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How Service Contractors are Impacted by Coronavirus and What Contractors Should Do to Stay in Business

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The Novel Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, is crushing small businesses in the US and around the world. Schools, universities, government facilities, hospitals, nursing homes, businesses, large and small, all struggling to come out ahead of the virus while making every effort to keep people’s safety the number one priority. However, with every problem, there is an opportunity. 

With extreme measures being implemented such as social distancing and public facilities remaining closed, construction companies or contractors are among the small businesses being impacted the most. 

 

Supply Shortages

Many of US’s construction companies rely on Chinese or Italian made goods and materials, but the Coronavirus has tremendously impacted these countries. Because of government containment efforts, manufacturing in China and Italy has drastically declined due to a reduced labor force, which could mean a slowdown of supply to the market, and even higher material costs. For example, US contractors rely on China for steel, plumbing fixtures, and even cabinets, and on Italy for stone and tiles.

Another challenge is with restrictive travel, construction companies struggle to obtain supplies normally manufactured or shipped from China or Italy, causing them to delay or cancel in their projects.

As the spread of the virus in these countries slows down, production and labor force in factories will pick up, but it will take time.

 

Social Distancing

Contractors also struggle to find work with social distancing measures being implemented. Customers are canceling scheduled jobs with greater frequency. Home or commercial construction and remodeling projects are either being canceled or being placed on hold for these reasons, as well as concerns over a failing economy on the horizon. 

Times are tough for everyone, but there are marketing strategies that can be adopted to best foster growth in the weeks and months to come.

Social Distancing

Strategies to Succeed

In the meantime, what should service contractors do to overcome these tough times? Around this time last year, we had also written an article about surviving the next recession, which is exactly what we are currently facing. The answer, work on a long-term solution that will get your business on the fast track when the crisis subsides, and consider services you can offer in the short-term that will keep your business afloat.

Whether you’re a plumber, handyman, house cleaner, damage restoration expert, or any other contractor, organic SEO is a fantastic marketing option, however, it takes time to see results via a steady stream of leads. It’s a more “long-term” strategy which many don’t have the patience for. However, during tough times like the present, the key to succeeding is having a long term strategy in place, and focus on services you can offer now and promote with a PPC campaign. 

 

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Strategies with Organic SEO: 

Organic SEO is an online marketing strategy used to help your website rank at the top of the search engine results. Some of these strategies include:

  • Mobile First – With over 75% of user searches being performed from their mobile device, it is essential to have a website which is first mobile-friendly. Because of higher percentage of mobile traffic, Google is making sure the search results are more catered to this group of users.

 

  • Keyword Search – When it comes to marketing or lead generation, you don’t want just any traffic to your website. You want traffic which will potentially turn into a real client. In order to optimize the quality of traffic to your website, it is best generated when using long-tailed keywords, since that group of people knows exactly what they want and are looking for. 

 

  • User Experience – User experience refers to how every site visitor interacts with the website which includes the ease of navigating the website, the appearance, the loading speed, the engaging content, and the organization of pertinent information. 

 

  • Link Building – One of the key ranking factors is backlinks, not the quantity, but rather having quality backlinks. Having your business listed on relevant directories, third party sites, and social media channels will always help your website’s visibility. Of these channels, the most effective being an optimized Google My Business listing

 

  • Multimedia – Adding relevant photos, videos, blogs, or other infographics allows visitors to engage more with your site and spend more time on it. With photos and other images, it’s important to include image alt tags so Google understands what the images are trying to display.

 

With the domestic and global economy headed for a major downturn, contractors will be hit the hardest. Job markets and buying power will decline. Substantial layoffs are inevitable. However, it’s only temporary. Once the current situation with the Coronavirus is under control, the economy and job markets will pick up, and when they do, you want to be ready. Start planning now and beginning (or enhancing current) organic SEO efforts. You will be in much better shape in the months ahead when we are back on the rise, and you’ll be more prepared for those leads to start rolling in.

