Many people reading this post will have seen the film Field of Dreams. It’s a story about a farmer who keeps hearing voices from a cornfield that say “If you build it he will come”. The film isn’t really my cup of tea and I’m not going to spoil the story for anyone who hasn’t seen the movie – but (spoiler alert) – the ghost of the farmers’ long last father eventually comes to visit after the builds “it” (“it” being a baseball field). A lot of people seem to think that if they build a website, “they” (being customers) will come. Here’s another spoiler alert. It just ain’t so.
Imagine for a moment that you set up a billboard in the middle of the desert. The billboard might be advertising air conditioning – which will probably seem like a damned fine idea to anyone who has ever spent time in a desert. It’s hot and any message about how to cool down might be welcomed. One problem. Very few people are ever going to drive by that billboard. Of the people who do drive by only some will be interested in air conditioning. Fewer still will want to buy air conditioning from you. Fewer again will want to buy air conditioning, right now.
Chances are that your website is just like that desert billboard. It’s got a worthwhile message targeting people who are likely to be interested in what you sell. The problem is that too few people are “driving by”. In the business it actually called web traffic – and web traffic is what you need.
A variety of tactics can be utilised to drive discovery of your website. Those tactics should be informed by your digital marketing strategy. Here are a few traffic generating tactics which are in common use.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the science (some say dark art) of driving traffic to your website via organic search results, primarily on the Google search engine. For most small, local businesses SEO is an effective, low-cost way to generate targeted website visitors. Just be aware that it can take a little time to produce results with SEO, so it’s not always a great way to generate immediate website visitation.
Pay per click (PPC) advertising allows you to advertise to potential customers and pay only for the clicks that result in a visit to your website. Google AdWords and Facebook ads are the two best-known examples of these types of ads. PPC can get your business at the top of search engine results TODAY and done properly can be an effective, profitable driver of website visitation and new business.
Remarketing and retargeting are very similar to PPC ads, but with the advantage that ads are served exclusively to people who have already demonstrated an interest by visiting your website. Remarketing ads can be served across a variety of “partner” websites and social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn. Personally, I think that almost every business should be using this very effective medium of reengagement.
Content marketing focuses on producing, publishing and distributing content that is likely to be of interest to your targeted audiences. That content may consist of such things as blog posts, videos, giveaways, etc. This post that you’re reading right now is an example of content marketing! Like SEO, content marketing can take considerable time to pay off for your business. Don’t rely upon it as an immediate source of new traffic.
Social media marketing consists of finding ways to reach out to and engage with the audiences that you build on various social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Social media can help to make you the local, friendly authority in your business. Just be aware that social, means social. In other words, you need to take the time and make the effort to be human. That means actually engaging with people!
Outreach marketing consists of you approaching potential clients, via various methodologies. That could be via email, personal messages on social media, commenting on forums, etc. This is a very direct form of marketing and you’ll often see fast results from doing this.
This post isn’t designed to be a “how to”. It’s more of a “what to”. Building a website and hoping that people might drop by simply isn’t enough. You need to make people aware of the existence of your website and let them know where to go. Some or all of the tactics suggested in this post might work for you and your business in building visitation to your website and converting visitors into paying customers. Try them out. Let me know in the comments how it goes.
I’m often asked by tradies “What’s the best kind of website for me?”. I’d sure love it if the answer to that question was as simple as some people would have you believe, but it isn’t. Like so many aspects of marketing for tradesmen, the answer is “It depends”. I’m going to try and cover off on the major things that you’ll need to consider, right here.
The very first thing to consider when developing a new website is your customers. By customers, I mean the kind of people you serve (or want to serve) within the area of your geographic reach. I’m going to use a real-world example here. Let’s say you’re a plumber. It might be that you spend all of your time contracting for builders. You might be more of a renovation specialist, or maybe you’re one of those 24-hour emergency callout guys. What you do and who you serve is going to influence the kind of website you need to develop.
If you serve builders, they are going to want to hear about your attention to detail, timeliness of completion, the guarantees you provide, your licensing status, your insurance coverage, your credit terms and the scope of work that you can handle. They might want to see images of completed projects and testimonials from other builders you have worked with. They’re not interested in your ability to unblock a drain or fix a minor bathroom leak!
