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Old 10-24-2004   #1
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Exclamation Outsourcing SEM FAQs – Be Prepared to Answer!

If you are new to Search Engine Marketing and/or you are thinking about hiring a firm to help you with any efforts (aka: outsourcing SEM), I have put together a list of questions you should be prepared to answer by the expert search marketer:

General Questions
  • How long have you been online?
  • How long have you been doing SEM/SEO for your online strategy?
  • How are you promoting your online services to the online market today?
  • how are you presenting your internet products/services to your offline market?
  • Do you have informational content online about your products/services?
  • Do you have any current alliances or partnerships online?
  • Please explain your current online efforts outside of SEM in a general form (ie. banners with x,y,z, email newsletter, etc.)
  • What quality assurance process do you have in place to verify customer’s satisfaction levels during its web presence and online purchase (ie. feedback forms, questionnaires, etc.)?
  • Is your only focus the consumer or are you targeting any B2B customers of the market vertical via the web?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Is you website search engine optimized at all? If so, who did this for you? How long ago?
  • Are you currently using any “black hat” or “risky” ways of SEO? If not today, in the past?
  • Are any of your sites penalized or banned by any of the search engines?
  • What percentage of your pages on all websites would you guess is indexed by the search engines (general ball park figure)?
  • Are all your copywriting materials optimized for the search engines (eg. page copy for website, press releases, etc.) or only the standard SEO parameters (title, meta tags, keywords, etc.)?
Search Engine Marketing
  • Are you doing Pay Per Click (PPC)?
  • How many keywords are your running on PPC campaigns?
  • How are you handling your PPC management (manual or software)? If software, which one?
  • Do you perform any testing of your PPC campaigns with regards to different landing pages?
  • What metrics reporting tool are you using to track traffic and conversions?
  • Are your SEO and PPC campaigns only in the USA?
  • Are they only for the General Market or are you also targeting the Hispanic or other non-anglo markets?
  • Are you doing any Paid Inclusion? If so, with whom?
  • How much do you know about your competitors SEO rankings & PPC campaigns?
  • Do you have an online affiliate program? If so, are your affiliates doing any PPC arbitrage to your keywords? Are they violating your trademarks?
  • Are you tracking for Click Fraud?
  • Do you have all your SEM efforts and Web Development architecture documented?
  • On your perspective, what are the differences between search engine marketing for the general market vs. the Hispanic market or any other multi-lingual search markets and non-U.S. search engines?
Other Related SEM
  • How about Contextual Advertising (ie. Google Adsense)
  • Have you established a direct relationship with the Search Engines?
  • Don’t forget to talk about what you are doing, what you are looking to do, your objectives, timing, what you seek in terms of results, etc.
If you feel there are other questions that should help prepare a company that is seeking outsourcing SEM, please add to this thread.
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Old 10-24-2004   #2
I, Brian
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The list is certainly a good idea, though as a small business where flexibility is required, the list seems a little regimental in places.

I'm about to begin my first foray into outsourcing for webdevelopment issues too complex for myself. My choice of company was based on seeing past work and chasing up the people responsible. See how it turns out, though...
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Old 01-15-2005   #3
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The above cover all of the SE without so much of the M

My first question is always "What is your USP?" or "What does your company deserve to be ranked in the top ten available resources for?"

If they can't answer that to satisfaction then I know that the rest of it is going to take more resources whereas a naturally brilliant product/resource is far easier to promote - especially in terms of link building.

"Are you willing to change the actual content of your site in order to attain higher rankings?"
It is amazing how many companies want some magical solution that gives them top rankings without changing a thing. I tell them that such magical devices exist, and the most easily applied one is called Pay-per-Click.

"What tracking systems do you currently have in place?"
"What visitor data can you provide to highlight which referrals are your best converters?"
"Do you have an in-house development team?" You need to know whether the best solution for the client would be for us to do it for them, or for us to train their existing staff.
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Old 01-15-2005   #4
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It is amazing how many companies want some magical solution that gives them top rankings without changing a thing. I tell them that such magical devices exist, and the most easily applied one is called Pay-per-Click.
Another one is called: Cloaked promotion domains (throw away domains)
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Old 01-17-2005   #5
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Two things our savvier clients almost always ask for:

Client references: this is critical so you can get an understanding of how a prospective firm internalized a customer's goals and translated them into a campaign strategy. If a firm does not permit direct contact with at least a couple of clients who will speak on their behalf, I'd be a bit wary of bringing them on board.

Contact with the account team: for most of the larger SEM/SEO firms, the people handling the sales are not the folks in the trenches, doing the work every day. Therefore, it is important that as a marketer you get an opportunity to speak directly to the people who will be assigned to your account. The comfort level needs to be with these people - not with the salesperson or CEO of the shop - since it's likely that they will not be as intimately involved, once a deal is consumated.
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Old 04-21-2005   #6
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Another great resource to find questions that you should ask SEO and SEM firms is Marketing Sherpa. They have a list of all the questions you should ask a firm before going to them.
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Old 06-08-2005   #7
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Anyone have any new recommendations?
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Old 06-09-2005   #8
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Ppc

What is the standard cost for managing PPC?

Last edited by Nacho : 06-09-2005 at 01:57 AM.
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Old 06-09-2005   #9
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Define 'standard' in relation to service. What is a standard service? What is a standard firm? Do you mean average?

Can you translate that to the real world? "Hello, I'd like to hire an average SEO firm with average knowledge and average experience to perform average optimization of an average PPC campaign"

That never happens.

