You may be a direct client searching for an agency to improve your business potential. Else you can be another agency looking for white-labeled outsourcing solutions. In either case, working with a Local SEO agency can be one of the two scenarios:

  1. The agency works as an extension of your workforce and helps you achieve results.
  2. You invest all the efforts in resolving the friction between you and the agency. But, unfortunately, it can be owing to frequent correspondence and miscommunications instead of achieving growth.

If you belong to the initial scenario- Congratulations! Never let that agency go (in fact, refer them to us as well. We love some competition.) If you belong to the latter, we understand your pain. It can be because

  1. a team of inexperienced individuals might run it
  2. they are unclear with the goals and desired outcomes for your business.

With some clarity and growth reiteration, your local SEO agency can work for you (instead of against you). You see results as better ROI, site performances, conversions, etc.

It would be best if you chose the right Local SEO agency with complete faith. Yet, never do it without complete research, as they will be integral in your SEO strategy success. Here are some of the common pitfalls to avoid:

Pitfalls to avoid while considering a Local SEO agency

  1. Flashy reviews and over-promises

Customer testimonials are the greatest user-generated content. Every marketer/agency worth their salt is using it to build trust. Unfortunately, a quick browse through the website of an agency would throw big numbers and words of appreciation. This can make your heart skip a beat. It would be best if you uncovered the actual metrics hidden behind flashy reviews and over-promises.

What was the earlier performance of a client before the agency transformed it for them?

Percentages are a great tactic to hide the actual data. They turn a mole into a mountain, making you feel starry-eyed at the achievement. E.g., A site is receiving 5 organic visitors, and the agency increases to 20 organic visitors. It is not a significant increase in the actual traffic, but an agency can represent it as 400%.

What was the duration taken for performance improvement?

Less time means using black and grey hat SEO practices to get a momentary bump in the site performance. In reality, any SEO improvements can take 6 months to reflect. A minuscule bump in the performance in that duration means agency inexperience.

2. A barefoot Cobbler syndrome

As per a popular adage, a cobbler walking barefoot is either

  1. too occupied with client work (thus no time for mending own shoes)
  2. chooses to neglect their own needs to be available to the client.

Drawing a parallel, a local SEO agency with a poor SEO presence raises red flags about its efficiency. Let’s assume they are occupied with client work. It is a sign that they wouldn’t do justice to your projects as they are already stretched thin. The agency is losing out on important brownie points this way. Having a good SEO presence is a demonstration of their skills. Paired with the previous point, a poor SEO presence but too many good reviews and exaggerated performance can spell trouble in the long run.

3. A consultant impersonating an agency

An agency is made up of a large team with a wide spectrum of talents. A consultant would be an individual with exemplary knowledge backed by a team. Sometimes, a consultant would represent themselves as an agency. Such impersonation allows them to show volume and inflated capability. While there is no harm done as long as they manage to get you the promised results, there are disadvantages as well. Staff shortages for complex projects, slower implementation, and lack of exclusivity. The skill range you may encounter can be anything from an expert to a complete beginner.

4. They are restricted to only SEO

For complete digital marketing success, the SEO efforts need to go hand in hand with other marketing channels such as:

  1. voice search optimization
  2. pay-per-click advertising
  3. content marketing
  4. email marketing
  5. social media marketing

Unless you have a strong in-house team for managing the other channels, it is a no-brainer to go for a full-service agency.

Attributes of the right fit Local SEO agency.

Most people have the wrong set of expectations from a local SEO agency. They expect the agency to work on their website and bring better rankings. Based on these demands, new agencies are targeting those expectations. They start claiming to improve rankings in the quickest time. Instead, the right agency needs to work with you to identify the right outreach strategy. The strategy should communicate your brand values, goals, and objectives in the form of guest posts, Google posts, and on-page optimization. Want to determine a local SEO agency that is the right fit for your marketing needs? Check for the following traits:

Varied Expertise

Local SEO, in general, is similar for different industries, but it pays to know the ins and outs of each. A reputable local SEO agency has worked for brands of different industries & audiences. Instead of taking their word for it, gauge their capability. Ask for work samples, case studies, or performance reports.

Note: An agency that doesn’t have the required experience isn’t a deal-breaker. You can consider them if they fulfill the following three criteria:

  1. They share your goal of business growth
  2. They are ready to put in the effort to learn
  3. You have the flexibility to take a risk (Most important)

Reputation in field

Being a Local SEO agency, always check for their GMB profile. You can also check their profiles on other search engine platforms. A claimed profile with updated & consistent information is the first line of credibility.

