A few things I have learned from working with clients is that sometimes it can be extremely hard to get the necessary information you need to get a project started-off on the right track. Sometimes it can be the agencies fault because they are not being clear as to what things they need to get things moving or it can be the client putting the project on the back-burner because of other higher-priority responsibilities. Either way it is important to make sure you have all of the necessary information needed to get your SEO project kicked off.
1. Research & Analysis Starting Point
The first thing I try to do with a new client is get as much information out of them as possible, to help with the research and analysis I will begin to start doing after the 1st meeting. Because this is such an important piece of the SEO puzzle, I want to gain as much feedback during that initial meeting as I can.
Keyword Research Exercise:
Start by asking them “What Keywords Would You Use to Find What You Do?”, start to write down each of these words as the client starts mentioning different keywords/phrases. Once you have that list, try to formulate some other keywords/phrases on the fly, to gain initial feedback from the client on relevancy. Ask the client to order the 10 most important keywords/phrases, starting with 1 being the MOST important. It doesn’t necessarily mean these will be the phrases you go with for your SEO efforts, but you can get a feel for which words the client places an emphasis on.
Once you have your list of relevant keywords/phrases, throw them into the Google Keyword Tool and start to look at the other suggestions. Have the client look at the long list that Google provides and have them point out any words they feel are not relevant (negative keywords). This is especially helpful if this is an industry you do not fully understand. There could be some industry terms that are extremely relevant that you may have overlooked if you didn’t get the clients help.
Competitor Research Exercise:
Take your keyword list and start to enter them into Google. See which competitors are showing up on the first page. Have the client tell you which of those websites stands out. Maybe there are a number of businesses that rank for those initial keywords, but are not exactly competitors. Start to write down any competitors that are consistently showing up in the results, along with using the clients feedback to identify primary competitors. Of course you can always do more in-depth research on these websites after the client has left.
2. Website Orientation
This may seem stupid to some people, but for some websites, having the client walk you through the different sections of the site can be crucial. Gaining a full grasp of the content, how things are functioning, and the history of the website can definately come in handy. There have been many times that I have be working with a site and I didn’t even know about a certain section of the site, or where something is being pulled from.
Having a full understanding can help with:
- Asking Other Important Questions (that you wouldn’t have known otherwise)
- Learning About Website Priorities
- Background on the Website
- What the Client Likes/Dislikes about each Section
3. Local Business Listing Information
This is probably the most painful information for a client to provide you, but is extremely necessary for localized brick-and-mortar businesses. From what I have learned and experienced, if you try sending a local business listing form to a client, they end up filling out about 25% of the fields, leaving you with a semi-complete LBL listing. The key is to do a little and holding up front and have them fill out the information during your 1st initial kick-off meeting.
- Standard Info (Address, Email, etc…)
- Provide a Local Phone Number
- Give a Well-Written Company Description
- Additional Info (parking, forms of payments, affiliations, awards, etc…)
If you can be with the client when verifying those listings, all the better. This way they can call the person who answers the phone directly and explain the verification process. I have noticed that when you call the store/business and you explain who you are, they are leery and end up waiting to talk to the person you just met with to see if you are for real. If you have the client call, it streamlines the process. Oh yeah, and don’t do the postcard…you will hear back from the client about 10% of the time and it takes 5x as long to get the listing verified.
4. Access to Important Logins and Files
This can be hard to get during your kick-off meeting, but if possible ask the client to bring either a CD with logos, images, video, etc…or some way that you can access all of this info. You will need this for your LBLs, design updates, creating profiles, and many other things as you will notice moving forward.
- Existing Facebook Login
- Existing Twitter Login
- FTP Info
- Hosting Info
- Google Analytics/Adwords Login
- CMS Login
- Shopping Cart Login
If a client you are working with has a login for a product demo, free trial, premium access area, see if you can get setup with a login for those things so you can play around in there to learn more about what they are selling.
5. Client Interactions/Meetings/Timelines
During that 1st meeting I will try to get a feel for how involved the client wants to be during the entire process. Usually you can tell try off the bat, but sometimes you can’t. Simply ask them how involved and updated would they like to be on the progress. Some clients don’t want to be bothered or simply don’t have the time to meet frequently, thats why they hired you. Or it could be the complete opposite, they want to have weekly/monthly updates on what is going on. This is a good time to set client expectations and talk about an appropriate meeting frequency.
Have a rough time-line in mind as to when certain milestones and important dates should be completed. This will help keep the project running smoothly and give both the client and agency goals to shoot for.
6. Points of Contact within the Company
Just because you met with the president of the company during the initial sales process and kick off meeting, doesn’t necessarily mean they will be the main point of contact through the project. You may have to touch multiple departments with in the company to get things done. That is why it is important to have them write down the department heads contact information and what information they will be able to provide you. Usually a big one, is getting the IT point of contact for any technical questions you may have about the website or files.
Its important to be tactful when asking for passwords and such. Some may feel that youre kind of taking the keys to the kingdom.
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"What recent online marketing efforts have there been and when did they cease?" i have seen some of experienced marketer even miss this and start for scratch
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Great additions. I can't believe I left some of those off!I think the 3rd and 4th points are very important! You may be able to learn something from their previous mistakes or see opportunities where they vaulted during their strategy/execution.Thanks for giving that feedback.
Good list, Mark. This is a critical phase in the project and has been for us a frequent cause of delays. We are continuing to hone our initial interview process. Here are a few more things we like to ask about:What are the existing web properties?Discover who's active in social media channels and which ones.What recent online marketing efforts have there been and when did they cease?What online marketing efforts are active?