So you want to start a local SEO business?
I ran an SEO business Online Media Masters for 4 years and mainly focused on helping clients rank higher in Google Maps.
I would help them with SEO audits, citations (core online profiles/directories), on-page SEO, speed optimization and Google Search Console. In 3 months my website was getting around 500 visitors/day resulting in about 2 inquiries/day for my services. This was on top of the $600/month affiliate income through my blog.
But I also made mistakes like getting a Google penalty from hiring a bad link builder. My goal is to show you how to start a local SEO business while avoiding the mistakes I made. I will provide you with an SEO audit template, freelancers and local SEO firms to hire, and tools. It took me years to get this down so I hope you find it helpful.
Table Of Contents
- Create A Local SEO Audit Template
- Partner With Whitespark For Citation Building
- Use Whitespark’s Local Rank Tracker For Keyword Reports
- Bring A Speed Optimizer On Board
- Don’t Hire A Sketchy Link Builder
- Create A Local SEO Intake
- Get Sales With Google Map Ranking Factors
- Get Most Clients Through Your Own SEO, Blogging, Videos
- Specialize In A Specific Type Of SEO
- Take Screenshots and Track Everything
- Get Reviews On Your Google My Business Page
- Get Google Analytics Certified
- Offer Fixed Prices For Specific Services
- Create Partnerships Using Referrals / Affiliate Links
1. Create A Local SEO Audit Template
An SEO audit is a great way to start working with a client. Download my Local SEO Audit Template in a Google Doc. It’s 18 pages of solid recommendations and assumes the client needs work in these areas:
- Google My Business
- Keyword Research
- Content Optimization
- Speed Optimization
- Google Search Console
- Google Analytics
I have been constantly improving that audit throughout the last 4 years of doing full-time SEO consulting. You should find it super helpful and can tweak it however you like. I would charge $500 for a micro audit (8 pages) and $900 for a full audit (15 pages). This is a simple pricing structure and will be affordable for any serious client.
2. Partner With Whitespark For Citation Building
Citations (core online profiles) are both the #2 and #5 Google Map ranking factors. I always work with clients on Google My Business and Moz Local (since those are the most important profiles). But I outsource creating all the other profiles to Whitespark for $4-5 per citation. You can either upsell this to clients (eg. for $10 per citation) or refer them as a Whitesaprk affiliate and make a 10% commission.
Why Whitespark? Because all their submissions are manual one-time fees (unlike Yext) and they have a 4.9 star review on Google with 200+ reviews. Just send them an intake which you can fill out on their website, and they will build the citations in 3 weeks. You also get a report of the citation URLs and one universal login. If you want to learn more, check out my Whitespark citation building review.
Whitespark’s citation intake and reports are non-branded so if you upsell this to clients, they probably won’t know you outsourced this. They also offer a citation clean-up service if they’re a complete mess.
3. Use Whitespark’s Local Rank Tracker For Keyword Reports
The problem? Google Analytics doesn’t provide keywords so you can’t measure them. And you can’t rankings by Google organic, local pack, Bing organic, Bing pack, etc. And Google Search Console’s search analytics is only decent for very basic keyword reporting.
Whitespark’s Local Rank Tracker is very easy way to measure ALL your localized keyword rankings across multiple cities and search engines. Clients can login to view, or you can send them a report.
4. Bring A Speed Optimizer On Board
If you go to freelancer.com and search for user bdkamol, he’s the same guy who optimized all my websites to load in less than 1s. He’s done every one of my speed optimization projects and has improved load times by over 13 seconds in GTmetrix! At $20/hour, 10 hours should be enough for a huge improvement (which I have charged up to $700 for). That’s $500 profit and all you have to do is send your client a “before and after” report in GTmetrix. It’s ridiculously easy.
ps. Pronaya has also helped me develop over 20 WordPress and Genesis websites and I have invested more than $20,000 in his development and speed services. He’s quick and follows instructions.
5. Don’t Hire A Sketchy Link Builder
I dabbled a LOT with hiring a link builder on upwork.com and freelancer.com. Even though some of them got great results (I was the #1 WordPress SEO Consultant in Google), don’t do it. Not only did I learn the links were spammy, but I got a penalty on my website.
You should be relying on natural ways to get links like creating helpful tutorials on the blog, content marketing, and social media.
6. Create A Local SEO Intake
- What locations (cities) are your serving?
- Have you researched keywords (not just guessed them)?
