Stop asking… “What are your keywords?”

Whenever I hear SEOs or sales people ask prospective clients that question, it makes me shudder a little. It’s not the client’s job to know what their keywords are. It’s our job, as the people working on their campaign, to figure that out in line with their actual business objectives.

With that in mind, here are 21 questions I like to know the answer to before working out what is likely to work for a prospect.

The Basics about the Business

1. What do you want to achieve as a business?

I’d hazard a guess that your insurance client’s business objective isn’t to be number for ‘car insurance.’ It’s probably to generate a certain amount of business growth, to hit a target turnover or profit figure or to grow in size and so on.

2. What do you do?

It might seem an overly obvious question in some cases. But get someone there to tell you anyway. It’s the people in it every single day, those who care the most about the business, who’ll be able to tell you with real passion. You might think your prospect simply sells children’s furniture. They might tell you they sell furniture that helps children sleep better or that reassures Mum and Dad. This will give you chance to ascertain USPs they might not even think to list as USPs and will probably bring up ‘buzzwords’ they use that will help you in understanding how this business positions itself.

3. What makes you different to your competitors?

4. Who are your customers?

You want to know who their customers are so you can figure out three things:

  • Where these customers hang out online
  • How they’re likely to find what they’re looking for
  • The publications, websites and people who influence your customers

5. What does generating new business cost you at the moment?

What’s the cost per lead or cost per sale? What do they spend right now on marketing and what does it return? You’re going to need to know this to ascertain whether or not your proposed SEO campaign is going to stack up against other marketing channels.

6. What’s your average order/lead/sale value and margin?

7. Who are your closest competitors?

Data, Data, Data…

8. Do you have Google Analytics or another web analytics programme? (And can I have access?)

9. Do you currently do PPC? (And again, can I look please?)

10. What’s your website conversion rate? (If known)

11. What rate do you convert enquiries to sales?

For lead generation sites, getting an enquiry isn’t even half the battle. You’ll need as much insight about how various leads convert to sales (on average) as the prospect is able to give you.


12. What content assets do you have?

You’re going to want to ensure all copy currently on their site is theirs and unique to them, you’ll want to know how much text copy they have elsewhere not on the site, any images they own (whether online or not at the moment) any video content, any previous ad graphics etc etc. If your campaign will be content intensive, the quantity and quality of content assets they already have will make a phenomenal difference to how much work you’re going to need to do just to lay the foundations and will therefore affect the SEO plan and potentially the pricing.

13. Do you have a PR department or agency?

14. Do you have a development team or agency?

15. Who currently runs your other marketing campaigns?

16. Do any of your staff or directors speak at conferences or write for any industry specific publications?

You can totally pimp their well known employees and directors out to blogs and publications for interviews and in depth editorial content.

15. What other websites or domains do you own or control the content on?

Processes, Compliance and Politics

16. What’s the process for us getting sign off to distribute some content and how long would it typically take? Do you have a compliance department who’d want to see content?

You need to know you can get on with your job efficiently. And if you will have a process of sign off before you can contribute content to another website or produce a piece of content on their site, you need to know about it so you can plan accordingly.

17. Are you regulated by any bodies that control what you can and cannot say on your site?

Some industries, in particular in some areas of insurance and finance, have tight regulations about what can and cannot be published on their websites (outside of the typical legal requirements and ASA guidelines that should regulate all sites). And some

18. Who has to approve suggested changes to the website and how long will it take to action them?

Obviously, this will depend on specifically what type of changes they are. Some companies will act quickly and get most recommendations you make actioned in days. Other (often big) organisations might have a process that requires sign off at several levels and could take a number of weeks. With critical changes to a website (that could be the difference between progress and none) you need to know you will be able to push them through. The timescales here could have a monumental impact on your overall SEO plan and progress forecasts.


Previous SEO

We can use tools like Search Metrics, Majestic and Open Site Explorer to delve into previous activities and ascertain whether there may be a shady past. But asking the business itself about previous activities could yield insights that these tools simply can’t.

19. Have you done SEO before and if so, whodunnit? 

20. What results, if so, have you enjoyed and what challenges have you faced?

Get the client’s insight about it even if you think your tools can tell you. Tools will give you numbers and patterns relating to the website. They won’t tell you how the prospect perceives SEO itself and the previous work done.

And Finally…

21. What do you see the role of and new SEO agency as being?

Some prospects think you’re going to be just building links. Some think it will encompass web development and all kinds of other things not included. Make sure you know exactly what this prospect thinks you’ll be able to take on before going away and putting a plan together.


Leave a Reply