Businesses that are looking for a vendor often spend a lot of time and energy researching and meeting with various different companies to make sure they make a selection that meets their needs. Too often the vendor isn’t doing the same thing and end up with a lot of ugly surprises. This can be avoided by doing a simple needs analysis.
What you want to put in your needs analysis is up to you, but here are the things I like to inquire about:
Do you have a web site?
A simple, but shockingly necessary question. A web site is a pretty important part of search marketing.
Do you currently use any web analytics solution?
Historic data about the site’s performance can make your life a lot easier when doing the initial legwork and research of the search contract. If they don’t currently have analytics, have them implement it ASAP so you’re not going in blind.
What type of server is your site hosted on? Linux vs. Windows
If you have a lot of server issues to address, like 301 redirects, you’ll definitely want to know what kind of server you’ll be working with.
Is your site built on a template or CMS platform?
Some templates and CMS setups can be extremely restricting and make it almost impossible to do even simple optimization tactics. This battle is a lot easier to fight if you know about it ahead of time, as opposed to digging in and hitting this massive roadblock.
How many pages does your site have?
Some sites have 10 pages. Some sites have 100 pages. Some sites have 1000+ pages. Obviously, you’re going to need different strategies depending on the size of the site.
Has any optimization been done in the past?
If the answer is yes, the conversation usually ends up being about what was previously done, the tactics used and the success (or lack of) from the search campaign. Get as much data as you can about past optimization efforts to cut down on the amount of work, and possible hair-tearing, as possible.
Has a site audit ever been completed?
Sometimes sites will have third-party audits completed without actually implementing the suggestions. If this is the case, make sure you get that report.
Has any optimization been done for local search?
Another simple but often overlooked issue. While it’s not applicable to all sites, local search is becoming a bigger and bigger factor. If local search hasn’t been address for the site before, it needs to be a priority now.
What are the primary goals or calls-to-action of the site?
Even if you’re an agency who worries just about traffic and not conversions, you’ll still want to have a crystal clear picture of what users are going to be doing on the site in order to target the right user group.
What keywords are currently being targeted?
A few seed works can make your keyword research a lot easier. The company might not be focusing on the right keywords, but they have a good idea of what their products/services are about and offer a great starting point when searching for the best keyphrases to use.
What geographic area is being targeted?
Spelling, server location, top level domains are all issues that need to be addressed when targeting specific geographic regions. Also inquire as to any further geographic expansion the company might be undertaking – make sure your plan adopts their long term goals too.
Who are your main competitors online?
Once you know who their main competitors are, you can investigate to find out what methods those companies are using for their own web sites. Find keywords and backlinks by spending some time with these competitors.
The more knowledge you have of your potential client, the more success you’ll have and the more value you’ll be able to give to that client. No one wants to spend extra time and money researching things that could have been easily identified at the beginning of the contract process.
Know and understand what your limitations are and plan for it. A little bit of prep work can go a long way, and that makes everyone happy.
Lyndsay Walker is the Director of Online Marketing at Canada’s Web Shop, located in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She is responsible for the strategy and coordination of all online marketing tactics and internal marketing efforts. Her experience includes several years of working with internationally recognized brands and some of the most competitive industries such as Internet pharmacies, payday loans and travel. Also involved in web design and development for over ten years, she brings a technical background to compliment her marketing skills.