Another way to gauge the reputation is by asking for references and a client list. Most agencies draw in new customers using mentions of esteemed brands. Ask for their work with lesser-known brands. The agency should be ready to provide a list of clients (if not a white-labeled agency.) Also, relevant case studies having data-backed proof of their efficiency will also work well. They should be able to produce a list of references that you can talk to. Also, ask for a sample of results of successful SERPs. The following is our GMB profile that we update on regular periods.

GMB profile of Searchaholiks, a Local SEO Agency
(Image Source: Google)

An expert team of professionals

A good Local SEO agency has the ability to work in harmony with your existing team like an extension. This is only possible when the agency has capable team members. No agency will admit that they have a handful of SEO experts, and the rest of the team are amateurs, so determining this is tricky. Generally, prospective clients upfront ask for:

  • Reporting samples
  • Staff experiences
  • Strategies

These three elements are enough to gauge the experience level of an agency. The strategies an agency would put in place would chart out the tools, processes, and innovations they use to rank your websites better.

Provides complete clarity

Transparency in every step of the process is a sign of a reliable agency. The purpose of the agency is not to take over your Local SEO tasks but

  • Brief you through all the stages of the execution
  • Provide reasons for any suggestions
  • Address any concerns you may have
  • Inform you about the growth by sending regular updates via reports

Local SEO is complex, but an agency partnership would educate you through the process.

Offers an audit

SEO is not a one-size-fits-all solution where the process followed is the same for everyone. Any agency that offers a technical and search audit knows how to gain your trust. From the audit results, an agency will understand the current status of your website. The results also assist them in planning how they can help. In fact, the first step in a local SEO strategy by an agency is conducting an initial audit. The audit allows them to set

  • Benchmarks
  • Determine the priorities of different activities
  • Estimate the time & monetary investments required.

A detailed audit report also allows the clients to understand their current shortcomings :

  • Inconsistent NAP across different channels
  • Backlinks from spammy platforms
  • Lack of keywords in GMB profile
  • Missing Citations
  • Webmaster Deployment
  • Missing Alt Text
  • Unoptimized Titles and Description
  • Missing Backlinks

Local SEO Agency - Free Audit Analysis

Promises Realistic goals

Steer away from agencies that promise you first-page rankings. With proper SEO strategies, it is completely possible. Yet, fraud agencies mislead you with first-page rankings in irrelevant locations. They dabble in controversial SEO practices called ‘Black Hat SEO.’ Such SEO practices boost the traffic within a short duration. Yet, the consequences are far worse compared to the temporary boost. So most genuine agencies avoid using those tactics. Instead, they provide realistic goals along with a detailed timeline for each process.

How to work with the right Local SEO agency?

Once you have opted for an agency partnership, you need to hand over the reins to the agency. Yet, it is necessary to perform some behind-the-scenes preparations before the handover. It ensures smooth operations and knowledge transfer,

Choose the point of contact.

The point of contact would be someone who would be coordinating with the agency. They will be representing you while taking any important decision or providing feedback. By having a single point of contact, all communication happens from a single channel. This would make coordination and the approval process simpler and effective.

Set Key Performance Indicators and Expectations

The next step is having a clear understanding of the KPIs and expectations between all stakeholders:

  • You
  • The point of contact
  • The agency representative
  • The agency.

It would be best if you had clarity about your goals before communicating them to the agency. The results from the initial audit can come in handy here. The most common KPIs are:

  • X% increase in the organic traffic
  • Improved backlinks
  • Better domain authority
  • Improved request for driving directions
  • Reduce page load speed
  • Website forms filled

When it comes to expectations, it is vital to communicate them to your agency as early on. As mentioned earlier, an agency should understand your business’s requirements. Based on the understanding they create a custom outreach strategy to achieve them. Before project commencement, discuss the current state of the business and where you wish to take it. Next, decide on the contact method and the frequency of reporting. In the beginning, weekly reporting can help determine if the tasks are being executed in a proper way. Later on, you can extend the frequency to a fortnight basis.

