Dumbest Reasons to Hire a Local SEO Company or Person

I’ll never say you need to hire me or anyone else.  If your goal is to reach more customers/clients/patients in the local search results, you may or may not benefit from a third party.  I often tell clients and others that they should farm out as little of their local SEO as possible.

Still, if you feel you must hire a third party to help on your local SEO, at least do it for the right reason.

You should trust them to do a few things: to sniff out problems, to fix them, and to find missed opportunities and help you take advantage of them – all in a way that doesn’t risk putting you in Google’s doghouse or scaring away customers.  To do that, you’ll have to work together long-term to do things like build a better and more informative site, create and fix your local listings, earn links that take a little work to get, and earn glowing reviews.

I trust them to help me plan the work and work the plan” is the right reason to pick one local SEO person or company over another

But that good reason is outnumbered by a mangy pack of bad reasons.

If you pick a local SEO-er chiefly because of any one of the following reasons, you’re doing your business a disservice:

“They’re near me.”

A “local SEO company” does not mean “an SEO company near you.”  Rather, it refers to what they should specialize in: helping improve your business’s visibility in the local search results.

Now, maybe both points are true of them; maybe they are a local local SEO company.  Fine, but who cares if you can sit in their office and shake their hands?  You can do that at the local used-car lot, too.  Does that mean you should buy a car from them?  Only pick an SEO company if you have a way to determine whether they’re any good.  If they’re good, it doesn’t matter whether they’re even in your country.

“I just don’t want to handle it anymore.”

Which do you care about more: convenience or good results?  Effective SEO takes teamwork – whether it’s time to write good content for your site, or to earn links, or to get more and better reviews.

If you’ve done your own SEO so far and have gotten poor results, you’ve set a low bar for your SEO company: now all they have to do is not make things even worse and not pester you!  If you’ve gotten good results by doing it in-house, you may be handing it over to shakier hands.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/rikkis_refuge/15320584918/

I’m not saying you should micromanage whomever you hire.  Do your research, find someone you trust, give that person opportunities to earn (and to lose) your trust, and then let him or her work for you.

But you still need to be in the loop, and need to help on steps that may require you.  If you’re” too busy” to be bothered now, what makes you think you can handle more business if your SEO effort actually works?

“They can optimize the Google My Business thingy!”

That’s the easiest part of all.  There is no “optimization” to be done.  Years ago, arguably.  These days, no.  Your Google page has had all the sharp edges beveled and sanded off.  It’s been mostly childproofed.  Descriptions are gone.  Custom categories are long gone.  If you fail to “hide” your address when in fact you’re supposed to, Google will simply hide it for you.

As long as you remove or “mark as closed” any unnecessary Google My Business pages, enter a valid address, your real business name, and the most-accurate category (or a few of them), you’re all set on Google My Business.  Very quick and easy.  Hire outside help only if you need help on the real work.

 “They can optimize my meta tags!”

One sure would hope they can – though often the worst title tags and description tags I’ve seen were written by so-called SEOs.  Your metas need to be relevant to the guts of the page, of course, and they need to be compelling enough that searchers want to click on your page in the search results.  Still, it’s not hard to get them right, and getting them right doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll rank well.  Don’t have that be a major reason to hire an SEO company (though you should reconsider anyone who writes crappy title tags).

“I want them to handle all the link-building.”

Oh, they’ll handle it, all right.  They’ll build worthless links on worthless sites.  Either it won’t help your rankings a pinch, or it’ll help you temporarily – until Google drops its boot.  But hey, the company “built” links for you, which is what you wanted.  You need to be at least a little involved in planning the work and working the plan.

“I need help on my local listings.”

Real yeoman’s work.  Also, it’s one-time work, for the most part.  Only a few dozen listings seem to affect your local rankings and overall visibility in any way.  After your business (or each location of it) is listed on those sites with generally correct info on your business, you won’t get much or any benefit from creating listings on even more sites.  If you hire an average local SEO company chiefly for help on listings, they’ll bill you for busywork citation-building until you fire them.  If you hire a good local SEO company largely because you want “help on local listings,” you’ll overpay and not put their expertise to the highest and best use.

Citations should be part of what your local SEO-er can help you on, but not the focus.

“They handle my website and ads, and I just want one-stop shopping.”

They may do a great job on those other things, but what makes you confident they can help you on local SEO?

“I need someone to take care of my site.”

If that’s the main thing you need, then hire a dedicated webmaster.  They’re out there.  Your local SEO pro should be able to sniff out problems on your site and fix most or all of them personally, but a crackerjack local SEO isn’t necessarily a development whiz.  (And if he/she is, then that person might – might – be too narrow and might not be good at helping you put all the pieces together, on-site and off-site.)  Largely separate disciplines.

“My friend recommended them.”

Sure, give more credence to what a friend says than to what a stranger says.  But you need to draw your own conclusions, too.  Who or what works for someone else may not work for you.

“We’re friends.”

What will they say at the country club when you fire him?

“I need more customers NOW!”

You can probably get them now, but probably not solely from the work of an SEO company – even a good one.  “Free” local visibility takes time – time not only to do the work, but also for Google to digest it and to rank you accordingly.  The time to dig the well is not when you’re parched, cross-eyed, and thought you just saw Elvis.

“They’re cheaper than my current company.”

And they may be even worse than your current company.

Hiring Another Gun at Local Visibility System

It’s busy around here.

Lots of projects for clients old and new.  Then there’s blogging, LocalSpark, the time I spend running and lifting, and the need for a little time left over to be a halfway decent husband and to kinda sorta have a life.

