Advance Your Agency is a BrightLocal series designed to equip you with the skills, knowledge, and advice necessary to take your agency operations to the next level.
Before you get to work understanding your client’s problems to be solved, you’ll first need to educate them on local SEO. To appreciate the value that your agency is going to provide, the client must understand the ins and outs of local SEO, and how you deliver that will vary greatly based on their knowledge level, learning style, and resources.
In this month’s Advance Your Agency guide, I’ll talk you through how best to educate clients on local SEO, so you can get to work on improving your client’s prospects and showing value.
Why is education important?
It can be tempting to want to dive straight in with a new client and begin showing value right away, but without the education step, your hard work could go completely unnoticed.
Educating clients is important for several reasons:
- It builds trust. Your client knows they are in safe hands and working with someone who truly knows what they’re doing and has their best interests at heart.
- It saves time. In the long run, educating your clients will save heaps of time. Instead of facing endless questioning as you work to improve their local SEO, your client will understand what is being done, and most importantly, why it’s being done.
- It shows value. Building this foundation of education with your client will help prove value and solidify why your services are important to their business and worth investing in.
Getting to know your client
Understand your client’s knowledge level
First things first, you’re going to want to assess your client’s knowledge level. They’ve reached out to you for a reason, so we can speculate that they’ve got some ideas about local SEO, but it’s important to get an understanding of where they’re really at so you can begin to fill in the gaps.
This should be a fairly simple process. You can begin by asking them if they know what a local (or “nearby”) search is, if they’re familiar with Google My Business, and if they have an understanding of search engine optimization on the whole, too.
Some agencies might actually opt for a pretty thorough process here and even go as far as to provide their potential client with a quick survey to fill out. This is a great way to work out your client’s local SEO knowledge “score” before moving onto other things.
If you do go down the survey route, try not to get bogged down in the nitty-gritty, but instead, offer broad questions that can be expanded upon in a one-to-one phone conversation if needed.
Just remember, it’s worth taking surveys like this with a pinch of salt as some clients won’t necessarily want to admit where their knowledge gaps are. And let’s be real, sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know (just speak to any college student ever).
Next, depending on your client’s knowledge and understanding of local SEO, there will be a few different ways to proceed.
Whether they know nothing or have a decent knowledge, it’s still important to be confident in the way that you communicate, as education is undoubtedly going to play a part somewhere down the line.
Uncover their learning style
While getting an understanding of your client’s local SEO knowledge is arguably the most important step, it’s also vital to shed light on your client’s learning style. After all, different people will respond better to different approaches.
Is your client pragmatic, matter-of-fact, logical, or creative? Are they time-poor, under-resourced, or ultra-involved? All of these things will play a part in how best to communicate with them.
Time-poor clients might not have time to sit on a call for an hour while you go through the process, can you fire over a doc for them to peruse in their own time instead?
Creative clients might prefer to get involved in a collaborative discussion on the matter, while pragmatic people just want to do.
We’ve drawn together a few examples to help you out. Once you know your client’s learning style, simply cross-reference it with this quadrant below and you’ll be able to identify the best learning methods for them.
The simplest way to determine your client’s learning style? Ask! There’s no shame in asking them how they best absorb information — you could even include this in your knowledge survey at the start of the relationship.
However you choose to ask, knowing your client’s learning style will help a great deal down the line. You’ll know how, and with what, to engage your client, which takes the guesswork out of the equation.
Educating your client
Okay, onto the really important bit.
Now that you understand your client’s knowledge level and how they learn, you can cater your education methods to your client.
In this section, we share our top tactics for effectively communicating with your client. Through these you can educate clients on the basics of local SEO, as well as the very real benefits it provides.
Know your stuff
Do your research
You’d think this is a given, but it’s worth saying anyway — do your research! You’re going to need to try to explain and educate on local SEO as simply as possible, and we all know that you need to understand something inside and out in order to communicate it in the best possible way.
So before you begin, make sure you’re in the know about everything you ought to be, and that you’re aware of any recent changes.
Doing research also goes beyond just the realm of local SEO. Make sure you’re familiar with your client’s business so you can tailor your communications to them. Personalization is a priceless tool that can help things feel more relevant and memorable to people, and you won’t be able to use it without knowing the client’s business properly.
We all know that fear of missing out (FOMO) can be a powerful tool when used correctly, and when it comes to educating clients on the benefits of local SEO, it can be even more helpful. That’s why it’s important to have a grasp on your client’s competitors and how they’re performing, too.
I spoke to Bowler Hat’s Marcus Miller to get his take on educating clients, and he said:
Often, fear of missing out is a powerful motivator, so by understanding that if you are not well optimized, other less local businesses may appear above you, then you are losing potential customers that could have been yours. Ultimately, local SEO is the new phone book – when someone Googles for a service provider, typically in a traditional local business category, there is location intent there, so be optimized, be visible, or be ignored.
