in Marketing

The Vicious Cycle of Small Budget Local SEO


Bright Local recently conducted a Local SEO Industry Survey (.pdf)

Even for local SEO services, it’s rather astonishing that so many folks are paying so little for SEO services. My guess it that the common story goes something like this:

Client: I’ve been hearing a lot about local SEO, sounds like something I should be doing. I think I’ll call up a couple local SEO agencies and get some quotes.

Local SEO: Yeah, we offer local SEO services. We’ve got a bunch of different packages. What’s your monthly budget?

Client: Gosh, I don’t know. How much do you think I should spend.

Local SEO: Well, here’s how local search engines work. Here are a bunch of different things we could do to help your business appear in local search results. If you wanted us to do all this “stuff” you’d probably be looking at a couple thousand dollars per month.

Client: WTF? Really? I don’t have that kind of money to spend. What can you do for a couple hundred dollars per month?

Local SEO: Well, we can claim a bunch of profiles. Make sure your name, address, phone information is consistent across a bunch of the local data providers. Maybe even do some local or hyper-local link building.

Client: Whatever that means. I’ll take it.

At the risk of this post coming across as a transparent shill for higher local SEO budgets, folks need to understand some of the problems with low-budget SEO.

We’ve talked about cheap SEO pricing before. But let’s not limit our discussion to the uber-scammy ranking guarantees. Even “best practice” low-budget SEO can be problematic.

So, what’s the problem?

Well, there are a bunch. But let’s focus on a couple of the more easy to understand. First, head over to the Local Search Ranking Factors. I count 119 (I counted fast so if I’m wrong, I apologize).

And yes, claiming, completing, optimizing and making business information consistent are certainly important factors. And there’s no question that acquiring a quantity of quality local and hyper-local links pointing to your local business’s website is important too.

But ask yourself: What can be done for a couple of hundred dollars per month?

Sure, you might think you can outsource this kind of work to people in countries with very low wages. Of course, you’ll have to trust them with passwords and what not. And hopefully they can understand some of the nuances of specific to different profiles. So maybe you find someone who will work for super cheap and you provide them with a very specific checklist for claiming profiles.

But again, profile claiming only comprises a very small part of an effective local search marketing strategy.

How about building the strategy itself? Can this cheap laborer handle that? Will you? Do you even know what to do? Maybe you do.

So, you know that you should be attracting local links. You know that you should identify local bloggers and find ways to develop content that they will find valuable for their readers. Who’s going to create that content? You? Do you know how? Do you have the time?

Or you’re going to outsource the content? To the same person who’s working for a couple bucks per hour? Do they speak English? Do they write English? Well? In a way that represents your business the way you want it represented? Good luck.

These are the challenges of small budget local SEO campaigns. The client wants the world but doesn’t want to pay for it. The SEO wants the business, but can’t deliver what they really need in order to demonstrate return on the client’s investment. And round and round they go.

Until, the client looks up one day and thinks, “what the heck is this couple hundred dollars per month doing for my bottom line?” And the SEO says, “We’re doing the best we can with your budget.”

But since there’s no demonstrable ROI, the client concludes that this SEO stuff is largely snake oil, and they quit. And they tell their friends about how they got robbed by their SEO. And round and round they go.

Who’s to blame? Frankly, both of them. Most clients don’t get this stuff. So, they shouldn’t buy it. At least not until they have some understanding of how it works and what are realistic expectations for different campaigns.

Most SEOs need to work harder to help clients set realistic expectations. I’m not saying it’s impossible to generate ROI with a couple hundred dollar per month budget. You certainly can. But you should layout your plan, goals, benchmarks, expectations with your client in advance. But that’s too hard, so you probably don’t.