Building a Local SEO Business with Claire Carlile

Claire Carlile local SEO business
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Claire Carlile is a Local SEO expert with over 20 years in marketing. She has been managing her own solo practice for over 12 years, and recently released a course on BrightLocal on setting up a Local SEO agency and positioning it for success. As a LocalU instructor and speaker, she’s already got a solid track record for helping other marketers succeed in all of their endeavors.

brightlocal academy claire carlile

Today she joins us on The Agency Ahead podcast to talk a little about her course and to share a few Local SEO success tips. The course, by the way, is absolutely free. You just have to register on Bright Local. 

The highlights:

  • [1:49] Why Local SEO is more important to small businesses than ever.
  • [3:59] Adapting to the pandemic.
  • [6:47] Google products posts.
  • [8:07] The importance of UTM tracking.
  • [12:17] Is it a good time to start a Local SEO business? 
  • [15:18] Honing your pitch.
  • [17:31] Positioning your Local SEO service.
  • [21:46] Pricing your services.
  • [26:09] Claire’s causes.

The insights: 

Why Local SEO is More Important to Small Business Than Ever

Claire pointed out that the pandemic forced many business owners to understand, perhaps for the first time, that the Google My Business profile is the thing most people see first when searching for companies like theirs.

“Suddenly small and medium-size businesses were like: Oh no, how do I mark my special hours? How do I deliver a message right here in the search results?

SMBs began to understand they needed to move very quickly.

Claire also notes that the need for SMBs to pivot in terms of product and service delivery created exciting opportunities for Local SEOs. 

There was a lot of talking being done about how they were going to communicate the message and how they were going to deliver the primary products or services.”

Claire admits it’s been a long year.

Businesses needed to learn to very quickly influence the information in the business profile. There’s been a lot of changes in the last year in terms of what we can do and the information we can put in there now.”

Google Products Posts

Claire recently participated in a Fanbooster Webinar on using Google My Business as a Social Media channel, covering what works and what doesn’t. 

fanbooster GMB webinar

One of the things Claire recommends is avoiding Covid-type business posts.

“At first it was useful to start off with because businesses were thinking: we’ll ride this for a couple of months and then we’ll be open again.

People already had tickets for some of the businesses that I worked with. They had holidays booked, so the biggest things in those cases were: wow, use this Covid post, it’s going to be right at the top of the business profile. We don’t need a photo, we just need to say what is happening and we need to link through to the Covid statement on the website.

As businesses slowly opened and pivoted?

“We still need to deliver something in some way. We started thinking: we want products.”

If a business was marked as closed? Products no longer showed up in the profile. 

There are all these little things that were happening behind the scenes that weren’t serving the best interest of the business.”

Claire recommends that when you’re working with any business, you should test and track how things work for your client before dismissing any tool out of hand.

Have a go. Tag it up. See if it delivers value. If it doesn’t deliver value, [find out] whether it’s because of the content, rather than just saying well I did a blog post once and it didn’t work.”

She stresses you have to use your best content in terms of what you know about where a person is in the funnel.

If there’s no return for your business then maybe don’t continue to invest in it.”

The Importance of UTM Tracking

One of Claire’s most useful posts is Claire’s Guide to UTM Tagging for Google My Business. All Local SEOs should read it! It’s an excellent guide that will help you prove the value you bring to your clients.

Claire stresses you don’t need a background in data analysis to make use of tools like UTM tagging. She doesn’t!

I’m a normal generalist marketer working for small businesses. So I just set about trying to understand a little bit about attribution and how it worked.”

She says we know GMB insights are useful.

I’m not saying ignore everything else. There are a lot of really important business-critical actions that take place away from the website.”

Claire says she really likes tracking what people do when they get to the website.

“I set up quite a granular process from the UTM tracking from the business profile, which takes into account sort of the normal links.

You’ve got an appointment link, menu, primary website link, and then we start looking at okay, let’s tag up our products, let’s tag up our posts, let’s tag all the things so we can work out when that traffic comes to the website.

What does it do? Does it sign up for a newsletter? Does it click to call? Does it click to email? Is there eCommerce revenue attributable to this as a channel?”

She says it’s important to tag consistently. 

“Find out if there’s already a reporting framework in place to make sure it won’t rob the business of some of its success metrics. Just make sure it works within the tracking and reporting and attribution that’s already set up.”

Is it a good idea to start a Local SEO business right now?

After the almost-mandatory “it depends,” Claire opined that SEO is a growth industry right now.

“People need to reach their target market. They need to reach them online.”

She says there’s a lot of talk about moving from in-house to freelance right now.

“There are more opportunities to be supported while making that journey.”

She says it’s also important to remember that Local SEO isn’t just Local SEO.

“It doesn’t just sit there on its own. It’s part of SEO. Unless you’re just going to offer GMB services in the absence of anything else if you’re doing Local SEO you also need to be a technical SEO.

