Jesse Dolan: Hey, everyone. On today's episode, Bob, Sue, and myself are going to be talking about a question actually that was sent in from one of you listeners. It is, how to choose an SEO firm and in what order does it make sense to look at things that you want to improve? We break that down, go through some scenarios piggybacking on what our processes are and how we do it and answer this question. Check it out.
Welcome back to Local SEO Tactics, where we bring you tips and tricks to get found online. I'm your host, Jesse Dolan. In this episode here today, we've got Mr. Bob Brennan and Sue Ginsburg.
Bob Brennan: Howdy.
Jesse Dolan: How you two doing?
Sue Ginsburg: Hi.
Jesse Dolan: Everybody good?
Bob Brennan: Excellent.
Sue Ginsburg: We're good.
Jesse Dolan: Awesome. Sue, you are...
Sue Ginsburg: Great.
Jesse Dolan: We haven't done the where in the world is Sue for a while, but you're back down in Texas now, right? Correct me if I'm wrong.
Sue Ginsburg: Austin, Texas.
Jesse Dolan: Awesome.
Sue Ginsburg: Here I am.
Jesse Dolan: I think we might be as warm here in Minnesota as you are in Texas today finally. So...
Sue Ginsburg: You're right. I think you're right about that.
Jesse Dolan: Bob, I can tell you're in Minnesota still. So...
Bob Brennan: Yeah, I'm in my closet. So...
Jesse Dolan: Likewise. Sue, let's jump in. What do we got for today's episode?
Sue Ginsburg: Today's question, I think it's a call-in question, Jesse, from Dave Evans of Your Own Agent.
Dave Evans: Hi guys, Dave Evans here from Hopmeier Evans Gage Insurance, website, yourownagent.com. We are looking to maximize SEO locally and we're having trouble picking a vendor. I don't know if there's best practices. There's a lot of smoke and mirrors out there. At least, that's what I feel and it seems like the more I know or educate myself, the more smoke and mirrors I see.
I was wondering if you could discuss the best practices of picking a vendor as well as developing a timetable of what to address first. Is it my backlinks? Is it my descriptions and my YouTube videos that we have currently? Is it fixing all the prior blog posts that we've done maybe incorrectly? My head's spinning and I thought you might bring some clarity.
Sue Ginsburg: Very smart insurance business owner. The question is, how do you choose an SEO firm and what order does it make sense to look at things when you want to improve your SEO? Great question from a business owner who knows his own business and doesn't need to or want to know SEO to the level that we do.
The quote of the day today is, "If the only tool you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail." This is a famous quote by Abraham Maslow, famed psychologist, best known for Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, and the founder of Humanistic Psychology. More recently, in modern day, I heard this quote from John Joseph McFalls, a chemical engineer and solution focused manufacturing plant manager, well-known for creating a work environment where open-mindedness is encouraged. Good quote, and I think we all have a little bit of that in us.
To set this up, SEO can mean different things to different people, and different resources even interpret it differently regarding what they deliver when providing SEO to their clients. When one of our clients first came to us recently, they wanted GVP SEO because they told us another resource was providing website SEO. On the surface, this is fine. We work with lots of clients who have other resources working on their websites and that works okay with us.
Looking into it further though, in this case, the SEO provider was doing blog posts for our client and that's what they considered SEO. After sharing this with our client that what they're doing compared to what we do are two different things, he quickly realized that all SEO is not the same and he brought us on to do his website SEO service as well. This isn't surprising. Business owners can't be expected to know and understand all the nuances that go into the technical side of SEO when they have a business to run and that's not where they want to spend their time.
If I was looking for a new dentist and the first one I spoke to told me that they pull teeth to make room in my mouth, I would think that was the standard for all dentists. Only by doing some research on my own, talking to other dentists would I learn the best practice is not necessarily to be pulling teeth like that and make my choice based on an informed decision. Same thing's going on here. You're looking for an SEO firm. You're not trying to become an expert in it, and you need to know that there are differences in what people are telling you and the method of SEO and make an informed decision accordingly.
