Give us a listen, like and subscribe. Would love to get this in the top 100 new podcasts.
The main topics will cover core principles of growing a business but a big focus on growing your online presence. This will include specific episodes on topics such as social media, Google search, Google My Business, online reviews, brand building, lead generation, software tools and much more!
While we provide software and marketing services for any local business, we have a had the pleasure of working with a lot of service based businesses over the years. I’ve been in service businesses since I was a kid working in retail, construction and airfreight in the late 80’s and 90’s, eventually opening a consulting business and a marketing agency. Over the last 20 years, we’ve helped hundreds of service companies grow their businesses, so I wanted to take that experience and use it to help business owners grow their own companies!
Here’s the thing. You don’t need to spend a ton of money. You don’t need to invest that much time. You don’t need to necessarily advertise. You just need the right strategy and tactics. I’ll set you in the right direction and you’ll see the benefit of building a strong online presence for your business.
In case your curious, we’ve worked with the following types of services: home builders, home remodeling, roofing, siding, gutters, HVAC, plumbing, cleaning services, asset management, accounting, real estate, consulting, sanitation, stylists, massage, photographers, tour operators, travel agents, martial arts and event management (I might be missing some). And believe it or not, we’ve helped several other marketing agencies build customers.
I would say that Google My Business is the least utilized asset for any local business. It was created several years ago as a solution to help users find local businesses in Google search.
Google had a problem. They always ranked websites based on content and external links. That’s fine and dandy for big websites, but what they realized is that large corporation with huge budgets could produce new blog posts and pay for thousands of dollars in links each month. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Yelp and every other local business site would dominate rankings for local search terms such as “find a painter” or “hire an accountant” or “auto mechanics in Chicago.”
There is nothing a local business or franchise location could do to compete with national websites with massive funding. So local businesses where just out of luck.
But Google figured it out. They realized that their users didn’t want to go to the big chains or local business websites. They realized, users were just skipping Google and going right to Yelp when they were looking for a local businesses. That’s when they decided to change the game. This was really important because Google Ads relies on people searching for businesses so if people were skipping Google, then no ad revenue!
Their solution was Google My Business
GMB is a feature of Google where a business can sign up, validate their business, confirm their location and provide descriptions about their company.
Google then uses its own secondary validation to ensure its legitimate company. For users, it provides a separate area where you can see business information. Users can also read or write business reviews.
This information is also used to help them generate local rankings. This includes organic search results and the local pack map results.
Needless to say, its worth taking the time to optimize Google My Business and do everything you can do treat it as a lead generating asset.
There are several things you have to do and a few things that you really need to do if you want to get the best results. The good news is that there is a lot that you can do to generate leads. Here’s a guideline for making improvements.
Step 1 – Understand Keywords
Take your time and try to learn how people find you. A lot of people skip this step and just start writing, but if you don’t understand how people find your business, you will miss out on potential leads.
You may realize you aren’t using the keywords that most people use to find your business. Or you are using less frequently used keywords.
There are always multiple ways for customers to find businesses. For example take an auto mechanic. You can also find one by searching for auto repair, car mechanic, vehicle repair, fix my car, repair my vehicle, replace my engine, mechanic near me, repair my tranny, need new exhaust and many more.
A good place to start is Google’s own Keyword Planner Tool — IF you already have a Google Ads account then this is excellent. If you don’t then Google will usually make you sign up for one and it will take awhile before you get to the access to the tool even though it’s free.
Wordtracker has a free version of its tool that is decent. Ahrefs has a blog on free keyword tools you may want to check out. I haven’t really been through it because I do this for a living so I pay for premium keyword research tools.
The goal is understand which quantity of searches and relevancy to your business. For our business, people can find us searching for “marketing help” but thats a very broad term. Even though it has lots of searches, a search for”local business marketing service” is very high intent. Make sure the high intent keywords are included in your list. Write them down and also write down how often they are searched.
Step 2. – Write out Descriptions
The the left side of your GMB dashboard you will see a section called “Info.” Pack a lunch and spend some time here.
Fill out as much information as possible. Every single section should be filled out. All of this information has an impact on how you get found in Google.
