Most of us would like to believe that the internet is a level playing field. But is it really? Could it be possible that you can do everything perfectly—from creating a great website, putting together a powerhouse search engine optimization (SEO) campaign, to even shelling out money for an aggressive pay-per-click crusade—and you’re still at a huge disadvantage? Is the internet rigged against you?
“Rigged” may not be the best word to use, but unfortunately for many cleaning and restoration services, the answer is yes. And it may be for a reason you never thought about.
Are SEO and pay-per-click the answer?
Let’s say you have the money to hire an SEO (search engine optimization) firm. Naturally, everyone wants to come up on the first page of Google search results. The SEO firm may promise to get you there. But what happens when 100 carpet cleaners in the Chicago market hire SEO firms to get them on the first page for “carpet cleaning Chicago”? Everybody gets different results, but I just did a Google search and there were only nine organic results on that first page, not including the area map. Of those nine listings, there were websites for Yelp, HomeAdvisor, Angie’s List, and Groupon. That leaves only five spots for actual carpet cleaners.
So, 95 of those 100 firms that were promised first page positions by SEO firms are going to be pretty disappointed, and that’s assuming the other five make it.
Then there’s the pay-per-click option. Unfortunately, more and more I’m seeing costs per click that could pretty much eat up any profit that click might have produced.
In larger, more competitive markets (big cities) it can be nearly impossible to get that fair shake. In smaller markets, if you do a good job optimizing your website and keeping things active through blogging, social media, and YouTube, you still have a good chance of doing well.
Keyword searches are key
Sadly, with online marketing, your battle may be lost before you even start. (According to Keyword search stats from Keyword Keg, numbers vary from month-to-month, but the relative volumes always tell a grim story for many marketers.)
Think about this: In a recent month “water damage restoration”was searched about 14,800 times (on Google, Yahoo and Bing as reported by Keyword Keg), “water damage”was searched 12,100 times, and “water damage repair”was searched 5,400 times. These total around 32,300 searches. There are many other, lesser searched keywords, of course. However, if you provide this service and you are optimizing your website to come up in searches or buying pay-per-click ads, these would be the hottest keywords for which you are competing.
But compare this to “Servpro” which was searched on 74,000 times that month! That’s right, the keyword “Servpro”. Would you rather be Servpro and get 74,000 searches a month, or everyone else who get to divide up half that many searches for water damage related searches?
If someone enters the keyword “Servpro” and several listings come up, who do you think the searcher is going to click on? Servpro, of course. That’s who they wanted to find. See what you’re up against online if you are not Servpro?
There are over 40,000 searches each month for “Service Master”and over 6,000 for “Service Master Clean”.When a search is conducted and a page full of Servpro or Service Master results pops up, whether they have an ad or not, searchers can click on their organic listings, often being able to choose from a whole page of them for that one company! And do you know what? It doesn’t cost the company a dime for that organic click. What an advantage!
The same is true in the carpet cleaning field. There are over 300,000 searches each month for “carpet cleaning”, but that may include a lot of things besides finding a carpet cleaning service company. It may be a search for information on cleaning your own carpet or renting a machine.
There are about 22,200 searches for “carpet cleaning services”and about 6,600 for “carpet cleaning companies”, with more targeted searches for a specific service provider. “Stanley Steamer”gets 32,000 searches a month. “Chem-Dry”over 8,000. “Zerorez”gets over 40,000! And if you have a Steamatic franchise in Fort Wayne, Indiana, you may be getting around 140 searches a month for “Steamatic of Fort Wayne”.
These numbers change all the time, but they give you an idea of how much of an advantage it is if someone knows your name and searches specifically for you as opposed to a general search for carpet cleaning or water damage. Anyone might come up for a search for “water damage Chicago”but a search for “Servpro Chicago”is almost certainly going to call up a whole page full of Servpro options …. all for free website visits for Servpro businesses.
Brand awareness often trumps generic keyword searches results.
I don’t spend much time studying other industries. But I noticed that “garage door repair”gets about 201,000 searches each month. But “Overhead Door”gets 74,000 searches. And you likely get a whole page of Overhead Door listings.
“Paint”gets 1,830,000 searches a month. Pretty big number. But “Sherwin Williams”gets 1,000,000 searches and you get a page of Sherwin William Paint Store listings. All free clicks for Sherwin Williams.
Do you see what you’re up against if you are not a nationally known franchise? What can you do to give yourself an edge, aside from buying a popular franchise?
