More Local SEOs Earning Less Than $30,000 [Study]

Local SEO tools and search engine marketing service BrightLocal has released the results of its 2014 Local SEO Industry Survey.

The survey included nearly 1,800 SEOs.

According to BrightLocal, the majority of respondents were from local/regional agencies (31 percent) or were freelance SEOs (27 percent) and 84 percent said they have five or fewer SEOs in their company.

This means the majority of those working in local search do so as solo operations or as part of smaller agencies working in local towns, BrightLocal says.

In addition, 37 percent of respondents said their turnover was less than $30,000. That’s up slightly from 33 percent in 2013. In fact, BrightLocal says one of the most dramatic figures in this survey is the rise in the percentage of SEOs earning less than $30,000, which it says marks “an alarming trend” for the industry as a whole. In other words, BrightLocal says SEOs should command higher fees and income “given the complexity of the work and the potential impact it can have for a local business when done well.”


A majority of respondents say they personally handle between two and 10 clients and BrightLocal says the average number for 2014 is actually nine, which is down from 11 last year.

In addition, 60 percent of respondents say they serve many different industries, which is down from 67 percent in 2013.

However, BrightLocal says there appears to be an increase in the number of SEOs targeting their efforts on clients in specific sets of industries and notes, “With staunch competition in the local search service market, it certainly helps to have a specialism that allows a consultant/agency to demonstrate deeper understanding of a specific client’s business, industry and their own customers.”

The majority of respondents say they charge less than $1,000 per month and the arithmetic mean charge is down $65 from 2013, which BrightLocal says is another troubling indication of the devaluing of SEO by customers or price competitiveness driving down charges.


Of the services offered, respondents say Google+ optimization, on-site SEO, and citation building are the most popular, while video and mobile marketing are among the services offered least and with the lowest demand. However, BrightLocal speculates SMBs are not as educated about the benefits of the latter and says that opens up opportunities for local SEOs.


While 53 percent of respondents say they outsource less than 10 percent of their workload to third parties, which is down from 62 percent in 2013, BrightLocal says this is an efficient way to handle increased workloads at reasonable and controllable costs as SEOs take on more and more clients.

And while onsite optimization, reporting/analytics, SEO audits, and client management are the most tackled tasks per week, respondents also say new business development is often neglected in favor of client tasks.

“With these tasks being critical to establishing a reputation and winning new customers, we can start to see why so many consultants/agencies are struggling to grow and earn more than $30,000 p.a.,” BrightLocal says.

According to respondents, link-building, content writing, and citation generation are the most time-consuming and tedious tasks. And because link-building was considered the most tedious task by 41 percent of SEOs in 2013 and 34 percent in 2014, BrightLocal says it is possible some SEOs have stopped doing link-building altogether or changed their strategies in the wake of Google penalties.

Interestingly, link-building also happens to be one of the tasks SEOs say they wish they could do more of.

According to BrightLocal, tasks like analytics, citation generation, and social media optimization were high on SEO wish lists in 2013, but dropped in 2014.

The channels that have increased in perceived effectiveness year-over-year include SEO, Facebook and local “meet-ups”/workshops, BrightLocal says. However, social channels such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are generally considered less effective as sales channels and are probably more effective in communicating to existing customers, BrightLocal adds.

And, finally, 93 percent of respondents say they definitely expect to grow their business in the next 12 months, which reflects optimism in the SEO industry overall, BrightLocal says.

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