As an SEO content writer, I interact with tons of businesses that have varying degrees of experience and preparation when it comes to their SEO content strategy.
Some brands have well-researched buyer personas and a mountain of keyword research at the ready while others have no blogging strategy at all and no clear idea of who their target audience is.
Not that those in the latter category are “wrong” – as SEO professionals, it’s our job to dig into the data and create optimized content that will speak to their target audience.
That means our job is made easier by having a clear client onboarding process that helps us gain a better understanding of their business and the types of people they are trying to reach.
What follows are 10 questions I ask while onboarding SEO content clients to help me write SEO-friendly and audience-focused content tailored to each brand.
1. ‘How Do You Describe the Business to Someone Unfamiliar With the Company?’
This question gives clients a chance to explain, in their own words, what their business does.
For some brands, this answer may be straightforward.
For others, this is more complicated and warrants an explanation in “layman terms”.
Consider that a brand’s target audience is usually approaching the brand’s content at a lower level of experience and understanding.
Using “marketing-ese” or “industry-ese” to explain what a business does can leave many prospective customers confused.
This question helps you and your client define what the business does in the simplest of terms.
2. ‘What Is Your Brand’s Mission?’
Some brands might have a well thought out mission statement while others may have no mission statement at all.
It’s worth asking this question because if they do have a mission statement, you’ll likely end up referencing this at some point in their SEO content.
It also gives the client a chance to think about creating a mission statement, which can be a beneficial asset to their brand in terms of defining what makes them unique.
This works to help the brand – and their content – stand out from the competition.
3. ‘What Key Taglines, Words, or Phrases Are Used and Associated With This Brand?’
Every brand has its own “isms” that make them different from other brands. There may be words or phrases they use that add character to their content.
As an SEO content creator, you’ll want to learn what these “isms” are so you can use them throughout their content.
4. ‘What Are Some Things You Don’t Say in Your Company?’
Similarly, there will be some phrases that your client doesn’t say.
Often times, this is because they don’t want to be associated with certain terms (like “cheap” or “affordable”), are trying to set themselves apart from the competition (“marketing consultants” vs. “marketing agency”), or want to weed out a certain type of audience (general web development vs. “WordPress web development”).
At the same time, there may be some terms that you, as a marketer, are unfamiliar with and don’t want to use incorrectly in their content.
Since you want your client to be seen as an authority in their niche, you should rely on your client to tell you which terms to use and which ones to avoid.
5. ‘What Is the Purpose of This Content?’
The answer to this question may seem obvious (“Higher rankings and more traffic, of course!”) but this isn’t always the case.
Never assume what your client’s goals are because they may surprise you, and this can certainly influence your content strategy.
For example, I could assume that my clients want higher Google rankings, but after surveying my target audience, I realized that what they wanted was “consistent” and “engaging” content that “generated leads” for their business.
If I had focused on rankings, I would have missed the mark when it comes to what my clients are really trying to achieve with their content.
6. ‘What Is Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)? What Sets You Apart From Your Competitors?’
You’d be surprised how many businesses don’t have an answer to this question.
Which is why asking it is so important.
If a brand can’t define what makes them stand out from their competition, it will be hard for you, as an SEO content specialist, to create content that sells prospective customers on what your client brings to the table.
Many brands will answer with statements like “We have 10+ years of experience” or “We are a family-owned company” but these aren’t particularly compelling.
See if you can uncover what makes your client truly unique and how that relates to what their target audience is looking for.
7. ‘What Products/Services Do You Offer? Please Provide a Description of Each.’
Many SEO content writers and specialists are guilty of writing off-the-cuff without thoroughly understanding what a brand has to offer or what their products are.
Not only can this be frustrating to the client but it can be confusing to their prospective customers.
In asking this question, you again give your clients a chance to explain their offer in their own words.
- This will help you know:
- What keywords to target in relation to their offer(s).
- How to write in a way that highlights their unique benefits and features for their audience.
8. ‘Who Is the Focus Audience and What Are They Like?’
Again, don’t assume to know who their target audience is.
Always ask them.
Their ideal customer may be very different from what you have in mind or even from what their content seems to indicate on their website.
Most often, clients are seeking you out because they want to improve their content, so their existing content may not be a good indication of what their business does or who they are targeting.
So, be sure to ask your client who they want to reach, asking them to be as descriptive as possible.
9. ‘What Is the Problem the Audience Is Facing and How Does This Content Present a Solution to This Problem?
Just as your client has goals when it comes to their content, their own audience has goals when it comes to seeking out that content.
While you may be focusing on improving your client’s rankings, traffic, etc., you should try to uncover what it is that their target audience intends to find when searching for and reading that content.
Your client should be able to tell you what their audience’s primary pain points and goals are so you can work these into the SEO content.
This will help you write content that’s suited to the user (think: search intent) and provides information that’s going to compel a visitor to convert into a customer.
10. ‘What Kinds of Conversions Are We Trying to Make Through the Content (e.g., ‘Free Consultation’, Contact Form, Visit a Product Page, Etc.)?’
Many SEO content creators get lazy with this and just assume that they should direct users to the main Contact page or to schedule a free consultation, but that’s not always the case either.
Your client may have a certain conversion point, lead magnet, product, or service in mind.
When you know what the end goal is, you’ll be better prepared to work this into the content.
So, if for example, they want readers to be directed to their “10 Secrets of Digital Marketing” ebook, you can “warm” readers up by alluding to the unknown digital marketing strategies and why they need them, rather than simply linking to the client’s Contact page.
Additional Questions to Ask When Onboarding a New Content Client
As an SEO content writer myself, I have an SEO content client questionnaire which includes over 20 questions which help me get a better understanding of my client’s brand, audience, and goals.
If you plan on creating an onboarding process for your own company, I recommend adding to these questions over time, tailoring them to the needs of your unique clients.
That said, here are a few additional questions you might want to include in your onboarding process:
- “What keywords would you like for your company to rank for?”
- “What’s 1 story that serves as a good representation of your brand?”
- “Who are your top 3 competitors?”
- “In a perfect world, what would your ideal client/customer/reader be like?“
If you truly want to create on-brand, audience-focused content for your clients, you need to know their brand and understand their target audience.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to work these questions into your onboarding process so you can create their best SEO content ever.