I know. I know. This article is on a website that provides Local SEO services, so you think that I'm just going to promote our service. Well, you are right of course. But don't stop reading. I also will give you an honest answer – here it is >>
In most cases, a Local SEO service can provide a positive return on investment, but in some cases, it is not feasible, affordable or ideal for a company to pay for a search engine optimization marketing service.
And the good news… it is absolutely possible to see great results doing it yourself aka “DIY Local SEO.” Whether you are a good candidate depends on a number of factors. Let's start by talking about who should NOT use an SEO service and then we'll explain what it takes to do your own SEO work.
The Obvious Disqualification
If you are running a small, single owner business with low revenue, then you are not going to have the budget for a marketing service. This type of business owner has no real choice but to learn about SEO and execute strategies themselves. This is actually a great place to start if you open a new business. Otherwise, if you are low on capital but you want to get started, its better to begin with the basics of local search optimization vs. doing nothing.
Here's a good example. My neighbor knew I was in marketing and his 17-year-old son started a mowing business with nothing but 1 mower, a weed wacker, an old truck, and a beat up trailer. He didn't know how to get business, so he asked for some advice.
I told him to build a free website, make his own logo, research keywords, and write out descriptions of his service using the highest searched terms. I told him to incorporate the terms “service” and “company” in multiple spots and focus on the words mowing and home vs. residential and landscaping. Of course, ranking in alternative terms is a goal, but you don't want to start out trying to rank #1 in every term. You get spread too thin.
He completed a Google My Business profile, published everything and created accounts on the 10 biggest local business directories. I also told him to make some flyers and post them around town. I advised him to go old school and go knock on doors. Finally, I hired him to mow my lawn… I mean, why not support a new local business?
The last thing that I stressed was to stay consistent with SEO, set goals, and take time every month to work on it.
I ran into him about a year later. He told me had 2 employees, 4 mowers, another truck and a new trailer. He had added new pages to his website, hired someone to do a professional logo and now had 24 Google reviews. All of his reviews were 5-star and all came by asking his customers. And most importantly, he consistently gets new business from Google.
It still surprises me to see business owners completely avoid doing any SEO work. I'm talking about multi-million dollar businesses with 20+ employees. They won’t even spend a single second to improve their presence on Google. Mind boggling.
Doing DIY Anything
When I was in college, I worked for an HVAC and plumbing company for 3 years and learned quite a bit about the trade. Never an expert, but I was skilled enough to do basic to intermediate tasks.
So about a year ago, I noticed my water bill was high. So, I jumped down into the crawl space and found a water line leaking that lead to an outside spigot. I said to myself, “Aha! I've done this before and I know how to fix this!”
So I made my list of supplies, ran up to Home Depot, put on some old clothes and commenced with what would surely only be a 15-minute repair. But that's not how this went down.
I realized that I forgot most of what I thought I knew. I made several mistakes that resulted in 4 trips out of my crawl space to get tools I forget, a failed repair, 2 more trips to Home Depot. 7 hour later, I completed my task but I was exhausted and absolutely soaked. It was so dumb, its easy to laugh about it.
Sometimes, you need to do stupid things to teach yourself a lesson. I told my buddy, who owns an HVAC company. Talk about taking a lot of crap. He said, “why didn’t you call me? I could have come over and fixed that in 5 minutes and only would have asked for a beer.” Ughh..not my brightest moment.
The morale of the story is that we can all do a lot of DIY projects. Most people like to do be self sufficient. Its human nature. Whether you should do anything yourself depends on the following:
- Do you enjoy doing the work?
- How skilled are you at the work?
- If you are not skilled, then will you enjoy learning?
- How much time do you have to learn?
- Are you a busy person in general?
- What is your time worth?
- What is the opportunity cost of spending that time performing the task?
- What is the cost to have an expert do the job?
- What is the benefit of having an expert do it?
This leads to the ultimate question to answer.
Is the cost plus value of your time greater than the benefit?
If the answer is a clear yes. Then have an expert do it.
When it comes to SEO, if the cost is greater than the benefit, and you enjoy doing the work, have the time to learn, then don’t hire a Local SEO service. Do it yourself.
If thats not you, then give me your credit card.. just kidding.
Spend at least some time learning about the cost benefit and look at multiple services. Not every marketing service has the same qualifications, background, specialty or price point. The biggest issue for most businesses is that they simply don't know what it takes and don't know how to evaluate a service provider.
So if you decide you may want to do it yourself or you simply need some info to make a better decision, then keep reading.
Key Factors in Doing SEO work
There are a few key factors with SEO that can determine whether this is the type of work you can be successful with.
Generally speaking, if you are a quick learner, decent writer, type a decent speed (or have staff to do it) and you moderately tech savvy then you should be fine. The other issue is frustration. There are some annoying things that come up in this business.
Lastly, it takes consistency and patience. You make changes, then wait to see the results. Then evaluate and do it again… month after month. But when you see your rankings increase, its a great feeling. When you notice more customers, its a damn good feeling. I've been doing this a long time and I still love it.
Here are a few questions, you may want to ask yourself if you are ready to do SEO yourself. You don't have to be an expert but you should know most of these things.
- Do you know to use keyword research tools?
- Do you know the difference between normal writing and SEO copy?
- Are you familiar with the profile settings in Google My Business?
- Do you have access to your website admin area?
