By Taylor Pratt.
Youâ€™ve just landed the big contract. You have been waiting over a month to get this client to sign their contract, and now that they have you can begin your traditional SEO process. You know what Iâ€™m talking about. Keyword research, competitor research, building new content, the list goes on and on. All of these are vital to a successful SEO campaign.
So now you are 3 weeks into the project, and you are ready to send the client some recommendations. You start your e-mail off by telling the client everything they are going to need to change in order to achieve those desired high rankings. The java script menus, they have to go. We are going to have to do some URL rewriting, and what were you thinking using all of that flash?
You get a response a couple days later saying that they would like to put all SEO work on hold. They are not sure if this is the right thing for them now. They were very happy with the way the site looked; they just wanted to get traffic there now. If you are like me, your jaw hits the floor. Youâ€™ve already invested three weeks into this project and you are ready to really get the show on the road, and they want to stop it?! What did I do wrong?
Actually, it is not what you did do, itâ€™s what you didnâ€™t do. When you had met with this client, did you do anything more than find out what their business does and browse around a little on their website? You didnâ€™t do any real work on it, because you werenâ€™t getting paid to. Of course they are willing to do what it takes to market their site, they came to you didnâ€™t they? The problem is that we assume that a customer will be willing to make changes to their site in order to achieve those high rankings. We make the same kind of mistake by assuming they will want to target those keywords that people are actually looking for, and not worry about branding. Well I donâ€™t think I need to tell you what happens when you assumeâ€¦
So now that we have successfully lost a client, what are we going to learn from this? The answer is the creation of a wonderful evaluation, an SEO audit. At your first meeting with a prospective client, you should ask them one important question: Would you be willing to let us perform an SEO Audit of your website, for X amount of dollars?
The point of the audit is to bring to their attention all of the unfriendly search engine practices they are using on their site, and to find out whether or not they are willing to change their ways. Stress the fact that it actually could be a cost savings process for them. Instead of paying you hourly or monthly to do all this work, only to find out that they have spent a ton of money on changes they donâ€™t want to make, they can find out right away if SEO is for them for a much smaller cost. You still make out well because you were compensated for your time.
By bringing these issues to the table at the very beginning, you will also establish a greater line of communication with the customer. They know what is going to be expected from them, and how much work they can expect from you. The business relationship will greatly benefit from a simple audit.
The important issues to include in your audit are the changes the customer will have to make to their site and what kind of buy-in they will have to get (e.g. from their legal department, which is not always about a straight audit, but is about telling them what they need to know and not being afraid to walk away from the table.) Below is a list of architectural items to look at to help get your audit started.
Technical Site Architecture Issues
â€¢ Is the site being indexed by Google, Yahoo, and MSN?
â€¢ Do they have a black or grey listed IP address?
â€¢ Is the site in frames?
â€¢ Does the site use Java Script?
â€¢ Do they have a CMS system in place?
â€¢ How does the site perform in Internet Explorer vs. Firefox vs. Safari?
This is very important for not only you to have, but for the customer as well. Show them where they stand, and where they are lacking. Remind the customer why they need your help. They will be surprised how poor of a job they have done choosing keywords, and you will comfort them by telling them how you can help. The best part is, you will not have to worry about that horrible e-mail or phone call saying that SEO is not for them.
[The above article is a submission for Marketing Pilgrimâ€™s Search Engine Marketing Scholarship Contest. Each Monday in October, entries will be published and the most popular article of the week will qualify for the $5,000 grand prize. If youâ€™d like to submit an entry, please view the contest entry-requirements and guidelines.]