I’m often asked which marketing efforts a water damage restoration company should pursue, especially when it comes to online advertising.
Is pay-per-click too expensive? Does it work? Am I better off hiring an SEO company? Does social media marketing generate real jobs? Can’t my “web guy” do all this?
These are common questions and are important when generating quality emergency water damage jobs. We’ll take a look at each form of digital advertising, dig into the pros and cons, and talk “best practices.”
In short: There are three ways to page one of Google’s. I’ll refer to these ways as “the big three.”
Let me give you my advertising philosophy: Do everything, and do it consistently. Just like you wouldn’t limit your diet to just one thing, you shouldn’t limit your advertising to only one effort. Doing so makes for an unhealthy strategy. Balance and consistency is key.
As a quick point of reference, here are the big three ways to Google’s first page:
- Paid ad placement through pay-per-click via Google AdWords, also called “PPC,”
- Local map results, often referred to as “Google Local” or “Google Places,” and now called “Google My Business,”
- Organic or natural results, via search engine optimization (SEO), referred to as “organic results.”
In this article, we will only discuss Google products, as they control about two thirds of search-market share.
#1 PPC and Google AdWords
I’ve been involved with water damage lead generation via pay-per-click (PPC) since 2009. In 2013, I formed United Restorers. Our core competency is Google Ad- Words management for restoration companies.
Over the years, I’ve managed millions of dollars in PPC ads. Allow me to give you an insider’s view of what it is , how it works and how to succeed with your PPC effort.
What exactly is Google pay-per-click?
Google revolutionized how information is organized and displayed in searches. But with thousands of websites vying for the coveted first page, Google surpassed other search engines by offering top-of-search placement in the form of an advertisement.
What this means for us is that we can pay to ensure our company appears above other companies in the search results, and given the emergency nature of our business, being found first often means you’re called first.
There’s one key drawback to PPC: Cost. Google designed their PPC system as an auction. You and your competitors are allowed to bid on probable search terms a customer might use, such as “water damage companies.” Therefore, more competitive terms result in a higher cost per click (CPC). Because it’s no longer a secret that PPC ads generate water damage jobs, the ad space has become increasingly competitive.
There are three common PPC misconceptions:
Misconception: It’s too expensive. Most companies begin a PPC campaign ill prepared. What I mean is companies budget for the first month of PPC advertising without a budget (or plan) in place for months two, three, etc. It is imperative that a company budget for a minimum of 90 days when beginning a PPC campaign. Why? Planning for only the first month of a PPC campaign assumes:
- Your keyword (and negative keyword) list performs flawlessly,
- You have achieved page one, top-of-page placement,
- Your target areas are finely tuned and working,
- Your ad content is perfectly constructed for conversions (click-throughs to your website),
- Your website converts 100 percent of traffic.
In my experience, it is rare to achieve these goals during the first 90 days, let alone in the first month. Good Adwords management looks at data over time and makes reasonable adjustments based on that data.
Just 30 days’ worth of Adwords data is not enough time to judge an account’s success or failure. Smart Adwords users will take a conservative approach, budgeting three to six months’ worth of advertising and sticking to these budgets. In time and with a clear plan, PPC will pay off.
*Note: PPC marketers often contact you claiming to be a “Google partner” but are not affiliated with Google.
Misconception: My competitors will just click on my ads. Google has become increasingly good at identifying what they call “invalid clicks.” A few years ago, a competitor could — theoretically — click on your ad repeatedly, taking your ad offline and costing you a small fortune. While these invalid clicks would be credited back to your account within a week or so, your ads went offline because your daily budget was exhausted. This is not the case today. Google now immediately identifies more than one click on an ad. Multiple clicks don’t count against your daily budget, your ads don’t go offline and you’re not charged beyond the first click.
Misconception: I don’t look at Google ads. No one looks at Google ads. Well, my clients disagree. Granted, you may overlook a Google ad when searching for new tires for your van, but your customers, when ankle-deep in their flooded kitchen, often click on the first result they see, which is an ad.
And consider this: Nearly 65 percent of searches in our industry happen via smartphone (as of last year). If nearly two-thirds of customers are using phones to search, what do they see when they Google for help?
Try a search yourself. Do you see any organic results? Map results? No. You see ads! You have to scroll far down to see either organic or map results. Your customers see the same thing. This is why you need to be in the ad section. It is the number one of “the big three.”
Yes, PPC is expensive relative to other marketing efforts such as parking a wrapped van on the side of the road. But PPC only results in failure when it’s approached with no plan or a short-sided plan. Contact an expert, make a plan, analyze your data and make adjustments as necessary. Most importantly, be consistent!
#2 Google My Business (Maps)
After all that talk of “cost” and paying per click, let’s talk about free stuff! Google My Business is one of Google’s most helpful tools for customers and can be one of the most powerful tools in your program.
With Google My Business, you claim or register your business with Google. Your new business profile will show your web address, number, location, hours of operation and more. You even can upload photos and manage customer reviews. Think of this profile as a Google-sponsored mini-website for your company.
