This is a guest contribution from Jonah Canter of Canter Construction.
The title sums up this article perfectly. I had my website up and running for about six months at the time and was sending all of my clients and realtors to look at pictures of my work. We were strictly referral based and got no organic traffic from the Internet and I was fine with that. We had plenty of work coming in through our realtors and I primarily used my website as a glorified photo studio.
It was on one day that I received two phone calls where the people said they searched for my website but it looked like an older man owned it in another state. This confused me, so I searched my company name and realized that the top result was displaying this other construction company with almost my same domain name. Naturally, being the optimist, I thought the easy course of action would be to purchase the domain from these individuals as it seemed that it was an older website and they didn’t update it often. So thus, I set off on a friendly phone call to gauge the interest. In doing so, I learned we were somehow fifth cousin related and when I asked about the option of purchasing the domain I was completely shut down with an answer of “absolutely not” and click. They didn’t even wait to hear what I was about to offer them.
So this got me a bit jaded at first and then frustrated that my clients were being sent to someone else’s site. And hence the title, hell hath no fury like me scorned. I went about trying to figure out how to bury their website in the search results and to promote my own. Little did I know at the time that in doing so I was essentially going to launch my construction company from being just another name and into being a top search result for contractors in my area.
I set off in search of as many sites to list my company’s information on. I created a Google Business and Bing page and added as many keywords, tags and photos of my work as possible. I then went to searching from contractor specific sites and listed my company and services on the likes of BuildZoom, Porch, Houzz, Manta and others in an attempt to cast the widest net of keywords and pictures. I did not pay one fee to list on all of these sites, though companies offer services to post on multiple sites for a set fee…for those of you who are lazy. Over the period of about one month I had put all of my information on the major sites and then sat back and waited.
For the first two months nothing much happened in the search results. The other company was still listed ahead of me in a keyword search by name but I did start to realize that the 8th and 9th spots on Google were populated with two of the contractor specific sites info on my company. So Google had started to index these findings and at least they were coming up from a relevance perspective. This still wasn’t good enough so I decided to dig a little deeper.
Phase Two: Review, Review, Review
Porch, initially offered you the ability to list on their page for free and allow customers to find you through project photos and your area of expertise. They had a specific relationship with Lowes that had kiosks in their stores that would help homeowners find contractors for projects while they were in the store. Their initial plan was that you could pay a fee to be one of the preferred contractors for certain zip codes and they would promote you in the kiosks. I did not bite on this originally but thought they had the best website for displaying content that was slick and intuitive so I started sending clients (who did not find me on Porch) to that website to review our services. I ended up having around 16 five star reviews and started getting a couple of calls from people who had said they found me on the site and the reviews of our services were excellent. Now, back to the Google search and now Porch started showing up as the third result when I did a keyword search of my company name and it included the highly rated reviews from the Porch website.
This was great and still permeates today in a search of my company even though I don’t use Porch any longer and they have changed their business model. I also started to send more clients to Houzz to spread the reviews out and this also started to help the search results percolate.
Update your site monthly
Google picks up on new pictures, text and other items related to your site and will start to index those. I choose to add new pictures on a monthly basis not only to keep the site fresh and show new work but also for help in the search process for potential clients. I watched my Google analytics and tried to understand my clients behavioral patterns. Most of my clients pop into my site, click on projects and pop out. So knowing that is the behavior I tried to accommodate that in my website and am actually in the process of adding a completely new theme to influence activity which again can help out with search results. I also made the contact portion a one click option and our number is easy to get at from the first page. It is important to try and capitalize on as many hits to your site as possible in the form of a call or email from a perspective client.
The Google Reviews
Call me dumb but it didn’t occur to me until after getting 16 reviews on Porch that I should have been focusing all my efforts on my Google Business account. Job after job I started asking clients to review my services on Google. This was an easier “ask” than on other sites. Most people have Gmail accounts already and it doesn’t require them to have to sign up for something in order to review you. It’s clean, easy and doesn’t take them much time, which is what you want when you are asking for a favor. Over about a year’s time I was able to pick up twenty, five star reviews from clients with great testimonies. From here, I started to see my keyword search results finally at the top of my search…and then the phone started to ring.
I won’t even begin to try and understand the tangled line of code that it takes to bring back search results for you on Google. Many claim to understand it, charge you for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) but at the end of the day Google changes its algorithms all the time so you have to be ever evolving to keep up. The one thing I did learn is that if you cast the widest net out there (put your company on as many sites as possible) and you start to get reviews from different sites, Google does start to stack rank those against what a person might be looking for. So for instance, people started to search “General Contractor+James Island, SC” and Google would bring back results for my business, because it was highly rated and within that town. So it took different, ambient data points and tied them together in order to display the relevance of what it thought the person was looking for. The more people that clicked on my site from a search like this the more Google started to think this is what they wanted from that search and so others started to have my company show up in their search results.
I started to get more calls on a weekly basis. Before, every person that called me would say “I got your name from so and so” and it was strictly a referral. Now, I was getting calls where they told me they did a Google search and they loved the reviews and pictures on my website and said I was a the most top rated contractor in the area. They felt very comfortable calling me based on the review they had read.
Magic or Tenacity?
Magic? Maybe or more likely the will and desire to try and promote my business led to unintended yet very positive consequences. Today I see about 40% of my business come from organic Google searches and the rest come from referrals and I could not be happier to have it that way. My business exposure has increased exponentially and people who found me on an organic Google search, and loved the work I did for them, are now referring me to family and colleagues. I have yet to ever cold call or do any advertising and the individuals who reach out to me already have a sense of quality and trust based on reviews and other peoples experiences. So what started out as an endeavor, born out of frustration, ultimately led me to learning how to grow my business.
TLDR Keys to success:
- Put your company on as many sites as available. Don’t pay to put your info anywhere.
- Reviews are crucial and don’t hesitate to spread the wealth to multiple sites. Just make sure that when you send someone to a site that it’s an easy process or they won’t review you.
- Update your content periodically. I update new pictures once a month on my website and I cannibalize the entire website once a year by changing the theme out to keep it up-to-par, clean and easy to use. This helps with indexing on Google and relevance and is money well spent.
- Review your Google Analytics and understand your clients behavior patterns and accommodate your site for that. This can directly affect search relevance and behavior from my experience.
I don’t endorse any of the named sites in this article other than my own, Canter Construction! All of the statements and assumption are based on my experience as a guy learning as I go and sharing in the positive results that I see. Results will vary per individual and can even vary on geography because of how Google relevance works. In certain cases, searching my company from another state still populated the other company first while searching my state or city had my company first. As I said before, its not science but these steps can help you obtain desired results. My goal is to help others with their own businesses through my own experiences. We need to start leveraging the community of contractors and not hoarding secrets to success!
Lastly, I do not fault the other construction company for not selling or even entertaining an offer from me of their domain nor do I wish them any ill will. I would not sell anyone my domain name today so I completely understand where they were coming from. I would actually like to thank them for pushing me over the edge, in a good way, to learning how to grow my business and share in my success with you all!
I love questions and comments and will respond to each an every one of you. Also be sure to check out other sections of the Rich Contractor site for other helpful ideas and tips for success.
Jonah Canter is the owner of Canter Construction, a full service contracting and renovation company. For more information on this article or for general questions you can reach him directly:firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website http://www.canterconstructionsc.com