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56 Questions to Ask Your New SEO Writing Client [Updated for 2021]

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56 Questions to Ask Your New SEO Writing Client [Updated for 2021]

Heather’s note: I originally wrote this post in 2011 and started with 31 questions. Since then, I’ve added 33 more questions you can ask your new SEO writing client, for a total of 64! Enjoy!

Anyone who knows me knows that I tend to ask a lot of questions.

Why? Because that’s how I learn.

When onboarding a new copywriting client — whether you work for yourself or an agency — asking lots of questions is the key to success.

Sure, that means you’ll spend an hour (or more) on the phone. But just as you wouldn’t enter a marriage without a pretty solid “getting to know you” process, you shouldn’t start writing without a solid customer interview.

After all, how can you write specific, action-oriented content if you don’t have any detailed information?

Here are 56 of my favorite questions to ask a new copywriting client – enjoy!

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Important: Ask these questions after your client has signed on the bottom line. Although you may touch on some of these topics during the sales phase, it’s best to save these questions for the kick-off client call.

Background information, expectation-setting, and documentation questions

  1. Can I review your analytics? Know that some larger clients may refuse to grant access and instead provide limited reports. Third-party tools like Semrush and Ahrefs can help you gather additional data.  
  2. Do you have any customer persona or audience persona documentation?
  3. Which customer or audience persona provides the highest long-term value?
  4. Has your company conducted any market research — and if so, can I read the report? (New to market research? Here’s more information about B2B market research and why it’s important.)
  5. How do you measure success, and what is your primary metric? For instance, is an increase in top-10 positions the main goal?
  6. What is your secondary success metric? 
  7. Which social media platforms work for you, and how are you defining success?
  8. Do you have a document detailing your per-page keyphrase strategy and internal links pointing to the pages?
  9. Do you have a process for outgoing links?
  10. How did you arrive at your keyphrase choices? Do you focus on keyphrases with a bigger search volume? Or are you more interested in answering questions and concentrating on long-tail searches?
  11. Do you have a content strategy document and process? Can I review it? 
  12. Do you have an SEO style guide or any writing requirements I can review? (Warning: beware of style guides with funky SEO writing formulas like this and this.)
  13. If there’s no style guide, are there any content structure or wording no-nos? (For example, not using the word “cheap” in the content.)
  14. How do you decide on blog post topics, and who decides what gets published? 
  15. How is the editorial calendar created, and who is on the editorial calendar team?
  16. How often do you publish new content? 
  17. How often do you deviate from the editorial calendar?
  18. Do you have any old content on your site that may have been “repurposed” from another site?
  19. Do you have any “wish list” keyphrases you’d love to position?
  20. How important is it for you to position a particular keyphrase? If it is a competitive keyphrase, are you prepared to spend the time and budget to make this happen — or is this an unrealistic Google expectation?
  21. Do you have any gated content? How has it worked for you?
  22. Have any of your site pages been generated by AI? If so, which pages?
  23. Have you ever been hit by a manual penalty after an algorithm update? How did you handle it?
  24. How do you currently gain incoming links? Do you have relationships with influencers in your industry?
  25. Tell me about a successful content marketing campaign and why it was successful.
  26. What content strategies have failed in the past. Why do you think that is?
  27. What content types have been most successful? FAQ pages? Comparison review posts? 
  28. What third-party platforms do you use for SEO and content development? (Semrush? BuzzSumo? Moz?)

Marketing and SEO questions

  1. Who is your main competition, on and offline? Why would you consider them competition?
  2. What differentiates your company from your main competitors? What do you do that’s different or better?
  3. What is your unique sales proposition?
  4. Why should a prospect purchase from you rather than your competition?
  5. Can you tell me a story about when a customer chose your company over a competitor? Why did they make that decision?
  6. What are your overarching company benefit statements?
  7. How do you feel about your site’s “voice” (how it reads and sounds)?
  8. Can you show me examples of site copy you love and share why you love it?
  9. What is your process for following up with prospects?
  10. How reliable is your current process? Do you feel your follow-up process requires streamlining or additional touch-points? 
  11. Do you send templated email follow-ups to current clients? Can I review the emails?
  12. Are there other marketing materials relating to this project that I didn’t mention (for example, autoresponder emails, print materials, etc.)?
  13. What benefit statements have been shown to resonate with your perfect customer or audience? 
  14. When is the last time you reviewed your benefit statements and made data-driven modifications?
  15. Can I review your customer testimonials? (Or better yet, can I chat with a few of your happy clients?)
  16. Has your company won any awards, been featured in a book, endorsed by an organization, or received favorable write-ups in a trade publication? Can I review the documentation?
  17. Do you have any online resources (such as FAQ pages) that answer the most common reader/prospect questions?
  18. Can I talk to your best salesperson to get their perspective?
  19. What are the most common objections you hear from prospects?
  20. What is the primary action you want readers to take after reading your content?
  21. What is the secondary call to action?
  22. What are your most significant sales “sticking points” right now? Is there a place in your sales cycle where prospects get “stuck” and don’t move forward?
  23. Is there anything you’ve wanted to try (for instance, white papers or pillar pages) but you haven’t had the time?

