Citation-building Only - As a Business?


Laustin1878

Forum Member
Joined
Sep 27, 2012
Messages
419
Likes
43
I recently attended a local Chamber of Commerce meeting where I was asked to address [impromptu] a few of the attendees about SEO and answer a few questions. It was very informal and I later gave the person who threw me under the bus the business.

Anyhow, I spoke to a few of the business owners after the meeting and I simply asked, what there reservations were about outsourcing their SEO? Not to my surprise, most of the responses were shady, shotty practices/seo's among the more common denominators. Another thing they mentioned were monthly retainers or being locked into a contract, which came at a little bit of a surprise. I cannot say I disagree but I threw out there a one-off idea of citation building only and they seemed to like it. Paying it over a 3 month period vs 6-12 month period was much easier to swallow.

In my mind, it didn't feel right saying it but they liked the idea. My questions:
  • could something like citation building only actually work for a business?
  • is it an injustice or not beneficial to the client just offering a bulk of citations (20+ in my mind) to be built?
  • anyone have success with one-off type jobs similar to this? How about one-offs that may include other services bundled in?

I am very much about offering quality services that are manageable for the wallets. Of course, we all need to get paid for our time. This got me thinking again of how to best help a business without destroying their piggy bank. I also thought of it as a foot in the door to earn the trust of a business owner. I'm just not sure that it's enough to show results.
 

Colan Nielsen

Administrator
Joined
Jul 19, 2012
Messages
3,021
Likes
1,026
In my mind, it didn't feel right saying it but they liked the idea. My questions:
  • could something like citation building only actually work for a business?
  • is it an injustice or not beneficial to the client just offering a bulk of citations (20+ in my mind) to be built?
  • anyone have success with one-off type jobs similar to this? How about one-offs that may include other services bundled in?
I think it's important to have Citation Building or a Citation Clean-up service as a service but I wouldn't limit it to just that.

Doing nothing else but citation work can move the ranking needle, but there is so much more. If a client is adamant about only wanting citation work and nothing else, I would offer it, but I would also want to see what else can be done to add value and ROI for the business.
 

Phil Rozek

Local Search Expert
Joined
Jul 26, 2012
Messages
1,421
Likes
864
Colan nailed it.

In my experience, citations usually only help rankings when you're solid on the other factors (especially on-page). When citations are the missing piece of the puzzle and you fix or create listings on the few-dozen sites that actually matter...well, then you've got yourself a completed puzzle.
 

Laustin1878

Forum Member
Joined
Sep 27, 2012
Messages
419
Likes
43
I absolutely agree with you. There is so much more you can do. It comes down to how much can you do for the prospects price point? How much crap can you fit into that 5 pound bag? Lol

The whole experience for me was eye opening. I was fairly surprised at the feedback and responses I received. I've never had an opportunity to poll as many people at one time (only 3 or 4) so it was pretty cool in that aspect.

I also know that it comes down to building value and I feel it is important and envy all that succeed in doing this so well. I hope to follow in those footsteps. It's not easy. Maybe that's the roadblock I'm seeing. But as an ice breaker, citation work, an audit and cleanup can be that first step towards something bigger. Maybe not. Perhaps it's worth an experiment.....
 
Joined
Jun 28, 2012
Messages
14,436
Likes
4,292
I agree with the guys.

Also important to think about the fact that there are TONS of companies that do citations only. Many are low end and they have that low end feel to them too!

And I think citation builders (or consultants that say they do Local SEO, but in reality only do citations - the low end guys) they are more of a commodity type service. Easier for the customer to search and price shop. Harder for you to compete and differentiate yourself!

You'll hear "the other guys will do 20 citations for 50. What can you do?" In fact you are even competing with Fiverr and stuff. It's really not where you want to position yourself I don't think.

Plus many of those guys come to me for training saying, "we can't move the needle like we used to doing citations only".

I absolutely agree with you. There is so much more you can do. It comes down to how much can you do for the prospects price point? How much crap can you fit into that 5 pound bag? Lol
Luke I think you are asking the wrong question.

"How much can you do for the prospects price point?"
BETTER: How can I attract higher level customers who have a decent budget?

"How much crap can you fit into that 5 pound bag?"
BETTER: Why do I even have just a 5 lb bag? How can I get a 10 lb bag instead?


Honestly fishing in the low end pond for businesses that can't afford a more holistic approach is still a lot of work - it's just less money and more frustration.

