Confessions Of A $100/Month SEO Client

Are you an agency trying to sell super cheap search marketing services to SMBs? If so, here’s some free market research!

Last week, I got my kitchen counters resurfaced. Inevitably the service guy asked me what I did for a living. When I told him I did SEO, the conversation quickly turned to the local online marketing and I put my interviewer hat on.  Enjoy:

Cleaner One

NAP Citation: Cleaner One
416 Honeysuckle Lane
San Ramon, CA
Owner: Paul Breaton
Service Categories: Carpet Repair, Marble Polishing, Marble Cleaning

  1. How long have you been in business?
    I’ve been running my own business since 1994. I have a 3-person service company that operates out of a truck, a P.O. box and my kitchen. (Author’s Note: You may have noticed I used a street address for the NAP. Actually, Paul moved to a PO Box, but his Google Place Page still has the Honeysuckle Lane address, so I didn’t want to screw up his NAP consistency in Google by using a different address.)
  2. Five years ago, what was your marketing mix? What is it today?
    I’d say, five years ago it was mostly direct mail and print yellow pages ads. I wasn’t doing much online. I was spending about $50,000 per year. I am now spending only $25,000 and I am doing more business. I am bringing my print yellow pages ads down to zero because when I ask customers how they had heard of me, no one says that they found me through the yellow pages. Now I’m saving $1200/month. Most of my leads these days come from repeat customers and referrals.
  3. Besides word-of-mouth, what’s your most profitable source of leads?
    ServiceMagic (now called HomeAdvisor) used to be, but that was when I had time to answer the phone. The challenge with a service like that is you are basically paying for a phone call and if you don’t return the calls immediately, you tend to lose out on the lead, but you still pay for the calls you return. I now use Diamond Certified for about $460/month, which I think is a real deciding factor when people want to hire me. People see that symbol and know I am a quality provider.
  4. How much do you spend on search engine marketing?
    I spend $250/month on Google Places to show up on the right side of the page. (He was actually talking about AdWords.) And I give my guy another $100/month to do my website stuff. (He was talking about SEO. Note to his website guy: Even if you can’t do a citation update for the new address, doesn’t $100 at least buy some unique, targeted title tags on those pages?)
  5. Do you know what your search engine marketing is doing for you? Are you tracking leads from different sources? What does your consultant report on for you?
    I ask my customers how they found me. My consultant doesn’t report on anything until I tell him that I am thinking about stopping the campaign and then he usually produces a report. I look at it and then I move on cause I’m busy.
  6. Have you ever tried to optimize your site to improve conversions?
  7. What do you think the value of a page one ranking is for your target keywords like “marble polishing in San Ramon”?
    Being first on the list in Google is not going to translate to a bunch of jobs. I am not the low-priced guy and Google tends to send a lot of price-shoppers. So you have to spend a lot of time on the phone with people who aren’t going to convert. That said, Google (I think he means AdWords here) right now is getting me a lot of stone work.
  8. What do you do with social media?
    I don’t have time to chit-chat. My LinkedIn page is a joke. It needs help. If you read it, I sound like a non-high school graduate idiot. I did it too quickly and didn’t even proofread it. But hey, I’m busy.
  9. What about online reviews?
    They’re huge. I always tell customers that offer me a tip to save their money and go write a review for me on Angie’s List first, and then on Yelp. Those reviews are everything.
  10. How many times a day do you get called by Internet marketers trying to sell their services?
    I get called at least twice a day. Those auto-dialer guys are awful. Their call-to-action where they tell you there’s a emergency problem with your Google listing is inappropriate and deceptive. Instead of lying to me, they need to just say, “This is who we are and here is how we can help you.” Give me some factual info about myself.

    Show me how I am not making money and show me how your plan will work. Give me a guarantee and give me a test run for free. I love when I get a call from Google (I think he means from marketers pretending to represent Google). I’ll ask those guys questions until they try to sell me.Advertising for small companies is a crap shoot. You never know what’s going to work. But we know better than you what works for us. If you really believe in your product give it to me for free to try it — if it works, of course I’ll want to pay you for it.

The Moral Of The Story

Paul, who seals a mean counter, is a living example of why serving these kinds of businesses is murder. The SMB often doesn’t have the time, knowledge or budget to understand search engine marketing. And, it costs marketing service providers a lot to get Paul on the phone and close him, only to get $350/month (part of which goes to Google for media). So, they can’t afford to really service Paul in a way that’s meaningful.

Interestingly, when I asked Paul how he felt about mobile marketing, his eyes lit up and his response was, “I wouldn’t be opposed to looking at that. If I could get my client database into an app, that would be cool. If my client could get an app like that, she’d be able to share the app with her friends and recommend me, which would be cool for me and cool for her because she’s helped and impressed her friend. She’d be all juiced up.”

And when it comes to local search marketing, it’s clear from talking to many business owners like Paul (and many marketers trying to service the ocean of Pauls out there) that we are all going to need as much juice as we can get.

Witness Paul’s fine handwork.

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

Related Topics: Channel: Local | Local Search Column


About The Author: is the proprietor of Local SEO Guide, a local search engine optimization consulting company specializing in yellow pages seo and local directory search—the blog is pretty fabulous too.

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  • Lizel Wrighte

    Paul needs to realize that investing in an online marketing campaign can double his ROI. The problem is choosing the right person or company to that for him.

  • Christian Thomson

    That’s great I hear this a lot from Small to Medium business owners. I had a hotel in the UK have their old SEO firm tell them if she cancelled her contract with them ($600pm) they would remove her from Google!?!?

  • svfoxhotmail

    Yes, and the one he ends up hiring is the good talker, shady, piece of garbage no nothing SEO guy. That is what they are all afraid of because they don’t know how to hire an SEO guy. So how do you get a brand name for your SEO business is the question. Then winning over businesses that will pay more than $350.
    And as for his app. HAAHAHHAHAHA. Good luck affording that !! Better learn to program then my friend. There are multiple mobile phone platforms you have to program for to start with.

  • Trish Jones

    That gave me my Saturday morning laugh Andrew. Great article by the way and the very reason I believe you have to choose your market carefully. But when it comes down to it, the price you set will determine your market.

  • Trish Jones

    “At that price range I would just expect to keep the lights on.” Exactly my sentiments. I see GOOD SEO people charging £35 – £40 for their services in the UK and I know it’s a) because they don’t know their worth and b) they have little concept about real business. The web mentality of “I can do all things for cheap,” isn’t necessarily the thinking for all SBO’s.


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