- Do you know what website metadata is and how to add this information to your website?
- Do you know the character limits and techniques for proper SEO titles and descriptions?
- Do you understand the basics of keyword density?
- Do you understand duplicate content rules?
- Do you know about H1, H2, H3 headings?
- Do you know what an XML sitemap is and how to submit it to Google?
- Do you have Google Analytics installed on your website?
- Do you have Google Search Console installed on your website?
- Do you know how to these analytics reports?
- Do you have access to a listing tool or time to manually list your business?
- Do you understand NAP data?
- Do you have access to monthly SEO and ranking reports?
If you are unfamiliar with some of these things, thats OK. If you have an extra 3-4 hours a month to study these topics, you'll be fine. This is generally what I do in the evenings when I want to learn something new. Its not time taken from my work day.
For someone unfamiliar, doing search engine optimization work will take a little time. If you can budget 1-2 hours a week, then you should be able to do a good enough job that its well worth your time.
If you actually stuck to it and consumed good content, you can get really good at it. So let me explain what SEO services do thats a bit different than DIY SEO.
How a Local SEO Service Works
My friend that owns the HVAC company has a truck filled with all the tools and supplies he needs to do the job. He's been in that business for 25 years. Just the same, we’ve been doing SEO work for 22 years and though I don’t use solder and pipe cutters, I do have my own set of tools. In this line of business, its software. I subscribe to a lot of different platofrms and reporting systems that enable efficiency.
Most of us “Local SEO’s” use services to get our clients sites listed in directories, but since we buy so many listings each month, we get quantity discounts. You can subscribe to the same tools I use. They are all publicly available, just like anyone can get a wrench at a hardware store. Some are easy to use, others have a bit more complexity.
I consider all of the software I use to be mission critical. So the advantage of specialty marketing services is that the tools to do the job are at a low cost per client. Economies of scale. If you purchased the same tools I use, it would cost a single user 3 times our standard monthly service price.
Of course, writing out SEO copy and doing the work is second nature. So the time it takes us to do our job is much lower than someone doing this type of work for the first time.
Benefits of a Local SEO Company
Here are some of the additional benefits to take into consideration if you are on the fence about hiring an SEO service.
- There are a lot of different nuances and strategies for increasing rankings for keywords based on how you write copy. These strategies involve using different areas of Google My Business, listings sites, websites and other platforms.
- Anyone can do decent keyword research, but there is science to balancing search volume vs. buyer intent. Our goal for our clients is to produce more customers, not search views.
- Different tactis are used to improve ranking of keywords based on the range of current rank and competition. You take a different approach if you rank 8th vs. 28th.
- Local Pack (3-pack) strategies are a big part of what we do. These listings get the most clicks when Google displays local search results.
- Competitive analysis is extremely important. I can tell which competitors work on SEO consistently and after 3-4 months, I can identify their strategy. This plays a bigger role in hyper competitive fields like attorneys. Probably the biggest thrill in doing this job is destroying competitors for my clients.
- There is also an art to writing informational copy that gets clicks
When you get into advanced SEO, there is a lot of technical knowledge required related to optimizing website structure, tags, on page SEO, conversions, mobile, and page speed. You can find trends by comparing Google Analytics, Google Search Console, ranking reports, GMB Insights and keyword density tools that help you identify keywords that can give you the biggest jump in new leads. It can be time consuming, so I integrate reports using tools like Databox (we're a partner). This lets me view data from multiple sources in a single report.
SEO experts also avoid making critical mistakes. Sometimes knowing what NOT to do is just as important as knowing what to do. When trying to fix my water line, I was impatient and tried to solder the pipe before it was completely dry. In SEO, you can actually do some things that seem like they would work, but won't. A common example is keyword stuffing. If you use the keyword too much in the copy, Google will consider it spam and your rankings will drop. This is what I mean by understanding keyword density.
Staying consistent is hard, but necessary. Like most people, I have a difficult time doing other tasks consistently. For an SEO, its part of the process and its our job. I’ve seen my share of business owners succeed at SEO, do a decent job for a few months, then they get busy and completely stop.
One Last Major Benefit
If you happen to be a business that invests in marketing and advertising, then Local SEO goes hand in hand with other forms of marketing. This is a strategy that we call the Google Ladder as there are a number of shared strategies with Google Local SEO, Google Ads and other marketing platforms where pieces of each strategy work together to provide better results.
Our company won't provide Google Ads services to clients unless they are a Google Local SEO client. It makes no sense to leave so much meat on the table.
Where to Go from Here
If you’ve digested this content, then you probably have a good idea of whether you plan to do SEO yourself. You can start with a free SEO audit as that will give you an idea of where to focus your efforts.
Its always been the best approach to help businesses when I can. So between blogs and emails, you can pick up some good tips. But feel free to contact me or anyone at our company if you have questions about Local SEO. Some of our current clients, started out doing SEO on their own and took some my advice, before they had me step in take their search rankings to the next level.
Our biggest value is being able to do it well, do it right and turn your marketing investment into profit that is exponentially larger than the cost.
And a fairly large chunk of our clients simply don’t have the time or patience to do this kind of work. After all, they own businesses and prefer to do what they are good at. I’m here to get your business ranked higher in Google so you have more customers and make more money. That's what I do. And you can bet I’m not going to be fixing any water leaks anytime soon. Reach out if you want to learn more.