Are you looking for ways to attract more local clients? We’ve talked to some experts in the field to bring you the strategies they are using to land and keep local clients.
1. Build a strong local reputation through networking
Unfortunately, too many professionals think that in-person networking is a thing of the past. That’s a shame because nothing beats in-person interactions when it comes to forming opinions of others and getting word-of-mouth referrals.
You need to take networking slowly. Start small. Focus on building strong roots and foundations. And then build on them. Several years later, you may find the vast majority of your new clients coming from local referrals.
A majority of our local SEO clients have come through network referrals. More specifically, we have been involved in the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce for roughly 12 years now and we’ve generated a lot of business through the connections we’ve established through the Chamber.
Since we partner with so many small businesses in the Denver area, many of our SEO projects have had a local emphasis. Our work with those local clients has been a main driver behind future local SEO projects. As we’ve achieve better and better results for those local SEO clients, we’ve developed a stronger and stronger local reputation as an SEO agency. This has led to a number of client referrals, which has then turned into further local SEO projects.
We would recommend that you get involved with your local chambers of commerce and engage with as many networking groups as possible. These networking opportunities will provide great chances to promote your brand to other small businesses in the area and establish new connections. With enough effort and dedication, you’ll start to bring in local SEO clients that are eager to enlist your services.
Your local chamber of commerce is always a good place to start. You do need to research networking events carefully and make sure they are worth your time. Sometimes, smaller groups allow for building stronger relationships than larger events with too many people.
One way to try and obtain more Local SEO clients would be to attend local networking events – especially professional business ones, such as BNI. Those types of networking events usually have a lot of local-facing businesses, such as tradespeople, business service providers, and so on – most of which will likely have a Google My Business (Google Maps) profile that would need optimizing.
I remember being in one once that had a florist, a graphic designer, a web designer, a local insurance company
(that had offices), a painter/decorator, a photographer, a builder, a carpenter… the list goes on. All of them likely would have had a GMB
If you really want to put this tactic into overdrive, then be sure to visit a few different groups (not necessarily just the same one repeatedly – although that’s good too, as it means you get to know everyone in that group really well).
An important note though: don’t sell to the people in the room. The goal is that they will pass your details on to other businesses that might need Local SEO help, but you might end up working with them directly one day as well.
Steve Morgan, Founder of Morgan Online Marketing
Writer of Anti-Sell: Marketing, Lead Generation & Networking Tips for Freelancers Who Hate Sales.
That’s super important — your goal at these events is to build relationships, not to promote. Sales will come automatically once you establish roots in your community. Don’t just give out your business card to everyone. Only give it out if you have already established a connection, and always get your new contacts’ business cards too.
2. Niche down
It may sound counterintuitive, but servicing too many niches might not get you more clients. Focusing on a single niche is a better plan for the long run. It allows you to establish yourself as an authority in that niche and learn its intricacies, allowing you to bring your clients better results and build your reputation.
You will also be able to pinpoint the gaps in potential leads’ SEO strategies quickly. For example, a common mistake gyms make is to only list their business under the “Gym” category on GMB.
The best way to find local SEO clients is to choose one niche. Once you do that I would go to potential client’s Google My Business listings and use a Google plugin like GMBspy or Pleper and show them that they are not using all the categories that they possibly could. And that they are missing out on potential search volume.
For example, I work with a lot of gyms. Most Gyms only use “Gym” as a category but there are 16 other categories that pertain to gym like a personal trainer, yoga studio, physical fitness program, etc.
Making a quick video and showing your potential client can really help. Offering them to fix this problem for free or very little will get your foot in the door.
Once you have clients in that niche you can provide before and after examples and it becomes easier.
A great way to establish yourself in a niche is to fix simple but significant problems for clients for free. It won’t take too much work on your end, but it allows you to collect testimonials and start getting word-of-mouth referrals.
I remembered when we first started, we were focusing on decision-makers, like the owners, the directors, etc…Our first client was someone we met at an internet marketing seminar, he was busy with his accounting business, so he asked us to do the SEO for his company.
The good thing was that he wrote 500 articles on his own, so all we did was to do the technical SEO, on-page SEO and internal linking on his website.
