Should I Hire Someone For Local SEO To Help Increase Leads?

So you have a business in Maryland, and you are wondering two things.

  1. Should you hire an SEO company to help lead generation?
  2. If you do hire an SEO agency, how much will it cost?

I’ve been in the SEO game for a decade, and although much has changed, there are staples that stay the same. One of those things that remains constant, is “you get what you pay for.” Today, there are thousands of big companies that make alluring promises. They say they will get your business to the top spot in Google Map Pack (the top spot in the GMB results) within a month. They say they will double your leads in 2 months time. My advice? Be wary of promises that seem too good to be true…especially if they come at a very cheap price. Let me answer the first question:

Should you hire someone to handle your Google My Business listing and boost visibility for your Maryland business?

Maryland is a great place to do business. Due to our close proximity to DC, the economy is usually among the most stable in the country, and those living in the DC, MD and Northern VA area have disposable income to spend. That means the competition is going to be a little higher, and you might have to spend more to optimize your GMB listing than a business owner in the same niche in Arizona or Mississippi. So the answer really depends on your niche and it depends on whether or not your competitors are spending money, and if they are HOW MUCH they are spending. Unless you know how to do local SEO, chances are you want to focus on running your business, not on keeping up with the latest and greatest SEO practices.

As a full time SEO dedicated to ongoing education, my recommendation is to hire a professional SEO consultation or agency to work on your GMB listing. I also recommend going with a local company, because a lot of the success of your GMB is going to depend on good old fashioned local connections that can turn into hyper-local links back to your GMB listing and website. With every algorithm update Google rolls out, one thing is for certain. They are trying to weed out fake and spammy businesses, and they are getting better at it all the time. Ideally, you hire someone who you can meet with face to face once or twice a year, or at least speak to on the phone once a month.

You Decided to Hire a Local SEO Agency. Now What?

The million dollar question is “how much is this going to cost me?” Before I answer that I want to make something very clear. SEO is NOT a one time thing. Even if your website is structurally sound and incorporates all the best SEO practices, you will likely need ongoing SEO – at least for 6 months. If you are in a competitive industry, then SEO should just be part of your marketing budget. Stop spending money on pens and baseball hats with logos, unless you have money to burn. If you want leads, invest in SEO. Have patience (it doesn’t work immediately) and put your trust in your SEO agency or consultant. In general, you are likely to spend anywhere from $150 per month to $1500 per month for local GMB SEO. No, that does not include SEO for your website (although the two do work in tandem if SEO is done correctly). Again, this depends on your niche and what your competitors are doing. If your main competitor is spending  $500 on GMB SEO then you are likely going to be paying a similar monthly retainer.

Local SEO is becoming increasingly more important and Google keeps rolling out features to engage users through its GMB platform. If you cannot afford to hire an SEO agency, then at the very least do the following yourself:

  1. Add one accurate main category for your business
  2. Add your info: description, hours of operation, address (your real address), your website, images, logo, etc.
  3. Add posts at least once per week
  4. Encourage your customers and clients to leave reviews
  5. Reply to all reviews in a timely manner
  6. Add offers, special events and relevant content that will help your users and potential customers
  7. Make sure your NAP (name, address, phone number) are consistent on Yelp, FB, GMB, Twitter, Yellowpages, etc.

 

Has Your GMB Profile Been Suspended or Is Stuck in Pending Mode?

As a result of the recent Wall Street Journal Article, exposing thousands of fake GMB (Google My Business) listings, Google made a huge sweep that resulted in removing many fake businesses. Unfortunately, it also suspended legitimate GMB listings, especially in the home services sectors like plumbing, flood restoration and locksmiths. GMB is a source of valuable leads, so if it has been suspended or set to “pending” status, businesses can be losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in online leads. There is a way to reinstate your Google My Business listing through the appeals process.

  1. Log into your Google My Business Profile
  2. Copy the url of your GMB profile (see screenshot below)

Reinstate your Google My Business Listing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Go to the Google My Business Page on FB: https://www.facebook.com/GoogleMyBusiness

4. Send a message requesting help from GMB. Paste the link from your GMB profile so the Google My Business support team can access your listing.

5. Go to the appeal request page and follow the prompts: You can access that page here: https://support.google.com/business/troubleshooter/2690129?hl=en

6. Good luck!

 

Takeaways From Tokyo 2019: Google AMP Conference

Ain’t nothin but an AMP thang BABY! I had the pleasure of attending the AMP (accelerated mobile pages) conference in Tokyo this year. What an exciting couple days of all things AMP. Google suggested they would rank AMP pages higher on mobile SERPS than regular mobile-friendly and responsive pages. Here are my key takeaways from the AMP conference.

