When starting a new SEO project, whether that project be an in-house project or starting a relationship with a new client, you should develop a list of kick-off questions that will aid your project’s success and direction.
This can serve as a formal start to your SEO project. This will also help you understand the benefits and potential risks of a project, get necessary buy-in ahead of time, and understand the project scope and available resources.
I have provided a list of questions you may want to consider when launching a new project. This is not an exhaustive list, and depending on the type of project you’re initiating, not all may be applicable to your specific situation. I recommend using the questions below as a guide to develop your own kick-off document that you can keep as part of your project management plan.
Determining SEO Maturity Level
These questions are most applicable for brand new clients, first-time projects within a new company, or other similar situations. Assessing SEO maturity level is helpful in understanding the organization’s experience in SEO which will help you plan how much educating and evangelizing needs to be done, or understand past experience with other SEO vendor that may impact this project.
- What past SEO work has been done on areas related to this project (website, subdomain, section of a site such as blog, etc)
- Do any team members have SEO experience?
- Have all teams affected by this project signed off on the need of SEO
Goals & Expectations
These questions make sure that any goals and expectations of this project are attainable and measurable. Try to steer away from simple goals like “this project should increase our traffic” and think of other benefits outside of traffic or rankings. Sometimes it’s helpful to ask more open-ended questions to uncover the project’s true purpose. I included some examples below. Always try to use SMART goals to make sure everyone is on the same page about how you will define success of this project.
Also make sure you address expectations. For example, how often you check in, how you will communicate and more.
- What are the goals for this project?
- What problems is this trying to solve?
- What prompted you to initiate this project now?
- What areas of your business will this impact, and in what ways?
- What project management styles are currently in place? For example, lean, agile, waterfall, etc.
- How often does the team hold regular meetings and updates? Are there daily standups you should be involved in?
- How does the team prefer to communicate? For example email, slack, through a project management system such as Jira?
- How should individual tasks be submitted? Are these given to an internal stake-holder to schedule, should they be added to Jira, etc
- What is your current content planning and publishing process?
- Do you work with any PR agencies or have an inhouse PR team?
Branding & Market Considerations
It’s important to consider the brand and the market in your recommendations, especially as it relates to content and off-site SEO opportunities. This can impact what types of content you’re able to publish, certain markets to focus on or avoid, and more.
- What is your target market, and do you have any user personas?
- Are there any legal considerations when publishing content? For example industries like insurance may have specific legal considerations to follow.
- Are there any topics that should be avoided?
- Do you have any user research studies available?
It’s important to determine what resources are available to you, and what you may need to bring to the table yourself. This will help you scope the project, determine the length of the project if there are resourcing concerns, and identify any potential challenges you may face.
- Are the teams you will work with fully staffed with availability to take on SEO tasks? This may include the development team, designers, content writers, PR teams and more.
- How are website metrics currently evaluated? For example do they have Google analytics, and are appropriate goals set up? Identify if any goals need to be completed, and if there are any sign-offs needed to do so.
- What is the process for getting access to necessary tools such as jira, analytics, slack, etc?
The deliverables of an SEO project can be very broad, everything from initial keyword research to full technical audits, to regular reports of link building efforts. Depending on the project and the scope, a full list of deliverables may be better discussed via a roadmap or presented in format such as a Gantt chart. However, it doesn’t hurt to discuss some main deliverables here, especially if the project is well-defined.
- How do they prefer to receive deliverables? For example Google charts, a software or tool they use internally, etc.
- Are there any deliverables not discussed previously that they expect to see right away?
- Are there any supporting documentation or guides they may need? For example, sometimes an investor might like to see a few slides about the organic strategy, or a c-level exec might like specific forecasts.
- Who should be included in project updates and deliverables? Some stakeholders may want to be CCd on everything, while others prefer you go directly to a project manager who will filter information as needed.
What other questions can you think of that I may not have included here? If you see anything missing, please let me know. I intend to keep this updated with relevant information.
To access these questions as a downloadable doc, please view the Google doc here and create a copy for your own use.