I’m not saying you have to do everything. I’m saying if you’re serving a small business client and you’re working on your own, you do end up doing a lot of stuff for them. You’re working on their website with them, their information architecture, search query research, you’re working on their content, the measurement framework.

You’ve gotta become familiar with whatever CMS you’re working with. There’s a lot of stuff. It’s not just Local SEO. SEO is SEO. You have to do a lot of different things.”

Honing Your Pitch

To get clients, Local SEOs have to pitch. 

Claire admits she’s been reticent to pitch all her life. 

“Yet one of the things I do talk about in the course is getting yourself out there. It’s not necessarily pitching. Especially when you’re a solopreneur or you’re just starting out, you’re not putting together these huge elaborate pitches.”

She says that sometimes you want to cherry-pick certain clients.

“You put in a little more time and effort to maybe do some sort of mini-freemium audit for them to see or put together some sort of content for them that they might be interested to hear or see. You can talk about how you would help them improve.”

She says that’s usually the most time and effort she’s put into getting a client.

“That freemium audit. Not in a cheesy, dodgy way how some people think of SEO agencies type of way.”

Positioning Your Local SEO Services

“The first lesson in the course has to do with services.”

She says that you need to think about services and finding your niche in basically the same breath.

“Niching down or not niching down as the case may be.”

She points out that not all companies need the same services.

There are different things you may be offering. You need to think about what you’re good at. What you really enjoy. And what people need. You need to find a sweet spot. What do people need? What do you want to offer? Do you want to find a niche to offer that to?”

Here’s her example.

“Say you know in your services that you love spam fighting. Thinking you’re going to use it in an industry that doesn’t need it isn’t going to work, is it? I love writing content and I love really elaborate very design-led pieces that earn loads of links. You’re not really going to be doing that for a greengrocer.”

Is it a geographic niche? Is it an industry niche? What is it? 

“You’re using all these things and working with your idea of services and whether or not you need to choose a niche. And also what’s going to make you the money as well.

Of course, we all need money, but if that’s one of your big success metrics then you need to think about where the cash is going to come from. It’s probably not going to come from teeny tiny businesses.

Do you want to focus on multi-location, enterprise, service area businesses?”

She says you can take a very simplistic approach to positioning.

“What the product does and who it’s for. Using that, you can put together a solid positioning statement. These are all the things you do before you do any marketing.

Don’t write copy for your website, don’t start going to events and networking without this really solid understanding of what you do, who you do it for, and why you’re better than the competitor set that your potential might be entertaining.” 

This doesn’t have to take a long time to do. It’s more like a thought exercise.

Pricing Your Services

Pricing can be a real challenge. Claire recommends doing a little “low-key competitor research.”

She says that many Local SEOs publish pricing.

“That gives you a ballpark figure, but you need to think about whether they’re targeting a similar type of client.”

She says sometimes other Local SEOs will just tell you. Or a client with experience with other agencies who will give you an idea.

“It’s not industrial espionage. It’s a fact-finding mission.”

She says you should also be thinking about what you need to earn.

You don’t need to price by daily rate or hourly rate. You’ve got that idea of working on retainer, working on a project basis. You could also look at some sort of revenue profit share. There are all different models. Obviously, that might come a little later based on the value you’re delivering to clients.”

She says as you get better and become very KPI-driven you always have a framework for a client to understand the value you’re delivering.

“You become that much more confident in your pricing. I’m going to deliver this much. You’re going to have this much sales uplift. You’re going to have this many new leads. Convert so much better once we’ve done this work. You become a little more confident to charge what you’re worth.”

Claire says you should also think about what kind of agency you want to be.

Do you want to stay on your own? Do you want to partner up with other people? Do you want to employ people? There are lots of different options.

Not everyone wants to grow a small team. Some people are really happy to stay with their solopreneur model, they just know you can only service a certain amount of clients. It all depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re looking to have long-term authentic relationships with all your clients, personally, that’s what I’ve found is working.” 

What's your right now cause?

Claire gives her shout-out to the Pembrokeshire Action to Combat Hardship (PATCH).

Pembrokeshire Action to Combat Hardship (PATCH)

“They work with local families: food parcels, clothing, household items for anyone experiencing financial hardship. That might be because they had a problem with their benefits, suffered a fire, are escaping abuse, so that’s what they do. They’re a long-standing charity here in Pembrokeshire.”

This month Claire is running a coastal half-marathon to raise money for them! 

If you don’t want to support families in Pembrokeshire, think about finding similar initiatives in your own local communities.

Connect with Claire Carlile

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Garrett Sussman

Garrett Sussman

Garrett is the head of content at Traject , a suite of digital marketing tools, and host of the Agency Ahead podcast. When he's not crafting content, he's scouting the perfect ice coffee, devouring the newest graphic novels, and concocting a new recipe in the kitchen.

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