If you’re like many people, you’ve seen or heard references to SEO and don’t know what it means. Even if you do have some idea of what it stands for and the basic idea behind the term, you probably don’t know exactly how it works or what a powerful tool it can be for your online marketing efforts. The following is a summary of what SEO is, why it’s important to your business, how it can help you generate good quality leads, and tips on putting SEO to work for your business online. When thinking about local SEO for home contractors, the information below will be a great start to improving your online marketing results.
SEO is an acronym for “search engine optimization.” It refers to making your website friendly to search engines such as Google, Yahoo, or Bing. Search engines utilize web crawlers to comb through websites looking for search terms (a “search term” being whatever you enter into the box when doing a search using any search engine). Regardless of what you’re searching for, the search engine will only display pages where web crawlers have detected words matching your search term.
So, search engine optimization refers to the practice of including terms that people use when searching for the types of services you provide in the copy and tags on your website. For home building contractors, terms like “home remodeling” or “home construction” would be logical choices; those can be further refined to reflect a company specialty, such as “bath remodeling.” The whole point of SEO is to boost your search rankings and get your site to the first page of search results for search terms that potential customers are likely to use when looking for the type of services you offer. The search terms you choose to highlight in your website’s content are known as “keywords;” incorporating those keywords into your site’s content several times signals to web crawlers that your site contains content strongly relevant to the search term, which the search engine rewards by ranking the site higher – hopefully on the first page of search results. You can target multiple search terms/keywords as well, so customers will see your listing whether they search for “home builder” or “residential contractor,” for example.
As to why SEO matters, you can probably answer this yourself. Consider your own behavior when you perform a web search. How often do you search beyond the first page of results? Most people never leave that first page before finding several options for what they’re looking for – and if your site isn’t there, they’ll never see it. Good SEO practices can help land your site on that first page and ensure that it will be seen by the people looking for your services. It’s the same principle that used to produce a lot of businesses with names like “AAA Towing Service” or “AAA Plumbing” – names that were chosen because they would be listed first in phone directory yellow pages listings. According to Search Engine Watch, 59% of consumers use Google every month to find a reputable local business. If you want a chance at doing business with that 59% of potential customers, you’ve got to be seen; good SEO greatly increases your chances.
Essentially, SEO offers your business the opportunity to jump to the front of the line and be seen first, without having to resort to rebranding as AAA Home Builders to gain the same advantage. If you further leverage that first-page listing with positive reviews from customers, you’ve won the first two battles in the war: being seen and making a good first impression. In addition to a word-of-mouth referral, good SEO practices and positive online reviews give you a powerful edge over competitors. Considering that 82% of local searchers follow-up offline via an in-store visit, phone call, or purchase (according to TMP/comScore), careful attention to SEO and your overall web presence can turn your website into a lead-generating machine for your business.
“Local” SEO refers to including a geographic location in your targeted search terms and keywords. If you, like most people, now use internet searches to locate and get information about local businesses, then you know that entering “restaurants” into the search field when looking for a place to have dinner is not very helpful. Instead, if you’re in Birmingham, you’ll look up “Birmingham restaurants” so you’ll be shown places close enough for dinner. Or at least, at one time you had to include your locale – search platforms often don’t require this of users anymore, since they recognize location & remember geographic data specified in your past searches.
The flip side of that is, even though searchers often don’t have to include geographic information in their searches, they’ll be shown listings that most strongly match their location anyway. And the only way the search engine knows that your site matches that geographic location is if you include the information in your search terms/keywords. So instead of “bathroom remodeler,” your search term/keyword would be “Dallas bathroom remodeler” or “bathroom remodeler Bergen County NJ,” or whatever term represents the area where you do business.
The good news is: it’s much easier to achieve first-page ranking with good local SEO practices. In general, the smaller and more specific the geographic area you target with your search term, the easier it is to dominate search rankings; if you’re in a large enough market that you only need to work in one or two neighborhoods, you can target just those areas in your search term/keywords. Instead of “Dallas bathroom remodeler” you might use “Highland Park Dallas bathroom remodeler” or something similar. Using carefully targeted local SEO, instead of being a little fish in the big pond of the internet, your business can become the big fish in the small pond you’ve defined in your local search term.
There’s no need to limit your search term/keyword targeting to a geographic area, either. You can also define your ideal target customer, as in “luxury bath remodeler Highland Park Dallas,” and/or your unique value proposition, as in “quality affordable home remodeling Memphis.” These longer search terms/keywords are called “long tail keywords” and one of the nice things about them is that they will rank for multiple search queries. For example, “luxury bath remodeler Highland Park Dallas” would also show up in searches for “luxury bath remodeler Dallas,” “bath remodeler Highland Park,” etc. If you’ve not yet identified your ideal target customer or your unique value proposition, check out my post on Home Contractor Marketing: Building a Unique Value Proposition. If you’re going to make the effort to build your business’ web profile with good SEO practices, you might as well use them to attract your ideal target customer. Understanding who you are trying to attract and why they should consider doing business with you should inform your website’s content and all of your efforts to position your business online.
If you begin with these tips today, you will begin to improve your search visibility and the volume of leads you generate online – a very profitable channel that’s continuing to grow.
You’ll begin to out-pace your competitors who are not doing these things and start to win a bigger share of the business with a very small investment of time and attention.
If this feels overwhelming or you know you need to do it but know you’re not the best person to do it, then enlist an expert. It doesn’t have to be me, though I’d love to talk to you! What’s important is that SOMEONE gets it done. “I can’t get to it” is the worst reason to continue falling behind your competition online; there are too many experts out there who can help you, and at an affordable rate.
For more tips on small business marketing success, check out my book, The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Local Lead Generation. Or get a FREE assessment of your current marketing efforts and recommendations on quick improvements with a Signature Brand Audit from Fortune Marketing.