You’ll notice that Marcus also brings the concept of local SEO back to the real world. Phone books may be a thing of the past, but local Google searches really do work in much the same way (except there’s less alphabetical favoritism!)
Don’t just rely on one format
Video can be a great way to educate clients quickly and simply. If you don’t have the resources or desire to create your own in-house videos to serve this purpose, there are plenty online that you can use.
Or, for those more logically-minded, this simple math video, also from Greg, could do wonders. For logic-lovers, it’s hard to argue with basic math, and you can bet this example will be retained.
Using video can be a quick and effective way to educate clients on complex matters. If your client is time-poor you’ll want to share short, snackable videos like the ones linked to above.
If you’ve got the luxury of a more involved and time-rich client, you might want to point them in the way of a webinar or two to further expand their knowledge.
Either way, don’t just rely on long-form blogs to do the educating. Local SEO is complex, and videos can help to bring it to life much faster than print.
Show and tell
Don’t just tell your clients about local SEO, really show them how it works in the real world.
If needs be, get in your car with your client and drive around the block. Show them how their maps rankings change as your proximity to the business does.
For some people, they really do need to see it to believe it, and while using an online rank checker definitely has its uses, for this first phase, showing the client in real-time how their rankings can drop will have 10x the impact, especially if they’re more pragmatic.
As proximity is a key part of the Google local algorithm, this is a really key concept to illustrate.
Take a look at our example route below. Driving around the neighborhood is a great way to showcase how positions in maps will change based on the user’s proximity to the business.
During Covid times, hopping in a car together may not be feasible, in which case you can lean on a free tool like Local Search Results Checker to mimic the process. Or, even better, you could use a grid tracker tool like Local Search Grid that actually displays these local rankings and search results on a map. This is a great way to show potential clients their real position in the local search battleground.
Make the most of metaphors
Who doesn’t love a metaphor? Painting a picture for your client can often be the best way to get your point across, especially for visual thinkers.
When it comes to using metaphors and analogies, though, it’s important to use ones that hold meaning to the client.
Are they a big sports fan? Use that to your advantage! A big 80s film geek? Take a leaf out of Greg Gifford’s book.
When teaching beginners about the importance of local link building, Greg displays the following image:
For those who don’t know, the character in the middle is called ‘Link’, from the movie Encino Man. (Geddit? Link to the past?). Now, the trainee has a visual to associate with the teachings on link building.
It may seem silly, but using tactics like this is a great way to make principles stick, as long as the visual fits your client’s personality and your agency’s brand.
Whatever metaphor or visual example you’re using, make it relevant and relatable as it’s far more likely to stay in the client’s mind this way.
Another popular metaphor used commonly in local SEO is that of citations and poker.
A lot of people struggle to determine whether or not citations are still important, so often experts will rely on poker metaphors to explain this. For example, citations used to be a difference-maker, but now they’re simply known as “table stakes” — you need to have citations on the table to enter the game and be in with a chance of winning.
Keep clients in the loop
Share your reading list
If you want to get clients more involved with local SEO, then share your reading list! There are plenty of great blogs, forums, and Twitter accounts to follow that can help shed light on the ins and outs of local SEO. There’s absolutely no harm in pointing your client in the right direction using these.
Alternatively, if you’re working with a time-poor client, then simply shoot over an article you find interesting every once in a while to keep them in the loop or sign them up to a relevant newsletter (with their permission, of course).
Some local SEO agencies, like Sterling Sky, have their own newsletter, which is a great way to keep clients involved and educated on an ongoing basis without much commitment.
Provide regular updates
We all know that communication is important, and you’ll likely be reporting back to clients on a monthly basis anyway, so there’s no reason education shouldn’t be folded into this, too.
Sterling Sky’s Joy Hawkins recommends:
We do like to educate our clients by putting a page on their monthly report that shows what’s new with Google that month. That way they can better understand why SEO is an ongoing service and not a one-time thing. We also like to ‘over-communicate’ (if there is such a thing) with our clients to make sure they are fully aware of what we’re working on. Then we include a full list of all the work we did on our monthly reports and try to highlight why it matters.
Giving your client the information they need in a report and then explaining it verbally can be a great way to ensure that all communication styles are covered. Plus, you’re educating your client while simultaneously reminding them of the value your service is providing.
Take off your marketing blinders
Get on their level
To us, it might seem that the benefits of local SEO are clear, but finding the right way to communicate these is vital.
From speaking with your client throughout the setup process, you’ll have an idea of how they operate and communicate, so try to mirror their language (without being inauthentic) where possible.
Avoid jargon, and instead focus on the real-world benefits that local search marketing and optimization can have. For example, instead of saying “optimizing GMB can boost your position in local map rankings,” say “filling out your Google My Business listing properly and fully can mean you’re more likely to get seen in local search results”.
Sometimes it can be hard to step outside of your role and see local SEO in the eyes of a newbie — but, where possible, try to leave the jargon at home or you could end up alienating your client.
