Do You Have the Right SEO Company?
Steve Wolgemuth | May 3, 2014
You just launched a new website for your garden center and it’s the best website that nobody’s going to find. The volume of online search for items that you carry and services you provide from your location is high, but your site isn’t showing up in search engine results. You have no website traffic and this is a problem because a lot of your clients are online and they’re discovering your competition and forgetting about you.
You Need Help But…
You’ve talked to a search engine optimization (SEO) company that came highly recommended but you’re just not comfortable signing the contract. Nearly every day you get an email from India or a telemarketer call promising you first page visibility on Google. How can you know if an Internet marketing company is any good?
Are You Hiring the Right SEO Company for Your Business?
If you’re not confident about moving ahead with an SEO vendor, employee, or DIY training program, your instincts may be serving you well. Not all SEO approaches are suited for a business with a local clientele like yours. Most SEO companies are still focusing on traditional SEO, not local, but you need a expert for nearby web users. So before you sign that contract, you should ask a few questions.
Is your SEO company staffed with at least one dedicated staff member for local search optimization? If they are telling you they do local SEO but they an in-house specialist, you should probably pass. Local search expertise has quickly grown into a complex specialty that can’t be kept with a part-time effort. They may be substituting expertise with quick, cheap, and far less effective approaches, and they’re probably using automated tools for listing you on directories. The top experts in local search agree that this isn’t a best practice, and you should steer clear from it.
Recently, I participated in an online discussion on LinkedIn about SEO in Lancaster. This and other conversations regularly ignore the fact that local optimization takes a very different approach than traditional broad SEO. You’d think that would come up considering that one-third of all searches done on Google have a local intent. This experience reminded me about the lack of understanding of and priority given to this subject. Most people don’t consider that Google’s algorithm makes a determination as to whether a search has a “local intent.” When it does, Google serves up a very different type of results including geo-targeted Pay-Per-Click Ads, organic results of businesses nearby, a list of ranked business locations, and directories with local businesses’ information.
Providing positive and legitimate influence to Google for local searches involves a very long list of considerations, different than traditional search engine optimization. Unless your SEO company has staff devoted to this specialty, they will most definitely not have deep expertise in this niche area of SEO. If they tell you otherwise, they may be faking it.
If your SEO company doesn’t have dedicated local SEO staff, but say they do local SEO, they’re faking it. (tweet this)
Why This Is Important
Local search optimization is not as similar to traditional SEO as you might think. Experts (like Mike Blumenthal and David Mihm) agree that local SEO is quite complicated. It is changing at an even faster pace that traditional SEO and has quickly become a specialty.
What Type of SEO Do You Need?
If you’re shopping for SEO services, the first question you need to ask is “Where are my customers?” If your customers are local, you need to find a company with local search engine optimization expertise.
Remember the days when everyone who built a website said they did basic search engine optimization? Fact is, they didn’t really. Today, many SEO companies and website shops are doing the same thing by telling their clients, “Oh yeah, we do local optimization too.” Like the two-person team from out of state I talked to last week who did design, branding, coding, and SEO. When I asked if they could use help with their local SEO, they said, “No, we do that too.” And the saddest part is that they believed themselves. Don’t hire a “we do that too” company or you’ll be left behind your competition who are hiring real talent.
The Few, the Local, and the Committed
Today, a relatively small percentage of Internet marketing companies are diligent about staying on top of local SEO. It takes the commitment to attend conferences, follow blogs, exchange ideas internally, and work on dozens of local client accounts daily. Even then, a company barely can keep up in this fast-changing, highly-specialized area.
Investigating Potential Local SEO Vendors
You might Google “Internet Marketing *their town*” and see where they rank in search results. Ask if they use tools to automate any of the work, or if they outsource the work (to a third world country). If they claim to do local SEO in- house, ask who would handle your account. Then ask what other areas this person is an expert in. Will you be getting a jack-of-all-trades?
Keep in mind that any firm doing local SEO that takes anything shorter than a 9-month engagement may not credible. That’s because it may take that long to gain consistent, stable, and broad NAP/W (name, address, phone/website) information across the Web for your business. Like traditional SEO, local search optimization is more a process than a project. Unlike traditional SEO, local optimization helps to gain the intense visibility that matters to you. Appearing nationally for any search term when your business has a local market(s) may be a waste of your energy, time, and money.
Bottom line: If you own a business with a local market, hire a local search marketing expert, not a generalist who may be faking it.