 

Iexperiencing Founder Explains New Educational Platform

In our “Highlighting Innovators” blog category, we put the spotlight on some of our favorite entrepreneurial “movers and shakers.” Whether they come from the startup world, small business world, or non-profit world, we highlight individuals who think outside the box and strive to solve problems through innovative solutions.

The following article about iExperiencing was written by its Founder, Er Amber Anand

I am the Founder of an Educational platform which I named Iexperiencing is a platform where people can gain new skills and acquire knowledge quickly and easily. From the time we are born, we continue learning new things. We learn to walk, communicate and how to love someone. As a Computer Science Engineer by profession, I started building this website right before my graduation because I love learning new things! Experiences, guidance and skills are among important factors that play a crucial role in one’s life. Experience is something which turns into a more valuable asset over time. I wanted to harness the knowledge people have acquired and share it through this site, in an effort to help other’s acquire knowledge and perhaps even be inspired to turn that knowledge into experiences in the future.

“I named my venture as Iexperiencing because you will get to experience things and acquire new knowledge through a digital platform”

You can find free quality learning resources such as – blogs, video tutorials, journal articles and learning tools which I have collected from around the world. The website is updated weekly with the new learning resources. From DIY categories and entrepreneurship to learning about pottery and magic, you one can find most of the major categories on the website. I feel strongly that if dream up an innovative idea that might work well, then you should start learning as much as you can about it. Simply stick to your basic idea and keep on improvising through ongoing learning and education.  If you are interested in acquiring knowledge through my site, the blog  is really helpful. It covers many different professions and skills sets that may help inspire you or shed some light on a subject that interests you!

Want to learn SEO? It’s easier than you think. 

This short course will teach small business owners and marketers the basics of SEO (Search Engine Optimization). The goal of the course is to familiarize attendees with the tools and resources that create a strong foundation for their websites, in order to increase traffic and qualified leads. Many “SEO courses” turn into selling opportunities for presenters. However, this course is designed to make small business owners and their teams feel confident about understanding SEO, its impact on their bottom line and implement basic, do-it-your-self steps that improve website traffic.

This 2 hour course will cover:

  • Types of SEO (on and off page)
  • Setting up Meta Data correctly
  • How to write an optimized page or blog
  • Google Webmaster Tools

* Please bring your laptop or a notebook to this course!
**Ticket price includes donuts and coffee, along with a free website/SEO audit of one website.

IMPORTANT: This event takes place in the conference room (which is inside of Dunkin Donuts on Riva Road). There is a building next door with the same address. Park in the DD’s parking lot and enter through main doors. Conference room is on the right-hand side.

To register for this FREE Event to learn the basics of SEO, please visit the Eventbrite page here.

I am incredibly excited to be attending the 2017 Ungagged Conference in Las Vegas in a few weeks. This conference is one of the best-attended digital marketing gatherings and one I have always wanted to attend because of its “no censoring” approach. Too many conferences turn into sales pitches with less focus on ongoing education. As the leader of Smith & 7, I find it is really important to “walk the walk” and not just “talk the talk” about digital marketing. Hence the reason I chose to attend Ungagged.

As digital marketers, it is imperative that we stay up to date in order to stay competitive and bring our clients the best knowledge of the digital space. Algorithms change often, best practices are constantly evolving and innovation keeps the competition fierce. For these reasons, I will continue investing time and money into learning.  I truly care that my clients have access to the latest and greatest strategies, and are informed on best practices in areas such as security, software and resources.

If you are attending Ungagged, please introduce yourself and say hello. I will update this post to share some tips and recommendations upon my return from the conference. – Courtney Smith

 

Do I Need a Webmaster?

The Roles and Responsibilities of a Webmaster

As a small business owner, you may or may have not heard of the term “webmaster,” but you probably have dealt with someone or a business that provides some or all of what a typical webmaster provides. According to Google, a webmaster is “the person who maintains a particular website.” While this definition is accurate, webmaster’s duties often overlap and include a combination of the following:

  • Website development
  • Website maintenance
  • Technical support
  • Content updates
  • SEO/ lead generation
  • Troubleshooting

Some webmasters are well versed in all of the above areas, while some specialize in a few, niche areas. For example, some webmasters are really digital marketing specialists who focus on SEO (search engine optimization), content strategy and driving traffic/leads to your site. Others may be web developers who are experts in coding, technical support and hosting. With so many companies around that specialize in these areas, why have a dedicated, personal webmaster for your business? Read on.

