Times have changed. Customers now go to the internet when searching for a contractor. Having a strong online presence is critical to winning new business in this day and age, so you need to make sure your digital marketing is setup to attract and convert leads. The internet continues to expand, and the customer journey to finding their contractor is expanding as well. But for contractors, most of your customer journeys begin offline… with a problem.
In this guide, we’ll explore how the different customer journeys seek to solve their problem, how the different facets of digital marketing play into your customer journey, and ultimately how to setup your online presence so that your business becomes the solution to their problem. From creating an optimized website to ranking in local Google searches (SEO and PPC), social media, and advanced tactics like content marketing, we’ll guide you on the right path to a digital presence that captures your customers along their journey and turns them into customers.
Although we promised to take you through different customer journeys from start to finish, we’re going to start with what is often the end of the journey and one of the most critical aspects: your website. Your website is typically the last step before your customer picks up the phone to give you a call or sends an inquiry via email. Without a website, your customer journeys will have to rely on third party service providers like Yelp, Angie’s List, or Google Business Listings. Your website lets you control the content and message and is therefore a large opportunity to get your potential customer to contact you. So how do you build one if you don’t already have one? What information should be on my website?
Building a Website
When it comes to building your website, you have a few options with a wide range of pricing. On the cheapest end, you can use a great service such as Squarespace to build a simple website yourself using ‘Drag and Drop’ methods. One step up, you can hire someone for a couple hundred dollars to setup the website for you, and then simply take over and pay the monthly hosting/domain fees. Beyond the self-service approach, you can hire professional website developers and managers to create, manage, and optimize your website for you.
Self-Service Website with Squarespace
You can build a website yourself using ‘drag and drop’ website makers like Squarespace to quickly and easily get a basic website up and running. Squarespace starts at $12 per month, and you can get your custom domain name to be used for a custom email address as well. To learn how to setup a basic Squarespace website for your contracting business, read our step by step guide on ‘How To Easily Make A Website With Squarespace.’
Professionally Built but Self-Service Managed Website
In between self-service websites built on Squarespace and fully built, managed, and optimized sites by professionals, you can hire someone to set up a self-service website that you maintain yourself after initial creation or pay a minimal fee for support when needed.
Professionally Built and Managed Website
The most expensive and best option would be a fully managed solution by professionals. While packages vary depending on who you hire, many development and management packages include help in SEO/PPC management and optimization (we’ll cover SEO and PPC later). Even though this can be very costly, a good website management provider can significantly increase your leads by helping your website rank in local searches. Read our guest post on ‘Why You Need a Professionally Managed Website’ to see if it’s the right choice for you.
What should be on my website?
There are different approaches to website design based on different buyer personas and the typical sales cycle for your service. If your contracting business has a short sales cycle for short term projects/jobs, your customer is likely looking for clearly laid out information and for you to get straight to the point. On the other hand, if your contracting business has a long sales cycle for long term projects, you still need to focus on clearly laying out your services, but it’s also critical to educate your customer on the buying process and your services.
Basic Information Every Contractor Website Needs
If your customer spends too much time searching for basic information, then they’ll leave your website. Your website should very clearly state the areas you service, the services you offer, and a call to action to procure your services, which is usually a contact method. While these may seem obvious, they are often difficult to find or often left out on many contractor websites, especially the area serviced by the company.
Service Offering Landing Pages
If you offer multiple different services, you should create a page on your website for each service. For example, a roofer might create a page for each of the following services: emergency roof repairs, roofing inspections, commercial roofing, and residential roofing. Each page should consist of details regarding your offering, sample work, and any other relevant information. Not only does this showcase your offerings to your customer in more detail, but there’s a significant SEO (and PPC) benefit to doing this. We’ll talk more about SEO and PPC later in this guide and how landing pages help get your website showing up in organic Google search results.
Showcasing Your Work
As a project based contractor such as a general contractor, roofer, remodeler, or painter, your customers want to see samples of your work. It’s critical to find a good method of showcasing your work, from case studies to photo galleries. Look no further than the success of Houzz.com in showcasing contractor and homebuilding sample work. But it all starts with great quality photos. Purchase a good camera and learn how to take photos.
There are many routes you can take to showcase your work, from quick “Before and After” photos with short details of the project, to full case studies that detail the project from concept to planning, to finishing, and customer satisfaction. Being able to document and showcase the entire journey of a customer once they contact you can be very powerful and set you apart from the competition. The more ‘case studies’ you can show that detail the full journey the better, but at least one great case study that you can showcase makes a big difference. The transparency from this customer experience journey sets comforting expectations for your customer so they know exactly what they’ll get if they choose you, easing the buying process.