If you’re a 24-hour emergency plumber, people generally only want to know a couple of things and they want to know RIGHT BLOODY NOW! They want to know your phone number, how quickly you can be at their house and how much a callout will cost them. Information about your license number and how beautifully your last bathroom reno worked out are of zero interest to them. You need a website that literally shoves what they need to know right in their face.
Right of the back of understanding exactly who your customer is is clarifying your value proposition. Think of your value proposition is a promise that you make to the customers you serve.
First up, visitors to your website will want to know that they are in the right place. Make them think and they’ll hit the back button faster than lightning. This is no time to try and be clever. If you are a 24-hour emergency plumber, be bold and place the words 24 HOUR EMERGENCY PLUMBER front and centre on your homepage. You might then clarify that statement with a value proposition such as “We help drains go with the flow” or something that is clever or fun. The main thing is that your visitors will know immediately that they are in the right place.
People need to know right away that your website addresses their immediate needs. Provide a clear and compelling message about what you do and be CLEAR about the promises you make. Work hard to avoid excess clutter and noise that might distract your visitors in any way. That means no flashing words, scrolling images or annoying music! People want a plumber and you are it! Take care of this stuff or visitors to your website will be hitting the back button in droves – I guarantee you!
You only ever get one chance to make a first impression. Often, your website will be your very first point of contact with a prospective customer, so it needs to create both a realistic and positive impression about what you and your business are all about. My best advice is to keep the design clean, keep it simple and make sure that it properly reflects your brand, utilising your logo and using colours, fonts and imagery to reinforce your message.
Nothing screams amateur hour more than a website that looks ugly, is difficult to navigate and makes it hard for visitors to locate what they are looking for. Truthfully, most tradies shouldn’t be playing amateur web designer any more than a web designer should be playing amateur electrician or gasfitter. Spend some money and get the professional help that you need to create the right impression for visitors. Do it, or they’ll visit your website an quickly leave.
A call to action is the ONE thing that you want visitors to your tradies website to do. Do you want them to pick up the phone and call you? Would you prefer that they sent you an email? Maybe you want them to download a free guide that you’ve created about bathroom renovations, or you’d prefer that they ask for a free quote, via a web calendar. Maybe a lot of things! The primary thing is to craft your message towards only ONE consistent call to action.
The research is clear that overloading visitors to your website with more options results in less actions being taken. Whilst this seems counterintuitive, the research cannot be ignored. Decide upon exactly what course of action you want your visitors to pursue, then structure your content and call to action to push them towards that ONE goal. Like many things in web design, less really is more.
People often find dealing with tradies to be quite overwhelming. Unlike everyday grocery purchases, many people might only need a tradie a few times in their entire lives. It’s natural for people to fear what they don’t understand (which is mainly the cost) – and many people do fear talking to you. It’s up to you to make that easier for them and one of the simplest ways to achieve that is by simplifying your services.
A lot of tradies use jargon on their websites and also have a tendency to use 10 words where 5 might do. Write as if you are speaking to a 12 year old. If they can understand what you’re saying, so can pretty much everyone who visits your website. Even sophisticated buyers appreciate directness and simplicity. Make yourself and your services accessible by simplifying them. Your website visitors will love you for it – and loving your results in new leads.
Responsive websites adapt to fit a variety of devices and screen resolutions. Making your website responsive means that it is usable on everything from desktop and laptops, through to tablets and mobile phones. Given that well over 50% of all searches on Google are now conducted on a handheld device, the importance of having a great responsive design cannot be overstated.
Importantly, in the early part of 2018 Google will be switching to a “mobile first” index, meaning that primary Google results will be drawn from their mobile index. Websites which are not designed to work with mobile devices will be downgraded or eliminated entirely from this supremely important index.
Set all of the foregoing aside and the back button is just a click away. People will use it if their mobile experience is poor, just as you would!
I touched on this in earlier, when I mentioned the importance of clarifying your value proposition. The less people have to search and think about where to find information on your website, the better. That isn’t because your website visitors are dumb – it’s because they’re busy – and you have to always remember that they can hit that back button and go to a website that makes things simpler for them. It’s up to YOU to ensure that doesn’t happen.
