Not all local SEO companies are created equal. What separates the good from bad?
When speaking with a potential client, often times they are working with a solo practitioner or a a full-fledged local SEO agency. I ask them what the company is actually doing for them for the fee they are charging.
9/10 times the business owner has no idea what they are paying for. Wow!
One of the biggest things I have learned about working with small to medium sized businesses is that the more transparent I am with them, the more they trust us to do the work we do.
Business owners need to be involved in there own online marketing. How could a third party company respond to reviews, write authoritative content, and the like?
Questions to ask your current/potential local SEO agency:
1. Can you guarantee me results?
If they say they can, run. No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google
2. What will you need from me?
This includes both time and information. Information includes all business information (past and present), who your ideal customer is, questions they have, etc.
They should also ask you what you’re expectations are, and if they think they can meet them.
3. Can you provide me with your plan for my business?
If you have signed up with a company, or are in the process of vetting a local SEO company, this should seem standard practice. If a company is charging X per month for their services, wouldn’t it be nice to know where your money is going?
If this information is provided and you have no idea what they have listed, ask. Sometimes companies will put things that sound very technical and time consuming, when in reality it may only take a few minutes. A good followup question when the plan is presented is to ask how many hours are dedicated to your account every month.
If the company says that there processes are proprietary or they do not provide that information, one of two things are likely:
- They might be using black hat SEO tactics to try to get your website to rank. It may work short term, but puts your business at risk of getting a penalty from Google.
- It’s possible that they aren’t doing anything for you after a certain period of time, yet keep billing.
4. Can you provide some client references?
Speaking to a couple of current clients of the agency can be beneficial. If the company does not want to provide any references, then you might be seeing a sneak-peak of the kind of service and work they are going to provide your business.
5. Do you provide all logins for my business listings?
One of the biggest ranking factors for getting found in the maps section of local search is having clear and consistent NAP data. This involves finding and optimizing local listings on local directory websites like yelp.com, and superpages.com. If a company is actively working on your behalf to claim and optimize listings, you should have access to any and all listings.
Sometimes companies keep this information for ransom if a client wishes to cancel. They threaten to delete the listings or say the business is closed.
If you’re paying a company to claim and optimize listings and wish to cancel, the work they provided should remain intact and not be touched.
6. Links are important, how are you going to get them for my business?
Another big ranking factor is having good links pointing to your website. Not all links are created equal. And getting links needs to be a byproduct of producing great content, community involvement, or sponsorships. In order to obtain these links, your website will need link-worthy content.
The local SEO firm should work closely with the small business to come up with a plan in order to obtain these types of links.
7. Reviews are important, how are you going to help me get them for my business?
More and more surveys are showing that people trust reviews. Your local SEO agency should have a strategy to getting reviews on websites that users frequent or directories that rank in Google for competitive keywords.
Getting reviews to a Google listing are important, but other third party directories like yelp.com are beneficial too.
8. How often do we go over results?
This should be at least monthly. Via email or phone. It’s important to keep both the local SEO agency, and the client on track.
One thing all of these questions should do is also give you the ability to trust your gut. If you get the inkling that what they are saying isn’t true, you might be right. Some small business owners and some local SEO agencies just don’t mix. That doesn’t mean that the agency is doing bad work, it just means that they aren’t a fit.
We’ve had to turn down projects for this reason. Just like a potential client should ask the agency questions, the agency should ask the potential client questions too. Sometimes business owners have unrealistic expectations, or don’t want to commit the time needed for a local SEO campaign to work. Finding these things out during a consultation is beneficial for both parties.
If you feel comfortable and confident with the company you are thinking of working with after asking these questions, go for it!
Blake is the President & Founder of RicketyRoo Inc. He has more than 12 years of local SEO and paid search marketing experience working with a variety of small to medium-sized businesses. He’s a contributor to the Moz Local Search Ranking Factors and speaks at digital marketing conferences about local SEO.