- Have you properly created content around your keywords?
- Have you properly optimized content for your keywords?
- Do you need help with Google Search Console?
- Do you need help with Google Analytics?
- Can you create additional content if needed?
- Can you get more customer reviews if needed?
- Have you filled out Whitespark’s citation building intake?
- Do you need help configuring your SEO plugin settings?
- What are some competitors that are doing a good job in SEO?
- What else would you say you need help with?
Do NOT require people fill this out on your contact page or your conversions will plummet (keep your contact form short). But give people the option to fill out the SEO intake if they would like.
7. Get Sales With Google Map Ranking Factors
You’ve probably been asked “how do you go about SEO?” I start by telling clients I follow Google’s local search ranking factors to make sure their core SEO elements are in place (people love that). You can break this down into Google My Business, citations, reviews, and geo-targeted landing pages (on-page SEO). Then I ask them a couple questions about whether they need help in these areas. I’d say 80% of people end up working with me when I use this sales approach.
8. Get Most Clients Through Your Own SEO, Blogging, Videos
YOUR rankings are what’s going to get you sales. As soon as you hear “you were ranked #1 so I figured you know something about SEO” things are going to go well. At that point, they’re already sold.
Writing blog tutorials and creating videos is what’s also going to set you apart. Not many local SEO firms create videos and if I need to explain the benefit of this to you, you need to learn about video SEO. Start by creating videos for your service pages and core blog posts.
Share EVERYTHING in your SEO videos/tutorials and don’t keep secrets. “Not giving away too much” isn’t what people share/link to.
9. Specialize In A Specific Type Of SEO
I chose to specialize in WordPress SEO since phrases like WordPress SEO Services and WordPress SEO Audit are less competitive but still being searched for (enough that I got 5 inquiries/day on my website).
It could be eCommerce SEO, Magento, Joomla… or just local SEO. Just giving you ideas since narrowing it down helps you stand out. Yoast and WordPress speed optimization are specific to WordPress. It helps you specialize in more than just “SEO” which people like.
10. Get Reviews On Your Google My Business Page
If you’re going to be telling everyone else to get them, shouldn’t you have some yourself? It’s amazing how many SEO companies don’t have Google reviews. People know SEO companies can be sketchy which is exactly why they’re that much more important in this industry. Plus if YOU are doing local SEO, it will obviously help you.
11. Take Screenshots and Track Everything
- #1 Rankings in Google’s search results
- Organic searches in Google Analytics
- Before and after GTmetrix reports
- Whitespark’s local rank tracker reports
- Positive comments people leave on your blog
- Google Search Console search analytics reports
12. Get Analytics Certified
It’s free and you can do this in one weekend. To get your Google Analytics certification you should have a practice Google Analytics account (a live website). Then follow the video tutorials from Course 1 and Course 2 which is also has practice quizzes – making it easy.
13. Offer Fixed Prices For Specific Services
People want tangible deliverables so they know what they’re paying for. But they don’t want a package that comes with “everything” since not everyone needs everything. Break your services down into specific tangibles and price them that way. Here are examples…
- $10 per citation
- $500 micro SEO audit
- $900 full SEO audit
- $350 speed tune-up
- $700 full speed optimization
- $150 Yoast configuration
- $75/hour SEO consulting
Many successful SEO companies do this. Whitespark offers $4-5 per citation with a report. Yoast offers specific SEO auditing ranging from $600 – $10,000. Moz Local will keep your top 15 citations consistent for $89/year. The trick is to be specific in your services. This should also avoid people wanting to pick your brain for free.
14. Create Partnerships Using Referrals / Affiliate Links
SEO encompasses all aspect of marketing especially content creation. And in order to have great content the client might need a web designer, graphic designer, videographer, photographer, or a copywriter. As an SEO it’s YOUR job to make sure a client has these.
Partner with the right people whether it’s local or overseas using a website like freelancer.com. You need to build a team so you can either refer your client to them and make a referral commission, or use an affiliate link (eg. if you refer them to Whitespark). This is KEY to building a scalable local SEO business while making extra cash on the side. Cause let’s face it, a 1-person SEO freelancer can’t do it all. Check out my list of WordPress affiliate programs to get some ideas.
What About Your Experience?
Do you have experience starting a local SEO business or working as an SEO freelancer? I would love to hear your feedback if you want to leave a comment below. Also feel free to ask me any questions about this article or local SEO in general – and I’ll be glad to answer them.