In the interest of making our business owner listeners savvy enough to know that there's more to choosing an SEO provider than getting estimates and choosing the lowest quote, all SEO service providers are not defining SEO the same, nor are they all providing the same service. There are SEO providers who write you blog posts, those that buy you backlinks, and every other variety in between. The workflow that we follow, the extent of the SEO tools that we're informed and knowledgeable to utilize, and the way we share and deliver metrics may not be the same as any other SEO provider out there.
That's why this question resonated with me as I know it will for our business owners. How do I as a business owner choose a good SEO provider, and what are the important things to look for and to make sure I know what I'm getting? What are the priorities of good SEO, so I know what should be done early on versus what can wait versus later on in the workflow? That's the question that I toss to you two today, so we can all become a little bit more knowledgeable about what to look for and where we should be starting, so our SEO will more quickly attract leads online. What can you two tell us about that?
Jesse Dolan: Bob, do you have any initial thoughts you want to comment on? Otherwise, I can spot off a few things here. So [inaudible 00:06:46]-
Bob Brennan: Yeah, what I'd look at is obviously, referrals are a huge deal. There's the baseline how long they've been doing this and stuff like that, which is important. Those are the basics. So, I look at referrals. I'm looking for a referral for somebody that is in a similar market size as mine, potentially same industry, sometimes that can be negative, and then I would look for somebody that they've been doing business with for six months, a year and two years, and then asking that person, "Hey, it's great we're on page one." It's like, no, you want to ask the hard questions without getting too much in their business and just say, "Hey, has there been real growth? If so, how have you been able to track it?"
You know what I mean? To validate everything coming from the SEO and everything they're doing. So, it's making it sure they're in the same market size and, or let's say keyword intensity, that what it is that I'm doing? If it's for Amish pole barns, that's a niche deal. Anybody can get to the top on that, but if it's something more competitive, those are the things that I'd look at just to validate all that. If they have a hard time coming up with those types of referrals, I wouldn't completely dismiss them, but like anything else, a good job applicant, you're going to want to go through as many as you can just to remove biases and just see what's out there. So, that's my 2 cents.
Jesse Dolan: That should be something that's not an unusual ask. Even just body language, so to speak. If you're getting pushback asking for those things, that's very telling for you too, if it's hard for them to give references or examples or answer your questions right there.
Bob Brennan: Right.
Jesse Dolan: That's really good.
Bob Brennan: If they say, "Hey, we're private," "client privilege," I get that, that's fine. But there should be somebody that wants to sing your praises, right? If not, you might want to move on.
Jesse Dolan: Hey everyone, just a quick message about our free SEO audit tool on localseotactics.com, and we'll get right back to the show. If you haven't taken advantage of it yet, go on out to localseotactics.com/freeseoaudit, or look for the yellow button up in the top right corner. Click that, and it's going to take just a couple seconds. You enter in the page that you want to optimize what you're looking for the audit to score against. Enter in that page, enter in the keyword you're looking to get optimized for, and enter in your email address.
Click the button and it's going to take a few seconds, and then it's going to send you off a PDF report via email. It's a great report. It's going to give you an overall score of some vital SEO areas for that page and for your website at large, even though it's auditing this page, that's going to tell you some of the good things that are happening, some of the bad things that are happening too, and give you basically a checklist of some things that you need to shore up and what you can do to improve your SEO for that page, for that keyword that you're auditing.
Now, you can use this as many times as you want. You can do multiple keywords, multiple pages, multiple keywords on the same page. You can even use this to check against your competitors, if you want to do a little reverse engineering, see how they're scoring for a certain keyword, what they may be doing good that you're not, and some things to improve there. So, lots of different ways to use it, completely free. Again, go on at the localseotactics.com/freeseoaudit, or look for the yellow button in the top right corner of the website.
I think in that same spirit of you're talking with this person, asking their processes, references, interviewing them to see if they're a good fit for you to choose them, I think also digging into... Sue mentioned this a little bit, but what I'm going to say here is our processes, my opinion, very much like our Intrix version of this, because again, to Sue's point, different firms attack this in different ways, and SEO can mean different things to different people that use different tools, et cetera. If Bob's a business owner asking these questions, I think also asking, "What are you doing in that first month?"