The main Google My Business description is 750 words. This needs to be keyword rich, but make it sound natural. Don’t just spam keywords. People read this area so you want to describe your products and services. But also write it in a manner that is helping you sell your service. Talk about the benefits of coming to YOUR business.
They also have a section for services. This gives you a lot more room to provide details. Separate out the services with different headings. Each service heading and service title give you a place to add main keywords. Add as many as you can and be descriptive.
Be informative, but promote benefits. Answer these two questions.
What does my business do? You should give an ELI5 (That is short for explain to me like I’m 5 years old). – Explain your business like someone has never heard of your business type. Google is smart, but it may not know that a florist sells roses. So if someone types “find a florist” you probably show up. If they type “buy roses in Chicago” and you don’t mention roses in your descriptions, then you won’t show up.
What makes my business better than my competition? What are the major benefits. Faster, cheaper, better quality, better parts, more expertise, certified, etc.
Step 3 – Add Photos and Videos
This is the visual representation of your business. Try to add as many photos as you can. Give potential customers a feel for your business.
This means, you add images of the inside and outside of your building. Add images of the people that work for you. They wear uniforms? Look clean cut? Then show them.
Do you have an incredible office? Then show it. You have amazing new machinery? State of the art computer system? Put up photos of your equipment.
Photos of your employees can tell a story. Show them smiling, having fun, laughing. Put up photos of people in good moods.
In some cases, you can use photos to demonstrate the types of customers you have. A client of ours was a martial arts studio. They had no images on GMB. We wanted to make sure people knew the type of classes. So we put up images of kids class, adults class and images of competition kickboxers.
Guess what? The next week, they got a new sign up. A mom that came in. She told the owner she saw a picture of a cute little girl in a karate uniform. She wasn’t sure if the studio accepted young girls, but that image made an impression. It told a story about the classes they hold for different age groups.
Step 4 – Pay Attention to Reviews
Reviews are important. Reviews are the currency of business in the age of the Internet and social media.
“Your brand isn’t what you say it is, it’s what Google says it is” – Chris Anderson
Try to ask your customers for reviews. It’s sometimes hard to do, but it makes a big difference if you can get customers to review your business.
Secondly, respond to reviews. The faster the better. A fast response looks better to the reader and gives you some bonus points with Google. While we don’t know the exact impact, it is suspected that response to reviews is indeed a ranking factor. Even if it isn’t, it looks much better when customers see you respond. It shows you care.
A response to a review is another opportunity to add content. Just saying thank you is fine, but use this as a chance to write something meaningful.
“This auto mechanic was great and fixed my transmissions”
Your response could be something like:
“Thanks for coming to our transmission shop. It’s not uncommon for the drivetrain to need service for late model Ford trucks. We were glad to find that your transmission was still under warranty and we could get it back to you within 3 business day! We appreciate your business!”
As you can see, we mention keywords related to the business and explain HOW the business helped the customer. You might find that someone else with a bad transmission in their Ford truck will read that review response. They will now identify with the customers.
Step 5 – Fill in Listings from Other Business Sites
Yes, if you want to rank better, you need to have good listings on all the other major listings sites, often called citations. In the least, take the time to fill out these local listings.
Better Business Bureau
Of course, we recommend all the major ones. There are at about 40 that you should fill out with your business information. Google uses the accuracy of this data to help ensure you are legitimate company at the correct address. And external links pointing to your website help search rankings. The keywords you use on these pages will also have an impact on how your show up in search. And even though these listings sites, won’t produce huge website traffic, they do occasionally lead to a website click or phone call.
We like to keep these listings fresh and updated. Along with Google My Business, its good at add new photos occasionally.
Our software makes sure to sync all these listings. The problem is that these listing sites use aggregators to update their listings. The aggregators will just write over whatever you sign up if the listings aren’t locked. Plis, people can edit your listings. While its not common, we’ve heard of people marking businesses as closed. Otherwise, we’ve seen where someone marked hours as 9pm to 11pm so it would display closed on Google Maps.
Even though you will often get an email about someone editing your listing. They are easy emails to miss. This is why we take the time and effort to keep all of this current 24-7. Listings are essentially the yellow pages of this generation.