Put your client in their customers’ shoes
If your client is really struggling to understand the value of local SEO then you might need to participate in a little bit of role-playing… No costumes required!
Blake Denman of RicketyRoo actually suggests his own unique approach to put the client in the shoes of their customer and flip the perspective:
If I’m talking to someone and they don’t know the value of local SEO, I ask them to do a search for their business. How does their GMB look? How many reviews do they have? Does their website communicate their values? If they rank poorly, how much more business could they get if they were ranking for their top keywords? These questions help open up a deeper conversation about what a local SEO company can do for a business that has been staunchly against local SEO or never felt a need for it.
With this tactic, you can also hone in on specific areas to show the impact of different parts of local SEO. Ask your client to look at their reviews afresh, as if they were experiencing this business for the first time. What kind of impression do they leave?
If there are no responses to negative reviews, for example, that’s going to leave a sour taste in the mouth of a prospective customer.
You can do the same thing here with your client and their website. Instead of going through it with the eyes of a business owner, ask your client to visit the website as if it was their first time experiencing it. How easy is it to navigate? Does it load quickly? Does it answer the questions a searcher would be looking for? And even on a basic level, is the business’s name, address, and phone number easy to locate?
Getting a client to see things the way their customer would can help better their understanding of what value a local SEO agency brings and what opportunities they might be missing without one.
It’s important to make sure you’re not just throwing information at your client without a break. When you’re explaining and educating, be sure to regularly ask if your client has any questions, and invite them to challenge anything they don’t quite understand.
A healthy client-agency relationship is a two-way street, so it’s important that the client knows their questions are being heard and valued. Plus, it will help you get a feel for what is and isn’t sticking so you can go back over the basics if needs be.
Create an FAQs page or document
Let’s be honest: you’re not always going to have time to go into this much detail with clients, and that’s understandable, but it doesn’t mean that these important steps can be neglected.
Create an FAQs or education page on your website (or in a shareable document if you prefer), where you provide more in-depth answers to commonly asked questions. You could even record a quick-fire FAQ video to ensure visual learning types are still being catered to. Here, you can include a gif of maps rankings changing as proximity changes (to replace the old ‘driving the car around the block’ trick) and insert photos to demonstrate more complex concepts. It’s also worth including screenshots so clients can get more familiar with things like GMB and citation sites.
It’s worth remembering, though, that this should be considered a bonus, rather than a replacement for one-to-one chats. It will still be important to sit down and speak with your client one-to-one but this will save time and help to fill in the gaps that bit quicker.
In fact, having a page or document like this will be super helpful for clients to refer back to should they find their knowledge is slipping.
Putting exclusive content like this in your client’s welcome pack is a sure-fire way to make them feel in good hands and that you’re already providing value before the relationship fully kicks off.
Dos and Don’ts
We’ve just fired a lot of tactics at you. Refer back to this dos and don’ts for the basics.
- Do work with your client’s knowledge level and learning/communication style
- Do use simple language
- Do share different types of resources based on learning style (videos, blogs, podcasts)
- Do show your client in real-time the impact of local SEO
- Do create engaging, relevant metaphors to explain difficult concepts
- Do explain value to your client in a way that resonates with them
- Do communicate frequently and provide regular check-ins
- Do create an engaging FAQs doc to share
- Don’t get bogged down with jargon
- Don’t try to show off
- Don’t use education as an attempt to justify your prices to clients
- Don’t discourage questions
- Don’t rely on known marketing concepts when speaking to beginners
- Don’t only use one format or medium to educate
Educating your clients on local SEO is vital if you hope to provide them with value and retain them.
By educating your clients properly, you’re setting yourself up to have more successful, stress-free, and time-saving experiences when working with clients.
Just remember it’s all about catering to the client, and education is no exception here.
Have you got any top tips when it comes to educating clients? Share them with us in the comments below and keep the conversation going!
These resources will be instrumental in helping you to educate your clients or padding out your agency knowledge.
- Advance Your Agency: What Should My Agency Charge for Local SEO?
- Advance Your Agency: What Should I Do in My First 6 Months With a Local SEO Client?
- Advance Your Agency: How Can I Educate Clients on the Benefits of Review Management?
- How to Determine a Benchmark for Local SEO Work
- How to Scale Your SEO Agency [Webinar]
- Agency Directory – Claim Your Listing
For your client:
- Top Local SEO Blogs 2020
- Local Search Ranking Factors 2020: What Affects Local Rankings?
- The Beginner’s Guide to Local Marketing
- 17 Local SEO Experts to Follow on Twitter
- How Does the Google Local Algorithm Work?
- 11 Women in SEO Doing Great Things Right Now
- Local Search Industry Survey
- What is Google My Business?
- The State of Local Search in 2020 [Webinar]
- The Benefits of Local SEO
- A Simple Guide to Local SEO
- Subscribe to the BrightLocal newsletter
- Local SEO Experts Twitter list