When you prepare for a call to pitch SEO services, it's easy to follow into a trap — investing too much time and energy into the evaluation of a prospect's current SEO performance.
It's a trap for two reasons. First, you haven't been hired yet and time is money. If you invest an hour into assessing a site in the sales cycle, that is lost time. Second, if you spend too long getting ready for the call, you are more likely to overwhelm your prospect with a laundry list of to-dos during your SEO discovery call.
In this post, you'll learn a 10-minute process to evaluate a site during the sales process.
10-Minute SEO Evaluation
Does the website rank for its own brand name?
This is SEO 101 — a website should be easily found when searching by brand name. This isn't a given. Sometimes a business has a generic brand which makes it competitive to rank for its own name. Other times, a site might be brand new and not yet on the map.
Go to google.com and search for the brand. Assess how visible the site is and how much real estate the business owns via additional assets such as a Facebook or YouTube profile.
If the business is local, check to see if the Google Maps listing appears in the right column of the search results.
Key Takeaway: If a site doesn't rank for its own name, then this is likely a significant pain point and where you'll want to start with SEO.
How big is the website?
Next, explore the scale of the site. Stay on google.com and do a search for site:thedomain.com. This tells you how many pages Google has indexed on the domain.
Is the site small, medium, or large?
Key Takeaway: This helps you to gauge future effort. Smaller sites generally are less time-consuming when it comes to tasks like keyword research and on-site optimization.
Is it easy to convert into a lead or a customer?
Go to the website. Evaluate the calls to action and usability. Can you find the contact page within 5 seconds? Are there calls to action to help a visitor become a lead or a customer?
If you are going to focus your attention on driving traffic to this website via SEO, then you want to make sure that traffic can generate sales. Otherwise, your work will have no impact on the bottom line.
Key Takeaway: This helps you determine if the site is ready for new customers. If not, you can still invest in SEO. You'll want to invest in usability and conversion rate optimization in parallel.
Who is the website trying to reach?
This question is all about the audience. Spend a minute looking through the main navigation and homepage content. Can you tell who the website is trying to reach? You might not be 100% sure (and this is a great question for an SEO discovery call), but you should be able to get some clues.
Does the site represent a business with a local, national or international audience? What problem does the business solve for this group of people?
Key Takeaway: SEO is all about positioning a site in front of the right audience. This is typically easier for local businesses in low competition spaces such as an architect or a salon. It's typically harder for larger audiences such as a vacation rental company or insurance brokerage. This can help you answer questions about when a client can expect results.
Is the website mobile-friendly?
This is a quick check. Go to Google's Mobile-Friendly Test tool. Drop in the homepage and check to see if it passes Google's bar.
Key Takeaway: Mobile-friendliness is a must. If the site isn't responsive, then upgrading to a modern design needs to happen before you invest in SEO.
Does the homepage have content? Is the blog regularly updated?
Spend a minute reading exploring content. Does the homepage even have content? If so, does it include keywords? Does the site have a blog? If so, when was it last updated?
Key Takeaway: Regardless of industry space, quality content is a must. Get a quick sense of if content is a strength or a weakness for the site.
Does the brand engender trust?
This is a first-impression question — would you trust this website? If it took you a minute to find the contact page and the blog hasn't been updated in a year, then you might say no. Alternatively, if you are greeted with testimonials and trust symbols from third parties, then you might say yes.
Also, note the quality and quantity of reviews on Google Maps or Facebook. What are customers saying about this business?
Key Takeaway: You want to work with businesses that are good at their jobs. If a prospect has 1-star reviews on Google Maps, they may not be a good fit for your agency. Also, Google is looking to trust symbols such as review counts so it's helpful to have an early impression on trust.
Does the website have authority?
A great website won't perform well on Google without domain authority. Get an early understanding of this measurement via the aHref's Backlink Checker.
What makes “good” authority depends on the industry space. The more competitive the industry, the higher the domain authority for the top-ranking sites. You can add a few competitors into the tool to see how your prospect stacks up.
Key Takeaway: Think of domain authority as a website's neighborhood. You are doing a quick look to see if it's in a good neighborhood. The site may not be in a neighborhood at all (a low domain authority) or it could have spammy backlinks from past SEO work that are of concern. Your goal here is to get a big-picture feel for the site's authority so you know what you are starting with.
Create a list of your key takeaways. These can be high-level talking points during a sales call. For example:
- Solid brand results. “Your website has great visibility for brand-related keywords. This is a great baseline. Now, the site is ready to get more traffic in the non-brand keyword space. We can really amplify your traffic by going beyond the brand.”
- Not mobile-friendly. “I noticed your homepage isn't mobile-friendly. This means it doesn't have good usability on smaller devices. Is this something you are already tackling? Perhaps you have a new site in development?”
- No domain authority. “I noted your site doesn't have any links pointing from other websites to your website. Google uses these links to understand your business's authority in a space. I've seen this many times for brand new websites. Is your site new? If so, we can really jumpstart growth by focusing on high-quality link acquisition.”
- No homepage content. “Your homepage is the most important page on the site and I see it has very little content on it. We'd want to start here by expanding the content on the homepage. This is SEO 101 and it'll have an immediate impact on results.”
During your SEO discovery call, avoid reviewing a laundry list of these takeaways. Instead, use one or two as conversation starters to help ask good questions. The SEO discovery call is all about asking good questions and listening carefully.
You are ready for the call! Happy pitching!