Uncategorized

How to Maximize Digital Marketing Returns: Get More Leads on a Lean Online Advertising Budget

By Diane Lovine

“I’ve got $750 budgeted for marketing, but I need to see real results. How can I grow my business on a tight budget?”

Which gives the best value in lead generation; SEO or Pay Per Click? 

Don’t Limit Your Revenue Channels.  Here’s How to Get the Best of Both: 

Start With a Well-Optimized Website

Organic inbound leads through SEO generally give you the best return on your online advertising investment because the leads are exclusive and delivered in real-time. Potential customers see your page and call you directly. When SEO is done right, businesses are showcased in front of customers who are ready to buy. When landing pages are optimized for user experience, well-placed calls to action (CTA) entice people to call for a quote or submit a form. Consumers, whether homeowners or businesses, search online for the services they need. They generally click the top businesses that come up on the first page of the search results. 

Contractors who answer their phones and are professional and knowledgeable will get the call and provide a bid. If they are great at sales, they will often exude confidence and competence and win the job on the spot. 

Exclusive organic leads are generally more expensive (usually twice the price) than those shared leads that are sold to 4-6 contractors, such as by Homeadvisor or Thumbtack. Paying for exclusive leads is usually worth the extra cost because the quality of leads and the potential for closing them are much higher. Therefore, your customer acquisition cost may actually be lower than getting them through shared leads. You won’t be as likely to deal with tire kickers to have to enter the bidding wars that drive down revenue and diminish your closing rate, either. 

So why not just stick with SEO for lead generation if they are the highest quality leads? Ranking highly online has become more difficult in recent years. The competition to take those coveted top spots on Google’s first page is tighter than ever, and Google has designated more of the 1st page real estate to feature their own paid ads. There are still ways to get to the top, but it’s more complicated and time-consuming. That’s not to say it isn’t worth the effort. 

Choosing a reputable online marketing company to help you navigate Google’s ever-changing algorithms is key, and there are a few stand-out lead generation companies that specialize in working with small businesses with lean budgets. Do your research, and check to make sure you won’t be locked into lengthy contracts or be hit with hidden fees or uncovered expenses. Find a company that charges for their performance, rather than a flat fee (whether they produce leads or not).

How to Build an Online Presence

Here are the first steps in enhancing your online presence and getting inbound leads:

1. Start with a professional website with the following attributes:

  • Keep it clean and simple (flash and movement cause pages to load much more slowly, which will negatively affect rankings). Learn more here about how load times have recently been identified as a major factor ranking highly on Google. 
  • State what you do and where you do it. Sounds pretty basic, but try to avoid excessive stock photos and “catchy” phrases. 
  • Know your keywords. What are the primary services you offer? What are the locations within your territory?

2. Build and Sync up your listings (All online listings and directories should use the same company name, address, phone, etc.) Utilize the free directory listings with Google My Business (GMB), Houzz, Yelp, Manta, etc. 

3. Get great reviews (It’s not enough to be on the first page of Google anymore. Those who hold the best positions usually have lots of positive reviews. Send your happy customers a link to your GMB listing and ask for positive reviews after a job well done.) 

4. Keep your content fresh by adding content such as more in-depth information and original photos of your work to your website, your listings, and your Facebook Business page and post special offers to entice potential customers to call you. You can also post your specials on your Google My Business listing.

Trying DIY vs. Hiring an Organic Lead Service Provider

If you are tech savvy, have plenty of time to devote to marketing and already have a solid website, you may be able to manage these steps on your own. If you need assistance, shop for a service provider that offers low introductory specials. There are specials to be had. Some lead companies offer deep discounts to get you in the door for a low price and will work to prove their value and earn your business. Check online reviews, ask for references and go with one that has a good track record for delivering on promises. 

Patience is Key with organic lead generation. It takes months to rank on the first page of Google for the keywords that pay, and even longer to see a steady stream of inbound leads. Starting with a budget-friendly lead generation program is a great way to get started on low-priced leads. This process will build over time, but it won’t be enough to grow a new business in the short run. 

