One-Time Work vs. Ongoing Work in Local SEO

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The nature of your work on a local SEO campaign should change over time, or you’re doing it wrong.  How you’ll make progress in week 3 differs from how you’ll make progress in year 3.

You’ll do fine if you know which steps can only help you once, versus which steps can help you for as long as you work on them.  More on those in a minute.

On the other hand, your local rankings will take a dirt nap if you never do more than the one-time work.  Steps like “optimizing your website” and building and correcting your local listings can deliver impressive results – once, at most.

If that yeoman’s work is what you think local SEO amounts to, you’ll wonder why you made such fast progress and then hit a wall.  You’ll figure you just need to do more of what gave you that initial bump, so you’ll tinker with your site and build 300 citations – and still won’t see results.  You’ll conclude local SEO “doesn’t work,” throw up your hands, and watch your competitors roll by.

I blame local SEO companies (or at least some of them).  They want their SEO packages to look good on paper, to be easy to charge for, to be easy to delegate to people who can work for cheap, and not to require clients’ personal involvement (beyond writing the check) so they avoid bottlenecks and can bill until the end of time.  That’s the charitable view, by the way.

You’ll get better results if you divide the work into one-time tasks and continuous tasks.  Here’s how I like to classify each of the main steps.

One-time, foundational work:

  • Create or claim your Google My Business page
  • Create listings on the “local” sites that matter (AKA citation-building)
  • Correct and de-dupe your listings (AKA citation cleanup)
  • Fill out incomplete listings (specify your hours, categories, etc.)
  • Make technical fixes to your site
  • Do basic optimization: title tags, NAP info on every page, a page for each service, etc.
  • Create a page for each specific service and/or product you offer

Ongoing work you should NEVER stop doing:

  • Continue to do whatever else got you your best links so far
  • Research new link opportunities
  • Get those links
  • Ask for reviews on a variety of sites
  • Mine your reviews
  • Re-audit your site for new problems
  • Add more helpful content to existing pages
  • Create a new page any time you’ve got a new offering
  • Update your listings any time your basic business info changes
  • Continue your blogging or other content-creation efforts IF you know them to be effective (if they’re not effective, get help)
  • Continue any non-Google, preferably offline marketing you do
  • Keep learning about local search, SEO, and other areas of online marketing

By the way, I haven’t laid out each step sequentially.  The order varies from to case.  In general, the one-time steps you do in the early parts of your local SEO effort.  But sometimes they drag on later than you’d like them to, or you have to revisit them for one reason or another.  Also, the ongoing steps you should start as early as possible, partly because it takes time to pile up good links and reviews and to reap the benefits.

As long as you don’t fall into busywork, don’t obsess over things that are good enough (e.g. citations), and do work on hard things that your lazy competitors won’t bother with (namely earning links and reviews), you’ll continue to climb.  If you plan to get outside help, don’t hire a local SEO just to help on your listings and website.

Are you working on tasks where you think you might have hit the point of diminishing return?

Any ongoing steps I forgot?

Leave a comment!


  1. Awesome Phil. You really “open the kimono” and expose it all.

  2. Thanks Phil, great insight. One-Time work VS Ongoing is almost never detailed in product descriptions or to clients in meetings

  3. Totally true Phil, so many agencies list out the “one-time” work as ongoing stuff so they can look busy and continue billing.

  4. Great list, Phil. I’d add 2 things:

    1) I hesitate to describe citation management as a one-time thing. My perspective on this is definitely colored by supporting Moz Local and seeing how often businesses go through acquisitions/mergers, rebrands, moves and phone number changes, not to mention the ongoing ‘fun’ at multi-practitioner business models with old partners retiring/leaving and new ones coming aboard. So, unless your business never changes core NAP and stays put in every way, and does not experience changes in personnel, I think the eagle’s eye view of citations would be that they do require ongoing management.

    2) One critical ongoing task for all local businesses (or their agencies) is to keep up with how Local, itself, changes so that you can adapt and, hopefully, take advantage of new opportunities. When I thumb through the pages of THE HISTORY OF LOCAL SEO IN MY MIND, I think of how we’ve danced to Google’s tune of 10 packs, 7 packs, 3 packs, carousels, business descriptions that came and went, review irregularities, and our latest installment on the rise of attribution. Because of the constant change in Local, one facet of ongoing work is simply keeping up with the news and managing its outcomes.

    Enjoyed your post, as always!

    • Great points, Miriam. Thanks!

      Keeping one’s info up-to-date is important, but I didn’t add it initially for a couple reasons:

      1. It’s not a problem for every business, as you know. Generally, the people who use Moz Local have data-hygiene issues and – often wisely – use Moz Local to help. I’m often surprised at how often businesses’ basic NAP info is “good enough,” or at least not what’s really holding them back

      2. It’s too easy to get OCD about updating all the listings everywhere, even where a correct citation and a dollar will get you a bag of chips.

      But it’s just enough of a problem that I’ve added that point now.

      • Thumbs up, Phil, and I totally see your points. BTW, gang, if you haven’t signed up for Phil’s newsletter, I recommend it. It’s like getting extra mini blog posts from him on an ongoing basis 🙂

  5. Great job Phil. Expose the charlatans, lay it ot simply. Yu continue to help people constantly

  6. Excellent advice as always Phil … two things that always happen with my clients (despite my constant nagging 😉 and providing them with review sheets and direct links to send to customers to write reviews:
    – None of them ask for reviews
    – Most have no, or very little content about their businesses and because their services are often quite specialised, this information has to come from them (I am not an expert on the ins and outs of roof extensions 🙂 trying to get 300+ words about any product or service is always a challenge.

    • I hear you, Alan.

      The client has to ask for the reviews sooner or later, but there are many things you can do to grease the skids:

      As for content, it’s worth having someone in your corner who is a quick study and who can bash out a decent draft on roofing, or orthodontics, or coin auctions, or whatever the case may be. The client needs to fact-check and maybe edit, but most clients are OK about doing that as long as you’ve brought the content to that point.

      • Invariably I end up writing whole websites myself for them Phil … not ideal or a great use of my time lol

        • Alan, have you considered using interviews to gather the meat of the content, then getting a writer to turn it into web copy? We use a developed version of that we call “Concise Questioning”, where we have a breakdown of what makes a well structured webpage, set out as a series of questions. We go through these with the client and write down whatever they say. The nature of the questions means the answers can then very easily be stitched together into decent content. It’s never as good as “proper” content creation, but it certainly stops those sometimes hellish content delays…

          • Alan: what Geoff said. The “interview” is an excellent approach, and one that my content writer and I sometimes use with clients.

            (Thanks, Geoff.)

  7. Hi Phil,

    Thanks for another helpful post.

    I particularly liked your linking fromyour point “mine your reviews” to an excellent article on the subject.

    Finding out what customers like about you, staff, product or service, and making sure you have content to match, is a great pointer to the content that should be created or reinforced. You can’t get too much good content!

    Thanks again,


  8. Can think of two thing that fit on-going.
    1) Reporting Maps Spam whenever and wherever you see it.
    2) Googling your own business name and searching for it by category. Seeing your biz on the net the way first-timers could find you can be illuminating…

  9. Happy Holidays to you and your family,

    Great information Phil. Thank you for sharing.

  10. All the best to you on the coming new year.
    You are the one and only newsletter I read,
    A bit like the Duluth Trading commercials, no BS and no fillers!!
    Keep them coming and enjoy the holidays.

  11. Here we are more than two years later and yet this article is still accurate and insightful. This stands the test of time!

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