64 Questions to Ask Your New SEO Writing Client [Updated for 2022]
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?)
Here’s how to find high-paying SEO writing clients!
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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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
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. :)
What a fantastic and comprehensive list! I ask most of these already, except for the reporting questions. I am adding those for sure! Thanks!
Fantastic, Samantha – and thank you! I’m so glad that you found the list useful! :)
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.
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. :)
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!
Thanks for reading the post, Kristen, and for your comment!
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.
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.
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. :)
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.
Karen, these are excellent questions! Thanks so much! :)
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)
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. :)
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.
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! :)
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 :)
Good points — and pilfer away! :)
Truly great list for someone like me who is just taking my first steps in copywriting for the web. Thank you.
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.
The information you have posted is very useful. Thank you for nice and wonderful Information.
Thanks for the list of Questions Heather, sometimes we will forget some questions to ask, these list can definitely help me.
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.