I'd think really hard about finding a niche and then consider some of the strategies in this post.
http://localsearchforum.catalystema...ur-local-search-consulting-business-list.html

In the new GMB course I went a lot more into building your business and talk about finding a niche, positioning yourself as an expert in the niche and attracting clients that already realize they have a need and already want your service. Otherwise you end up too often just trying to push a rope.

One pro who's name I won't mention told me that part of the course paid for the whole training for her. If it was all in writing I would gladly just post it here, but it's all verbal and interwoven with several other topics.

Not at all trying to sell my training because you've already taken one of my older courses, just saying there is value in the niche/expert strategy and a lot of it is in that public post.

Take the energy you are putting into figuring out how to offer a cheap service and instead put it into finding the perfect niche.

Ideally a niche you know about or are passionate about. Just starting out I'd find a smaller less competitive Local SEO niche like solar installers or accountants - not Dentists and Lawyers which all the experienced consultants are going after. Or even find a niche within a niche. But you have to be sure it's a profitable niche where the owners are making enough to invest in marketing. One way is to check to be sure there are lots of Adwords ads. If it's such a low end unprofitable niche that there are no ads then it's not worth going after. And if it's so low tech many don't even have sites or 'get' the net you are barking up the wrong tree too.

Well there I go writing a book again. I'll stop there, but I hope you find a path that makes sense and makes use of your talents!
 

dani

Forum Member
Joined
Jul 25, 2013
Messages
17
Likes
0
Citations are only part of the whole strategy.
What I usually do for my clients is to check if they set up goals in Google Analytic, if the GA and Webmaster Tools are connected, give recommendations for conversion optimization. When you get more traffic you need also convert this traffic into clients.
 

HurricaneK8

Forum Member
Joined
Apr 16, 2014
Messages
212
Likes
67
I thought about the problem; "shady, shotty practices/seo's among the more common denominators"+ "monthly retainers or being locked into a contract" and the proposed solution "citation building only and they seemed to like it".

What I immediately see is that they ACTUALLY want transparancy. The are afraid to outsource their SEO because they don't want shady SEO's to go in and mess things up, and the company not having a clue what the SEOs are up to. I think that the "citation building only" seems like a good solution to them because they know exactly what you're doing and it stops after you've completed x # of citations (aka no "monthly retainers or being locked into a contract").

I think another way of meeting those 2 objections (monthy contracts & lack of transparancy) is to put together custom packages. In a proposal you can say "This is what I'm going to do-- Build 100 citations from pre-vetted sources, give you a detailed outline of on-site recommendations. If you want me to do the on-site work, this is how much I charge an hour. The outline is included in this exclusive package deal and I won't do anything outside of what is in the spreadsheet".

Rand made a great point in todays white-board friday that when you bundle things, people who only wanted 1 of those things feel ripped off-- like they're paying a higher price for something because it only comes as a package. I think custom packages priced based on how long it will take you to perform each task would meet both the monthy contracts & lack of transparancy objections in this case.
The question then is, do you have time to put together custom packages for potential clients who haven't yet agreed to purchase your services? You want your services to be manageable for their wallets, but how much time can you also afford to put into "getting your foot in the door" if that's as far as you ever get? You'd have to track how many proposals turn into sales very carefully, and how much time you're spending on creating the proposal as well.
 

Laustin1878

Forum Member
Joined
Sep 27, 2012
Messages
419
Likes
43
Thank you folks, for taking the time to respond. I am only seeking something small at the onset to get a foot in the door with clients who may have reservations. I was once told a good salesperson knows how to get around the "No's." This was one of my answers.

I know there is a lot more to local SEO than citations. I certainly don't want to bottom feed but we all have to start somewhere correct? I'd love to jump right into finding valuable clients but I have to figure out how to build value for myself. My hopes are that I will be able to hit the pavement hard for some clients and than go to word of mouth. I would love to follow in Linda's footsteps ;-)

I have a few other ideas that I thought about bundling up but wanted to make sure that the off-site practices such as dealing with citation finding, building, etc. would be enough to show results. I firmly agree that spending too much time on customizing proposals can be a waste. On the contrary, cookie-cutter proposals don't always work as well. I don't like one-size-fits-all solutions but building citations can be more straight forward and justifiable which is what I think is a good idea based on the conversations I had.

Believe me, I'd love to hit pay dirt from day one and get clients on a healthy retainer. I don't have enough confidence yet to really go out and sell a service for a high price tag. I have been experimenting more with certain things to see what works best and sculpt a better plan but this may be a decent first step/ice breaker to get the trust built between the client and myself. Hopefully, with due time, I'll be able to seek those big fish in the pond and have a moderately-high valued service that is a win-win for everyone involved.

