More threads by Cindy


Sep 13, 2012
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I am doing some planning for 2013 and have started to rethink my pricing model, and the services I'm providing to local clients. Currently, I charge a monthly retainer, and provide the following services to everyone:

  • G+ optimization
  • Citations
  • On page SEO
  • Article/video creations and distribution (unique content/manually submitted)
  • Review system
  • Blog posts
  • PR, if the client has something noteworthy to talk about
  • A little social media thrown in

The monthly retainer varies based on what the client wants to rank for, competiveness of the niche/geography, etc.

I think I'm doing way more than I need to do to get local clients ranking.

I'm thinking about moving to a project fee basis, with payments front loaded to cover initial research/set up, and then after 3-4 months, charging a lower on-going maintenance/monitoring fee to keep an eye on rankings and then tweak as needed. When the fee drops, I would then cross sell additional services, such as email marketing, monthly newsletter, PPC, mobile website, etc. in order to keep my revenue/client where I want it to be. I'm also thinking about eliminating the content creation piece I'm doing, as I'm not convinced that it matters for local clients in light of the changes Google has made this year.

What pricing strategy do you use and what services do you include? Does anyone have any sales data to suggest whether a monthly retainer or project fee is easier to sell to new clients? I'm interested in the group's thoughts as we head into 2013. Thanks for sharing!

Thanks SO much for kicking this topic off Cindy! It's one I've been wanting to delve into and I'm sure the discussion will be helpful for all.

I've openly shared my pricing model and package with my training clients and am happy to share here as well. My model and packaging was really pretty unique on a couple levels and was def on the high side. But I had a killer acceptance rate. (I don't call it closing ratio because I never 'closed' anyone.) :)

Am working on some other posts and don't have time to write it up this second, but will try to do that later today.

In the meantime who has ideas to share with Cindy about packaging, pricing structure, fee based vs retainer??
Most marketing companies I train are curious about my rates so I provide this info to consultants I train. Below are the standard optimization fees I used to charge Dentists when I was still providing the service.
(Right now I refer all my leads to some of my training clients who have integrity and I feel would do as good a job as I would. So they end up being referral partners.)

Here in a very brief nutshell is my old package and pricing.

Google Places Optimization for Dentists: $3500 (Financed over 3 months at 1500 set up and 1000 a month for 2 months.)

Included: Place Page optimization, my extensive "Increasing Customer Reviews" training program and my one-time Local SEO and Local Hooks package designed for the 5 main keywords on Place page.
(Duplicate Troubleshooting Fee: I also charged additional $300 for each dupe.)

So that's all I did. No citations or link building. Just the above. One time fee. 3 month package. I could always get clients a really good ranking doing the above except for a couple that were in very competitive markets.

Many consultants tell me I was leaving money on the table by not charging an on-going fee and doing on-going service/maintenance. I 'could' have and many clients wanted that but for numerous reasons I did not want to provide that service. Primarily because if I kept clients on long term then I'd have to deal with all the recurring bugs and dupes that were time-eating and frustrating to deal with. If a client had problems down the road I would just do service at an hourly rate.

NOTE on pricing. One of the reasons I could command fees on the higher end is due to the way I got clients. If you are prospecting and cold calling you fall into the commodity category where all the low ball competition lives. All my clients were personally referred and pre-sold on me as an expert in the field.
(Using a lot of the authority building techniques I shared in this post.)

I know most consultants charge an on-going fee. Some weight 1st month with a higher set-up fee which makes a lot of sense.

But I think if I were to start offering services again today I'd do a model similar to what I shared above with a higher fee over 3 months to do all the intensive work, then a 500 a month on-going maintenance fee.

WARNING - due to all the potential Google bugs that can totally eat your time and destroy your bottom line - I would include a strong cap/limit. I'd explain the 500 a month includes reports, normal optimization and X number of hours. But if bugs and problems arise that exceed that time, support is offered a $X per hour.

