Local SEO Pay, Pricing & Performance


Local SEO pricing

One of the questions our wonderful Customer Success team receives most frequently is, “How much should we charge for local marketing?” Of course, as always, the answer is, “It depends”, but we hope the below information helps you benchmark your pricing against others. To note, for all of the financial-related questions, respondents were not required to answer.

Local SEO billing clients

Local marketers are most likely to charge clients through a monthly retainer, with 43% basing this on deliverables, and a further 22% setting the number of hours. Hourly rates and day rates are less common in the local SEO world, though may be a good marker for pricing retainers.

Retainer pricing by business size

Average cost per month for local marketing by business size

It’s important to consider how much pricing varies for different business sizes.

Consultants working alone charge clients an average of $766 per month, while larger agencies with more than 20 employees charging more than five times this.

If you work in a business and want to understand what local marketing assistance costs, it’s important to first consider what you want to achieve. If you require a close relationship with a small team, a smaller agency or freelancer may suit your needs. If, however, your business requires a higher time investment, a larger agency may mean more hours are up for grabs. For more, read our guide, ‘How to Choose a Local SEO Agency or Consultant‘.

Monthly minimum retainers

Local marketing minimum retainer cost

Not every client will be paying the same amount, and it’s likely that many marketers will have a broad range of costs among their clients.

While it can be useful to have a minimum in mind to ensure time is being taken up in the most valuable way, many local business accounts have the potential to grow over time. Starting out with a small budget and then scaling up can be a good way for marketers to grow clients, so be careful not to price potential high-billing clients out with a low minimum retainer.

Average local SEO costs per hour

Billable cost per hour for local SEO

While those who bill solely on the hour are rarer, most marketers will have an hourly cost in mind when pricing client work.

Agency marketers charge an average of $127 per hour, with freelancers charging closer to $100 per hour.

However, it’s important to note that these aren’t viewed as conclusive hourly rates that every local marketer should now charge. Many components affect pricing, including location, services offered, and experience – and these should all be factored into competitive costing.

Local SEO hourly rate ranges

When comparing the data to 2019’s results, there has been a notable increase in respondents who charge between $50 and $99 an hour.

At the other end of the scale, there was a slight increase in marketers charging more than $200 an hour – which could be reflected in the increased number of senior respondents this year.

The cost of reputation management

Average cost for reputation management services

Reputation management is an ever-growing facet of local marketing, but with this change comes the need for local marketers to upskill.

Respondents were asked for their monthly charge for reputation management – but, of course, this charge can come in many forms. Some will manage online reviews as an inclusive part of a wider retainer. Others may offer vastly different services that increase costs for clients, such as monitoring reviews across sites, responding to businesses’ customers, and generating more online reviews.

Likewise, different business sizes will require a vastly different approach to online reputation management – with a busy restaurant or hotel far more likely to require time-intensive reviews management than businesses with fewer customers.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to reputation management pricing. The first step should be looking at the business: which review sites are important for them and their competitors? How much work will be required to achieve a high star rating? And, is the business set up to generate a steady stream of reviews?

The cost of citation management

Average cost for citation management services

Respondents also shared how much they charge for citations. This was measured based on the charge for a new client as, for many, building and managing citations is a step to fix for a new client, and will not require much ongoing investment once key citations have been claimed.

The average charge for initial citation claiming and fixing is $389, with the median cost sitting at $200. Citations remain a key part of local SEO success, with 80% of consumers saying they would lose trust in local businesses if they saw incorrect or inconsistent names or contact details online.

Like with reputation management, the costs for citations can vary significantly based on the business’s needs. Some industries have more directory sites than others, while some businesses may already have built accurate citations in the places that matter. First and foremost, it’s important for local businesses to have the same citations as competitors to ensure the business is seen by potential customers in every place they may be searching.


Services offered by agencies and freelancers

Services offered by local marketing agencies and freelancers

Most Frequently Offered Services by Local Marketers

  1. GMB optimization
  2. SEO audits/analysis
  3. On-site optimization
  4. Reporting/analytics
  5. Citation management

In last year’s report, there were a great many services that were offered by most marketers. This year, there was a far lower rate of services offered, which should be attributed to respondents’ behavior answering this slightly amended question rather than a change in services offered.

