The Best Darn Local SEO Client Questionnaire

If you’re a business owner who needs more local visibility, you want to make sure the person helping you has all he/she needs to deliver the goods.

Or, if you’re a local-SEO pro, you want to make sure you have all you need to deliver the goods.

The questionnaire I send to potential clients helps do both of those things.  It tells me what I need to know in order to be able to help, and to be able to say up-front how I can help.  Oh, and it helps me avoid mistakes.

I’ve refined my questionnaire over several years.  My experiences – smooth and rough – have taught me what info I need before I can or should do any work.

In 2010 I didn’t have a questionnaire (tsk, tsk…bad idea, Phil).  In 2011 it had maybe 10 questions.  In 2012 it had 14-19.  Now…well, I’ll let you count ‘em if you want to.

Below are all the questions (I can think of) that the person working on your local SEO – even if that person is you – will need the answers to before any work is done:

(You can also download the questionnaire on Google Drive.)

1.  Best email address and phone number at which to reach you:

2.  Official / legal name of your business:

3.  Business name you plan to use for your Google Places page:

4.  Your business address. Please specify what type of address it is: office, store, home, virtual office, PO Box, etc.

5.  Do you share this street address with any other businesses (including any other businesses you own)?

6.  Is that the only location of your business?  If not, please list the addresses of your other locations and what types of addresses they are (office, storefront, etc.).

7.  Where do you do business with your customers: at your address or at theirs?

8.  Roughly how long has your business been located at that address?

9.  Office phone number:

10.  Do you use this phone number for any other locations or other businesses?

11.  Please list all former / alternate business names, addresses, and phone numbers for the location(s) you’d like my help on.

12.  Your website URL:

13.  Is this the only website you use for this business?  If not, please list your other sites.

14.  Do you have the ability to make changes to your website whenever you’d like?

15.  Who bought your website hosting and domain name?

16.  Have you ever experienced sudden and steep drops in traffic or rankings in Google? If so, please describe.

17.  Do you have any plans to redesign your site, rename your website, rebrand your business, or move to a new business address in the foreseeable future?

18.  Has your Google Places page ever “disappeared” or taken a severe hit in rankings, to your knowledge?

19.  Do you have access to your Google Places page?  (In other words, could you make edits to your page right now?)

20.  What are 1-10 keywords for which you’d most like to rank in Google?

21.  If you had to pick ONE most-important service or search term to get visible for, what would it be?

22.  What is the specific city / geographical area you’d like to be visible in, ideally?

23.  How do you currently attract most of your customers / clients / patients?  (E.g. word-of-mouth, AdWords ads, etc.)

24.  Do you have any notable rankings in Google?  If so, please list at least a few keywords you currently rank for.

25.  Have you listed your business on sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, etc.?  If so, who has the login info for those listings?

26.  If I said that you should ask some of your customers / clients / patients to write reviews for you, how willing would you be to ask them?  (Let’s use a scale of 1-10: 1 meaning you refuse to ask, 10 meaning you’re totally motivated.)

27.  If I suggested that you write a few pages of info about your services, would you or someone in your company be willing to write those pages (with my guidance)?

28.  Have you ever tried to “build links” to your website, or paid someone else to do so?

29.  Have you worked with any SEO companies in the past?  If so, what was your experience?

30.  What keeps you up at night?  What’s been your biggest marketing challenge?

31.  How urgently do you feel you need more customers / clients / patients?  (Let’s use a scale from 1-10: 1 being fairly comfortable, 10 being desperate.)

32.  What made you want to contact me, and contact me today?

If the questions seem like a lot of work to answer – even though they’re not, and should take maybe 15 minutes to fill out – think of each one as hours, dollars, and heartache you’re saving.

Any questions on the questions?  Any you’d add to the list?  Leave a comment!

Matchmaking Advice for Local SEOs and Business Owners

Most business owners and the local SEOs they hire get along pretty well, in my experience.

But when it doesn’t “work out,” usually the cause was avoidable.  Not that one person is unethical.  Not that one person is an Aries and the other is a Virgo.

Smooth local-SEO campaigns depend 95% on one thing: thorough communication up-front – before anyone has invested significant time or money.

I won’t bore you with the typical, trite, obvious advice, like “be communicative” or “be open and transparent.”  That’s all true, but it’s not news to you.  It’s also not helpful – way too vague.

What is good communication, in this context?

If you’re the local SEO, is it enough to answer questions you’re asked in emails, or to be available for a quick phone call?  Do you need to be more proactive?  If so, how?

If you’re the business owner, do you always defer judgment (“You’re the expert”), or do you ask some tough questions?  If it’s the latter, what are the questions you should ask – and what kinds of answers should you expect or demand?

I’m glad you asked, gentle reader, because I have a few suggestions.

I’m not really talking about how two parties should “get along” on an ongoing basis.  Rather, I’m talking about how you – whether you’re the local SEO-er or the business owner – can help ensure you’re a good fit before you begin working together.


Advice for Local SEOs:

1. Have a questionnaire.  Ask potential clients to fill it out either before any money changes hands, or at the very least before you do any work.  To me, this is the most important item of all. It’s what allows you to know what your client’s goals are and the extent to which you think you can help – if at all.  It’s better to find that out sooner rather than later.  You can take a look at my questionnaire.

