Search Engine Marketing for Tradies – Is it Worth the Money?
Search engine marketing (SEM) is the science (some say dark art) of driving search engine traffic to your website. When somebody types a particular search into Google that is related to your trade service you ideally want your website to be visible in search results. For example, if you are a plumber in Brisbane, you might want to be visible for a range of keywords that people might type into Google. For example:
- plumber Brisbane
- fix blocked drain Brisbane
- shower leak repairs Brisbane
The most common way to make a tradies website visible for search terms like those are via search engine optimisation (SEO) and pay per click (PPC) advertising, like Google AdWords. Usually, when somebody calls you about search engine marketing for your tradies website it will be to sell you one of those services.
SEO & PPC – What’s the Difference?
SEO is all about “optimising” your website, social media pages, directory listings and other online profiles so they appear in search results for keyword sets that you target – preferably as high up the list of search results as possible.
PPC is all about competing with and bidding against other local tradies who want to rank as highly as possible on Google for certain keyword sets too. Generally, the more bidders there are in a PPC auction, the more you’ll pay for your ad to appear in search results.
SEO & PPC – Which is Better?
Unless you know how to do these things yourself, you’ll have to pay for both SEO and PPC. You might be best to think of SEO as a longer-term investment in “free” visibility on the search engines, whilst PPC is something that can drive traffic to your website immediately and produce fast results. Which is better? Maybe neither. In an ideal world, you might want a balance of both.
Are SEO and PPC Worth It?
Whenever tradies ask me this question I always say the same thing: Show me the demand. Any marketing consultant who’s not just out to take your money will ask the same question or a variation of the question. If there is no localised demand for what your business does, SEO & PPC will generally be a complete waste of your money. I’ve been doing this a long time and that’s the truth. Unfortunately, there are many people selling SEO & PPC who either don’t appear to be aware of this simple reality or who just don’t like to talk about it. If you’re not being asked about localised demand, chances are you’re dealing with a fool or are just about to be royally scammed. Understanding local demand is the starting point for all good quality search engine marketing when it comes to promoting local trade services.
SEM Cost/Benefit Analysis
The numbers don’t lie. They’ll tell you if it’s worthwhile for you to invest money in SEO or PPC. Doing a cost-benefit analysis doesn’t require fancy spreadsheets or a masters degree in mathematics. Some basic searching on Google will reveal a lot, as will some rudimentary keyword research. A pen, paper and calculator will tell you the rest.
Local Search Volume
Firstly, think about what people might type into Google as a search when looking for a tradie like you. If you’re an electrician in Newcastle, you might choose some terms like this:
- Newcastle electricians
- electrical contractors Newcastle
- cost of electricians in Newcastle
You can check your approximate monthly search volume for individual keywords and keyword sets by using the Google keyword planner, which is a free tool. You’ll need a Google account to access and use the tool. There are also some other freebie tools online, just Google “free keyword planning tools”. Many keyword planners will give you more ideas once you have entered a few basic search terms. They’ll often also tell you local search volumes, keyword competitiveness and estimate the cost per click on Google. You can be sure that if something has a solid search volume and a high cost per click, SOMEBODY is making money from that keyword set. Any competent consultant will know how to research keyword search volumes for your trade and will discuss with you what keywords you should be targeting for SEO and/or PPC purposes.
Check out your competition
Now that you have some basic information it’s time to take a look at the competition. Who is ranking organically on Google? What about with Google AdWords? Are they your local competitors? Are they a struggling business, or somebody who is doing well? What is their website like? Would YOU call them if you landed on their website after clicking an ad or a link? How good is your website, in comparison? Can you compete well or do you need to spend some time and money improving your website before jumping off the block? Be honest with yourself.
What are your expected costs sales?
Next look at how much SEO and PPC will cost you, plus the cost of any ads. How many new inquiries would you need to generate in order to break even? What about to make a profit? Are there any other costs to consider, such as a new website or tweaking your existing website? If SEO is going to cost you $1,500 per month and PPC another $750 per month, plus the cost of ads, will you recover that? How soon? Some VERY basic mathematics will tell you most of what you need to know.
Think before you act
Don’t be dazzled by all the fast talk and “guarantees”. A digital marketing proposal makes sense, or it doesn’t. If the whole thing is going to cost you $4,000 per month, for the next 12 months, how else could you spend that money on advertising and what results might you expect from that? Could you just put that money straight in your pocket instead? Consider the alternatives.
A final word
Just because it’s digital advertising doesn’t mean that it’s good advertising. Like every other business, digital marketing has plenty of cowboys in its ranks. Check out the people you’re dealing with and ask to see some real world results before taking action. That usually sorts the men from the boys. When it comes to deciding if search engine marketing is right for you, as a local tradie, “it depends” really is the answer. Knowing what it depends on puts you streets ahead in deciding if SEO or PPC are right for you.