I love a good side-hustle. So much, my side-hustles have side-hustles. My hustle of choice is lead generation, specifically local lead generation. They are pretty quick to get going, there is no client hand holding, and you can make good money.
I have been putting local lead gen sites together for some time now, both for clients and myself and now I’d like to walk you through it – should you be interested. Caution: Do not do this if you don’t have another steady source of income. This can be time and capital intensive, and I’d hate for you to go broke doing it. I did – a couple times.
Before I get started, much credit goes to Chris Carter (insane forum community contributions) and Mike Ramsey (recent Local SEO novel of a post), who don’t know it, but inspired me to hammer this post out.
If you are a local SEO, and only interested in promoting your client’s blue and red widgets, this is probably not for you, however you might pick up a couple tasty tips along the way.
Local businesses and SEOs alike, I apologize in advance…
Before you start any project, ask yourself: “am I interested in this?” Am I willing to put in the time it takes to learn?” Now, come up with a dozen possibilities and sit on them for a couple weeks. If you are anything like me, most, if not all, of those original ideas are no longer as appealing. The point is you are going to be hard pressed to find success in anything you aren’t at least a bit interested in – even if you are just selling leads.
Once you have a couple ideas, make sure other people are interested in them. Do those ideas have a decent EXACT match search volume? I like to use a combination of Google’s Keyword Tools and SerpIQ. And do the folks searching for them have commercial intent? Are the terms being searched because the searcher wants to buy something? If so, continue along.
Before going any further, MAKE SURE you have someone willing to buy the leads from you. I have seen way too many people venture into this without a buyer, get leads, and then can’t sell them. Some people are also too lazy to call around and find an able buyer.
Know the law. There are niches where you can get into some trouble for doing this. A couple of examples that come to mind are the legal and real estate niches. It also would pay to know Google Local’s rules. Know the rules before you bend/break them, otherwise you are looking for a world of hurt.
So you’ve got something you are interested in, and you found some good terms. The next step is coming up with a business name/domain. This isn’t a crappy adfarm, nor is it some half-ass microsite—we are building a profitable, traffic dense, well-ranking business. So forget about silly TLDs like .net, .co, .us, .biz, etc. Next, think branding (not keyword stuffing). Just because I say branding doesn’t mean you have permission to come up with some silly misspelling, or wordplay – you aren’t VC backed, alright?
Now, I didn’t say don’t put any keyword in there. If your intention is to limit this site to a specific city, put your city in your domain. If you have larger aspirations, leave the city name for your inner pages, and use your most important single keyword.
Hosting & CMS
It was only until this site came to a screaming halt, did I decide to, for the first time ever, invest in some decent hosting. I won’t tell you what’s good (because that will cause an argument), but I will tell you that you don’t want to be placed on the same IP as a someone who is pounding out spam mail, who has been hacked and is doing the same, or someone who just has no business being in a shared situation. Time is money, and I am not going to wait while your peasant hosting loads your site—I am moving on.
Unless you are a developer, use WordPress. Save yourself from building another site, and use a responsive theme like this one so you look good on mobile devices. As far as plugins are concerned, keep things as light as possible. If you don’t absolutely need it, don’t download it. It will only add more load time.
Go the extra mile, and read this article, specifically the part pertaining to site architecture and content.
Before I start any lead-gen project, I get the blog running hot. If you didn’t before, expand your keyword research, and use Google suggest (and/or Ubersuggest) and related search results to come up with great long tails. I also like to search question/answer sites for super popular questions relevant to my niche. I will have my copywriters put together 100 titles that you can’t help but click. If you don’t have a copywriter, and want to do it on the cheap, check this post out. Have the writer create titles like:
- …. 5 Facts You Must Know Before It’s Too Late
- 10 bizarre and interesting facts we learned about …
- 10 crazy ways to ….
- Don’t fall for these ….
- Top 10 …. this week/month/year/decade
Each of my articles will be 4-500 words, and will target a small set of long tails, 2 or 3 at most. You want to rank these in organic search, so optimize them like you would anything else. Once complete, post 20+ articles right away. Going forward, at minimum, post one well-optimized (with pictures), article per day. Schedule them so you don’t have to come back and mess around with it. When you are scheduling these articles, I like to toss in my relevant out bound links, as well as the occasional internal link, pointing at one of my top level pages (my landers). Keep the anchor text super diverse.