Linda: I've been thinking long and hard about your response and I don't have a solid rebuttal. You make many excellent points. I may be asking the wrong questions. I thank you for pointing out that I may be looking in the wrong places. In that case, how did you start out? (that is open to anybody fyi) Did you know you were the real deal from day one? I have been spending more time trying to find a niche or even find a unique solution for business owners. My goal is to provide a valuable service as I truly want to help people succeed. I don't want to offer BS or smoking mirrors. Services alone cannot build trust. A good track record, solid practices and evolving methodologies is what I believe is a good foundation. If I am wrong, I hope I will find out early...lol

Sorry for the novel.

Much thanks again!
 
Joined
Jun 28, 2012
Messages
14,436
Likes
4,292
Believe me, I'd love to hit pay dirt from day one and get clients on a healthy retainer. I don't have enough confidence yet to really go out and sell a service for a high price tag.

Linda: I've been thinking long and hard about your response and I don't have a solid rebuttal. You make many excellent points. I may be asking the wrong questions. I thank you for pointing out that I may be looking in the wrong places. In that case, how did you start out? (that is open to anybody fyi) Did you know you were the real deal from day one?
Well Luke I have to say the way I did it isn't the only way or the best way - but I'm happy to share how I got started.

I knew organic, but had never done local. I studied enough to feel I knew what I was doing or could figure it out. BUT I didn't have any confidence at 1st either.

So 1st I picked my niche - Dentistry because I knew it. Then I started helping Dentists in a forum and sharing Places news and tips. Even though I lacked confidence and had not done a listing yet - I realized I knew more about Google local than most Dentists at that point, so I started to establish myself.

Then I did a listing for myself, and a listing for free for a Dentist and one for free for my Chiro. To get hands on, confidence and prove to myself I could do it.

Then I started taking on clients. I don't remember the exact pricing but it was something like this. I told the 1st 2 Dentists I knew what I was doing, but was just building my business and needed some case studies to build up my portfolio. So I said my price, once I got going would be 600, but if they would agree to be a case study and let me share the results I got for them, I would do their opt for 300. Then the next couple I said normal fee once I got going would be 800, but I'd work on their listing for 600. Then once I started getting results and gaining confidence - I jumped to 1200/case study price 1000. Then 2000/1800 and so on.

Again I don't remember the exact prices but I worked my way up, something like that.

Then as I've shared in training I eventually ended up at 3500 + 300 per dupe.

One word of caution. I would never try to do free listings again. People do not put any value in free and free sounds too good to be trued. The 1st 3 Dentists I offered to do for free - just didn't take me seriously and I could not even close them on a zero dollar deal. It worked much better when I was honest about the fact that I was just getting started. Said everyone has to start somewhere. I was sure I could do a great job for them but would do it at a steep discount in exchange for them being a case study etc.

FYI important to note. Not sure that would have worked if I was out cold calling. In fact I'm sure it would not have. It worked because I established myself as someone who knew a lot about local, was helpful and gave lots of free advice. Then Dentist started asking if I could help with their listing and I gave them the new business/case study option.

Luke, you've taken my training. You've lived here.
You already know 40 times more than the average SMB!
PLUS you are nice, helpful and personable!


If you found the right niche/forum/community/LinkedIn group and just started helping folks that have Google questions - shared tips - shared G+ L news or other local search news. Luke I totally think you have what it takes to do something similar - if that feels like a way you'd want to try to get started.

Sorry for rambling, scuse typos. Super tired.
 
Joined
Jan 27, 2015
Messages
4
Likes
2
There is a wealth of wisdom in this thread. Any person thinking of starting a new business (in essence that is what OP is thinking of doing) should read it closely. There is a big difference between potential customers "needing" something, and them 'wanting' it. You will never make someone "want" what you are selling. As Linda says the best customers are those that actively seek you out.

All too often business owners know they 'need' something, but deep down don't 'want' it. Its an emotional thing that you can rarely change. And even more importantly they won't pay for your service even if they can afford it. I know this all too well having found what I thought was a big opportunity in a poorly served niche, spent a huge amount of time and dollars pursuing it, and in the end it failed miserably. I guess there was a reason the niche was under served... I found these people all agreed they needed help, some I wasted years and untold hours "talking" with them about doing something, but in the end they just wouldn't pay for it. I don't understand their thinking but have watched many go out of business over the last five years because they refused to change their thinking. There seems to be a great resistance to marketing, and especially Internet marketing, amongst many small businesses.

