The Truth About Local SEO with Darren Shaw: A Guide for Service Businesses

Dennis Yu Interviewing Darren Shaw on Local SEO

Most SEO agencies rely on your ignorance to make profit.

We’ve talked to hundreds of local service businesses. We can’t count how many business owners pay some agency $3k+/month and have no idea how, if at all, it’s helping.

So how can you tell the fakes apart from legitimate agencies wanting to help?

In a recent episode of the Coach Yu Show, Darren Shaw, a recognized authority in local SEO and founder of WhiteSpark2, shared his insights tailored for home service businesses striving to navigate the complex terrain of local SEO.

And when it comes to local SEO, you don’t get more authoritative than Darren Shaw.

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Darren Shaw at The Driving Sales Executive Summit

Why Are Local Service Businesses Preyed Upon By So Many SEO Agencies?

Many home service businesses, from garage door repair to pest control and plumbing, often navigate through the complexities of local SEO with mixed results.

“There’s a lot of home service business owners out there that are confused about the world of local SEO and how things have changed,” Darren noted during the interview. 

These businesses, he explained, have frequently felt let down by SEO firms, leading to a prevalent distrust in the SEO processes proposed by various agencies. The skepticism is often due to SEO firms promising quick results without substantiating their strategies with real, long-term outcomes.

It leads businesses to feel as though their investments in SEO are not justifiable, pushing them to seek more transparent and accountable partnerships.

This mistrust is compounded by the rapid evolution of SEO practices, where outdated tactics no longer yield the same results, and keeping up with Google’s algorithm changes becomes a job in itself.

For home service businesses, the stakes are high because their local visibility directly affects their ability to attract new customers. Understanding this dynamic is crucial for service providers as they evaluate their marketing strategies and decide where to invest their resources to maximize ROI.

The Importance of Choosing the Right SEO Partner

Darren emphasized the crucial first step in local SEO is selecting a trustworthy partner. “If they have contacted you, they’re probably not very good,” Darren cautioned, pointing out that top-notch SEO firms usually don’t need to rely on cold outreach, as they’re typically inundated with requests due to their proven expertise.

This insight sheds light on the red flags that businesses should watch for when approached by SEO firms, suggesting a need for businesses to seek out firms with a solid track record and excellent referrals.

Additionally, Darren advises that businesses should look for SEO partners who demonstrate a deep understanding of their industry specifics, as generic approaches are less likely to yield significant results.

The ideal SEO firm should not only be well-versed in SEO but also in understanding the specific challenges and opportunities within the service industry it serves. A good partner will work closely with businesses to tailor strategies that are aligned with their unique business goals and customer demographics.

This collaborative approach ensures that SEO efforts are not only technically sound but also practically relevant to the business’s needs. A reliable SEO partner should be transparent about their methodologies, regularly provide analytics and progress reports, and adjust strategies in response to data-driven insights.

Debunking Local SEO Myths

Throughout the interview, Darren addressed several pervasive myths in local SEO, providing clarity on what truly affects rankings versus common misconceptions that lead businesses astray.

For example, he debunked the myths surrounding the impact of setting service areas, using keywords in your Google business profile description, and geotagging images—none of which influence rankings. “Service areas… Keywords in your Google business profile description… Geotagging images… If you hear that one, you should run for the hills,” he advised, highlighting the misinformation that often misguides business owners.

He further emphasized that many businesses waste considerable time and resources on these myths, diverting attention from strategies that could genuinely improve their search visibility.

This misinformation can lead businesses down costly and ineffective paths, ultimately stalling their growth and giving competitors an advantage.

By focusing on proven factors that do impact SEO—such as high-quality content, user experience, and genuine customer reviews—businesses can avoid the pitfalls of SEO myths and build a solid foundation for sustainable growth. 

So What Does Work With SEO For Local Service Businesses?

Focusing on actionable and legitimate SEO tactics, Darren discussed the importance of verifying the authenticity and efficacy of strategies offered by SEO firms.

He pointed to the annual local search ranking factor survey he conducts with top experts in the field, which helps demystify what impacts rankings and what doesn’t.

This survey is a critical resource for businesses to understand the most effective strategies in local SEO. He stressed the importance of adopting a data-driven approach to SEO, where decisions are made based on analytics and measurable outcomes rather than conjecture or outdated practices.