Another option is to find a low-cost lead generation company that can deliver leads at low prices. There are a few companies that offer a pay for performance structure, meaning you’d only be charged for the qualified leads you receive each month.

Supercharge Results With Smart Google Ads Campaigns

While you are waiting for your SEO lead site to begin delivering consistent results, you can supplement with a conservative Google Ads (pay per click) campaign. Be very careful here. Contractors’ #1 complaints with Google Ads or the companies that manage them is that they burn through cash much too quickly without seeing a return on investment. Choose a company that cares about your budget and will watch it like a hawk!

One suggestion for promoting your business as cost-effectively as possible is to begin an organic campaign in conjunction with running a conservative Google Ads campaign. This will allow the SEO component to begin to ramp up (takes 4-8 months to reap the full benefits) and will get some targeted leads coming in sooner. The trick is to have a well-managed pay-per-click campaign. If working with Google Ads sounds too expensive, take a look at this case study done by our team at 99 Calls. They helped get a carpet cleaning business found on Google searches and supplemented their long-term strategy with a low budget, well-targeted Google Ads PPC campaign to give them the best bang for their buck.  

Showing in both the Ads section and the organic section on the first page of a Google search is a highly coveted prize. When people see the paid ad at the top of the page and don’t click it and then see the same company name below in the organic section, they are more likely to click that less expensive organic link. See the example here:

DIY for Google Ads?

Can I run Google Ads on my own? Sure, you can. But there are many intricacies to setting up an Ads campaign that can be very costly if not done properly. If you want to go it alone, our recommendation is to take the time to complete Google’s free online training course. Another option is to choose a company with a great reputation and low service fee (yes, they are out there, really!)

How to Allocate a $750 Online Advertising Budget

The team at 99 Calls recommends starting with organic lead generation and then supplementing with a low-budget Google Ads campaign. Another option is to begin a low-budget LSA (Local Search Advertising), but we’ll save this for another presentation. 

As an example, the cost to set up both organic advertising and Google Ads PPC as a bundle package with 99 Calls is $350. We’d then recommend using the remaining $400 for your Google Ads budget. Depending on the service you offer and the area where you are located, this budget should be enough to gain solid results within the first few weeks of advertising. 

Month two will allow you more funds to use for your Google budget. Once you have spent $150 in Google Ads, you will be eligible for a $150 credit to apply toward your second month. As an example, the service fee at 99 Calls is $150 or 15% of your prior month’s spend. So with that same $750 budget, you can apply your $150 credit, pay your service fee and still get $750 worth of clicks. Our expectation is that you’ll receive a healthy volume of leads over your first two months and will be prepared to use your new earnings from jobs won toward future months of advertising. Google Ads offers the flexibility to ramp up slowly or as quickly as your business can manage.

You will also notice that the cost per acquisition will decrease over time. This is because your Ads team will review all leads each day and feed results back to Google on the quality of the clicks. We’re essentially “training” Google to send you only the clicks with a high intent to purchase your services. In addition, negative keywords will be added and ads will be refined. You will benefit from these actions because as the clicks become more accurate, your conversion rate will increase, which decreases the price you’ll pay to acquire a new customer.

Want to learn how our strategies for lead generation can help your business? Schedule a free consultation

Carpet Cleaning Lead Generation
Carpet Cleaning Leads

How Combining Google Ads with SEO Lead Generation Boosted Revenue for a Carpet Cleaning Business: A Case Study by 99 Calls

Does Adding a Google Ads Campaign Amplify Overall Lead Volume?

It is known in the online advertising community that running Google Ads does not increase the organic rankings of web pages. However, it is often speculated that running a Google Ads campaign gives a boost to organic results. 

The team at 99 Calls has often seen this phenomenon, and decided to highlight one example in a case study. 

