Here is a submission from Corey Philip Czyz from Homeprosuccess.com, who observes in his cover note:
I’ve been publishing a lot about how consumers are no longer using Google as their predominate online search method for a service provider and taking to big name directories like Thumbtack, and Angieslist. At the same time, Google is stuffing organic results further and further down. The topic has been of major interest in my fb group.
Yet many contractors still chase ‘SEO’. Every single day I get questions about “who can I hire for seo” or “how do I get seo traffic?”.
I’m not sure if I agree with Corey 100 per cent — and observe that there are real challenges for contractor independence with sites like Angie’s List, where purported independence is often a cover for a sell-out for brand-destroying lead-generation services. However, undoubtedly, social media represented by Facebook needs to be taken very seriously in independent marketing.
As well, perhaps we should distinguish between the “old” and someone scuzzy SEO techniques such as link stuffing and mass “guest post” initiatives, and the much more natural and healthy approach of creating really good content, and developing a solid client review management system (encouraging, not “buying” positive reviews, while quickly getting feedback about negative situations to correct the problems before they turn into negative reviews, and building a quick-response system to address the negative reviews which go pubic.)
Nevertheless, I still invite you to read this post, and form your own opinions.
Why Contractors Should Not Bank On The SEO Pot Of Gold
You’re probably reading this right now with a “this guy’s crazy” in the back of your mind and with one brow raised. Well, I can’t blame you. Since its inception, ‘SEO results’ have been sought after by contractors across all trades. The ability to get ‘free’ placement in front of active searchers is incredibly powerful and Valuable — it has been the proverbial ‘pot of gold’ in the contractor marketing realm. “Has” was the keyword there. As you’ll see, top rankings aren’t nearly as valuable as they once were, and in my opinion too many contractors waste too much time and money chasing results that aren’t likely to arrive as the online marketing landscape changes.
Google is always changing the game.
Yeah, that’s the simplest way to say that Google keeps on rolling out search algorithm updates. How often? One site suggests… “Almost everyday”. The set of “rules” that put you up the top now, may not be the same next month. So, it’s inconsistent. Even if the updates that they roll out are small and are not even picked up by users and SEO, once in a while Google releases major updates that send everyone scrambling just to keep up.
Organic Search Results are Getting Buried.
Over the years, Google is shifting users towards pay-per-click results. The pay-per-click ads are now looking more like organic results! And they’re stuffing them up the top, pushing the organic results downwards. What’s more, they’ve put up the map on top of that.
This is a radical shift from the search results of 5 years ago. When you would do a search, you would have three pay-per-click ads that are clearly distinguished as ads with the yellow background and then below that you would see your organic results.
Try to do a search now and you’ll see up to four pay-per-click ads up there. They’ve also added extensions to them and increased the amount of text to take up more space in the search results. They’ve even put paid results in the map.
So, rather than having organic results in front search users, above the fold as what we would say, they are now three folds down! Fewer and fewer people are seeing them.
Customers Are Taking Their Search Off Google
Users are taking their search for a service provider off Google (and this is happening real quick), and they’re going straight to HomeAdvisor, Angie’s List, Yelp, Thumbtack and other review based directories or lead generation platforms.
I compare it to the search for local restaurants, in which consumers predominantly take to Yelp or Tripadvisor. Sure local restaurants can and do exist without it, but top exposure on those platforms is nearly always a necessity for the business to thrive.
Considering the increase in user base of these platforms over the recent years, and that the users are by and large satisfied with the contractor they found on the platforms, I believe we are headed in a similar direction with the home service industry as the users who are finding contractors on these platforms are satisfied with their chosen providers and leading an increase in user base (for sites like HomeAdvisor, Angie’s List, Yelp, Thumbtack etc).
What You Can Do
SEO is not as nearly valuable as it was and it’s increasingly more difficult while decreasing exposure. You can invest countless hours into it and get nowhere. Here what you can do now; instead of treading water in the game of SEO.
Build Reviews. Besides building trust and serving as a virtual reference list, reviews are a predominant factor in organic Google Maps rankings, which are placed above the organic search results. Be sure to ask every customer for a review, and if you aren’t able to personally do it, sign up to an automated system like Grade.us or Reviewbuzz. There are several options that will cost around $100 per month and automate the process of asking your customers for reviews by email and SMS.
Content marketing. It’s still a great marketing source that provides a killer return on investment and sweat equity. However instead of relying on Google to distribute your content, plan on distributing the content Via Facebook.
Facebook Ads. Savvy marketers can use Facebook ads to open a direct line of communication with potential customers early one, at the awareness phase, of the sales funnel. Traditional advertising tactics from print ads, and ppc ads, don’t work here. Rather you need to think of your Facebook Ads as a content distribution system and use it to initiate a dialogue.
Step Up Your PPC game. It’s not going anywhere. Focus on making sure your landing pages are conversion optimized.
Sign Up To The Big Name Directories. While admittedly not an option of fan fare, the ‘big names’ can get you leads fast and easy. You may also get a jumpstart on building your presence on these platforms.
Very important: if you are paying for leads or exposure on these directories be sure to implement remarketing as consumers may have very little exposure to your brand before contacting.
Then remarket. If you’ve captured user attention, through paid or free marketing channels, don’t let it get away. Remarket through Facebook ads and Google display ads. Use content based ads to engage potential consumers and differentiate your company. For example do not simply run an ad with your logo and copy that says “we fix ___, ____, and _____”. Instead provide ads that send users back to buyers guide for the service that you are targetting.
Don’t waste time dealing with the wizard behind the curtain, which is Google search. Don’t focus on SEO. Just publish your content, preferably on your website if you can or do YouTube videos. Put that stuff out there. People will find it and come to you. It will be, you will get your money’s worth and your time’s worth publishing it in there. But don’t chase the pot of gold at the end of this rainbow because it’s just not there.