So how about the rest of you? Any pricing questions, ideas or tips to share?
Good point on the on-going maintenance fee. There's nothing worse than having committed to do the work and then feeling like you're not being paid for it! I've had that learning experience. Definitely not fun!

Thanks for sharing that Linda!

I was wondering, in regards to charging for dealing with duplicates, how did that go over with most of your clients?

Did you have to do a lot of schooling for your client in regards to what a duplicate is, why it's bad...etc?

Did you have to resolve the duplicate situation in order to charge for it?

Sorry if I'm prying too much :eek:
Oh no not at all Colan. I'm an open book. :p

Well like I said above, that was 'in a nutshell' not in detail.

But on dupes, the more detail is... If they had several dupes I would not charge 300 each I'd give a discount or do one extra or do 3 for the price of 5 or whatever. (But my most common scenario was - if they had more than 3 dupes, I'd pass on the client. Most had 2 or 3 so I would charge for 1 or 2, based on perceived difficulty. As you know some kinds of dupes are easier than others to deal with.)

Since they were Dentists they almost always had dupes AND often times already knew how dangerous they were. (They'd already lost reviews to the dupe or seen raniking drop when one cropped up.) Or I could show them how the dupe stole 1/2 their reviews or I'd explain how it was hurting their ranking. So yes I'd educate them quite a bit about dupes and the problems they can cause.

HOWEVER now that I think about it, this was in the good ole day (just a few months ago but light years in Google time) when I could still get rid of Dr dupes. But even today most dupes need to be managed/minimized so they don?t steal reviews or kill ranking, so I think I'd still charge something, maybe not as much.

And no, no guarantees and fee was not performance based. In fact I was very upfront and said it was work that needed to be done, was expensive because tricky and time-consuming AND warned them that even IF I could get rid of the dupes, they would often come back. BUT I would also explain (in cases where it was true) that the duplicate problems were due to their fractured upstream data, due to inconsistent use of their name. (Again, only when the dupes were due to problems they created by having a bunch of different versions of their name all over.)

But to be clear, I didn't view this as an upsell or additional service I did to make money. (I'd prefer to just ignore them if only I could.) I dealt with dupes because they were problems that needed to be fixed (if the client had any) that required time over and above the normal optimization service.

Does that make sense?
Makes a lot of sense.

I'm sure I speak for a lot of consultants when I say that we can get so used to dealing with duplicates and other problems that we forget that these are very complex issues for the average Joe to understand.(not that they still aren't complex to us too :p)

So it makes a lot of sense that these situations are handled with a premium service tag attached to them.
I have a two-pronged approach to SEO.

I charge an upfront fee for Google+ Local Optimization and onsite SEO. I also offer an ongoing monthly SEO fee.

Google+ Local Optimization includes-
  • NAP research
  • Places optimization
  • Work to remove dups for 2 months
  • Axciom claiming
  • Yelp optimization
  • Citation building

Onsite SEO includes-
  • Resolve any duplicate content issues
  • Keyword optimization for the top X pages
  • Write unique meta tags for the top X pages
  • Integrate local markup into site
  • Implement Google Webmaster Tools (includes sitemaps, etc.)

As for ongoing SEO (more than just SEO- more like internet marketing)-
  • Content development (blog, PR, etc.)
  • Google+ Local monitoring
  • Online reputation monitoring
  • Facebook content development
  • Link building
  • Local listing management

Just recently, I've decided to drop PPC... it's too much to monitor.

As for how much I charge, well, that's between me and the client. ;)
How do you guys handle reporting for local? Is everyone here using Places Scout or some other program like that to show the client the work being done? Chris I like your Local plan model, it's similar to the kind of work I'm doing.

The client typically doesn't want to know every little detail you do for them, they seem to only care about how they're currently ranking on Google. What has worked best in the past?
@EsR I use Brightlocal and love it.

I use their SEO Checkup tool when preparing a proposal- which I send to the prospective client.

