56 Questions to Ask Your New SEO Writing Client [Updated for 2021]

[Heather’s note: I originally wrote this post in 2011 and started with 31 questions. Since then, I’ve added 25 more questions you can ask your new SEO writing client, for a total of 56! Enjoy!]

Anyone who knows me knows that I tend to ask a lot of questions…

Why? Because that’s how I learn.

When you’re 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 that you’ll be spending 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 under your belt.

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 the “meat” of your questions for the kick-off client call.

Reporting/set-up questions 

  1. Can I review your analytics?
  2. Do you have any customer persona documents? Or market research documents? Can I see them? (New to market research? Here’s more information about what is B2B market research and why it’s important.)
  3. Can I see reports outlining your SEO/content marketing success to date?
  4. How do we measure success? Conversions? Page positions? Social media love?
  5. Which social media platforms are working for you?
  6. What is your per-page keyphrase strategy?
  7. 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?
  8. Do you need me to create the strategy and research the keyphrases?
  9. How important is it for you to position for 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?
  10. What’s the one thing that drives most of your current content marketing success?
  11. What tools/platforms do you use? (Semrush? BuzzSumo? Moz?)

Marketing and SEO questions

  1. Who is your online competition? Why would you consider them competition?
  2. What is your unique sales proposition?
  3. Why should a prospect purchase from you rather than your competition?
  4. What are your company benefit statements?
  5. What content approach has worked in the past?
  6. What has not worked?
  7. Do you like your site’s “voice” (how it reads and sounds)?
  8. If not, what’s an example of what you would prefer?
  9. How do you follow up with prospects?
  10. How do you follow up with current clients?
  11. Can I see your other marketing materials (autoresponder emails, print materials, etc.)?
  12. Are there any keyphrases that you’re not currently positioning for, and you want to gain a stronger position?
  13. How do you currently promote new content (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)?
  14. Who is your “perfect customer(s)”?
  15. What benefit statements are important to those customers?
  16. What customer profile would not be a good fit for your business?
  17. Can I review your customer testimonials? (Or better yet, can I chat with a few of your happy clients?)
  18. Has your company won any awards? Can I see the documentation?
  19. What are the most common questions that customer service answers? How do they answer them?
  20. Can I talk to your best salesperson to get their perspective?
  21. What are the most common objections to overcome?
  22. Has your product/service been featured in a book, endorsed by an organization, etc.?
  23. What immediate action do you want readers to take?
  24. Is there a secondary call to action?
  25. What is your biggest sales “sticking point” right now?
  26. How will the content be promoted?
  27. What is your influencer outreach strategy?
  28. Is there anything you’ve wanted to try (for instance, white papers) but you haven’t had the time?
  29. What content types have been most successful? FAQ pages? Comparison review posts? 

Process and procedure questions

  1. Who else will I be working with (for instance, an external SEO company)?
  2. Who is my main point of contact?
  3. What is the expected content turnaround time?
  4. Who will review the content?
  5. How long does content approval take?
  6. How would you like me to send you the content? For instance, in a Word document?
  7. How often would you like to receive project updates?
  8. How will I know if the content is working? Will I have continued access to your analytics?
  9. How is the editorial calendar created, and who is on the editorial calendar team?
  10. How often do you publish new content? 
  11. How often do you deviate from the editorial calendar?
  12. How often do “quick turnaround” posts happen?
  13. Do you have an SEO style guide or any requirements that I can review? (Warning: beware of style guides with funky SEO writing formulas like this and this.)
  14. 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.)
  15. How is the article and page word count determined? Can blog posts be different lengths, or must they all be long-form?
  16. Do you have a content repurposing strategy? If not, would you like one?

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35 replies
  1. Jen Phillips April says:

    Great list Heather! I sometimes meet some resistance on the part of the client to go through this interviewing process but it truly is necessary. The more info you have, the better copy you can write.

    Thanks for such a comprehensive list. Jen

  2. Heather says:

    Thanks, Jen. You’re right – I’ve had clients ask, “OK, how long is this going to take” when I tell them about the interview process. But every time I do it, I learn SO much more than if I just sent over a list of questions via email. And the client’s copy is always better for it, too. :)

  3. Emma says:

    This is a really great breakdown of every vital base that should be covered when beginning to tackle any kind of SEO-centered project. I don’t think that many people stop to realize that SEO strategies encompass so much more than merely copying and pasting keywords into a document; really, there’s a method to the madness, and asking the right questions of your client can absolutely help you get on the same page, strategy-wise, in the hopes of building up the strongest search engine friendly content possible.