Here’s Why Every Small Business Should Have a Webmaster

A few months back, I noticed that a client site on which we do periodic content updates, was outdated and not in optimum technical shape. I reached out to the owner (a long-time client) and suggested they let us develop a new WordPress website for their restaurant. The owner explained he did not want a new site at that time, so we continued the last round of content edits, and planned on following up months down the road. As luck (or bad luck) would have it, his General Manager emailed me in a panic a few weeks later. She explained that their website was down and was understandably frustrated, as she books all their group business via the website. After taking a look, I realized it was a hosting issue. After a little digging, it became obvious that when the current owner bought the business several years back, the previous owner did not hand over the hosting information (not good). He had not renewed hosting and boom…site down. In a situation like this, we recommend doing everything possible to get in touch with the last person who had access to hosting, as it is not ideal to start from scratch.

Unfortunately, we could not locate the previous owner, and had to start from square one. This means that our team had to recommend and purchase a new url, set up new hosting, create a temporary landing page explaining that the site was under construction, redirect all links, reverify Google business, etc. Of course, we had to build a new website for their Baltimore Pizza Restaurant as well (you can view the project here). Luckily, we are well-versed in these areas, and took care of the issue in less than 48 hours. So you know where I am going with this right?

Unless you yourself are a webmaster, finish reading this blog and start looking for a reliable, capable webmaster asap. The aforementioned story happens more often than it should, and it can greatly affect businesses that rely on online leads. Can you imagine if this happened to an HVAC company in the middle of summer? Or how it would affect hotel bookings if their site goes down for 24 hours? You cannot afford to have your website go down for any reason, as it is your 24/7 sales mechanism. Furthermore, webmasters do more than emergency site troubleshooting. They play a vital role in your online marketing, which essentially means they should be a part of your overall sales and marketing plan.
WordPress Speed Test

How Much Does A Webmaster Cost?

So now that you know the importance of a webmaster, you might be wondering how much hiring one will cost. Since costs are all over the board, the question you really should be asking is – what website tasks will be delegated to my webmaster? As I mentioned above, some webmasters do it it all, but in general (unless you hire an agency) they will fall into one of two camps – 1. online marketers or 2. website developers. It is perfectly fine to hire both an online marketing agency/consultant AND a web developer/engineer. In fact, it may be better to do so, because the more specialized the consultant is, the better they are at their craft. I have not personally met any web developers/engineers who are experts in digital marketing and vice versa (that does not mean they don’t exist). The exception is to hire an agency that has both these types of specialists on their team.

Back to Cost

If your business is like many small businesses we work with, you may not be able to afford an agency. Luckily, it is not necessary to hire a webmaster on a fixed monthly retainer. Generally, you pay them as you need them. If they are implementing ongoing SEO, you are looking at $1k+ per month. If you need them to do some random updates here and there, you may be looking at $30 per hour or more. Here at Smith & 7, we charge $35 an hour for webmaster services on an “as needed” basis. We recommend a webmaster checkup every 6 months (about 2 hours total) if you are are not running ongoing SEO and digital marketing campaigns (if you are, technical issues will be addressed as they happen). The most important takeaway here is this – find a good webmaster who you can trust. The analogy I like to use is this:

“You change the oil in your car regularly to ensure it runs smoothly. You take it in for routine checkups so you don’t get stranded on the side of the road when your car breaks down right? A webmaster is your website’s best friend…a sort of mechanic. They routinely check under the hood to make sure everything is running smoothly and alert you to any issues. Better to pay for preventative work than to pay for an emergency.”

At Smith & 7, we specialize in webmaster services for WordPress websites. If you are not familiar with WordPress, it refers to a CMS (content management system) which many of the world’s websites are built upon. It offers beautifully designed framework that is not only user-friendly but also very SEO-friendly. We offer both technical webmaster solutions in addition to comprehensive digital marketing and inbound solutions. We proudly host with WP Engine, which we have found to be the absolute BEST in hosting for WordPress websites. For more information on hiring us as your webmaster or your digital marketing specialists, please email us or submit a request online.

Have you had a good or bad experience with a webmaster? Please share in the comments below.