The right local SEO consultant can help you grow your business; the wrong one can just cost you a lot of money.
Before we talk about hiring a local SEO Consultant let’s start by covering the basics of local SEO, what is it and what it can do for your business? In the simplest terms, Local SEO means helping customers find your local business through search engines. For businesses with physical locations (like a retail store) or face-to-face services (like a plumber), it’s critical to reach customers in your geographical area. Local SEO means giving your business the best possible chance of ranking high in search results when someone in your local area is searching online for the product or service that you offer.
Why Do I Need Local SEO?
Your customers are increasingly going online to search for businesses to meet their needs.
According to HubSpot, 18% of local mobile searches lead to a sale within one day—these sales are going to happen, the only question is whether your business will be in the running.
Today’s customer is out and about, searching on their phone for a place to eat or shop, then going there immediately. Only a few results show within a screen on a mobile phone, and you want to be one of them.
Not to mention local search results are highly targeted and timely. Like I said, today’s customer is searching for a nearby business to use right now. If you are one of those top few results, the conversion rate is high. No other marketing strategy gets you in front of a customer who has already asked for your services and is nearby, ready to commit.
Lastly, today’s customers expect you to be available via local search. Say someone searches for “John’s Autoparts” based on a recommendation from a friend. The search engine will assume they want localized results and look for nearby places with this name. If you’re not optimized for local searches, the search engine may not find you. Now your potential customer is presented with alternative auto parts stores, and you have lost credibility for not being easy to find.
How Does Local SEO Work?
Local SEO comes into play in two basic scenarios. For one, when someone searches for something like “pizza,” most search engines automatically assume the user wants local results and will return local pizza places based on the person’s location. For two, when someone specifies a location in a search like, “best lawyer in Grand Rapids,” the search engine will return local results for Grand Rapids, Michigan based on the search terms.
But how does the search engine choose which businesses to return? With any SEO strategy, it’s important to remember that search engines want to return the best possible results for their customers. Search engines want to find you if you are a local business that offers a service customers need. Your job is to make it as easy as possible for them to find and validate your existence.
First, you will need to define your NAP: Name, Address, Phone Number (NAP). Consistency is important as you grow your web presence because exact matches increase your business legitimacy. If your company is referred to as “John’s Auto Parts” in some places and “John’s Auto Parts & Repair” other places, these will seem like two different businesses to Google. Decide on one primary name, one standardized postal address, and one business phone number. Then use it everywhere. It’s best to have this information on every page of your website, often by including it in the footer.
Search Engines and Social Media
Search Engine local listings
If you haven’t done so already, you will need to claim or establish your Local Search Engine listings starting with Google My Business and Bing Places. It is important to distinguish the difference that Google and Bing are powerful search engines or social media portals, not citations, and they require special care.
Social Media Business Pages
The same is true with Social Media websites like Facebook, YouTube, Google +, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. People are visiting these sites every day to communicate and stay in touch with those who are important to them. You will want to have a presence on social media to rank well in local search. Facebook alone has 2 billion monthly active users. Therefore having social media pages are important weapons in your local marketing arsenal and you will want to keep them updated and accurate.
Online Reviews and Specialty sites
Start with Yelp! Wait, isn’t Yelp just for finding good restaurants? Not anymore! Yelp has been branching out into almost all areas of the business including home improvement, so you won’t want to ignore them. The most important reason for Yelp is that they have an exclusive relationship with Apple and Bing to display business listings and reviews in local search results. For Apple, this means when over 700 million iPhone users ask Siri to find a restaurant near me, Yelp results are displayed. The same happens when you search using Bing to search for a restaurant except it depends on the type of business because Microsoft also uses its own local Bing Places directory so you will want to get listed there.
If you are in the Home Improvement Industry, you will want to read our article 13 Tips on SEO for home improvement businesses. Then set up an account, become familiar with, and publish your information on Angie’s List, HomeAdvisor, Houzz and other specialty websites. These websites are similar to Yelp for the restaurant industry, and you have a better chance of being discovered for projects when multiple sites that display your information.
In summary, you will want to load up all these websites with as much accurate information as possible including the NAP information you defined above. Upload high-resolution pictures, your hours of operation, and encourage customers to leave reviews. The more complete and robust your social media and search engine profiles, the more legit your business appears search algorithms. After that, you want to increase the number of legitimized references to your company throughout the web, particularly in online directories—these are called citations.
What Are Citations?
A citation is a reference to your business’s NAP on another website, with or without a link to your site. Each time your company is referenced accurately with the same Name, Address, and Phone Number you’ve established, you gain a vote of legitimacy. Each entry validates your location and contact information and thus the more you have, the higher you will rank in local search engine results.
Citations fall into a few categories: online business directories, social media mentions, public records, and mentions on other business websites like your suppliers or business partners. The most popular type is online business directories because there are hundreds available, and you can contribute your information to each, or correct it when it doesn’t match your NAP. Examples of online directories are Yelp, Yellow Pages, Angie’s List, and CitySearch. Local SEO Guide provides a comprehensive list of the top local directories.
How Can I Increase My Citations?
Do it yourself
Entering your information into tons of directories is time-consuming and repetitive work. You may decide that your time is better spent elsewhere and choose to outsource some of this job to a consulting firm. There are pros and cons to using an outside company and many from which to choose. Let’s discuss the benefits of managing your citations vs. getting help, and what you need to know when selecting a Local SEO consultant.
