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Case Study: How We Took a Local Service Business From Unknown To 400+ Calls Per Month

At Colorstone Marketing, we’ve worked with a lot of clients and achieved some amazing results in very different industries. 

I’m going to show you how we took one business from a startup with no website to over 400 calls per month – in a very short period of time. 

There are some key strategies that make all the difference in local SEO – ignore them and you will not get the same results. 

But I’m sharing the whole strategy from start to finish with you. Why? Because when it comes to local SEO, all websites and locations are different. So you need to figure out what your site needs by going through the whole process. 

Here’s a glimpse of the calls this month: 

telephone calls local business
phone calls tracking results

Now let’s learn how you can do this for your business…

Click Here To Schedule a Call With Colorstone Marketing >>>

Initial Analysis

When I’m the one building a site from scratch, I know exactly how I want it to look, perform, which pages should be the primary landing pages, the keywords to target, etc. 

But I work with tons of clients that have existing sites that weren’t built with the same level of SEO attention. This means there’s generally a lot to fix from an on-site and technical standpoint. 

When starting with an existing site, I go through several SEO “buckets” broken down into: 

  • Keyword research 
  • On-site audit
  • Backlink audit 
  • Competitor research 

Below I’ll explain each one so you can duplicate the work for your business.

Keyword Research

One of the first and most important steps in local SEO is to know what your targets are. You’ve heard the saying that if you don’t know where you’re going, any path will get you there. 

In SEO, your targets are the best keywords in your industry and location. 

How do you find them? 

Using a tool like Ahrefs or Semrush, I start with a few seed keywords and filter them down using town modifiers. For example, if you’re an exterminator in Sacramento, go into Ahrefs and type in “exterminator, exterminators, pest control”. 

This is what you’ll see: 

pest control keywords screenshot (1)

Next, go into the “include” tab and type in your town(s). In this case, we’re using Sacramento. This is what you’ll see: 

pest control keywords with town modifier (1)

Notice that the top keyword is “pest control Sacramento”. It has 600 searches per month and a keyword difficulty of 28. 

On the right side, you’ll also see the column for “parent topic”. 

This is the main topic for that keyword. So, by winning the main term “pest control Sacramento”, you’ll show up for many of the variations where “pest control Sacramento” is the parent topic as well. 

Variations for this topic include: 

  • Sacramento pest control – 150 searches/month
  • Pest control Sacramento, CA – 100 searches/month 
  • Exterminator Sacramento – 80 searches/month 
  • Best pest control Sacramento – 80 searches/month 

And the list goes on. In other words, using the keyword volume above, if you win for “Pest control Sacramento, you’ll stand a solid chance of ranking for its variations and bringing in over 1,000 monthly visitors from your local area, looking for your service. 

And according to Google, “76% of people who conduct a local search contact a business within 24 hours, and 28% of those searches result in a purchase of a service(1).”

This is exactly what we did for this client. 

We found the primary seed keyword, then used the town modifier and optimized the home page for the parent topic. 

Side note: If you have multiple service locations, you’ll do this same research for each of your individual location landing pages. 

It’s also important to note that there are times where the keyword tools don’t produce many results. 

In these scenarios, you can reverse engineer the competition but I won’t dive into that right now because it’s a whole nother topic. I have another case study coming in the future where I’ll show you how to do this so stay tuned. 

Right now, this business only serves one area so I’ll keep it focused on that.

Click Here To Schedule a Call With Colorstone Marketing >>>

On-Site Audit

With this business, I had the luxury of building the site. But you may already have a website built, which is the case for most clients that I work with. 

So here’s what my team and I do when working on an existing website. 

  1. Identifying target landing pages: If you have a site with a variety of service area pages, we do the keyword research process outlined above for each page. 
  2. Site audit: Using a tool like Ahrefs or Sitebulb we run a robot crawl of your website to find any issues with broken links, slow pages, missing H1 tags, etc. Often there are many issues like this so it can take quite a bit of work to get your site back up to a healthy range. Below is a picture of what it looks like for a site with errors. However, on this particular site, we built it from scratch so there were no issues.
  3. Internal architecture: Internal links are a big deal when it comes to SEO because they show Google how to navigate your site, which pages are most important, and structure your information in a way that gives importance to the pages that matter most. 
  4. Basic elements: With local, it’s very important that you have your name, address, and phone number clearly on the site (NAP) as well as clear click-to-call buttons and forms. 