The other situation I have experienced is where clients were referred to me by a third party. Usually business consultants, accountants, or bankers trying to assist struggling business owners. While this was good for getting new clients they were uncooperative due to being "forced" to buy my services. A very frustrating situation where nothing you did was good enough, you never got any referrals or positive reviews from them, and they never saw value in what you did (even if you showed them clear proof how it was benefiting them).

And they seemed to hold a grudge that never went away. Even when they finally saw the value in what I was doing they would often jump to a competitor after years of hard work for them. Almost like it was out of spite. Lesson learned was don't bother with customers who aren't hungry for your assistance. If you can't find customers who are hungry for your services you are in the wrong (bad) business.

**Anybody thinking of starting, or running, a business should read "The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Products That Win" by Steve Blank. It will change your whole view of conducting business. And it applies to ANY business, from little home based business to big corporations. It will save you a lot of time and pain, both emotionally and financially. Any of Steve Blank's books are brilliant.
"But you have to be sure it's a profitable niche where the owners are making enough to invest in marketing. One way is to check to be sure there are lots of Adwords ads. If it's such a low end unprofitable niche that there are no ads then it's not worth going after."

I agree with Linda to a degree but from my experience having the ability to pay does not mean they will! Even the ones spending huge amounts of cash on Adwords often won't look at alternatives that will save them big dollars. As you will discover in "The Four Steps to the Epiphany" you can get positive feedback from potential customers all you want but until they put their money in your hand you are guessing at their potential. Business owners love to talk. Action counts.
"And if it's so low tech many don't even have sites or 'get' the net you are barking up the wrong tree too."

Wise words of caution! I often get phone calls from potential new customers who don't even use email (and don't want to start!). Unless they are willing to pay a huge premium to you for all the hand holding, baby sitting, and extra work you will need to do they just aren't worth the pain they will cause. If you chat with them long enough you will often find they have phoned everybody trying to find 1) someone willing to help them, 2) "the best deal"... Not worth the anguish.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink... choose your customers well. Be selective. Use your time wisely.
 
Joined
Jun 28, 2012
Messages
14,436
Likes
4,292
Very well said Doug!

We have a good thread here in the Consultants Corner about how letting some prospects/customers walk is the most profitable strategy. Just need to know how to weed out the time eaters, cost cutters, and all the problem children. :eek:
 

steven

Forum Member
Joined
Jan 31, 2013
Messages
81
Likes
10
A great thread that went into an interesting direction!

So, I see where you're going with this. It sounds like you are using your local chamber of commerce as a way to get in front of business owners so you can start building a clientele and gain confidence in what you do as well as build a reputation and have some case studies. Is that right?

Lots of great advice here from people I study from and are way more successful than I am, but you're not totally wrong in your thinking, from my point of view. It sounds like you've invested your time and probably your money if you joined the chamber already, and it's time to find someone to work with you. Many of these small business owners are so lost on so many different aspects of marketing and such, it's nearly unbelievable. Many are literally grasping at straws. I had a client of mine tell me in the beginning that his $2k a month budget was just a crap shoot. He said that. And it was.

So, if that's the route you feel comfortable with (starting with clientele that do not have large marketing budgets to pay you what you're worth) and you can ease someone's perceived pain of dealing with shady seo's by doing citation building for him, why not? You're in a chamber, and word gets around when you do good work. Get the practice in, build the confidence, and be seen as someone who delivers, regardless of the service.

You'd obviously tell them citations are a small factor in the overall scheme of things in regards to bringing in more money, but this will prove you can complete a project on a timely basis, and that's important. Think the shady seo's followed up, communicated, hit deadlines, etc? Could be they just want someone who can do that.. Just set the standards and expectations correctly.

My guess is that if you follow up consistently, deliver on time, and they genuinely like you, they may just like you enough to allocate more of their budget towards the other things that you can do that would be more valuable to their business. Or, after the amount of time agreed upon, and with the work delivered, you walk away.

Business to me, is about relationships. People want to do business with people they like. If you deliver, and they feel good every time you contact them for a follow up, they will find ways to continue that relationship.

---------- Post Merged at 07:36 PM ---------- Previous Post was at 07:32 PM ----------

Of course, though, remember you're not a citation building business. Limit your time doing this and don't end up working for minimum wage. But if you can make it happen easily, with little leverage on your time, who knows what type of referrals you can get? Just have an exit strategy and don't get caught in the stream, so to speak...
 

