More threads by Chris Ratchford

Chris Ratchford

Jul 18, 2012
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This week's SEO 101's episode had a good discussion about charging prospective clients for website audits.

Not just an automated website (or local search) audit, but a real analysis of what needs to be done. Prioritized, in depth explanations of what,why,where etc.

I'm at point where I'm doing so many free audits (BrightLocal and a couple other tools), that I'm considering charging prospective clients for this information. If I do so, I will provide more information and analysis than what I'm currently offering, but I think it will benefit greatly.

Anyone here do something similar like this?
Re: SEO/Site Audits- do you charge prospective clients?

Hi Chris, no direct feedback but an important tip. Been meaning to mention this.

If you do end up doing a free audit. Or not even a complete audit, but let's say you just run an automated BrightLocal report so you know some of the issues and can share a couple with the client... Do not email them the report.

I see consultants doing that all the time. They create these gorgeous reports. The reports have tons of info and look like they took a couple hours. The client does not know it's all automated.

DON'T email them that report and give them all that info that they can then just take to someone cheaper and say, can you do all this for me?

Use something like and share your desktop. Screenshare the report!

Say "Here is just a small portion of the detailed analysis I did for you. I just wanted to share with you a couple of the issues you have and explain part of what I could do to fix these problems, if we choose to work together."

Zoom around that report and show then just the parts you want them to see but scroll through enough that they see you have a lot more. Then YOU hold the power, you have the knowledge. Don't just give all that info away and risk them taking your time and report and giving the work to someone else.

Sorry if that was off-topic, but thought it was related and helpful. Just thought of it the other day.
Re: SEO/Site Audits- do you charge prospective clients?

Great point Linda. I definitely will look into that!
Re: SEO/Site Audits- do you charge prospective clients?

HELL NO. Charge for your expertise, Chris.

You're not giving prospective clients "just information"; you're giving them the fruits of a career you've had to invest in. As in any business, you took risks to build it and to learn what you know. You won't get those hours of your life back. You invested them because you had a certain degree of faith that it would be rewarding for your clients and for you.

After possible clients fill out my questionnaire, I spend a total of maybe 15 minutes looking at it, doing a few minutes of "homework" on their local market, offering quick suggestions, and saying whether/how I could help. That feedback is objective and usable, but it's not an all-you-can-eat buffet. The first benefit of the questionnaire is it tells me most or all of I need to know fast. The other huge benefit is that tire-kickers aren't likely to fill out the 38 questions in the first place, which means (among other things) that I'm not reading questionnaires 24/7.

OTOH, if you send auto-generated "reports" (I don't get the sense you do), you're not really offering anything - least of all expertise - so it's a little harder to draw lines.
Re: SEO/Site Audits- do you charge prospective clients?

We give very basic, useful but incomplete, types of free reports for lead gen, but if someone wants a real site audit, we charge. We have been toying with the price, but I won't do them for less than $297 and leaning towards $497+. If we need to fix the problems, that of course is an additional fee.

My advanced reports are very detailed and take a LOT of time to do them right (depending on how good/bad their site is).

I offer the client a credit for the full amount if they choose to move forward with our marketing packages (since our packages include a site audit anyways).

Hope that helps...
Re: SEO/Site Audits- do you charge prospective clients?

I'll give a general, sort of top level overview of some of the glaring issues I see on a site, but I charge for in depth site audits. My site audits are designed as either a stepping stone to jump into a long term project with a client where I help them address the issues I've found, or they can simply be one off projects where a client gets some insight implements the work themselves and that's that.

A LOT of time can go into audits, and unless you're automating it somehow I think that is a service you should be getting paid for. I will say though, even automated reports typically need some tweaking or explanation and that takes time, so I would probably use those to grab some of the high level discussion points and go from there.

Hope that helps!
Re: SEO/Site Audits- do you charge prospective clients?

I'll pull a report and then do a video overview explaining some of the issues and how we can help.

At this time, we charge once a client is under contract but don't do site audits and other more indepth work unless they do come on board.

So, as for sending a report, we don't usually do so--although we have the software to auto generate a basic overview, in most cases it is the direct sales contact that gets them to convert.

As for filling out long in-depth questionnaires, we find most people don't want to do that and so don't ask them to. If they become a client we interview them for the answers rather than wait.

I'd be interested in knowing how others handle this and what you find works best.
Re: SEO/Site Audits- do you charge prospective clients?

Mike nailed it. What he said is a great approach, IMHO: Neither party is getting gypped.
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Thanks Mike, I like this part, which is a great way to counter that prospect that expects it for free.

Quality Web Site Audits Should Not and Can Not be Free

... perhaps consider these alternate analogies I could counter with:

Does a home inspector spend time finding every problem within your home for free?
Do you ask a business consultant to tell you everything that is wrong with your business and then how much it will take to fix it – all for free?
If you go to your Doctor do you get a free diagnosis and only pay for the treatment? (applies to USA)
If you go to your Lawyer… do you get anything free? ;-)


PS… I hear IRS audits are free. ;)

I really like the doctor analogy.
Charge for non-sales audits but don't charge for audits that will lead to sales.
I always believe in giving value in first initial sales calls with clients. In the past we have spent a couple hours looking into a potential clients site. We have even gone so far as providing a keyword analysis to show we don't just guess when we are optimizing a clients site.

My experience so far is that the majority of people that call are wanting information and don't want to pay much for it. These potential clients are time sinks. Finding a balance of providing value to prove you know what you are doing over the next SEO and not giving away your knowledge for free is a fine line.

I am now even questioning the complete site audits with recommendations we do, which we have charged as much as $650.00 for. What happens is the site owner feels they can do the "fix" themselves or as Linda has said - pay someone less money to do it.

I'm of the opinion now that unless someone wants a Local SEO service complete with setup and monthly fees it's not worth doing any kind of audit even for payment.

As Local SEO's you can't make a living on Audits. I have yet to have someone receive an audit and then go on to be a monthly client. Instead direct them to a monthly service for the price of the audit and offer a no contract service. If they don't bite on that then they don't have the potential to be a good client and aren't serious about their SEO.

We are still fine tuning our process on this but thats my thoughts up to this point.

Best of luck.

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