How to Onboard Clients for Review Management and Marketing

Garrett SussmanClient Acquisition, Client Oboarding, Customer Service, Reputation Management, Review Marketing, SEO0 Comments

Included at the end of this post is a spreadsheet template for tracking your client’s business info, citations, and review site listings. Available as an Excel or Google Docs template. Skip to the Free Download »

Working with a new client on optimizing their review site listings is a lot like cleaning out a messy garage. There’s a bunch of junk mixed in with important misplaced items, and it’s time for spring cleaning.

Incorrect citations and empty review site listings damage your prospect’s online visibility. The larger your client’s business, the more difficult it can be to unravel and uncover all of the business’s mentions, in order to fix them.

In order to fix incongruities and start proactively building your client’s online reputation, an agency needs to have the processes in place to properly onboard their new client, and organize all of their up to date information.

When working with a new client you need:

  • A process for onboarding your client
  • An onboarding questionnaire that asks the right questions.
  • A spreadsheet to track their business information, citations, and review site listings.

Know the Basics: Citations vs. Review Site Listings


Whether your agency is providing Local SEO or Review Marketing Management services, you’ll need to tackle both the company’s existing citations and their review site listings, but what’s the difference?

Citations – Find them, Fix them, Track them, Build them.

“A citation is an online reference to your business’s name, address and phone number (NAP). Like links to your website, Google uses them when evaluating the online authority of your business.”Mark Walters of SEOMark

It’s really as simple as name, address, and phone number as seen in this Yellow Pages citation for the Peacock Inn:

Since the internet is a pretty big place, finding your client’s existing citations, and making sure they’re correctly updated, can be like trying to find broken needles in the world’s biggest haystack. When the client has multiple brands, locations, and phone numbers, the task becomes exponentially more complicated.

Joy Hawkins, Google My Business Top Contributor and Local SEO guru, provides some insights for working with clients on cleaning up their citations:

“I would advise the agency to have a good, solid questionnaire that asks clients things like if they moved in the last 10 years or if they have multiple phone numbers. However, agencies should still be looking for other variations and not trusting that the client actually knows all the different things that exist online. Often clients don’t even realize they have tracking phone numbers.”

Joy also highly recommends watching the Moz Whiteboard Friday video where Darren Shaw, founder of Whitespark breaks down how to handle those pesky citation variations.

When it comes to tools for working with your client’s citations, Joy recommends:

As you find or create your client’s citations, make sure you are tracking them through your software or on a spreadsheet.

Review Site Listings


Review site listings, like Yelp or TripAdvisor, offer a discovery opportunity for customers to answer many of the questions that their prospective customers have.

First step: claim your client’s review site listings.

You’d be surprised how many small businesses let their customers beat them to the punch, by claiming their listing before the company. Take ownership!

Pro-tip:
The task of claiming websites is something you need to coordinate with your client. Some review sites, like Yelp, will call the business to verify the claim. Your client needs to be available to confirm.

Start track the listings in your spreadsheet. If your agency doesn’t have a spreadsheet in place, we have you covered (there’s a free spreadsheet template to download at the end of this post).

Once the listings have been claimed, you and your client can dive into fully filling out the profile.

Here are just some of the business attributes you can include on Yelp:

Here’s a list of company attributes, both general and industry specific, that you’ll want to compile:

General Information


  • Business Name(s)
  • Business Phone Number(s)
  • Business Location(s)
  • Website URL(s)
  • Brand Assets
  • Brand Style Sheet (if one exists)
  • Logo
  • Color Palette
  • Fonts
  • Photos of Business
  • Marketing Materials
  • Social Media Channels/URL
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest
  • Google+
  • Instagram
  • Etc.
  • Mission Statement
  • Established Date
  • Number of Employees
  • Primary Business Category
  • Secondary Categories
  • Company History
  • Targeted Keywords
  • Long description of company (With Keywords)
  • Short description of company (With Keywords)
  • Hours of Operation
  • Holiday Hours
  • Directions to the Business
  • Products and Services Offered
  • Payment Options
  • Languages Spoken

Industry Specific Information


  • Business Amenities (For restaurant and other service industries)
  • Parking
  • Pet Friendly
  • Reservations Accepted
  • Smoking/No-Smoking Policies
  • Wifi Availability
  • Hotel Specific Amenities (accommodations)
  • Restaurant Specific Amenities (menu)
  • Fitness (classes)
  • Licenses and Accreditations (For Legal or home service companies, etc)

Working with Clients on Review Site Management


When you send your client the initial questionnaire, don’t assume that all of the information they’re providing is correct. You will need to do additional research on your own.

Especially for items like primary and secondary categories, James Watt, Local Search Forum Top Contributor, reminds us to remember that you’re the expert:

“Don’t take the client’s word on primary + secondary categories. Categories are important for ranking well, and it’s worth the time in my view to do some competitive research.

What categories are successful companies in the major cities using? Your city?