After reviewing the website, we make a plan to fix any errors that we find. Your site is like the foundation of your house. If it’s not solid, your SEO results will be significantly impaired. 

Ahrefs site audit (1)

Backlink Audit

If you’re starting a new site, there won’t be any backlinks or unbalanced anchor text to worry about. But when taking over sites for clients, there are several things we audit: 

  • Anchor Text: Do all of the links have anchor text that says “pest control Sacramento”? If so, it’s over-optimized and needs to be fixed. Conversely, if none of your links have your target term, this is also an issue. The way we find the right ratio for your area is by looking at the top competitors and assessing what percent of their links are branded, target, and naked URLs. 
  • Link Distribution: With local SEO, it’s common that the majority of the links point to the home page. But we look into the distribution to make sure there are no unbalanced ratios (aka a ton of links to one internal page compared to the rest). 
  • Link Quality: How are the links in terms of the quality of the sites they’re coming from. If you have a bunch of links from Chinese sites and pharmaceutical sites, we want to remove these. 
  • Citations: Does the business have citations, how many, and are they consistent. I dive into citations more in-depth below. 

Competitor Research

marketing competitor research image

With SEO, you have to constantly review your competitors and check up on what they’re doing. The details are everything and you’ll find that many of the sites holding the local top spots are missing even basic best practices. 

With this site, we found that many of the top guys were lacking local content, missing NAP information, didn’t have proper titles on the pages, and didn’t have many service pages. 

Even though many of their sites had been around for years and ours was brand new, these missing elements gave us ground to compete on. Couple that with enough local content and quality links and you can almost always beat the competition. 

Content Strategy

After identifying the weaknesses in your competition, the next thing to do is plan your content strategy. For local SEO, there are a few main types of content that you need: 

  • Target landing pages 
  • Service pages 
  • Supporting content

Target Landing Pages

Target landing pages are the pages that you’re trying to rank – these are your money-making pages because it’s where people go to call you or fill out a form on your website.  

Needless to say, you want to identify these first because all of your efforts are geared around ranking these pages. 

One easy way to plan your strategy is to look at your competitors. Are they targeting multiple areas? 

For example, is their home page all about pest control in Sacramento, or do they have a “service area” page with lots of individual pages geared towards the surrounding towns. If they have lots of service area pages, then that can be a competitive advantage for you. 

Since your home page is almost always the strongest page on your site, making it the main target page for your town gives you an edge. 

With this business, the competitors had dedicated home pages so that’s what we did. 

But if you’re already targeting multiple service areas, or if that’s the strategy I was going to use on this site, the first thing I do is look at which towns are within our service area. 

There may be a lot of towns and pages to create which can be overwhelming. 

When there are, I use a keyword research tool like Ahrefs to identify search volume in each town. 

Once I have this data, I start building the pages with the highest search volume and work my way down the list. This simplifies the process and gives you the best ROI on your efforts.

Click Here To Schedule a Call With Colorstone Marketing >>>

Service Pages

image of a local services app

Service pages serve a few purposes: 

  • They make your site an authority and more relevant to Google. Think about it, Google wants to show the best results to the user. So, if your site has pages about every type of service in your industry and your competitors don’t, you’re clearly the better result to show. 
  • They give you more sales opportunities. When someone searches for a specific service and lands on your page, they’re likely to fill out your lead form or call you for service. 

For this site and all websites that I take over, one of the first things I do is build out the service pages. For pest control, this would be all of the pages for termite services, bed bugs, etc. 

On this project, we identified 10 service pages that needed to be built and got to work building them. Your service pages don’t have to be 2,000 words but you want to aim for at least 500 words of content on each one.

Supporting Content

Are your competitors writing blogs on their sites? If so, look at many posts they have and which towns they’re writing about. 

With local SEO, your blogs can be basic 500-word posts about your service and town. 

For example, using the pest control in Sacramento example, a blog post could be something as simple as, “5 things you didn’t know about mice in Sacramento”. This gives your website location and topical relevance so the more the better. 

If you’re targeting multiple service areas, you use the same strategy with one exception. 

