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The State of The Industry: What Are Top SEO Companies Doing?

It’s been a while since I’ve updated the blog or put out new content. I have quite a few really good posts planned though and they’re going to be out pretty quick. I thought this would be the perfect post for the IncomeBully Revival.

Over the past year or so, I’ve been receiving a lot of emails about other SEO companies, guidelines, expectations, etc.

One common theme was, why does everyone say it takes so long to rank a local site?

In fact, I just received an email just the other day about it. What are these companies doing that takes so long to get results?

Luckily, I have a handful of case studies that are complete and underway. I also have been able to harvest a lot of information and reporting from some of these companies, to see what exactly it is they’re doing and if they’re indeed, practicing what they preach.

I was able to get detailed information on what 3 of the “top” companies are offering.

In this post you will learn:

  • Exactly what the “top SEO” companies are doing on a monthly basis
  • What you can learn from these companies, even if they suck
  • How little value companies provide in exchange for higher price points
  • Tricks they use to increase lifetime customer value

Different SEO Companies, but Sort of the Same

For those of you that have been following for a while, you probably remember a rant / post I made about misinformation in popular local SEO circles.

If you haven’t had a chance to check it out yet, go ahead and click.

It may seem like this has very little to do with the topic of the blog post, but it’s relevant and I’ll explain why.

First off, many of these “top companies and consultants” have a pretty good marketing strategy when it comes to content, thought leadership, and authority. They don’t view each other as competition, they view each other as friends, alliances, and strategic partnerships. In fact, they’re so close they have leveraged their own followers, sites, and content to promote another member’s recent $1,600 SEO book.

Once you understand that, and look at the average time a typical SEO client stays with a company (3 months) it’s easier to see that they help prop up their buddies for when a client leaves their company. It’s just a wheel of sharing clients in a way. Only in SEO, do you see direct competitors helping each other get clients.

Secondly, this blog post will lay out the monthly fee for a certain client, along with the work done on their SEO. It will become evident that people do not practice what they preach, and really aren’t doing that much work, yet they charge a premium price compared to most of you and delivering abysmal results.

And finally, I won’t mention the businesses by name, or the people behind it. While I wouldn’t feel bad about putting them on blast, the point of this is to show what many popular companies are doing, how they’re able to charge what they charge without getting results, and to leave it open for you to examine the information and use it how you see fit.

We always see posts and content put out by people in this industry that recommend certain things, some good, some bad, but it’s very interesting to see what exactly is being done.

Company #1 – Well Known SEO Blogger

The first company we’re going to look at, is a company who has someone basically acting as an inbound branding and awareness specialist. Always contributing in certain SEO groups, guest posting, and generally putting out decent content.

The agency this person works for, is considered one of the top agencies in local SEO. The client was a divorce attorney on the west coast and was with them for 5 months, paying $1,500/mo and didn’t end up breaking the top 3 in the local pack.

To be fair, the agency did tell the client that they believed it would take 9 months for this particular client to rank top 3, so they weren’t being dishonest. The only reason the client stopped services is because he had a coaching call with me, and went through a few issues, and I gave a guideline on what to do and said he should be ranking in a month and a half. Ended up being about 4 weeks.

So why would it take 9 months when he could do it in 4 weeks?

Here is the work done, as described in their monthly report:

Month 1:

On Page SEO Audit – Identify areas that can be improved, make a list of changes for next month.

Alt Tags – Optimized image alt tags on home page and about page

Spam targeting – report listings that are spam, businesses using strategies not allowed in Google Guidelines, like adding city modifiers to business title on GMB.

1 Premium citation – Citation not given in the report, who knows what that premium citation is. For an extra $500/mo he could have gotten “3 premium citations”. Don’t know how he could resist! </ending sarcasm>

3 niche citations – Industry directories, I suppose.

Identify errors in NAP consistency – Make a list of errors, fix them next month

Month 2:

Fix problem areas – There was apparently “a lot of issues”, so they were only able to fix the title tags and h1’s on half the pages, the remaining half is saved for the next month.