Carpet Care Now is a carpet cleaning business located in Ohio. They are a  small business with under 15 employees and five work trucks on the road. Four trucks are for carpet extraction and one is used for carpet dry cleaning. They first approached the 99 Calls lead generation team in August 2020 because they wanted to increase their inbound lead volume and keep their crews busy. In fact, Danny, the owner of the business filled out an online form through the 99 Calls website and noted that he was looking for “real carpet cleaning leads”. He expressed frustration with the pricing increases of other lead sources and the diminishing value of the leads he was receiving. He also was looking to establish a personal relationship with an account manager who would be responsive to his questions and requests. 

When asked what his expectations were upon hiring 99 Calls lead generation, he didn’t have specific expectations, but did mention that he had done his research and noticed the large volume of positive reviews this company received online. 

Carpet Care Now chose to get set up on the Bundle program beginning August 1st with a total setup payment of $349.00. 

The bundle program includes the following:

  • Set up an organic website
  • Provide customizations of the SEO site
  • Set up Google Ads Campaign
  • Set up, manage, and optimize listings such as Google My Business, Facebook, Yelp, and others
  • Manage online reputation and respond to posts from customers

Google Ads Results – First Four Months

They had an initial budget of $1400 for Google Ads. During their first four months of service, Carpet Care Now received 175 total leads; 165 from their Pay per Click campaign and 10 from SEO / organic leads. 

During the first few weeks of a Google Ads campaign, Ads specialists review the account daily to update negative keywords and run A/B testing on the Ads to achieve optimal results. Inbound calls are listened to daily and results are reported in order to “train” Google to send leads from prospects with a high intent to buy. 

As with any new Google Ads PPC campaign, initially there are unwanted, or “low intention”, clicks received from people searching for carpet cleaning related information, but not necessarily looking to purchase a service, or from people searching for competitors and getting the business being promoted on Ads instead. An example of a “bad” click would be someone searching for carpet cleaning chemicals or stain removal chemicals. These people aren’t necessarily searching for a carpet cleaning company, but for advice on how to do the cleaning themselves. 

99 Calls Ads specialists work to minimize low intention clicks out of the gate and strive to target good results very quickly. Vigilance in these things results in customers receiving a higher lead volume for their budget and a high overall lead conversion rate, which is the number of people who call for a quote vs the total number of people who click on an ad. The chart below shows the process of refining the Google Ads account over for Carpet Care Now during the first four months of service. Notice that the cost per lead declined significantly over time.

Organic Lead Results – First Four Months

When we set up a site for organic lead generation and build and/or optimize listings such as Google My Business, Manta, Yelp and more, the first few months are usually quiet. We tell people to expect one to five organic leads during the first three months of service. Why so low?  With online competition for service contractors at an all time high, there are already pages and pages of contractors ranking online as a new site is built. Our job is to build an online presence and credibility over time so that new customers can overtake positioning of businesses already being featured. It takes time and vigilance to muscle in and gain some of that market share, often 10-12 months!

However, we’re noticing that customers who combine organic lead generation with Google Ads PPC start getting organic leads more quickly. Carpet Care Now is a great example of this phenomenon. In month one, they received their first lead. They received 2 leads the following month and one in month three. In the fourth month of service, they received six leads. Receiving 10 leads during their first four months was a great supplement to their overall performance.

Why Organic Leads Are More Desirable

Organic leads are less expensive than those received through Google Ads ($24.90 vs $30.00+) and are often higher quality because customers still strongly prefer organic results to paid results when searching for a contractor. We speculated that seeing the business on the first page at the top and then again down in the organic section adds an element of familiarity that results in more clicks (and therefore more leads).

Less expensive, higher converting leads make a big difference in overall return on investment. That’s why when people come to us looking to “get leads quickly”, we recommend a Google Ads PPC campaign, but also recommend that the customer get started on an SEO site that will help build inbound organic lead volume as a longer-term strategy.

As mentioned above, the 99 Calls lead specialists have noticed that when organic and Google Ads campaigns run concurrently, customers benefit from a boost in organic lead volume earlier than expected with organic results. Often, we don’t see leads via SEO efforts for 2-3 months after starting service, but when Google Ads are run at the same time, organic leads are more abundant and arrive sooner than with SEO lead services alone. 

