2. Set up Google My Business
With your first raft of citations ticking over nicely in the background, it’s time to move on to the meat of local SEO, your client’s Google My Business (GMB) listing.
While there’s plenty you can do to improve performance and continually optimize GMB over time (such as testing categories, using Google Posts and asking and answering questions using Google Q&A), there are a few key things you need to get in place right away.
Set up a Google My Business profile
First you’ll need to get the profile set up, if it doesn’t exist yet. Here’s a helpful guide on doing that.
Enter a suitable business name
This is where so many go down the spammy route of adding their locations to their GMB business names in order to boost impressions in search, but this is a flagrant violation of Google’s lengthy rules and guidelines on GMB.
According to Google’s guidelines, your GMB business name should “reflect your business’ real-world name, as used consistently on your storefront, website, stationery, and as known to customers.”
Select a suitable category
There are literally hundreds of categories and subcategories you could select from when updating your client’s GMB profile, and you could test some later on, but at the start it’s important to select the categories that make the most sense to your client’s customers and actually reflect what they’d be searching for.
Write a good description
Google My Business allows you to upload a short business description, but it also has a ton of guidelines around what you can and can’t add, to prevent misleading claims or spammy activities. Take a look at our guide to optimizing GMB business descriptions for help, and be sure to follow the Google guidelines at all times.
Add photos to Google My Business
We’ve shown before that there’s a correlation between number of photos and local rankings. This alone should convince you to get some uploaded, but it’s also a given that users are more attracted to GMB listings that showcase the business in an attractive way.
As I’ve said, there are plenty of other things you should consider doing with GMB at this point if you have time, but at the very least you need to get the above in place before moving on to optimizing your client’s Google My Business listing. At this stage it really is just about giving your client’s Google My Business listing a clean bill of health so it’s eligible for search.
3. Ensure the website is optimized for search
You’ll notice that, so far, we’ve barely talked about your client’s website! Beyond you probably needing a break after having designed it, that’s because in local search it really does play second fiddle to your client’s Google My Business listing.
However, that’s not to say that it’s not important; just that your client’s Google My Business listing is likely to get more views than their website. In many cases, GMB acts as a gateway to the website, where a much more honed image and defined idea of the business’ brand can be found.
Our own research shows that even with the prevalence of GMB listings and knowledge panels in today’s SERPs, only 8% of consumers say they never look at websites when choosing which local business to use.
This step is all about making sure the SEO of your client’s website is all up to scratch, and optimized for performance in search for the desired terms. While things like localized content and broader content marketing might factor into an ongoing on-site SEO strategy, the fact is you won’t have the time or budget to get to work on that right now.
So you need to make sure all these foundational SEO website elements are in place:
This all goes outside the bounds of local SEO so I won’t cover these techniques here, but it’s safe to say that getting these things in place and optimized are not only critical to organic and local rankings now, but factors like site speed and user experience are only set to become more important.
You may have covered a lot of these already while designing the site, but if not it’s important that you revisit them, as the stability of the website is a key factor for search engines and users.
If the site is an existing one, the core thing you have to do, above all else, is to rule out anything that is preventing the site from ranking at the moment.
Which local SEO services should I provide on an ongoing basis?
With citations sorted, GMB set up and website optimized, your client should have all the ‘table stakes’ elements in place to put them in good stead for ranking in local search.
But what’s next? What tactics and strategies can you learn and put in place to help them on their way to local search domination? Not to put too fine a point on it, but what will ensure they pay your retainer and see value, month after month?
Aside from monitoring citations and looking for more listing opportunities, there are many ways local SEO can provide real ongoing value for your clients.
1. Regular reporting
If you want to convince your client you’re doing a good job and achieving results (and I’d like to think you will), you’ll want to regularly report performance back to them, potentially using a customizable, white-label reporting tool like BrightLocal.
This is especially important in the early going: to ensure you’re developing a relationship of trust with your client, and therefore encouraging further business down the line, you’ll want to take some time out of your day, just once a month to start with (or maybe once a week for the first month, just to bed them in), to supply your client with a breakdown of performance and talk them through the results.
What you choose to measure and report on is really down to the KPIs and expectations you’ve set with your client, but it’s important not to just present them with some charts and let that be that. The most successful local SEOs know not to waste their clients’ time with metrics they’re not interested in. Instead, they focus first on the results the client is most interested in, and use the data from their reporting tools of choice to add context and color to those results.
Whether you choose to charge for reporting or not is up to you, but you should bear in mind that everything you charge for should provide value, and simply running and sending a report alone, without context, guidance, strategy or explanation, really doesn’t provide much value at all, and is more likely to confuse your client.
2. Ad hoc consultancy
For better or for worse, SEO is an ever-changing game, and local SEO is no different. The way people use search is always evolving to meet changing technologies (look at voice search, for example), and SERPs and algorithms are regularly evolving to meet user needs. This means that there’s always an element of risk inherent in SEO, because no-one’s rankings are ever 100% stable.
But instead of balking at news of changes to Google’s algorithm, for example, a keen SEO will instead rejoice upon seeing an opportunity to generate revenue. Provided you’re willing to do the work and research on your client’s site to react to an algorithm change, you’ll always be in a good position to offer ad hoc consultancy services to your client, build trust and prove that you’re a reliable pair of hands for future ad hoc questions.
