Local Search Industry Survey 2019

Local Search Industry Survey 2019
Key 'Takeaways' From This Post
  • The average SEO professional earned $81,103, up since 2017
  • Agencies and freelancers are paid an average $1,779 per client each month, up $109 in a year
  • Freelance and Agency SEOs bill their clients an average of $119 per hour
  • 61% of in-house SEOs spend over $1,000 per month on marketing
  • Search marketers work an average 44 hours per week
  • SEOs' favorite tasks are heavily data-driven (on-site optimization, SEO audit and analysis, and GMB optimization)
  • 93% of marketers feel optimistic that 2019 will be a positive year for SEO
  • Word of mouth is most effective for attracting new clients to search marketers, followed by SEO
  • The services that are most in-demand from clients: web design and development, on-site SEO, and SEO audits

The Local Search Industry Survey is an annual study that uncovers what it’s like to work in local SEO today. It explores how business practices, pricing, services, and salaries change each year.

The seventh yearly report is based on responses from 650 local marketers from a range of agencies, local businesses, franchises, and freelancers. Participants were funneled into two branches, each with questions specific to their individual situations:

  1. Agencies and Freelancers: made up of Local, Regional, National & International Marketing Agencies, Web Design Agencies, and Freelance SEOs
  2. In-house Marketers: Local Businesses and Franchises / Brand

To note, the previous report was released in December 2017, while this report was released in January 2019 to provide a timely review of the industry for the whole year.

We hope these results prove useful in benchmarking your agency or business against the wider industry. You can contact us on content@brightlocal.com if you have any questions on this year’s report, or share your thoughts on the report’s findings in the comments below.


About Businesses

  1. Which of these best describes your company?
  2. How many employees does your business have?
  3. How many people in your company are SEO professionals?
  4. Is your business likely to hire more SEO-related employees in the next 12 months?
  5. How many hours do you spend in an average week on SEO-related tasks?
  6. Which SEO / business tasks do you do?
  7. Which are your favorite SEO / business tasks?
  8. How optimistic do you feel about the SEO industry in 2019?
  9. Will you look for a new job in 2019?

    Agencies / Freelancers

  10. What was your company’s revenue in the last 12 months?
  11. How much do SEO professionals earn?
  12. What does an average client pay you each month?
  13. What is your monthly retainer minimum rate?
  14. What is your hourly rate for SEO services?
  15. How many hours do you work in an average week?
  16. Which SEO services are most in demand from your clients?
  17. How many SEO clients do you handle?
  18. What proportion of your work is comprised of projects / retainers?
  19. How many different industries do you serve?
  20. Which marketing channels are most effective for attracting new customers?
  21. How many new leads do you proactively contact each month?
  22. What is your estimated success rate at converting leads into clients?
  23. How many new clients did your business win in 2018?
  24. How much work do you outsource to third-parties or white-label SEO services?
  25. Will it be easier or harder to deliver results for clients this year?

    Local Businesses, Franchises, and Brands

  26. How much does your business spend on marketing each month?
  27. Who handles internet marketing for your business?
  28. How do you rate the performance of your external marketer?
  29. Which factors are most important to you in an internet marketing consultant? 

Section One: About Businesses

These questions were shown to all respondents, focusing on their business practices, workload, and aspirations.

Which of these best describes your company?

What type of company are you?

In this year’s report, there are more local agencies than last year. The proportion of national agencies also slightly grew, providing a larger overall sample of agencies.

There was a small decline in the proportion of freelance SEOs sharing their experiences. Web design agencies also have a smaller presence this year.

Respondents were also asked to share their job roles. 45% are in senior roles (founders and the C-suite), 34% are in mid-level roles (including directors and leads), and 15% are junior (such as account managers and project managers).

We were pleased to have such a broad range of search marketers completing our survey to provide a representative view of local marketing today. Thank you to everyone who completed the survey.


How many employees does your business have?How many employees does your business have?

