10 Benefits of a Disappointing Local SEO Effort

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You’re the business owner.  You’ve paid for help.

You’re the local SEO.  You’ve been paid to help.  Maybe you did help – just not quite enough.

Both of you were expecting boom.  But all you got was poppssffftt.

Effective local SEO takes hard work and time.  The benefits are obvious when it all works out.  But even when it doesn’t – or doesn’t seem to – there are some less-obvious benefits.  More on that in a second.

One point that I hope you took as a given: I’ve messed up my share of local SEO campaigns.

Of course, I wish I did things differently in many of those cases.

But without the hard knocks I don’t think I would have learned some important lessons.  Without them I also don’t think I could have had some of the successes.  You learn from mistakes.

Especially on those occasions the rankings haven’t come, I’ve asked myself: what good did I do? 

Put another way: if you subtract good rankings from an otherwise solid local SEO effort, what’s left?

Plenty, in my opinion:

Benefit 1: Avoid mistakes
An experienced local-search geek will keep you from making real stupid moves (or just wasting time).  And if you weren’t going to do anything stupid, well, then you’ve got yourself a trusted wingman.

Benefit 2: Avoid snake oil
Your local SEO-er will steer you away from wasting money on products or services that would be useless or harmful to you.  (I won’t name names here; feel free to email me if you’re curious.)  He / she will usually favor “sweat equity” and will try to help you build yours.

Benefit 3: Citations: check
You’ll have a solid foundation of correct, complete citations.

Also, many of those listings will have been claimed, and you’ll have the logins to most or all of them.  A real local-search pro wants you to have the reins.

Benefit 4: On-page: check
Your site will have just the right amount of on-page optimization: you’re not pretending search engines don’t exist, but you’re not overdoing it.

Benefit 5: More stickiness
At least when I do work for clients, their businesses are always at least a little more “optimized for humans” – on-site and off-site.  (See this, this, and this.)  What you do with your traffic matters more than how many eyeballs you get.

Benefit 6: Wake-up call
You may discover that you should at least dip a foot into other marketing media (like AdWords) – and that you shouldn’t rely exclusively on your visibility in local search.

Benefit 7: Trial by fire
Challenges are a good test of your SEO’s character.  You can ask tough but constructive questions.

Why hasn’t the needle moved enough?  What can we do to get it to move?  Is there anything extra we should do that we didn’t originally plan on?

Your trusty helper will not only give you the unvarnished truth, but may also be able to help you in other areas (e.g. building an email list) while you’re getting your local SEO efforts figured out.

Benefit 8: Easy come, easy go
Not getting results easily is a sign that good local visibility might be worth something in your market.  If it’s too easy to rank, the market may not be competitive – and that may be for a good reason (that there’s no money in it).

Benefit 9: Results may just be slow
Even if your local search efforts don’t seem fruitful at first, there’s a good chance the plan will come together just fine.  Slow local SEO is underappreciated.

Benefit 10: You get a consigliere
You’ll be able to lean on your local SEO-er for advice later on.  If / when you run into an issue, or have a question, or notice a change in Google, you’ll have someone you can ask.

Can you think of other benefits of a well-executed “local” campaign – even when the rankings are underwhelming?  Any real-life cases you’d like to share?  Leave a comment!


  1. Well Put Phil. Benefit #9 is really important. It is important for every SEO pro to hammer home to a client the importance of patience. If your client is calling you 7 days after they signed an agreement wondering why they are not on page one yet, you are in trouble!

    Benefits of long tail keyword baby steps: Builds trust and patience in your client.
    Show them little results such as less competitive long tails and build content targeting services they provide that get less traffic as you guild their authority to compete for the main keywords. If i can rank a plumber for “toilet clog city” or “sewer line clean out city” right away it shows progress. (they will even get phone calls)

    The reality is if the client is in a highly competitive market it may take months to get the big home run keyword. If you cannot show little results like long tail keyword results clients lose trust in you. They may bail before the fruits of your labor are seen.

    Sit down with your client, make a list of all their services and areas served and start building content targeting those keywords. Many of my clients are receiving more calls and traffic from long tails because not every customer types in “plumber city” or “chiropractor city” when trying to solve a problem. Underwhelming results can be overcome if you show progress until the money keywords hit page one.

  2. Excellent point on benefit 1. I signed a new client this morning and had steered then away from 3 future headaches in a one hour conversation. I stress to my clients the importance of bouncing ideas off me when they get constant new offers for marketing. I stick to the principal saying I don’t know, when i dint, and then ask the local search community on their behalf.

  3. Good points Phil – the biggest being… “Results may just be slow”, as this all takes time, often much more time than organic results. I always prepare clients ahead of time regarding expectations for Local results; they are looking for rankings next Friday, and I bring them into reality. Most are quite comfortable, as long as they are made aware for the facts 🙂

  4. Excellent article, Phil. You are quite right on benefit 8 – if it is too easy it might not be worth it. A lot of people have no idea how Google and SEO work so I always try to explain and prepare my clients that results might take some time. I also recommend running an Adwords campaign (even if it is on a very tight budget) just until local SEO results are visible and they can benefit from the better rankings.

  5. Interesting title Phil. Very few people in the SEO space seem to understand the difference between SEO and Local SEO and, more worrying, local businesses don’t seem to get it either. Has anyone found a way to get the attention of local business owners who have no doubt been burned by SEO salesmen and put Local SEO in the same basket, I would love to find a better way?

    I recently tried writing a blog and sending it as an email to local businesses near me but I got a really poor response (quite a few opened it but none have engaged me in a conversation yet). If you would like to read my blog it can be found at http://www.mylocal.org.uk/blog.

    Looking specifically at restaurants in my area, about 40% haven’t even claimed their Google Maps listing and only about 10% have branded their Google Local Pages. You would think that means there are lots of businesses needing my help but they just don’t seem to get it. So if anyone has any bright ideas on how to communicate the message better, I would love to hear from you.

  6. Learning from your mistakes is the best benefit of all. Failure will provide you with the much-needed knowledge on how to be a step ahead of your game on the next round and hopefully, achieve success. If not, you can always try and try, gaining more knowledge and skills along the way.

    PS. Love the Top Gun reference lol!

    • Great point, Tabby: a local SEO effort that falls short usually does help the SEO-er (if he/she is smart). I didn’t want to mention that because I was focusing on what happens to the client, but it’s true nonetheless.

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