I use competition to guide choices here pretty heavily, and it might even be that a client’s ‘primary category’ is ultimately worth putting in second place in favor of something that’ll get them a little extra exposure. There are, of course, categories the client might not have even mentioned. I usually need to do this industry research on my own anyway before I can have an intelligent conversation with the client about what they might have forgotten to tell me in this area.”

It’s essential to explain to the client that if anything changes about the business, not only does it need to be updated on the website (especially NAP items), but each of the review site listings need to include the new info as well.

For instance, when educating the client, James suggest that you, “make sure you establish that any hours of operation changes need to be communicated to you beforehand, so they can be reflected on the website and (at least) their profile on Google. Make sure the client understands the value of updating holiday hours, or just hour changes in general, quickly, so they can feed you the right info at the right time.“

An Inside Look Into How an Agency Operates


Efficiently organizing your client’s information and having the right onboarding processes in place is key to providing the best service.

Justin Bilyj, Director of Local SEOrm of BantaMedia, was kind enough to give us a peek into how his agency operates:

We take a three-phased approach to building our internal client folder to help manage the flow of information without getting bogged down.

We use Google documents to collaborate on this folder internally. We are testing other collaboration tools, but the learning curve can be so steep on them that Google seems to be the most intuitive for now.

Our three-phased client process is divided into Introduction, Discovery, and Execution and Advanced Reporting, or I.D.E.A. We recommend every agency establish a clear set of guidelines for every phase of service, like a roadmap for where the project is headed. Every time you pause from building citations to go back to the client and ask for another piece of information, it causes disruption, so by collecting all the info we’ll need up front, it helps the process go more smoothly later on.

The documents associated with the Introductory phase include an Executive Proposal and our standard operating contract, if they agree to the proposal. Next is the Discovery phase, where we interview the client about the ins and outs of their business, including:

  • Brand fonts, colors, and logos
  • Existing brand standards (including licensing documentation or legal disclaimers)
  • Social media channels they are currently using
  • Business name, addresses, phone numbers and operating hours
  • The brand’s background story and “About Us” boilerplate text
  • Keywords and hashtags relevant to the company
  • Differentiating brand messages they are currently marketing on their channels.

From that initial discovery meeting, we create three mandatory documents: a brand profile, a master login list of directory listings and Web 2.0 properties, and an Outreach List of Bloggers, Media Outlets, and Key Influencers relevant to their business.

I can’t tell you how often during a project we reference this brand profile, because it keeps all the pertinent info about a client, beyond their citations, right at our fingertips. Every agency should develop some type of one-page master “brand standards” document to quickly convey content creation and posting guidelines for each client’s citations or local SEO work. (This is also the same brand profile we use for clients that work with us for content creation or social media management.)

Depending on the types of services the client hired us for, there may be additional supplementary files like:

  • Website Audit
  • Citation Audit
  • Competitor Analysis
  • Backlink Profile
  • Local Linking Questionnaire (Phil Rozek has a great one)
  • Content Strategy
  • Editorial Calendar (for content creation and/or social media posting)

Having a master spreadsheet that lists every citation should be mandatory for Local SEO agencies. We use an Excel spreadsheet for ours. After the client’s Google My Business page has been verified (which is the first task on our checklist), we use their Google-verified business listing to begin a citation audit by making sure every listing matches the information on Google – which is the chief citation, in our opinion.

A citation audit is the next key step because it gives you a complete picture of the client’s local online presence before you start adding any citations. Within the audit, we check every major review site and niche directory – updating our master login list as we go so we have a listing of these in one place. Our citation audit lists each website URL, any account login info provided by the business owner or created by us, and notes about any updates we make to fix incorrect

We have all the client’s brand logos, images, videos, and other assets in the same folder next to the Brand Profile for easy access when creating or updating citations.

The last part of our process is Execution and Advanced Reporting. Depending on the service, there’s a variety of metrics that we measure and put into monthly reports for the client to review, and we discuss this in a monthly status report call. It’s shocking that any agency would offer services like these without offering at least an hour on the phone with the client every month; it’s just good customer service. Addressing questions and providing recommendations on this call can even be a great client retention tool. You’re not just doing mysterious work in the background at that point; you’re actually paying attention to the client and really personalizing your service.

Follow Bantam on Twitter and Facebook, and read more of their digital marketing insights on their blog.

Takeaways


It’s easy to accumulate a vast number of citations across the web. Review site listings demand updates when changes are made to your client’s business. By having all of your client’s information organized in a spreadsheet, your agency’s task of cleaning up and updating these online mentions will be more efficient and comprehensive.

Put an onboarding process in place to best serve your clients. They’ll appreciate your systematic efforts as they begin to see their online visibility improve and new customers walk through their doors.

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About the Author

Garrett Sussman

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After 6 years of San Francisco living, Garrett has returned to his roots in New Jersey to manage Content Marketing at Grade.us. He infuses his writing with humor, authenticity, and thoughtfulness. He also happens to be a fan of graphic novels, Philadelphia sports, and content marketing.