The Coming Power Shift In Local SEO

In recent months I have written about how search engine optimization is changing and the costs to perform it well are increasing (here and here).

What is interesting is that I am seeing more and more in the SEO world that suggests that consultants are evolving in the way we approach client related work. This is something that I have been thinking about for months (here) but not fully developed my thoughts on.

Some small and medium sized business owners and managers are incredibly smart, we all know that. Many more small and medium sized business owners aren’t quite so smart, we know that too. However, when it comes to local SEO, virtually everyone is out of their depth.

This understandable lack of specialised knowledge leads small businesses to make some predictable and unhelpful decisions when it comes to their own local SEO efforts.

When it comes to delivering high rankings in Google, typically it takes quite a lot of work. Gradually as the results start to come, the workload recedes and the client becomes profitable for the consultant or agency. However, what typically happens is that as soon as the results start to come, the clients fire the consultant or agency to improve their P&L.

In the short-term, this can make some sense. However, in the fast evolving world of the internet it often causes the consultant or agency to take risky short-cuts on client websites to achieve the immediate rankings being demanded at a low enough price to make it worth the effort.

I was contacted a few days ago by someone with an e-commerce site that was on the reverse of that situation. The agency seem to have spammed his store with poor quality links and now he is left holding the penalty. He was hoping that I would work on a performance only basis (free until results arrive) to rebuild his business…

What Is Changing?
I have recently agreed my first partnership deal and I am seeing more and more SEOers doing similar things.

The typical approach is that as a service provider, we have to pitch ourselves to clients and go through the indignity of them haggling over price before we can start. Then, they may or may not be helpful, pay their bills on time (or at all) and as soon as results look nice, we face the risk of being fired.

However, with partnership and lead generation type situations, we work on our own sites in their sectors and pass them the leads to convert or deliver on. This is a kind of local affiliate marketing. The risk in the transaction is suddenly removed because should the client firm not pay their bills or fire the SEOer, they do not own or control the website. Those leads can be sent to a competing company.

In essence, the SEO provider becomes an outsourced lead generation channel. The goose that lays the golden eggs.

Personally, as I begin to develop sites for business sectors that I think I can work in, this looks like it will be much more profitable for me than normal client work. That, of course, means that the clients will pay more for something similar.

Problems For Local Businesses
This sort of approach will certainly be helpful for many small firms. A good percentage simply do not have the competency to do the web work they need. Even basic tasks can take weeks to be completed. In contrast, for guys like me, those basic tasks are the work of a few minutes or hours. We will likely be much more efficient.

However, this lack of competency means that they are giving away power from within their company, mainly because it is “easier”. That works for the SEO providers but is not a great idea for the firm. Still, because it is easier to do, most will happily do so and worry about the consequences later.

Either way, I have recently launched my own offer here.

See also: