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Local Spark Blog
18Sep 2016

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Where to Start Online As a Local Tradesman

Service Based Business Tips by William Chenoweth

Our Perspective: We focus on businesses that help local homeowners improve or maintain their home. (Plumbers, Electricians, Roofers, Landscapers, etc)

Consumer interaction with local business data is completely different than it was just six years ago. When someone wants or needs a product or service, they go straight to their smart phone to find the answer. As the intelligence of Google and other search engines progress, modern US citizens become increasingly reliant on the instant information that we already take for granted. Whether it’s shopping online for clothes on your favorite store’s website or using a search engine to find a local painter, we use our smart phones on a daily basis to do almost everything for us. Our expectations of these small devices are higher than ever. Google has coined the process in which we interact with our smart phones and how our smart phones respond as ‘micro-moments’. Examples of these interactions include the questions we ask our smart phones every day, such as “Where is a good place to eat?” or “Where can I find a local plumber?”

If you plan to keep competing in the local search arena, you must allow your business to stay fluid in terms of online marketing. It is hard to predict exactly which major search engines, like Google, will change their algorithm next, which is why black-hat SEO techniques are making some companies fall off the map entirely.  However, if you put yourself in Google’s shoes, the steps that are most effective to market your business for online searches become crystal clear. For example, when a local Chesapeake patron searches on their phone for a ‘painter’ in Chesapeake, Google utilizes as many data sources as possible to provide the user that searches with an intelligent answer.

 

Let’s go through a sample collection of data that Google may or may not have access to on a local painter in Chesapeake: (These have been simplified for obvious reasons)

  1. Google My Business Page (Business Name / Address / Phone Number / Category / Hours / Reviews)
  2. An associated Website (Where it is hosted and how fast will it appear for the mobile user.)
  3. An associated Facebook page (Review data is collected by Google and shows whether your business is active and interesting by the date of last post and likes.)
  4. An associated Linked In Business Profile (LinkedIn lends credibility to the owner and the connections of senior employees.)
  5. An associated BBB Accredited listing (This shows that you are paying monthly and actively trying to satisfy customers.)
  6. An associated Yelp listing (This is mostly for foodies but could grow into the home service arena over time.)
  7. An associated Angie’s List Page (This shows you are active via reviews. Otherwise, Angie’s List does not share much info)
  8. An associated Home Advisor Page (This information shows you are active via reviews. Otherwise, Home Advisor does not contribute to your local ranking.)
  9. An associated Thumbtack Page (Thumbtack shows you are active via reviews. It is also good for leads if you are computer savvy.)
  10. Links from the web “Carpet Cleaner Inc.”

 

Now let’s go through a sample consideration process a search engine may complete when it comes to selecting a ‘local painting business’ to show to a user.

  1. Give me all ‘Painting’ businesses within 20 miles of the phone’s known home location. (Use Google Maps as main source, then other directories as needed.)
  2. Now which ones are most active? (Recent reviews, New Website Content, Google My Business Updates, Facebook updates, new incoming links.)
  3. Now which local companies are mobile-friendly and display contact information prominently?
  4. Now which painter websites load the fastest and will not make the user wait more than a ‘Micro-Moment’ to display?
  5. Has the user frequented any of these choices in the past? If so, give it more weight.
  6. List all remaining painters, giving priority to companies with more recent realistic reviews from multiple sources.

This simplified step-by-step process is just an example and by no means fully represents the process through which we believe Google or any other major search engine displays local home service based companies. It is simply a great way to demystify some of the complexities that many SEO companies use to confuse hard workers into purchasing services they do not need.

We do, however, use a similar structure as a starting point to create ethical strategies that allow our clients to compete locally. Local advertisement used to be much easier; you could pay for a huge ad in the phone book and your phone just started ringing. Google is toying with a similar process but it is not as easy as you think to display the best possible local carpet cleaner results. Lawyer  are a great example of how Google has morphed their recent algorithms. Attorneys can make a boat-load of money off of one personal injury case. With this in mind, some of the less ethical attorneys nationwide have pumped a good deal of money into trying to ‘trick’ search engines to pick up just one more injury case. Long story short, search engines do not have one single simple way to display results. Their goal is to show you the companies that are local, currently practicing their craft, and good at what they do. However, one thing is abundantly clear: search engines are undoubtedly rewarding local companies that practice ethical online marketing practices.

This may or or may not answer your question of ‘Should my business Facebook?!’ But it should encourage you to start the Google My Business verification process and begin looking into ‘doing it yourself’. Another option is to hire a local company that can build you a one-page, super-fast, mobile-friendly website with clear concise contact information at a minimal price. Once your location is verified by a postcard from Google, install the Google my Business App on your cell phone so you can respond to reviews as well as upload photos of work trucks, employees doing work on a home, etc. Any photos that legitimize your business will go a long way toward attracting new customers and clients to your company. One important thing to remember is that reviewing your own business will likely do more harm than good; stick with legitimate reviews from past clients.

 

Recap:

  • Google is currently the king of the local search space. It carries approximately 70 percent of Hampton Roads home service searches.
  • Having a small, mobile-friendly, fast-loading website should be your top priority as a local tradesman. (Any web platform works. Even creating free sites through platforms like GoDaddy, Wix, Weebly or Yola can help. Obviously, a specialist can assure your site ranks well on the Google Page Speed Index because Google ultimately cares about the customer experience. However, any reputable SEM expert can get you instant leads with or without a perfect website.)
  • Assure you verify your business phone number, address and website address on Google My Business
  • Respond to customer reviews using the Google My Business app on your smart phone.

 

Look around you. People are using their phone for just about everything. Don’t miss out on your opportunity to be a part of the micro-moment movement.