 

Strategies with PPC:

There are some industries that will remain busy in spite of this pandemic, such as damage restoration companies and cleaning contractors. For those in these industries, you may offer unique services which are more prevalent now than ever, in which case, Google Ads or PPC may be right for you. 

For example, although the number of regular carpet and hard surface cleaning jobs have declined, we’re seeing a rise in the number of sanitizing and disinfecting calls that customers are receiving lately. Consider services you are offering that can be done outdoors, away from crowds, that will be least likely hit by a recession and consider a Google Ads campaign to highlight those services. 

Combining short-and long-term strategies will give small businesses the biggest opportunity to weather the difficulties we are facing and position them to surge once the economy and the nation’s health is back on target.

lead generation

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Data Aggregators and How the Four Major Data Aggregators Are Changing in 2020

What are data aggregators and how will they help me? 

Data aggregators compile information and propagate this data to other directories, citations, and search engines. 

Data aggregation is a fantastic way for businesses to spread their name through the web, accurately and consistently. With NAPW (name, address, phone number, website) consistency being a huge part of SEO rankings, data aggregation is a sure way to assure your listings and citations are being displayed accurately and consistently across the internet.

Who are the four major local data aggregators?

There are four major data aggregators, known as “The Big Four”:

Each of these data aggregators has its own unique function and directories it feeds information to. 

Infogroup:

Infogroup calls each business personally to ensure accuracy of the information provided then feeds information to several directories including these fews displayed below:

Localeze:

Localeze collects and distributes data to other directories with a focus on local searches and location based services such as the few shown below. 

Factual:

Factual is an open data platform that facilitates personalized and contextually relevant mobile experiences. Factual’s real-time data stack builds and maintains data on a global scale, for 65M local businesses and points of interest — in 50 countries.

Link:http://www.localvisibilitysystem.com/2013/09/24/how-to-add-your-business-to-factual/

Acxiom:

Acxiom collects information about a business and sells this information for advertising campaigns such as the handful shown here.

How is The Big Four changing?

Acxiom announced they will be shutting down their local search / directory operations at the end of 2019. So what does this mean for The Big Four? 

Well, what’s great is another key player is being added, Foursquare. Though Foursquare hasn’t been known to be a data aggregator, its recent partnership with AWS Data Exchange will allow it to become a powerful data aggregator, replacing Acxiom beginning January 2020. Foursquare will provide consumers accurate location data which can be purchased through AWS Data Exchange.

In addition, Foursquare’s acquisition of Placed in May of 2019 means that it has so many more media partners such as Twitter and Snapchat. These big brands, along with others, gather data directly from Foursquare. 

Foursquare also has an easy to use mobile app, allowing more businesses to be discovered and more accurate information to be distributed much faster. Because of Foursquare’s location intelligence technology their reach has extended to over a hundred million locations of interest, across 190 countries, making them a key distributor of data through their Places API, and in turn, making them a crucial advertising platform for businesses.

Foursquare’s introduced yet another innovating project, Hypertrending, giving consumers a real time top-down view of how people are spread throughout a city with while showing their location.  https://enterprise.foursquare.com/intersections/article/introducing-hypertrending/

The new Big Four Aggregators of 2020

What does this mean for SEO?

With Foursquare becoming the up and coming social media tool, allowing “check-ins” and shares to their favorite places, while using their latest location intelligence technology and hypertrending, it is expected to be a social media tool consumers will use, share and love. Best of all, because Foursquare has become a trusted, loyal directory, businesses listed on Foursquare get indexed and crawled by Google, improving your SEO.

Listing your business on Foursquare is free, but claiming it and verifying it is a fee of $20. If your business has been around for some time, chances are it may already be listed on Foursquare, but claiming it and verifying it for the $20 will be a worthwhile investment since you will be able to manage your Foursquare listing, ensuring your NAPW is consistent. This is even more worthwhile if you are a brick and mortar business to help generate more foot traffic through its location intelligence technology. 

Best of all, submission to Foursquare through citation services such as BrightLocal and Moz is more cost-effective than submissions to Acxiom. For instance, via BrightLocal, Acxiom submissions cost customers $25 per location, where as Foursquare submissions will cost a mere $15.

