First of all, when we say local SEO agency, we’re not talking about someone who is local to you, although that can be a good thing. We’re talking about an agency specializing in local search marketing. It of course is part of the larger search engine optimization known as organic SEO. The two go hand in hand. When it comes to choosing the best local SEO agency for your business, you want to treat it the same way you would when hiring a new employee, or hiring a service provider to work on your home. Do your homework. Learn what makes a good SEO company. Get multiple quotes. Then choose a provider who checks all the boxes. Keep reading to learn how to get it right.

Set Goals and List Desired Outcomes
When you decide to hire a local SEO agency, it’s a good idea to set some realistic goals and make a list of your desired outcomes. You may have just heard that SEO can help you get more customers. Or you may want to see your business name in the first spot of the search engine results pages (SERPs). Let’s take a look at some of the metrics you can use to keep track of your desired outcomes.

Improved Google Rankings
The higher you rank in the SERPs, the more traffic you generate for your business. It’s important that you get on that first page. And if you optimize for local SEO, you can increase your chances of a high CTR by appearing in the local pack on Google Maps. Why? Because:

  • 5% of people click through the first result.
  • 15% of people click through the second result.
  • 11% of people click through the third result.3 times higher than the CTR for position #6,
  • The click through rate (CTR) for position #2 will generate a CTR
  • Users rarely click through to the second page of SERPs.

Source: SISTRIX

Increased Organic Search Traffic
If you’ve made it this far, you know that organic search traffic is the traffic you don’t pay for through a pay per click program, Facebook ads, or other paid advertising. Organic traffic includes website visits originating from your search engine rankings, online reviews, direct visits, and other earned sources.

Increased Leads/Inquiries
More high-quality leads give your business breathing room. If you have a healthy number of leads coming in, you’ll be able to invest in your business, increase your prices, test new products and services, and identify which offers work best for you.

Increased Conversion Rate
Increased website traffic and increased traffic to your brick-and-mortar location should lead to an increased conversion rate – turning a lead or visitor into a customer. Local SEO can help you stand out from the crowd of competitors for the limited set of customers in your area. If you can dominate local search, you can close the deal with new customers on a consistent basis.

New Reviews (and Why They’re Important)
And of course, with each new customer, you’ll encourage them to post a Google review, right? Most satisfied clients will take a moment to do so, but you have to ask. And good reviews are more than just flattering. With local, or “near me” searches, a small number of reviews can indicate you don’t get a lot of business. A large number of reviews can help build trust. A low star rating (3 or less) can indicate you’re not good at what you do. So, your goal is to increase the quantity of reviews while increasing the overall star rating to a 4.5 or a 5.

You don’t pay people to do these reviews, but you certainly do encourage every customer to give a review. And be sure to respond to reviews in your Google My Business (GMB) account, whether they’re good or bad. Seek to resolve complaints, and thank customers for positive reviews. If you don’t already have a GMB account, a local SEO agency can help you get it set up and take advantage of all the FREE advertising it can provide. Increased performance across these metrics should be a major part of your goals and expected outcomes. A good local SEO agency should be able to help you improve across the board.

Look for These Characteristics in a Local SEO Agency
So, now that you know a bit about what a local SEO agency can help you with, it’s time to start seeking out companies to interview. To narrow down your search, look for these characteristics. Then choose the top contenders who have all of the qualifications you’re looking for.

Agency Focus
Within the world of SEO, there are two types of agencies: the SEO Specialist, and the SEO Generalist. Both can help you generate increased leads and sales through the power of a local SEO campaign. An SEO Specialist may be good at SEO, but they may not be able to help you other areas of your marketing. If you have a limited budget and need help with a lot of areas, this may not be the best choice for you.

An SEO Generalist can help you see the big picture and help connect your website SEO strategies to other areas of marketing, including web design, social media marketing, content marketing, blog writing, video production, etc.

SEO Industry Expertise
Look for a local SEO agency that’s been in business for at least 5 years. That indicates that they know enough about what they’re doing to stay in business. But beyond that, ask if they have experience in SEO strategies for your industry. Are you a dentist? Ask if they have ever worked with another dentist. Are you a home builder? Ask about their experience in that area. But don’t rule an agency out if they haven’t worked with someone in your exact field. A good agency does the research to become knowledgeable in every client’s field. They may be able to show you case studies for similar clients, as well as anonymized data for Client X, for example. Oh, and the other thing about this – you’ll want to ask if they currently work with one of your direct competitors. That’s pretty much a no-no.

SEO Local Pack Baltimore MD

They Practice What They Preach
When you’re searching for a local SEO agency, you want one that practices what they preach. In other words, they keep up with SEO efforts for their own website. For example, when our content writer searched Harford County SEO, Coastal Web Marketing came up as the top result in the 3-pack, and individual pages came up as the top 2 SERPs. (use screenshots) Coastal Web also ranked high for Bel Air SEO and Harford County SEO services.

They Have a Stellar Reputation
You also want a local SEO agency with a good reputation. Check out their Google reviews. Do they have at least 4 stars? Of course, you have to realize that clients who leave reviews are either very pleased or very displeased. A better way to get a feel for the company’s reputation is to ask to see examples of their work, and get a list of references. Some of this may be accessible through the Portfolio section of their website. If you can’t find out much about their current or past clients, and they won’t provide you with references, step away. That’s a huge red flag.

They Have Experienced SEO Staff
At the very least, you should expect a local SEO agency to be headed by someone with years of SEO experience. Ideally, they have a staff member who builds websites with SEO in mind, someone who can translate Google Analytics for you to make needed adjustments in your SEO strategy, and an SEO content writer who can help write web pages, landing pages, blogs and more that are SEO friendly. Keep in mind that a lot of local SEO agencies only have a few full-time staff, and other people working on your account are freelance workers, or independent contractors.

They Value Ongoing Education
You want a local SEO agency that stays on top of industry trends, and prepares for changes in Google’s algorithms well in advance. It’s also a good idea to ask about any courses they have taken or certifications they have earned, such as Google’s SEO Certification, Yoast Academy, or SEMrush Academy. The rules for SEO change quickly, and you want a local SEO company that has the agility to meet every challenge.

They Communicate Clearly and Help You Manage Your Expectations
If a local SEO agency promises to move you to the #1 spot in the SERPs, run. The same thing goes if they tell you that they can triple your traffic in a month. No one should be making promises like that. Implementing and tweaking an effective SEO strategy can take weeks, if not months, to see real results. Depending on how competitive your industry is, there may be hundreds of large businesses fighting to rank for the same key phrases that you are. But rankings aren’t everything. Your agency should be helping you increase conversions and revenue. They should be able to provide you with regular reviews and analytics to show what they’re doing, what’s working, and what changes they would recommend. SEO is not a set it and forget it type of thing.

Coastal Web Marketing has provided local SEO services to Harford County, Cecil County, Baltimore County area businesses for the last 10 years. We know the area, and we know SEO. If you’re looking for a local SEO firm, we would be happy to provide you with a FREE SEO analysis of your website and make our recommendations. We can also help you with a website redesign or brand-new small business website built with SEO in mind. Just call us at 410-420-9390 or use our contact form to get in touch.