Strategy Discussions

Now that you have the end goal in mind, it is time to determine the strategy for reaching there. While the gross local SEO strategies remain unchanged, the processes followed are unique for every agency. Some give importance to link and citation building. Others focus on the ‘on & off-page optimization.’ Ask about the different sets of keywords they will be targeting and what is their approach for link-building. Ask them to share a list of relevant websites where they will occasionally be posting for linkbacks. Will they be optimizing the existing content for targeting long-tail keywords? About on-page optimization tactics, would they prioritize making websites mobile-friendly or reducing the page load speed? Get everything minute details noted to make sure you and the agency are on the same page. This will greatly help in the next step, i.e., timeline determination.

Timeframe Determination

Right from auditing to performing on-page optimization and blogging outreach, every task has an execution duration. Sometimes they might be interdependent as well. Most agencies provided a timeline based on your business requirements. Yet, it is suggestive that you involve yourself in the planning process. By creating a timeline together, you are setting realistic and achievable goals with inputs from the agency side for better clarity. Here is a sample timeline sheet we are managing with one of our clients.

Local SEO Agency Timeline Sheet

Share access

The agency may make corrections and implementations to your GMB profile, websites, and any other platforms. For that, they need access to certain tools and credentials. These allow the agency to optimize the content to represent your brand in a better way. Here are some of the essentials before an agency can start the optimization process:

SEO tools Offered by Google

  1. Google Analytics
    One of the most used Google products for improving the SEO performance of a website is Google Analytics. It allows users to track the event and goals of individual pages set up on Google Tag Manager(mentioned below). You can also monitor product & page performance and get a breakdown of the general traffic (i.e., Organic, Referral, Direct, or Paid)
  2. Google Search Console
    Google Search Console allows us to track the website performance over the SERP result. For example, the agency can look for any missing crawled pages or any coding, security, or mobile error on a particular page.
  3. Google Tag Manager
    Google Tag Manager is used for creating event tracking and setting up goals for the conversion from the visitors or users. Few website owners don’t have one created, but we recommend creating your account.
  4. Google My Business
    Google allows businesses to claim their own profile on Google’s database. This profile is displayed when someone searches for something specific to that business. This is one of the important tools to ace in local search visibility. Hence, you need to grant access to it for the agency to optimize it.

Bing Webmaster Tools and Bing Places listing

While most people rely on Google for searching anything, a chunk exists that uses Bing. It is not wise to avoid them. Hence, claim your Bing places listing as well. Share Bing Webmaster tools for the agency to optimize them also.

Brand details

Personal information is important to maintain consistent citation entries. A list of brand information you should share with an agency are:

  • Registered business name
  • Owner name
  • When the business was founded
  • Registered phone number & email id
  • Logos

Domain-based email id and a Gmail id

The domain-based email id is used for outreach, finding guest posting opportunities, claiming citations, and fixing them. In addition, the Gmail id is used for gaining access to the Google SEO tools mentioned above.

Website Admin access & Cpanel/FTP access to the site

The website admin access allows the agency to resolve any technical errors (missing title tags, duplicate H1 tags, etc.). You can also add or update webpage content or blog and optimize the directories or anything required for the developing purpose. FTP access allows the agency to remove or add new pages with ease. This is like handing over the keys to your house, so only do so to the agency that you can trust.

Branding elements such as logos, videos, portfolios (if any), video testimonials, etc.

Google posts are a great way to engage your followers with useful posts. If you want your Google posts to feature media-rich posts, you will need to provide branding elements for the agencies to create them. Consider the Google Posts to be like those on popular social media platforms.

Any other tools like Agency Analytics, etc.

If you are using any 3rd party tools, share the access to them as well for additional help.

Sign the contract

As the final step, all it remains is to sign the contract that explains the legal mambo jumbo. If your agency provides white-labeled services, then an extra non-disclosure agreement.

Wrapping Up

Would hiring a local SEO agency to be justified to your ROI at the end of the day? Definitely.

As long as

  1. your agency understands your business needs
  2. functions as an extension of your team
  3. You are assisting the agency in implementing their SEO marketing plans.

You will definitely see your ROI soar like never before. So, when you are done with this article, consider the takeaways and implement them in your search. But, before you start searching high and low, consider Searchaholiks; we are sure to be the end to your search.

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Team Searchaholiks

Team Searchaholiks believes that sharing knowledge can help the community grow. Hence, we regularly post articles covering the most common pain points of our clientele. However, for a quicker resolution of your issues, drop us your requirements at [email protected].

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