Skilled trades have long existed on word of mouth, reputation, and proof of the quality of their work. However, in the age of the internet, this isn’t always enough to grow a business. Other companies can use SEO and modern marketing techniques to outdo the companies relying entirely on reputation, which puts you at a disadvantage.
Plumbers and HVAC companies are among these trades, and it is past time many invest more heavily in SEO. To make things easier, we’ve compiled this guide to take you from beginner to expert in DIY SEO and give you an alternative if it proves to be too much for your busy schedule to allow.
Understand the Goal of SEO
As with any process, it helps immensely to understand the goals and the reasons why you’re doing what you’re doing.
With SEO, the goal is two-fold. First, you want to create and expound upon an online presence such that when users within your area of operation search for the services you provide, they find you. Second, you want to make that web presence as positive as possible so that those same users choose your company over the rest when presented with a list of potential plumbers or HVAC companies.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and primarily refers to Google. Other search engines control less than 10% of the market share, and many of them follow Google’s lead. Thus, techniques that improve your presence on Google will also improve it on Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, and other search engines.
SEO is NOT:
- Paid advertising. While SEO does cost money (and time), it does not involve running paid advertising.
- Limited to your own website. Many aspects of SEO factor in your reputation and reviews on other sites, like Angi, Yelp, or HomeAdvisor.
- Fast. SEO is a long-term, ongoing process. SEO is often slow and can take 6-12 months before it shows tangible, actual results in many cases.
- Magic. SEO can help boost your business, but it will amplify anything relevant to your business. If you have a history of poor deals, poor service, or problems with your installations, SEO alone will not fix it. For that, you need to turn to reputation management. And, of course, improved service.
In essence, SEO is the long and gradual process of building up a reputation, not just with your customers and your local area, but with the search engines and their view of your company. Depending on your actions up to this point, it’s possible that you already have more of a web presence than you realize, which can be capitalized on with the right actions.
Design and Optimize Your Website
In our experience, plumbers and HVAC companies generally fall into four categories.
- The companies that have not felt the need to have a website and have nothing.
- The companies with a bare minimum boilerplate website.
- The companies with a well-optimized website made by a previous marketing company.
- The companies with a flashy but poorly-made website that can be holding them back.
Your website is how most customers will be looking for you today. Optimizing it is a critical part of SEO. Fortunately, it’s not incredibly difficult. A good website should include:
- A Homepage that discusses who you are and what you do in broad strokes.
- An About page that goes into your history and your company.
- A Services page listing your various services, possibly divided between residential and commercial services if necessary.
- A Contact page with all of the relevant information necessary to reach your business, including phone number, office address, map, hours of operation, and so on.
These pages especially should have a tree structure. The homepage is the trunk. The pages above are the branches. The Services page can then have sub-pages for each service, with details a user might find relevant.
Some companies have flashy but poorly-optimized websites that violate various SEO rules. The biggest mistakes you should look for and correct include:
- Over-using keywords. If you remember websites where every page had 20 instances of “Your HVAC company in Lockland” over and over, you know how obnoxious they were to read. This mistake is called over-optimization and can get a site penalized today.
- Content embedded in multimedia. If your text is primarily embedded in images, if you have auto-play videos, if you have auto-playing music, or if you still use something like Flash, Google can’t read 90% of your content, so it may as well be invisible.
- Using “black hat” SEO techniques. Many techniques can get a site penalized or even removed from Google search results. Check this list and verify that your site isn’t using any of them. If necessary, contact a company for an SEO audit.
As long as you avoid the biggest mistakes and have a functioning, fast-loading website, you’re 95% of the way to a good web presence. In an industry where many players lag behind on modern developments, this can set you ahead of the pack.
It’s the other 5% that sets you ahead of the competition that knows what they’re doing. That is your on-page optimization and involves using keywords relevant to both your services and your geographic location/service areas.
- Use human-readable URLs, like www.example.com/services/residential/drain-repair-clog-removal for relevant service pages.
- Optimize the page meta title and description. These can be specified using website plugins or direct code editing, and show up in Google search results for the page.
- Use the relevant keyword in the H1 title of the page and throughout the content you write about that service on your service pages.
- Avoid having more than one page about the same service. These pages will compete with one another and leave your site worse off. Note that this is for identical services: residential and commercial versions of similar services are different enough to have individual pages.
