Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Web Marketing Today. Practical Ecommerce acquired Web Marketing Today in 2012. In 2016, we merged the two sites, leaving Practical Ecommerce as the successor.
It’s summertime and for many people this is a time for home improvement projects. For contractors this also means it’s high season for business. For house painters, carpet and flooring installers, roofing companies, electricians, landscapers, swimming pool contractors, siding providers, and general building contractors, this is the time of year when ranking in the top of the search results can mean the difference between substantial revenues or mediocre profits. So, read on and get some tips on how to rank best for your area and type of business.
Local contractors have it difficult when it comes to online marketing. They are typically sole proprietorships or small, family-owned businesses, and cost-conscious. Owners and managers of these contracting companies typically don’t have a lot of time to devote to marketing activities, which they must do themselves while keeping their promotion budgets as low as possible. Local contractors are increasingly reliant upon a combination of word-of-mouth client referrals and search engine referrals. Word-of-mouth can grow naturally, but search engine rankings won’t always happen without intentionally feeding and watering a company’s online presence.
It’s possible to do it yourself to achieve good rankings. And it’s possible to do it without driving yourself crazy or spending more time than you have. You don’t have to do everything at once — break off smaller pieces of the project and plan to do them consistently over time, if you don’t have the time upfront. As long as you do these things you will increase your chances of ranking well.
However, if your aim is to get your rankings up quickly to compete now for the summer season, set aside a couple of weekend days upfront to bump up all of your ranking signals as soon as possible. Search engine optimization is often a game of inches, especially if you’re in a business category or market where competition is more intense. If you’re in a competitive area you may have to try to do more than your competitors so that your ranking signals may marginally outpace them, enabling your business listing to rank above theirs.
Tips for Local Search Rankings for Contractors
- Have a website. If you’re reading this you probably already have a site or know that you should have one. It doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective, but it should have some basic features. Include your business name, “Acme,” business category, “Drywall Contractors,” and city or location name, “Miami, Florida.” These should be reflected in the title of the site’s home page. For example: “Acme | Drywall Contractors in Miami, Florida.”
- Include basic features in your website that consumers would look for. Tell who you are on your “About Us” page. Consider including a photo of you and your employees, and mention any official certifications you have. On a “Services” page, include lists of the main things that you do and what payment options you accept. On your home page, list the names of cities and neighborhoods where you provide services; if those location names aren’t used on your website, you’re less likely to show up in search results when people seek your type of contracting service for their area. On your contact page, include your address, if you allow people to come to your place of business, and include your phone number. Include a contact submission form if you consistently check your email — otherwise, don’t include it. Many contractors neglect checking their email. If you’re in that category don’t frustrate your potential clients by making them think you can be contacted that way. Include a page of testimonials and quote some of your clients who are willing to provide references for you.
- Have a blog on your site. Seriously. You may not be a great writer, but people will appreciate your honesty and realness. You may not think you have anything to say, but if you’re expert at your work you likely know more than you realize. Plan to post very brief updates on your blog about each type of service you do. Why do you do things in a certain way? What are special issues you face in your region for your type of work? What makes your work special compared to other providers? Also, mention in the blog posts about important events happening in your area. Is there a town festival coming up? A holiday? Blog regularly and it will result in augmenting your rankings.
- Make sure your business is listed in major online business directories and yellow pages sites. This gets you “citations” or “mentions” of your business and unique contact information, which is influential for local search ranking purposes. You can get listed in directories by checking sites and adding your listing where it’s missing. Doing it all by hand is time consuming, however. Try using GetListed.org to check your listing presence at major directories. You can add your listing there, or if it’s missing at a number of directories, I strongly recommend using Universal Business Listing’s Professional Package to create and distribute the listing information widely. Universal Business Listing’s service is worth the money, because you’d spend far more in terms of your time if you tried to replicate what they do by adding or updating your listing information by hand at each of the dozens of sites they feed into. (Disclosure: I’m an advisor for Universal Business Listing, but I’m also a customer and I recommend its service because I have found it to be effective for local SEO efforts.)
- Take photos of your work regularly and post the best ones on your website or blog. This is often a great way to have ongoing content for blog posts. Just be sure not to include people in your photos unless you get written permission from them, first. But, just showing examples of your work — before and after — over time will be beneficial.
- Share the photos of your work on Pinterest and Flickr. And, link back to related pages on your site or blog with each picture.
- Include a trust seal badge on your website home page. Trust seals are especially important for contractors, because people have a higher level of distrust or fear about whether a contractor is trustworthy or not. Reducing this by displaying your official certification badges or independent accreditation organization seals can increase your acceptance when people visit your site. One of the most recognizable and most effective badges is the Better Business Bureau badge. You pay a fee for accreditation and for BBB services. But it lends your business an instant level of trust with consumers that is worth it. It also provides a valuable local citation for ranking purposes.
- Add the author tag to your website and blog. Integrating the author tag and setting up your Google+ page to go with it will allow your photo icon to show up next to your pages in the search results, attracting a lot more attention. All indications are that enabling your listing to stand out from the pack in the local listings will result in more clicks, which, in turn, may translate into better rankings over time.
- Get more reviews and ratings. Your rating value won’t affect your rankings, but the total numbers of reviews you have on various sites like Yelp, CitySearch, Yellowpages.com, Google+, and Superpages can affect your ranking value. Ratings and reviews are still going to strongly influence whether people choose to become clients or not, similar to how trust seals can help increase consumer confidence for your business. You can positively influence your ratings by asking your satisfied clients to review you online — suggest a specific site for them to do so. Also, closely monitor your reviews and respond to negative reviews by trying to calmly explain, apologize, or make up for instances where people posted disappointment with your service. You can’t always provide perfect service, so accept it when someone has reasonably complained and see if you can make it up to them in some way. A few different services — GetListed.org, Review Push, and Trackur — can help you monitor your reviews and save you the trouble of visiting all of your profiles across many sites. Having a few negative reviews isn’t the end of the world — it actually makes your business look real. Also, responding well can turn lemons into lemonade. I have seen polite, apologetic responses transform negative reviews into a positive outcome — and the full story makes your business look even better than if you only had uniformly positive reviews.
- Get active in social media. Set up an account in Twitter and a business page in Facebook, and post on them consistently. Ideally, post something every day and respond when people ask something of you. If you’re blogging and posting photos, these activities can provide material to post or promote via status updates in Facebook and Twitter. You can also comment on content mentioned by others in your industry, or share or retweet their updates, and mention and link to things that appear in the news for your industry.
- Get professional help. It may be worthwhile to engage a professional search marketer to check out your online health with a local SEO audit. There are a variety of technical issues that can limit a site’s effectiveness in search engines. It might be worthwhile to have it checked out by a pro, upfront, and resolve anything that could hold you back. At minimum, sign up for Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools accounts and see if they have suggestions for improving your site or if their bots are having trouble spidering your site’s pages.
Most of your contractor competitors don’t do all of these things. If you get moving, you’ll likely overtake them in the search results for your area, and once you gain the advantage you may be able to stay ahead over the long term.