Every customer that finds a contractor went through a journey to get there. A journey is the different steps and paths the customer took from realizing they require a contractor’s services to ultimately hiring a contractor. The customer journey often varies greatly depending on the search terms, the sales cycle of the service, and the type of job or project that the service requires. Therefore the customer journey of someone looking for an urgent roof leak repair is often very different than the journey of someone looking for an entire new roof. Every journey is different, but most journeys follow a similar pattern of discovery, investigation, and then call to action.
Journey 1: Google Searches
Most customers start with a Google search. From that Google search, there are many different journeys the customer can take in deciding on their contractor. A typical search for a local contractor will display a mix of search results and also types of results. These ‘types’ range from Google Paid Search Ads, Google Listings, and Organic Search Results, all of which appear on the same results page after performing the search (see graphic below). For example, when a customer searches ‘Roof Repair Dallas’ in Google they will find a mix of search results and type of results. We’ll start with explaining to you the different ‘Types’ of search results found in a Google search, what you’d expect to find, before later diving into how to break into the results for your company.
Google Paid Search Ads
Typically, the first results you’ll see at the top of the page are paid advertisements through Google Adwords. The advertiser is charged each time the ad is clicked (but limited to once by the same person), which can become costly if you’re not converting these clicks. Google decides which ad to display based on a number of factors, of which the most important factors are search relevance and the advertiser’s maximum bid for their slot. We’ll dive further into how to get into Google Paid Search Ads in our Pay Per Click Advertising section.
If a searcher clicks a Google Paid Ad, they’ll be immediately taken to the landing page linked to the ad. Most of the time, this will simply take them to the contractor’s website (although in advanced Pay Per Click setups, the website will have multiple landing pages setup to match the specific ad). Once on the website, the goal is to directly convince the user to engage with the contractor via phone call, email inquiry, etc.
Google Listings Results
Google has a listing service similar to Yelp, YellowPages, etc. where you can list your business. If applicable, Google will display their listing results related to the search along with an area map. These results are typically sorted by relevance to the search query and your reviews.
If a searcher opens Google Listings Results to view potential contractor matches, they are presented with basic information about the business, any reviews, contact information, and a link to their website. Although the searcher is presented with contact information, most will instinctively first visit the website to collect more information before reaching out, making your website a critical touchpoint in different customer search journeys.
Organic Search Results
While Google is in the business of making money (Google Paid Search Ads), they can only attract visitors to use their search engine by supplying them the most relevant and best search results to the searcher. This is done using an extremely complex and ever-changing algorithm that dynamically ranks websites based on many factors. Ultimately, Google tries to match the organic results with what they believe best matches the search, provides the best information/service, and is most trustworthy. All of these factors are lumped into a practice of boosting your website’s search ranking called ‘Search Engine Optimization’ (SEO).
Many of the first results have been overrun by contractor matching services such as HomeAdvisor, ThumbTack, and TheHomeFixers.com who have poured millions of dollars into SEO (Search Engine Optimization) in order to rank nationally for search results, and can even rank locally for search results. We’ll get into this buyer journey more a bit later in the ‘Contractor Matching Services’ section.
After the first few contractor matching services in the search results, you’ll begin to see local contracting company websites listed that Google determined are the best match to serve the searcher. Getting your website listed organically here is important for growing your business. While the initial work to begin ranking high in search results can take time and/or money, visitors clicking your website are completely free. Later in this guide, we’ll dive further into ‘SEO’ to teach you how to get your website ranking in these results.
Journey 2: Social Media
Social Media is usually not a journey in itself. When a customer looks for contractor services, they typically do not turn to Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to search for a local contractor. Instead, Social Media is simply a stop along the customer journey that started from a referral, a google search, a contractor matching service, or somewhere else. But it’s still important. Customers use Social Media profiles to further vet and validate their prospective contractors. Social media profiles for contractors such as Facebook company pages can give the customer more insight into the business, especially activity from recent posts and updates that a website or listing can’t provide. How big of a company are they? Do they have an established brand? Do customers interact with them and love them? What recent work have they done? Social media profiles help answer these questions for the customer whether or not it’s actually true.
However, there are cases where social media can be the beginning of a customer journey, and that typically happens for remodeling/renovating contractors who can use Instagram, Houzz, and Facebook to showcase their work. Many people love browsing beautiful homes, renovations, remodels, and contracting work… simply look at the success of HGTV and Houzz.com. As a project based contractor, you can leverage these media heavy social sites to showcase your work. There’s no better way to show you can perform the job than to show jobs you’ve already completed. The more of an ‘art’ your work is, the more important showcasing your work becomes.
