If you aren’t online, you are far behind — far behind your competitors and contractors, and far behind your customers.
Virtually every business has a virtual presence, but how good is it? An outdated website or a few cursory blog posts isn’t going to cut it. You need a robust web and social media presence, and you need it now. Here are some guidelines — and reasons — to ensure you have the breadth, width and depth to cut it in today’s plumbing and service marketplace.
We work with plumbers and vendors in the space every day, and if they had no web presence, I might doubt their very survivability and long-term outlook for success. Everything is online, and everything is moving online. We measure and analyze digital-marketing for our clients, but failure to have a good online presence could yield little more than a fading, flat line.
(GIYF) Google is your friend
Phone books are relics, though some traditional advertising outlets have increasing web presence. More than 90 percent of consumers search for home services online — and there are more than 4 billion searches per day on Google. That’s quite a potential customer base, though, of course, your company probably isn’t doing business outside your local area. There are techniques for enhancing your local search results, which will be outlined below. Google consistently leads the search engines — with about 70 percent of market share — in terms of queries, but if you follow the basics of a good online presence, you’ll show up on other search engines, too.
While some companies offer paid services that will get you to the top of the Google results page, there is plenty of potential for “organic” growth. That placement is typically driven by original content on your website or social pages, be it video, photo galleries or blog posts. Companies with consistently fresh presence on multiple social media platforms will also be elevated in search results.
Search result placement is key to growing your plumbing or other service business. Google uses a complex, proprietary algorithm that takes into account at least 200 factors when determining where your business will rank on its search-results page; they include time-on-site numbers, keyword usage and the number and quality of outbound, internal or inbound links. The No. 1 site you find when you Google, for instance, “plumbers,” topped the algorithm requirements, unless they purchased an ad via Google. The search engine does offer free tailored services. You can keep your company’s information up to date and analyze traffic to your website via Google My Business, and you can add your business to Google Maps. But never give up on driving traffic to your website organically and naturally.
Plumbers and other members of the service industry should use Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, but only to “cross-pollinate” a web presence. Your main focus should be on creating a website that both markets your service and informs your customers. Your company site should include the basics, of course — services offered, contact information, address, direct links to contact you. But you can dive as deeply as you’d like. The more robust your company landing pages, the better page rankings it will yield.
Word-of-mouth advertising and live face time will always be priceless, and should continue to be top of mind. But that’s not enough these days. Look no farther than the retail sector for proof that digital has disrupted business models. Macy’s, an iconic name in fashion retail, recently announced 100 more store closures. Overall, U.S. department stores posted 24 straight months of decline earlier this year. One of the main reasons is the flight of consumers to the digital realm. Even service industries should be there to engage them.
Plumbers and manufacturers should also make sure their websites are easily translatable to mobile applications. Mobile internet use has gone through the roof in recent years. More and more people are spending more time on their mobile devices; desktop usage has plateaued. Americans spend twice the time on their smartphone than on a desktop.
Make sure your weapons of choice are pipe wrenches, not buggy whips. Get online today. Your survival in the service industry depends on it. Here are some tips to get you there.
Five ways to drive more traffic to your site
1. Quality content is a major driver. Google frowns on sites that are littered with poor grammar, misspellings or are poorly designed or badly written. Google also likes fresher content that follows trending topics, so make sure your content is adjusted regularly to reflect trending terms, such as “hurricane” or “green plumbing.” Your ranking will be hurt by the same content curated over multiple sites with which you are associated. Plagiarism is a complete deal-breaker, and there is no hiding it. The “bots” will know.
2. Google and other search engines like video. It attracts more eyeballs. Photos will also improve your ranking. But don’t just throw anything up on your website or social media platform — quality images and videos are important. The speed of your site is also a factor in your page rank.
3. Keywords are key. But they shouldn’t be over-used. Savvy customers will notice, and it will also penalize your place in the search rankings. It’s a pretty simple concept (Knoxville-area plumber), but works most effectively when there are a variety of keywords that represent the services you offer, and when possible, reflect trends. If there are flooding rains in your area, a set of keywords might include these terms: Knoxville, plumber, flooding, clogged drains, sump pump or backflow. Keywords need to appear in multiple places on your website: In a header, in the body of text, in the meta field, and if possible, in the URL name. The term ‘keywords’ is in fact becoming a bit archaic in the search-engine optimization scheme. That’s because ‘keyphrases,’ also known as ‘long-tail’ links, might be a more accurate description.
4. Backlinks are a big deal. Links to your site from other trusted and highly ranked sites are good for your page ranking, especially if they come from a trusted source. That’s why good earned media or byline placement, or even links from blogs or reviews, can help meet the requirements of search-engine algorithms such as Google. It’s good to have backlinks from a number of sources and sites, but quality over quantity is key here. Reciprocal links will also dilute the value of the backlinks, as it can be viewed as a form of “pay for play” that is frowned on by Google and other search engines.
5. All publicity can be good publicity. Third-party websites such as Yelp and the Better Business Bureau, are also a way to boost your page ranking and page visits. You want to carefully manage your presence on those sites, though. While it is not neither wise nor ethical to simply delete or respond harshly to negative reviews, a thoughtful, polite and calculated response can overcome some of the pitfalls of having your company reviewed on a third-party site.