2.  Have testimonials from or case-studies on some of your clients.  Preferably you’d have these on your site.  But if not, you definitely want them on-hand in some form – and you’ll want to let anyone know who’s thinking of working with you that you have some “references.”  Just give people some sense of what you’ve been able to do and what you’re capable of doing.  (If you’re just starting out and don’t have any testimonials or case-studies to highlight, just leave a comment on this post or email me and I’ll pitch in some ideas/alternatives.)

3.  Have a “poster-child” client (or a few of them).  Someone who doesn’t mind if you tell potential clients “OK, here’s an example of how I helped this one business…” Mike Blumenthal does this.  On and off my site I often refer to one of my long-time clients, Palumbo Landscaping.

4.  Sell a mini-product or how-to guide on your site.  Something relevant to local SEO.  Something that shows people what it’s like to pay you – even a tiny amount – and get good stuff in return.  This gives people who may become clients an idea of what you might be like to work with on a larger scale.   It’s a win-win.  Some great examples are Matt McGee’s do-it-yourself SEO guide and Nyagoslav Zhekov’s guide to citation-building. Heck, many people who ordered my humble one-page review handouts have become clients of mine, simply because they had a good experience with me and my offerings on a smaller scale.

5.  Keep a list of “good guys” to refer potential clients to for services you may not offer.  If there’s a service that someone needs but that you don’t offer, it’s better to recommend one or two good providers than to tell that person  “Umm, we don’t do that” and leave him/her frustrated.

6.  Make sure any people referred to you by word-of-mouth take a few minutes to learn about your services.  Even someone who came to you “pre-sold” based on a friend’s recommendation should know as much about your services and policies as would someone who stumbles across your site, doesn’t know you from Adam, and needs to read all about your services even to consider working with you.  If someone calls or emails me and says “Hey, my friend recommended me to you – where do I send the check?” I’ll usually ask that person to read over the pages on my site where I describe my services, or I’ll spend a few minutes describing each one.

7.  Track rankings.  Don’t go crazy with it; weekly (even monthly) rankings reports usually aren’t necessary, in my experience.  Just provide some record of your client’s rankings before you start work, and another one after a few months have gone by and you’ve done most or all of the necessary work and have given Google enough time to “digest” the changes you’ve made.  I usually fill out a good-old-fashioned spreadsheet (like this one).  It’s simple, easy for your client to make sense of, easy for you to make, and makes for a nice before-and-after picture.  It’s also another way to stand behind your work, and clients appreciate that.


Advice for business owners:

1. Question your local SEO-er.  Doesn’t need to turn into the next Inquisition, but asking some “hows” and “whys” is always wise.  Make your local SEO explain things at least a little bit – especially if something he/she says doesn’t quite square with your experience or expectations.

2.  Expect questions.  Nay, hope for them: If your local SEO-er never asks questions about your situation, he/she may not understand your situation well enough to help you.  I suggest erring on the side of volunteering as much detail as possible about your business and local-SEO efforts (your goals, what you’ve tried, etc.) and even grilling your SEO person a little – especially if you haven’t been asked many questions.

3.  Ask which service your local SEO-er thinks is the best fit, and why.  Most of them offer more than one “level” or package.  It’s easier on everyone if you’re not paying for work you don’t need.  This question can also be a nice little test of character: Obviously, you don’t want to work with someone whose impulse is to try to sell you on the super-duper deluxe service when the “Basic” might be all you need.

4.  Ask whether your potential local SEO has worked with clients in your industry or in one like it.  A “No” answer isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  It’s just that a “Yes” answer means your local SEO probably is a little more likely to know the ins and outs of getting a business like yours visible in local search.  In cases where I’m working with someone in an industry I’ve never dealt with before, I usually say “I haven’t worked with someone in your line of work, but I have worked with people in the such-and-such industry, which I think is pretty similar as far as local search is concerned.”

5.  Understand that Google is a “black box” in many ways.  Any local SEO who claims to have it “figured out” is a liar.  Much of what we know is a result of trial and error.  As is the case in most areas of business and life, in the SEO world there’s not “scientific” evidence for much – not that that would necessarily help you for long, if at all.  Sometimes the reasons behind our suggestions are obvious or become obvious pretty quickly – like how if you don’t follow Google’s quality guidelines, you’ll likely end up shooting yourself in the foot.  Don’t hesitate to ask the questions, but be prepared for many different species of answers.

6.  Consider buying the mini-product or guide that your local-search buff offers (like what I mentioned earlier).  Again, it’s a good way to see what it’s like to deal with that person and see how much he/she can help you on a micro scale.  If it looks like junk, well, that may also tell you a thing or two.

7.  Read this excellent post by Miriam Ellis: The Zen of Local SEO.

By the way, this stuff applies to any type of SEO/SEM work.  But I think good communication is particularly crucial to local SEO, simply because so many aspects of it are counterintuitive, and because some steps (especially optimizing one’s website and asking for customer reviews) take a little bit of coordination or teamwork.

Got any advice for local SEOs or business owners (or both)?  Leave a comment!