People want the best value. That may mean that one firm wants a low cost for a pretty reasonable return. Or that another doesn't mind paying a higher cost for superior returns. And those definitions are individual. Its about personal values.

What car do you drive? Is it standard? Who's idea of standard?
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Old 06-09-2005   #10
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Ammon, Nacho - sorry, you guys probably didn't get the memo.

The correct amount to charge for SEO is exactly $19.
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Old 06-09-2005   #11
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The correct amount to charge for SEO is exactly $19.
Crap! I've been charging $18! All those dollars lost!
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Old 06-09-2005   #12
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Hey, that's only 14 euros
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Old 06-12-2005   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nacho
General Questions
  • Can you explain your business model, and how you make a profit?
  • How much of your sales come from repeat visitors/customers?
  • What are your campaign goals? (lead generation, direct sales, ... )
  • How does your web site fit into your overall business?
  • What are you doing today to make the most of each visitor?
  • Can you identify distinct target audience segments?
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Old 06-12-2005   #14
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Anyone have any new recommendations?
Yes, ask less questions!

Honestly, if I get a request for proposal with this many questions I just say no to it. I simply don't have the time to answer all that.
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Old 06-12-2005   #15
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It's a very good idea to do your due diligence, but sometimes "due diligence" is code for "tell me everything you plan to do right now for free in the proposal so I can take it and get someone else to do it cheaper".

It also works both ways - I've had RFP's that were so intense that, like Mikkel, I walked away from them, not because I didn't qualify, but because that level of interrogation is NOT the type of business relationship I want with my clients. SEO usually takes 3 months to a year or more, and that's a long time to spend working with someone who thinks acting like the Gestopo is an appropriate way to begin an business relationship.

There has to be a happy medium where the SEO can spend time actually doing SEO rather than justifying their existence, and where the client doesn't feel like they are joining some super exclusive organization and are required to get security clearance just to market a website.

Due diligence is important for both sides - but the structure of it can be flexible.

Myself, I simply visit the website in question, then talk to them over the phone (or meet in person) and ask what their plans are and what they have done so far. If I like what I see and hear, I offer to work with them. I will ask several of Nachos questions depending on the client and the plans, but not in a rigid format - more of a conversation.

From a client perspective, I would want to know what skills the SEO has - either by references, industry acknowledgement, or some other indicator. Some SEO's can't disclose clients - for example, my list of references that I can tell people about is far shorter than the one I can't - this doesn't mean I'm inexperienced, it means I take my client confidentiality agreements seriously.

But I can show lots of articles and other SEO's who would be willing to recommend me - and that is a good alternate reference (or should be).

I would recommend that a client establish the skills of the SEO (and be prepared for pay for those skills - if you accept nothing but the best skill set, don't expect anything less than the highest rates) and to clearly outline the expectations and milestones for both parties.

There are lots of ways to do this, and many of the questions in this thread address them, but don't get locked into a rigid structure - you will end up with rigid results and a rigid relationship.

One final thought - every single one of the best SEO's in the world started off as SEO noobs. Don't overlook the value of raw skill and a drive to learn and succeed while chasing after experience and client lists.

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Old 06-12-2005   #16
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Very good post, Ian!

> working with someone who thinks acting like the Gestopo

Yes, this is exactly the vibe I get from a few prospects - those ones gets redirected to our Guantanamo office

As a prospect, you have to watch out that your due dillegence is not scaring off the very SEOs you are looking for!
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Old 06-12-2005   #17
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I believe that Nacho's original list was questions a client should expect to be asked, not that they should ask of an SEM firm.
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Old 06-13-2005   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DanThies
I believe that Nacho's original list was questions a client should expect to be asked, not that they should ask of an SEM firm.
Dan is correct -- Thanks Dan!

The main purpose of this thread was for those companies that are willing to outsource their SEM with expert firms, that they would find guidance with some important questions to help them into choosing the right firm.

I suppose there a quite a few questions from this thread that can be used in opposite direction, to ask a potential client about their background in SEO/SEM. However, I completely agree with your statement Mikkel and too much asked/requested could mean the deal goes South. Typical intimidation scenario. The thread My Favorite SEM Elevator Pitch is... is focused on how to get a potential client hooked while being as short as you can. However, I don't remember if we have ever started a thread for a list of potential questions to ask a potential client, therefore for that purpose I started this one: Suggestions for the ideal SEM/SEO RFP Guide
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Old 06-14-2005   #19
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My approach is similar to Ian's in that I generally go over half of this stuff with a prospective client while I'm on the phone, clicking through their website. I have found that clients/prospects tend to be overwhelmed when presented with a huge list of questions, although getting the answers to Nacho's list of questions certainly sets the stage for a successful SEM campaign.

I believe some of the questions are best saved for a "discovery" or "kickoff" meeting because they really help set the strategic direction of both SEO and SEM initiatives. For example, information about the prospect's current partnerships and online marketing strategy could be approached in a kickoff along with specific competitor information (e.g., who do you consider your top competitors - not just those that come up for your keywords in Google, but industry-wise?)

Prior to a kickoff meeting, I'd probably stick to the basics as it applies to my own style of SEO. Do you practice any black hat techniques? What are your expectations with SEO? Do you track your visitor traffic? What are your top money-generating keywords? Would you be willing to make changes to your website? That sort of thing.

Thanks for a great list, Nacho.

Best,
Jackie Dooley
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Old 10-16-2005   #20
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Stuntdubl made an outstanding post you guys should read:

http://forums.searchenginewatch.com/...3593#post63593

Saludos!
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