A driving force behind my marketing career over the past few years has been “Help the world, one business owner at a time.”
So I’ve made it my mission to not only help businesses better their SEO practices, but also help the owners understand what SEO truly is.
Sadly, misinformation about the field of SEO is still being circulated. One way I’ve been able to effectively overcome some of the outdated or incorrect information still floating around out there is by talking about the “hard truths” or lesser known mechanics behind local SEO.
I try to do this as early into the campaign as I can and repeat myself many times over the course of it. I always like to tell clients what to truly expect when trying this type of a campaign; a lot of times, no other SEO company has offered up info like this.
There are three things in particular that I really try to drive home when it comes to local SEO. This sets a better expectation for clients moving forward and establishes an honest/transparent relationship from the get-go.
1. Google Giveth, And Google Taketh Away
SEO is always changing, and it always will be. What works this year may not work next year. The only constant is change, so it’s imperative to arm yourself with knowledge.
Knowing this helps me create a proactive approach to a client’s marketing campaign. A metaphor I like to use with clients is that SEO is a lot like the game of chess: You have to see three moves ahead while still actively moving one step forward. Your initial moves will affect your later moves, and sometimes you can get hurt through no fault of your own (For example, Google will roll out an update).
I tell small business owners to make sure their game plan is flexible, as they need to account for those constant changes that SEO is known to bear.
A great example would be the recent changes to the Google local system — not only did they reduce the local results from seven businesses to three, but they also stripped away all of the social components tied to Google+ and streamlined the Google My Business dashboard. All this occurred just in the past year!
2. Long-Tail Searches Can Be More Valuable Than Generic Phrases
Because local SEO largely revolves around local map packs, long-tail searches are often overlooked. Long-tail searching is a better indicator of user intent, which is an increasingly important factor in local SEO and leads to more engagement and higher rankings over time.
After a client understands more about user intent, I tell them that a good way to plan for these long-tail searches is by asking yourself questions. I try to have them put themselves in a customer’s shoes. From there, I can set a realistic expectation of how the online strategy will work and who/what keywords to target based on that intent.
Another fun exercise to do with clients is to have them create a “Jeopardy” game board. When it comes to long-tail searches, have them think like the popular game show — answer in the form of a question not only to gain keywords, but also to gauge user intent and discover blog topics for their website.
For example, when I started working with a local plumber, we began with the most basic questions — you know, the $200 ones — like, “What is a plumber?,” “What is a drain?,” “What is a water heater?” and so on. Then we sprinkled in some of the more complex questions (the $1,000–$2,000 ones).
A hearty list of long-tail searches comes out of this practice, and your client has a better understanding of SEO, including what to expect from keyword reports and rankings.
3. SEO Is An Ongoing Investment — There Is No “Set It And Forget It”
Every website can benefit from SEO and needs continued optimization to obtain and maintain rankings for target key phrases. Just as any industry or marketplace evolves, so does search engine optimization.
Consequently, SEO is not a one-time investment; constant cultivation is necessary to ensure that SEO becomes (and remains) an integrated part of a small business’s marketing plan.
I like to tell clients this so they can begin thinking long-term and realize how many options SEO can provide them. Every time I reach out to a client for a report, I include a “what’s next” section.
This helps me set campaign expectations month to month, and it seems to keep the client relationships going longer. Painting value early and often has been a helpful tactic in increasing our client retention.
SEO is more important (and more reputable) than ever before, especially for local small business owners. Driving home these three expectations through my client communications has helped me build better campaigns and better relationships — and help one small business owner at a time.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.