Local SEO Agency Success

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I've largely had most of my success in affiliate (nothing like the 7-fig exit breadwinners, but decent) but I've recently had an itch to build out a local agency. I have had some success with client work for SEO, basic media buying, some light email marketing, etc. I'm wondering what level of success people have had with local SEO. Are there any $20k - $50k month agency owners that can provide some thoughts on runway time and success expectations? I get that location and other factors definitely play huge roles here, but overall, I'd like to understand if it's worth it to try and dip my toes in the water here. My strategy would not be specific to geo, but instead, I would select one of the industries that I'm familiar with and only work within that single industry (I have a specific strategy around this). It would also be to only focus on SEO and not all services under the sun.

My strongest points/edge would be:

- use of data/reporting
- industry exposure (niche specific based on my knowledge and niche targets)
- on-page
- content ideation
- ability to put processes in place
- hyper communication

For those of you focusing on local SEO, what should I expect or anything you recommend? Still trying to decide whether or not this is truly worth it.

Thanks in advance for your feedback.

Sincerely,
mrpotato
 
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Would love to hear some feedback from local SEO gods banking 5-6 figs a month in it. Unless there are none here. Fig'd worth asking.
 

bernard

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I don't run a local SEO agency but I also want to test the waters with this. I helped a friend during these last couple of years with quite some success, so I think I could replicate that to some extent.

Something I've always found difficult to quantify though is this:
- hyper communication

What do you mean by that exactly?

I know that as an agency, you have that challenge of making a client feel listened to and being communicated with, but really you want to not have to constantly email and call back and forth.

How do you communicate what you're doing when SEO is measured in months and honestly, years? I want to sell Adwords as well, so that would probably make it a little easier as clients can see customers coming in, unlike SEO.
 

wikibum

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@mrpotato I would say try it because I can tell you have already thought it through. You can make good money, but you have to be patient and know how to deal with clients.

I worked for an agency a long time ago and if you are going to open a local SEO shop - you are essentially going into the service industry. You have to be diplomatic, communicate frequently, respond to concerns quickly and all that, which you seem to know already.

I helped a lot of clients with local SEO but I also do a lot of other things. Local SEO wasn't my selling point - I just gained their trust and they started asking me for help in different areas. Anyway, I still have the "good" clients left. I realized that some clients were wasting my time with useless questions and were not valuing my effort, so I told them I charged more and most of them left hahaa. That was the plan!! I essentially told them to buzz off in diplomatic terms ;-)

You can tell who the "shitty" clients are pretty quickly. A few signs:

- They email you with questions that they assume you should answer ASAP and you do! Once you respond, they don't respond back until the next time they panic. (This is a classic panicky disorganized client with trust issues) You won't be able to solve their "problem" because its a personality issue. It has nothing to do with the work you do!
- They miss scheduled calls and don't reschedule and just call you randomly after that.
- They send you miscellaneous tasks to do that have nothing to do with they are paying for.

In my opinion, for you to have good success (and low stress) - you have to charge what you feel comfortable with and don't budge. Lower paying clients are usually the most needy. Don't give discounts and don't have the mentality of "let me just do this one favor for them, they will appreciate it". Don't do that! They are not your friends - its business. If they knew how to do it (or had the time to do it) then they wouldn't ask for your help.

Would love to hear some feedback from local SEO gods banking 5-6 figs a month in it. Unless there are none here. Fig'd worth asking.

It's mostly agencies making that kind of money and they are not running local SEO alone! They run full service agencies and provide almost all services under the sun.

Think about it like this. If you charge clients $2500/month. You will need 10 to make $25k. You will need 40 to make $100k/month, but with growth comes more responsibilities and more costs. You won't be able to hand 40 clients on your own - you will need to hire help, etc.. Essentially you will be growing into an agency.

At the end, the person running the agency doesn't actually do the work - they will hire people like yourself to do it and just up charge the client. The good agency boss's oversee the operations and make sure all the clients are happy - most don't. They just get clients, run campaigns for a few months, then it's on to the next client.

Best clients I had were ones that got screwed over by others, because they learned their lesson and will appreciate the work that you do.

One last thing I want to add is reporting. Local SEO reporting is really important. Most agencies that fail tell the clients they will rank them in 3 months and then start sending them keyword ranking reports. That is a straight shit show. If a client wants to measure your SEO success - they should be looking at how much more "visibility" you got them and not by which keyword is up and which is down. By visibility, you can show them traffic increase and lead volume increase - that's it. If you go down the route of - your keyword#1 decreased but keyword#2 increased - you are digging yourself a hole and will spend most of your time explaining minor details here and there.

You will be dealing with a lot of personalities so go into "therapist" mode. Communication is key and as long as you are providing value, then you should be good.
 

bernard

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@wikibum Thanks for the explanation.

I would also recommend against doing local SEO by itself. It's not a service that most local clients are sophisticated enough to demand.

I think most prospective local biz would like to see online marketing as a total package, including running their website, Google Ads, Facebook, SEO and Local.

They might probably understand the difference between Google Ads and SEO and Facebook and Local, but their understanding of what does what is probably low.

They want to see more clients and customers and they want an easy way to connect that to the money they spend on you. If clients go up, they're probably going to be happy regardless of which channel.

My approach will be to target business with no websites or bad websites and then offer them to run their entire marketing budget. It's very easy to improve on someone who basically has no online presence.

----------------

Another thing to consider:

What do you guys think about "rank to rent" methods, but for online marketing as a whole, not just SEO?

Why not make a "Plumber Kabul" business, with a website, with a Places listing, with PPC ads and all that?

Then find someone to do the work for you and get paid pr. lead / customer.

It would have to be someone motivated, so you could get them to push for reviews and such.
 