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How To Be A GREAT Team Player

Every company or organization, small or large, 1rely on solid teams for a positive outcome. For great results, not only does it take good team players, but rather GREAT team players. This is ever more important for smaller companies or organizations. Being a great team player in a small office setting is crucial for the company’s success.

Here are qualities which make a great team player:

  1. Commitment – Good team players will make sure they are where they need to be when expected, but great team players will do this and take it one step further by contributing to the team as much as possible, whether it’s through helping out or making suggestions. Great team players give 110% commitment to the job, not just 100%.
  2. Reliable & Responsible – A good team player will complete their tasks and prioritize accordingly. A great team player will complete their tasks, but with remaining time will assist the rest of the team in completing their tasks as well.
  3. Listen – Listening to others’ questions and concerns, without interruptions, makes you a great team player. Respecting others’ ideas, and considering their views makes a good team a great team.
  4. Inform – Keeping your team informed of opinions, ideas, changes, etc, makes a great team player. Yes, making yourself success is important, but you can’t achieve this without being a great team player.
  5. Respect – You may not agree with other teammates’ ideas, or may not even like another teammate, but it is important to treat your colleagues, or teammates with respect. You receive respect when it is given.
  6. Helpful – Yes, there are times when you have completed your tasks, or when you know how to do something but another teammate doesn’t. Whether in your job description or not, it is important to be willing to help your teammate. After all, you are working as a team, not yourself.
  7. Optimism – Sometimes when you see struggles in the workforce or even your own personal struggles, it’s difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Try to take a more optimistic approach to keep your teams’ spirits high as well. Just because of your struggles, don’t boggle the whole team down.
  8. Participates​ – Great team players not only come to meetings on time, but they are active participants. They listen and speak up in discussions. They bring other issues or other feedback to the table.
  9. Flexible​ – Teams deal with constant changes, whether its work-related or staff related. Great team players adapt to these ever-changing scenarios. They don’t complain about a new avenue being pursued, or about a new staff member. Great team players know how to compromise and adapt.
  10. Error​ – Everyone makes mistakes. It’s human nature. But what makes a person stand out is when they own up to their mistakes. For example, if your approach in solving a problem was wrong, but another teammate’s was the better solution, own up to it and admit you were wrong and give your teammate credit for coming up with the better solution.Every person is of course human. Many times insecurity, jealousy, or old habits can 1interfere with teamwork, but ultimately it’s up to you to decide what kind of teammate you would like to be, a good team player, a great team player, or maybe not a team player at all.
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Optimize Your Google My Business Listing

One of the most important keys in SEO is to be sure your NAPW, name, address, phone number and website, are consistent across all online directories. Discrepancies in these would be reason for lower rankings.

Once you’ve verified consistency in NAPW across all channels, you should make sure your Google My Business listing is verified and fully optimized. 

To fully optimize your Google My Business listing:

  1. Get your listing verified – Once your listing is created, be sure to request a postcard from Google, which will be sent out to you with a PIN code. Entering this code on your listing will verify it. 
  1. Complete all pertinent fields – Be sure all the key fields are completed, accurately – Name, address, phone number, website, relevant category, and business hours. 

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  1. Service Area Business – For service area businesses where you serve customers at their location, be sure to set the address field appropriately and complete the areas served by listing all the towns or counties you serve. The address on the public listing will remain hidden and should display a service area served on the map.

14. Phone Number – Use a local phone number on the listing and not a toll-free number. 

5. Photos and Videos – Add high-quality photos of your work to highlight your business and make you stand out from your competition.

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6. Posts – Add a post to make yourself more visible. A post may be a special you’re offering or a highlight of your business. A post will stay active for 7 days unless you specify an expiration date. Within the post, try to use a couple of keywords, and add a relevant, high-quality photo to it.

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7. Short Name – Short names selected are useful so you can add your short name to your business card, making it easier for your customers to find you.

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8. Holiday Hours – When possible, add special holiday business hours to your listing to keep it more accurate.