While you are creating content, let’s get another lander(s) set up. If your goal is to target just one city, then use your home page in Google Local. However, we also want to rank an organic listing in the SERPs, so create a page with a keyword rich URL (/cityname-keyword) and throw 1500 well-optimized words on it. If you are going to be targeting multiple cities, then you would do this for each (at least major city) city you are targeting. You want it to age as much as possible. Make sure to optimize the page for your keywords and such. Why? Read this.
Every post should receive its share of social signals as well. You can do this manually yourself, but I would suggest sourcing this piece out to people on sites like Fiverr or using a tool like Synnd. Despite popular belief, if you dig around and know exactly what you are looking for, good stuff can be found on site like Fiverr.
For the first month or two, I don’t build anything other than local SEO type links (citations) or social signals/links.
Final thought: Let’s be clear, this isn’t $50-100 per 500 words content. So, “if your content is good enough, it should promote itself” really doesn’t apply here. I wouldn’t pay more than $10/article.
Look the part, and at minimum put together a Facebook, Twitter, G+ (for authorship), Youtube, Feedburner and LinkedIn accounts. Add all the logos to your site. I might also check out something like Knowem for the links/citations. Personally I have grabbed Knowem’s list, and submit them by hand. These automated services tend to do the bare minimum. If it’s me, I want to fill out every field possible. Stuff it with content, and find a way to include NAP every time. I recently read a piece by Bill Slawski, and have gotten extra paranoid about this sort of thing. You really want to create as much value as possible on these things.
For your main accounts, you can’t look important if you have two followers. If you only have two followers you might as well have never made the damn thing. You may frown upon this, but my next step would be to pay people with big followings/accounts to promote me. Again, services like Fiverr come in handy here. Yes, the quality of followers is going to blow, but this is a psychological thing. I am not trying to profit from these followers. I would aim to have atleast 1k followers/likes/whatever on each account.
Next, load these accounts up in Hootsuite, Tweetdeck or Buffer and queue up posts for a couple months or so – few a day or whatever. Maybe have a VA do this for you. When I am building out a social account I am almost never promoting myself. Promote your competitors and others in your niche/industry. Check out Google News, Alltops, Quora and search Google for “niche” “blog” for content to share. Get your hashtag on, and feature 1-2 hashtags in most all tweets. While this will look good from an activity stand point, it will also help you pad you followers with some legit people in case someone gets curious. Don’t worry about self-promoting your blog posts.
If after 30 days, and all the above work, you still think this is a good idea, please proceed.
Easy: go to fiverr and get one done for $5.
Name, address and phone number (NAP)
UPS/Davinci/Regus spaces/boxes are out – trust me. Either rent a small space (shared) in an office building (near the centroid) or check out the co-working shops that are popping up everywhere. Should be able to find something for $200ish. Grab a local phone number via Twilio, Skype or Google Voice. They are your cheapest options. $10 tops. Throw NAP in the footer for starters, followed by a location page, and wherever else you think necessary. Remember, your site can be your best citation source of all, so take advantage. See microdata for next step.
Note: Now would be a good time to send out that Google+ Local post card as it will take 2-3 weeks to arrive. Double note: The name, address and phone you used in your Local page, MUST match what appears EVERYWHERE else.
Service 3-5 clients for free or cheap, and get written and video testimonials from them. You should be able to dream up a way to find people looking for work done on the cheap (classifieds, paper, etc.) In the past I made a deal with the individual I was going to be selling the leads to, and he was able to get the work done super cheap. Remember, you are shouldering all the risk here – they should be willing to help a bit.
Kindly mention that should they be interested in leaving reviews, there are ways they could do so – no pressure ; ). We certainly wouldn’t want to outright solicit them. Nor would we go to Fiverr and pay someone to videotape themselves saying good things about our business. Throw these in a sidebar. See microdata for next step.
If you can mark it up, DO IT.
- Testimonials (don’t tell Mike W. I suggested this)
- Long & Lat
Until Google issues a statement saying who shouldn’t mark up what, it is to your advantage that you use such things. Here is a link to a good tutorial.
While Google no longer recognizes Geo-sitemaps, they do still support KML files. Here is a good tutorial on creating them. I either link to the KML file in my footer, and/or my sitemap.
Put a Google map in your footer site-wide.
Whichever page you are using in your Google Local page, have your title tag include business name, city and keyword(s). Your description the same plus phone number.
How many legit sites do you know that don’t have a contact form? Create contact/lead forms with a strong call to action. If you want to get fancy, check out this article. Make sure you are also collecting this data for later use – I generally use MailChimp.
In month two you can move your blog to /blog and reclaim your home page. Here is a great infographic with a good example of what a local lander should look like. You should also begin building out your about, service, and other typical pages. Once this is looked after, go ahead and get set up in Google Webmaster Tools.
