Home Services Are Down, What Are Digital Marketing Companies Doing About It
The short answer is, a lot!
In order to maintain brand awareness and keep service businesses in front of potential customers, digital marketers are developing new strategies for search engine optimization, adapting to the new Google Business Profile interface, and creating more unique ad copy builds for pay-per-click advertisement. Home services are facing an unprecedented lull as the economy has shifted to promote shopping around for services in order to find the lowest cost and highest value services. This creates challenges for many home service industries like carpet cleaning and HVAC companies, but digital marketers are reacting to this shift in stride. Let’s take an in-depth look at how your marketers are facing said challenges.
Search Engine Optimization For Home Services
A big component of any digital marketing strategy comes down to getting your website in front of as many customers as possible through organic online searches. Or, in other words, if someone searches “Best Carpet Cleaning Company” or “Plumber Near Me” on Google, what comes up first will always get the first click in their shopping journey. The moment that someone is provided with search results is a key factor in generating organic traffic to your website and digital marketers at large have to do a lot in order to guarantee it is your website at the top of the search results. Search engine optimization or SEO is done at several levels. Within your website, the content must be tailored to a good user experience, while also triggering signals determined by Google that tell the search engine your website is valuable and worthy of being indexed for future searches.
You might be wondering what these factors are. Well, that’s the most challenging part of SEO. No one knows what these factors are. In fact search engines keep them hidden on purpose in order to create a sense of fairness in how websites are ranked.
So how do digital marketers do it? Hours and hours of research, experimentation, and hypothesis-based testing. Here is just a small list of things that your digital marketer is updating and testing every day of the week:
Entity-Based SEO – Keywords are critical to SEO because they signal to search engines what a page on your website’s topic is but the focus on keywords has changed with the ever-evolving science that is search engine optimization. Digital marketers instead now focus on the entities (nouns) that are relevant to the user’s search query. By understanding the entities that are related to a particular keyword, a website can provide more accurate and relevant information to the user.
Since Google gets to decide which keywords are related to which entities, part of the SEO specialist’s job is researching how entities can relate back to the topics the website is trying to rank for. Finding the most searched entities that encompass multiple keywords, testing how Google relates them to topics, and comparing the competition of currently ranked pages are all things that go into increasing the rank on a website.
Content – Another important aspect of how your website ranks is the content on each page. A long, in-depth explanation of carpet cleaning services may seem valuable to a customer from the owner’s perspective but Google is more concerned with how relevant and easy to read the content is. Furthermore, are the page headers all related to the page’s topic? What about the title tags and meta descriptions? These all need to be in line with the written content in a concise, obvious, and user-friendly way.
User and SEO-Friendly Website Design – If your page is slow to load, hard to read, or doesn’t load correctly on a mobile device then it will not rank well. These things communicate to search engines that the content was not made in a way that enhances the user experience. On the back end of the site as well, an effort needs to be made to help search engines crawl through the site and understand the content.
Protip: Expert SEO specialists use schema markup to enhance descriptions that appear in search results as well as backlinks, increasing the overall authority of the website.
A lot of time and effort goes into search engine optimization and with every update that Google or other search engines release that changes their ranking factor the process of figuring out how these things affect a website starts over anew. Speaking of Google updates, part of the reason that home services are down is due to how the Google Business Profile (previously known as Google My Business) has changed what service area-based businesses can and cannot do.
How The New Google Business Profile Is Affecting Home Services
You may have noticed that Google My Business has switched to a new interface recently. It is now called a Google Business Profile (or GBP) and all profile management is done from the Google search results rather than logging into a back-end profile view. This did simplify editing information and responding to reviews, but this update also came with some new restrictions.
Almost immediately after the update some profiles dropped tremendously in rank. This seemed to be happening to only service-based companies who either had their address hidden or were using a non-commercial address for their profile. Everyone at Service Lifter scrambled to bring these profiles back into rank and ultimately were able to bring things back up with newly posted content and reviews. By way of testing we determined that a few things are now being more closely monitored in client’s GBP profiles:
- Posted content across all company profiles is unique and includes customer engagement. This includes images.
- The GBP information must match the registered information for the business. In other words, if your registered business name includes “LLC” then the profile’s listed name should reflect that.
Protip: Many businesses add the name of the city to their GBP profile name in addition to the business name. This is now leading to issues based on the idea that it doesn’t match the registered name either.
- Not having a commercial address listed in the profile. Even if your address is hidden in lieu of having a service area, using a virtual or residential address led to profiles being suspended or dropped in rank.
These changes require some adjustments from digital marketers, mainly that content creation requires more care and all unique content.
PPC Ads Are More Expensive With Lower Conversion Rates
Pay-per-click ads or PPC have previously been a reliable source for building brand awareness and generating customer buy-in. However, ads, specifically Google Ads, have become increasingly more expensive while the conversion rate has sunk lower and lower as an industry standard. A lot of this is because there is more business involved with home services and thus you need to outbid all of your competitors, driving keyword costs up. In addition, Google Ads has had several updates over the years that changed how effective ad copies are.
For example, marketers used to be able to include punctuation in headlines and use modified broad-match keywords. Ads utilizing these small details saw conversion rates above 10% but after they were removed the industry standard for home services is 4-6% depending on the specific niche.
In addition, Google began to put more emphasis on the optimization score system. This is a set of factors that Google uses to deem your ad more user-friendly but they often just result in spending much more money. So how are digital marketers dealing with the future of ads? Well, it depends on the service in question. Home remediation (water damage, mold removal, etc.) as well as high ticket services like HVAC repair or installation can maintain a good ROI even spending $20-$75 per click. However, carpet cleaning almost never makes back what is being spent. With clicks costing a minimum of $8 all the way up to $25+ it is virtually impossible to make a return on ad spend using Google Ads. Many digital marketers are turning to lower-competition ad sources with cheaper keywords like Bing or Facebook. While Google ads can still be a great way to build brand awareness and get website visits, the direct return on spending is typically not worth it for low-ticket high-volume business models.
Home services across the United States are down and as such digital marketers are spending hundreds of hours looking for new and unique ways to adapt to changing factors in the marketing landscape. SEO is always shifting and the new emphasis on entity-based ranking is demanding a fresh approach to content. While new updates to both Google Business Profiles and Google Ads are restricting what tactics can be used to maintain rank or relevance. Through researching and testing digital marketing companies like Service Lifter are always working to keep home service companies growing.