Archive for the ‘Plumbing Adverising’ Category

New Book Release – AdWords For Plumbers

Friday, October 28th, 2016

SMS announced that they have released a new AdWords Book for Plumbers. The book is available on Amazon.

Fix Your AdWords Leak: A Plumbers Guide to Google AdWords and Search Engine Optimization – the Kindle Edition

AdWords For Plumbers 2016

 

Link to the Amazon page for

AdWords For Plumbers

Making the Phone Ring

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Let’s face reality – we judge advertising performance based on the response, not the clicks. CTR and clicks are important to Google, but your Plumbing business is interested in making the phone ring.

The right keywords and ad copy is what gets to the click. Without the click, there is no web experience. However, there is a limit to what AdWords can really do with 95 letters and spaces.

It’s about the Web Experience

It’s the web experience that creates the true impression and the response.  Plumbers routinely want a phone call or a form completion. Most of the time in the Plumbing business, it’s all about getting the phone to ring. While we do recommend forms on websites, the reality is the best leads come in from the phone.  Form leads tend to be lower quality but if a person wants to respond that way then let them.

The web experience should be designed to get the phone call and you need to keep that in mind. You need to project a professional image and make them comfortable enough with your business to pick up the phone. Depending on the situation, Plumbing is either emergency or routine traffic. With the emergency traffic, the person will stop shopping as soon as they find the first site that seems to fit their needs. If they pick up the phone and call and get a person that convinces them that their problem will be handled, then they are done.  This means that every position below the first position is a risk that they will never get to you.

Routine traffic on the other hand, will shop until they are satisfied that they have found the deal they want. In this type of traffic, the key is to be high enough in the results to make it to the short list. The typical routine traffic will view 3-10 sites before they decide to call one of them. Some percentage of them will stop when they talk to the person that they think can solve their problem. Others will call multiple businesses and play the quote for a better price game.

Position Counts!

This might seem obvious, but regardless of the type of response you want it needs to be above the fold.  For a Plumber, this means that the Phone Number and the Form Access has to be on the top of the page. This term actually came from the newspaper industry and it meant exactly what is says. In the internet world above the fold means that you can see it when you first land on the page without having to roll down. The challenge here is that not every computer has the same size screen so the fold is a concept not an exact physical position. The vast major of screens are 17” or above so using that as a standard to decide what is above the fold is a good general guideline. One of the classic problems with designers is that they fail to remember that not everyone is using a 30” monitor like they do so they design response pages above the fold for their monitor and not for the masses. Make them test their designs on a 17” monitor.

It’s a Mobile World

There is no doubt that mobile devices are coming into this world quickly. If you think a 17” monitor is a design limitation, wait till you deal with this one.  Design for mobile delivery is yet another design challenge, and here you have to realize that people are responding to less and less information so you have to adapt to that. Gone are the days of long copy, now your message is being delivered on a screen where 5 inches is considered huge. Mobile phones current range from 3.5 to 5 inches and to be readable, you need to be brief and to the point. Most of the time mobile visitors want directions, phone numbers, or very small specific information. Rule 1.01 in response design is; Give them what they want!

Being Local Is Important

This is clearly a Mr. Obvious statement but in the Plumbing business being local is huge. Make sure that your design screams local to the visitor and the first things they notice are the phone number and the city name. Make sure both of these are on the page they land on. Toll Free numbers are great for some businesses but a local prefix is much better when being local is important. It is also important that the major city name be an in-your-face element on the landing page.

There is a challenge in the local approach and it has to do with specific services like Water Heater Installation. If you have 5 cities that you have local pages for and subordinate to that, you have a page that talks about water heater installation then you have a choice to make. Do you drop them on the water heater page or the city page? Unless you are willing to have all your services duplicated, most will direct them to the city page to make the local statement and then connect them to a shared page on Water Heater Installation.

Be Clear About What You Want

If you want a phone call, then ask them to call and if you want a form filled out ask them to do that. We see websites all the time that assume that the person knows what they want and the simple truth is that is a dangerous marketing practice. Ask for the call early and often and make it very clear that is what you want them to do.

If it’s Important, Measure it

We see websites all the time that violate this rule. Most of the time, it’s the phone number that is overlooked.  As a minimum, get a phone number that is unique to your website and use it only there. There are several ways to implement this but one of the easy ones is that you pass your website through a URL tag that says to show the paid traffic phone number. Any good website designer should understand how to do this. On forms, make sure that the design goes to a unique thank you page that confirms that someone will get back to them. For some reason, some web designers want to reuse the same page and just rewrite a section of it. While this will work, it makes tracking the response more difficult than it needs to be. A unique thank you page is not really an option.

Phone Tracking is Imperfect

In today’s technology, connecting the phone call to your advertising is imperfect because computers cannot yet track the act of a person picking up a phone. This is not an excuse to not track your calls. Try to learn as much as you can about how they came to call your business. We recommend that you keep a detailed phone log and organize it the same way as you do your advertising. Most Plumbing accounts will have general plumbing, specific services, and product related ad groups and you need to classify your calls the same way. You can ask where they found you but the information may be imperfect. At the end of the month bring this data together so you can see relationships.

