This is part two of a two-part series outlining ten questions that must be asked by both SEOs and clients in order to ensure a successful SEO campaign. While these questions can be asked of just about any one in any area of life, sometimes it helps to make them applicable to specific situations. In this case the situation is SEO and running a successful online business. You can read the first five questions that guarantee SEO success here.

Do I ask questions?

Questioning is an essential ingredient to any successful campaign. The SEO must question everything in order to develop full knowledge of the site they are working on. They have to question the intent behind the site design, layout, architecture, link profile, keywords, and content. Even more importantly, they must question themselves. They must make sure they question their implementation and provide themselves with an honest assessment of the performance of any of their strategies.

The SEO must also question results from the client's perspective. Is the client getting what they want? Are they getting what they expect? Are they getting what they need? Along these lines, the SEO can question the client's understanding of what is best for them. Many clients look for certain signs for success (rankings) while ignoring the obvious proof of success (conversions).

The client on the other hand must ask questions of the SEO. They must question the SEOs strategies and measurements of success. They must question the implementation of the SEO's work in order to ensure it falls in alignment with their company goals and strategies.

Am I willing to ask a question that will expose my ignorance?

Some of the toughest questions to ask are those that let the other person know that we are missing some crucial piece of information. This is especially true for SEOs who make new realizations several months or years into an optimization campaign. I had an instance where the client chose keywords based on our research and only several years later did we realize that those keywords may not have been significantly relevant for that client. They thought so, but neither they nor us actually really thought about what the searcher's intent was.

With this new realization we had to go back to the client and start asking questions about their keywords. These were questions that should have been asked early in the campaign yet we were forced to do it much later, exposing not only our ignorance, but also where we had failed to manage the campaign properly.

These questions are tough but they must be asked.

Am I open to doing things in a way that I haven't done them before?

There are many paths to successful SEO. Everyone has their own methods and style in which they are comfortable, but not everything works out they way we hope. Sometimes they way we want to do things simply can't be done and we have to be open to alternative strategies.

For the SEO this might mean looking for new and different solutions, or implementing a solution that perhaps you have shied away from in the past. For the client this might mean giving up a bit of control. Many SEO campaigns have failed for the client's unwillingness to try a different approach. Being successful means being open to change and trying something that you've never tried before.

Am I willing to ask for directions?

I've been in many situations where clients have simply left us to do our job, giving little or no involvement over months or years of ongoing optimization. Then suddenly the client reasserts themselves, wanting to know where things are, what's been done, what's happening next, etc. In these situations, the client can sometimes find that what's been happening isn't what they wanted.

At this point the SEO can explain everything that's been going on, provide a history of the work performed, goals achieved etc. But if the client isn't satisfied with the direction of the campaign then the SEO must simply ask the client for a new direction. Let the client be right. Find out where they want to go, adjust course and head that way. The SEO must not be so stuck on one path that they are unwilling to ask for directions from the client. They need to see what the client wants and figure out how to meet their expectations.

On the flip side, throughout the course of the optimization campaign, the client will be well served to ask the SEO if there is anything that they can be doing to assist with the process. We often have clients ask if there is anything they can do. We often reply with some link building ideas and strategies. Other times we suggest blogging or expanding their content, etc. These ideas may or may not be a part of the optimization service being performed, but they are almost always beneficial to increased success of the campaign.

Do I act defensively when criticized, or do I listen openly for the truth?

Nobody likes to be criticized and when we are we often switch into defensive mode. This can cause additional strain between the SEO/client relationship. Both the client and SEO need to be open to fair and constructive criticism and to seeing the truth of any given situation.

SEOs can be particularly testy to criticism toward their optimization strategies that may be achieving "success" by one measure but not another. We must be open to the client's definition of success.

Clients must be open to being told that their lack of action may be hindering the campaign from being completely successful. While it makes no sense for a client to pay an SEO yet not take the actions being requested, it makes even less sense to get defensive if that lack of action is being blamed for a campaign failure.

SEO isn't all about technical strategies or the implementation of knowledge. Success and failure can be determined by the willingness of both the SEO and client to go beyond what they know and simply open themselves up to self examination. The ten questions above are by no means the only questions that must be asked, however they create a decent foundation for better SEO/client communications and delivering a successful optimization campaign.

November 20, 2008

Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.


Very well written article.

Thanks for the SEO tips. I'm always looking to improve on everything seo related. I just wish there were more hours during the day. Seems like I could do this 24-7. Guess it's sort of a never ending battle.

Hey thanks man, very well.
I knew some of them and really didn't know about some of the remaining.
Thanks again for them...

Hi Stoney,
Thank you for your article.It's really good.Keep it up.

Just being honest, but I don't get it. Why are these SEO questions? They're just the same question reworded ten times (i.e., "do I ask questions"). Just generic advice, nothing SEO earth shattering. Sorry, but a disappointing article of little value.

I have to agree with Kevin. I don't see anything here of substance, just some cute filler. Completely useless.

I agree with Kevin & LJ. If the subject is SEO, then there ought to be specific, direct, relevant and apparent connections with the subject matter and I can't see any.

@ Kevin, @ LJ, @ Ewan - Hey guys, I know where you're coming from on this. When I look for SEO articles I often just look for the actionable intelligence. But I also know that there is more to running a successful SEO campaign than SEO itself. There is a lot beyond just the technical aspects. I fully understand that these questions can be applied to any area of life. What I had hoped was to give them a little meat by making them applicable specifically to the person or business owner managing an SEO campaign. Sometimes there is great help by taking generic life lessons and having them spelled out to any given, specific situation. That is what I hoped to accomplish here.

Stoney, thank you for the wonderful list of questions. For a newbie to SEO and potential clients considering the 'concept' of SEO, this list was just what is needed to help make decisions, important marketing decisions about how to approach the topic. It seems like some of my fellow readers are more advanced and understand more (and therefore expect more). To them I would like to suggest taking a backseat and adding comments for other newbies to learn as well. I teach a class called 'How to get seen on the Web' and in that my students and business owners are clueless about SEO or have been mislead. This type of article is something I can have them read, not too much jargon and gets to the point. So, again. Thanks.

thanx for that post. You are pointing out two major things that are important for ANY business (not only SEO) as wells as also for private relationships: LISTEN to your Partner and ASK. This are basic social competence values!

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Search Engine Guide > Stoney deGeyter > 10 Questions that Guarantee SEO Success, Part II