Here’s a selection of some of the questions an SEO agency should ask their client before starting any kind of SEO project, and why they’re important to the overall SEO process.

Questions and checklist for new SEO clients

1. Have you done any SEO for your website before?

It is important to figure out if your client has been doing any search engine optimization. This question will allow you to properly set up your process and save you a lot of headache down the road.

First, if your client has not actively done any SEO you basically start from square one. If, however your client has dabbled in SEO in the past chances are there is penalty issues that you need to look out for. Conduct a site audit and check their backlinks profile. Follow up questions should include:

  1. have you ever bought any links?
  2. have you been link building via directory submissions?
  3. have you been using the rel=”nofollow” internally?, so on and so forth.

2. Have you ever hired any other SEO agencies?

If the answer to this question is “no” then move on to the next question. If your new client had in fact hired an SEO agency before it’s really important to find out:

  1. What was the result of the service?
  2. Why the contract was ended or not continued?
  3. Which agency was it? – Based on this you can get an indication if there has been use of black hat tactics.
  4. Did you experience a drop or an increase in traffic after hiring the agency?
  5. What type of services did you buy from agency?

The main objective of these question is to help you determine:

  1. If some work has been done then what it was and how well it was done.
  2. If the work was not done well then what kind of damage could have been done which you have to repair.

3. What is your unique selling proposition?

This question is one of the many questions about the client’s business that you should ask to you client. I’m including it in this list because I think you definitely should not forget to ask this question. As agencies you are experts in your field but the client knows his business the best, so it is important to hear your client’s words what his business’s USP is. Other questions related to getting a better understanding of your client’s business includes:

  1. Who is your target audience? Have you defined any customer types in your target segment?
  2. What is your current marketing strategy?
  3. How are you differentiating your business from those of your competitors?
  4. What are your company’s short term and long terms goals?
  5. Where is your target audience located?

4. What is your sales process?

Finding out your client’s sales process will help you in determining the best conversion actions on the client’s website. When it comes to sales your client rather than you will know what works and what doesn’t, so it should be your aim to take this information and complement what works with SEO and online marketing.

Other sales related points to consider when designing the SEO approach for your client:

  1. How long is the sales process?
  2. How many actions does a visitor have to take before they become a customer?
  3. What actions can the visitors take on your websites and which ones are more important?
  4. What do you want your visitors to do on your website?

5. Who are your biggest competitors?

Ranking high in SERPs (A search engine results page (SERP) is the page displayed by a search engine in response to a query by a searcher. The main component of the SERP is the listing of results that are returned by the search engine in response to a keyword query) can only be done by replacing the incumbent, in other words if you aim to rank your client as number one, you need to remove the current number one. You should definitely do your own research on the target market of your client to find out who the other players are and find out what kind of tactics they are using to dominate the SERPs. You client can help you do this task much better by listing the key competitors. More importantly, this question allows you to further probe your client about why your client thinks these competitors are important. Your client’s answers to the “why these competitors are important?” will point out what your client’s SEO and online marketing weaknesses are in relation to the competitors.

Further, you should also ask your client about his company’s strong points in relation to the competition. The answer provided will help you come up with strategies and content for your SEO and marketing planning. Another question about the competition which many agencies skip is “are you impressed by any of your competitors’ website, tactics or strategies?”. This will help you identify potential best practices of the industry that you may be able to replicate. In the end, in order to be competitive you should do what your competitors do and then some more.

6. What desired results do you want to achieve from this project?

Most clients are under the impression that SEO implementation immediately results in traffic, which is almost never the case. Good and robust SEO businesses take time to implement and deliver results.

It is important for you and your client to understand each other and for both sides to know what the required results are. Skipping this question will create problems at a later stage when you are unable to meet your client’s unreal expectations. It is quintessential to know right at the start what your client wants out of the project and how you will measure the success:

  1. What are the key performance indicators?
  2. What are our quantifiable objectives based on these KPIs (A Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is a measurable value that demonstrates how effectively a company is achieving key business objectives. Organizations use KPIs to evaluate their success at reaching targets.)?
  3. How are we going to measure the results?
  4. Which metrics are we going to use?
  5. How often are we going to measure the results? In other words, how often do the client want to receive progress reports?