Offer Choices

Some people like online forms and others like phones. If both are of value to your business, then by all means offer both because the total response will most likely go up. Simply stated, people like choices.  Forms get better responses during the off hours and phones get better response during business hours. There could be several reasons for this and the most likely is that people would rather email than leave a voice mail in a general mailbox after hours.

Get to the Point

People are in a hurry and yet most websites drift around and waste our time with lots of unnecessary words and details. The golden rule here should be: Give them as much detail as they need to make an educated decision but no more than that. This is hard because different audiences will respond to different levels of detail but do the best that you can. As a minimum, tighten up your language and keep the words to a minimum. Use lists rather than paragraphs and use good highlighting to make scanning your text easier.

Remove Roadblocks to Your Response

I have seen hundreds of sites with unnecessarily complex response design forms and every decision you engineer into the process is an opportunity for the customer to leave.  We have seen errors on screens that issue messages that might make sense to some programmers but for an ordinary person it might as well be in an alien language.  Make sure that a non-programmer reviews every error message given by the system to make sure it makes sense.

Nothing is Perfect

In closing, there is no perfect response design and you need to experiment consistently to find the attributes that push your audience’s buttons. Remember that small things can make big differences and you never know what they will be until you test them.

 

It’s About Being Local

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

In the Plumbing business the more local you are to the person seeking services, especially emergency services, the higher your response rate will be. Few Plumbers will argue with me on this point but the challenge is that many Plumbing Businesses serve several local markets.
The simple solution is to have a physical location in each market but the cost of that is prohibitive. So the issue becomes one of balance between the cost of a separate locations and the value to your business. The good news is that you can enhance your localness without going to the extreme of opening unnecessary offices.

Phase I: Phone Numbers

Stage one of getting local is phone numbers and most plumbers have known for years that they can get local dial phone numbers and redirect them to an office in another location. The question becomes how far to take this concept. The golden rule is that you need one phone number for each significant market area. A significant market is an area that identifies itself as a separate community. The issue of significant area is critical to keeping your expenses in check while getting as local as you can be. In Los Angeles for example there are 82 cities and some of them get localized traffic and some simply do not. If you get a central office code for an insignificant area all you have is an expense.
Phone numbers are made up of area codes, central office codes, and phone numbers. For example (805) 481-0118 is my local office number. The 805 area code tells you that I am in Central California, the 481 central office code tells you I am in Grover Beach, and the 0118 is just a number. In any local area the people living there will instantly recognize the area code and most of the central office codes. Like most areas we have overlap between cities so 481 or 489 both say either Grover Beach or Arroyo Grande. Having both a 481 and 489 number would be of no value because they are seen as one community.

How Accurate is the Location?

Localization cuts both ways so be careful with how close to the bone you cut. Google and many others are working on the problem but a searcher’s physical location and their system location are not always the same. My office is in Grover Beach but my internet location often reads as San Luis Obispo, which is 12 miles north on Hwy 101 and is considered a significantly different market. A mistake in the geographic location of 15 miles is not uncommon, especially if the audience is a consumer rather than a business. There are many reasons for the location being wrong but and current estimates put this error level between 50%-80%

Phase 2: Location based landing pages

At this stage you have figured out what communities are significant in your market and you have a phone number to serve that market. Next you need a page to land on that is specific to that community. You can, as some do, just put the local number on your regular home page but that is much weaker than a localized page with one number. There are some trade-offs related to the geographic error. If the location is being read wrong the highly localize page can be a negative not a positive.
We often see Plumbing sites with a huge stack of city name links off their home page and these are often part of the template but in location based pages you do not want this copied forward. You want the page to be solely about the location you are promoting and nothing else. Again the more things you are about the less you are about the one thing you are focusing on.

Phase 3: Dealing with Google Places

A big challenge in getting local is Maps and Google Places because on most plumbing searches Google Places is 40% of the top of the results page. For each area that you have a local operation make sure that you claim the Places Listing and promote that location. For each location you want to promote the physical location and invite reviews since these are two of the big factors in how the maps are optimized. Your physical location does not have to be a huge office but it has to be able to receive mail and have its own phone number. The days of claiming a physical location without really being at the location are behind us but Google Places is still incredibly important to your business.

Marketing is like a Water Heater

Monday, February 20th, 2012

When it comes to explaining complex topics it is often useful to use a well understood object with common functionality as metaphor. In this article we will compare the functioning of your marketing to a conventional water heater. Not the same you say? Then read on and let’s see.

The Goal is

The goal of a water heater is to provide a steady source of hot water to the home. The goal of your marketing is to provide a steady stream of new business. Like the water heater, you need a full system to get to this goal.

