If You Aren't Making Money as a Local SEO Consultant You Aren't Alone


Joined
Jul 18, 2012
Messages
440
Likes
76
I'm good friends with Steve, a guy who runs a great website that provides small business tips, strategies, expert video interviews, etc. You can check it out here:
Home Page | Great Business Content

One of the primary things he does is interview small business owners throughout the country. He recently did a "video tour" down south where he interviewed something like 20 business owners. These are truly small business owners - think mom and pop shops. One question he asked them all was if they were making a profit. Surprisingly, almost half said that at the end of they day - if they factored in their time - they were breaking even at best and most were losing money! Sadly, Steve said this is common for small business owners. Most work around the clock and at the end of the day really aren't making the kind of money they should be making.

This topic came up because Steve and I were talking about my business and the struggles I've had to get my business off the ground. I was telling him how I was barely breaking even. He then shared his findings with me to let me know I wasn't alone - so now I'm sharing it with you to let you know you're not alone if your local SEO business is struggling.

Of course the key is to retool your business so that you can make a profit and prosper. His challenge to me was to sit down and put my goals, dreams, etc. on paper and come up with a plan for 2013 to achieve them. I'm in the process of doing that right now;) I hope to have a totally revamped game plan for 2013 so that I can profit and prosper with the best of them!

Travis Van Slooten
 

Linda Buquet

Moderator
Moderator
Joined
Jun 28, 2012
Messages
14,433
Likes
4,282
Awesome post Travis and so generous of you to share something so personal. But I bet there are at least 50 others in the same boat that are regulars here.

One of the VERY tough parts of this business is that to do it right is extremely time consuming, especially if you hit lots of bugs and unexpected problems. So it can really be a challenge doing the balancing act between time, profit, client expectations.

I have a post coming to the Consultant's Corner next week that may provide some ideas and inspiration for those of you trying to reach the next level of success in your Local Search business.

Thanks again for sharing and wonder what other members have to say on this topic?
 
Joined
Jul 18, 2012
Messages
440
Likes
76
I look forward to your post, Linda. I'll just say for me personally, I've had many challenges but the main ones have been...

1. Lack of a clearly defined USP
2. Pricing - I price my services way too low but I struggle to land those deals when I try to price my services higher
3. Prospecting/Selling - I don't have any systems in place to prospect.

I'd be interested to hear what the primary challenges are for other local SEO consultants.

Travis Van Slooten
 
Joined
Jul 23, 2012
Messages
481
Likes
112
Good thread, Travis,

My own biggest problem, money-wise, has always been volume of clients. Often, we just don't have enough of them at the same time, so that paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle has been ours pretty much since day 1 (despite the fact that Top SEOs continues to erroneously list us as making millions a year as a top Local SEO firm - LOL).
'
The recession has affected us. We did very, very well in 2008, but everything began falling off in 2009, while at the same time, the cost of living has risen and risen. Rents, food, gas and clothing are at outrageous highs in California right now. Interestingly, I've just finished reading The Rich and The Rest of Us by Cornel West and Tavis Smiley, and this featured countless tales that match those dates, even including one from a web designer who lost his home after his client base dried up in 2009.

Things seem to be picking up a bit for us at the end of this year, thank goodness. We've been able to afford bird seed for our outdoor feeders again which, for our family, is a mark of being more comfortable financially. But there have been many times when we and the birds have been living on pretty slim pickings.

Hang in there, Travis. You are clearly a really talented guy. I think you will have success in 2013!
 
Joined
Jul 18, 2012
Messages
440
Likes
76
Thanks for sharing...and thanks for your vote of confidence;)

I didn't get into local SEO until the summer of 2011 so I don't know life in this industry before then so I have nothing to compare it to. I have wondered from time-to-time if the economy the past few years has played a role because when I talk to business owners none of them have money to spend it seems.

Travis Van Slooten


Good thread, Travis,

My own biggest problem, money-wise, has always been volume of clients. Often, we just don't have enough of them at the same time, so that paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle has been ours pretty much since day 1 (despite the fact that Top SEOs continues to erroneously list us as making millions a year as a top Local SEO firm - LOL).
'
The recession has affected us. We did very, very well in 2008, but everything began falling off in 2009, while at the same time, the cost of living has risen and risen. Rents, food, gas and clothing are at outrageous highs in California right now. Interestingly, I've just finished reading The Rich and The Rest of Us by Cornel West and Tavis Smiley, and this featured countless tales that match those dates, even including one from a web designer who lost his home after his client base dried up in 2009.