If you were to find new local clients, I would focus on niche down to a particular sector, find out who the decision markers are, research on their social media to determine if they are a right fit, use FindThatLead to find out their business email and connect with them.
Cyrus Yung, Director of Ascelade Pte Ltd
3. Consider forming strategic partnerships
You can actively encourage referrals by offering incentives. Your clients likely know other local businesses that could use your help. They can be great referral sources, but some need that “extra push” — something in it for them.
You don’t have to spend money on this. Offering a free month of service to your existing clients for additional clients they bring you is a win-win for both of you.
Partnerships are the friend of local SEOs who are just getting started.
You can partner with your current clients, and make them an offer like giving them three months of free service for every client they refer.
Or, you can partner with local website design or creative agencies that don’t do SEO at all. It’s likely they have a long list of clients who are in need of SEO services, yet they don’t refer it out because they don’t have a trusted contact until you reach out to them.
By winning friends, you can acquire more clients quicker than you would be by doing cold outreach.
You can also refer your clients to them when your clients need web design or other services you don’t offer. Again, everyone wins.
4. Use video services to land more local clients
Who doesn’t want to go viral? Local businesses are seeing how seemingly innocuous videos on YouTube, Instagram, or TikTok go viral and get thousands or even millions of views within a few days. They want to get in on the video trend, but they don’t know how.
By offering video production services at an affordable rate, you can make yourself more attractive to potential clients. Once you get a satisfied client, and you’ve established trust, help them understand the need for SEO as well.
Adding video production to my line of services has been an excellent connection for local businesses that would benefit from SEO.
Whether it be for YouTube, TikTok or Instagram Stories, more and more businesses are looking to create short videos for their marketing channels. It’s a relatively low-cost service that paves the way to talk about YouTube SEO, and of course, Local SEO.
5. Help businesses set up their Google My Business listings
Many local business owners don’t know the basics of getting their businesses listed on Google. Some may even find their businesses listed by a customer but not know how to manage their profiles.
But that’s the thing — although not all local business owners will see the need for investing in a website and SEO, almost all will understand the need to have a solid business profile on Google. Sooner or later, some of their customers are bound to mention that they couldn’t find them on Google Maps, or that their business information is listed wrong.
Many small business owners will have been wanting to figure out how to set their businesses up on Google for a while but have never done so due to being busy.
By starting from the basics — an optimized GMB profile — you can address a universal need, get your foot in the door, and start getting lifelong clients.
I started my company Dancing Panda Marketing after working for a chiropractic website company in San Diego. While working for a
chiropractic website company I spent hours every day cold calling on chiropractors and inviting them to a webinar on getting set up with Google My Business. I started doing this in 2007 when Google My Business was relatively new.
This resulted in dozens of leads each month as many chiropractors were interested in getting free exposure in Google My Business/Google Maps. I use screen sharing with software such as GoToMeeting or the screen sharing capability of Zoom. Once the
chiropractors saw that I knew that I was doing it, I gained their trust and it was much easier to close them on a website or local SEO package.
This technique works well for chiropractors but also for other businesses that serve a local area such as lawyers, massage therapists,
acupuncturists, real estate agents, personal trainers, mental health therapists, and architects.
Chuck Hardwick, Founder of Dancing Panda Marketing
6. Find big spenders investing in traditional marketing
The problem many local agencies face is that small business owners often don’t have a lot of money to spend. It can be hard to convince them that spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on a website and SEO is worth it — especially if they’ve been relying on foot traffic and word-of-mouth until now.
Sometimes, the key to improving your conversion rate is not necessarily targeting those who need your services more but those who have more money to spend.
There will always be businesses spending money on advertisements in local newspapers, on local billboards, or on local radio shows. That may or may not be working, but we all know how important digital marketing is and why it can be many times more cost-efficient than traditional print or TV advertising.
I found my first local SEO clients by focusing on businesses already spending money on traditional marketing techniques.
It’s easier to convince a business to shift their budget from one form of marketing to another, or to expand their budget to include local SEO services, than to convince them to start spending money. Plus, these were businesses I knew needed more local customers.
