Because of my YouTube channel, I receive almost daily emails from many small business owners from all over the world who want me to help them improve their local SEO visibility and their Google My business rankings.
I’m not saying this to brag by the way but I’m always stunt when I open my inbox and someone from, Australia, India or America is asking little old me based in London how much I charge for my services.
Surely there must be enough Good Local SEO companies or Freelancers in these countries so no one would need to reach out to me.
I believe the reason behind this is because Local SEO and SEO in general is a breeding ground for scammers who prey on business owner’s lack of knowledge and understanding of the industry to sale SEO services so they can make a quick buck. This has made any business owner worth their salt suspicious about engaging with Local SEO professionals.
As I try to give my audience the best possible tips I believe viewers feel they can trust me and decide to get in touch.
Although I’d like to be able to help everyone individually unfortunately, like everyone else, I only have 24 hours a day to play with.
Of course you can watch my videos and do it yourself which should help a great deal but if you really want to increase your visibility exponentially and focus your time on running your business it’s probably best to seek help from an SEO specialist or agency.
You’re not a mechanic so when you need your car to be fixed you take it to the garage right. You’re not an SEO expert so why shouldn’t you pay for professional Local SEO services?
The question is, how do you find a good local SEO company that will deliver value for money?
And that’s what I’m going to help you with today.
As I’ve already mentioned there are plenty of local SEO scammers operating online.
So before you rush to your favourite search engine and frantically start searching for the best Local SEO professionals in your area, let me start by giving you some of the most obvious signs you need to look out for to unmask any imposture.
How to unmask SEO scammers quickly
Guaranteed SEO rankings
Anyone claiming they can get your business to the number 1 spot or on the first page of Google results or Google maps is simply lying and must be ignored. Sadly there are plenty of these individual online.
When I search for local SEO on the biggest freelance market place on the web, fiverr.com, there seems to be many freelancers who claim they can get you to the top of Google and at a ridiculously low price too.
It’ simply not possible to guarantee rankings for any business or any listing because nobody controls Google. If you see anyone making such claims, just run for the hills.
Thousands of business citations
Another service you frequently see being offered is the creation of thousands of citations which are essentially mentions of your Business Name, address and phone number in digital directories to create additional online visibility, again for very little money.
Any local SEO professional will tell you this is completely unnecessary and you should steer clear of anyone offering you this type of service. Although it is useful to create citations for your business in key directories such as Yelp, the yellow pages, bing and a few others, creating thousands of them is plain stupid.
Google Map stacking
Another popular offering you might come across is called Google map stacking. The idea behind this is to build a custom Google map with dozens of pins doted around your business from which you add driving directions to your business location which include keywords you are trying to rank for so you can dominate Google maps. And again, all done for you for a pittance.
Some local SEO agencies have even included this as a fully fledge service on their website. This tactic is simply laughable and total nonsense. If it was that easy and that cheap everybody would be doing it.
There are plenty of other dodgy SEO tactics out there but I’m not going to go through them all.
To make things simple here is what you need to remember. There is no shortcut to Good local SEO, anyone offering cheap services that guarantee results should be avoided like the plague.
Instead this is what you need to do.
The best approach to select the right local SEO agency
First, you need to define what you want an SEO agency or a freelancer to do for your business. Most of the time when I speak to new clients and ask them what they want to achieve, the answer is almost always the same, I want to be number 1 for” dentist in London” for example.
It’s not necessarily a bad idea but when you know it takes two hours to travel from one end of London to another, how good is it likely to be for you when prospective customers find you online and realise they need to travel miles before they get to your location. They simply won’t bother. Not to mention it is likely to be hard to achieve such ranking, take time and cost money.
Set up realistic business goals
Aim for more realistic goals such as “I want to rank for relevant keywords close to my business location that will bring more customers”.
That’s why rankings shouldn’t be the only Goals you should set because they are just an indication of how well you are doing. Ranking n#1 for keywords that bring no business is pointless.
What matters at the end of the day is your bottom line and how many new customers an SEO agency will be able to generate through organic traffic.
You might also want to think about which services you want to prioritise as a goal.
