SEO isn't the big money maker many people believe, with many SEOs serving a small number of clients and earning smaller revenue. Bright Local has done a refresh of their 2011 Local SEO Industry Survey and there are some surprising results.
The last few years, we have seen the rise (and collapse) of some very large SEO companies, yet the vast majority of SEO companies are working either solo or with five or fewer other SEOs. A startling 82 percent of respondents have 1-5 SEOs in the company, with 36 percent being single SEOs.
Bright Local also discovered that 70 percent of customers were paying under $1,000 per month for SEO services, while the most SEOs handle between 6-10 customers. Even if those SEOs were at the max end of 10 customers, that means most SEOs are only bringing in a maximum of $5,000 to $10,000 per month from customers, with another 25 percent bringing in between $2,500 to $5,000. That is not a lot of revenue from clients, particularly if those SEOs have overhead such as office space or employees.
SEOs seem to approach the verticals they service in a few different ways. The vast majority provide SEO across a wide variety of industries, and you can probably assume that at least some of those SEOs are sticking with the “only one client per vertical” to prevent any issues of competition and favoritism for the same keyword areas. Another 14 percent focus on a single vertical, preferring to become an expert in one area rather than be a jack of all trades.
Where have SEOs been finding customers recently? More than 90 percent of respondents stated that word of mouth was their number one effective way of finding new customers, while SEO itself was effective for 46 percent of respondents. It was surprising to see outbound calls at 18 percent, while the usual suspects such as LinkedIn, meetups and local business groups contributed another fair amount.
And if they are finding the majority of new customers via word of mouth, how are SEOs doing contacting leads? Thirty-two percent are not contacting leads at all, but that is down from over 45 percent in the previous year.
More SEO competition and lower budgets from many businesses is likely contributing to this shift. A startling 11 percent contact over 50 leads each month. However, SEOs are reporting an average of 42 percent conversion rate, which is very high.
As for what time of work customers are looking for, not surprisingly, on-site SEO is at the top of the list, with 91 percent. But second on the list? Very surprisingly it is Google+ optimization, for local SEO. And not far behind that is the old standard content creation and optimization.
As for whether SEOs believe social media is an effective marketing channel for local, 55 percent of SEOs feel it works for some businesses, 25 percent think it is very powerful, and less than 10 percent each feel it is over-hyped or are undecided. A great metric to include on this would be to differentiate the type of local businesses.
You can view the entire BrightLocal Local SEO Industry Survey 2013 here.