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.
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.
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.
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