Journey 3: Contractor Matching Services
Although many customers come across the contractor matching services such as homeadvisor, thumbtack, and thehomefixers.com via Google searches, many go directly to those websites when looking for a contractor. Are you listed on them?
They operate in different ways, but ultimately, most of them cost money. They either cost money to be listed directly on the service or they charge you per lead that they pass to you that meets your criteria. But the customer journey typically doesn’t end on these contractor matching service websites. After the customer has narrowed their choices to a few candidates, they will typically try to find more information about the contractor before making their decision.
Naturally, they look for customer reviews, social media profiles, and their website to get a better sense of the company before pulling the trigger. Even though the main journey might rely on a contractor matching service, having a full online presence for your company still assists the customer in making the decision during the buying journey.
So you want to show up in organic Google search results from people searching for services you offer in your area. How do you do this without paying for Google Search Ads? Strong Search Engine Optimization tactics will help you climb the rankings for relevant terms. But it’s not easy and it does take time.
“Search Engine Optimization” is a general term for web development and marketing tactics to make your website appear in search results for relevant searches. There are many aspects that impact your search ranking, but the main 4 factors that most influence how well your website ranks in local organic search results are SEO Title Tag relevance, website content, citations, and backlinks to your website. We’ll explain all 4 factors and how to utilize them to improve your website’s ranking. They are listed in order of increasing difficulty/cost/complexity.
Each website page has designated SEO Titles and Descriptions that are used to indicate to Google the overall topic/content of the website. These SEO titles are displayed as the website topic in search results, so they are also used to match search queries to websites. The closer your SEO title for that page matches the search query, the more likely it is to appear higher in organic search results. Adjusting your SEO Title tags is the easiest way to get an SEO boost, but of course, this is not the only factor in ranking for that search result.
If you use a self-service website maker like Squarespace, WordPress, or Wix, you should have access to set the SEO Title and Description for each page. If you have a professionally managed website, your website developer should already have SEO Titles in place, but work with him or her to make sure the best possible title tags are set.
So how should you set it?
For your main website, try to find the overarching service you offer that a user would search, add your service location, and then last add your company name. It’s important that your service and area are listed first for SEO purposes. For example, a roofer based in Dallas might do many different types of work, but the overall service is ‘roofing.’ As a result, a Dallas roofer might use one of the following SEO Titles for their main website homepage:
But it shouldn’t end at just your main homepage. If you can further breakdown your services into multiple categories (for example, urgent roof repairs, roof inspections, metal roofing, flat roofing, etc.), you should create a page on your website for each one and then match the SEO Title to the search query someone may actually use who is looking for this specific service. For example, a roofer based in Dallas that offers roof inspections should have a landing page with the following SEO Title:
While it may be tempting to begin your SEO Title tags with your company name and slogan, matching the SEO Title to your most relevant customer search queries will increase the chances of ranking well in organic search results.
Although your site is the most important asset you have for ranking organically on Google, if you ignore doing anything off-site, odds are you won’t get anywhere with your keyword rankings. You need to make sure you have your local profiles filled out like Google, Yahoo, Bing, and many others. These profiles are called ‘Local Citations’ on the internet. While they’re important as a free method for your potential customers to find you (as discussed in the Customer Journey section), they’re also important to your website ranking as Google keeps track of these citations for each and every local business and uses them to score your business and website. Filling these out correctly will help you rank not only organically but also in the map pack on Google for your local area.
A lot of your competitors either haven’t set them up correctly or have very little, if any, of the pages built out, so you can still gain an advantage just by setting them up correctly. There are many automated services (such as Yext) that automatically create these ‘citations’ for you but the majority of them are overpriced, and if you cancel your monthly service with them, all of your citations go away, effectively tanking your website and map rankings on Google. So your best bet is to enter them manually, either by hiring an SEO agency or by doing them yourself. To manually create citations for your business, here’s a list of best citations to get you started.
Google Business Listings
Start with Google Business Listings and Google+ profiles as Google looks most closely to their own local citation when it comes to SEO boosts.
If you have an address, you will setup your Google Business Listing as a business with a location. Google will send you a verification pin code to your address in the mail that you will need to enter online to verify your address. You will want to make sure that your address on the site mirrors exactly how it’s written on your Google My Business Profile. You’ll want all other citations that you manually build to mirror completely or as closely as possible to the Google My Business profile.