Process and procedure questions

  1. Will you provide the keyphrases and background documents, or do you need me to conduct the research?
  2. Who else will I be working with (for instance, an external SEO company or an internal team?).
  3. Who is my main point of contact?
  4. What is the expected content turnaround time after I receive the necessary information?
  5. Who will review the content, and what are their positions within the company? 
  6. Will your primary source of contact compile and review internal edits before sending the draft for revisions?
  7. How long does content approval take?
  8. In what format do you prefer to review content? For instance, via Word or Google Docs
  9. How often would you like to receive project update emails? Are check-in meetings required and if so, how often (note: if so, consider raising your fee to accommodate for the additional time.)
  10. How will I know if the content is working? Will I have continued access to your analytics?
  11. How often do “quick turnaround” posts happen?
  12. How is the article and page word count determined? Can blog posts be different lengths, or must they all be long-form?
  13. Do you have a content repurposing strategy? If not, would you like one?

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B2B PPC Experts Give Their Take On Google Search On Announcements

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B2B PPC Experts Give Their Take On Google Search On Announcements

Google hosted its 3rd annual Search On event on September 28th.

The event announced numerous Search updates revolving around these key areas:

  • Visualization
  • Personalization
  • Sustainability

After the event, Google’s Ad Liason, Ginny Marvin, hosted a roundtable of PPC experts specifically in the B2B industry to give their thoughts on the announcements, as well as how they may affect B2B. I was able to participate in the roundtable and gained valuable feedback from the industry.

The roundtable of experts comprised of Brad Geddes, Melissa Mackey, Michelle Morgan, Greg Finn, Steph Bin, Michael Henderson, Andrea Cruz Lopez, and myself (Brooke Osmundson).

The Struggle With Images

Some of the updates in Search include browsable search results, larger image assets, and business messages for conversational search.

Brad Geddes, Co-Founder of Adalysis, mentioned “Desktop was never mentioned once.” Others echoed the same sentiment, that many of their B2B clients rely on desktop searches and traffic. With images showing mainly on mobile devices, their B2B clients won’t benefit as much.

Another great point came up about the context of images. While images are great for a user experience, the question reiterated by multiple roundtable members:

  • How is a B2B product or B2B service supposed to portray what they do in an image?

Images in search are certainly valuable for verticals such as apparel, automotive, and general eCommerce businesses. But for B2B, they may be left at a disadvantage.

More Uses Cases, Please

Ginny asked the group what they’d like to change or add to an event like Search On.

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The overall consensus: both Search On and Google Marketing Live (GML) have become more consumer-focused.

Greg Finn said that the Search On event was about what he expected, but Google Marketing Live feels too broad now and that Google isn’t speaking to advertisers anymore.

Marvin acknowledged and then revealed that Google received feedback that after this year’s GML, the vision felt like it was geared towards a high-level investor.

The group gave a few potential solutions to help fill the current gap of what was announced, and then later how advertisers can take action.

  • 30-minute follow-up session on how these relate to advertisers
  • Focus less on verticals
  • Provide more use cases

Michelle Morgan and Melissa Mackey said that “even just screenshots of a B2B SaaS example” would help them immensely. Providing tangible action items on how to bring this information to clients is key.

Google Product Managers Weigh In

The second half of the roundtable included input from multiple Google Search Product Managers. I started off with a more broad question to Google:

  • It seems that Google is becoming a one-stop shop for a user to gather information and make purchases. How should advertisers prepare for this? Will we expect to see lower traffic, higher CPCs to compete for that coveted space?

Cecilia Wong, Global Product Lead of Search Formats, Google, mentioned that while they can’t comment directly on the overall direction, they do focus on Search. Their recommendation:

  • Manage assets and images and optimize for best user experience
  • For B2B, align your images as a sneak peek of what users can expect on the landing page

However, image assets have tight restrictions on what’s allowed. I followed up by asking if they would be loosening asset restrictions for B2B to use creativity in its image assets.

Google could not comment directly but acknowledged that looser restrictions on image content is a need for B2B advertisers.

Is Value-Based Bidding Worth The Hassle?

The topic of value-based bidding came up after Carlo Buchmann, Product Manager of Smart Bidding, said that they want advertisers to embrace and move towards value-based bidding. While the feedback seemed grim, it opened up for candid conversation.

Melissa Mackey said that while she’s talked to her clients about values-based bidding, none of her clients want to pull the trigger. For B2B, it’s difficult to assess the value on different conversion points.

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Further, she stated that clients become fixated on their pipeline information and can end up making it too complicated. To sum up, they’re struggling to translate the value number input to what a sale is actually worth.

Geddes mentioned that some of his more sophisticated clients have moved back to manual bidding because Google doesn’t take all the values and signals to pass back and forth.

Finn closed the conversation with his experience. He emphasized that Google has not brought forth anything about best practices for value-based bidding. By having only one value, it seems like CPA bidding. And when a client has multiple value inputs, Google tends to optimize towards the lower-value conversions – ultimately affecting lead quality.

The Google Search Product Managers closed by providing additional resources to dig into overall best practices to leverage search in the world of automation.

Closing Thoughts

Google made it clear that the future of search is visual. For B2B companies, it may require extra creativity to succeed and compete with the visualization updates.

However, the PPC roundtable experts weighed in that if Google wants advertisers to adopt these features, they need to support advertisers more – especially B2B marketers. With limited time and resources, advertisers big and small are trying to do more with less.

Marketers are relying on Google to make these Search updates relevant to not only the user but the advertisers. Having clearer guides, use cases, and conversations is a great step to bringing back the Google and advertiser collaboration.

A special thank you to Ginny Marvin of Google for making space to hear B2B advertiser feedback, as well as all the PPC experts for weighing in.

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Featured image: Shutterstock/T-K-M

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