For many people, the term “SEO” likely provides mixed (at best) associations. Nobody wants to work with a firm who keeps their methods a secret, makes promises they can’t keep, makes no effort to learn about you and hides behind a wall of technology. These concerns are even more important to a small business, where both money and time are in shorter supply.
However, many of these problems can be alleviated by working with an SEO provider who resides in and focuses on your specific market. While this is not an exhaustive list of factors to consider when choosing a firm for SEO, the below items are all important things to consider:
Have you heard horror stories of people who have paid SEO providers thousands of dollars and received nothing of value in return? Or perhaps unscrupulous salespeople who promise the #1 ranking in Google searches and never get you within shouting distance of even the first page? Or, as according to Moz, agencies who have a “secret sauce” that appears to only take your money?
A locally focused SEO provider will have much more incentive to keep your expectations realistic and fulfill or exceed them, as their business likely depends much more on client retention and referrals than bigger firms. Unscrupulous firms can promise you the moon and do nothing while waiting for you to cancel after your contract, while their salespeople scour the world for their next targets, but a firm that focuses locally does not have this luxury.
A nice bonus that comes with a locally based firm is simply the opportunity to meet the people working on your behalf. In such a commoditized, impersonal industry, making an actual human connection can both make you feel better about your choice, and help the firm you choose get a better understanding of your needs.
Going hand in hand with accountability, transparency is key in an SEO relationship. A good SEO provider will have absolutely no qualms disclosing exactly what they do for you, and why.
A well-run SEO campaign will usually take months to start showing significant results, and a good firm will make sure you know this going in.
For a smaller, locally based SEO firm, reputation is everything. Since their primary market will overlap considerably with yours, your opinion of their service is crucial.
Finally, one of the best things about working with a local provider is their knowledge of your local market. A good partner will be able to understand your business’s needs, as well as the competitive landscape that you are working in. A bad one will ignore these concerns entirely, and attempt to shoehorn you into a prepackaged, cookie cutter solution.
For most small businesses, optimizing for local search is typically the most important (after all, your customers will be near you). This can best be done by someone who knows exactly what your local market looks like, both on and offline. After all, a restaurant in the middle of a thriving downtown area full of competitors will have drastically different needs from one in a more residential area.