October 9, 2017 6:08 pm
Plumbing is an industry that has stood the test of time and isn’t likely to go anywhere even in this digital age. Plumbing businesses who advertise online have the potential to ride the wave and rise above the competition, but they can also take a dive into the sewers if they’re not careful.
The biggest obstacle to making the most of online marketing as a plumber is getting found online in a sea of competition. Many plumbing businesses have turned to Search Engine Optimization and local online marketing to find new customers, and have walked away badly burned by companies with dubious practices.
Learn from their mistakes. Here are four ways online marketing can drain your plumbing business’ bottom line, and how to avoid them.
Black Hat SEO Is Nothing But a Pipe Dream
The first and possibly the largest backup that your plumbing business faces online may have unintentionally been caused by you.
The marketing company that you hired to manage your online presence may not be performing as well as you were to led to believe. They may have promised you that getting to the top of the search results is easy. Perhaps they promised that you’d be there in as little as 30 days. They may have even misrepresented themselves on the phone by letting you believe that they were calling directly from Google. Sound familiar? You may be the victim of a Black Hat Marketer.
These sketchy businesses are doing nothing but clogging your path to success. But they can always be flushed away, right? Not always. If you signed a binding contract, you may lose more than you think in the process of separating from the company. That’s why it’s so important to do your homework before signing on the dotted line. Learn how to spot the bad apples by researching the company’s reputation. Ask them how many clients they have, what you are paying for, and how they are going to achieve the goals outlined for your business. If the agency is dodging the question or avoiding a straightforward answer, then they may not be the best fit for you.
Even after signing with your new marketing partners, you should make sure that there is always an open line of communication and transparent reporting so you can see exactly where your money has been invested. Ask the company for a follow up at each new step in the process, as well as regular updates so that you are informed of where your business’ information will be available for customer view.
Be Wary of Greasy Promises
Some shady companies will claim to be able to get your business to the number one spot on Google simply by paying them. This tactic is dirtier than the inside of a rusty pipe. Google uses a complex algorithm that is constantly updating, so it is impossible for any one company to be able to guarantee the number one spot. Google also does not pick favorites between marketing agencies, so they will not provide any information that will inherently make one agency better equipped to gain rankings for their customers than the competition.
While it is possible to be able to reasonably guarantee an increase in rankings and visibility online through trusted SEO techniques, many less-than-reputable companies will try to achieve rankings by keyword stuffing, shoddy link building, or other “Black Hat” SEO tactics. Buyer beware. If your marketing company is conducting any practices Google does not approve of, this can cause your business to pay the penalty for their bad behavior. You could even wind up de-indexed, which means your business will not be displayed on the search engine results pages at all.
There are ways to make sure you’re working with a qualified professional, however. Make sure your agency is a certified Google Partner. This means that they are most likely up-to-date on Google’s best practices for Search Engine Optimization, Pay-Per-Click, and mobile friendly requirements. At the very least, it shows that the company you’ve chosen to work with places value on the education of it’s team, and on providing you with the most accurate information possible. Pay close attention to reviews, and always ask for examples of a company’s work. Making sure that your chosen marketing company stands by any guarantees made and operates on a performance-based system can also help to put your mind at ease.
Did I get the right valve?
It’s highly likely that the main reason you hired a marketing company in the first place is because you hoped to rank in search results for keywords like “Plumber in Your Town, USA” or “Emergency Plumber in Your Town, USA.” Those are highly competitive keywords, and businesses need a robust marketing strategy to build enough credibility to rank for those terms.
If your marketing company guarantees rankings, make sure that you know which plumbing keywords they are are optimizing for. It’s far easier to rank for “Backflow Valve Installation” than “Plumber.” Even though both terms are relevant to the plumbing industry, one is a highly specialized term that probably has a much lower search volume, and therefore much lower competition. While both have value, especially if you are a backflow valve specialist, you should also make sure that professional keyword research is behind your keyword strategy.
There is more to your search engine rank than just keywords. Having consistent citations across the web will show that your business is reliable and accessible, both to your customers and Google. When the same name, address, and phone number for your business are displayed on Google, Bing, Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin; customers are more likely to trust that your information is correct, and Google is more likely to consider your business a reliable source of information, therefore ranking you higher.
You should also invest in a relationship with other local businesses as well as generating reviews from your existing customers. Word of mouth is how many small businesses gain traction in highly competitive markets, and these days it’s happening online. By working with local businesses you can find yourself gaining referrals to individual customers, as well as the companies themselves. Reviews can also lead to new customers on their own. When people see that a business is providing a wonderful experience for their customers, they too will want to have that same wonderful experience the next time their plumbing is in need of repairs.
The Best Time to Plant a Tree
SEO is not an overnight process. It takes time for the effects of SEO to be reaped by your business. Consider it a journey, not a destination. Every day is a new day, and Google can change in an instant meaning that you can be gain or lose momentum at any given moment. It takes a professional to make sure that your online marketing strategy is thorough enough to cover all your bases and keep your visibility on a steady climb while also achieving important gains quickly.
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb
Just because it takes time for you to see the results of your investment into your web presence does not imply that it is not working in your favor in the meantime. The time that you invested into your online marketing can eventually yield a steady flow of new customers down the road. It’s often easier to invest time in your business’ marketing when you have a smaller customer base because you are able to divide your attention more easily. Build your brand during the slow times, so you will be able to focus on your customers during the peak seasons of your business. Eventually, with a skilled marketing team and a little bit of patience, your business will be ranking in the organic search results, your visibility online will be up, and your customer base will be growing.
A Leak Does Not Have To Be a Flood
By now you are either frustrated because online marketing has tainted your business as bad as brackish water, or you are relieved because you have learned that your online presence can be fixed. Online marketing can be a drain on your business due to the confusion created by and disreputable companies who perpetuate bad practices. Your business doesn’t have to fall victim to these bad apples. You can still grab a wrench and tighten the pipes until you’re sure your business’ online presence is secure.
Even though we presented four ways online marketing can hurt your business, when you take the time to understand why they can be harmful, you are able to use them to your advantage and grow your business.
Categorized in: Small Business Tips
About Brian Nash
Brian joined the BizIQ team as a Local Listings Specialist. His passion for writing and knack for uncovering the mysteries of Google My Business led him to become a contributor to the BizIQ blog.