Local SEO is a competitive business—not just for SEO practioners looking for clients, but for those local businesses searching for ways to up their Google visibility.
It’s clear that everyone, from mom-and-pop outfits to multi-state enterprises with a brick-and-mortar presence, can benefit from local SEO. Google is putting more focus on local search and reviews seemingly by the day, and competition is increasing with fewer local pack results than in the past.
Add to this the robust growth of voice and mobile search and the mounting difficulty of securing top tier rankings in the main search results and it’s a good bet that many local business owners are becoming more aware of their business’ local SEO needs.Our own 2017 Local Consumer Review Survey found the majority of consumers (97%) look online for local businesses, with some turning to the web as often as once a day. It’s hard to imagine a more compelling statistic to make the business case for local SEO investment.
Last month, we published a guide to choosing a local SEO agency or consultant for local businesses but what’s on the other side of the coin? As SEO focus switches to local search, consultants and agencies are sure to find prospecting and closing local search contracts a much tougher gig.
Whether you’re an agency looking to scale up its local SEO arm or a consultant hunting for new business, there are ways to streamline your pipeline creation process. These easy ways to find local SEO clients are a great place to start.
Method 1: Perfect your own local SEO
It seems obvious, doesn’t it? The reality, though, is that busy agencies and consultants often find they have to neglect their own marketing efforts in order to direct every last resource at client delivery. In our guide to choosing a local SEO agency we advised business owners not to discount those consultants that didn’t have a strong local presence. While we stand by this advice, the fact that 97% of consumers naturally turn to search when looking for a local business is also compelling.
If you have the time and resources to work on your own local SEO, do so. You’re instantly upping the likelihood of attracting inbound leads —leaving you with much fewer hot prospects to manually dig up.As far as local SEO is concerned, not only will demonstrating your own prominent local rankings do wonders for a prospect’s faith in your ability, it also serves as a superb way to showcase what success in local SEO actually looks like.
Remember here that you will need to cast your optimization net both near and far. You will have multiple locations available to you, ranging from your own town or city to the state itself. The better your visibility in your overall vicinity, the more clients you’re likely to attract so start with your zip code and work outwards.
Method 2: Attend local networking and business events
Face-to-face networking has gone out of fashion in the digital age. It’s perhaps not surprising. As Inc contributor and CEO of Quantum Media Group, Ari Zoldan says,
“Traditional forms of networking often lack cohesion, agenda, and purpose. Further, these events rarely have calls to action, and without a facilitator to direct the course of what people should be doing, engagement plummets and little networking is actually achieved.”
If you’re also familiar with the forced, awkward interactions, sense you’re wasting your time and the sinking feeling that you’ll only come away with a few LinkedIn connections, it’s time to change your approach.Traditional networking can still be hugely beneficial to businesses, especially local SEO agencies and consultants looking for new clients, but the way you select events and conduct yourself needs to change if you want to leave with solid prospects.
Zoldan advises you look for a more modern style of networking to get the best from your time. He says,
“Networking is evolving. Smaller, more vertically integrated events with tighter groups of people are demonstrating the new wave of connecting with other professionals. For example, entrepreneurial boot camps and camping trips are now emerging as popular methods for Millennials to achieve their networking goals.”
To guarantee your time at local networking and business events is fruitful, Small Business Trends recommends you follow these 59 commandments.
Method 3: Use your competitors
Any SEO consultant worth their salt will perform competitor research for their clients at one time or another. You can use this skill to do your own research while building your local SEO client pipeline. The process is simple:
- Make a shortlist of your closest local competitors. If there aren’t too many in your local area, conduct a search for local SEO agency + closest major town or your state capital.
- Make a note of the case studies you find on those competitor sites. Which industries and types of business dominate?
- Using your preferred keyword research tool (or Google if need be), create a list of niches similar to those case studies.
- Use your list to power new Google searches, making note of similar local businesses you can approach.
Method 4: Perform local searches
As with any service, the key to making a sale when it comes to signing clients up for a local SEO retainer is identifying a need and then demonstrating how you can solve the problem at hand.
Actually looking at local search results across various industries and keyword types will quickly give you an idea of which businesses are most in need of your local SEO expertise. Go beyond page one to page two, three or further. Identify those who are clearly involved in digital to some degree but either aren’t succeeding (as evidenced by the low rankings) or are failing to make the most of their opportunities. Start with industries you know have a high demand in your target area.
A word to the wise here: don’t just dive in and start making cold calls espousing the benefits of your services. Spending a little more time to personalize your offering can be the difference between a flat out ‘no’ from someone who receives dozens of the same cold calls each week and a receptive ear at the other end of the phone.Consider putting some keyword research together that demonstrates the size of the opportunity. Not only does this show that you’ve taken the time to do your homework, it also provides a compelling reason for your sales prospect to move forward. Educate your potential client. “Demand for plumbers in San Francisco exceeds X number of searches per month” paints a lucrative picture right out of the gate. It’s also reason enough for any local business to seriously consider their need for professional local SEO expertise.
It also pays to assess the landscape before you make a call or send an email. Learn who the major players and top performers are in that area and industry. Analyze how well they’re doing so that you’re able to speak with authority when you reach the decision maker.
Method 5: Seek out poor reviews
We live in an entrepreneurial era, with new brands, businesses, and websites popping up all the time. As such, our review culture is booming. Search engines are putting increased emphasis on ratings and reviews in their algorithms, but they aren’t the only ones. Consumers, too, are placing more store in online reviews than ever before.
Our 2017 Local Consumer Review Survey found that consumers now read seven reviews on average before they’ll trust a local business (up from six in 2016). Increasingly, some consumers will read as many as 11 reviews. You can use this to your advantage.
Seek out poor reviews for local businesses and approach these prospects with a dual focus on local SEO and reputation management. Nothing gets under the skin of a business owner or marketing director like negative reviews. You can explain that while they may not even be true, the presence of poor reviews will damage SERPs and potentially cause click through and conversion issues.
We’d love to hear your thoughts
Are you a local SEO consultant or agency? Has it become more difficult to find local SEO clients lately due to increased competition or easier due to increased demand? What tactics do you use to find promising local leads? Share your experiences and tips with us in the comments below.