You want as much content as you can get away with and still look good/convert well. My sites get no less than 1k words on the home page. Some of my colleagues will put upwards of 3k words on the home page, because they know that is going to get them ranking well. Most people are busy, and lazy, so break this content down into all kinds of lists, quotes, videos, and pictures, whatever. It works. Check out some of Neil Patel’s sites – there is a reason behind everything he does. He doesn’t just make this stuff up. Also, use all those headers tags: H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, H6…
Privacy, disclaimer, Etc.
These sorts of things just make you more legit. I tend to “grab one off the shelf” so to speak, make a couple of edits, and throw it on my site. Make these pages no-index as you can bet others have these on their sites. You may want to mention that you are a lead generation site : ).
Let’s be honest, you don’t need people calling you, asking you tons of questions, and wasting your time. Spend some time, and save yourself a lot more. Take this opportunity to slip in some upsells when possible.
Trust Icons & Social Trust
This is kind of up to you, and how comfortable you are with bending/breaking the rules. You could put some trust icons earned by the fellow you are referring leads to. You could just put them on anyways. The worst thing I have ever heard happen was someone got called out, received a C&D and removed the logos.
Again, totally depends on how far you are willing to push things. One of my favorite examples was someone who created an “As Featured On…” bar, and put logos like Yelp, InsiderPages, etc. I guarantee 99% of the time, visitors who saw this assigned trust.
As far as social trust goes, I don’t think you necessarily have to get a tweet to featuring someone saying “You are the best plumber in the world.” Instead, if you could provoke someone to just say something good about you…it would go nearly as far. A couple good tweets posted on your lander will go a long way to humanizing your site, and creating a bit more trust. How you get them is on you ; ).
Get these done well before that post card arrives. You should have as many high quality citations as possible indexed before you activate your listing. Where should you submit to? Check out this, this and this. Want more? Use this. Don’t want to do the grunt work? Let these guys do it, here and here. It has always been my experience that I can rank a business faster that exists (has business data indexed) than one that doesn’t. My assumption is, when you activate your listing, Google goes crawling for this information, and sizes you up. Do we trust you, or don’t we? Remember those first clients? Kindly direct them to your better citations to leave reviews.
REMEMBER: citations are merely occurrences of business data, specifically name, address, and phone number (NAP). Too many fail to grasp that a citation isn’t a local business directory. Because of that, I will outrank them every time. Google has shown its cards, and tells us that it recognizes, with esteem, all kinds of sites. WIDEN your scope, and every opportunity you get, drop that NAP. Here are just some of my favorite alternative spots:
- Videos (YT, Vimeo, Meta Café, Daily Motion, more)
- Photo Sharing (Flickr, Panoramio, Picasa, etc)
- Social Profiles (think Knowem)
- Blogs (think guest blog posts)
Similar to social profiles, you want bloated citations. If they allow 250 words, you write 250, well optimized words. If they allow 5 categories, try for 6. Not only because you want to provide maximum value to visitors, and send along more authority (or so the theory goes), but also you will have these profiles show up for your brand terms. If someone is checking you out, and finds little to nothing…how does that look?
Google Local Page
There are a million and one tutorials on how to properly optimize your listing. I won’t explain how, but here is what I think most important.
Categories – don’t be the doofus that fills out only one because your service only matches one of Google’s suggested categories. Choose one of Google’s and add custom ones for the other four. By custom I mean your keywords, minus the city name. Ideally, you want to use keywords that explain who you are, not what you do. You are a baker, you aren’t fresh baked bread.
Description – Use every allowable character, and make sure it is well optimized for your keywords, but not spammy. Google indexes this portion now, so take advantage.
Completeness – fill everything out. If you can help it, don’t leave a field empty.
Organic Link Building
Ever since Google’s Venice update, organic link building has been crucial to good local standings. Especially if your keywords trigger a blended result, which is the more organic appearing result page. Do not think that you can still push top local rankings without getting links. I like to chase/build any link where I can drop NAP. Double the benefit! I generally like to start link building (non-social links/signals) near the end of month two.
Month 3 & Onwards…
The rest is on you!
You now have a legit looking, local site—traffic coming in on the long tail—and are well on your way to ranking for your core terms.
In month 3 you are going to want to:
- Keep the content flowing
- Analyze traffic behavior – Google Analytics will suffice
- Optimize CTAs –titles, buttons, etc.
- Create a dead simple, effective sales funnel,
- Diversify your traffic sources