Local Service Businesses are Getting SCAMMED by “SEO Agencies”

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This text is one example of an unhappy client who got neglected by their local SEO agency. By the end of this article, I’m going to show you how this text could have been avoided, and how you can make sure your local service business never has to send a text like this to your digital marketing agency.

Let’s start with the truth:

Most local SEO companies are lying to you.

I just read an article by a well-known SEO company talking about the 10 metrics you need to be measuring.

* number of keywords ranked

* bounce rate

* site traffic

* etc…

But not one of those metrics were real business metrics— like phone calls that are over a minute or new cases/clients in the CRM.

Now let me tell you the dirty little secret that most local SEO companies don’t even know themselves

When you see the number of ranking keywords going up for your site, plus more traffic, that sounds like a good thing, right?

Maybe you’re a personal injury attorney and you want more truck cases.

So the SEO company spins up a bunch of articles to answer informational queries on how to get a CDL, what is a reefer truck, how much does a semi weigh, and so forth.

You’re getting thousands of visitors because you’re ranking on these glossary terms– but these are not people who got injured in a trucking accident and need a lawyer.

A buddy of mine was paying $70,000 a month to have this directory built– auto-generated pages by AI and VAs to rank on the terms above. This is a real example I’m mentioning.

Or let’s say you’re a pest control company in Portland, Oregon.

The local SEO firm may write articles on “what are the 10 most dangerous spiders”, since you want to get more calls for spiders.

But that article will be attracting people from all over the world who find spiders interesting.

They are not in Portland and they are not looking for an exterminator.

When SEO companies spin up these articles— super easy now with ChatGPT and other tools– they can declare victory on all their SEO metrics.

You may even know there is software to auto-generate monthly client reports– these 50 page beasts that appear impressive and put the agency logo on top.

But are you actually getting more emergency plumber calls in Dallas, Texas?

Or more of <your category> in <your city>?

Now here’s what should actually be done– which is also what Google recommends…

Create credible signals

The search engine wants a credible signal that you actually are a legit plumbing/HVAC company in your city.

Pretend you’re a search engine trying to decipher the real signals among the fake pages being generated by local SEO companies.

What would you look at?

I was an early search engine engineer, so I’m credible here.

You’d want to see they have real reviews on Google and other places– yes, I know that 20%+ of reviews are fake, which is another discussion for another time.

You’d want to see that business is getting traffic from Dallas, Texas and that users who come to the site appear to be actually looking for a plumber.

If you’re getting traffic from India on the most poisonous ants, that will muddy the signal.

You’d want to see click behavior (which Google can see) that would show your content is “helpful”.

The recent DOJ case with Google/Apple forced Google to review how their search algorithm works– a fascinating geek-out if you’re interested, mainly taking into account user behavior on your site, not so much links and typical SEO trickery.

If what I’ve explained above seems super logical and reasonable, then let me ask you this….

If you’re a plumbing/HVAC company in Las Vegas (like Pure Plumbing & Air) and some SEO company in Los Angeles is “doing” your SEO, how likely can they generate the authentic signals that Google is looking for?

Wouldn’t your own operations people and technicians be best equipped to get customers to leave more and better reviews?

Or take pictures and 15 second videos of “a day in the life” on their cell phones as they go about their jobs?

Or even answer the PAA (people also ask) questions that Google shows people who search for “emergency plumber Las Vegas” are looking for?

Authentic content generation has to start with YOU

Why? Because the source is video, not ChatGPT text.

AI tools can turn that video UGC (user generated content) into Facebook posts, tweets, YouTube shorts, blog post, GMB posts, and whatnot.

A secret: ChatGPT plus a few other tools can do a better job than the agency. They don’t know any better than you or I.

Then what does the SEO company actually do?

And how much of it is legitimate versus “black hat” (designed to trick Google, but which will eventually get busted)?

I’ll make the case that if you separate out what work is actually done, then the legitimate SEO companies are mainly your webmaster maintaining the content on your WordPress website.

Strip away all the SEO witchcraft and confusing jargon and you’ll see that the only actual activities in marketing are:

-building trusted relationships in your geo/vertical (eg: Las Vegas plumbing).

-creating content from those relationships in video format.

-posting that content to social media, YouTube, websites, etc…

-running ads against that content.

So what then is the SEO company doing outside of these 4 things?

If the answer is hreflang tags (I saw a prominent SEO expert declare that this should be our top priority yesterday), run.

Consider those 4 buckets of activities above and who should be doing it.

If this makes sense to you, then you should consider the 4 stage Content Factory process, which organizes everything, makes it measurable, and allows you to own your own marketing.

I’m not saying fire your agency or even take things in-house.

But I am saying you need to be clear on what is actually being done and being able to trace business results (calls and bookings) back to these activities.

Final word, which SEO folks have no answer for but will still try to argue:

SEO isn’t something you “do”.

SEO is the “result” of these 4 activities above– it’s not something you “do”.

Weight loss is the result of good dieting, exercise, and sleep.

I can’t pay someone to lose weight for me.

But I can pay for a personal trainer, pay for high quality food, and make sure that I’m doing the right things on my end.

Can you imagine someone who eats at McDonalds for every meal and has no change in his diet or activities– and is paying a weight loss expert who lives 2,000 miles away to help him lose weight?

The SEO companies can actually drive results– fake (like the techniques I mentioned at the start) and real (using “black hat” spammy tactics like spinning up spam blogs and buying links).

But are any of those legitimately following Google guidelines of EEAT and “helpful content”?

If you’ve fallen for the idea that digital marketing is complicated– that you should focus on fixing toilets and killing bugs, while the SEO experts focus on what they’re good at, I hope this post opens your eyes.

If you’re interested in learning more and want to take the next step in owning your own marketing, consider enrolling in our Dollar a Day program today!

Dennis Yu

About the Author

Dennis Yu
Dennis Yu is co-author of the #1 best-selling book on Amazon in social media, The Definitive Guide to TikTok Ads.  He has spent a billion dollars on Facebook ads across his agencies and agencies he advises. Mr. Yu is the "million jobs" guy-- on a mission to create one million jobs via hands-on social media training, partnering with universities and professional organizations.You can find him quoted in major publications and on television such as CNN, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, NPR, and LA Times. Clients have included Nike, Red Bull, the Golden State Warriors, Ashley Furniture, Quiznos-- down to local service businesses like real estate agents and dentists. He's spoken at over 750 conferences in 20 countries, having flown over 6 million miles in the last 30 years to train up young adults and business owners. He speaks for free as long as the organization believes in the job-creation mission and covers business class travel.You can find him hiking tall mountains, eating chicken wings, and taking Kaqun oxygen baths-- likely in a city near you.