Create local brand awareness through other media
If you are a local marketer, especially in a smaller market, you don’t need national recognition. But local brand awareness is within your reach.
Use other local media. The opportunities are still out there: billboards, television, radio, newspapers, and online new sites, postcards, benches, etc. Use your imagination. But do so in a memorable way. Being memorable is your top priority. Think about Servpro’s slogan: “Like It Never Even Happened”.
Are you just a carpet cleaner? Or are you “Carpet Cleaning Fanatics!”? Do you repair fire or water damage? Or do promise “Better Than New”. Even “Crazy Joe’s Carpet Cleaning Service” is more memorable than just “Joe’s Carpet Cleaning”. But this doesn’t contain a built-in benefit as does “Like it Never Even Happened”.
What you are seeking at this point is not internet real estate, it’s mental real estate. Many choices are made the instant someone recognizes a problem or need. Some experts say that most purchase decisions are made at the subconscious level. Water damage = Servpro. Paint = Sherwin Williams. Seafood = Red Lobster. The list goes on and on. These needs and service providers are already associated together.
A local man in my town has run radio ads for his furniture store for decades, always ending his spots with him practically yelling: “I’ll Save You Money”. He has that same message on billboards and other ads. He now has stores in quite a few towns and is incredibly successful.
Think about what your prospects are really seeking and craft your messages and slogans around those desires. Be remembered. Tie that memory to the service you provide. “The Carpet Cleaner with Over 13 Trillion Dust Mites Killed” or maybe “Sneeze Busters”for allergy proofing.
Target secondary keywords
There are millions of them. They aren’t the biggest searches, but they add up. The key here is to optimize for secondary keywords and always mention your target cities.
Let’s look at a few:
Water damage wood floors: 720 searches per month
Water damage hardwood floors:590 searches per month
How to repair a water damaged ceiling:480 searches
Water damage in walls: 480 searches per month
Water damage laminate floor:390 searches per month
Carpet cleaning cheapest:5,400 searches per month
Dry carpet cleaning:4,400 searches per month
Carpet cleaning prices:2,400 searches per month
Carpet cleaning green:1,900 searches per month
Carpet cleaning specials:1,900 searches per month
Carpet cleaning truck mount:1,600 searches per month.
You might find it a bit expensive, depending who is building and maintaining your website, to create and optimize new pages for all the secondary keywords that are out there. But if you blog, you can post a blog entry with the headline (and blog URL) “Carpet cleaning truck mount for Boise homeowners”. Or create a short video with the same title and post it to your blog, upload it to YouTube and post it to your Facebook page. These also come up in searches.
It adds up if you are willing to put in a little time each month.
Boost your local online visibility
Content is king. When you post to a blog, upload to social media, or post a video, you must have something worthwhile to say. But not all of us are writers or video producers and these things can be expensive to have produced.
Where so many can fail (and spend too much) is in thinking that every single article, video, or graphic they use must be unique, or Google will punish them with some kind of duplicate content curse. This is not true. If you are sharing content that other firms might be using in other areas, all you need to do is to add a local city name to your title or description and it is unique content in the eyes of search engines. You are targeting your own unique geographic audience so your content will be unique for them.
Get your hands on all the content you can and get it out there with your name on it. Don’t think it all has to be promotional. Being informative is even better. There is no reason a local carpet cleaner can’t offer a few tips on keeping your oven clean. Why not? It helpful and its exposure. Just be clever about how you title your article: “Boise Carpet Cleaner Offers Helpful Tips on Keeping Ovens Clean”. You just got your service (carpet cleaning) and the location you serve (Boise) out there. Content like this may come up in searches for “oven cleaning”but it may also come up in searches for “Boise carpet cleaner”. Search engines look for words.
Every chance you get when you post something, upload something, or print something, mention your slogan or message that will tie your business name to your service in a memorable way.
The advantage that online advertising has over every other marketing tool is that someone can respond instantly by clicking on your website, punching your click-to-call phone number, filling out your Contact Us form, or just emailing you. That’s a powerful advantage. You want to come up in searches. Your offline promotion is also a key to your online success.
It’s good when your business comes up in a search when someone types in “water damage” or “carpet cleaning”. But it’s golden when they search for your firm by name.
Gary Arndts is co-founder of MarketingZoo.com, a content resource provider, including videos, articles and graphics for print and Internet use for cleaning and restoration firms. Award winning copywriter. Owned and operated a full-service ad agency for over 25 years.