This post is meant to help protect your business. Read it fully and take note. This could save you time and money!
It was a familiar conversion that I’ve had many times. Another business owner was promised tons of traffic and high search rankings, only to find out that they had flushed thousands of dollars down the drain with no results. Additionally, the work done on the site by an “SEO Expert” caused more damage to their rankings than helped them. So, how can you find the best local SEO company that will protect your business from those out there that claim to be experts? Let’s cover a few of the basics of Local SEO and why it matters.
What Are the Differences Between Organic SEO & Local SEO?
Organic SEO: Organic SEO is a marketing practice of optimizing your website to make it search engine friendly and rank for relevant keywords. It may or may not include a local element, but is usually not associated with a brick-and-mortar business. (source)
Local SEO: Local SEO is simply the practice of building reliability and relevant signals around specific locations. (source)
Why does local SEO matter?
Because 50% of consumers who do a local search on their smartphone visit a store within a day, local SEO presents a great opportunity to get in front of searchers looking to take action. The Google 3-pack appears in the top spot in 93% of local searches, and you can actually get your website or location ranked above the organic listings. Companies that invest in local SEO by hiring a digital marketing company can benefit from more exposure and clicks from local searchers.
Who Needs Local SEO?
If you have a physical location, such as a brick-and-mortar retailer, or serve a specific area, like a plumbing company, local SEO is for you! Like any marketing strategy, there is no one size fits all strategy. This is why finding a local SEO company that can create a strategy specific to your business needs is essential to your success.
If you are a business owner, you understand the need to market yourself and your company online. The problem is everything you read online or in an email isn’t true. How do you know who is actually telling the truth and can back up what they say with real results?
Ask These 4 Simple Questions Before Hiring a Digital Marketing Agency
1. What Are They Promising?
There is no magic formula for ranking on Google. “I will get you the first spot on Google for all your major keywords” sounds great, right? The problem is that no local SEO marketing company can promise this; to me, this is a huge red flag. Using correct white hat SEO tactics, your site can move into a very powerful rank, but promising a “spot” is impossible!
There are so many ranking factors that determine the position of your website. Not to mention rankings are different based on your device, search history, location, and more. True local SEO is more than just keyword rankings. It’s about driving targeted traffic to your site. Every site will have times when their traffic will fluctuate. Many industries have busy and slower seasons; for example, a pool repair company may have higher traffic in the summer than in the winter. An algorithm update can also impact site traffic. As your traffic shifts up and down, a good agency will implement SEO strategies to address decreases.
It’s important to hire an SEO marketing company that will be open and honest about the ups and downs in site traffic. They should have a working understanding of the calendar flow for your industry, and the impact algorithm changes can have on search. Google makes anywhere between 500 to 600 updates each year. Each one can cause some fluctuation. Look out for any agency that promises you’ll never lose a ranking position. They can’t make that promise.
2. Do They Use A Custom Strategy?
The marketing agency shouldn’t spend more time talking about their services than your needs. If an agency isn’t focused on your needs, they may be offering cookie-cutter, generic marketing services. Each Local SEO campaign is unique because each business owner has individual goals and messaging. Your marketing strategy should focus on your company, its goals, and your target consumers.
What may work for a law firm may not be the best approach for a doctor and vice versa. Search Engine Optimization is not a science. Good SEO service providers will look deeply at your industry and competition to determine the best approach to gain ranking positions and drive traffic.
Research is the backbone of SEO. Any SEO agency worth hiring will place a lot of emphasis on research. When interviewing a potential agency, ask them how they go about research and what information they gather. Research is important because without taking the time to identify specific keywords and competitors within your niche or industry, it won’t be possible to build a detailed buyer persona.
A local SEO company should focus on drawing organic traffic. Organic traffic is vital for local businesses. There’s something wrong with the SEO strategy if a company retains online visibility only through paid ads. PPC is a great way to leverage search volume for certain competitive keywords and attract potential customers. However, if this is the only strategy implemented, I’d rethink the selection process.
3. What Metrics Do They Track?
Many companies obsess over vanity metrics. Vanity metrics are metrics that make you feel good but lack any real meaning. Make sure that your local SEO company tracks and reports on key performance indicators (KPIs) that impact your business’s bottom line. Traffic is nice, but it doesn’t pay the bills.
It’s vital that the agency you work with measures the right analytics instead of vanity metrics. For Local SEO, some of the KPIs to measure include:
- Bounce Rate
- Average Session Duration
- % of New Users
- Search Click-Through-Rate
4. Can They Show Results?
Over my years in the online search and digital marketing community, I have heard many horror stories from companies that invested thousands of dollars with so-called “SEO experts” but received little or no results.
“The proof is in the pudding…” is a little cliché, but so true. Can the agency back up what they say with real results? If not, you should not hire them. Ask to see the work they’ve done and show how they have improved the search results and traffic for some of their clients. If they can’t or won’t show this to you, end the conversation.
Ask for case studies and referrals. Ask how they worked with each company to overcome specific challenges and produced results. 88% of consumers read reviews to determine the quality of a local business. The same rule should apply to local SEO companies. Ask for referrals and read reviews. These will give you great insight into how well this company performs.
Communication is vital. Any local SEO agency you’re interviewing should be able to show you how they will communicate with you and that they have completed different tasks outlined in your contract.
Other Things To Consider Before Hiring a Local SEO Company
Google Business Profile: A Google Business Profile is a free tool that allows businesses to manage all aspects of their online presence including reviews, photos, hours, directions, etc. It’s a great way to get started with Local SEO. A Google Business Profile is also a good indicator of an agency’s experience and expertise.
Location/Citation Management: There are thousands of different location and citation sites where you could list your business. Just because they are there, doesn’t mean they are good for your business. Ask the prospective SEO company how they handle location and citation management. Do they partner with any tools like Yext or MozLocal?
For a list of the top 100 local citations in your state, check out this great post from Brightlocal.
Link Building: Links are the backbone of all SEO efforts. When it comes to local search, having a local link-building strategy is key. It’s not the quantity that matters, but the quality. With local SEO, the nature of those links matters as well.
Reputation Management: 72% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business. Any company you work with must have a solid understanding of reputation management. Not only do reviews impact consumers, but search engines also love and trust them too.
Mobile vs Desktop: Optimizing for mobile and desktop are very different. While both matter, mobile is clearly taking over. Make sure the local SEO company you choose understands what it takes to attract and convert local search traffic. It is essential to your success.
Trust Your Gut: Never hire a local SEO company without getting to know them. While much of business today is done with online communication, nothing can replace a face-to-face meeting. This lets you get to know their personality and see if they will fit well with your working style.
Investing in marketing your business with local SEO can result in powerful growth. People use search to learn more about the products they want and where they can get them now. In fact, 78% of local-mobile searches result in offline purchases. If you need local SEO help, please contact us today!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on July 2, 2015, and has been updated with fresh content.