OK, So Does This Really Help?
No one can guarantee results in Google, but we know for a fact that Google My Business is important.
The leading search engine researcher, Moz, did a study on local search ranking factors. In the image below the left 15 are for the Google Local Pack (the map with the 3-4 businesses). The right is for organic search results. The yellow shaded areas are impacted by Google My Business and Local Listings. Most of those are directly related to GMB.
In some instances the results of a strong Google My Business profile can have incredible results. Making it WELL worth the investment, especially as advertising is getting more expensive and cost per click more competitive. Here are a few results for one of our clients.
This business gets 4000 views of photos per month compared to 228 by their industry average – photos do matter. Optimizing Google My Business makes a difference.
If you need help, get in touch. We help businesses get leads from organic and paid search and social media.
I’m a big fan of brand advertising. No matter how we look at it, developing your brand is cheaper in the long run. Brand advertising has a deeper impact and leads to more sustainable growth.
Google Search Ads are primarily for lead generation. When you rely on lead generation, you are going after the high intent searches, but you pay a large premium. And you end up bidding against your competitors that are focused on lead generation. If Google Search Ads are your only form of online advertising, you are absolutely missing out.
At the same time, we’ve seen companies that think cost per click is too high so they completely give up on Google Ads. This is also a mistake. Why? Because Ads has become more complex with so many features its hard to properly utilize them all. This means that there are some good strategies you can deploy to take advantage of clicks that most companies won’t bother to go after.
Most local businesses are missing out on features that have been added over the years. If you deploy these strategies, you have a chance to steal some cheap clicks. Here are two good good strategies you can implement that work more often than not.
Google Ads Location Extensions
The best example of an underutilized Google Ads feature is location extensions.
When you properly integrate Google My Business with Google Ads, you can get an ad placement at the very top of the local pack map area on the search page. The same extension will also display the top of full map and in Google Maps mobile app.
I constantly see searches for our clients where there are no ads displaying on the map. That means that a lot of companies are not even taking advantage of this feature. Maybe they do for a few keywords, but if you are the only company using a location extension on a specific keywords, you get that spot. If no one else is bidding, it can be cheap.
So even if you have a really small budget, I recommend setting up your keywords like normal but keep your bids low. When there is a search with no competition, you will get some clicks and pay your low bid price.
It may not be hundreds of clicks a month, but if you get any clicks for high intent keywords at a low cost, you end up with a really low cost per lead that WILL outperform brand advertising.
Broad Based Search Strategy
If you are a plumber then “hire a plumber” or “plumbing service” are the high intent keywords. Those will be a high cost. The keyword plumbing will have a lot of clicks but it usually won’t’ convert as well. Why not? Because a high percentage of search intent is informational. The clicks you get are people hoping to get information about plumbing and not necessarily looking to hire a plumber.
For that reason, most broad based search is much cheaper to bid. So we will usually set up these keywords at a low bid. Then go into audiences tab. This is where Google magic happens. As Google will track people and can track someone that has recently been searching for plumbing services. You select that audience as an observation. Then make a bid adjustment for that specific audience.
As an example, we might pay $5 per click for high intent keywords, but will bid $3 per click on the broad based keywords. But if we have someone that matches the plumbing service audience, we increase that bid by 30-60% so we pay $4-$5 per click for that search. We are now bidding up for someone that we know has been searching for plumbing services and know that this searcher is more likely to have a higher intent.
Performance and Results
Most of the time, both of these strategies will work well, but there are external factors that impact the total inventory of clicks and the end result. Results depend on the bid, size of local service area and competition. If other competitors are using these strategies, then this won’t work well. In some cases, this only works for a few keywords, so you may not get hundreds of clicks,but the ones you get will produce. Here is a quick example.
In this case, we had a medium intent keyword. We can see that the average cost per conversion is $90 but we have a few keywords that have high conversion rates. We’ve increased bids for those audiences at 30% and 10%. Based on these results, I just increased the bid adjustments as we have more room to bid. This client will take every conversion they can get under $100 as their average customer value (in profit) is much higher.