Added meta descriptions on half of the pages – again, no metas or not properly written metas on all of the pages apparently, so they saved the remaining half for month 3.

Spam Targeting – reported 3 businesses that violated guidelines. I believe these businesses to be the same ones they reported the previous month.

1 premium citation – Yelp

3 niche citations – no idea what these were, not listed in the report. It’s quite possible these niche citations don’t exist, and it’s also possible they’re considering a blog comment with nap, as a niche citation.

Fixed errors in nap consistency on 2 pages – zip code wasn’t listed on 2 of the website pages. They also sent requests to to change the business name to include LLC, because they thought that was super important.

Writing unique content – they added content to one of the service pages, 2 paragraphs because the content was stale. They also mentioned they’ll be doing the same for other pages, once a month.

$1,500/mo and for what?

I could go on with the monthly reports and what was entailed but this sums it up pretty perfectly. There was nothing new in the following months, except less work was done once they finished the “on page”.

I’m all for people making money and getting paid what they deserve.

My opinion on this, is that the client didn’t pay for the work itself, the client paid for the amount of time and effort this company puts into content, outreach, and positioning employees as an authority in local SEO. It looks like they spend more time in reporting than they do in the actual work.

The presentations of the reporting, with monthly rankings, and details of what they have done actually look pretty good and maybe a reason why someone might stay with them longer than they should.

All in all, the work outlined should take maybe 2 hours at most. Even if you’re brand new to local SEO, this should be encouraging to you, because you could surely do a better job on a monthly basis, while making a decent amount of money.

What can you learn from this company? 

Positioning, and creating authority from content is important. People buy because they trust this person as an expert, even though that person isn’t doing the work, from what I understand.

The next thing you can learn, is reporting. To be honest, I’m not a fan of putting time into creating reports for clients, especially small clients. However, the beauty of their reporting and how they lay things out is no doubt one of the reasons some clients may stay because they’re under the impression the company is being completely transparent.

Great reporting may increase the lifespan of a client. They clearly were over compensating for their lack of results overall, by placing the time and effort into reporting.

No matter how beautiful and detailed your reports are, clients stay because they get results, not because of fancy reporting.

Company #2 – Awesome Retention Strategy

It’s interesting, because in a sense, I’m sort of bashing these companies for the work they’re doing, but they have different things we can learn from. I’ll expand on the impressive thing about this company later in this section.

This company, a reader of this blog used for his business and he’s in a decent sized city, around 150k population, nothing crazy competitive. He just didn’t have time to do anything himself. He was with this company for 4 months before hooking up with someone that actually did the work he wanted.

This client was an HVAC contractor paying $925/mo.

Here’s some of the work they did:

5 Citations – 5 citations a month, seems like they’re all the same quality of “Premium” citations that Company #1 offered.

2 Web 2.0 Properties – They created a twitter and pinterest page… following month was tumblr and vimeo.

Spam targeting – reported 2 businesses with city or keyword additions in GMB. (both of these businesses were already below the client, so I’m not sure what the point of it was) They did this every single month, but it looked like nothing changed because they either don’t know how to report properly, didn’t do it, or Google just doesn’t give a damn.

On Page Audit – Identify areas of improvement with titles, alt tags, heading tags, etc.

Fix title and meta tags – on 2 of the 19 pages. The results from the on page audit would be implemented on 2 pages each month.

Check for NAP consistency – identified 8 citations with bad NAP

Fixed NAP Consistency – 1 site per month


This company actually seems to be doing a bit more for the price, but it is a lower population city in comparison, in a slightly easier niche. Overall though, the work being done is still very minimal, and probably one of the reasons why people are so shocked when I say pretty much any industry, in any location can rank in 3 months.

Their reporting wasn’t as good as company #1, but they had their own way to keep clients around.

What can you learn from this company?

The results are bad, and reporting definitely wasn’t why people stuck around.

What they did instead, probably boosted their average lifetime value.

They setup an auto responder sequence for new customers. Once someone paid and became a client, they would receive a message on what you can expect, what we need, etc. Every 5-7 days another email would go out, explaining certain things they’re doing, like building citations, and explaining why they feel they’re important.