9. Description – Add a description of your business using keywords and telling you customers a little bit about yourself. You’re allowed 750 characters but only 250 show up in the knowledge panel, so make the first 250 count. 

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10. Services – Specify the services you offer.

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11. Reviews – Try to have your customer leave a review, and respond to the reviews you receive. If negative, respond professionally, trying to resolve your customer’s dissatisfaction. If positive, a simple thank you would suffice.

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12. Q&A – Sometimes someone may ask you a question via your Google My Business listing. Be sure to answer these questions in a timely fashion, showing your customers you care.

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All of these are great ways to fully optimize your Google My Business listing, but one of the most important things to remember once you’ve optimized it is to be sure not to violate any of Google’s policies, which would result in having your listing flagged or suspended, resulting in your listing being removed entirely. Refer to this link to ensure all of Google’s policies have been followed, https://support.google.com/business/answer/3038177?hl=en.

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Help! My Google My Business listing was suspended!

In the last few months (Summer 2019) , we’ve seen an increase in Google My Business (GMB) listing suspensions. Why? Maybe Google filters have become more stringent. Maybe Google is cracking down on spammy listings. Whatever the reason, yes, there were many spammy listings removed, but there were also many legitimate businesses affected by this crackdown. In fact, there have been so many suspensions, and reinstatement requests that Google’s incorporated a banner notifying all users of the high volume of suspended listing questions.

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What’s a Suspended Listing?

First of all, what does it mean to have a suspended Google listing? There are 2 types of suspensions, a soft suspension, and a hard suspension. We are not seeing many soft suspensions anymore, but once in a while, you may. This is simply when your GMB listing is still live, but in your account it shows as suspended. However, you no longer have the ability to manage it. On the other hand, hard suspensions are much more common. In this case, your entire listing has been removed from Google and shows as suspended in your account.

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In either case, when your listing is suspended, Google feels you have violated their policies in some way, and you need to try to get it reinstated.

Why was my GMB listing suspended?

If your Google My Business listing was suspended, you’ll want to ask yourself if you are following all of Google’s guidelines. The number one reason a listing is suspended is because of Google’s policy violations. Some of the most common violations include:

  • Your address is a P.O. Box or mailing facility
  • Keyword stuffing – Your business name is stuffed with keywords and not simply your business name
  • You are a service area business but haven’t listed yourself as a service area business
  • There’s already another business or multiple businesses at the address you’ve provided
  • Your listing has a website which is a forwarded URL
  • You have multiple listings for the same business within close proximity
  • You’ve had several recent changes to your business listing
  • You’ve made multiple field edits at once
  • Simply because you’re a “high-risk” industry which seems to many spammy listings such as Garage Door Contractors, Locksmiths, Plumbers, or other home-based, service-providing businesses

What can I do now?

Once you’ve reviewed all of Google’s policies and confirmed that none have been violated, or you’ve rectified any policy violations, you’ll need to “appeal for reinstatement”. To appeal, it’s fairly simple. You need to complete this form, https://support.google.com/business/troubleshooter/2690129?authuser=1. Once the form is completed, you’ll need to patiently wait till Google’s reviewed all your information. Once reviewed, they’ll send you a response via email with either a rejection:

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Or approval of reinstatement:

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Once in awhile, upon completion of the appeal for reinstatement form, Google may email you requesting proof of your business, it’s legitimacy and that you own it. In this case, depending on whether you’re a brick and mortar business or service area business, they may ask for an image showing signage of your storefront and the address or a state license or registration. Once submitted, you wait.

If you’ve waited for a few weeks and haven’t received a response from Google, the best way to reach out to Google support is via Twitter, @GoogleMyBiz.

How do I prevent a GMB suspension?

The first, and foremost way to avoid a GMB suspension is to not violate any of Google’s policies/guidelines. Check and double-check for policy violations by referring to this site, https://support.google.com/business/answer/3038177.

Secondly, only allow manager access to people you actually want to manage your listing. Remove any additional users such as previous employees or previous marketing agencies.

And finally, keep your basic profile info consistent across the web, such as your name, address, phone number and website.