in the past. This is an important question: it lets you know whether any SEO has been performed on the website – either by an organization, or by the client himself.

For instance if a website has been affected by Panda or Penguin – due to, say, abused tags, spun content or low-quality backlinks – what steps you’ll need to take as far as recovery is concerned. Doing so will also allow you to provide this information to the client, and tell them how much work will needed to be done in order to clean up the mess. Speaking of which…

6. Has the website been penalized by Google in the past? Did the client notice a drop in visitors, rankings and sales all of a sudden or out-of-the-blue?

Helping a website recover from a penalty can be extremely difficult – and at times, near impossible – but in certain cases, do-able. A lot of websites and blogs have recovered from Google’s search engine algorithm changes, namely the Panda and Penguin updates, however it is anything but a walk in the park!

Knowing this lets you determine the number of things you will need to do in order to start the process of recovery, as well as let the client know about the extra work required.

7. What set of keywords are valuable to the client, and will want to target and rank well for? This is related to point no. 3 above. Once you have a fair idea of what the niche/industry is that you will be targeting, it is essential to ask your client (or help them come up with) keywords which they thing are valuable to them and/or their business.

Playing with keywords is a bit of guess-work, as well as some good old marketing intelligence. Use tools available at your disposal in order to come up with a set of keywords that will be valuable to your client.

Determining the keywords your client wants to rank for, as well as their competitiveness will also help you determine how much you would charge your clients for it. For instance first page rankings for weight loss means you’re playing a whole different ball-game than, say, ranking on the first page for iPhone apps or any less-competitive keyword.

8. What is your unique selling proposition? Ask your client what sets them apart from their competition. While most clients might already have a clearly-defined USP, a lot might not, and it will be a great challenge for you to come up with a USP for you client. Remember that this USP could very well be one of the focus keywords of the campaign, and your SEO might revolve around this.

9. What kind of visitors does the client intend on bringing in? What visitors do they want to attract and generally speaking, what is their target audience? The answer to these questions will let any SEO design a laser-targeted SEO campaign that brings targeted visitors and readership to the blog. In addition, it will also allow him/her to develop a reference line in terms of how to marketing and promote the client’s online presence, as well as their business/organization in general.

10. Would the client want a social media marketing campaign as well? Social media is now a big part of SEO, and a very important SEO ranking factor as well. Let the client know that a strong presence on social media is a great way to engage with (potential and existing) clients and customers, get more exposure, build backlinks, get traffic and build authority.

If there is a social media campaign in place, you could offer your services to improve upon it. If not, you could offer to launch a social media campaign from scratch, and making it an integral part of your client’s overall SEO campaign.

11. Finally, ask the client what their expectations are from this SEO campaign. After all’s been said and done, what does the client expect to achieve from the project? Make sure that the client’s expectations remain realistic and achievable. As you would know, a campaign could take months, if not more, to start showing results and any expectations of ranking on top of the SERP overnight are utterly unrealistic; make sure the client knows this as well! Lay down the possibilities, along with the impossibilities as clearly as you can, so that the expectations are clear right off the bat.

Define your own KPIs, and make sure that the client is onboard as well!

Any questions or comments are more than welcome!

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