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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

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