Most importantly, this profile can be found by customers when they search via Google search or Maps. Let’s try this: Grab your phone and search “dentists.” What do you see? Most likely 3-4 ads followed by multiple My Business listings and, finally, organic results.
Now click on one of those My Business listings, and you’ll see a new page showing information from this company’s My Business page (hours of operation, photos and reviews). It also will show organic results for this company along with every relevant local competitor.
Think like a water damage customer for a moment. What do they choose? Your My Business listing can stand out from all other listings or you can be completely overlooked.
If it seems this easy, then why do most companies fail at My Business listings? It’s all about ignorance. I don’t intend to insult anyone, so allow me to explain: You understand or you’ve heard that the three key ways you market your company online are:
- Paid ads, or PPC,
- SEO, or optimizing your site for a Google Search,
- Social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus).
But Google My Business exists in a very weird place. My Business is the offspring of a bizarre love triangle between Google Search, Google Maps and Google Plus, which is Google’s alleged alternative to Facebook. Because of the social media hybrid that is My Business, it requires a more disciplined approach than Facebook or LinkedIn.
How to master My Business
Once you’ve claimed or created and verified your My Business page with Google, don’t stop there. You need to:
- Update your hours of operation, and if you do emergency water damage, you are open on Sundays.
- Tailor your service area, and be realistic. • Upload photos of you, your crew, your vans and your job sites; be genuine.
- Encourage recent customers to leave reviews; help new ones find your My Business page for a review; address all old reviews on your My Business page.
Post regularly but not too frequently. In other words, be relevant. Don’t spam.
Don’t be a phony
In the past, companies could “fake” My Business pages, creating dozens of “locations” in a metro to artificially enlarge the company’s service area.
In fact, marketing companies and lead generators sprung up, seemingly overnight, to help in this effort. Don’t do it. And don’t believe any company that says they can create multiple My Business pages for you.
Unless you have multiple, physical company locations, with company signage bolted to the building, Google won’t allow you more than one page. A fake My Business page threatens your real My Business page with being flagged and removed by Google.
Easy to set up, free to manage and very powerful, Google My Business is your number two of “the big three.”
#3 Good, old fashioned SEO
I Googled “water damage repair companies in Los Angeles” and my search showed 1,760,000 results. So what causes Company A to show up on page one while Company pany B shows up on page 3,729?
The simple answer is good SEO.
Unfortunately, Google doesn’t publish complete statistics for Google Search, but I did find some interesting information recently. I’m going to hit you with statistics:
- 71 percent of all searches resulted in a page-one click.
- Pages two and three get less than six percent of all clicks.
- Results one through five on page one account for two thirds of all clicks.
- Results six through 10 account for nearly four percent of all clicks.
I won’t go into the nuances of what is “good SEO” versus what is “black hat.” Frankly, SEO isn’t my specialty. What I will say is your website deserves good SEO. But, simply put, here are the pros and cons of doing SEO:
Pretty easy, right? SEO is a long-term strategy. It takes a lot of work to get to page one and stay there.
Every day, I talk to restoration companies like yours. Inevitably, the “SEO question” comes up. Here are some questions I’m most often asked, along with my responses.
- My web guy does this. Why is it not working? Is your “web guy” also an SEO expert? He built your website, right? Doesn’t that make him a developer or a designer? I don’t trust my car to my gastroenterologist or my gut to my mechanic. Yes, they both “fix” things, but they have two different specialties.
- How do I get my site on page one naturally? Good SEO. Does the tagline under your company name say, “Water Damage Repair and SEO”? Stop doing SEO on your own, and hire a professional.
- Is my SEO company any good? Does your SEO company specialize in restoration? You’re part of a niche industry that require marketers who know it. Hiring a general SEO company most often results in poor results. Hiring an SEO company that knows the business like you do produces good results. Simple.
An organic search result achieved through good SEO is a trusted, relevant answer for companies wishing to achieve better rankings. Yes, good SEO takes time and requires a professional who specializes in our industry, but the payoff is big. Rounding out number three on our list: Good, old fashioned “natural” search results.
Bring it all together
There is an art to Google’s page one. But just as a single brush stroke doesn’t make a complete painting, no single marketing technique is the answer. Do everything, and do it consistently.
In order to have the most powerful effect on page one of Google, your efforts with PPC, My Business and SEO must be working together. When you Google “water damage companies” or “emergency water damage repair” do you see your website? Is your website displayed throughout “the big three?” If not, seize these opportunities! This strategy is what the most successful restoration companies in your market do.
Think of it this way: If you’re the best restorer in your market (and you are), you owe it to your customers to be found . Remember, nearly three-quarters of all Google searches result in a page-one click. If you’re not dominating page one, your customers are finding and calling your competitor.
Jonathan Grubb is the founder and president of United Restorers LLC, which creates and manages online advertising efforts for restoration companies with the aim of ensuring its clients stay at the top of Google’s first page.