Should You Hire an Industry-Specialist Local SEO?

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A few local SEOs I’ve consulted for have asked me whether they should specialize.  In other words, should they offer their services only to business owners in a specific industry?

 

Here’s what I said to them:

Know exactly why you want to specialize – and be able to explain it clearly to potential clients.  If you can’t articulate it or think the reason would sound bad if you did, now isn’t the time to specialize.

Figure out how you’ll get into a position where you can offer something to your clients that “general practitioner” local SEOs can’t.

Now I’m going to flip the question upside-down to get at the real issue:

In what cases might you – a business owner – want to work with a local SEO who specializes in your field?

By the way, keep in mind that I’m not an industry-specialist (although I’ve worked with some types of businesses more than others).  I think being an all-industries local SEO guy is the better fit for me, so in one sense I’ve already voted with my feet.  But I want to present a balanced view here, and part of doing that means you know where I’m coming from.

It might be a good idea or a bad idea to work with a local SEO who specializes in your industry.  Here are the factors worth considering:

(Please excuse all the “he” references.  Just makes for a smoother read than “he/she,” or “they.”  Some of the very best SEOs are women, but this industry is still like The Expendables, unfortunately.)

 

Pros

1.  He may have a lot of experience in helping businesses just like yours.

2.  He may have been an in-house SEO for a big company in your industry – which might be good to the degree it means he knows what works on a large scale and can either repeat it or scale it down.

3.  He may have worked in your industry.  He might the same ins and outs you know, and speak the same lingo you speak.

4.  He probably knows the regulations and restrictions that apply to your industry.

 

Cons

1.  He may not have the wide range of experience that a non-industry-specific local SEO would be more likely to have.  He hasn’t necessarily helped business owners in all sorts of situations.

2.  He could have been an in-house SEO for a big company – and that might not be such a good thing if he’s only had success with tons of budget and HR at his disposal.  He may not know how to bootstrap, which could be an issue if you’ve got limited resources.

3.  If you hire him to help with “content,” there’s a chance you’ll get boilerplate, non-unique stuff that’s been used on others’ websites (maybe even on your competitors’ sites).  Not only does your site

4.  You may discover that he only specializes in your industry because he thinks there’s “lots of money in it.”  He doesn’t have a particular affinity for business owners like you, and has no special ability to help them.

 

How do you figure out the pros and cons of the specialist local SEO you’re thinking of ?  I’d ask as many of the following questions as you feel like asking:

“Why are you a specialist?”  Get a concrete answer.  If it’s “I’m good at helping businesses in this niche,” ask how.  If it’s “I like this industry,” ask why.

“How many businesses in my industry have you worked with?”  There’s no “right” answer here, as long as the answer is straightforward and not mush-mouthed.  If you’re the first one your SEO will have worked with as a specialist, hey, that’s fine if he comes out and says so.  If the answer is “oh, hundreds,” you need to ask, “Why so many?”

“How are you better-equipped to help my business (better-equipped than a local SEO who doesn’t specialize)?”  Again, you’ll want to drill down until you hit specifics.

“What’s your exclusivity policy?”  Has your potential SEO-er worked with business you’d consider competitors?  Under what circumstances would he work with or not work with them in the future?

“Do you have a ‘core’ list of citation sources that matter in my field?”  The only bad answer to this: “What’s a ‘citation source’?”

“Where can I see some stuff you’ve written on local SEO for my industry?”  This one could answer many of the other questions.  Here’s an example of the sort of thing you’d want to see.

“What do you know about marketing in my industry that I might not know – or that my old SEO guy maybe didn’t know?”  This is a toughie.  You’ll know a good answer if you hear one.  Personally, I’d say something like, “Well, you probably know a lot more about your field than I do, but here are some things I’ve learned about your field over time….”

“Are there other local SEOs who specialize in this industry, too?  If so, how are you different from (or better than) them?”  It’s OK if the answer is, “Well, we’re not fundamentally different, but I think we’ve invented a better mousetrap, and here’s how….”

You should scrutinize anyone you hire, for any kind of work.  An industry-specialist local SEO doesn’t necessarily warrant more questions on your part – just a slightly different battery of questions.

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Comments

  1. I would argue that Local SEO specialist is more focused on Local websites and have an approach concrete to demonstrate ROI from local optimization. But honestly the price for such service is too low that you need lot of clients to get significant revenue. As a proof the last Brightlocal Survey How much money do you allocate to marketing your business each month? Answer = 100$

    • Perhaps. But if I were the business owner, I would ask: “So, exactly what is your ‘concrete’ approach to ‘demonstrating ROI’, and exactly why are you better-suited to help me than the SEO who’s worked with many types of businesses?”

      • Indeed thata’s the question and where I find myself in trouble is where I need to combine offline conversion and online tracking. Till now I couldn’t find a scalable system except foot traffic to the store bu this has nothing to do with my job of SEO :(

  2. Phil,

    Interesting topic. One that has got me thinking. Thanks for your time and patience, in writing this article.

    Greg

  3. Phil,
    Great topic. You hit it on the nose with the boiler plate content. We have run into many clients that went with a industry specific service only to find out that they used the same content all over the country. Some spun and some just changed the business name and local modifiers.

    Another important question to ask is if there is a ‘no compete clause’ in your local area. It is kind of scary if a industry specific local seo service takes on 2 or 3 clients competing for the same online space. I have seen it in a few places and it is in my opinion, unethical to have multiple clients competing against each other. If you are going with an industry specific service make sure your competition is not using him also.

    • Hey Jeffrey, thanks for your compliments and for stopping by. Yeah, a no-compete clause is what I was referring to by “exclusivity policy” – but your word choice is better and more accurate. As you say, without that sort of policy there’s the potential for ugliness.

      Good call on personally checking whether your competitors are using the same person. “Trust but verify.”

  4. It is so important that the marketer and the business are a good fit!

    Thanks for the tips!

  5. Each industry is different and the biggest advantage an industry specific local SEO would have would be in understanding the ROI and conversions. But good local SEO’s WILL figure this out anyway even if they have never had a client in that industry

    • That’s true enough, Jeffrey. But whether an industry-specialist understands “the ROI and conversions” any better than the next guy – or at all – is a big “if.” As I’m sure you gathered from the post, this isn’t a knock against industry-specialist SEOs. It’s just a kick in the pants for the business owner to ask questions – why the specialist specializes.

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