I think that is very telling because there should be, like we say all the time, a lot of competitive research. Who are your main competitors, Mr and Mrs. Client? Keyword research, the industry itself. Who are the players in the digital market here that are dominating? We've talked before, go to other markets. Who's dominating in other markets? What characteristics can you see? If somebody's going to be doing SEO to your website, they need to understand you, your market, your competitors, the keywords, all these things before they can start pushing buttons.
Otherwise, they're making huge assumptions, and they're not really doing this for you, for your business, they're just applying something that's worked in the past and either playing the odds or hoping that it's going to work for you too. That can be okay, not to completely slam anybody who takes that MO, but I don't think that that's delivering the highest quality of SEO to a client because Bob, even if you and I were both plumbers and somebody comes in like, "Yeah, I'm an expert SEO for plumbers. I got you. I don't even need to ask any questions. I know what to do," you and I are not the same company.
There's going to be something about you that's different than me and vice versa, and that needs to come through in the marketing because when we talk SEO, it's marketing is what we're doing. It's a version, a format, a type of marketing, and you have to know your clients. You have to have this avatar, all these different personas, all these foofoo things that we don't like to consider part of a good marketing strategy because they don't yield results right away. It's that building of the database, but that stuff needs to be happening in the first month.
Long-winded but maybe rephrasing as a quick answer... I'm sorry, quick question to add to your interview, in addition to Bob's points is, "Tell me just what happens in the first month of engaging with you. What will that look like?" I'm not asking when we're going to get ranked or when I'm going to get ROI, but just what does that first month look like? They should have plenty of bullet points that speak to the research, the fact finding, the strategizing, the tweaking of their standard plan to fit your business. That should be a huge part of it.
I'll go further down that a little bit to answer the second part to the question, Sue, is what order of things? What should we look at? That would be one right there, is that there has to be this fact finding research phase on the front side, and then again following the version that we would be doing for clients because we've done this for almost two decades in various forms. I think we have a pretty good process. Then the next thing would be to start working with the existing content on a website. A lot of places will recommend or even force you to rebuild your website to launch an SEO campaign.
We will do that if the website is a negative factor in the overall SEO strategy that we have. I don't know if rare is the right word, Sue. We do do it on occasion. But oftentimes, that's not the immediate thing that needs to be done. We don't need to rebuild a website just to engage in SEO, even though we make fun of it sometimes. Even if it's Wix or Squarespace, there's SEO you can do to things. If somebody's needing SEO, needing help, they're lacking in it somewhere, there's something a good SEO firm should be able to deploy without saying, "Well, you have to completely scrap your website."
Initially, fact finding, research, strategizing, then working with your existing site, your existing content, and then getting into those gaps of additional content, more content needed, doubling down on certain topics, the whole inch deep, a mile wide versus a mile deep and an inch wide on various topics, how much you need to get into it. I think that gets into the ongoing [inaudible 00:15:02] at that point. You're just constantly looking at, what's ranking? How do we leverage it if it is? What's not? What do we got to do if it's not?
I should back up and also mention that something that should be critical, A, in the discussion with your SEO to choose them, and B, for the order of things happening is your GBP. We mentioned website multiple times. They sure as heck should be talking about your Google business profile. Even Bing, Apple Maps, any of these local directories, to use that phrase, that either have their own search engines or people search them to find things or use them as a resource that's not your own website itself. Even Facebook, social media could be thrown into that category, quite frankly.
These assets, these third party websites, these directories need to be part of that strategy as well. So, I guess, two parts. One, asking them what they do for those, for an SEO strategy, for helping you pick a firm, and then what order of things. Your Google business profile specifically needs to be something that's touched early and often as well in this to get results. For us, we find that that can happen quicker. From a manipulation and optimization standpoint, that can happen quicker than a website, because there's not a ton of stuff on a GBP compared to a website.
It's kind of, "Here's the fields that Google provides," and, "Here's the options that we had to be able to manipulate." You don't need as much analysis, or do you need a new GBP or not? That's not a discussion to have. It's just more of what needs to be done to it. So, I would say that, and then the last thing I want to throw out there for order of things for SEO is something large, very much like this show, doing something multimedia. Videos, podcasts, blog writing, something where you as the business owner are going to need to be invested with your time, energy, labor for your team, whatever it is, where it's not all just on the SEO company at that point, the SEO firm, to provide results to you.