Why is this? Although Google states that using Google Ads does not affect the SEO of organic placement, there is a phenomenon of clicking on something you’ve seen prior. Being found on the first page of Google immediately using Google Ads allows customers to gain prominent first page placement very quickly. Often, though, that top Ad is not clicked. But as the eyes scan down and the business is also listed in the Maps section or below in the organic results, the consumer is more likely to click the link. In this case, they are more likely to click the less expensive organic result than the Google Ad above. Click here for more information on the benefits of combining SEO with Google Ads PPC advertising

So, What’s the Verdict? Does Adding a Google Ads Campaign Boost Overall Lead Volume?

We have demonstrated that the Google Ads campaign ramped up quickly for Carpet Care Now and that the lead cost was reduced month over month, from almost $37 down to about $29 per lead, which led to a total increase in return on lead generation investment with each passing month. In addition, during the first four months on the bundle program, Carpet Care Now achieved 3x the expected organic lead volume.

The image below shows were Care Care Now can be seen when searching for “carpet cleaning” in their service area:

After four months of service with 99 Calls. Carpet Care Now reported that they gained 150-160 new customers. They canceled the secondary lead source that they were using and plan to use the extra funds to increase their Google Ads budget this spring. Danny reported that he most liked that the calls delivered by 99 Calls are live and exclusive. Other lead generation services he has tried have required him to call leads back, which often ended in not connecting and wasting his time. Because he has a high close rate of 65 – 70% of his leads, he has enjoyed success simply by answering his phone and being ready to offer fair pricing over the phone. This has increased his bottom line, because he spends much less time on the road, providing live, in-home estimates. Carpet Care Now is an excellent example of a successful “bundle” campaign. They started an SEO site and a Google Ads campaign from the beginning. 

You May Be Asking, “So How Do I Get The Most Lead Volume for a Small Budget?”

We would recommend starting with a website that is optimized to rank on Google. At a minimum, the site should be clean and clear. It should state what you do and where you do it. Avoid flash and fancy apps that will slow download time. Google prioritizes site speed when ranking pages, as well as user experience. 

From there, try a low-budget Google Ads campaign. We recommend starting with a budget between $500 and $1000 for best results. Because of the normal issues with bad clicks, or low intent clicks, in the beginning, you will spend a portion of your initial budget on making adjustments and fine-tuning the ads. 

Sample Investment of a $650 per Month Budget for Lead Generation with 99Calls.com:

Month 1:

Set up a bundle program that generates leads via SEO efforts and a Google Ads campaign for one low price of $349. Budget $300 for a PPC account. The SEO leads will be billed per qualified lead and there is no monthly service charge for SEO/Organically generated leads.

Total Cost: $650

Month 2:

Google gives first-time Ads users a $150 credit to be used in their second month of advertising after they spend $150 on a campaign. We would predict that zero to two organic SEO leads will be achieved in month 2. 99 Calls’ Google Ads service fee is priced at $150 per month or 15% of the prior month’s Ads spend. Budget $450 and you’ll get $600 worth of Ads with your credit. 

Total Cost: $600 ($450 Ads budget + $150 Service Fee).

Following Months:  

$550 Each (Including your Pay Per Click Budget)

The SEO services offered include all necessary behind-the-scenes work to increase your online presence and get important keywords ranking on Google above the competition. This includes social media management, assistance with getting positive online reviews, lead generation site hosting and management and live customer support. You’ll pay only for the qualified leads you receive. Generally, contractors receive 1-3 organic leads per month during the first 3 months, and then we see an increase in volume from there, especially when contractors periodically send us content that can be used to promote their business (running specials, sending photos, etc.) 

At this point, the expectation would be that you’d have received a healthy number of leads through the Google Ads campaign and a handful of quality leads from SEO efforts. The lead volume for SEO results increases over time and Google Ads results can be turned on or off based on your needs and business goals. Budgets can be adjusted in real-time, allowing businesses to ramp up as slowly or as quickly as they desire.

Want to learn how our strategies for lead generation can help your business? Schedule a free consultation