If you want to be among the first to learn of rumblings in Google’s local algorithm, be sure to sign up to Local RankFlux, completely free, to get alerted to big fluctuations in local rankings.
3. Review management
The stats really do speak for themselves: reviews are critical to local business performance. And if you or your client don’t agree that they’re worth the effort to manage, I’ll point you to our previous Advance Your Agency piece, filled with solid arguments for making them an ongoing priority.
Before pitching review and reputation management to your client, though, it’s worth considering what their experience has been with reviews, and what their attitudes towards reviews and reviewers are. Is there a culture of appreciating and generating reviews within their business or are they known skeptics? Use this information to ensure you’re ready to handle any objections they might have, and to better plan your strategy.
For example, someone who has been burned by negative reviews might perceive going through the process of requesting reviews as a risk. In this case, tell them you’ll take it off their hands and manage review generations and responses yourself, perhaps with a tool like BrightLocal’s Reputation Manager.
On the other hand, someone who is much more customer-facing and delights in providing the customer experience might be very precious about how you’re handling their reputation. In this case, you could provide training on how best to generate and respond to reviews and leave them to it, or better yet, use reputation management software that offers white-labeling and client access. This way, they’ll be taking charge of their own review management, but using tools you’ve provided them with to do it!
4. Local link building
Despite claims to the contrary (sometimes from Google itself), links are still very much the backbone of search. Links back to your client’s website will tell search engines a great deal about how well the website (and by association, the business) is trusted and what topics it should be associated with.
While you should certainly be considering offering (or outsourcing) content generation and building links from reputable websites as services for your client, an area that’s far too often overlooked is the local link. And it’s a shame because it’s comparatively easy to acquire.
In short, local links are links from businesses, organizations and websites that are highly relevant to the local community around your client’s business. They don’t have to be from high-quality, high-DA websites, and they don’t even have to be ‘dofollow’; they just have to be locally relevant. I’m talking here about the websites of local charities, religious groups, sports teams, and the like. These are important because they show Google that your client’s business is trusted in the local area, naturally giving it better mileage in local search.
But how do you get local links? We have a great guest post outlining some local link building tactics here, but the gist of it is that by sponsoring local organizations and finding ways to help in the community, you’re likely to open the door to getting their websites to link to yours. Who knew local SEO could result in so much community spirit?
5. Google My Business management and optimization
As mentioned earlier, there are many ways you can be getting more out of your client’s Google My Business profile. Consider testing different categories, creating Google My Business posts, adding Products and Services, using Google Q&A, and generally fleshing out the GMB profile until you’re providing searchers every reason under the sun to do business with your client.
GMB is always changing, too, with new features being tested and released all the time. This provides a huge opportunity for you to show off your local SEO nous to your client, and offer to take advantage of new features early while their less innovative competitors lag behind.
I’d recommend joining the Local Search Forum (and, of course, signing up to the BrightLocal newsletter) to find out about any opportunities presented by changes to Google My Business as soon as they emerge.
6. You need more?!
If you’ve put all the fundamentals in place, are regularly managing link building, citations, GMB and reviews on a retainer, and are looking for even more ways to generate revenue from your clients, I’d first ask how you’re even finding the time to develop websites any more!
But it’s entirely possible that the above ongoing SEO tasks are already being dealt with or just of no interest to your client. In that case, I’d suggest expanding your services to include the following:
- PPC: Online advertising can lead to quick wins providing the website content is tailored to the advertisement, and for service-area businesses, Google Local Services Ads present a unique opportunity to take the lead in search.
- Social media: It’s not suitable for every business type, but these days many industries can do exceptionally well building a community on social media. It’s always worth managing because it’s a popular avenue for customer feedback and questions, too.
- Content creation: Links are still everything in search, and once you’ve got all the local links you can, you’ll need awesome content for the wider world to link to! Whether it’s writing guides on local activities or making industry-specific how-to’s and videos, content creation can be a very lucrative revenue stream, providing you can always prove it’s having the desired effect.
- Email marketing: Customer engagement and building relationships should be at the heart of any local business, which makes email marketing an essential tool for generating loyalty with news and exclusive offers.
- Offline advertising: It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to advertise in local newspapers, magazines or with ‘out of home’ advertising, so this is an area certainly worth investigating if your client has the budget for it. As you’ve designed their website, you should be in a good position to design their advertising, too!
So there you have it! I hope I’ve been able to give all you budding local SEOs out there some guidance on how to start generating more revenue from your web design clients.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to put the effort in and really learn and hone your skills. It’s an incredibly competitive market out there and those looking for a quick buck are always going to find themselves outgunned by more experienced and skilled digital marketers.
I wish you the best of luck in your local SEO journey, and hope you’ll comment below when you’ve seen some success with your first digital marketing client!
Wait! What about pricing and packaging my services?!
I thought you might ask that! Don’t worry, we’ve got that planned for an upcoming Advance Your Agency. As with all SEO, the answer is often ‘it depends’, but I’ll be doing everything I can to explain how best to make these decisions. Look out for this in a couple of months!