Once I've completed the onsite SEO and G+L Optimization, I run the SEO Checkup again to compare.

I also use their Rank Checker tool for monthly Google ranking reports. You can add Yahoo and Bing, but I keep it simple and stick w/ Google results only.

You can automate the Rank Checker reports to send directly to the client- on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Personally, I automate the reports on the 1st and 2nd of each month- but it comes to me first. After reviewing the results, I send to the client.

Those are some nice rates that you charge (or used to charge), Linda. So when you were discussing your services to potential clients, how would you explain exactly what you were doing and how it was well worth the cost? And I'm just curious, how many hours per week or month would you spend on doing local SEO for each client?

Would your rate have remained the same regardless if you were doing local SEO for a dentist or for a small local mom-and-pop business?
Hi David, thanks for some great questions.

1st off want to make it clear I never cold called, never 'sold' and never closed my services.

Sometimes after Advanced Training consultants come back to to me for more of a business building consulting session for help with how to build their business, prospect and close. In that session I give them my full client presentation and all my tips verbally. I just treat them as if they were a customers and give them my full pitch. (And of course record it so they have it for review.) But it's too much to type here, esp with my carpal probs.

But in a nutshell I would just explain in very simple terms how the local algo works. I would liken it to a giant complicated puzzle and he who has the best and biggest puzzle pieces all in the right places in their local market gets to be on top. Then I'd share some of the missing or broken puzzle pieces they had and point out a couple problems like dupes, violations, fractured upstream data or whatever. Then I'd explain my services and then of course in my proposal I'd share examples of top rankings I'd gotten other Dentists. Many who were well known and high profile in the Dental community.

THEN what's amazing is, like I said I would never close. In fact I was so busy I would NEVER even follow up. No chasing clients for me ever! If what I shared made sense and fit their needs, they would choose to move forward.

I share lots more of my sales strategies and prospecting tips in the following posts if you are interested in more details. Just Say No to Bad Local SEO Clients - Let them Walk! and Jumpstart Your Local Search Consulting Business + List of Leading SMB Forums.

As far as time… not sure. Didn't really track it. BUT forgot to mention I also DID build into my initial proposal a service limit. I'd say something about the fact that if Google bugs hit their listing I would do my best to fix but would not work for free fixing Google's problems and there could be an additional service charge if bugs hit or their listing went south.

FYI one of the many bonuses I give with my Advanced Google+ Local Training is my proposal that spells all this stuff out. The proposal covers in details what I'll do, limitations, time-frames, exclusions, dupes are extra, etc. etc. It's about 5 or 6 pages long I think. I also give my complete customer review training program, client data worksheet, workflow organizational spreadsheet. All stuff you can copy and use for your own clients. PLUS access to the private pro forum. (Not so subtle plug.) :)

"Would your rate have remained the same regardless if you were doing local SEO for a dentist or for a small local mom-and-pop business?"

Yes def lower. But I would never have chosen to work with small mom-and-pop business. I mean my heart is kinda there and I've LOVE to help them. But G+L if you are going to do it right is just too damned convoluted and time consuming to do for cheap IMO.

The reason I chose to specialize in a niche instead of working with all types of businesses is that it's easier to scale AND command a higher price if you specialize and establish yourself as an expert in that niche.
Amen, Linda. If you gotta sell your services to the client, it's not worth it. They don't see the value.

I had one prospective client try and break down my proposal on an hourly rate. I told them it doesn't work like that. I believe my services are of value to their business. If they don't- then it's best they look somewhere else.

This sounds cheesy, but I used to be in outside sales- beating doors down. To hell with that. I did the Tommy Boy thing. :D
I try to put myself in front of people where I know they need my services, based on the research I've done. So the "sales" conversation is really about getting more customers from the investment they've already made in their website (most people I meet already have some kind of site). That's what they care about. I agree with Chris wholeheartedly - sometimes you just need to walk away if it's clear that your prospect doesn't see the value in what you're offering.

