Dive Deeper: Questions You Need to Add to Your SEO Client Onboarding Process

Good news! You’ve secured a brand-new SEO client. They’re bursting with excitement and you’re raring to get started. As you work through your regular onboarding checklist, use this time to dig deeper with a few more probing questions to help you create a strategy that’s practically guaranteed to succeed.

Taking advantage of the excitement and positive outlook at the start of the project is the best time to get these details and will be critical to your success. Not only will the questions below help you more effectively ideate content and outreach tactics, they will also help ensure both you and the client are in perfect sync in terms of next steps and expectations.

Here’s a helpful list of ideas for in-depth questions to add to your existing onboarding questionnaire.

When asking about the company and products/services, also ask:

How has the company grown over the past three years? What helped and what fell short?

  • This will quickly reveal a good sample of things that have proven successful and also tell you where risks lie.

Can you set up a time to speak with the customer service team?

  • Talking to the people on the front line will help you understand what messaging resonates best with prospects and help you learn more about the target audience, including their common pain points.

What other key projects is the company focusing on in the next three to six months?

  • This will allow you to dig out opportunities to help make them more successful, or they could be good SEO tie-ins, allowing you to show more successes on projects you know are important to the C-suite.

What are your company’s values, mission statement, and long-term vision?

  • Getting a feel for the “personality” of the company and how they like to operate, as well as learning their ideas for where they want to go, will give you an understanding of what types of strategies will be met most favorably in future.

Do you have any brand guidelines and compliance guidelines that you can share?

  • Getting this information upfront – before you even start thinking of content marketing – is hugely helpful. Aligning yourself very closely with the brand while taking into account any compliance requirements will just speed up the creative approval cycle.

When asking about your points of contact and management involvement, also ask:

What other projects is your contact going to be involved in while also working with you on SEO?

  • This will give you an estimate on how much time they have on their hands to act on your recommendations.

What is the C-suite’s understanding of and sentiment toward SEO?

  • This is important to understand upfront – if top execs have a poor understanding of SEO or are suspicious of it (perhaps owing to a poor experience in the past), then there will be several obstacles raised in future. But finding this out early can help you approach things with a greater educational perspective and tailor your reports to help smooth things along.

What is the company expecting in terms of timeline and results?

  • Forewarned is forearmed. If there are any unrealistic expectations, you can share your thoughts on what to expect and why, so you don’t find yourself on the defensive a couple of months into the project.

How long is the approvals process for strategy and/or creative?

  • Knowing this will allow you to plan your monthly strategy with these timelines in mind.

How open would they be to collaborations with other channels such as PR or social?

  • There are a lot of synergies that can be found here by tying in these channels with SEO outreach and content efforts.

Are affiliates or anyone outside the company creating pages or advertising?

  • These could affect your efforts so knowing this upfront will help you mitigate any risks.

When asking about goals and KPIs, also ask:

What are the overall business goals as well as goals for different channels that are tangentially related to SEO, such as PPC, social media, and PR?

  • Use this information to find opportunities for synergies between the channels.

What is the most important success metric that will be used to gauge success?

  • You’ll want to know upfront if management is simply looking for daily ranking reports for a vanity keyword or is focused on metrics apart from revenue, so you can jointly agree upon the main metric to focus on.

Can we jointly agree on leading indicator metrics in addition to the main metric?

  • Again, this goes a long way toward aligning expectations and showing that things are moving in the right direction.

What does management consider to be past wins and failures in SEO, PR, and PPC?

  • This will tell you what has worked and also give you deeper insights into what they’re truly focusing on.

When asking about the audience and target customers, also ask:

Have they done any type of conversion rate optimization or multivariate testing? If so, can they share their hypotheses and testing reports?

What types of emails or PPC ads perform best?

  • These questions will help provide insights into their target audience so you can see what type of content is likely to earn high audience engagement.

Do they have personas identified or know their secondary target audiences? If so, can they rank audience segments in terms of most likely to buy vs. least likely?

  • Any understanding here will be vital to your content marketing and outreach efforts.

When talking about other marketing and content activities, also ask:

Does the company support any particular charities or are there any causes or charities supported by key executives?

  • You may find opportunities for creating content or outreach efforts that have an emotional connection with the audience and the management team.

What is the competition doing that they like or wish they had done? Who are indirect competitors or related industries that they pull inspiration from?

  • This will give you an idea about what they like and don’t like – information which will be invaluable when creating your strategy.

What business relationships do they have, whether biz dev partnerships, vendors, or related companies?

  • These could come in handy later when you’re planning your outreach efforts.

When asking about technology, also ask:

What’s their internal IT dev cycle? How does IT typically approach SEO-related projects and what’s their understanding of SEO?

  • This way, you’ll know what level of explanation to provide and understand the timeline for when your recommendations could be implemented.

What are marketing’s pain points regarding the website?

  • This will give you some glimpses into potential problems you could expect later in the project, such as hard-to-edit pages or CMS problems.

How often is the website updated and who else has a hand in editing the site apart from IT?

  • This information will reveal if other marketing teams could make recommendations that could override yours, or if there could be issues such as another department unknowingly duplicating content across pages.

Do you own any other websites?

  • This will likely already be on your list, but it is very important to ensure you get this list early on, to prevent any nasty surprises later.

Are there other questions you’ve found very helpful in asking during the onboarding process? Please do share in the comments below.

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