8 Things to Look For When Hiring A Local SEO Company
You’re on a trip to France and it’s your fifteenth-day eating French cuisine. You want something different so you search “Italian restaurants in Nice”. Unlike global search engine optimization (SEO), this time your search is targeted for a more specific and narrower target market. If a great Italian restaurant comes on top of your Google search results, it means that their website has been optimized well for local SEO.
When SEO comes to mind, people usually think that SEO agencies are hired so that the website's reach should be maximized globally. While it's true, it's not set in stone. Most local businesses require that their services are best visible and available to the local geography. These include restaurants, motels, hair salons, museums, law firms, consultants, local non-profit organizations, local auto dealers, mechanics, and grocery stores.
Small businesses especially focus on local SEO because scaling businesses requires capitalizing on the local customer base before growing nationally and internationally (even though some may target international markets first). Trust and brand recognition from the local market will go a long way to prove the company's success.
Before looking into hiring a local SEO agency to cater to the needs of your local search results, these are 8 of the most important questions you need to ask:
1. How well does the SEO agency reside in your geographical area?
Search engines are used by people and understanding the people is key for good local search engine optimization. Knowing the dynamics of a specific area and how people act and behave in those areas is very important.
The SEO agency needs to be sure about the market they're targeting. It's been advised to hire a local SEO agency within your geography because they know the people much better than anyone, even a freelance SEO expert who might be having a success story in some other country.
Knowing the people:
SEO experts in a local SEO agency know well about the customs, traditions, likes, and habits. If they're really involved and social with the people in the area, they can even capitalize on local trends, making for a great marketing and local SEO strategy. Such marketing strategies can prove very effective for small and emerging businesses.
2. Is keyword research done according to the local geography?
Local marketing strategies are more customized, based on not only the demands of the company but also based on how the people in the vicinity would best like the products and services visible to them. This also means knowing which specific keywords do the people use in their search engines and which keywords produce more organic traffic specifically in your target areas.
A business would only rank higher locally if the keyword research and the content have been optimized around the searches of their potential local customers.
The local lingo:
Local jargon plays into the SEO strategy. For example, to find a good hot dog in Austria and Germany, you would have to search for "frankfurter" or "wienervurst", because that's what they call hot dogs. In New Zealand, it's called "deep-fried dog". So if you plan to open up a hot dog restaurant and you plan to hire a reputed SEO company from the US or some well renowned South African freelancer who has built a career providing SEO services, they may not be aware of these keywords and, thus, they may not able to optimize the website to local search rankings around the common folk of the area you are in.
The agency has to best use its SEO tools so that the local market is penetrated correctly and effectively.
3. How does the agency differentiate between global and local SEO?
For the most part, global and local SEO aren't much different, but there are some practices that are required far more in local SEO.
Moz's 2017 survey found that the factor the contributes the most to local organic results is "link signals". Your prospective local SEO agency must provide a plan for link building.
Among other methods, link building can be done by guest blogging, creation of useful resources for people, and best of all, creating engaging content.
You could, however, ask for links or buy them. This isn't a recommended practice because it doesn't guarantee as good conversions as the organic local SEO does. Link building isn't the only solution to rank better, but local services need to keep a very keen eye towards building links because that helps a lot in local visibility.
4. How can the local SEO agency improve brand awareness and online visibility for local businesses?
Local businesses rely and thrive on the presence they create locally. When you hire a local SEO company, the question of local presence becomes paramount. Google not only is the king of search engines, but it has also provided enough resources to help your business thrive too.
Your business needs to appear in the local search results. Before starting off any local SEO campaign, the agency should make sure that your company has an active Google My Business account with relevant contact information, business hours, and online presence on maps. This will help your business appear in local business listings.
Local citations with the business's name, place, and address improve the optimization efforts. This is because local citation signals are some of the key ranking factors because now you have more than a few ways for online visibility.
Is your business visible on Apple Maps too? Apple holds a third of the market share of smartphones in the US. Even though you can argue that Google Maps is better but millions still use Apple Maps.
Does your team use the Analytics tools provided by Google to provide you with regular reports? When you agree on some terms with your prospective SEO agencies, keep some provisions of receiving regular reports to monitor your business growth. This can be a game-changer for any small business.
5. Striking a balance between quality and quantity?
It has been said more than a million times "content is king!" Does your SEO agency produce quality content? If yes, then you already have a head start. But keeping that head start requires consistency, and that's the hard part.
Quality content works great, but if it's not being pushed regularly, the rankings in search engines decline because actively maintained websites contribute to the relevancy signals. A more regularly maintained website ranks higher and also gets to customers easier.
Quantity vs Quality:
However, it doesn't mean that you should post only for the sake of updating the website. While quantity matters more in many areas and local search engine optimization may even favour quantity, the focus should be on consistency and quality. You want users' retention and conversion from the content on your website. Website traffic doesn't matter if more traffic doesn't convert into leads or sales.
6. Have their earlier practices been increasing Domain Authority?
Any local SEO agency knows that Domain Authority (DA) matters. If your content is as good as gold, but the DA isn't improving, then something needs to be done about it.
DA is a measure on a scale of 0 to 100 that tells how likely a website is to rank higher. For a small or local business it might be tougher because even if they had a better blog on a topic than anyone else on the internet, a website like the Washington Post with similar but less appealing content will easily make them rank higher because of their high DA.
Your content should be engaging enough that other websites find your content linkable. When hiring a local SEO agency, it's better to ask about their past experiences and practices for improving DA, especially for local search.
7. Does the SEO agency optimize your social media?
As unusual as it sounds, but people often use their Facebook and Instagram accounts as search engines for local businesses to quickly hunt for specific information. This is because a social media page for a business puts reviews and a catalogue of products and services in a very visually appealing manner.
Posts, comments, photos, videos, and reviews (even in groups) greatly help any customer in making their decision. Other than online presence on websites, the social media presence of any local business is crucial and is becoming an essential part of every small businesses' digital marketing plan.
It's much easier to manage SEO for social media as compared to websites. Local SEO agencies with a proven track record of promoting businesses with SEO will surely acknowledge the power of social media in the growth of small and local businesses.
Inorganic SEO is easier on social media as well. With Facebook ads costing as little as $1 per day for a very specific targeted audience and a set of analytics tools provided by Facebook, you can assure that social media can boost your online presence and conversions for your business. The prospective SEO should have a devised an SEO-oriented marketing plan for social media as well.
Social media content:
Content is king here too! Never underestimate the power of a Facebook photo with a trending hashtag. Local SEO experts will vouch for visually and locally appealing content not just on websites but also on social media. Social media will require more concise content which will appeal to people easily.
If people from your area are tagging others and commenting on your posts, then it is also a sign that your SEO is driving traffic and you can produce conversions as well.
8. Does the SEO agency come with a technically sound background?
As most of the searches today are done on phone, a technically sound SEO team is vital for your business. Whenever you create a website for your company, mobile-friendliness needs to be prioritized.
If your team opens a website from your own city and finds that it's taking more than 10 seconds to load the main home page on a standard internet connection, then it's time to look into the code of your website.
If your website takes too long to load, people will hardly take another few seconds to quit your page and move to another website (or even your competitor's website) for the same services, even if you provide it better.
SEO doesn't simply mean the use of keywords and content to rank higher, but what differentiates a good SEO team from a great SEO team is that the great one will find the necessary bugs in your SEO-involved data and fix them.
Some SEO experts tend to ignore how URLs and images can be optimized. Structured and keyworded URLs rank higher and images with keyworded alt text contribute to the ranking. When you're hiring a local SEO agency, and they provide you with insights on your HTML codes, consider this a huge plus.