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!
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
- 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.
- Do you have any customer persona or audience persona documentation?
- Which customer or audience persona provides the highest long-term value?
- 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.)
- How do you measure success, and what is your primary metric? For instance, is an increase in top-10 positions the main goal?
- What is your secondary success metric?
- Which social media platforms work for you, and how are you defining success?
- Do you have a document detailing your per-page keyphrase strategy and internal links pointing to the pages?
- Do you have a process for outgoing links?
- 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?
- Do you have a content strategy document and process? Can I review it?
- 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.)
- 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.)
- How do you decide on blog post topics, and who decides what gets published?
- How is the editorial calendar created, and who is on the editorial calendar team?
- How often do you publish new content?
- How often do you deviate from the editorial calendar?
- Do you have any old content on your site that may have been “repurposed” from another site?
- Do you have any “wish list” keyphrases you’d love to position?
- 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?
- Do you have any gated content? How has it worked for you?
- Have any of your site pages been generated by AI? If so, which pages?
- Have you ever been hit by a manual penalty after an algorithm update? How did you handle it?
- How do you currently gain incoming links? Do you have relationships with influencers in your industry?
- Tell me about a successful content marketing campaign and why it was successful.
- What content strategies have failed in the past. Why do you think that is?
- What content types have been most successful? FAQ pages? Comparison review posts?
- What third-party platforms do you use for SEO and content development? (Semrush? BuzzSumo? Moz?)
Marketing and SEO questions
- Who is your main competition, on and offline? Why would you consider them competition?
- What differentiates your company from your main competitors? What do you do that’s different or better?
- What is your unique sales proposition?
- Why should a prospect purchase from you rather than your competition?
- Can you tell me a story about when a customer chose your company over a competitor? Why did they make that decision?
- What are your overarching company benefit statements?
- How do you feel about your site’s “voice” (how it reads and sounds)?
- Can you show me examples of site copy you love and share why you love it?
- What is your process for following up with prospects?
- How reliable is your current process? Do you feel your follow-up process requires streamlining or additional touch-points?
- Do you send templated email follow-ups to current clients? Can I review the emails?
- Are there other marketing materials relating to this project that I didn’t mention (for example, autoresponder emails, print materials, etc.)?
- What benefit statements have been shown to resonate with your perfect customer or audience?
- When is the last time you reviewed your benefit statements and made data-driven modifications?
- Can I review your customer testimonials? (Or better yet, can I chat with a few of your happy clients?)
- 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?
- Do you have any online resources (such as FAQ pages) that answer the most common reader/prospect questions?
- Can I talk to your best salesperson to get their perspective?
- What are the most common objections you hear from prospects?
- What is the primary action you want readers to take after reading your content?
- What is the secondary call to action?
- 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?
- 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
- Will you provide the keyphrases and background documents, or do you need me to conduct the research?
- Who else will I be working with (for instance, an external SEO company or an internal team?).
- Who is my main point of contact?
- What is the expected content turnaround time after I receive the necessary information?
- Who will review the content, and what are their positions within the company?
- Will your primary source of contact compile and review internal edits before sending the draft for revisions?
- How long does content approval take?
- In what format do you prefer to review content? For instance, via Word or Google Docs
- 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.)
- How will I know if the content is working? Will I have continued access to your analytics?
- How often do “quick turnaround” posts happen?
- How is the article and page word count determined? Can blog posts be different lengths, or must they all be long-form?
- Do you have a content repurposing strategy? If not, would you like one?
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