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At Blue Corona, we know a lot about HVAC websites. Back in 2013, we used our software to review and analyze nearly 10,000 HVAC websites. We did an even more in-depth follow up analysis in 2015. I’m also the HVAC website expert for ACHR The News’ Net Results column.
As a result, I can answer just about any question imaginable about HVAC contractor websites—from industry trends to what percentage of the top companies have videos on their website (in case you’re curious, 44% of the top companies have videos on their homepage).
Okay Nerd, Why Should I Care About This?
Admittedly, this is all very geeky stuff. But, before you dismiss it, consider this: some HVAC contractors generate millions of dollars per month (yes, per month) from their website(s).
If you’re running a small-medium sized HVACR and/or plumbing company and you want to grow your business, you can learn a lot from watching industry trends and monitoring the top sites. But, since you’re already wearing too many hats, let me give you the Cliff Notes version.
Tip 1: Install the right analytics tools and know your numbers.
Why you need analytics:
You know what they say: “What gets measured gets managed and improved.” The top HVAC and plumbing websites get this. As you can see in the pie chart below, 94% of the top 250 HVAC websites in our analysis have Google Analytics installed.
At an absolute minimum, using Google Analytics correctly means customizing it to your business. For example, if you only serve homeowners within a 60 mile radius around Denver, why do you care how many people from Russia and China are visiting your website?
If it were me, I wouldn’t and you shouldn’t either. Filtering out out-of-service area visitors from your site has another benefit. It helps you understand how effective your website really is as a virtual sales rep.
Success requires additional tools:
Even with significant customization, to really track your HVAC website correctly, you need some additional analytical tools. You probably realize that you get a lot more phone leads than web leads and that those phone leads convert into appointments at a much higher rate than the web leads. But you probably don’t realize just how skewed things are.
The average HVAC contractor receives roughly five website generated phone leads for every one website contact form submission. If you’re only using Google Analytics (vs. Google Analytics plus call tracking), you’re missing more than half of a very important part of your website performance picture.
Virtually all the top HVAC websites use highly-customized versions of Google Analytics plus call tracking and several other tools.
The tools won’t do the work for you:
Some contractors install various tools on their website almost as if they’re trying to check it off a to-do list. If only it were that easy. The tools don’t do the work for you—just ask my wife how many things have been built/fixed with that drill she bought me last Christmas.
In order to get any value out of tools like Google Analytics, call tracking, etc., you have to invest the time required to learn how to use them (or pay someone else to use them for you). You have to figure out your key metrics and then run test after test to try and improve them.
Let me say it again—Simply installing website tracking tools will do absolutely nothing to improve your site’s performance. You’ve got to use those tools to get your website’s key numbers and then you have to run test after test to improve them.
Some of the metrics I think every HVAC contractor should know include:
- Visits inside service area
- Visit-to-lead conversion rate
- Total leads and leads by traffic source
- Revenue by traffic source
These are the minimum numbers you must know as the owner. If you’ve got a marketing person working for you, whether in-house or as a partner, they ought to know these as well as about a half dozen other metrics.
Tip 2: Build Your site on a CMS and invest in great content
As I mentioned at the start of this post, we’ve done two comprehensive HVAC Web Trends Reports, one in 2013 and one in 2015. One of the things we looked at was the number of pages found on the top HVAC websites vs. the industry as a whole.
In the chart on the left above, you can see that most HVAC websites have very few pages. Look at the chart above on the right. This chart shows the top HVAC websites. The top sites have a lot of unique website pages and those pages are filled with great content.
To build a significant site, you need a CMS:
Trying to build a robust website in plain HTML is a daunting task. That’s why the CMS was invented. The letters “CMS” stand for Content Management System. A CMS is a software platform on which your website is built. It does exactly what you think it does—it helps you manage the content on your website.
A CMS makes building and managing a large website much, much easier. With a CMS, you can easily edit most of the sections of your website with little to no programming knowledge. A CMS makes it easy to add and maintain a blog for your business, create and manage a news section, and add new technicians to your “Meet the Team” page (you do have a Meet the Team page, don’t you?)
WordPress is our personal favorite because the software itself is easy to use and does not require any type of license. Local heating and cooling contractors should spend as little on marketing/website tools as possible. Investing in people (to help you use the tools) will deliver a much better ROI.
It’s not about having a CMS; it’s about creating amazing content:
If sales leads are cookies, your website CMS is a blender. Like Google Analytics, a CMS is a tool. By itself, a CMS doesn’t do anything to help you grow your business. Other ingredients are required, the most important of which is great content.
And don’t make the mistake of trying to source the cheapest content you can find. You should invest in the absolute best quality content you can afford—period, end of story.