Things seem to be picking up a bit for us at the end of this year, thank goodness. We've been able to afford bird seed for our outdoor feeders again which, for our family, is a mark of being more comfortable financially. But there have been many times when we and the birds have been living on pretty slim pickings.

Hang in there, Travis. You are clearly a really talented guy. I think you will have success in 2013!
 
Joined
Jul 23, 2012
Messages
481
Likes
112
Travis, you're just taking your first steps on what I'm sure is a bright path ahead. I'm sure you've accomplished a ton as a 2011 start-up.

We've been in operation since 2003 and there have been ups and downs, but I am grateful every day for the opportunity the Internet has afforded us to make a living (even a very modest one) by helping business owners. We had built up a pretty good business by 2008, but definitely started to see a toll taken because of the recession. Let's hope we see some real uptick in economic stability for everyone in 2013.

Interestingly, I've talked to many high level pros who have suggested that we should charge more. Obviously, you can thrive with less clients if your fees are high enough, but working largely with quite small local businesses and having countless proposals refused because they were 'too expensive' even at our rather low rates, I have not been aggressive about raising rates. My take is that the market can't bear it, but at the same time, I know that some Local SEOs do charge much more than we do. Maybe it all depends on the client base.
 
Joined
Jul 18, 2012
Messages
440
Likes
76
9 years in the business? That's awesome! I hope I can celebrate 9 years in the business someday:D

Ya, the whole pricing issue is a tough one. I go around in circles about it. I try to price my services as low as I can and still make some money but like you, people tell me I'm giving the farm away and need to charge more. Of course as a start up, you hate to see any business go so you have the tendency to give stuff away just to keep the business. At least that has been my mentality.

That is one of the big things I'll be working out over the next few weeks and that is coming up with a pricing model that I'm confident with. I'm also going to commit to turning business down in 2013. I'm willing to give business owners a "great deal" but my breaking even days are over...lol. If a business can't afford what I'm offering, then they'll have to find someone else to work with.

Travis Van Slooten

We've been in operation since 2003...Interestingly, I've talked to many high level pros who have suggested that we should charge more.
 

Marie Ysais

Forum Member
Joined
Sep 18, 2012
Messages
251
Likes
53
Travis, Have you checked the prices of your competitors and checked to see what type of services they are offering compared to yours?
Do you get caught up with any unforeseen problems? Is it the clients perhaps that just don't have the marketing budget for the SEO services?
I have found that the entire mind set for SEO is changing and clients now more than ever have decided they need SEO.
 
Joined
Jul 18, 2012
Messages
440
Likes
76
I did when I set my prices a while back but haven't lately. I'll be doing that during this retooling process for sure.

As for client budgets, I've just been running into a lot of businesses who just don't have a lot of money to spare for their Internet Marketing activities. Which gets back to my prospecting challenge. I need to develop systems where I can prospect the "right" type of clients for what I offer and what I want to charge.

Travis Van Slooten

Travis, Have you checked the prices of your competitors and checked to see what type of services they are offering compared to yours?
Do you get caught up with any unforeseen problems? Is it the clients perhaps that just don't have the marketing budget for the SEO services?
I have found that the entire mind set for SEO is changing and clients now more than ever have decided they need SEO.
 

Linda Buquet

Moderator
Moderator
Joined
Jun 28, 2012
Messages
14,433
Likes
4,282
As for client budgets, I've just been running into a lot of businesses who just don't have a lot of money to spare for their Internet Marketing activities. Which gets back to my prospecting challenge. I need to develop systems where I can prospect the "right" type of clients for what I offer and what I want to charge.
My Suggestion: Pick a niche and build your rep.
Jumpstart Your Local Search Consulting Business + List of Leading SMB Forums

You knew at some point I'd say that right? :p
 
Joined
Jul 18, 2012
Messages
440
Likes
76
Yes...lol. I was waiting:p That is the million dollar question - to niche or not to niche. I know you're a huge proponent of going into a specific niche (i.e. dentists or whatever) but I've talked to other pros in the business and they say it isn't necessary. However, I am leaning towards picking a niche mainly because it will keep me focused - which I need! The challenge will be to pick a niche that is right for me. I'll keep you posted...

Travis Van Slooten

My Suggestion: Pick a niche and build your rep.

