The home services industry is in a unique position regarding search engine optimization (SEO). It is dependent on Google almost exclusively, as the vast majority of home services like plumbing, HVAC, roofers, landscaping, etc., are local. Most people aren’t looking for a plumber in a neighboring state. According to BrightLocal’s 2019 report, 90% of consumers use Google to find local businesses, with a third saying they do this daily. Most of those users also browse online reviews for local businesses.
Home service businesses are firmly in the bounds of “local SEO,” this means that if you’re a home service business and not online, you might get next to no business at all. Not only that but there’s another factor: Ranking high up the list. Forbes reports that the first page of Google results captures 71% of the click-through, with the dreaded page two of search results getting just 6% of clicks.
That’s 119 million web pages that hit for this term. Google shows about ten results per page, but it can be customized to show up to 50 per page. Generally speaking, the lucky top five or so hits get all the attention, while 118,999,995 results might as well not exist. So, it’s not enough to be on the web; you also have to rank high.
Now we’re not quite going to have that much competition because most of those hits had nothing to do with the user’s intent. Because of the way keywords work, those back pages are full of tangentially related websites, random forum comments, personal blog stories about furnaces, etc. Your market becomes far narrower when you focus on a specific location. How many HVACs in Laughlin, Nevada?
What a relief! Only 68 hits! If you try that search yourself, you’ll find increasingly irrelevant results further down like homebrew local business directories, plus places in California and Arizona due to Laughlin’s proximity to the tri-state corner there.
Based on your specific location and local market, you may have low or high competition for your target customers’ keywords.
As you might guess from the way Google sorts the results, Google is trying to divine user intent. Its algorithms decide that most users searching for home furnace repair are looking for a business transaction. We have a whole deep dive into keywords and their interpretation over here, but let’s move along and learn how to optimize for what Google wants.
Getting Google to Understand Your Location
Here’s a fun trick: Try searching for any service on your phone right now with the phrase “near me,” Google will display local results, no matter where you are! How does it do that?
On your end, Google reads the location data off your mobile phone. It can sense your location even when you’re not using it, which is how it knows to poll you for a review of a business after you’ve visited there. We’ll find out about the other end of this polling review magic in a minute.
On the website end, Google uses several signals, signs, and registrations to calibrate where a business is located. It does this through:
- Citations – using your name address phone (NAP)
- Your website copy
- A Google My Business listing
How To Cite
The first one is very basic: You go to any business directory and create a listing with your NAP. Anywhere you find a search directory, add your NAP. Register a social media profile in your business name and include your NAP. You can choose to cover all of the below, registering a profile for your business at each one:
- Apple Maps
- Better Business Bureau
- Internet Yellow Pages
Here are some specialized directories that are important for home service businesses to target:
- City Search
- Angie’s List
If your municipal government website has a local business directory, be sure to flip them your data too. No matter how small, every city loves supporting local businesses because that’s revenue that stays in town. That tabloid-style free newspaper they hand out at supermarkets with a name like “CityBeat” has a local business directory. Find the one in your area and visit their website for yet another citation that tells Google where you’re located.
How to Use Local Keywords
Next, think about your website. You should have your NAP listed somewhere around the header or footer and in a “contact us” page. Ideally, you should also create a location page. Here at Atlantic Digital Marketing, we’re a multi-state agency, so we have separate index pages for all our locations.
Ideally, your location page should:
- Be at least 500 words long
- Contain unique copy – do not use the exact same copy for different locations!
- Reference the location, using city, county, and regional keywords
- Include a map and directions
- Services available at that location
- Have a descriptive URL (something like “BobsUpholsteryAtlantaGA.com”)
Try browsing around local businesses in your area, and you will inevitably run into a family-owned business that looks like the website was built in the pioneer times. But it will have an “about us” page where they tell the story of how grandpappy settled in back a hundred years ago with the vision of bringing great interior design to the wild west… yada yada. It gets Google hits like no tomorrow. Just simply write 500 words that way and reference the local area a few times, and you’ll be set.
How To Use Google My Business
If you don’t have a Google My Business (GMB) listing, drop everything and claim your listing right now. It’s one of the top ways searchers find local businesses. When they use their phone to search for “electricians near me,” the search results page includes the Google Map Pack and the top three businesses nearby. Or if they’re using Google Maps, GMB listings are available across the map.
Once Google has a fix on your My Business location or has heard a rumor from all those NAP citations, it drops a red pin with your business name onto Google Maps. Included in that listing are your star ratings and reviews! They’ll be displayed from your My Business page along with your photos, video, message to customers, hours, link to your website, everything.
