With local SEO, you’ve either got client work, rank and rent, or lead generation. The easiest of these, by far, is the rank and rent model.
But is it necessarily the best?
In this guide, we’re diving into the business of ranking and renting local business websites, how to do it, and whether it’s the right business model for you.
- 1 What is Rank and Rent?
- 2 What types of businesses rent websites?
- 3 The benefits of this model
- 4 The potential downsides
- 5 How to rank and rent websites
- 6 Final Thoughts
What is Rank and Rent?
Rank and Rent is a business model involving ranking local business websites high in search engines, then renting the website(s), and therefore traffic, to a business that would benefit from this traffic and leads.
It’s similar to real estate in that you find something of value i.e. a shop with a lot of people passing by, or in this case, a website with a lot of potential customers visiting it. Then you rent that property out to a business that can benefit from this.
This works especially well for SEOs, as there’s few ongoing costs once the website is ranked.
If you’re able to rank a website #1 in Google for “porta pottys in [City Name]” and this website receives 300 visitors a month, you’re not paying per visitor like with PPC (Pay-Per-Click). It’s free traffic, besides the initial setup costs.
That means when you rent it out to a business, for say, $900 per month. This is almost all profit, besides fixed costs.
When you do this across several websites, this becomes a business.
What types of businesses rent websites?
Now you may be thinking, what type of business will rent a website?
Well, the answer is quite surprising.
The more important question is which businesses will benefit from search engine rankings? And which types of businesses are the easiest to rank?
Let’s give an example:
There’s a local shop in your town that sells custom designed handbags. How many people do you believe are searching in Google for custom designed handbags in your local area every month? Probably a small number, right?
So for businesses where there’s few people searching, there’s little profitability with rank and rent.
This also applies when there’s low profit margins per client.
Maybe people do search for phone covers or local car washing companies, but the profit per customer is so low, these companies would need a significant amount of new customers to justify the investment.
Therefore, we’re looking for businesses with the following requirements:
- People are searching for their products/services locally
- They sell a fairly profitable service ($500+ purchase price)
- And ideally it’s easy for us to rank these websites (less work)
Now within these requirements, we have an endless list of industries to work in from real estate, to plumbers, roofers, various rental companies, and many more.
And all we’re looking for is businesses that want to grow. That’s it.
Renting a website is no different to purchasing advertising, we have a piece of valuable digital real estate, they’re paying us to rent this and get in front of potential customers.
The benefits of this model
The benefits of the Rank and Rent model are clear when we look at the end result.
Imagine having a portfolio of 10 websites rented out for anywhere from $500-$800 per month each. The maintenance of these websites is negligible, the profitability is extremely high, so you’re making anywhere from $5,000-$8,000 per month in near all-profit with little work.
This obviously excludes the initial work going into ranking the websites and then the work to find someone to rent it, but even that is easier when compared to the alternatives.
If your skill-set is in SEO, the alternatives are likely to be client work or affiliate SEO.
For Client SEO, the biggest difference is going to be the ease of signing clients and the ease of managing clients. With Rank and Rent, you don’t need to convince a client you can get them results, as you’ve already got the results. And for managing them, you’re not doing work for them, it’s just a rental, so again this is significantly easier.
As for Affiliate SEO, the upside is there’s significantly less competition in rank and rent because it’s local SEO. Whereas an affiliate website may take 8-12 months or longer to start making money, a rank and rent website can be ranking within 4 months or less.
The potential downsides
As I’m not here to sell you a course, I’m going to be quite blunt with the downsides.
On a per client basis, it’s obviously less profitable than client work.
A client would prefer their own website is ranking, not renting yours, so you’re unlikely to get paid as much as doing it for them. The counter-balance to this is it’s significantly easier to manage a rental client than a full-client.
I’d also argue it’s easier to rank a client website, but the argument against this is understandable. Rank and Rent allows you to have a lot of control over the niche and keywords, but with the added downside of ranking a brand new website, unlike an established one a client is likely to have.
This can also make ranking within the GoogleMyBusiness pack difficult, as it’s not so easy to get a verified local address when you don’t have a real business.
The final downside is dependent on your approach. If you want to make more money, you can track and sell leads, shifting into a lead generation model. This is more profitable but with significantly more work added, as lead tracking and qualification is a serious headache. Therefore, I would recommend simply sticking to renting websites and not selling the leads.
How to rank and rent websites
Now that we’ve covered the big picture details, let’s dive into the processes of how exactly you can build your first rank and rent website. Then, simply rinse and repeat.
