If you own or operate a local home services business (flooring, kitchen & bathroom, hvac, plumbing, roofing, etc.), getting more qualified visitors to your website is a top priority. Although the popularity of social media is growing, when people need something for their home, the first place they go is to a search engine like Google, Yahoo or Bing. If your website is not prominently listed (multiple times) on the first page, you’re – without question – losing business to competitors.
Getting more search engine real estate: PPC & SEO
There are two ways to improve and maximize your first page real estate: Pay per click (PPC) advertising and search engine optimization (SEO). Pay per click is immediate. You set up an account with Google AdWords, Microsoft AdCenter, etc., pick the keywords for which you’d like to rank, write your ad copy, create a landing page and hit “go!” If you set up a PPC campaign right now, you’ll see your ads on Google (Yahoo, Bing, etc.) in a matter of hours. When set up properly, everything about PPC is quantifiable – including the phone calls you receive from your paid clicks (learn more about tracking phone calls from pay per click advertising).
SEO is a long term strategy for increasing your first page search engine visibility. SEO work ranges from simple (adding more content to your website) to complex (optimizing your site’s code structure for faster page load times or re-arranging the structure of your webpages and re-writing your current URL’s with “friendly” URL’s). In all but a few rare cases, the SEO work you do today will not cause a change tomorrow. Depending on the change, the size of your site and a myriad of other factors, it can take 2 weeks to 6 months for the search engines to recognize the changes you’ve made and adjust the organic rankings accordingly. Like PPC, SEO can also be accurately quantified, but the right marketing analytics systems must be put in place before SEO work begins – and most companies don’t realize this until it’s too late.
Quantifying SEO: What is the top organic spot worth?
A flooring company called Blue Corona just the other day looking for an SEO company in Maryland. Their business was already listed near the bottom of the first page of Google for a variety of relevant search phrases, but how many more booked jobs would they get if they could move higher on the page? What a great question! Unfortunately, they hadn’t quantified exactly how many visits, leads and booked jobs they were getting from their current organic listings (tracking improvement is impossible without baseline data! For more information about using tracking to quantify SEO, read some of our other blogs, case studies, etc.).
A lot of local home service businesses spend a little on SEO, but stop once they see their website listed on the first page of Google (Yahoo, Bing, etc.) for a few relevant keywords. The assumption is that everything on the first page is more or less equal. To pay for more SEO to move from low on the first page (organic spots 4th, 5th, 6th, etc.) to the top spots wouldn’t be worth the possibly nominal increase in traffic, leads and booked jobs.
The flaw with this thinking is that the clicks on the first page of the search engine results are far from evenly distributed, and the increase in visits a site receives by moving from lower first page organic listings to the top spots is NOT nominal!
The AOL data leak
In 2006, AOL leaked search data which resulted in numerous insights about the value of various organic search positions. You probably know, either from common sense or anecdotally based on your own personal search habits, that the majority of clicks (visits) go to a listing on the first page of search results. Data from the AOL leak confirms this – nearly 90% of clicks (visits) go to a first page organic listing. The real shocking insights are more related to the disparity in clicks between various organic listings.
Look at this:
Out of 4,926,623 clicks, 42% went to the top organic listing! Look at the drop off from position #1 to #2, and #3!
Suppose you own the flooring company and your website is currently listed 5th on the first page of Google for “flooring services Bethesda MD”. Because you’re smart and you already have tracking in place already, you know that this organic listing results in about 20 visits per month and your website converts about 10% of non-branded organic visitors into leads. So, 20 visits nets you 2 inquiries. Your lead-to-sales conversion rate is 50%, so you get one booked job per month from your current organic listing. And let’s say the jobs in Bethesda work out to generate about $1,500 in profit.
Should you hire an SEO company to try and improve your current organic position for this keyword? Would it be worth paying $1,000 per month for three months to see if you can get your organic placement up to #1 or #2? Of course, no reputable SEO company can guarantee results, but would it be worth a shot?
Using the data in the chart to the left, you could speculate that improving your organic ranking for this keyword from 5th to 2nd might result in an additional ~28 visits per month which, if all your conversion rates hold up, could result in 2 more leads, another booked job or 2 and $1,500-$3,000 in profit! Remember – if you keep that organic position after the SEO campaign is over, your results should continue, so it would definitely be worth the $3,000 you paid for SEO.
Now, what if your organic listing moved from the 5th spot to #1? If the click distribution percentages from AOL hold up, and your current visitor tracking data is accurate, we know that about 407 people per month search for “flooring services Bethesda MD”. Moving from the 5th spot to #1 could cause your visits to go from 20 to 171, which should net you around 17 leads, 8-9 booked jobs and almost $13,000 in profit!
You shouldn’t use the data above to bet the farm on SEO. The takeaways from this post are twofold:
1. Before you invest in SEO, put accurate tracking systems in place (or hire someone to do it for you). You must know exactly what you’re getting from non-branded organic search (visitors to your site using terms other than your name or trademarked terms) BEFORE you invest in SEO.
2. Being on the first page of organic results on Google, Yahoo and Bing is great, but the results derived from being #1 are far greater than being lower on the first page.
Depending on your business, the value of a new customer, how well your website converts visitors into leads and your sales team’s ability to turn leads into booked jobs, it can be worth the extra investment to move your website higher on the first page of search results.
As always, you can’t maximize your results without accurate tracking in place.
Measure it and you’ll improve it – we guarantee it!
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
“Blue Corona's expertise in search engine optimization is directly responsible for driving the increase in monthly visits to our web site, producing many telephone inquiries and visits to our showroom. ”