When looking at business size, the results are very similar to last year’s report.

57% of respondents work in businesses with 10 or fewer employees, while 19% work with more than 50.

The median number of employees in respondents’ businesses is 6. The average is 323, with some businesses having a high number of team members.

How many people in your company are SEO professionals?

Interestingly, nearly half of respondents have just one SEO professional in their organization.

Looking across the data, respondents work with an average of 6 SEOs – up from 5 last year.

In both agencies and businesses, SEO professionals are clearly used to working in small teams. This is why it’s as important as ever for the local SEO industry to share ideas and case studies, and act as an extended support network to learn together as a community. While there are plenty of great local SEO communities out there for networking and learning, we at BrightLocal have a soft spot for the Local Search Forum.

Is your business likely to hire more SEO-related employees in the next 12 months?

58% of businesses are planning to hire more search marketing professionals in the next 12 months, which is good news for any SEO professionals out there looking for a new job!

Hiring expectations have slightly grown over the last year, after a steep drop from 2016-17. It’s great to see a significant proportion still looking to increase their search marketing capability with new roles after a few years of strong hiring. This could mean that the number of SEOs within companies grows over the next few years.


How many hours do you spend in an average week on SEO-related tasks?How many hours do you spend on SEO?

Here, we’ve split answers for external and in-house marketers to demonstrate the difference in time spent on search-related tasks.

As perhaps expected, businesses spend far fewer hours on SEO-related tasks than agencies. This could be due to in-house marketers holding a broader range of marketing responsibilities, while others (particularly those working for multi-location businesses) may be more likely to delegate to junior employees or outsource tasks to external marketers.

Which SEO / business tasks do you do?

Local Search Marketers’ 10 Most Common Tasks

  1. Reporting and analytics
  2. On-site optimization
  3. Competitor research
  4. Google My Business optimization
  5. SEO audits and analysis
  6. Content creation and optimization
  7. Reputation management
  8. Citation management (including clean-up)
  9. Client management
  10. Link building and content outreach

Respondents were asked to share which local SEO and business-related tasks they perform. While the top ten consists of key search marketing skills, just outside are some newer skills.

83% of respondents create Google posts. This relatively new feature of Google My Business is still being tested, but if it holds a prominent place in the Knowledge Panel, could be an incredibly useful marketing tool for local businesses.

Google’s Local Services ads are also commonly completed by search marketers – with 59% doing these regularly. Local Services ads are relatively new to the local marketing game, but receive 13.8% of front-page SERP clicks. We expect to see more marketers using LSAs by next year as these roll out to even more locations.


Which are your favorite SEO / business tasks?

The above data is based only on the respondents that do this task, from the previous question’s results. Respondents were asked to rate how they feel about tasks, from which we determined which tasks are most ‘liked’ and ‘loved’.

SEOs’ Favorite Tasks

  1. Google My Business optimization
  2. On-site optimization
  3. SEO audits and analysis
  4. Competitor research
  5. Content creation

SEOs’ Least Favorite Tasks

  1. Google penalty recovery
  2. Link building and content outreach
  3. Influencer marketing
  4. Citation management
  5. Social media

Local search consists of a wide-reaching range of different tasks, and of course, it’s human to enjoy some tasks more than others. There are plenty of parallels between the most common tasks and those most enjoyed by search marketers, with some notable exceptions.

Just 52% of SEOs like or love link building, yet nearly every SEO performs this task. Likewise, the commonly performed task of building and cleaning up citations is only enjoyed by 65% of marketers. Both of these are critical local search ranking factors, but can be quite time-intensive, and perhaps not the most exciting for seasoned marketers. Of course, if you’d rather we took citation management off your hands, we can do this for you.

About the author
Rosie Murphy
Rosie manages BrightLocal's delivery of research and survey pieces. She heads up data-driven content such as regular polls, webinars and whitepapers, including the Local Consumer Review Survey.


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