You knew at some point I'd say that right? :p
 

Chris Alphen

Forum Member
Joined
Jul 23, 2012
Messages
32
Likes
8
Thanks Travis for a terrific thread and especially for your honesty. That virtue of yours also shines through in other posts I see from you so I'm quite sure your clients pick it up. Thanks also to Linda, Miriam, and Marie for chiming in.

As a longtime local business owner I can tell you that all of us struggle with issues of doubt and uncertainty leading to constant reevaluation and second guessing. I don't mind telling you and all here I'm in sort of the same boat. I'll also tell you though that I've been here before, many times.

I'm going to give away my age so don't see me as some geezer or I'll whip your a$$ in tennis, golf or water skiing. Since 1971 I've built 5 different businesses and had to reinvent the wheel many times while my competitors were either too lazy or just gave up.
So I don't end up writing a novel here I'll just tell you and everyone else 2 things I learned. By the way, after I got over self-doubt in my first business I went on to worldwide success but that product actually ended up becoming obsolete because of some new thing called the internet. Anyway

Never, ever get in a race to the bottom
Hard work coupled with knowledge really does pay off

I was going to end right there but since there is a real problem inherent in what we do related to lead generation I'd be interested in exploring this topic further. The problem is actually ironic since we know how to generate traffic online from people in a target market. The mother lode of people that need us though just either don't know it or aren't looking.

Thanks,
 
Joined
Jul 18, 2012
Messages
440
Likes
76
Chris:

Thanks for your kind words. I find your story inspiring. You had me on the edge of my seat wanting to learn more about your "failures" and successes. And you didn't say, but are you a local SEO consultant today?

As for lead generation for local SEO consultants, the way I see it is you have two routes to prospect - offline and online. Offline would include the usual stuff - direct mail, door knocking, cold calling, local networking meetings, etc. Online is everything else - mass or targeted email marketing, forum marketing, PPC, and of course SEO.

I have chosen the latter simply because that is what I know and am comfortable with. Sadly, I think it's actually the least productive based on conversations I've had with other successful Internet Marketing consultants. The businesses that need the most help online likely aren't online so you have to find them offline. I know if I just concentrated my efforts on any offline method my business would explode. The question then is, why am I not doing it? Easy - fear. Again, it's something I don't know and it's something I'm not comfortable with so I don't do it.

I'm still confident that my business could explode if I did a better job prospecting online. I have no systems in place and no game plan so nothing is clicking right now. Once I figure it out, I think business will be great!

As Steve told me in our conversation, the one thing he learned as a highly successful real estate agent "back in the day" was that whatever he concentrated on was what brought in the money. This is his Yoga-like way of saying that whatever you focus on will work. You just need to pick something and work it. So if you're going to be a cold-calling master, then that's what you focus on 100%. You hone your craft and master it. If you're going to get prospects doing PPC or SEO or whatever, that's what you do - 100%. I need to find that "something" in 2013 and stick with it.

Travis Van Slooten
 

Chris Alphen

Forum Member
Joined
Jul 23, 2012
Messages
32
Likes
8
[WRAP]The question then is, why am I not doing it? Easy - fear. Again, it's something I don't know and it's something I'm not comfortable with so I don't do it.[/WRAP]

First, get off the edge of your seat, I am an SEO consultant because as far as marketing goes that is what local businesses need the most. A story for another day is that I'm always looking for a bigger picture because small business owners need alot of help in many areas. Not to beat a dead horse but I know this because most of my family members and friends are business owners too.

Your friend is right but if cold calling is not your thing you either have to find a way to make it so or find another way. I do some cold calling but only after developing a unique game plan for the niche. An example

Accountants never had to do marketing and in fact most were so lucky that they had to turn away clients. A huge irony now is that they constantly see the difference marketing can make in the bottom line of their clients but they're afraid to embrace the concept. Right now, even with the fiscal cliff looming, accountants are closing shop rather than fight the fight. there are tons of "under construction websites" hurting these guys more than helping. Add in the boilerplates and other useless attempts and you have a pretty good market to attack.

I learned more about accountant marketing in a week or so than most accountants will ever know. It's the twenty-teens for crying out loud so if the guy wants to stay and fight he better get with the program. If not every town has 10-20 accountants - 1 of whom wants to win. Cold-calling is much easier with ammunition.

The bonus for you and me is that Tax Preparation is somewhat long tail and Tax Advice is definitely. Lots of other terms to widen your geography.
 

