Questions to Ask, Accounts to Access & Tools to Use
This is part two in a series of articles where I’ll try to outline a process for conducting high quality, thorough SEO audits. As I mentioned in part one of the series on pricing an SEO audit, this is mainly aimed at SEOs who are just starting to take on side work, striking out on their own for the first time, and/or just starting to develop a small agency, but hopefully there will be some reminders and tips for anyone who offers SEO audits.
Now that we’ve covered some of the challenges and considerations around pricing an SEO audit, we’ll assume you did a great job scoping, pricing, and selling your proposal and that you’ve actually landed the audit. Before you really dig in and start the work to generate the report, there are three things you want to think about so that you’re well situated as you start to actually execute the audit:
- Which accounts will I need access to?
- What do I need to know about the client site to produce a great audit? (What questions should I ask?)
- What tools will I need to have handy as I walk through the audit?
By making sure you have the proper access, information from the client, and tools at your disposal you’ll be a few steps ahead of the game and will be able to make the most efficient use of your own time while also creating the best possible audit for the client. Let’s walk through some ideas for each of these areas.
Accounts You’ll Want Access to for Your SEO Audit
To get started with an SEO audit I like to make sure I have access to the following client accounts at a minimum:
- Access to Google Analytics & Third Party Analytic Packages – This is clearly a must for any SEO site audit, and is pretty straight forward. I think at this point if you’re doing an in-depth audit and valuing your services properly, it’s unlikely your client wouldn’t have some sort of analytics in place.
- Access to Google AdWords – If the client is using AdWords getting access to this data and understanding cost metrics, conversion data, and account structure can be helpful in informing your suggestions around site architecture, keyword research and targeting, and in helping you better understand the niche and the economics of the business (ie how much are they paying for sales/leads via PPC).
- Access to their Webmaster Tools Account – We’ll walk through some of the specific uses of Webmaster Tools in a later section of the series, but this is an invaluable free utility for you in conducting your audit – if they don’t have an account, you should push (or even insist) they create one.
Google account access can be fairly messy in general, typically if you have a single account set up for access to both analytics and Webmaster Tools you should be able to easily have access granted for each of those (more information on that process for Webmaster Tools here, as people often have issues) and then create an MCC account for AdWords (even if you aren’t managing paid accounts it’s handy for accessing client PPC accounts) – unfortunately you’ll have to create a different Google account for this purpose, and even more unfortunately there may be instances where the client is already linked to an MCC (their current PPC agency, for instance) and you’ll have to actually create a separate Google account just for that client, independent of either above (since your company Google account will likely already be linked to an AdWords account somewhere – your own or possibly the first client site you worked on, etc.).
Head spinning yet? Here’s how the accounts break down, in a more digestible format:
- firstname.lastname@example.org – Use this for your company’s own AdWords account and to link client analytics and Webmaster Tools accounts to.
- email@example.com – Use this for your MCC
- firstname.lastname@example.org – Create this account specifically for the client’s account where you can’t get MCC access. Unfortunately you’ll have to do this again for any new client with the same issue
Beyond the Google accounts, you may also want access to some other data sources such as the client’s CRM. If the client does lead gen in particular you’ll want to be able to access “back of the loop” data so that you can better understand not just what drives conversions, but where quality leads and actual sales come from in terms of sources and particularly keywords.
Basically any additional account that may house data that would help you better understand the client’s business and the specific sources of traffic – particularly from SEO and PPC – could potentially help your audit be more informed.
Questions to Ask About Conversions, Financials, & Goals
Towards that end, you want to make sure you’re asking the client about how their business works so that you can truly understand how your audit can help impact not only rankings and traffic, but also revenue and profit. Here are some good questions to get you started:
Is the conversion data in Google Analytics and Google AdWords accurate?
Believe it or not this is an important question – a ton of clients have known issues with conversion tracking that they may neglect to mention. Obviously if there isn’t any conversion tracking installed that will be obvious (and should lead the “recommended next steps” section of your report) but they very well may have it set but know (or suspect) that it’s not tracking properly – it doesn’t hurt to ask!
Is there any “back of the loop” data in regards to the value of a conversion not represented in Google Analytics/AdWords (ie are all leads represented as equal in Google Analytics while in reality some are worth more money to your business than others?) If yes, can you track that data at the keyword level, and can we get access to that information?
Again here you’re validating the quality of your data as you analyze the business impact of various tactics, keywords, etc. through Google Analytics or Google AdWords.
Are there any specific goals (ie a specific % you’d like to increase SEO traffic and/or conversions by by a specific date) you hope to achieve that we should be aware of in making recommendations?