There are 10 steps to doing this:
- Choose a niche
- Research keywords
- Audit competitors
- Select a domain
- Setup a website
- Structuring the website
- Writing the content
- Getting into the GMB pack
- Building offpage signals
- Renting out your website
Choosing a Niche
In the second section of this guide, we briefly introduced some niche requirements:
- People are searching for their products/services locally
- They sell a fairly profitable service ($500+ purchase price)
- And ideally it’s easy for us to rank these websites (less work)
But I’d like to take that even further now and walk you through what I believe are the best niches and how to find them.
Before that, we need to step-back a little bit. The main reason for doing Rank and Rent versus Affiliate SEO is because the competition is less in local search. Therefore, to remain in line with this thought-process, you need select low competition niches.
Ranking for personal injury lawyer keywords is definitely going to be highly profitable, but is going to be extremely competitive so doesn’t align well with this model.
We’re looking for keywords we can rank for quickly and easily, then rent out asap. The sweet spot rental range here will be in the $500-$1,500/month range per website.
So my recommendation here is to pick either a “weird niche” or a sub-niche within a niche.
A weird niche would be like porta potty rentals. Not something that immediately comes to mind, unlike dentists or roofers, therefore significantly less competitive.
A subniche would be like deciding you want to work with dentists, but rather than all dentists, you rank for keywords like “Invisalign treatment in [City]”. This is a high-end braces treatment, so you’re only getting the best leads with significantly less competition.
To sum it up:
Avoid competitive niches by either selecting a weird niche nobody would think of, or picking a sub-niche within those competitive niches.
You’ll then want to follow a similar strategy for deciding which city to target.
The more populated the city or location, the higher the rental fee you’ll likely be able to charge. But with the added downside of significantly more competition.
We’re looking for a balance here between search volume and competition levels.
The perfect approach to achieving this is by primarily targeting towns, suburbs, and smaller locations within a city.
Take London, for example. This is an extremely competitive city for SEO, even if you’re ranking in a weird sub-niche like “Invisalign Treatment”.
However, if we actually break up London a little bit, we’d separate it into North, East, South, and West London. Then within North London, there is Islington, Highgate, Finchley, Enfield, etc.
Pairing these together i.e. “Invisalign Islington” is going to be significantly less competitive to rank for.
The downside again could be the search volume (i.e. number of monthly searches) is also extremely low. In this case, Ahrefs shows zero search volume.
What we can do though is pair these together:
Create a single website for Invisalign Treatment in North London, then create additional landing pages on this same website for the various areas of North London.
Individually, the search volume may be insignificant. But across several locations it can easily add up.
Bonus tip: Identify hot spots for your service i.e. if you’re selling luxury landscaping and garden designs, find a local area full of affluent homes.
Before you start writing content for your website, we need to do some basic keyword research.
This is about determining what words people are actually searching within Google, so we can write about that and show how our future client will solve their problems.
The upside is with rank and rent, the keywords are fairly obvious.
It’s always “[Service Name] [Location Name]”.
For example, “crane hire London”. Or “London crane hire”, makes no difference.
The keyword research should be done to:
- Determine which locations have the highest search volume to prioritise them
- Establish the different terminologies, variations, and things people search when looking for this service
For example, ranking for “plumbers in [city]” is obviously a great keyword, except very competitive. But a keyword that’s slightly less competitive, yet even better to rank for, would be “emergency plumbers in [city]”.
So the way we approach this keyword research is using a tool like Ahrefs.
If we search “Invisalign London” in Ahrefs it shows us a list of similar keywords, along with the top ranking competitors. Similar keywords is the easiest, by looking at this we know we should also be targeting:
- best invisalign london
- invisalign braces london
- invisalign offers london
- best invisalign dentist london
- invisalign free consultation london
- And many other keywords
But we can also do the same by looking at the top ranking competitors:
Then clicking through to their Organic Keywords page by clicking the linked number in the “Keywords” column.
And then we’re presented with a list of keywords this competitor is ranking for:
Now what if you’re targeting say “North London” or any smaller location, so there’s very few keywords showing up here?
Well, you just look at London then copy the keywords but replace “best invisalign london” with “best invisalign Islington”. Some cities or states may use slightly different terms, but in most cases, it’s fairly universal.
Before we dive into creating the website, you want to double check this is a keyword we can rank for. Along with mapping out our strategy for the site.
We’re going to use two tools for this, Ahrefs and Surfer.
Start with a link audit by downloading the top ranking competitors backlink profiles.
This video explains how:
This gives us an indicator of the budget required to rank for this keyword, along with competition levels. If this is too competitive, save yourself some struggle and pick a different city and/or niche now, rather than later.