Linda Buquet

Moderator
Moderator
Joined
Jun 28, 2012
Messages
14,433
Likes
4,282
Chris:

Thanks for your kind words. I find your story inspiring. You had me on the edge of my seat wanting to learn more about your "failures" and successes.
I got stuck in over-time training again and am late again so can't comment too much right now but you guys are going to LOVE the topic I have to share next week. Chris please watch for it because I think you might be the star of the show. :p

Course I'll try to come back her and link to it but sometimes get so many threads going I can't remember which one I promised to post what in. :eek:
 

Marie Ysais

Forum Member
Joined
Sep 18, 2012
Messages
251
Likes
53
To Niche or not to Niche that is the question!! I am batting it back and forth back and forth......and while if you were to stay in one niche I can see you would save a ton of TIME. When I pick up different niche I have to learn that niche, find keywords, learn the business so to speak and so on...
So I am leaning towards the niche. But perhaps while I am working on the niche taking other niche's in to keep on working. The next question is if you do pick a niche....which niche?? I have a few ideas....but still batting them around.

For me personally I find the small businesses are not budgeting properly for their SEO or they don't even KNOW they need SEO. So it is part of a training with the clients...and it pays off because a few months later they come back and say, HEY, we DO need SEO. I have been sort of fortunate because I came in first in the website design business and I had a client base already. I then fell in love with SEO. NOW, to etch out my career. I am interested to see your post , next week Linda!!
 
Joined
Nov 25, 2012
Messages
204
Likes
69
For me personally I find the small businesses are not budgeting properly for their SEO or they don't even KNOW they need SEO.
I think that is the main reason why so many businesses aren't calling us and knocking OUR doors down--they don't know what SEO is, let alone local SEO, nor do they know that they need it. It's tough for many local SEOs to get new business consistently. But when you look at the likes of Linda and Phil and Mike and other big names in the field, if we keep trying and hang in there, it will pay off. There are a lot of great minds on this forum, and I always learn something from your posts, Travis, so I know you know your stuff. Hang in there and keep marketing yourself, on and off line, and eventually you will have more business than you know what to do with. Then you can send the rest of us some. lol --David
 

Nick Rink

Forum Member
Joined
Jul 20, 2012
Messages
88
Likes
18
So glad to have found this thread as the discussion hits many of the issues I struggle with everyday.

Two of the original points that Travis made around pricing and prospecting are really hard to get right. Prospecting is an issue due to time and pricing is an issue due to the fact that most SME's can't actually afford the time it takes to do a good job for them. I'm hopeless at cold calling so focus on local networking groups and social media, all of which is a slow burn. As for pricing, we start low and build as the client starts to see results.

This is possibly the most frustrating career I've had (was previously in printing then publishing). I absolutely love working with small businesses and I truly believe that a well constructed local SEO campaign can make a huge contribution to their success. The trouble is that many of them either don't realise that they need SEO or have been burned by some less than ethical company that's promised them the world and not delivered.

We're actually starting to look at running seminars and workshops to help educate folks on why local internet marketing is so important. Those on smaller budgets may then at least have an appreciation of what is required.
 

Linda Buquet

Moderator
Moderator
Joined
Jun 28, 2012
Messages
14,433
Likes
4,282
Really like and agree with all you had to say Nick. Thanks for sharing!

More and more of the consultants I've trained lately are doing free local SMB seminars. So that may be a really good idea.

Back when I sold high end Dental technology like big lasers and digital Xray systems I did a lot of seminars because it was easier than hauling the equipment out to do a demo for just one Dentist.

Sometimes I would end up with 5 sales from one seminar - PLUS instead of one-on-one I could demo 10 Drs. at the same time. (Now keep in mind these were Dentists and this was $10K and up equipment, so getting a 50% closing ratio at a seminar for that high ticket of a sale, was a pretty big deal!)

So I would def try it. HOT TIP - if you can swing it. IF you have a local client that will speak at the seminar - that could really make it higher impact and boost your closing ratio a LOT!

When I did my Dental seminars, even though I think I did a really good job, I believe once another Dr stood up and talked about the advantages of the technology and what it did for HIS practice - that really helped others understand and believe it.
 

Similar threads


Local Search Forum


Weekly Digest
Subscribe/Unsubscribe


Google Product Exert

@LocalSearchLink

Join Our Facebook Group

Top