You pick your target areas with the highest search volume and write posts for each of these towns instead of just the one. The number of posts you need for each town depends on how active your competitors are. 

With this site, we made a list of 50 blog topics which gives us enough content for about a year. Then we publish 4/month and keep the site fresh and current with Google. 

User Intent

User intent is one of the most overlooked things in SEO. But it’s something you don’t want to miss. Google is always shuffling the search results to put the websites that match what the user wants higher and the ones that don’t lower. 

SEO is all about getting higher in the search results right? 

Put simply, user intent means that you’re providing an answer that the user wants. They intend to get the answer and if you give it to them, you’ve matched their intent. 

In practical use, this means writing for the user and not the algorithm. When a user searches “how much does an iPhone weigh”, they don’t want to sift through a 10,000-word post. They want a quick answer. 

Alternatively, if they’re searching for “how to kill bed bugs”, they want step-by-step instructions and not a single sentence answer. 

One easy way to figure out if you’re hitting the mark is by simply looking at your competition. 

Google a term that you want to rank for, look at the top 3-5 posts, and see what they’ve written. Take note of how long their posts/pages are and what subtopics they’re covering. Then make yours similar but better.

Links & Citations

backlink vector of two websites linking to each other

When you’re trying to beat your competition, content, and links are the way to do it. 

Fortunately, when you’re competing in Local SEO, the links don’t have to be from the New York Times. Instead, the best links for your site are the ones from local resources, other companies in your industry, and even directories. 

Sometimes you’ll need to do some guest posting on higher-powered blogs but that’s reserved for when you’re stuck and can’t seem to climb any higher. 

Let’s talk about the three types of links you’ll want to pay attention to for your local business: 

  • Citations: Citations are not really links. They’re actually mentions of your brand that may come with a nofollow link to your site. They’re important in Local SEO because they contain your business name, address, phone number, and often a short bit about your business. Google does find these and they’re important because real businesses generally have them. 
  • Off-site links: Off-site links are also called backlinks. These are simply other sites that link to yours. 
  • Internal links: An internal link is a link from a page on your site to another page on your site. 

Below I’ll show you how to get these and why they matter. 

Click Here To Schedule a Call With Colorstone Marketing >>>

Citations

The first citations you’ll want to set up for a new business are your social profiles. I recommend that you set up Google My Business, Facebook, Yelp, Instagram, and Linkedin to start. 

If you plan on making videos for your local business, I also recommend YouTube because it has the power to drive a ton of traffic to your site and position you as an expert in your field. It can also help you get more local rankings for your business. 

After setting up your social profiles, you want to build more citations than your competitors. In local SEO, most businesses have less than 100 citations to their businesses so it’s relatively easy to beat.

But if you want to get granular on the competitive research, you can use a tool like whitesparks local citation finder to see how many citations your competitors have. Like I said though, for most local businesses it’s less than 100 so I build 200 citations to be extra sure. 

Citations can be very tedious to build because you have to input your business information several hundred times. 

Instead of doing that, use a service like Brightlocal, Whitespark, or SEO Butler to buy your citations. Since citations are essentially just mentions of your business information without backlinks, there’s no reason to overly stress about them. 

For this site, I used Brightlocal to submit our information to the big data aggregators. This was enough for us to move on with the links.

Getting Backlinks For Your Local Business

local link building vector

Backlinks are a big topic in SEO because they’re one of the most impacting things you can do to move the needle on rankings. 

But they’re also notoriously hard to get if you’re untrained. After all, how do you get another person to take the time to go into their website and add a link pointing to your website? 

Below I’ll show you three of the best techniques for your local business. 

Reverse Engineering Competitor Links

Fortunately, in Local SEO, there are many free directories that can get your site moving in the right direction with minimal work. 

The first thing you want to do is reverse engineer your competition. 

Using Ahrefs, put the competitor’s site into the site explorer. Then select “Backlinks” on the left-hand menu. Next filter by “one link per domain” and then set link type to “dofollow”. 

backlink screenshot

This will give you a list of your competitor’s backlinks. Now you filter through that list and try to get as many of the same links as you can. 

This action should be repeated for all of your top competitors and by the time you’re done, you’ll have a solid foundation for your local website. 

Note: If you’re in a small market and your competitors don’t have many links, go to an adjacent market/town and do this with the sites in that area.