I don't use a contract. I use a simple page and a half proposal that outlines what I'll be doing. I ask for a six month commitment, but since there's no contract, the client is free to opt out if they feel they're not getting value. I haven't had a problem operating like this, and find that reaching agreement up front is easier since there's no long term commitment. The customer knows that if they don't pay my bill promptly, all work on their behalf stops.

Maybe I'm taking a huge risk, but this system has worked for me!

I totally agree Cindy. I never have used contracts either. New clients have often said, what do I need to sign to get started and I just tell them their verbal agreement to move forward or email is good enough for me. That's another advantage to working with Dentists though. I find most are very honest people. There are some industries I maybe would not take that approach with. :eek:
Thank you for sharing all of that, Linda, and I agree 110%. Unfortunately, I don't work with many businesses that have big marketing budgets, so I can't command those type of fees. But, someday. :) I like the way that you explain your services to your clients. If you put it simple, easy to understand terms, they are more likely to get it and hire you. But if you don't explain it well, they won't get it and they won't move forward.
Great information people!

I am about to start subcontracting work to pay the bills and start rolling out some solo projects, so this info is really handy.

I've been doing Google Plus Local for around a year now and never encountered all the duplicate issues I constantly read about. Possibly because they are new listings and I don't work in the American market, or I simply have not done enough of them.

The times I have had duplicate Plus Local Pages or local directory listings with an old Po box or address I have just requested they be removed without any major issues.

Hmmmmmmmmmm I am definitely going to have consider duplicates in the contract, as it's going to crop up the more I get involved.
Hmmmmmmmmmm I am definitely going to have consider duplicates in the contract, as it's going to crop up the more I get involved.

Actually, I should have spelled something out for those that don't know. Duplicates are mainly a big issues with Drs. Dentists, Chiropractors and Attorneys.

97% of my Dentists had dupe problems so that's why I had to address the dupe issue or they would eat me alive beacause they are a time suck and all my clients had them.

But if I was working with plumbers and painters and a variety of businesses I would NOT have built in a dupe clause. If 1 out of 20 of my clients was a Dentist and had a couple dupes it would not be a big deal and I would not have worried about it.

So although dupes CAN come up due to address or name discrepancies on any SMB,
it's USUALLY not a big deal.

Anderson Plumbing has likely been pretty consistent in using that name everywhere.

Whereas a Dentist may have dupes out there due to inconsistent branding and using a wide variety of names. They may have a listing for Anderson Dental, Anderson Family and Cosmetic Dentistry, Dr. John Anderson, John L Anderson DDS. Then if multiple Dentists, there may be several other dupes out there with both Dr and DDS versions of each name. Not sure about you, but I'm no going to do hours of extra work at no charge.

Same with Attys. There's one for John Smith Attorney at Law, one for Law office of John Smith, one for Smith Personal Injury Law. Then maybe different attys in the practice as well.

SO that's why if you deal with professionals, dupes are a bigger deal.
Thanks for the tips and feedback! I've been working in Google Local for well over 3 years (mainly in an agency format) but have recently broken out on my own. I struggled a bit on where to price my services and initially decided to take the neutral strategy. As I've proven successful with my clients, I've increased my pricing on newly gained clients.

Linda, you are a beacon to us all! Local SEO's and SEO's in general have taken the whatever-it-takes-to-get-the-client pricing approach for too long. Quality services warrant a higher rate, especially in today's filter-filled environment. Great thread!

All I do it partner with the company paid on a per job or lead basis with the promise of a dedicated budget and access to resources. Then as long as you have history on your side your're confident that you are not going to lose money. I make money in 3 months typically. And I can speak from experience when there is no ceiling to what you get paid you find creative ways to preform. It's a relationship that pays over and over again for both of you.

So I never do anything sketchy and I do hard things because I know it will pay off over the long run. And because I have it set to only be paid say 10% of profits then I know I just made them 9 times more then what I took from them. Seems fair to me.

It's like a meaningful marriage.

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