Remember that YOU are the expert. Part of being an expert is being able to break down the complex into its essential components and make them easily digestible for the non-experts who need your services. I’ll say it again: less is more. Think about what people need and want to know and make it easy to find and easy to understand. It makes you look way smarter than your competitors who use long words, frustrating navigation and confusing or contradictory calls to action.
Testimonials are extremely powerful persuaders. You already have people whom your firm has helped and chances are that some of them will be happy to provide you with glowing testimonials. These can be placed directly on your website or sometimes be fed to it via integrations with social media platforms or review focused websites.
Testimonials provide compelling evidence of how other people just like your website visitors have acted and provides them with a kind of roadmap of where to go and what to do. If you don’t have any testimonials you can use case studies, or maybe even demonstrate the presence of a good-sized social media following. The objective is simply to provide some proof of your ability to solve your website visitors’ unique problem or problems.
Following these simple tips will keep the right kind of visitors engaged on your website for longer and will dramatically increase the chances that they will reach out to you. Like anything, the only way to know if this works is to make the necessary changes and put it to the test. Best of luck with making your lazy website start to www.work! for a living.
NB: This article was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse and has been edited by its original author.
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:
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I came across an extraordinary report last week. Produced by global marketing platform provider Percolate, the report focuses on the hidden cost of marketing – non-working spend. You can download a copy of the report here.
Percolate mostly deals with large global brands. I know for sure that most small businesses don’t spend anything like 52% of their marketing budget on non-working spend – but maybe they should. Let’s dig a bit deeper on what non-working spend actually is.
In a nutshell, non-working spend is the money spent on creative – not putting it in front of an audience (i.e. what you spend directly on advertising). Think of the cost of creating and maintaining your website, graphic design and printing of brochures, creating content for blogs posts, agency costs, performance monitoring and measurement expenses and the myriad other items that eat into your marketing budget that are not direct advertising spend.
Working advertising spend is what you invest directly on distributing the content you create – be it postage, paid ads on Google and Facebook, print-based ads, radio and TV commercials or the million other advertising options which exist. Working advertising spend is an expenditure that directly delivers your message to your audience.
Put bluntly, the typical small business generally lacks the internal skills (and time) to develop marketing strategies that predictably deliver new customers and a sustainable return on investment from advertising. Even those businesses that have a capacity to develop strong marketing strategies rarely have the internal resources to successfully execute tactics (most notably in the digital realm), monitor, measure and manage their marketing plans to success.
The Percolate report is very focused on reducing non-working advertising costs. For large corporations with internal marketing departments and vast amounts of capital invested in branding and the like, that makes a lot of sense. It makes almost no sense at all for a business where the owner writes boring copy for the company website and the receptionist designs (ugly and ineffective) marketing collateral, using Microsoft Publisher. These businesses need to spend more on their non-working advertising spend – generally a whole lot more.
Think of it like this – what’s more likely to elicit a positive response from prospects; a poorly designed website built by your next door neighbours 12-year-old – or a professionally designed website built by people who know how to sell ice to Eskimos?
If you’re going to spend money on bringing people to your website, you might as well make the investment in fully optimised pages and a well-crafted message.
The same principle applies to researching your market, development of your primary value proposition, creation of an ROI-focused marketing strategy, selection of worthwhile marketing tactics, management and monitoring of your marketing and advertising campaigns – and most of all – investing in the people who bring all of that to life.
Modern marketing is complex. That’s especially the case in the world of digital marketing. One standalone tactic like AdWords, or SEO, or running Facebook ads is unlikely to work for your business anymore. You need a strongly focused and cohesive strategy that drives your decisions on what tactics to implement. You’ll also need a good team around you to advise upon, execute and manage your plan.
For smaller businesses, your non-working advertising spend may prove to be the decisive factor in whether your marketing plan succeeds or fails. Hire skilled people internally, or outsource your marketing to a company that has the expertise and people to make your plan work. Either way, you need to budget for the hidden cost of marketing – your non-working marketing spend.