GMB listings are one of the top signals Google uses to determine location and rankings on the search engine results page (SERP). To ensure your GMB listing is ranked highly, you need to optimize it by:
- Adding a robust description
- Using target keywords
- Answering user questions in the FAQ section
- Including accurate NAP and operational hours
- Adding photographs
Read our article to learn more about how to optimize your Google My Business listing; we dig into all the details that you need to do.
Beyond GMB listings and reviews, Google relies on a lot of different signals for local SEO; Learn what matters most and how to optimize those signals.
Create Content and Tell the World What You Do!
Now that you have that red pin nailed into the map, your real voyage begins. Your website needs copy. Obviously, you will want to detail to potential customers what your services are and why you’re the best solution for your target market.
After building out your core website service or product pages, you need the magic of content marketing. Content marketing is the concept of producing compelling text which is either useful or entertaining, preferably both. Within that content is a rich, chunky mixture of SEO keywords that Google will crawl and associate with your site when users search for those keywords. One way to create and share this content is through a blog, where you consistently post robust, high-quality blog articles.
Write for Humans
We’re going to stop right here because a lot of you are saying, “Look, I can’t write. I’m also a lame bird when it comes to tweeting, and I can’t be in video because I’m too homely.” We understand; you came into the plumbing game to fix pipes, not be a rock star. Be advised: nobody expects Edgar Allan Poe to run a plumbing and heating company. You don’t have to be a scholar; you just need to create accurate content that’s written naturally. Here is the ultimate Zen wisdom that is at the bottom of all SEO:
Google wants to work with the natural way humans communicate.
That is the ultimate goal of Google. The best way to work with Google is to talk about a topic in a normal, natural, human way.
If you’re still daunted at the prospect, you can hire a freelancer to produce this content for you. The main site to do that is UpWork. Choose to get a blogger, a social media manager, a multimedia artist, or an all-purpose virtual assistant-whatever you need to augment your skills. For the sake of argument, there are alternative freelance marketplaces online like Guru.com and Fiverr, but the Internet tends to want one freelance marketplace the way it wants one search engine. Currently, that place is UpWork, and the runners-up go downhill fast from there.
Develop a Keyword Strategy
Before you create content, you need to understand what topics to write about and the words you should use. Consider that prerequisite reading there. Instead, we will focus on content marketing for home services. We’ll pick this lucky Beverly Hills landscaping service and examine what they do.
Their blog is what we have in mind when we say “content marketing,” They have informative topics on:
- When to replace plants
- Native plants
- Impact of garden plants on bees
- Late blooming plants for summer
- How to handle winter damage to plants come spring
- Importance of winter pruning
- Garden nooks
The most canonical content marketing blog post in history, hands down, is “things to consider when choosing an X company,” where “X” is your industry. Spoiler alert: The blog post is a list of aspects and qualities which will, just by coincidence, lead the reader to chose your company. But people do this because it works.
Anyway, that’s the kind of content marketing that gets you fame and fortune. You have informative content of interest to people who are your readers. You set yourself up as an expert in your field, the voice of industry authority. You have a soapbox to answer the questions your customers always ask. You talk about the one subject which you are the world’s best expert on: your business!
A Word About Niches
Recall way back when we showed the comparison of a broad search like “home furnace” to a search narrowed down to a small populated area. It’s hard to rank high in Google results for a big broad search. It is easy to rank high for a narrow search. This is what we call “long-tail content marketing.” Because the odds of somebody searching for “how to get Nutella stains out of couch upholstery” are always low, but never zero.
Your ideal niche is to find a topic that meets the sweet spot between not being beaten to death on the web already but also common enough that it will bring in some traffic. New developments in your industry are goldmines for this. Whenever a new law or regulation affects your industry or science reveals a new thing pertaining to your business, or there’s a hot new trend in your industry, being the first to jump on that bandwagon and write about it can help you generate more traffic.
Otherwise, you can focus on the local aspect, another department that’s likely to have low competition for search volume. This might be a local pest or invasive species that are the bane of drain spouts, or weather that impacts your roofing trade, or the climate is especially harsh on a kind of wood you use in trim, whatever that aspect is. The combination of your trade and region is bound to make a unique combination.
Lacking that, just about every home service is a natural fit for “evergreen content.” This means content that will be relevant years from now as it is today. News of the minute fades tomorrow. Sensible advice about gas appliance safety will be relevant decades from now. Your content strategy should break down to about 80% evergreen content and 20% timely and relevant news.
Bringing Your Whole Website Together
One last detail that needs to be considered when trying to improve your organic search rankings is your website itself. Consult with your web developer or an experienced SEO. Google is increasingly prioritizing your website’s performance and usability as a ranking factor. This matters for things like page speed, mobile-friendly pages, security, and the nuts-and-bolts details.
Speaking of classics, this has been another one. May all your business websites be classics too! If you have additional questions about SEO for home service businesses, don’t hesitate to reach out.