If you want to learn about strategies for growing your local business, then follow us facebook.
The concept of word of mouth is changing. Voice search is going to be the game changer. It’s going to happen fast and I don’t think business owners really grasp how it could change their bottom line. In this article, I’m going to explain how voice search works, how it will grow, how branding can help and how your online presence will impact results.
How Did We Get Here?
One of our new clients is just starting to get into the social media game and is changing their website. Despite an older website, lack of social media and no reviews, they generate millions in revenue as a company with 50 years in business. All of that was generated by word of mouth. They build homes, so it’s a big ticket item. Clients are generally in the 35-60 age group, high middle income families. In other words, generations that relied on face to face referrals and the type of business where individuals want a lot of feedback from people they really trust.
But even they started to notice that some people asked them why they don’t have reviews? Where they a new home builder? Why did they not have a Facebook page? Without an online presence, they actually looked like a new businesses.
This spooked the owner and that is how our conversation started. They have got by just fine for awhile. They built a reputation that has helped them but in the next 5, 10, 20 years it is going to become much more difficult, if not impossible, to survive on face to face referrals.
People under 30 don’t meet up with their friends to find businesses. The next generation of customers won’t base their decisions on a conversation they have with their friends at work. They are already wired to go online and check out businesses. They open their phone when they want to find a service. Online reviews give you advice from multiple people rather than 2 friends at work.
In coming years, even just asking for recommendations on Facebook is going to seem like the “old way.” Taking the time to read though 20 reviews is going to be “too time consuming.” This process will be become automated by the big tech companies.
Every piece of critical research suggests that voice search will play a big role in how customers find businesses.
Voice search will become the go to way for people to find a business. It will be the most common way to quickly find a business in 3-5 years. Right now, the search technology is so new that people aren’t 100% comfortable with using voice search to find products and services. They aren’t sure if the answers are good enough. They still want to “check out” businesses online. They still want to read reviews.
But like all new technology this will change over time. I remember it took some time to get use to email (yes, I’m 47). It took awhile for people to get comfortable using their credit card online. People took some time to get used to social media. And it use to feel weird to bring out your phone in public. Now walk outside on a busy day and look at the people glued to their smartphone.
We adapt quickly to new technology. We’ll go from 5% users to 15% to 70% to everyone using voice to find businesses. Why? Because the tech companies have AI that is getting better and better everyday. People will start to trust these results. In the end, it’s extremely convenient to find a businesses using a voice service.
I looked up a few services online and then jotted down the 5 businesses I’d call based on their online presence / reviews. I then went to Siri and asked. I went to Alexa and asked. I generally saw the same 8 businesses show up. All 5 of the ones I wrote down were part of this group of 8. I encourage you to do the same. The results are good.
Voice Search Results
Results will get better and better. Google, Apple and Amazon dominate the voice search market and these are massive companies that got big because they can process data and make things easier for people. Google is making driverless cars. Organizing search results is simple in comparison.
For now, your online presence has a big impact on normal search engine results and voice search results. This means you need to have good, consistent reviews in Google, Facebook and Yelp. You need a website optimized for search. You need high quality links pointing to your website. And you need accurate business listings.
The big tech companies already work on technology that reads intent of users. That means that conversations on social media can have an impact. In other words, your business being mentioned in casual conversation can have an impact on search results.
How Do Businesses Prepare?
There is no doubt in my mind that online reviews will play the largest role in determining how voice Search services bring up referrals. Online reviews are already an important factor when it comes to how an individual chooses a business. It’s also a major search factor in how Google ranks your business in local search and Google maps. So reviews will be part of the algorithm for voice search devices. The biggest factors in search results are reviews, website on page SEO and location.
There are four important factors with online reviews that will impact how you show up:
The star rating
The frequency of new reviews
The total number of reviews
How fast you respond to any review
As a business you can either be a company that just lets reviews happen or you can be one of the companies that politely and intelligently asks its customers for reviews. The ones that are asking for reviews right now are winning. They are building them day by day. So in 5 years when people are figuring out what business to go to by asking Alexa, your competitor with 600 reviews will be on top. While your 20 reviews puts you at the bottom.