Local Links

The next links you want to build are from local businesses. 

To get links from businesses in your area, one of the most effective things you can do is write review posts. 

For example, make a post with the “top 10 coffee shops in {your town name}”. 

Then reach out to all of the shops and let them know that you reviewed them and politely ask them if they would be willing to link to your review. 

Most won’t link to you but with volume and effort, you’ll get some. These local links are huge signals to Google and really good for establishing your website at the top. 

For this website, we didn’t have to go this far because the local links combined with some guest posts got us to the top. 

Generally, we would build local links first but I have a solid guest posting system that works so that’s the direction I went. For you, it’s going to be easier (in most cases) to do the local review posts. 

Here’s a screenshot of some of the links we built for this business:

referring domains screenshot1

High-Powered Guest Posts

If your site’s still stuck after that, you’ll need to do some high-powered guest posts. A guest post is simply a blog you write for someone else’s website in exchange for a link back to your website. 

The key is to make sure your post is good, you’re very selective in who you reach out to, and that you choose related industries to write posts on. 

As an example, if you’re in pest control, you can write posts on blogs about gardening (keeping pests out of your garden). In fact, this is a strategy I’ve used many times. 

For this site, we used this strategy and built around 5-6 solid links on related websites. This was more than enough to get us to the top.  

But when you’re choosing who to write for, make sure the site has a high authority and a decent amount of traffic. You also want to make sure that it’s not a spammy site that allows just anyone to post on it. This can harm your site more than it helps.

Click Here To Schedule a Call With Colorstone Marketing >>>

Internal linking

Internal links are a quick way to give your site an SEO boost. Internal links are just like backlinks except you’re linking from a page on your site to another page on your site. 

But before you go crazy adding links everywhere, there’s a method to the madness. 

In local SEO, your homepage is almost always the strongest from a backlink perspective. So you should be linking to your main services pages from your home page. 

Additionally, you should link all of your service pages to each other and link each of them back to your home page. This creates a loop that passes link juice to and from your strongest pages. 

That’s a lot to follow so here’s how I do it as an example: 

Main location page: 

  • San Diego Pest Control

Service pages: 

  • Termite treatments 
  • Bed bug treatments 
  • Residential 
  • Commercial 
  • Integrated Pest Management
  • Etc. 

Each service page links to all other service pages (in a sidebar menu or something like that) and then back to the homepage. 

If you have a multi-location business, then you link your service pages to each other and then, instead of linking to the home page, link back to your “service area” page.

Google My Business

This section could arguably be at the very top of this post because it’s so important. Most people that search for local businesses look at the “map pack” first. 

What’s the map pack?

It’s the top 3 local results you see just below the map:

Google map pack

It contains the name of the business, star rating, website link, directions, etc. If you own a local business, it’s imperative that you claim your GMB page and fully fill it out. 

A study by Google found that “70% of mobile searchers use click to call and that calls are an important channel for consumers(2).”

With most people using their phones for local searches these days, you can see that being in the top 3 spots is critical to your business’s success. 

The first step is to claim your page then start getting reviews. Notice that the businesses at the top usually have tons of reviews – that’s not a coincidence. Make sure you fill out all of your services, add local photos, link to your website, and keep a steady stream of content being posted on your GMB page. 

Google likes to reward businesses that keep producing new content which can help you compete even if you don’t have nearly as many reviews. 

With this business, that’s exactly what we did and are doing – and the results speak for themselves. 

Results

telephone calls local business
phone calls tracking results

We got 273 calls from the main number and another 140 calls from our other two tracking numbers over a 30 day period. The two arrows above point to the other two tracking numbers. 

In total, that makes 413 calls in a one-month period of time!

And because of that, the business is quickly becoming the largest one in their space over a very short period of time. 

As you can see, SEO definitely works and can make a tremendous impact on your business. 

But not every business is the same and each town has different competitors. That’s why I showed you the whole strategy above. 

You can duplicate these results on your own with the information provided above or just reach out to us and let the team at Colorstone Marketing handle it for you.

Book a Consultation With Colorstone Marketing

If you own a local business and want to work with a company that knows what they’re doing, book a consultation with me today. We can help you with website design that converts, SEO that works, and Google Ads to get clients calling you fast so you can focus on growing your business. 

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