Are you a business owner looking to solve your need for more (and more consistent) inbound leads? You’ve probably heard about different options, from Home Advisor/Angie’s to Google Ads to SEO. Which of these, is the best for your business? Do some deliver a better ROI than others?
The team at 99 Calls is often asked to help small businesses devise a strategy to deliver a lasting lead flow. Over the years, they have been trusted to create and run smart, digital marketing campaigns.
Which option or combination of approaches is right for you? Take this 5-10 minute quiz to find the right lead generation option for your business.
Pssstt…don’t forget to hit submit!
Depending on your business goals, one or a combination of the following options will be recommended to best generate leads for your business:
Google Ads PPC allows you to pay your way onto the first page of Google! PPC ads are our fastest but priciest lead generation option. We recommend this option for all customers who want fast, quality leads, and to those who wish to supplement their long-term SEO strategy.
Local Service Ads (Google Guaranteed) is a pay-per-lead advertising platform that connects local businesses with people who search on Google for the services they offer. These ads appear at the very top of relevant search results above other text ads and display a green check mark. We recommend these to businesses that have lots of great reviews on their Google Business Profile.
Organic SEO is the long-term and most cost-effective approach to lead generation. 99 Calls’ SEO services utilize a lead generation website. Included in the low monthly fee are assistance with online reputation management and an integrated dashboard with a mobile app.
Database Reactivation is best for contractors who provide routine service to their clients or contractors who have been in business for many years. If you have a list of old contacts or clients that could be happy customers again, this is your option!
Email Marketing and Lead Nurturing is an excellent strategy to deploy with your lead sources. Although this doesn’t create leads, it will help you convert the leads you receive and help you build valued relationships.
Over the last few months, there’s been quite a bit of chatter about having the ability to edit social media profiles on your GBP. On October 5th, 2023, Google fully rolled out this editable field on GBP across the board.
So let’s try to answer some anticipated questions in this blog.
Which social media links can I add?
The social media profiles that can be added to your GBP are Pinterest, Tiktok, Twitter, Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, as seen in the below screenshot:
How do you make the edit?
In order to edit this, you need to sign in to your GBP dashboard, and then click on “edit profile”. Once you’re on this screen, you’ll see the “Social profiles” field under the “Website” field.
Click on “Social profiles” then select the social media you want to add your link for. Once you select the social media profile, you can enter the link to that profile, then click on “save”
How do the profiles show up on my GBP?
The social media icon for the social media profiles you selected is displayed at the bottom of your knowledge panel and it’s linked to the link for the social media profile you entered, as seen in the screenshot below:
Will this help my GBP ranking?
Because this feature is so new, it’s unclear whether or not it will help your GBP ranking, but what is clear is that consumers will have easy access to your social media sites other than just the GBP without having to search for them, making the research process on the consumer side more seamless.
Benefits of Adopting & Consequences of Noncompliance
A2P 10DLC Registration
There have always been rules and regulations regarding sending SMS marketing messages, but there are some new important requirements you may not be aware of. In order to cut down on the number of spam messages, U.S. wireless carriers, the Federal Communications and Commission (FCC), and the Mobile Marketing Association (MMC) are requiring businesses to register their numbers with The Campaign Registry (TCR). Local and toll-free numbers used by businesses to text end users for everything from notifications and surveys to marketing and promotions must be registered.
What Information Do I Need for A2P 10 DLC Registration?
In order to successfully register your business properly, there are several key pieces of information, including:
Business Information: Businesses need to provide the legal name, physical address, contact information, and any relevant identifiers or registration numbers associated with the business entity.
Campaign Use Information: Businesses must also specify the purpose and intended use of their A2P messaging campaigns. You will need to outline the types of messages that will be sent, whether promotional, informational, transactional, or for any other specific purposes.
Opt-In and Opt-Out: Regardless of whether the business intends to use opt-in messaging, they are still required to provide a clear opt-out mechanism for recipients. This means including opt-out keywords such as “STOP,” “UNSUBSCRIBE,” or any other standard keywords that allow recipients to stop receiving messages.
