For a long time now, most marketing strategists have been bending over backward to master SEO techniques. Why? Because if you’re invisible online, your business doesn’t exist.
That’s true of all businesses, even HVACR contractors. It doesn’t matter how blue-collar and down to earth your operation may be, your marketing arm absolutely must include a comprehensive SEO and lead generation strategy.
An overwhelming majority of your potential customers will find their businesses in the simplest possible way — by searching online.
The crucial change is how they’re doing it. A few years ago, a lot of people were still doing that kind of thing from a laptop or desktop computer.
According to Google, nearly 60 percent of searches are from mobile devices. This has immediate and drastic implications for SEO strategists.
There’s great news, though — the “rules” of localized SEO are no longer changing as rapidly, and these new rules aren’t particularly hard to implement.
To dominate the search results, you have to take complete control of local SEO. Mobile devices are using location services to tailor search results to the user’s immediate vicinity, and Google is getting shockingly good at doing so accurately.
Google changed everything — again — when they rolled out the “local 3-pack” view, replacing the older method, where seven businesses were visible in local search results.
That was a big shakeup for the SEO industry, but it presents an opportunity.
Now, reaching your potential customers requires ranking high in the search engines as a local business in the Top 3. A tall order? Maybe, but it’s hardly impossible.
How do you do that? By improving your local ranking. Here’s what you need to do:
If you haven’t already, get on Google and get listed! This is Step Zero, because you can’t follow any of the other steps until you’re on this one. It’s shocking how many businesses haven’t taken this step, though. It isn’t enough just to submit a URL to Google’s Search Console and have a Google+ account.
Google doesn’t quite have a monopoly on Internet searches, but they do have a 64 percent share of U.S. searches as of 2016. That’s triple the share of Microsoft, the next biggest game in town.
So if you want to be found, sign up for Google My Business and then follow the rest of the optimization tips in this list.
The Google Local 3 Pack listing is shown at the top of the search results pages for certain high value keyword searches that your prospect’s type into their browser.
Up to 50 percent of the clicks that occur on the search results pages happen in the Local 3 Pack.
That means if you aren’t in the top three, you are missing out on half your opportunities from prospects looking for repair, installation or maintenance from a local contractor like you.
These high click-through rates make perfect sense when you think about it: Google is encouraging searchers to click by highlighting these results and placing them front and center.
To anyone searching, Google appears to indicate the Local 3 Pack offers the best result based on the keyword searched.
A citation is literally any online reference to your business information. They are split into partial citations and full citations.
A partial citation only mentions part of your name, address and phone number (NAP) — perhaps just your name and phone number — whereas a full citation includes all of it. A full citation might look something like this:
HVAC All-Stars, 123 Carrier Avenue, Anywhere, USA 00000
Citations are heavily used to rank your website in the Local 3 Pack that displays just under the paid ads for certain keyword searches related to your business. Google uses the number of citations your business has to determine the validity of your business.
Citations do not need to be linked back to your business website for you to get credit. That helps though, because it means that a plain text citation is as valuable to you as a link.
Having 100 citations is a great starting point for your business if you want to dominate the rankings, however, 200-300 is even better for the best possible ranking consideration by Google for the Local 3 Pack.
Here’s a critical insider’s tip — you need to use military precision when formatting citations. That means the same spelling, punctuation and abbreviations (don’t use “St.” and “Street” interchangeably, for instance) must be used in every citation for it to be counted in your favor.
Your citations must also match the NAP on your Google+ Local page and your business’ website. The key to successful citations is consistency.
You can get citations from directories, blogs, forums, social media, press releases, FAQ sites, image and video captions and forum signatures, so feel free to get creative.
Google works hard to only show their users the most relevant information. They’re looking at sitemaps, metadata, tagging, URL structure, keyword content, SEO practices, mobile optimization, citations, reviews and online links from unaffiliated websites.
That’s a lot to contend with, and having a strong presence on local directories is going to help you with several things from that list.
Google places an emphasis on link building and citations, which is why Yelp, Yahoo, MapQuest and other reputable listing sites are important if you want to improve your online presence.
Here are some contractor-specific directories. They’re not all free, but the ones that charge are more than worth the expense.
An argument could be made that reviews are the most important element of any good strategy.
People are more likely to trust information about your business if it comes from someone else.
Paying for reviews can be dicey, and some consider it tacky to ask for them, but you’ve got to have them to be successful.
This way, when you do crack the Google Local 3 Pack map listings in a search, you’ll have more strong reviews than the competition.
That ought to make the decision easy on your potential customers.
It’s a good general practice to include an embedded Google map containing your business market on your site — especially on your contact page or any page that contains contact information.
Embedding is very simple, you can grab the embed code by searching for your own business in Google Maps, clicking the menu bars to the left and clicking on “Share or Embed Map.”
Google has gotten very sophisticated — they’re more than capable of filtering data to provide their users with the most relevant local results.
That means that an enterprising local HVACR company with a good SEO strategy will see greater results, lead generation and the associated revenue increase.
Your marketing must include a comprehensive strategy to engage with and obtain new customers online.
10 simple questions your website must answer to covert browsers into buyers
Instead of forcing sales training on technicians, introduce the concept of Diagnose & Recommend.
Customer-service training must be continuous and thorough. If you just tell your technicians what you want, they will only think about what they are going to say and never say it.
Field service technicians are on of the greatest business-development resources of any commercial service company. Some firms have trained their technicians on selling, but most service managers I know agree techs could do more to boost their business-development efforts.