Tip: Don’t expect your first city or niche idea to be perfect, it rarely is.
Presuming you’re happy with your keywords section, and you’re confident you can compete, now we can dive a little deeper with the auditing.
Surfer is an incredible tool for analysing the OnPage SEO of your competitors, simply enter the keyword into Surfer, and it’ll automatically scrape the top ranking sites and breakdown how their content is optimised so you can replicate what is working.
Here’s how it looks:
If you’re not using Surfer already, you can sign up here.
This will tie in perfectly later when it comes to writing your content in step 7.
Selecting a Domain
Now that you’ve selected your niche, city, and keywords; you’ll need to register a domain and get your first rank and rent website live.
You can choose from one of 3 types of domains here:
- Exact Match i.e. portaloohirelondon.co.uk
- Partial Match i.e. londonportaloos.co.uk
- Branded i.e. lionzeal.com
My recommendation here is to go with partial match domains, for a couple reasons.
The first reason is that keyword optimised domains still have a small advantage when ranking in local SEO. It’s not huge, but it’s still a small win.
However, exact match can easily be over-optimised and often reads unnaturally.
And finally, branded isn’t such a great fit for a company renting it, since the brand name will obviously not match theirs.
As for where to register domain, it doesn’t particularly matter, but I’m a huge fan of NameCheap.
Setting Up Your Website
Next, you’ll need to setup your rank and rent website.
If you’re new to this, I recommend using a simple shared hosting plan from a provider like SiteGround, along with the WordPress CMS.
You don’t need WordPress to have great SEO, and WP isn’t some magical SEO tool. The advantage is primarily it’s extremely easy to use, therefore highly popular, and therefore massively supported by developers with a huge selection of SEO friendly themes and plugins.
So install WordPress, buy a nice theme, and be on your way. It’s really simple.
Here’s one of many videos from YouTube showing how to do that:
Structuring The Website
At this point, your site should be setup and ready to start adding content. Before that though, we need to discuss how to structure these websites when it comes to internal linking.
There’s a few types of pages you’ll need to have:
- Homepage – Targeting the main city/biggest location for your target service
- Location Pages – One page for each city/suburb/area you’re targeting
- Service Pages – Explaining the services/processes/service details your future-client likely provides
- Standard Pages – About, Contact, Terms, etc
Let’s take Porta Potty’s as an example. We’ll use the UK terms, since it’s easier for me.
In the UK, the service is called “Portable Toilet Hire”, but there’s other services too like:
- Construction Toilets
- Mains Connected Toilets
- Confined Space Toilets
- Toilets for Weddings / Events
- And more
These are now additional content we can create on our website, and additional keywords we can rank for within the main city. For example, “construction toilet hire London”.
Next, we have our locations, which we already discussed previously. If our homepage and website is built around targeting North London, for example, then we’d have a page for “portable toilet hire Highgate” and another for Islington.
Now an important part of SEO is internal links. These are links between different pages on your website. The way you approach this can massively influence your rankings, and should be thought out in advance.
Here’s how I’d suggest internal linking these pages:
Link from the homepage to the different service types, along with locations you offer these services in. Interlink all location pages between each other i.e. “we also cover these locations”. And link your locations from your service pages i.e. “we cover these locations”.
Here’s a diagram to better explain it:
Writing The Content
Now you should know which pages to create, and how to set this up as a site structure, now it’s time to write the content.
My suggestion here:
Don’t overthink this from an SEO perspective. You’re writing for people, not search engines.
Your goal here is to provide information about the service to a sufficient level of detail that the reader thinks this company can help them with their problem, and decides to call or contact them to discuss more.
Going back to the porta potty example again:
- How long can people rent them for?
- What are the sizes?
- How fast can you deliver them?
- What happens if they break?
- What situations are they suitable for? Construction? Weddings? etc
- Which steps do you take to ensure they’re clean/hygienic?
- Do they come with sinks?
- Does the sink have running water? Cold/warm/hot water?
Essentially just explain the details people need to know about your service to be interested in contacting you. And obviously, make it sound as appealing as possible, for maximum conversion.
In terms of optimising this for SEO, the easiest way is to write the content within Surfer’s Content Editor tool.
Here’s what that looks like:
This essentially pulls in the top ranking sites in Google or your keyword, then does an analysis of the words they use to make recommendations for your content. It makes this all extremely easy.
Or better yet:
Outsource to a content agency, like SEOButler, that’ll write all the content for you and do it using a tool like Surfer.
Getting Into The GMB Pack
The next step is tricky.
