This blog post is part of an insightful series of interviews we are conducting with successful & well regarded web designers, SEOs and agency owners. Read all our other SEO Agency Q&A articles here.
This Q&A interview is conducted with Laura Betterly from Yada Yada marketing
“Laura Betterly runs boutique marketing agency Yada Yada Marketing and is published by Ryan Deiss with her product for local marketers, Mobile Local Fusion. Her company is Google certified for PPC and she is also an excellent SEO ranking herself and clients for competitive terms.”
*All answers are the words of the interviewees and any opinions expressed are those of the interviewee and not BrightLocal.
1. What research & planning do you do before you start active SEO work?
In my opinion planning is the most important part of doing Local SEO–This is where we figure out locally how much traffic is available, what keywords are going to be the smartest to go for and if there is a possibility of winning on that key phrase. Spending time looking at the competitors and what makes them rank, is a key part of this. To win, you will have to be able to be better than them so knowing as much about their citations, links, reviews, etc. will give you a blueprint of what you will have to do with your client. How much time I spend on planning really depends on how big the client and the market is—very minimum is some basic keyword and competitor research. Based on that we write the initial program set of tasks—More time you spend on this phase the better results you get overall. It surely takes a few hours to look and analyze this (some of this is done prior to gaining client but reviewing and finalizing is important.)
2. Do you have a checklist or framework that you use to help you plan your research and tasks for each new client?
I actually use a few things for planning—we use basecamp for our interactions with employees and subcontractors. I like that I can template out most functions and then adjust per client but certain functions are duplicative ie—getiing logins, claiming pages, etc. On a personal level I use workflowy—an online app to manage my personal day to day functions.
3. Post ‘Planning’ – How do you prioritize what tasks to do first?
Well, it’s always easier to move someone from page 2 to page 1 than lets say from page 90, so the first thing we look for is relevant rankings that they have that are almost there–we move them up quickly as it isn’t such a stretch first and then work on harder key terms to rank them on.
This is where examining the analytics is important–you will see where the existing traffic is coming from.
Additionally, you might also see that the site itself is either outdated, over or under optimized. Fixing those factors will also help rankings quickly.
4. What time frame do you plan for with a new client and why not longer/shorter?
I always sell SEO as a long term strategy. If they want traffic tomorrow, then they should buy AdWords. Each month we measure the improvement of the rankings and let them know right off the bat that until they are in positions 1, 2 or 3, they will see little to no traffic.
There are other things we can do for immediate results like PPC or improve their email lists or use QR codes and mobile to get attention.
Also in month one, we work hard with local clients to implement a good reviews strategy–that also is a factor to boost rankings, so we see improvement, we measure it and we communicate well with the client so that their expectations are managed.
5. What KPIs do you track for your clients and what tools do you use to track performance?
We get a baseline when we start.
Then we measure rankings, traffic, leads, and calls and send them reports on all. In some cases, we also record the calls as we have found that a bad receptionist can be the biggest issue. When a business owner can see that their potential customers are not being treated well by whom ever answered the phone, they sometimes will see a huge increase in business as a result.
Of course, our job ends when someone calls or walks in but occasionally we are able to show them that the problem in their organization is not people trying to come in but more someone in their company actively not wanting them to come in!
6. Do you provide a client with a specific set of targets & timelines? Do clients ever question these targets and how do you handle their expectations?
We measure improvement. We show that with reports we can target tasks but we cannot predict how Google will respond so clients are aware of that from day one.
We also go over very specifically what the cost of customer acquisition is before we start and what they can actually afford to spend for each customer based on the lifetime value of each customer, so we’ll also track that in some cases.
7. How regularly do you meet or talk with a client in the first 3 months?
All clients have my cell phone number and that of my assistant. We try not to spend too much time on the phone with them after the initial meetings. We then just get the job done, send reports, email them with questions, etc. and talk when necessary. Part of managing our expectations is to let them know that we do not waste too much time on meetings other than the once a month recap meeting where we go over results and what our plans for the next month are.
If we have to spend too much time talking (which means we didn’t manage expectations or we have a very needy client) we have to raise the rates. Too much time spent on the phone with clients can kill productivity and profitability. Schedule the calls—don’t just pick up the phone when a client calls—email them and make an appointment. For me, I take client calls on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and always by appointment. Now, when I had a larger agency, I had account managers and these people were support personnel, so they could answer the phone and get information for the client—it’s actually something you want to have in your organization once you have enough clients to justify having—someone who is good on the phone, organized, a bit technical (but doesn’t have to necessarily know everything.) That person can gather information and keep the client happy. We have two people who do that in our agency and that keeps the clients happy and the agency owners, etc. the ability to do the other work that keeps the client happy. I manage expectations prior to the engagement and keep most interactions to email when possible. Our pricing is based on our ability to get the work done. If they need coaching and too much hand holding, it’s not profitable.
8. Do you structure your agreements with monthly payments, upfront payments or both?
One month up front and month to month after that. We let clients know that is will take at least 3-6 months for certain results so they know they have to be with us for a bit to see the best results.
I also set up agreements with them that we auto-bill them on their credit card or facsimile checks. It gives us predictable income and also cuts down on collection calls and bookkeeping costs.
9. What tools do you ask clients to give you access to and are clients ever reluctant or wary about giving you access?
Analytics, web site, G+, webmaster tools, etc. All those things we need to optimize them. I don’t usually get any issues getting the information. If they are going to pay me as much as they do, there is already a trust factor. They see my results in case studies and my A rating with the BBB.
If someone is very paranoid about such things, then it might be an indicator that they are not a good fit for us and we might not take on the work