Bringing it Online

When you install a conventional water heater and turn it on the water is not instantly hot in the house, and the same is true of your marketing. When you first launch your marketing campaigns a lot of the energy goes into warming up the market. This is why short term blasts of marketing almost never work and why marketing campaigns improve with age. One time ads are the equivalent of turning the flame on in the water heater and deciding it does not work because the water is not instantly hot throughout the house. It takes several hours for a water heater to be up to temperature and ready to serve the home and it takes months for marketing to do the same.

Bleeding the System  

As every plumber knows, when you open the hot water in the house after an install what you get is a lot of air venting through the system and marketing acts in a very similar way.  Sometimes sales come out and sometimes not. It is very inconsistent until the system has been bleed out and stabilized. Trying to take the very early results and predict the future is fraught with risk. Marketing tends to start the same way with fits, seizures, and blasts of air.

Stabilizing the settings

A new water heater runs until the water reaches the target temperature and then it cycles on and off as needed to maintain that level based on energy loss and demand.  Your marketing you can do the same thing or you can warm it up at a slow consistent pace. Going full speed brings some risks that you can avoid with a slow consistent strategy but in the long run you will get to the same place where it takes less energy to maintain the system. What you never get to is a stage where it becomes a perpetual motion machine. There is always a requirement to continue to fill the tank and heat the water.

Trying to Go Too Fast

No matter how hot you make the flame water is only going to absorb the heat at its pace. Many businesses make the mistake of trying too hard and it almost never works. The market has to warm up to your business and this takes time. You cannot make a conventional water heat get up to temp in 1 minute and you cannot make a market suddenly treat your business like a long established major brand. Once the market is up to temperature it is much easier to keep it there. Not running marketing long enough is the classic beginner’s mistake. The market is very much like water in this situation in that it will only come up to temperature at its pace.  Push it faster and it will just lose the heat through the chimney.

There is no 100% Efficient Water Heater

No water heater is 100% efficient and heat escapes in a number of ways and the same is true of your marketing.  Just like wrapping the water heater and hot water pipes can reduce heat loss your marketing can increase its efficiency as well but it never reaches 100%. Water heaters are different in that they can reach levels of efficiency that marketers can only dream of. In marketing the most common efficiency level is about 2% and water heaters are much better than that.

Maintenance Needed

Water heaters need maintenance and no matter what you do they will ultimately fail. In the case of the water heater this is 12-15 years depending on local conditions but ultimately it will fail. This is true of your marketing as well. There will come times where you need to maintain your marketing and points you will need to replace it. You need to make sure you understand the difference between these points so you do not replace what you can repair.

Hot Water is not the Final Goal – It’s a nice warm shower

Hot water unregulated by the final shower faucet can burn your skin off and the system needs a final fine adjustment.   In a single-handle cartridge-style faucet this final mix adjustment can go from burning to freezing cold in just a few degrees of rotation and neither of these results is the goal. In marketing it can be the same way. If you run too hot your ability to service the business can suffer but if you run too cold the business can quickly lose money. This very delicate mix of hot and cold can be destroyed by other events like the flushing of a toilet within the system. Your marketing is impacted by local events, sales, economy, competitors, and changes in technology, just to name a few. Your budget is one of the tools for that final adjustment to get your marketing just right.

Closing Thoughts

In summary water heaters and marketing operate in very similar ways because markets are fluid and so is water.  You cannot instantly get a mechanical action out of a water heater or a market and that is because of their fluid nature. Both have to operate in balance for optimal performance. The pressure, heat, mix, and flow adjustments have to be just right. You need to react to system conditions, but not over-react.  Try too hard and you will find yourself just splashing around with no real results; try too little and your business will disappear before your very eyes.

Disclaimer: I am not a plumber and I am not pretending to be one. Our goal is simply to help you better understand the marketing of your plumbing business so you can better control the system.  After all; the goal is a steady flow of nice warm leads to make the business fell just right.

What are AdWords? Why Plumbers Should Care?

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

AdWords is what controls the paid advertizing placements within the Google Network. Above is a typical search result in Google for a plumber search in a city.  “Plumber” is a word that Google automatically localizes with the searcher’s location. A person searching for “Plumber” while physically in Los Angeles is the same as search for “Los Angeles Plumber.” This is referred to as localizing the search and Google knows that some words, like plumber, are best served by localizing.

Google gives priority to paid advertising and Google Places in many localized searches. You have probably been contacted by an SEO expert that proposes website optimization for plumbers. This is a failed strategy because there are no organic positions visible on the top of the page. They are proposing to optimize for a position that is not there! Anyone that claims that organic optimization is the only way to go simply does not understand local search for plumbers. In some searches you will find a few organic listings between the first AdWords section and the places listing but in the more competitive markets it will often look like the example here. Even if your city shows organic listings there is no guarantee that your website will earn one of those positions or that it will stay there.

In the old days a plumber was not really in business until their ad appeared in the Phone Book, but Google has become that must-be location. People in large numbers turn to Google to find the service provider they need and this is very true of plumbing.  Places and AdWords are the two choices of how you get onto the coveted top of first page.