  4. Heather says:

    EXACTLY! You’re so right, Emma – there is a method to the madness. The “getting to know you” process doesn’t take that long…but it’s very, very important. :)

  5. Kristin Offiler says:

    Awesome list. Good copywriters will definitely seek out answers to these and other questions for the benefit of the client and the success of the copy. You really can’t do the job well if you don’t have a solid body of info. Thanks for this post!

  6. Leo McDevitt says:

    I always ask to see documentation that supports a company’s claims, as well as any contradictory documentation.

    I find it is best to always be prepared to defend or expend upon any copy I provide. Simply parroting a company’s claims can land you in hot water! Guilt by association is difficult to put behind you.

    Copy credibility matters, when you write, you put your name on the line. A client that doesn’t understand this is not worth working for.

  7. Kelly Kautz says:

    Great list, but I’ve found that bombarding the client with questions at the beginning can be a huge turn-off. Most people come to me with two questions: What do you charge? and How fast can you get it done? Only once we’ve gotten those out of the way do I proceed with my own questions … and then cautiously.

    • Heather says:

      Hey, Kelly!

      Thanks so much for your comment!.

      I completely agree that you wouldn’t ask a lot of these questions during the prospect phase. At that point, you’re more trying to feel each other out and establishing rapport. Once the client signs on the dotted line, then it’s more appropriate to ask a lot of questions. :)

  8. Karen Marchetti, Response Coach says:

    I’d also add:

    – What offers have you tested, and what have been the results for each

    I’m focused on getting the response, so no matter what copy I’m writing, I’m always thinking about the next step I want the prospect to take — and what offer is going to motivate him or her to take that step.

    – What is the normal sales process that you go through to get a client

    I need to understand the logical steps in their sales process, so my copy (and offers) can complement (or replicate) that process.

    – can I talk to your best salesperson

    The company’s best salesperson typically knows prospects’ hot buttons, and what benefits of the company’s solution gets prospects most interested. Many times, Sales knows more about “why customers buy from you” than Marketing. Also, for an industry I’m not familiar with, there’s no better way to learn the lingo than from Sales.

  9. Christopher says:

    These are some really great questions. The one thing I would add is, these questions are great for a potential client that has contacted you FIRST!

    If you are prospecting and cold calling then the potential client won’t likely be as patient.

    More than likely they’ll still be trying to figure out what you want, and why you are calling them on their cell phone while they’re driving!?! (even though their contact number on their website is indeed their cell phone)

    Great post!

  10. Ben says:

    Excellent list of questions Heather.

    Makes it so much easier to specify and quote a project.

    Also help when outsourcing copy, to have this info ready. :)

  11. Philip says:

    I was looking to read how seasoned professionals interact with their clients. Looks like I hit a gold mine! My question would be who is your intended audience and what action do you want them to take.

  12. Marty Rogers says:

    Brilliant – thanks so much Heather, I love seeing updated posts on blogs. Most people publish and forget but revisiting can be great and has been proven to provide an uplift in the SERPs! :)

  13. James Mawson says:

    These are excellent questions. For me, the most obvious thing that’s missing though is there’s really little or nothing about who the customers actually are. Whenever I get a brand new client I usually like to spend a small amount of time just building a mental picture of a “typical customer”.. age, gender, lifestyle, relationship status, hobbies and interests, how much they work, cultural background. This always takes a bit of probing because without fail the first thing every client says is “oh, we don’t have a typical customer”. But you press a bit and you find some broad trends emerge. For clients that have a shopfront or otherwise deal with their customers in person, one question I like to ask is what kind of cars the customers are showing up in. Left to our own devices, good copywriters can often have a reasonable intuition about who we’re writing to, but as much as possible I like to base this on actual observations rather than raw assumption.

    This discussion doesn’t have to go on all day.. just 3 or 4 minutes can be very worthwhile. When I was copywriting full time at an agency I often didn’t get the chance to have this chat, and I really felt the lack of it in my work.

    All up though, great list.. I’m gonna pilfer a couple of these Qs for myself :p :)

  14. Virginia says:

    Super useful post! I’ve just discovered your blog and have found so much interesting and useful info, so thanks a lot.

    I ask some of these questions already but there’s other I hadn’t come up with and will be adding to my interview process asap. It definitely shows when you haven’t done your proper research. Most of my clients are small, very new business and most of the times I end up having to research the answer to these questions by myself because they haven’t even thought about it themselves.

  15. فلزیاب تصویری says:

    Thank you for this good article that you shared with us. I am working on the word metal detector, and after analyzing the audience and asking questions such as who is reading this material, I was able to get a better result.


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