Get Help from a Local SEO Consultant
If you do your citations, you control the accuracy and don’t have the added cost of paying a Local SEO consult. You can focus solely on your company and make sure to avoid or correct mistakes like duplicate listings or inaccurate NAP information. You can also determine your list of directories based on your priority. Many directories require manual verification like a postcard, phone call, or text message. Even with an outside firm, you as the business owner have to be involved in these steps. If you’re on your own, these actions don’t require any coordination with another group.
On the other hand, using a local SEO consultant or consulting firm will save you a lot of time and energy. These experts specialize in local SEO, so with a reputable consultant, you should expect them to improve your ranking, be more efficient and more quickly reach a wider audience than your efforts. You do want to make sure that the local SEO consultant has a particular focus on helping you find and correct inaccurate or duplicate listings—these types of mistakes can work against your ranking in search results. Another benefit is that citation building services have access to data aggregators that aid the process by helping distribute data—a benefit you won’t have as a lone wolf. Overall, outsourcing this work will leave you to focus on your business.
Don’t just increase citations, update and enhance your listings
It’s not enough to get accurate NAP information into the local directories; because it’s is only half the battle. To rank above your competition in Local SEO, you need to update your listing regularly. Google reminds users every time they log into Google My Business that business owners who add a photo or update their listing increase the chances of people finding their business online. Therefore smart business owners follow Google’s advice, and you should follow it also.
How to hire the best Local SEO Consultant
When picking a local SEO consultant, the cost is not the only factor. You want to look at their track record and success with other customers as well as how long their services take and how easy it is to work with them. Like I mentioned above, you will have to be involved in the process no matter what, so the tools the company uses for building your local SEO presence are essential. Lastly, you need to know what they are doing so request monthly reports and find time to read them. If they are just doing the data entry once and billing you monthly for extra work but not consulting with you or making updates, they are not doing their job. You are better off doing it yourself.
Tools of the Trade for a Local SEO Consultant:
Like home improvement tradespeople who need to use the right tools to build a house, a local SEO consultant needs to use the right tools for the job. Again, when there are so many online business directories and social media sites, it makes little sense to do everything manually. Chances are your local SEO consultant is working with online tools for citation building. Online services are the most efficient way to update your local citations to multiple websites. You will want to know how they plan to do the job and if they are using the best tools. So why not get to know their tools and ask them what they are using for your business before you agree to work with them.
Three of the top online tools for Local SEO are Yext.com, BrightLocal.com, and Moz.com. They all have strengths and weaknesses. Because pricing can change, we won’t go into detail on pricing. You will have to visit their websites Yext, BrightLocal.com, and Moz.com or contact them for that. Here are some points we feel are important factors to help you decide which will work best for you:
Evaluating Top Citation building services: Which is better Yext.com, BrightLocal.com or Moz.com?
Practically all Local SEO consulting firms use citation building services as a way to manage and get your company more visibility. You should know who the citation building service providers are and what they do.
Two basic Local SEO services all three online citation building services help you with:
- All three have online systems to report on progress and help you submit your listings.
- All three offer some aggregator service to send your data to numerous online directories.
Why would you go with Yext.com?
- Yext is the fastest and provides the most comprehensive local SEO
- A larger company with many locations may want quick results and extensive reporting so we would steer them towards Yext.
- Many directory services allow specials, events, and deals. If you go with Yext, they can update your specials, events, and other activities in the click of a button. If you need to get the word out quickly, you would be better with Yext.
- Yext is the most expensive of the three, and we do not expect that to change.
- If building good reviews are a focus I would suggest using Yext and pay the extra money because they have good review management tools. Linking directly to your review page is important because you don’t want people to have to go out of their way to give you a review. It should take one click.
Why would you go with Bright Local or Moz?
- Moz has a complete SEO solution all in one place with MozPro for Organic SEO, so you don’t have to visit more than one website to do SEO.
- BrightLocal and Moz are more affordable than Yext. If you are on a budget, you may want to look at them first
- Updating directory information with BrightLocal and Moz can take months. Delays happen for some and not all because all online directories update in batches and Yext has negotiated agreements for a direct API connection to many of them. If you don’t mind waiting a few months to see results, you would be fine going with either BrightLocal or Moz.
- BrightLocal handles both aggregators and manual submissions.
- BrightLocal.com charges a small fee for each submission. The cost is reasonable, but you have a minimum quantity with each transaction.
Most Local SEO consultants will use just one service and won’t take the time to get to know your needs. The best SEO consultant will decide which factors are most important for a particular customer based on their needs. As a Local SEO consultant, we use all three depending on the needs and budget of our clients.
What Citation Building Services won’t do:
- None of them will change or update the information for you. You need to do that or hire a Local SEO consultant who knows what to do. Again regularly updating your listings is half the battle.
- None of these companies will encourage your customers to leave reviews. You need to do that or hire a Local SEO consultant who can do this for you. Having good reviews and ratings are a big part of local SEO. Google makes this clear on its Google My Business page.
- None of the service providers will respond to reviews. You will need to work with your consultant to do that.
- One potential issue you might find is once you cancel your subscription the information you supplied may go back to the old records that were there before you started. Losing your data is one of the risks you face when you take the easy road, and manual submissions are the only way to avoid this. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer for this problem unless you want to pay someone to visit hundreds of websites. Many companies opt for a mix of both manual submissions and an automated approach. We do this for our customers.
A local SEO Consultant will often choose to use multiple citation building services because different providers cover various data aggregators and directory listings. Talk to other business owners, search for online reviews, and do your research. When you hire an SEO Consulting consultant, you are inviting a company to take part in creating your online web presence, which is a critical piece of your marketing strategy. Choose wisely.