Laustin1878

Forum Member
Joined
Sep 27, 2012
Messages
419
Likes
43
Thank you for the well thought-out response Steven.

Although it's not a terrible angle, it was not my intent to go to this meeting to sell anything or even speak to anyone. I was simply going b/c I had never been to one. My friend who runs the chamber, thought it would be cute to have me speak. Mind you, I've never publicly spoken about SEO, ever. Informal is still a strong word but I did it. (quietly, I was happy that I had the "gusto" to get up and talk)

These are all small, local businesses who are struggling to get by. They cannot pay for other forms of marketing exposure such as, radio, TV, billboards, etc. Not to mention, the reach they get for the dollar with online marketing cannot be argued, IMO. I was looking for an angle that would benefit the SMB and not break their bank but not provide an overwhelming amount of work on my part.

For those who have been burned before, I thought it may be an ice breaker, a way to build trust, not break their wallets, and deliver a service that would benefit them somehow. All in hopes it would lead to bigger things. An exit strategy is such a great point also.

I really don't want to be doing work for pennies. I have to provide also. Being involved with small businesses, I know the feeling when there isn't enough money to do what you want to do. I was thinking of a way for it to mutually work.
 

steven

Forum Member
Joined
Jan 31, 2013
Messages
81
Likes
10
Wow I get blabby when I've had a few. :p

My main point that I'm trying to get across is that if a small business owner is saying yes, then do it. Not to "screw him over", but to start a working relationship with him. It's extremely difficult to get a nickel from these struggling small businesses, for the reasons you stated. And if the pain point is they've been hurt in a relationship, then your solution is to build a relationship they feel good about. You have all the knowledge you need in order to help them. You are probably aware of the amount of time and effort of the resources you have to put into whatever you choose to provide them. If you can find the sweet spot of what is low cost to you and low cost to them, in the specific area of building citations, and they are already sold on the idea of trying it, why not show them that they can trust someone again to deliver a service, unlike the shady people in the past that have burned them. It's easy to figure out what shape they are in citation-wise and easy to provide before and after's for them. I get that you want to help them as much as possible, but sometimes starting a relationship a fraction at a time is what small business owners in a difficult situation will be comfortable with. As long as you explain the limitations of moving the needle with citations, and what else is needed in addition to them to really make a difference, you can build loyalty one piece at a time.

I built a mobile website for a pizza place a while back. Then added an sms loyalty program, now I'm going to work on his local visibility. It's a long play, but the guy is giving referrals to me without asking and says yes whenever I bring up other ways to help him. Always has time for me. We're kind of "buddies", but not really. And he's a small pizza joint, who gets my services at a real discount. But I built a relationship with him, as well as a case study, and I'm able to name drop a business down the street when I find myself in a conversation with another chamber business member in the neighborhood. Is it worth your time to do that? Maybe. Maybe not.

Maybe you decide to jump into a niche that pays out better, and specialize in that niche. Focus your time and efforts into getting a higher paid client and pretend to know more than you do, all the while scared you're going to screw things up. There's nothing like jumping in the fire to see how you handle pressure. Plus, you have the best people in the world here to help you. Either way, do something! :)
 

Laustin1878

Forum Member
Joined
Sep 27, 2012
Messages
419
Likes
43
Crap, if I could write that well and put thoughts together that concisely while in the cups, I'd be stunned. Impressive!

Thank you again for providing very insightful feedback and making many valuable points. If it's believable, I'm a genuine SEO...lol (not saying every other SEO isn't) It's always at the forefront of my mind to do right by people. I don't mind applying time and effort for not the most desirable paycheck if I feel there is greener grass on the other side of the field. I'm not looking for that killer client with deep pockets, although I wouldn't turn them away but I genuinely want to help these smaller businesses.

Upfront has always been my policy and I don't plan on straying away from that.

Again, many thanks Steven.
 

steven

Forum Member
Joined
Jan 31, 2013
Messages
81
Likes
10
You all shouldn't be enabling my drinking habits! ;) Yeah I'm not sure if it was at all helpful, since I do not know you and your business personally, but I thought I'd throw my 2 cents in anyways.

These smaller businesses are a tough entry. They usually have no time and no money. But they do desperately need the help. It's a challenge to make it work for both parties...
 

Local Search Forum


Weekly Digest
Subscribe/Unsubscribe


Google Product Exert

@LocalSearchLink

Join Our Facebook Group

Top