You're going to need to bring your expertise as a company into working with them to produce content unique for your company, impactful for your company, to position you as an expert, because there's the whole getting ranking, but then there's the being the expert and the authoritative person, figure, company in your space, and that's going to come with you creating content. Nobody can have a better voice for your company than you. That's our opinion at least. You think that satisfies, Sue? Does that answer Bob and I threw out there answer the question good?
Sue Ginsburg: I think it does, and I wanted to add something to what you mentioned about your Google business profile and how important it is. We were just on a metrics update call with a client yesterday. We're working on their website SEO, they're doing their own Google business profile SEO, and they asked us why they were getting so many unqualified leads.
Our SEO specialist on the call at the time, great, smart SEO specialist, then looked at their GBP and saw that they had their list of services that included all these other services that they were getting leads for that Google had pulled and put in there and they didn't. The business owner was like, "I didn't put that in there. Where is that? What's that doing there?" We explained, "Google does this typically. You need to be on top of it, looking at it, keeping it optimized, and working it to make sure that it's what you want to be showing on there and what you put on there and not what Google pulled off other sources of the internet."
Jesse Dolan: Well, that's a good point. It's not only what do you need to do to something, but what do you need to undo in some cases or correct for that. Google can do that. The public can do it as well. If you have enough people saying, "Hey, no..."
Sue Ginsburg: That's right.
Jesse Dolan: "Jesse's business hours are X," well, Google's going to update them then and trust the public. Good point, Sue. Do we have anything else to add to that guys, or is that pretty good answer?
Bob Brennan: I think it's good.
Sue Ginsburg: Yeah, I think it does the job. Well, thank you for that, both of you. If you remember one thing and one thing only, remember this, all SEO is not created equal. Learning a little about what is under the hood will serve you well in your decision to work with an SEO provider who will succeed to increase your online leads. Like you said, Jessie, asking what are you doing in the first month, and even what do you do for keyword research because there's different levels of that. Interview them just like you would any other service and get to know what they're doing, so that you understand what you're looking at if you're comparing or just even to understand with anyone that you talk with.
Quote of the day, "If the only tool you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail," from the famous Abraham Maslow and the less famous but important modern day, John Joseph McFalls. Really good quote, and I thought that it applied here today because everything can't look like a nail. There's all different ways to do SEO and some are more successful than others, like the way we do it.
Jesse Dolan: I think it's a great quote and your closing comments there made me think back to where Bob started early with. Bob made the statement, I'm paraphrasing Bob, but you are interviewing just like if you're going to hire an employee for your team. I think that's another thing to real quick underscore for everybody is whoever's doing your SEO, if they're a one-man shop or a firm with 20, 30, 40 people, they are your marketing team or part of your marketing team and you should work with them.
Just like anybody else in your team, there should be a good fit. It's hard. That's super esoteric, compared to the other things we're talking. But you should get a good vibe, you should work well together because they will be a part of your team. They're not just doing this thing that's detached from your business. They're helping to represent your business, and you should work well together at the end of the day too. That'd be a good tiebreaker, if you're deciding between two.
All right, thank you, Sue. Thank you, Bob. Everybody else, if you liked this episode, we'd love to answer your questions as well. Go on out to localseotactics.com, scroll down to the bottom, click the link to submit a question. You can type it in on a text form or you can call it in and leave a voicemail, which we'll play it on the show, give you a shout-out to your company, record it. As long as there's no profanity, we can just play it as is and we'll be good to go.
If you do that, we will send you off, complete and free, for your time and interaction, this Local SEO Tactics, I can get it in Center, water bottle. Insulated stainless steel, it's awesome. These things hold ice for 24 hours, even in the desert. Elizabeth Samuels from SEO spring training just threw that on Facebook a few days ago like, "This is awesome. This thing is still holding my ice." We'll send it off to you free. Just go on out to localseotactics.com, send us in a question, and help everybody out in addition to yourself.
Thanks for jumping on, Sue and Bob, and for everybody else listening, we'll catch you in the next one. Take care. Bye.