Then you will have businesses that are taking advantage of the incredibly cheap facebook ad platform where you can engage with clients for a fraction of the cost of a TV or radio commercial. The businesses that are raising brand awareness become the cream of the crop.
If your businesses is putting its story in front of local customers, it will win. If Alexa gives you 3 results. Results 1 does facebook branding, result 2 and 3 do good at reviews but don’t use facebook, guess who gets the business?
The Real Kicker – It’s Cheap Right Now
Here’s the thing that is even better. It is not expensive to build reviews. It’s not expensive to get your business listed online and it’s not expensive to build a social media strategy. It’s generally cheap to build local social followers and its extremely cheap to create brand awareness ads on Facebook.
But be aware that this will change in 5 years. We are in the infancy period. Facebook was born in 2008. It didn’t start allowing ads until 2012. The first few years were limited to newsfeed and sidebar ads. Instagram ads didn’t come until 2016 and Facebook Messenger ads in 2017. We are just getting started.
Look at this screenshot, taken today, November 6, 2018. We are starting to see the big boys catch on. This screen shows GoDaddy and Citibank advertising. I still do not believe we are fully saturated by the big brands. We aren’t seeing Pepsi, Nike and hundreds of other big brands bidding on Facebook Ads. For now, these ad buyers still stick with the same dying television media ads. They buy archaic ads from their golf buddies on Madison Avenue. They still pay billions for TV commercials ($80 billion in 2018). Most people fast forward through them and see our clients’ facebook and instagram ads.
At some point they will slowly roll over and most of that $80 billion will be in online ads. Reaching 1000 people for $5-$10 won’t last forever. I use to buy Adwords for one of my websites for 5 cents. I remember being mad when I had to pay 30 cents per click. It stopped being profitable about $1 a click. Just looked a few seconds ago and those same keywords are $5-$8 per click now 15 years later. My guess is that in 5 years, Facebook brand awareness ads will cost $50-$100 to reach 1000 people and they will still be more effective than traditional media.
In other words, if you plan is to wait 1,2, 3 or 5 year to do your “brand building” you are going to lose because it’s a matter of reaching people. And it will get more expensive. I think in 20 years we are going to look back and laugh about how easy it was to be a build a brand in this time.
If you own a business and you want to find out how to get prepared for coming changes, then contact us using the form below. Our range of solutions go from incredibly inexpensive to dominating your local market. Whether you work with us or not, I encourage you to focus on building your online presence and take advantage of cheap brand building on social media.
Local businesses need to build a strong online presence if they want to attract customers. At a basic level, this means optimizing reviews, business listings and social media.
One of the secondary, but equally important strategies. is landing page optimization for online ads. Most businesses we work with are losing customers on a daily basis because their website is missing critical components. If you are spending more than $300 a month on Facebook or Google ads, then this is the one area where you can make a huge improvement. Likely save thousands over the course of the year.
Page Optimization and Advertising
We have a customer that wants fast growth. The owner wants to be the best service his local area. Not #5. Not #2. They want to be the best, so they have increased their ad budget to gain as much exposure as possible. This is good plan, but we explained to them that simply increasing ad spend isn’t ideal.
Let’s say you are spending a $1000 a month in Google Ads and getting 200 customers to your website at $5 a click. So you increase your ad budget to $2000 a month. It is very unlikely that you get 200 more customers. Ad performance is not linear on Google or Facebook. If you want more customers, then you have to outbid other advertisers. And if you are bidding against any national companies or franchises with huge ad budgets, those bids can get extremely high. More likely your cost per click will go to $7-$10 so you will only end up with 100-150 more customers by doubling ad spend.
Now let’s consider website landing page optimization. A lot of businesses send all of their ad traffic to their home page, which is a mistake. You should be building landing pages that are designed to get visitors to execute a call to action (call, text, fill outform, chat). You should be providing a relevant page that is correlated with keywords or ad copy. Look at this image below.
hen you search for Siding installation this ad comes up. It’s a small ad, with no extensions and sends the visitor to a home page. When you get to the home page you see no call to action, limited copy above the fold and generally the website is about roofing. Not about siding installation which was the keyword they bid on. Ad dollars are wasted on this set up.