If you’ve ever done a local Google search before, you’ve probably noticed there’s 3 most common types of results:
While the organic results is enough to generate traffic and leads, the map pack receives a higher percentage of that traffic, naturally because it’s positioned higher on the page.
Therefore to maximise the traffic to your page, you’re going to need to get into the map pack. And that isn’t an easy task.
Being in the map pack requires a valid address and phone number within that location.
Phone numbers are easy, you can use CallRail, Twilio, or any number of services.
Addresses, not so easy. Your best bet is going to be paying someone to borrow their address for verification.
But it’s something to consider as the map pack results tend to get the most clicks, so you’re missing out on that by not being there. It’s a difficulty of rank and rent.
There’s enough traffic without it though, so don’t worry if you can’t.
Building Off-Page Signals
Once your website is setup and optimised, you need to focus on off-page signals i.e. link building.
A good question to ask yourself here is “what would a real local business do?”.
- Setup essential social profiles (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc)
- Submit their website to directories like Yelp, Yellow Pages, etc
- Promote and share on social media
If we were to translate that into SEO lingo, it means:
- Setup social profiles
- Buy up to 50 citations (use a fake address/phone number if none)
- Purchase some social signals
That’s going to make your website look more legit, and possibly give it some relevance signals if you’re using local or industry specific citations.
But it’s not going to rank your site.
Guest Posts are where you write a blog post for another website, then link to your website within the content. These are great for relevancy, as you can write the blog post about the same topic as your site.
Link Insertions are where you find a website with existing blog posts, then convince them to add a link within that content to your site. These can be more powerful, as it’s existing content that may already have backlinks pointing to it.
When you’re new to this, rather than trying to do the outreach yourself, the fastest way will be to buy them from a reputable provider.
Renting Out Your Website
For my fellow anti-social computer nerds, this is where things get tough.
Ranking a site for local search terms is pretty easy. Shouldn’t take more than 4-6 months, the latter if your niche is a bit more competitive.
But rank and rent is more than just ranking, it’s also renting. And that means you’ve got to get on the phone and find someone to pay to rent it from you.
This is far easier than selling SEO services, as you’re already ranking, already have traffic, and already have leads. But don’t think local businesses will be throwing money at you.
There’s 3 techniques I recommend to rent your site fast:
1. Cold Outreach
By far, the easiest way to rent your site is to put yourself out there and directly approach local businesses that may be interested. For slick sales guys, sure, do some cold calling. But that isn’t for me.
So the easiest is going to be cold email, as every business has email. Or whatever social media platform they’re on; from Facebook, to Instagram, or LinkedIn.
The approach here should be very direct:
“I’m ranking #1 in Google for [keyword] and receiving X leads/visitors per month. Would you be interest in having these visitors sent to your business?”
2. Pop Up Ads
You can also try out having a pop-up (i.e. lightbox) that shows when visiting your website, saying that it’s available to rent. Some people even have a direct PayPal buy button on these.
While this won’t work in many cases, you’re hoping to catch a local business checking out their competitors and coming across it.
The downside you’ll have to weigh is that it will damage the number of leads you’re receiving, and likely, ruin site engagement signals – possibly impacting rankings.
3. Sharing Leads
The easiest strategy, I believe, is to combine cold outreach with sharing leads.
Send them a direct message, similar to the one shared above, but then send them a few leads over the next 2-3 weeks, so they can really see the value in renting your site.
Thoughts on pricing
The other thing you’ll have to consider is how to price the rentals. As mentioned before, you can sell leads directly, but it adds significant complications.
My best tip is to estimate how many leads you’re receiving every month, what the value of those leads are, then price the rental based on the lower end of that.
For example, if we say a lead is worth $80 to this business. And you’re receiving 10-15 per month. That’s $1,200 /month worth of leads. As it’s only 10-15 per month, we can easily round-down and rent for $800/month to them.
You can compare lead value using platforms like Home Advisor, where businesses are paying for shared leads, which are significantly lower quality.
As the maintenance is so minimal once the website is rented out, I’d rather rent these for lower amounts to get them rented asap and have as long a retention as possible. The sweet spot again is around $500-$800/month.
That is an entire rank and rent blueprint from niche selection to ranking and later renting the website.
Now is the time to scroll right back up, start reading this again, but this time implement as you’re going. Start picking your niche, and put this into practice.
Then once you’re ranking in a few months time, don’t give up selling until someone rents the site from you. It won’t happen overnight.
But 5-10 of sites is a great source of near-passive income, once they’re up and running.
And if you’re wondering:
Renting literally just means changing the contact details, possibly branding, to match the clients. Super simple, don’t overthink it.