A step by step guide to generate leads online
Gone are the days when someone finds you in the phone book. Your digital footprint (large or small) determines your online visibility and ultimately your success at generating new leads. Digital marketing for contractors is an industry-specific approach to not only build the size of your footprint but also to increase the number and quality of your leads.
While no two businesses are alike, I can give you some advice from my personal experience. I’ve helped contractors (home service businesses, construction, landscapers, plumbers, contractors) for over 20 years. They come to me for one reason – they need more leads.
The number one problem I often see relates to their website. Either from a design or content standpoint – it fails to engage and motivate their audience. The number two problem is that they’ve already wasted money on one or more marketing strategies that resulted in poor traffic and zero leads.
In this guide I’ll explain how to fix both problems and select the right marketing mix for your business.
Your website should be the center of your digital world
Not just any website, contractors need a great website. It should be as professional as you can afford. This is where your potential customers go first. They check out your skills, your credibility, your service area and see examples of your workmanship.
If you have a website you built with a DIY template or your nephew coded it… you better go back and take another look – your customer’s first impression contributes greatly to your bottom line and I cannot stress enough the importance your website plays into this perception. A great website for a contractor is one that places importance on your work, your credentials and leads the visitor to the inquiry form or your phone number.
After the website, the next step is to claim and optimize your social media profiles. For contractors, these are usually Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Houzz or Pinterest. Each of these profiles should be as complete as you can make them. At a minimum, each one you use should display your logo, branding and contact information including a link to your website.
Keep people coming back to your website
When you publish something newsworthy, such a a new project completion, don’t just post it on Facebook. You should post it on your website and then link to it from your social media.
If I build it, will they come?
Before investing in marketing, most websites are very lucky to get a small trickle of visitors. Over time (months or years), the trickle may grow a little – but without marketing – it will never grow enough to provide the steady stream of leads your business needs. You need a continuous flow of traffic to your website because without it, you can’t generate leads.
What type of digital marketing should contractors invest in?
Some agencies may try to sell you on SEO while others tout the benefits of social media marketing and still others want you to invest in home service directory sites (like Angie’s List, Home Advisor and others). With all these different choices, it can be hard for you to select the best method for your individual business.
How do I know which marketing I need?
Before I answer that question, let’s explore the six different ways a visitor may arrive at your website:
- Direct Traffic: these people have simply typed your URL into a browser. They could also be referrals from an instant message or any source that doesn’t fit into one of the other channels
- Referral Traffic: these people have clicked a link on another website or directory that links to you
- Social: these people arrive from social media – either from a random link or your profile link
- Organic Search Traffic: this traffic comes from people who click on organic search results
- Paid Search Traffic: this traffic comes from people who click on organic search results
- Other: these are channels where you may have a link back to your website like an email campaign or offline campaign
It has been my personal experience that the percentages of traffic (on average) for service-based businesses breakdown very close to what industry experts say:
As you can see, service-based businesses rely heavily on Organic Search with most of their traffic arriving via that channel. This is followed by direct traffic and paid search. Sources like directories, social and email are not really a blip on the radar.
Does this mean digital marketing for contractors should be focused on organic traffic?
Well, yes – but not exclusively and I’ll explain why. Your website needs to have diversity in traffic sources. You know the old saying – “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” and it especially applies here. Search engines (like Google) are changing their ranking algorithms almost daily. That means you could be on the first page – enjoying success – and then boom! You lose everything overnight when a major shift in ranking happens. If you are investing in SEO exclusively, then your business will suffer greatly. However, if you can rely on a variety of traffic sources, then you can weather the storm.
Check your website analytics and see how your traffic percentages stack up against the average. Shape your marketing strategy to include organic but don’t neglect other channels like paid search and direct traffic.
If your traffic from organic search is significantly higher than average (60% and up) – you may want to add in some social marketing or paid search to help diversify. If it is significantly lower (40% or below) – you may want to beef up your SEO to increase organic traffic.
Try to keep your marketing budget divided between different strategies. If you are unsure in this area, hire a digital agency to create a blended marketing plan for you.
Not all traffic is equal
Organic Traffic: SEO works to boost your organic traffic – it requires time and doesn’t work instantly. It can take months to start seeing increases. Organic traffic is free but not if you consider the time and expense of SEO (search engine optimization). Without SEO, it is not likely you will hit the Google lotto and be on page one for your important keywords.
Paid Search: With paid search, you get traffic instantly. The only drawback is you have to pay for each visitor. Paid search does deliver a high-quality lead since the clicks come from people after they’ve searched for your specific keywords. However, when you rely on it for more than 20-25% of your traffic – it may not be sustainable because of cost.
Direct Traffic: This is truly “free” traffic and you should do as much as possible to build it. Putting your URL on everything – trucks, business cards, invoices, brochures, etc. If you are just starting out, your direct traffic is going to be zero, so spend time building it and start now.
All other types of traffic: In my opinion, all other types of traffic are just icing on the cake. Most service-based businesses never get enough traffic from these sources to make them a major source of leads. However, I’m not saying you don’t need them. Having a good social presence and referral links is important to your SEO and an opportunity to engage your customers and build your brand. Industry-specific directories (like Angie’s List, Home Advisor) can be good for the credibility factor, however, don’t rely EXCLUSIVELY on them for leads. The levels of traffic don’t usually compare to what you will get from organic search or paid search.
Digital Marketing Resources for Contractors
HotJar: Free service allows you to record and see how people navigate your website.
Contractor Websites: Custom designed, contractor-specific website for your business
Blended Marketing: MaxTraffic blends SEO, PPC and more into one economical plan
About the Author: Anita Schott is a digital marketing strategist and partner at the G3 Group.