Benefits of A2P 10DLC Registration
A2P 10DLC registration is helping to create a more reliable communication ecosystem and offers many benefits for businesses, including:
Improved Message Delivery: Registered numbers receive favorable treatment from mobile carriers meaning messages being sent from registered numbers aren’t as likely to be flagged as spam, resulting in higher deliverability rates. With better delivery rates, businesses can effectively reach their target audience and ensure their messages are received in a timely manner.
Enhanced Credibility: A2P 10 DLC registration signifies that a business has undergone the verification process and complied with the requirements at hand. This enhances the trustworthiness of the business in the eyes of customers.
Streamlined Opt-In and Opt-Out Process: A2P 10 DLC registration requires businesses to establish a clear opt-in and opt-out mechanism for recipients. This helps build a positive user experience by allowing users who wish to stop receiving messages to easily opt-out, promoting customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Business Identity Protection: Registration also helps businesses safeguard their reputation and protect themselves from potential misuse or unauthorized use of their brand or identity.
What Are The Consequences of Not Completing A2P 10DLC Registration?
Failure to complete A2P 10DLC registration will result in significant consequences and penalties. The Participating Carrier Requirements strictly prohibit the sending of Unregistered and/or Non-Migrated traffic, and the 10DLC delivery hub retains the right to take action to ensure compliance, including:
Suspension: If your number is not properly registered with the Campaign Registry, the 10DLC delivery hub could take action against you including suspension, termination, or blocking non-sanctioned messages to maintain compliance with carrier requirements.
Ban: Mobile carriers have the right to ban businesses that use unregistered A2P 10DLC numbers. If you are banned, it will affect your ability to communicate via SMS with customers and impact your brand reputation.
Message Delivery Block: Messages that are sent from unregistered numbers may also be blocked by mobile carriers. This results in your intended recipients likely not receiving the messages resulting in your SMS campaigns being ineffective and missing out on potential business opportunities.
Financial Penalties: Mobile carriers and the campaign registry have the power to impose fines on those who fail to comply with A2P 10DLC registration requirements. These fines may be as high as $10 per message as well as additional monthly fees. If you’re running large SMS campaigns, this could lead to heavy fines.
Understanding and meeting the needs of your customers is crucial for success in the highly competitive landscape of businesses today. One of the most effective ways to gauge customer satisfaction is via surveys. Customer satisfaction surveys provide valuable insights into your customer’s experiences with your business. The major benefit of surveying customers on their satisfaction with your business is that you are able to gauge where different aspects of your business are lacking or excelling. Identifying these areas will help to develop a game plan to make improvements where necessary. Making adjustments based on the feedback you’ve received lets customers know that you are truly listening to them and respecting their time and opinions. When customers feel heard and respected, they’re more likely to remain loyal customers.
Since early 2022, 99 Calls has been surveying customers to learn more about their satisfaction with our lead generation services. Throughout the year last year, 271 customers participated in the survey. Here are our results.
Effective Customer Service
According to the data we collected, the majority of our customers were satisfied with the level of customer service we provided. When asked how well 99 Calls representatives answered their questions, respondents gave an impressive rating of 4.57 out of 5. Over 70% of participants gave 99 Calls a perfect 5/5 score.
How quickly a business responds to customer inquiries has an impact on customer satisfaction. Over 68% of survey takers rated 99 Calls customer service reps a perfect 5/5 score when it came to responsiveness. By continually monitoring response times, businesses are able to improve, demonstrating their commitment to efficient customer support, and fostering positive customer experiences and loyalty.
Tailoring Lead Generation Efforts
In our survey, we also wanted to shed light on our customers’ satisfaction in regard to the lead volume they receive each month. Over 28% of respondents expressed being very satisfied with the lead volume they received, while over 24% indicated satisfaction and another 22% were neutral. Fewer than 25% of respondents desired a higher lead volume. However, it is important to note that a significant portion of them had not provided the necessary content for successful search engine optimization (SEO). By addressing these concerns and aligning lead volume with customer expectations, we are better able to enhance overall marketing effectiveness and drive better results.