Sticking with our dentist example, let’s imagine dental implants is their biggest money making service. This means the agency would need to prioritise that aspect rather than the more generic dentist activity. They’ll need to do the right keyword research, create dedicated content to target the right terms etc…
It’s important to define these goals so they can be used as a measure of success and you can understand if you’re getting value for money.
A good local SEO agency or Freelancer should always ask you what your goals are before working with them. If they don’t, I suggest you consider working with someone else.
If they do, and once you’ve agreed on your Goals, you can move on to the next step and ask them to go through how they indent to reach your goals and describe their ways of working.
Every local SEO agency or freelancer will use their own methodology but the overall approach should be similar across the board and always start with an in depth analysis of your existing performance in the form of an audit.
This helps assess your existing visibility how many customers you are currently getting from your organic traffic and how far you might be from reaching the targets you want to hit.
Local SEO Visibility audit
As an example I’m just going to give you a glimpse of the audit I conduct with new clients which should help you gage what you could expect from an agency.
Using various tools I will start off by looking at the current performance of the website in terms of traffic, conversion and best keywords over the past 12 months. I will do something similar for the Google my business listing and also look at how well the listing is doing across Google maps.
I will then collect information for over 100 data points and SEO signals and highlight any issues that need corrected as well as checking some of the competitors key ranking signals for comparison purposes.
I will also check all content pages on the site to understand what is working and what isn’t, if there are any redundant or duplicate pages as well as look at keywords some of the competitors are ranking for which my client isn’t.
I will also include a full keyword analysis which looks at all the keywords my client is ranking for and make further recommendations based on his goals.
From this audit I am able to establish a road map which can be prioritise by category and each item can be tackled one by one.
An audit of this type can take several days to complete but is key to improve any local business online visibility and drive more traffic and customers through their doors.
Every good local SEO agency should produce something similar which should be followed by regular reports so you can keep track of your progress.
This is when the goal setting exercise becomes useful. The report should show the key performance indicators you agreed with the agency so you can see if you’re spending your money wisely.
Your agency should also require your involvement.
It’s not just a question of handing your money over and asking them to do all the work. Local websites and Google listings optimisation require local content.
A good local SEO agency will want you to take pictures maybe write some content or at the very least review the content they write and in some cases shoot some videos.
As I said, every agency will work in slight different ways but overall this is the kind of approach you should expect when you start talking with them. But the question is
How do you find an agency that ticks all of those boxes?
Word of mouth is still one of the most efficient marketing tools. Speak to other business owners and ask them if they are working with a local SEO agency or a freelancer and if they are any good then grab their details.
Don’t go searching for “best local SEO agency near me
” in Google hoping to find the golden goose. Ironically most website owners who rank at the top of search engines for these kind of keywords spent more time optimising their pages than anything else so they can grab unaware clients.
Instead, try searching for a keyword in a competitive vertical near you and check what businesses rank at the top of the page. Phone these businesses up and ask them if they work with a Local SEO agency and if they’d be willing to pass on the details to you.
Don’t pick one of your competitor’s website, it’s likely an agency who is working with them won’t want to work with you because it wouldn’t be very ethical.
Check local SEO agencies ‘reputation
Check any agency’s reputation through online reviews and read what people have to say, although reviews can be manipulated it’s still a good indicator of quality.
Once you’ve narrowed down your search, get in touch with the agency themselves and start engaging with them. You will be able to quickly assess if they are good enough based on what I have discussed throughout this video.
Before you sign on the dotted line ask them to provide audit samples, report samples and any case study they are willing to share.
It’s important you find someone who specialises in Local SEO, not Generic SEO. They are two different beasts, so always look for local SEO professionals.
Finally don’t expect to work with an agency on the cheap. Local SEO takes time and is labour intensive so be ready to dig into your pockets. Most good professionals I know will not consider working with a client unless they spend a minimum of $600 to $800 dollars a month.
Ideally you can find someone who doesn’t charge on a retainer basis. This is a sign they feel confident enough about their skills and don’t feel the need to lock you in some sort of contract. It will also keep them on their toes.