UFO

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What do you guys think about "rank to rent" methods, but for online marketing as a whole, not just SEO?
"Rank and rent" and "pay per lead" are great models. Ideally, you set up and control all the assets, that way if you part ways with one client you can move on to the next. With client SEO if someone no longer wants your services all your hard work is gone and you have to start fresh again.

Local business owners do not understand most of the concepts behind digital marketing, what they do understand is leads, phone calls, etc. so it can be a much easier sell.
 

bernard

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"Rank and rent" and "pay per lead" are great models. Ideally, you set up and control all the assets, that way if you part ways with one client you can move on to the next. With client SEO if someone no longer wants your services all your hard work is gone and you have to start fresh again.

Local business owners do not understand most of the concepts behind digital marketing, what they do understand is leads, phone calls, etc. so it can be a much easier sell.

I agree.

The thing is, I would want customers to review it on Google Places and for that to be effective, you'd either be in contact with the customers yourself or you'd have to convince the contractors to push it to customers and would they do that for a site that isn't their own?
 

UFO

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The thing is, I would want customers to review it on Google Places and for that to be effective, you'd either be in contact with the customers yourself or you'd have to convince the contractors to push it to customers and would they do that for a site that isn't their own?
Reviews are the tough part, but there are a couple of things you can do. Since you will be recording phone calls and collecting email addresses you can perform "quality assurance" checks and push people to leave a review on your listing.

You can also have your client push a few happy customers your way in exchange for some free leads.

As long as you aren't competing in verticals that are ultra-competitive or in a major city you shouldn't need too many reviews to make an impact.
 
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I worked for an agency a long time ago and if you are going to open a local SEO shop - you are essentially going into the service industry.

It's mostly agencies making that kind of money and they are not running local SEO alone! They run full service agencies and provide almost all services under the sun.

This and this.

To expound on both though, the problem with the service industry is many of them have a tiny budget and are a bit needy. Which sort of leads into the 2nd point above - you probably can't focus on just one thing for them since they need more than one thing but don't have time to manage 10 different agencies working with them.

These smaller companies want "one neck to wring" when things go wrong, and if they go well they're going to want other services that you're already saying you won't provide.

"We love what you did with our reviews, can you run a small social campaign for us". Nope.
"We want to email this promo to our loyal customers". Nope.
"We have this kickass new offering and we want to try PPC to promote it" Nope.

So then they'll find an agency that does all of the above, including your local SEO services.

Some services they expect to not be handled by a small marketing shop, like dev. But trying to pigeonhole yourself into just Local SEO for one industry and getting 6-figs? Doubt. The industry is very relationship driven, not saying results don't matter but most companies would rather have 5% lower results if it means they can always get you on the phone and rely on you to help them market their business as a whole. It's not the same as affiliate in that regard. You're not a faceless marketer.
 
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I was / bin in the same position.
I had my own network of affiliate sites. (men's health pills)
Got involved in a big law suite because of these pills.
Lost everything and even more.

A Real Friend (also an SEO) of mine that hosted most of them took all the Domains + Content. If would that not be enough he also hasn't paid back his private credit. That all happens as I was involved in this big law suite because of these damn pills. It was simply a stab in the back while I was lying on the ground.

From 12-15K profit per month to 400 a month social income support + branded as criminal.

In the Apartment where I moved in, there was a Dentist in the same Building and someday we meet in the elevator and started talking about what I do.

Short Story, he was very unhappy with his website and his Agency. I relaunched the Site and additionally helped him with his SEO, I also explained to him the whole world of Online-Marketing and especially SEO.
He paid me in cash which was very helpful at this time.

~1 year later I got a new law/finance client thru an old contact. (this was lucky but I also invested a lot of effort in this project/relationship)

We started with 2k per month and later 3k. Later 5k. At moment 8k but only after I read a few books about selling and sold him a whole Content-Package with different Languages for 6figures. (Upsell in SEO, huge potential)

On the way, I had also a handful of clients but they are no longer with me. Getting into the whole new client world as affiliate SEO was quite shocking and still, it is sometimes.

I can absolutely 100% agree with "wikibum" what he wrote. Also "yuckystuff" has good points.

Also the same time I didn't build my own Website. Huge Mistake! Atm, I thinking about making my own YouTube Channel. To generate Leads for me.

I mean a dozen of really good clients or even a half dozen, is absolutely enough for a One-Man-SEO-Show.

Building an "SEO Agency" from Scratch is a completely different Level.
It's about building Systems and managing People (your Staff + Customers).

Big Companies don't hire a Single-Person for SEO unless you have a kind of "Expert Status". Normally they look for very big Agencies. More Employees = More Security = More Trust.

I can talk about this topic for days... :smile:

Search "How to sell Seo" on YouTube and you find a lot.

- "Ruan M. Marinho" has only a few good Videos about this topic.
- "A Nerds World" has a lot of Videos about it and also 2 selling courses 1x Seo 1xWebdesign

I think "Nathan Gotch" and "Ryan Stewart" sell also courses about starting an SEO agency. (i haven't bought the courses)

There is also an Interview with "Ryan Darani" on Craigs Channel. He makes 40k per month alone and got his Leads only from Linkedin, which is quite impressive if it's true.
Close to 500k a year alone with SEO is quite an Achievement.

I would say the top3 Inbound-Sources for Leads
- Your own Google Rankings
- YouTube
- Linkedin

Outbound is another World, is it extremely hard
- Simply E-Mails are worthless
- E-Mails with Video has better % but still, Trust issues are a huge problem
- With "Outbound Phone Calls" I have no experience

Getting good Leads
Learn to Sell
Improve your Seo Skills consistently
Find good Freelancers and start outsourcing a part of your work