Landing Page for Ads
Someone that randomly comes to your home page can come from any variety of sources. Search, social media, listings, referrals are the most popular.. While it’s important to have good, compelling copy, home pages are designed with broad information about your business. This is especially true when you offer a wide variety of products or services. Usually home pages are going to have more information than an ad landing page. So if your call to action is at the bottom of the page, you likely lose customers who get tired of trying to scroll through the content.
A few minor adjustments to your landing page can make a big difference. Here are the basics of optimization:
Content has to match the keywords or ad copy.
The call to action has to be clear and easy.
Reduce or eliminate external links.
Needs to include an offer (discount, free gift, etc.)
In Adwords, this the cost of a bid is dependent on the quality score of the landing page. The quality score on Adwords is directly tied to the relevance of the landing page. In Facebook, you get a relevance score which works in similar way.
As an example, let’s say you provide roofing and siding services. If you bid on the words “install siding” but send someone to a homepage that mostly mentions roofing services, you will get a low quality score. Users will not find what they are looking for. But if you send them to a page about siding installation with an offer for free gutter covers (everyone hates cleaning leaves) and add simple quote form, then your visitor is more likely to complete the call to action.
The Impact of an Optimized Page
Earlier I explained about our client that wants to be #1. When we recommended 3 new landing pages, targeted ads, full website tracking, adding an offer and optimizing the website, they were hesitant. It sounded like a lot of work. We increased ad budget as their request. I warned them that cost per click and cost per lead would go up. And it did. We ran ads for about 45 days while and eventually convinced them to go ahead with our strategy.
During this time, we were getting about 6 leads over a 30 day period. Last week we implemented the new pages, added better Google Analytics tracking, created goals, changed forms and changed out over 30 different ads.
In the first 7 days, the website produced 18 leads. Our cost per click went from $3.85 to .$3.06 for our largest Adwords Ad group. Cost per lead went from $180 to $33. The very first day we ran this ad, our client got a lead from a commercial business that has the potential to send ROI on this campaign to the moon.
The image above shows total traffic. It went from under 1% conversion rate to 4.03%. The goals include form submissions or email/phone links through Analytics goals. In this case 14 of 18 were forms, which is a higher quality lead. The interesting thing is that we haven’t even started optimizing the campaign. When we get the tracking results we can start isolating keywords, adjusting bids and continue to reduce the cost per lead.
Results of Advertising Web Page Improvements
For this client, we expect to get 70-100 leads per month on the same ad budget. That’s an increase up from 5 leads per month, a 15x – 20x improvement. My best estimate is that it will take somewhere around 11 days for our client to get a positive ROI. So, this Friday.
These are really good results and not every business would have this kind of success. But its a current, real example of how much improvement you can get from ad landing page optimization.
If you increased leads per month from 10 to 15 on a $300 a month budget, then would have a moderate 50% (not 1500%) increase in conversion rate. Cost per conversion would go from $30 to $20. On $300 a month budget, your previous $300 would have produced 120 leads over a 12 month period for $3600. After increasing conversion rate, it would only cost $2400 to get 120 leads. So $1200 savings. And this is not a big budget. A fairly simple optimization should cost less than $1000.
Google and Facebook Ads
Both Google and Facebook like to mention how easy it is to set up advertising. They are right. It is easy. Even without knowing anything about advertising, someone can have an ad up and running in about 20 minutes. One of the major draws towards online advertising is that you don’t need a huge budget and you don’t need a big ad agency to set up the campaign.
But most people don’t realize that there hundreds of areas within these platforms that can help you improve results. From ad targeting, affinities, review integration, ad extensions, negative keywords and the big one: landing page optimization. If you haven’t optimized those areas, you are turning away a lot of potential customers and its costing a lot in the long run.
If you or your team run online ads, then I would recommend spending some time optimizing those pages and campaigns. If you are busy, like most business owners, then get in touch with us. We can provide an honest assessment of your online presence and current advertising campaigns to see how much room you have for improvement. We don’t take on new clients unless we believe we can make significant gains.