So, I made a list of local businesses that had more traditional advertising but not digital marketing. Things like radio spots, billboards, direct mailers, etc. Then, I checked their business online to see if they were already doing digital marketing and if my local SEO services would help them.
I knew these were businesses that potentially would be interested in hiring me or at least learning more about SEO.
Josh Imhoff, Owner of Always Relevant Digital
Create an infographic or short presentation that demonstrates the difference in ROI between traditional and digital advertising. In addition to general stats, try to include results your existing clients have seen by switching to digital campaigns.
7. Try cold outreach
Cold calling works — but you need to do it correctly. Avoid mass outreach campaigns. Instead, research each company you reach out to and personalize your approach.
One of the first clients of Agile Digital Agency was generated by cold emailing the owner. We had done proper research on a specific niche and then we performed a quick SEO audit as an overview of the situation. Then, we started contacting (the best option was the business owner) and trying to give them a value of our potential impact of services.
You can get SEO clients by contacting businesses directly. Don’t send spam to random business emails you found in directories or mined lists. Besides being illegal (GDPR), this has negative consequences for your campaigns, including ending up in spam folders and having your domain blacklisted from email services.
Start by researching your target market and making initial contact through LinkedIn and other social networking sites. Write a bespoke email for each specific company with which you wish to work. Make it as if it was meant for that company.
You can take this one step further by using email outreach software like Lemlist to create personalized email campaigns that will yield high open rates and reply rates. A personalized outbound email campaign has allowed our sales team to schedule hundreds of meetings.
A good idea is to focus on gaps in their strategies. Remember, business owners tend to treat cold emails with a hint of suspicion and doubt. By showing the missing part of the puzzle in their marketing campaigns, you can make a lightbulb go off in their heads and help them finally understand what they’ve been missing.
You can only hit that spot if you properly research their online profile and existing marketing tactics.
I got my first local client by cold email. I was able to find a content gap in his website and used that information to add value to my email. He ultimately signed up.
Either cold calling or cold emailing, whatever may be the channel, hit the pain point of your ideal client. It is essential that you talk to localities to know their recent pain points. Make sure it is super relevant. The key is to do the groundwork to make an impact in their hearts.
8. Get listed in marketing and agency directories
You don’t always have to reach out to potential clients. Sometimes, you just need to put yourself out there, so those looking for an agency like yours can find you. Directories that list SEO agencies are a great place to start.
Well, it helps to be included in a local list of great SEO companies, like we’ve been lucky to get. We’ve been included in articles like this and it has led to some great leads: https://clutch.co/seo-firms/los-angeles
Lots of people will use Google to search terms like ‘best SEO firms in Los Angeles, so if you can get into an article like this one, you stand a good chance of finding some new clientele.
Is there no such list in your area? Well, make one and do what you can to make it rank on Google for your specific area. If you can create a list that ranks on Google for ‘best SEO company in AREA’ and put yourself at the top, it could be a huge lead generator for yourself.
Sean Chaudhary, CEO of Alchemy Leads
That’s a great point. If you service clients across the globe, you can create separate listicle-style articles for each country you service. If you service clients across the country, create a list for different major cities. Target popular keywords such as “best SEO agency in [X City].”
You can publish those lists on your blog or as guest posts on other blogs. Remember to make them informative and helpful, and to list yourself at the top.
You can get quality leads for your SEO firm by signing up for partner programs and listing your agency in marketing agency directories. The following marketing directories may be of interest to you: Clutch, Sortlist, GetCredo, CallRail, HubSpot.
Several of these directories require payment for membership. That is, you will only be able to rank well or receive traffic when you subscribe or sponsor. Increasing your payment will increase your lead count. There are usually subscription fees ranging between $70-$20,000/month.
I recommend investing in just one or two, monitoring results, and then expanding when finances allow.
When potential clients come to you from those major directories, you will already be coming from a position of established social proof and authority. That will make conversions easier.
Don’t be discouraged if clients only trickle in at first. Remember, a lot depends on your reputation and network, and those take time to build. Focus on providing excellent service and keeping your clients satisfied, and you will find more and more leads contacting you instead of you needing to reach out to them.