7. What resources are you willing to dedicate to the SEO efforts?

The conversation about resource allocation (Budget) goes hand in hand with the one about desired results. So use the opportunity to take stock of all resources that the client is willing to dedicate to the project.

Simply asking the question “what resources are you willing to dedicate to the SEO efforts?” most likely won’t get you all the information. So ask specific follow up questions such as:

  1. Do you have in-house graphic designers?
  2. Do you have in-house web developers?
  3. Are there any SEO marketers in the company?
  4. Do you employ content writers?
  5. Do you have close relationships with any authority websites in the industry?
  6. Are you donating any money to charity and if so which charities are they?

These questions are intended to find out if your client has any potentially useful resources that you can use to reach the SEO goals. For example, links with authority websites in the industry can lead to a series of mutual guest blogs, charities where your client donates money can be requested to link back to your client’s site, in house web-developers will make it much easier for you to change the structure or layout of the website and pages.

8. What other forms of marketing are you currently using?

SEO is not a standalone practice for quite some time now, to get the most out of your SEO efforts it is important to identify and create synergies. Find out what other marketing activities your client undertakes. Look for content marketing and online PR activities (Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing the spread of information between an individual or an organization (such as a business, government agency, or a nonprofit organization) and the public.), as these two fields have a lot of overlap with SEO practices.

Finding out if your client does marketing through any other channels can open new avenues as well. Ask your client the following questions:

  1. Do you do any email marketing?
  2. Do you do any social media marketing?
  3. Do you currently have any search engine advertising campaigns running?
  4. Are you marketing your product through affiliates?
  5. Are you marketing your product through display ads?

9. How knowledgeable is your marketing team on the topic of SEO?

how knowledgeable is your marketing team on the topic of SEO? it is important to determine how best to educate your client. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that your client knows about SEO and digital marketing as much you do, so it is always a good idea to

  1. Ask your client about his extent of knowledge.
  2. Ask follow up questions to gently test your client’s knowledge.

Based on your client’s answer you can determine whether you need to educate your client.

10. Can we have access to your digital marketing tools and accounts?

This question has to do with workflow as you will most likely need access to various digital marketing tools that the client uses. By asking whether the client is open to giving you access to the accounts you create an opportunity to explain the reason behind the request. Here’s a list of accounts that you should definitely bring up in the conversation and ask if you can have access:

  1. To the client’s Google Analytics account (Instead of his private account, you can ask your client to add you as an admin in his Analytics). Here are the steps to add, modify and delete admins in Google Analytics: Add, modify, and delete users.
  2. To the client’s Google Webmaster Tools account.
  3. To a company email address (you may need this for outreach / link building / PR (depending of how old a domain is, as this is not important anymore for the new websites)).
  4. To client’s social media accounts (Again, adding you as admins should suffice for some social networks).

11. Do you have any social Media accounts?

It is important to find out if the client have any social media accounts, twitter, facebook page or group, LinkedIn page or group… Here’s a list of accounts that you should definitely bring up in the conversation and ask if you can have access:

  1. Have the client an account on FacebookTwitterGooglePlusLinkedInYoutubePinterest.
  2. If yes, Did the client create any Groups, pages or did any activities related to social media account
  3. Discuss with the client the marketing target and the goals behind the social media marketing.
  4. Make sure to take note of the amount of likes and engagement on the client’s account in order to show and measure success.

12. Is there anything else we should know about your company’s marketing?

It’s always a good idea to end the intake conversation with an open-ended question such as this just in case the client forgot to tell you anything or if you forgot to ask a question.

The answers to these questions should give you a lot of information to get things started on the right foot. You can ask these questions in writing, over the phone or in person. Obviously, asking it over the phone or in person gives you the ability to ask follow up questions and explain concepts to your clients as you talk about more advanced concepts. It is, however, very important to not let the information go lost, so either make a recording of the conversation (with your client’s permission of course) or make sure to write down notes.

Surely, this list not exhaustive but it should give you a good basis to build your intake conversation on. Good luck!

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