Last week, we published the findings of the BrightLocal Local SEO Industry Survey 2013.

The objective of this survey is to gain greater understanding about the health and nature of the local SEO Industry. Through this survey, we aim to find out what life is like “on the ground” for those in the local SEO industry and share those findings publicly to help improve the knowledge and insight within our industry.

This is the 2nd wave of the survey. The 1st wave was conducted in 2011 and looked ahead to 2012.  Wave 1 survey results can be viewed here.

About The BrightLocal Local SEO Industry Survey 2013

The survey was conducted between 20th January and 20th February, 2013. We contacted thousands of freelancers, agency SEOs and Web designers.

1,409 respondents completed the survey (up from 1,150 in 2011). The majority of respondents are freelance SEOs or small SEO agencies.

The survey consists of 17 questions covering 5 areas of SEO/agency business:

  1. Future Outlook
  2. Size & Turnover
  3. Clients & Industries
  4. Marketing & Sales
  5. Services & Tasks

The following five charts show the key findings of the survey. Full survey results are available on BrightLocal.com.

 

Chart 1: 93% of Local SEOs Expect To Grow Their Business In 2013

Grow your business in 2013

Confidence is running high in the SEO industry. Our data show that 93% of SEOs say they expect their business to grow in the next year — up from 82% in our 2012 survey.

Additionally, 82% of respondents said that they will recruit more staff in the next 12 months – to help drive and fulfill their expected growth.

There can’t be many industries in the current economy that can boast such a positive outlook!

Chart 2: 34% Of SEOs Made Less Than $30,000 In The Last 12 Months

Turnover in last 12 months

The range of turnover for local SEOs is very broad. Some SEOs earn a worryingly low amount, while others are ticking along at a good rate. The size of the agency and the number of clients under management obviously play a big role in turnover level.

The most telling figure is that 34% of SEOs are turning over less than $30,000/year (3% more than those that earned at this level in the 2012 survey). For a modern and skilled profession which is in great demand, this figure is both surprising and a concern. It begs a number of questions:

  • Are SEOs pricing their services too low?
  • Do SMBs not value or understand the value provided by their SEO/agency?
  • Is excessive competition in the industry forcing SEOs to price themselves low to win clients?
  • Can SEOs really provide a good quality service while earning $30,000 or less?
  • How many SEOs will still be in business next year if they can’t raise this level?

Chart 3: Average Monthly Income Per Customer Is $500-$1,000

Average earnings per customer

The amount which SEOs earn per customer can vary greatly. Some, apparently, earn less than $100/month per customer, while some earn $5,000 or more.

Of course, the nature and depth of the service provided is reflected in the price, as is the scale of customers. The budget and requirements of a single location mom & pop business, for example, are much smaller than those of a multi-location franchise business.

Chart 4: 91% Of SEOs Say “Word Of Mouth’ Is The Best Route To New Customers

Attracting new customers

This speaks volumes about the nature of the work SEOs do and how much reputation and relationships matter when selling SEO services. Local business owners are far more likely to commit their precious (even scarce) marketing budget to someone they know, like and trust; and, a big portion of this trust comes through recommendation by others.

Chart 5: 42% Is The Average Success Rate For Converting New Leads To Customers

Converting leads to sales

With an average lead:sale conversion of 42%, it appears that SEOs are very effective at selling their services. However, 17% say they convert less than 10% of their pitches.

The data here only paint part of the picture. Conversion figures are a product of a number of factors, including method of approach, quantity of leads contacted, sales structure and ability, business reputation, local market competition, etc. I would expect agencies that take a more considered and tailored approach to pitching would convert more than those with a high-volume, sales-focused model.

Full survey results and charts can be viewed and downloaded on BrightLocal.com.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Local Search Column | Search Marketing: Local Search Marketing | SEM Industry: Stats | SEO - Search Engine Optimization | SEO: Local

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About The Author: is Founder & CEO of BrightLocal.com. BrightLocal provides local SEO tools for local businesses; see their research section for the latest findings about the local search market.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter



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  • Ishwor Singh

    I am sure in coming year this industry will grow more and more because everything is getting on internet and is becoming a great tool to promote business. SEO is never ending learning field which I love so much about.

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    “Is excessive competition in the industry forcing SEOs to price themselves low to win clients?”

    I think that’s a fair question to ask. How can I make a real living when my competitor is willing to charge 1/2 for the same services? Supposedly the same services anyway :) But as long as some SEOs are willing to undercharge for their services (maybe they are black hat, maybe they are new, maybe they don’t know any better) it’s make it a little harder for the rest of us.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=628879158 Matthew Egan

    There are several points missing that would make this information more valuable. Take that concern that many SEOs are making less than $30,000, or 45% that are making less than $50,000. That is great cause for concern assuming that these folks are all primary SEOs, vs. being on staff at an SEO agency. I certainly make more than $30,000 a year, but I have staffers who make less than $50,000, so that data point isn’t as relevant if you take into account the role of the person.

    Additionally, one should ask the respondents how long they have been in SEO. There is a lot of buzz around SEO and many may view it as “easy” and a great way to make money, so my instinct tells me that the people making less than $50,000 are either employees at agencies, or are newer SEOs that will either fail when they realize that the SEO industry only prints money for the best, or quickly rise to higher income points as they put a few more years under their belts.

    Folks joke that we don’t use Algebra in our daily lives, but that’s not the case here at all, we’re looking at an XY of Income by Percentage of Respondents, but in true Edward Tufte fashion we’d be a lot better served if we gauged the income by the number of years the person had been a dedicated SEO (or again, a staffer at an SEO agency).

    If you take the CEO types who make $100-200,000+ annually, and then you toss in the number of years they put it, I’d imagine you’d get different data than if you accepted submissions from the employees of those CEO types who are going to make between $30,000 and $60,000 unless they’ve been in the industry much longer and have a lot more to offer in return.

    What I see when I look at this data, is that there are likely many new SEOs who are interested in the industry, have some basic SEO knowledge, but they’re the ones out there charging $500 a month and only doing what we call “SEO Busy Work” as opposed to actually adding value to the client.

    None of this information is surprising, or cause for concern, but if we looked at it from a different angle, gauging not just by a single answer and a percentage of those answers, but instead by the persons role or by the persons time in the industry, I’d wager we’d get much different results.

  • Kris Roadruck

    I’d be really curious to see these results broken down by country of respondent. Some of these numbers look really really low. I suspect you’ve got a lot of guys from india tweeking your numbers to the low end.

  • http://localsearchforum.catalystemarketing.com/ Linda Buquet

    Thanks for sharing the results of your survey Myles, I was out on Friday so just started to spread the word today. Great info that consultants need to know about.

    Yes, I agree the numbers seem really low and may be skewed by country, or at least I hope that’s the case.

    But when we’ve had discussions about fees and what it takes to be a successful local search consultant at the local search forum, many admit they are struggling to make ends meet – folks I would assume ‘should’ be doing well.

    I think in local, the low fees are due in part to all the low end scammers and overseas companies that pretend to be Google, promise page one rankings for $200 and hammer business owners with multiple robocalls per day. Some of those companies have thousands and thousands of clients, so their pitch and methods work on naive business owners, setting expectation that you can get to the top of Google Local for cheap. Those guys ruin it for honest consultants.

  • http://kercommunications.com/ Nick Ker

    Some of this, like the relatively low income per customer, would explain where all of the new clients with penalties are coming from.

 

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