I know at least one “industry guru” that sells pre-written blog posts for you to customize and re-use. The trouble is, a dozen other contractors have already done this. If you want to completely commodify your business, you can go this route, but it’s not what I would do (as evidence by this blog).
During our most recent analysis of nearly 10,000 heating, cooling, and plumbing contractor websites, we found that the top performing sites have far more pages and much more content than the lower performing sites. Companies like Jerry Kelly don’t just have a blog on their website, they have a blog and they use it—a lot.
When it comes to the content on your website, you should invest in the best you can possibly afford—period, end of story. There’s also no good reason to not invest in good content. The top 250 sites in the industry have lots of well-written website pages. They blog and they blog regularly. You should too.
Tip 3: When it comes to design, it’s okay to follow the herd (sometimes)
The key to designing a great HVAC / plumbing website is understanding where it pays to follow the industry leaders and where you should dare to be different. For example, when it comes to where you should put your company logo and phone number (and about 10 other things), there’s pretty much one right choice.
I see a ton of smaller contractors trying to get creative with where they place their phone number on their website. This is a gigantic mistake. The vast majority of the top sites put it in the top-right corner. As a result, this is where consumers expect to find it.
When you’re designing a new website, don’t try to get creative with where you put your phone number, address, etc. There’s a right place for all these things and a lot of wrong places.
If the website designer you’re working with doesn’t explain this to you (forcefully, if need be), you’re not working with an industry expert and you should call us before you make a major mess of your company’s most valuable digital asset!
It’s okay to have a really killer, unique “Careers” page, or one banner image that really illustrates your “wow,” or a whacky “dirtiest furnaces” blog feature. It’s not okay to put your company’s logo in the middle of the homepage, below the banner, because you think it will make you look different.
Tip 4: Make your site fast and easily accessible from all devices
If the average consumer spends about a minute and a half on an HVAC contractor’s website before they either take action or leave, how long do you think they’re prepared to wait for your slow website to load?
If you answered, “not very long,” give yourself a pat on the back. Today’s always-connected consumer has very little patience for slow loading sites. With your competitors only a click away, you’re losing business if you’ve got a slow website.
Test your website here. If your site comes back with a poor score, you need to have someone familiar with technical, onsite SEO, and website coding take a look at things. They should give you a prioritized list of things you can do to speed things up, but be warned–it could also be your website hosting company.
Most small-medium sized home service companies go with the cheapest web hosting package they can find. Ten years ago when websites were coded in plain HTML, this might have been okay (at least for a while). Today, if you want a fast-loading website, it’s not.
Websites built with a CMS have a database. You may not realize this, but with GoDaddy’s shared hosting accounts, your site’s database isn’t even on the same server as the rest of your website. GoDaddy does this for security, but it really slows things down.
Tip 5: Personalize your website and put trust-builders everywhere
Once a consumer reaches your heating, cooling, or plumbing website, they’re trying to answer three simple questions:
- Can you solve my issue quickly?
- What makes you different?
- Do I trust you?
If you follow my tips about about hiring a copywriting badass to create awesome content for your website, you’ll have #1 and #2 covered.
To conquer #3, you’ve got to do two things. First, you’ve got to make it personal. I need to see your company as a group of friendly, caring, trustworthy individuals–not some faceless entity.
I’ve looked at thousands of HVAC company websites, and it’s absolutely amazing how rarely you see great “About” or “Meet the Team” pages. A great “About” page might have the company history (a video is a cool way to do this), pictures of the trucks, pictures of the company location, awards, and maybe pictures of the staff.
A great “Meet the Team” page will typically have the owner’s picture with a brief bio or maybe a heartfelt letter telling the visitor what make the company different. I generally think it’s a good idea to put all the members of the team on the page.
The second thing you have to do to earn a prospect’s trust is provide third-party endorsements. These should come in the form of testimonials (written and video if possible) as well as trusted symbols awarded to “real” companies. Examples of trust-building symbols range from the Visa and MasterCard logos to the BBB and Angie’s List.
I’m pretty confident that I’ve spent more time reviewing and analyzing HVAC websites than anyone else on the planet! I could fill a book with tips on what the top websites in the industry are doing vs. everyone else (hmmm…), but the tips above should help get your site on the right track.
If you own a heating, cooling, or plumbing company, and you have website or web trend related questions, I’d encourage you to fill out one of the contact forms on this website and reference this post.
While we’ve never released our HVAC / Plumbing Web Trends Report in its entirety, if you represent the media or a major manufacturer (Carrier, Trane, etc.), we’d like to hear your thoughts. Wouldn’t it make for an interesting presentation at your next dealer conference?
About The Author: Ben Landers is the President and CEO of Blue Corona, a data-driven, inbound internet marketing company. Submit an inquiry to book Ben to speak at your next conference or event.
View more blogs by Ben Landers