Typically when assessing a new SEO client, I will look at a number of different factors that will help me to determine realistic exceptions.  Its funny to see companies give pricing to a potential client without even understanding the clients needs and their industry.

I will usually run through a few exercises with the client to better understands goals and objectives.  Sometimes when you ask the client to describe what they do, and they respond by saying “its on the website”, you may have to try other ways to get the information you need, out of them.  Here is a breakdown of the type of information I will generally try to gather using feedback from the client and research I will do after I speak to the potential client.

Clients Goals

There is some key information you will want to gather from the client that will help you to formulate expectations.  Finding out what demographic areas they cater to, their product/service base, a competitive advantage, their internal processes, budgets, etc…  Depending on if they are looking for long-term or short-term results, will adjust the type of strategy you create.

Industry Saturation

It is good to get an understanding of the industry landscape to see how many other players there are in the geographic area they cater to.  For example, a business in the insurance industry that is trying to rank on a national level will have high saturation compared to a localized chiropractor.  You should also take into consideration national brands that may have a stranglehold on the industry and SERPs. Is the industry relatively new? Is it established? Are they high or low barriers to entry?

Competition in the SERPs

Generally I will perform a number of searches for the primary keywords that the keyword analysis is telling me to go for.  I will look at the top 10 organic listings and look at some key data for each website in the SERPs.

  • # of Competing Sites
  • PageRank
  • Pages Indexed
  • Inbound Links
  • On-Site Optimization

I will also look at the type of websites that are in the SERPs.  For localized searches, typically you will see a lot of large directories like Yellowpages.com, Superpages.com, and Yelp.  If you notice that a lot of blog posts are ranking in the natural results, that there is probably not a lot of competition.  It is important to see how authoritative the websites in the top 10 are, since these are the sites you will be trying to move above.

Search Volume/Trending

The amount of traffic you expect to drive through organic traffic is going to be determined by the estimated search volume and the ability to gain good rankings for the short and long tail keywords.  For example, if you are trying to optimize a website that is more of a flyer-based website, it will be much harder to rank for the long tail, compared to a site that has a blog with updated content.

If the client has seasonality in their industry, there are going to be fluctuations in search traffic.  Depending on when you are starting your optimization efforts, it can scue the results.  For example, if you working with a landscaper and you start your SEO campaign in June, you may see results in October/November.  Even if you start seeing page 1 results, since it is the off-season for landscapers, they may not see true results until the following spring, once search traffic picks up.

Current Condition of Website

There could be hundreds of on-page factors that could determine a clients SEO expectations.  Domain Age, size of website, inbound links, site credibility and site architecture/indexability all could have impacts on time-frames and expectations.  A great example could be a company that has a blog, however it is not optimized and being indexed properly.  By doing a few simple tweaks you could possibly generate hundreds of new pages into the search engines index and gain long-term traffic in a short amount of time.

Strategy Intensity

There can be a number of ways to go about your SEO strategy.  You can take an ultra aggressive approach or you can take a slower approach.  It really comes down to the clients willingness to work at their online marketing efforts and what time they put into it.

  • Budget
  • Internal Resources
  • Passion/Desire
  • Marketing Tactics/Outlets Used
  • Contractual Terms