They talked about every aspect of the work they were doing, why titles are important, why h1s are important, why nap consistency is important, etc. and always linking to a blog post they wrote in the past.

This keeps the customer engaged with them, consuming content that they wrote, and continuing to build authority with the client even though results aren’t coming anytime soon. The client believes, this company knows what they’re doing! When you teach someone something, they think of you as an expert.

While I don’t know the average time a client stays with this company, I do believe its longer than the industry average of 3 months, and it’s not because of their results, it’s because of their retention strategy.

If you have issues with confidence, do you believe you can offer clients more value than this company? If so, then even if you are lacking confidence, a good retention strategy with an autoresponder sequence could make clients more confident in you!

Company #3 – $2,500 setup, $300/mo recurring

This company has an owner that’s pretty well known, doesn’t really outsource much at all, if anything. You always see him in round ups or being referenced by others. A few blog readers have used this company, and were kind enough to share the results and reporting, which was a bit of a mixed result.

One client of theirs, ended up breaking top 3 in a somewhat competitive industry in a medium sized city. He’s been happy with the results early on, but skeptical of whether the $300/mo is doing anything.

Another client of theirs, went from the 20th spot in local, to right on the cusp of the 3 pack, finding themselves bouncing back between 4-5 overall. They ended up canceling the monthly service after 3 months of stagnation.

$2,500 included:

Full on page audit and optimization. Unlike other companies, they identified problem areas, and fixed everything in the first month with on page optimization. All title tags, meta tags, alt tags, even image file names were changed.

Schema was added to the site, both for reviews that were self posted, and of course schema format for NAP.

Content modifications were done on pages that had less content. Based on the reporting from one of their clients, they added about 2,000 words of additional content to existing pages. For the other client of theirs, they added about 5,000 words of content, including 3 new pages in addition to what they already had.

Internal linking – They identified areas throughout the site that could be linked to other internal pages. Pretty basic but something overlooked by most.

Optimized GMB listing – I don’t see any details in the reports on what that included. Both of their prior clients didn’t recognize any change on the listing itself, so maybe it was something as little as adding additional categories, or maybe they just listed it to make it seem like more was done.

The monthly, $300 recurring payment:

Obviously most of the work was done on the front end. The $2,500 setup fee shows me they have identified the problem with a lot of SEO clients, and reacted in a way to maximize income. However, it would be stupid to only have a one time fee, and not get something going with recurring.

Their recurring plan didn’t include much.

GMB monitoring – Similar to other companies, they would report spam listings or ones that wouldn’t follow Google guidelines.

Citation building – They seemed to focus a lot on fixing citations, to the point where if a business name had variance between “And” and “&” in the business name, they would want it to be entirely consistent. They also built new citations, some on questionable sites. Seems like they built and fixed an average of 10 citations each month, which is on par with the other companies in this post.

What you can learn from this company? 

Charging the setup fee is smart. Getting larger one time payments and charging a cheaper recurring amount is a good idea. $300/mo is a small enough figure that a lot of businesses won’t have an issue continuing to pay that on a monthly basis, especially after investing $2,500 in the setup.

The setup fee actually provides a lot of value in comparison to the others. However, like the others, recurring service is where things hit a snag. Seems that people are overvaluing the impact of citations and not adjusting their monthly strategies yet.

It seems to me, this company is more or less betting on the fact that they can get clients ranked after the work being done the first month. Not a bad thought, since they are doing more than the others.

I like the idea of front loading the work when it comes to SEO. Local especially, can be done mostly in the first month with ongoing work being pretty minimal afterwards.

Crappy Results = Lots of Opportunity

All in all, it is my hope that this helps some of you that have been a bit stagnant. Or maybe, you’ve had confidence issues that are preventing you from scaling and offering Local SEO as a main service.

Can you do the same, or better work than these companies? Probably.

A complete beginner, probably does more work, for a much lower price.

The general results in the local SEO game, isn’t very good. The competition you’re up against, isn’t good in terms of the results they provide.

They’re just good at marketing themselves.



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