Much of what clients pay me for is work that only I should do (for one reason or another).  Also, I’ve long had a helper who handles the heavy lifting on citations.  Those two facts have made it a great setup for a long time, partly because I’ve never wanted to become an agency.  “Boutique consultancy” has been my bite-sized description of Local Visibility System.

But I want to free up more time, and to have someone who can move things along while I’m sleeping (often past noon 🙂 ).

That’s where you – or someone you know – might come in.  I’m hiring a part-time helper.

Here’s the rundown:

Basics:

  • You’ll mostly help me with hands-on client work.  I might also want help with research for blog posts from time to time.
  • Work on an as-needed basis – probably a few hours a week, at least at first.  This is not full-time employment.  I’ll send you a 1099.  The upshot is that I assume you’ve got a day job, so of course I’m fine with that taking precedence.
  • I’ll pay you hourly or per-project.  It depends partly on what type of project you’re working on for me, and how good you are at it already.  Well-developed skills are something you had to invest in.  On the other hand, if I need to help you develop a skill, I’m making an investment.  All very relevant to pay.  We’ll talk about this more.

Typical tasks:

  • Make changes to clients’ sites.
  • Research link opportunities.
  • Perhaps get on the phone with Google support occasionally.
  • Help me do research for blog posts.
  • Let me bounce ideas off you.

Requirements and preferences:

  • You must be an un-lazy communicator. Don’t send me a five-word, no-period email after I send you a new project and Paypal you.  Ask questions when you have them.  Be willing to get on the phone every now and then in the afternoon.  Remember what turnarounds we agree on, and let me know when you’re running late.
  • You need at least 2 years of hands-on experience doing local SEO (I’ll ask for detail.)
  • You’ll need to let me know if any conflicts of interest – like if one of my clients is a competitor to a client of yours.
  • I’d love if you’re a longtime reader of mine (or became so familiar with my posts that you fool me). I want you to know my general approach and philosophy.  Also, sometimes I’m lazy and don’t want to re-explain things I may have written about last year.
  • I’d love if you’re experienced at other online-marketing activities besides local SEO. (Ideally it’s something I’m not good at.)
  • If you email me about working together, you must tell me the name of our cat.  (Not as tricky as it sounds.)  That will tell me – among other things – that you actually read this.  I’m channeling my inner David Lee Roth.

What’s in it for me:

  • You’ll save me some time.
  • You may have some skills I don’t, and I might learn from you.

What’s in it for you:

  • Good money for the time you put in.
  • Flexible schedule.
  • You’ll learn my processes – which can help you in the rest of your local SEO / online-marketing career.
  • If I get leads for projects I wouldn’t be good at but you’d be good at, I can just refer those people to you (especially if you’re a freelancer).
  • You’ll gain a buddy and a reference.

Interested?  Zap me an email.  Please don’t send a resume – just a solid pitch.  Detail and specifics are good.  (No need for quite as much detail if I know you already.)  Some time after that, I’ll send you a quick “test” task.

7 Mental Traps That Keep Businesses Down in the Local Rankings

Yes, it’s tough to build a site that’s more than an online paperweight, and improve your rankings, and get reviews, and so forth.  If you’re not visible in Google Places and beyond but you’re trying, at least you’re headed in the right direction.

But many business owners talk themselves into not doing enough to get the customers they need.  They hurt themselves with weak excuses.

You don’t want be one of those people.

I’ve heard every excuse you can shake a stick at.  They all seem to fall into at least one of seven categories.

 

Mental Trap 7:  “I can’t handle too much business.”

Not the worst problem to have, is it?  But I’ve got a few possible solutions:

Pay someone $10 / hour to answer the calls and fill up your calendar.  (And read Perry’s book.)

Or turn away some customers.

Or raise your rates.

Or work out a referral deal in which you refer customers to someone else and get to wet your beak.

 

Mental Trap 6:  “I don’t have the time to learn about Google.”

Then pay someone to help.

 

Mental Trap 5:  “I don’t have the money.”

Then spend a little time learning how to improve your visibility yourself.

Don’t have time or money?  Well, you can’t get something for nothing, so get creative – like by drafting your family into doing some of the work.

 

Mental Trap 4:  “I’m already spending a fortune on advertising.”

Do you want to continue spending a fortune on ads?  There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as your ads attract people who eventually convert and become customers.  If I hand the bank teller $1 and she hands me back $5, I don’t say, “Hey, I don’t like spending all this money.”  No – I stick my arms between the couch cushions to find every penny and quarter that I can turn into a dollar that I can turn into $5 at the bank.

Or if the advertising isn’t effective, then stop the madness at once and work on your free visibility in Google Places and elsewhere.

 

Mental Trap 3:  “How do I know I’ll actually get visible?”

Depends on how realistic your goals are:

If you’re trying to get visible in a city your business isn’t located in or very near, I’ll tell you right now that your chances aren’t good.  Location matters.  In this case, you should add paid options, like AdWords, to your arsenal.

If you’re in a cutthroat local market, like for “Los Angeles divorce lawyers” or “New York City jewelry,” you can get highly visible if you really want to.  But you’ll have to find a way to stand out, and it’ll take longer.

But if you’re in a “normal” market but just aren’t ranking well, a little time or money can take you far.

 

Mental Trap 2:  “I’m not good with computers.”

You don’t have to be. (Re-read answer to Excuse #6: have someone else do it.)

 

Public Enemy #1:  “Now isn’t a good time.”

When is a good time?  When business is good, you’re busy with customers and day-to-day upkeep.  When business is slow, you’re busy scrambling for customers.

Keep doing what you’ve been doing, and you’ll get what you’ve been getting.

Is your local visibility what you’d like it to be?  Why – or why not?

What’s a mental trap you’ve been in?

Leave a comment!

Should You Hire an Industry-Specialist Local SEO?

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.