The insights derived from such surveys empower businesses to prioritize their SEO efforts effectively, focusing on high-impact areas that offer the most return on investment. For instance, optimizing Google My Business profiles, acquiring high-quality backlinks, and enhancing local citations are all areas highlighted by experts in Darren’s surveys.

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Example of a Google My Business Profile

By focusing on these areas, businesses not only improve their rankings but also enhance their online reputation, which is crucial for attracting local customers.

What Are The Right Tools To Use For Local SEO?

Darren elaborated on the functionalities of WhiteSpark2’s newly launched GBP management software, which simplifies the management of Google My Business (GMB) profiles—a key component of local SEO.

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“We have packages at $500 a month, which is just managing a Google business profile and getting that ranking,” he explained, showcasing how WhiteSpark2 has made high-level SEO services accessible for small businesses through reasonable pricing.

This software helps streamline the management process, ensuring that GMB profiles are consistently optimized and up-to-date, which is crucial for maintaining visibility in local search results.

The tool’s capability to monitor and alert businesses to any changes in their GMB profiles helps prevent potential sabotage or errors that could negatively impact their SEO performance.

Such proactive management is essential in the dynamic landscape of local SEO, where businesses must quickly adapt to changes and updates. By leveraging these tools, businesses can focus more on their core operations while maintaining an effective online presence, ultimately leading to better customer engagement and increased sales.

Building a Strong Local SEO Foundation

Expounding on the foundation of a successful local SEO strategy, Darren emphasized the importance of building a strong online presence through genuine, white-hat SEO tactics.

This involves not only avoiding the pitfalls of black-hat techniques but also actively engaging in practices that enhance a business’s credibility and visibility online.

Implementing structured data, optimizing site speed, and ensuring mobile-friendliness are all fundamental aspects that businesses should address to build a robust SEO foundation.

In addition to these technical elements, creating valuable content that addresses the needs and questions of the target audience can significantly boost a business’s SEO efforts.

Content that educates, informs, and engages the audience will not only improve search engine rankings but also build trust and authority in the industry. Darren’s approach encourages businesses to adopt sustainable and ethical SEO strategies that foster long-term growth and customer loyalty.

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Darren Shaw Speaking at Mozcon In 2019

Next Steps for Local Service Agencies to Enhance SEO

For local service agencies ready to refine their SEO and boost their online presence, Darren Shaw suggests a methodical approach focused on both strategic assessments and practical implementations. Here’s how agencies can start:

  1. Conduct a Comprehensive SEO Audit: The first step is to thoroughly understand the current state of your SEO. This involves examining your Google My Business listing, your website’s structure, content quality, backlink profile, and local listings for accuracy and optimization. An audit will highlight areas that require immediate attention and help prioritize efforts.
  1. Focus on Google My Business Optimization: Given the importance of GMB in local search, Darren emphasizes ensuring that your profile is fully optimized and active. This includes accurate and complete information, regular updates, and engaging with customer reviews. Agencies should make use of all GMB features like posts, Q&A, and messaging to enhance engagement and visibility.
  1. Implement Effective, White-Hat SEO Strategies: Drawing from the debunked myths and effective tactics discussed in the interview, agencies should invest in strategies that genuinely affect their rankings. This includes producing high-quality, relevant content, enhancing the user experience on their websites, and building reputable backlinks. Avoid shortcuts and focus on strategies that provide value to both users and search engines.
  1. Leverage Local SEO Tools: Tools like WhiteSpark2’s GBP management software can significantly streamline the management of local SEO tasks. These tools can help maintain the accuracy of your listings, alert you to unauthorized changes, and provide insights into your local SEO performance. Investing in reliable tools can save time and reduce the complexity of managing multiple aspects of local SEO.
  1. Educate Yourself and Your Team: Continuous learning is key to staying ahead in the dynamic field of SEO. Darren advises agencies to keep abreast of the latest trends, algorithm updates, and best practices by engaging with authoritative SEO resources and participating in industry discussions. This ongoing education can empower teams to implement the most current and effective SEO strategies.
  1. Measure and Adjust Your Strategies: SEO is not a set-it-and-forget-it discipline. It requires ongoing monitoring and adjustments based on performance data. Agencies should regularly review their SEO metrics to understand what’s working and what isn’t. This data-driven approach allows for agile adjustments to strategies, ensuring that SEO efforts are always aligned with business goals.
Dennis Yu
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.