Google My Business optimization remains important to local marketers (as it should be!) According to Moz’s Local Ranking Factors Survey, Google My Business signals make up 25% of local finder ranking factors. GMB is a key point of contact for many customers searching for nearby businesses – with 64% of consumers using Google My Business to find business addresses or phone numbers.

SEO audits, reporting, and on-site optimization remain critical to local marketing success. These core services were closely followed by citation building and NAP clean up, with 82% of local marketers offering this service.

While links are incredibly important to SEO success, only half of local marketers are offering link building as a service. Perhaps even more shocking for those that follow local marketing discussions closely, just 33% of marketers are offering Google spam fighting. Investing in these less-used (but time-intensive) tactics could really help move the needle for local businesses.

Common services offered by local marketing agencies and freelancers

There are many factors that help improve a local business’s online presence, but marketers don’t necessarily need to be providing every service for clients.

Agencies and freelancers tend to offer different services, with freelancers less likely to offer a broad range. Freelancers are far less likely to offer PPC, website design, and link building – perhaps preferring instead to focus and specialize on core services.

The most valuable local SEO services

Most valued local search tactics

Respondents were asked to share up to five tactics that they believe are the most valuable.

We know that local marketers and their clients can sometimes be at odds on which tactics are most valuable. Both marketers and businesses agree that Google My Business is incredibly valuable, while on-site optimization is also key.

Despite reviews managements only being offered by 2/3 local marketing agencies, it’s highly valued by both in-house local marketers, and external consultants. Maintaining a strong online review presence can be a big job, but can also be instrumental in affecting consumer behavior.

Interestingly, social media is far more esteemed among those working within businesses. It’s often expected for a business to have a social media presence, though, of course, some industries have more to gain here than others.

At this stage, it’s important to note that the respondents from local and multi-location businesses may be more likely to have good local marketing knowledge than the average local business marketer due to the skew of BrightLocal users taking part in the survey.

Best channels for winning new clients

Marketing channels to win new local SEO clients

Respondents could choose up to three options.

When it comes to getting more customers, word of mouth remains the outright leader. It’s clear that local marketers can spend as much as they like on promoting their business, but the best form of marketing is a happy customer.

Curiously, both SEO and PPC have dropped in importance among local marketers as a method for attracting new customers. This year, fewer respondents chose three options – could it be that word of mouth is all some marketers need to reach client capacity?

We’d love to hear how you connect with new clients – let us know in the comments below!

Beyond the billable

Easiest and hardest local SEO tasks

But, local marketing isn’t all building links and fighting spam, so we wanted to know which non-SEO tasks cause the biggest headaches.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, freelance and agency marketers’ most difficult task is turning work down. When building up your marketing business, it can be hard to say no to potential customers, even if it leads to sleepless nights. Getting new customers is also seen as difficult for 38% of marketers, so turning warm leads down can feel painful (though perhaps necessary for your own health!)

Additionally, 41% of marketers find building their own profile hard. If you’d like a little help, why not join our networking list of local marketers on Twitter?

It’s fantastic to see that retaining customers is one of the easiest among the above tasks. Great service and proven results will keep customers coming back for more, and hopefully, also recommending your services to their peers.

Staying on top of trends and educating customers seems to be a key challenge. Local marketing is changing all the time, and with so many different sources of local SEO knowledge out there, it can be incredibly difficult to stay on top.

Keeping on top of changes

Local SEO learning

Across agencies, freelancers, and local business marketers, the most common way to keep up with industry changes is through articles from local marketing tools and services providers, and in broad local search press. Check out our annually updated top blogs list for ideas on what publications to follow.

Testing is a critical way for SEO marketers to learn, with 57% in agencies, 48% of freelancers, and 42% of in-business marketers using this for their learning. The best marketers are continually trying out new things, and using insights from the industry to inform what they choose to try out for their businesses.

Local marketers use a great many different ways to keep up – from webinars, to local SEO forums, and real-life conferences such as LocalU.



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