If you don’t have an address, you will setup your account with a service area instead of an address. This is commonly used for contractors.
Here’s a great guide on setting up Google Business Listings that’s specific to contractors.
One of Google’s biggest factors in determining a website’s value and trustworthiness is the amount and quality of content the website contains. The term ‘content’ is pretty broad, but it mostly applies to unique, relevant text that adds value to your audience, which mostly comes in the form of information relevant to your service offering and a helpful blog.
For content on your direct website, it’s important that each website page, especially each page that describes your service offerings, includes quality, unique content that is relevant to that page. You’re probably asking, “What do you mean by quality, unique content and why do you keep saying that?” Google is always evolving to better understand websites, their content, and the quality of that content, while weeding out spam. The more content/text you can provide that is helpful to the reader without being spammy will boost your page score and help your organic search ranking. For example, if you have a website page specific for your ‘Emergency Roofing Repair’ service, you should include a lot of content describing the service you offer. Not only does it help the reader get a better sense of your offering and boost their trust in you as a company, but it will boost Google’s trust in your website, which is what SEO is all about.
To increase the amount of content and keep your website as ‘fresh’ in the eyes of Google, you’ll also want to have a blog on your website that you update somewhat regularly with ‘quality content.’ What should you include in your blog? Think of your target audience and what they may want to learn or read about. If the content helps your customer along their buying journey or subtly promotes your services within the posts, that’s even better. But the goal is to provide industry relevant content that people find valuable. As a contractor, your blog may consist of:
While many of those topics assist the buyer in their buying journey, some of the topics may seem counterintuitive, such as DIY instructions. But topics like this that demonstrate your knowledge help establish you and your company as thought leaders and as a credible expert in the field. When they ultimately find the issue too tough to tackle, they may come to you to handle the job.
The third significant component that Google uses to determine the trustworthiness of a website is the number and quality of backlinks pointing back to your website. ‘Backlinks’ are links to your website URL posted on other peoples’ websites. Links from websites with stronger ‘Domain Authority’ carry more weight than those with lower Domain Authority. Similarly, links from relevant websites help you rank better in searches related to those backlinks. Google heavily relies on this because they believe that if quality, non-spammy websites link to you, then you are likely providing good content and value.
But how do you get backlinks? It’s not easy. Taking the natural method, websites will link back to your site if they find value in the page/content they’re linking to. For example, I linked to Moz’s article on ‘Domain Authority’ above as it’s a good resource on the topic. This is considered a backlink for Moz.com. But realistically, it won’t come that easy.
Actively getting backlinks is difficult and time consuming as you need to convince a website to link to your site in some authentic and relevant capacity. One common method is to offer your expertise as a ‘Guest Post’ on their blog that includes a backlink to your site. Your backlink can be embedded within the article as a relevant link, or sometimes added as a footnote at the bottom to indicate the guest poster and source of the content.
What’s an example of a guest post I could do as a contractor? If we take a roofing contractor as an example, you can offer to make a guest post (in exchange for a backlink) on a roofing resource website about the pros and cons of new technology introduced into your field. This helps the roofing resource website provide quality content to their readers while providing you a backlink to your site to boost your own SEO.
While working on SEO to boost your organic search rankings can take a long time and a lot of effort, it becomes the cheapest method of customer acquisition once you begin to rank well. Rather than paying money to Google for each paid search advertisement that is clicked, customers will find your organic search listing and your website visits will be free. In addition to cost, savvy searchers that distinguish between ads and organic results are more likely to trust the organic listings over the paid advertisements. But the catch is that it does take time and it take effort/money, for instant results, consider pay per click advertising.
Pay Per Click advertising (PPC) is a term to describe any type of digital advertisement that charges you per click of your ad. There are many different types of PPC ads, including Google Search, Google Display, Facebook, LinkedIn, and more. But the most effective ads for contractors are Google Search Ads that appear at the top and bottom of Google search results when a user searches for a relevant query.
Why are Google Search Ads the best for Contractors?
Why are Google Search Ads better than Facebook, LinkedIn, or Display? While Facebook can display ads to people that meet certain criteria you set, Google Search ads show up for someone who is directly searching for the service you offer and is ready to buy. For example, someone who searched in Google for ‘Emergency Roof Repair in Dallas’ is much more likely to need roofing services from a contractor in Dallas right now than a randomly targeted Facebook user.
Should I do Pay Per Click Advertising?
