About the Local SEO Industry Survey
The objective of this survey is to gain greater understanding about the health & nature of the local SEO Industry. Through this survey we aim to find out what life is like ‘on the ground’ for those in the local SEO industry and to share those findings publicly to help improve the knowledge and insight within our industry.
To see the latest data in this series, see the Local Search Industry Survey.
Local SEO Industry Survey 2011
The survey was conducted in Q4, 2011 and the full set of findings published in January 2012. This is the first year this survey was conducted and we intend to repeat the survey in 2013. The survey is designed to be an annual survey and will update and change to ensure the questions and focus remain relevant in our rapidly changing industry.
We received 1,153 entries from SEOs in 4 different countries, with 87% of respondents based in the US & Canada.
The survey consists of 12 questions which cover a broad range of topics –
- Turnover and growth
- Services & pricing
- Tasks & challenges
1. Client turnover: 31% of SEOs turned over less than $30,000 in the last 12 months
Client turnover volumes vary significantly between the different types of SEOs.
- 31% of SEOs turned-over less than $30,000 last year with this figure rising to 51% among Freelance SEOs.
Unsurprisingly, it was National Agencies which claimed the highest turnover with 33% earning in excess of $500,000. However, just 4% of Local Agencies were in this earnings bracket.
2. Clients: Local SEOs handled more clients this year than last year
The survey found that business is booming for SEOs with the quantity of clients being handled per SEO increasing across the board year on year.
- 50% of SEOs claim to have between 2-10 clients – up 14% year on year
- The number of SEOs with over 20 clients has grown 10% in the last 12 months
3. Growing Competition: 31% of respondents are new to SEO in the last 12 months
One of the most interesting and controversial findings from the research is the number of SEOs who are new to the SEO industry.
- 31% of respondents were not practicing SEOs (with active clients) 12 months ago:
Key Insight: While it’s exciting that the local SEO industry is growing rapidly and attracting new talent, the influx of new SEO providers is a cause for some concern.
The SEO industry already suffers from a negative reputation caused by poor service being dished out by too many inexperienced and underqualified SEO providers.
The entry barriers to joining the local SEO industry are virtually nil – a cheap website, an online Google Places training seminar and a friend’s business to practice on. At least that is the pitch that many wannabe SEOs are sold on. This quick-fix career opportunity often results in below-par performance for clients which tarnishes the reputation of the local SEO industry as a whole.
4. New Business: 46% of local SEOs claim that they do not actively seek new clients
It appears that new business is not hard to come by for local SEOs.
- 46% of local SEOs claim that they do not actively seek new clients.
For those SEOs who do actively engage in lead generation (inbound or outbound) the results are very promising.
- More than 50% of all SEOs claim to have a 70-100% success rate in converting leads to customers.
5. Future Growth: 82% of local SEOs expect to grow their business in next 12 months
Confidence is not short among local SEOs with the majority believing that the next 12 months will result in greater revenue and them taking on more employees.
- 82% believe that they will definitely grow their business in 2011/2012
- 78% expect to increase the size of their team
Key Insight: A major contributing factor to this growth is the appreciation among local business owners of the value of good online visibility. Local businesses can no longer ignore the Internet and many are investing in the opportunity because they hear about or see their competitors doing it. It’s no longer first-mover opportunism that drives the market but the fear of being left behind.
This is evident in the following chart which shows that 64% of local SEOs claim that it is easier/much easier to convince potential clients of the benefits of SEO.
6. Pricing: most SEOs charge between $100-$250 for Google Places optimization
When it comes to pricing their services, the survey found that the mean price* (i.e. the price which most SEOs charge) for a full Local SEO campaign is $500-$1,000, while the mean price for just Google Places optimization is between $100-$250.
Key Insight: Given the potential sales value that a well optimized Google Places profile can generate, this price point is very low. The squeeze on prices is (most-likely) a result of:
- a competitive marketplace with many local SEO providers competing for business
- the limited budgets that a typical local business has to spend on marketing
This pricing level is a concern for the long term prospects of many local SEO providers as it restricts earning and investment potential. With turnover levels as low as they are can SEOs afford to invest in themselves (i.e. training) and new technologies?
SEOs need to find new services which increase the value of their offering and develop more efficient working practices which allow them to make more profit per client. Without these advances, the life for a typical local SEO will remain a struggle.
7. Pricing: most SEOs charge between $500-$5,000 for full SEO campaign
As expected the range of pricing varies greatly for local SEO campaigns. The nature & scale of full local SEO campaigns varies from client to client depending on their scale, and also from agency to agency depending on the services they offer.
Interestingly 19% of agencies charge less than $100! But we suspect that this isn’t entirely true and this amount could be a ‘per month’ cost which makes the total amount higher, or that the respondent only offers Google Places optimization so quoted the same pricing here as for question 6.
8. Social Media: Local Businesses like the idea of it but need help putting it into practice
Local business owners are starting to embrace social channels as routes to acquire more customers. Most don’t understand how to use and what to expect from it but they feel that they should be using it. The names ‘Facebook’, ‘twitter’, ‘foursquare’ etc…are ringing in their ears and they read stories about great successes other local businesses are having. They want a slice of that pie but need help in appreciating how to use it and turn ‘likes’ into real customers.
9. Social Media: 76% of SEOs believe that social media works for local businesses
It’s undeniable that when used correctly and creatively, social channels can be very effective. But survey results show that not everyone is convinced (24% are not convinced) and 48% believe that it suits some businesses and not others.
Key Insight: social media gives local businesses an opportunity to engage customers in a way that Google Places & organic search can only dream of. The opportunity for public conversations with customers and social, creative campaigns give a businesses a chance to express their personality and standout from competitors based on more than page rank and rather bland star rating.
10. SEOs are busy people who wear many hats
The range of tasks a typical SEO does each week is very broad & varied. Given that the average turnover for a Local SEO was so low in the last 12 months it’s safe to assume that most SEOs don’t have the luxury of specializing in certain areas and need some knowledge of everything from On-site optimization to Link Building to Social Media optimization.
11. SEOs really don’t like link building & directory submissions!
It won’t come as a surprise to most of us that they tasks which SEOs like the least are the time consuming, fiddly and often unrewarding tasks of link building, directory submissions and content writing. These tasks are of course essential to effective SEO (directory submissions maybe not so much these days) but they require a certain type of personality to excel at them. Patience & process are 2 important characteristics of link builders which not everyone has enough of!
12. SEOs really don’t like link building & directory submissions!