- Make sure each page on your site has an adequate amount of content. A general rule of thumb is to aim for 400-500 words of description and detail for service pages and 1,500+ words of content for blog posts. Consider hiring a content writer for your blog.
The majority of this information will not be changing with much regularity, so you can iteratively add to, improve, and adjust the content to be more attractive to users. For example, if customers have a question they ask every time, add it to your website.
Claim and Optimize Your Web Profiles
There will be several profiles around the web that can be worth claiming and optimizing. These are profiles such as your Google Business Profile or your Yelp profile.
When claiming a profile, you want to ensure you have relevant information to add and ensure it’s identical across different sites. Variations in name, address, or phone numbers can cause a profile to not count for your business.
We wrote a complete guide for claiming your Google Business Profile for more details. These steps will be essentially the same for other directories. What other directories should you look into?
- The Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association
- The Better Business Bureau
- Merchant Circle
- Angi (Formerly Angie’s List)
Some of these companies may want you to pay a fee for membership. It’s up to you if you decide to do so. If they offer the ability to claim a profile for free, start there, and determine if the benefits they give you for a pro membership are worthwhile. They won’t be most of the time, but if you’re looking to get an edge in a competitive market against a company that uses the pro listings, you may need to do the same to stand a chance.
The most powerful aspect of SEO is the backlink. That is a link from another website to your website.
Backlinks are more powerful the “better” they are. The quality of a link is judged by the relative size and authority between the linking site and your site, the relevance of the site’s topics, and the placement of the link. For example:
- A link from a prominent local newspaper will be better than a link from your intern’s personal blog.
- A link from a plumber’s review site will be better than a link from a book review site.
- A link in the body of a blog post will be better than one in the footer of a page.
Building backlinks is often a matter of two things: outreach and brand building. This guide from Backlinko, one of the foremost authorities on link building online, is an excellent place to start.
Backlinks are one of the riskiest parts of SEO. That is because there are many people and services out there that claim to build backlinks for you. When you hire them, they resort to techniques from the “black hat SEO” list above, which can be either valueless or actively harmful to your website. Stay away from these companies.
Build Citations and Testimonials
All of the sites where you registered a profile above are useful for two reasons. The first is, as directories of service providers, when a user searches them, you want your business to be visible. The second is that they are generally hubs where users – particularly your customers – can leave reviews.
Reviews are essential. We all know how important they can be for deciding on a product or service. Thus, one of the best things you can do for your business is build more reviews, citations, and testimonials.
There are a lot of different ways to gain more reviews. In particular, you want to solicit positive reviews from your satisfied customers and clients. You should also monitor the review sites you’ve registered for and watch for mediocre or negative reviews. When you see those, respond to them, and do anything you can to make the situation right. Showing customer service publicly can be more convincing for some people than all the positive reviews in the world.
Like backlinks, it can be tempting to pay for positive reviews. This is often detrimental because they can be obviously faked, they are often expensive for relatively little value, and they are often detected and removed by the site hosting them. You end up spending money for, essentially, nothing. Earn your reviews, instead.
Outsource the Whole Thing
If all of the above sounds like it’s time-consuming and tedious, that’s because it is. It’s a tricky industry, but it’s essential to success with a modern business. If you want to grow, gain a larger audience, expand your business, and gather more clients, you need to invest in a good website with optimized SEO.
Unfortunately, it takes a lot of time and effort to handle all of this, so much that it can be considered a full-time job. It is often better to outsource the process instead of handling all of this on your own, and being tempted to ignore or take shortcuts for some aspects.
That’s why we offer a range of services. Our LocalSites service helps build and maintain a website if you don’t have one already. LocalReviews helps you build those citations and testimonials that are important for modern web business. LocalSEO can help audit and optimize your existing website and improve your SEO metrics across the board. And, of course, LocalResponse can help keep you in touch with leads and customers to maintain tight scheduling, provide responsive service, and gain a reputation as the best in your area.
If your plumbing or HVAC company needs any of these kinds of services, please feel free to reach out to us at any time. Additionally, if you have any questions or concerns regarding your SEO, site optimization, or what our services entail, do not hesitate to reach out as well! Properly managing your company’s SEO is no simple task, as we mentioned, so it is critical that you are handling it properly. We will do our absolute best to answer your questions to your satisfaction, clear up any possible concerns you may have, and give you the top quality of service you and your company deserve.