Before getting started, it’s critical that you first evaluate the economics of PPC advertising. Using estimated ‘conversion rates’ of each step of the journey and click cost data, you can calculate how much a paying customer will ultimately cost you, and then figure out if it’s worth it to you.
To do this, you need to figure out the following variables:
How much does each ad click cost?
What percentage of ad clicks (website visitors) result in a lead for your business?
What percentage of leads will end up buying your services?
If each ad click costs $2 (actual figures will vary) and you find out that 1 in every 10 visitors contacts you, you will average a cost of about $20 per lead. If you convert 1 in 4 leads to a paying customer, you’re ultimately paying $80 per paying customer. All of these variables factor into the cost per paying customer.
How well does your website get a customer contact? How well do you convert leads to paying customers? How large are your average deals? How much are you willing to pay for a new customer? These questions will ultimately help figure out if PPC advertising is right for your business.
How do I setup Google Search PPC Ads?
While we recommend consulting a professional to at least set up, if not also manage, Google advertising on your behalf, you can set up a Google Adwords account yourself and experiment with PPC advertising. As a local contractor, it’s important to focus your PPC to your service areas only. Here’s a step by step guide to help you set up local radius PPC ads: Local Google Search Ads Can Grow Your Small Service Business – Step by Step Guide.
Facebook continues to build out their business page offerings to make it more and more like a structured website. For those not ready for a website, a Facebook profile can operate as a temporary substitute as you can still fill out important details such as:
- About the company
- Contact Information
- Contact Hours/Availability
- Call to Action
- Photo Galleries
To learn how to properly setup a Facebook page for your business, read this step by step guide.
Instagram is an interesting case for contractors. Depending on your niche, Instagram can either be a great tool to showcase your work or a complete waste of time. As mentioned before, many people love looking, following, and engaging with beautiful homes and designs. If you’re a contractor that specializes in work that can be showcased (such as a remodeler, painter, or specialty contractor), you can use Instagram to gain a following and as an easy means to showcasing your work.
In our opinion, Twitter is no longer a viable option and would likely be a waste of time for contractors. There’s very little genuine engagement from potential customers and there’s not much room to furnish a full profile to showcase your business. We believe your time is better spent in other marketing activities.
Houzz, like Instagram, can be a very interesting use case for certain types of contractors. Contractors that have nice work to showcase can use Houzz as a platform for sharing their work. Tons of users browse Houzz not only to find inspiration, but also to find the right contractor for the job based on their work samples.
You’ll find many different contractor matching services on the internet. Each service will vary greatly in cost structure and offering. While some of the services offer the customer the ability to compare customer reviews and ratings on contractors to decide which contractor to contact, other services will take the customer’s requirements and sell them as a lead to matching, qualified contractors signed up for their service.
Angie’s List is on of the oldest and well known matching services. Until recently, Angie’s List charged the customer to be a member, but have since opened it up to everyone, expanding the reach. However, there are still fees for members with many options for add-ons to boost your visibility in the marketplace. While we know that you have the option of paying for additional exposure, many have accused Angie’s List of being a pure ‘pay to play’ scheme where the amount you pay may be the only thing that impacts your visibility.
Home Advisor works differently than Angie’s List in that you pay per lead that Home Advisor gives you. The price of the lead varies depending on the size of the job, making some leads quite costly at over $50 per lead. While not all leads are created equally, it’s important to make the most of your lead by following up as quick as possible as many customers simply go with the first option. Over time, review the quality of your leads and their source to determine which lead criteria works best for your business. If managed properly, Home Advisor’s paid leads can be a valuable tool to filling your schedule.
While Thumbtack also has a pay per lead type of arrangement, it works differently than Home Advisor. Customers come to Thumbtack and they fill out a form that helps answer what they’re looking for. The customer request is then sent out to contractors that match the criteria to see if they are interested in the opportunity. If you are interested, you submit a quote through Thumbtack, which is relayed to the customer along with a personal message and background info on your business. With Thumbtack, you pay per quote you submit rather than per lead you receive.
TheHomeFixers is a great way to test the waters when it comes to lead generation. Not only can you specify the types of leads you get, but they also offer the most options in controlling the flow of leads, making sure you’re only receiving leads when you’re ready for them. It’s easy to switch your account off and on for any reason. For example, if you book a big job or go on vacation, simply set daily and weekly preferences for volume so you don’t get overwhelmed. TheHomeFixers is a great way to try out lead generation without making any big commitments or getting overwhelmed. It’s free to sign up, and if you sign up through this link, your first three leads will be free!