Identifying Additional Service Opportunities
Suppose you are looking for ways to expand your business but aren’t sure which path to choose. In that case, customer satisfaction surveys can serve as a valuable source of information for identifying additional services that customers desire. By leveraging customer feedback, businesses are able to better understand their customers’ evolving needs and develop new services or features to meet those demands, driving growth and staying ahead of the competition.
Customer satisfaction surveys provide businesses with crucial insights into customer experiences, preferences, and areas for improvement. The data that 99 Calls have received via their own surveys demonstrates the positive impact they have on enhancing customer service, improving responsiveness, tailoring lead generation efforts, and identifying additional service opportunities. Businesses can create lasting, meaningful relationships and drive long-term success with their clients by actively listening and acting upon customer feedback.
Social media marketing has witnessed significant growth and transformation over the past two decades, revolutionizing the way businesses promote their products and services. Among the pioneers in leveraging social media to generate leads for contractors is 99 Calls. By following industry changes and adopting current trends, 99 Calls has continuously improved its strategies to deliver exceptional results for its customers. This article explores the history of social media marketing and highlights how 99 Calls utilizes this powerful tool to generate high-quality leads.
Social media marketing (SMM) is a form of online marketing that utilizes social media platforms to promote products, services, and brands. It involves creating and sharing content, engaging with users, and running targeted advertising campaigns on various platforms. The definition of social media marketing has changed over time alongside advancements in technology and the shift toward information gathering and consumption via online platforms. The team at 99 Calls has had to adapt to the ever-changing demands of the industry and has adopted these six core ideas that define what it means to deliver social media marketing services.
The main ideas that define SMM include:
Content creation: Social media marketers strive to create engaging and valuable content, such as text, images, videos, and infographics, for the purpose of promoting their clients.
Audience targeting: SMM requires that marketers identify and target specific demographics, interests, behaviors, and locations to reach the right audience with their campaigns.
Brand building: SMM helps in building and enhancing brand awareness, brand identity, and customer loyalty by consistently sharing content that reflects the brand’s values and resonates with its target audience.
Engagement and community management: SMM involves actively engaging with users by responding to comments, messages, and reviews, as well as fostering a sense of community through discussions and presenting helpful information.
Advertising and promotion: Social media platforms offer robust advertising features that enable marketers to create targeted ad campaigns to reach a wider audience and drive specific actions, such as website visits, conversions, or app installations.
Data analysis and optimization: SMM relies on analyzing social media metrics and user data to measure the effectiveness of campaigns, identify trends, and make data-driven decisions for optimizing future marketing strategies.
The Emergence of Social Platforms
The use of social media marketing dates back to the early 2000s when social networking sites like Friendster and MySpace gained popularity. However, it truly gained momentum with the emergence of platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in the mid-2000s. These platforms offered businesses the opportunity to engage with a vast user base and leverage their growing influence.
Initially, social media marketing primarily revolved around building brand awareness and increasing followers. However, as social media platforms evolved and introduced advertising options, marketers started incorporating targeted advertising into their strategies. Platforms like Facebook introduced advanced targeting capabilities, enabling marketers to reach specific demographics and interests.
Over the years, the role of social media marketing has expanded. It has become an integral part of many businesses’ marketing strategies, with increased emphasis on content creation, influencer marketing, and customer engagement. Social media has also become a customer service channel, allowing businesses to provide support and address customer queries directly.
Is Social Media Marketing An Effective Tool for Service Area Businesses?
As a champion of small business promotion, 99 Calls has followed the trends and assisted contractors by building an online presence through various social media platforms. However, we differ in that the core driver of business growth is the generation of quality leads. Small businesses often have limited budgets. Understanding how to best utilize budgets to gain customers and revenue has been a priority as we’ve served this unique sector.
When budget matters, paying attention to the efforts that most result in revenue growth is critical. See this article to learn more. Analysis of data gathered from lead campaigns from over 1000 clients has yielded valuable insights on the role social media plays in best positioning a business for growth.
Service Contractors Benefit Specifically from:
Establishing a presence using reliable SEO practices and unique content
Building a helpful place for users to land (Simple, attractive, compelling landing pages)
Engaging users with useful information and strong calls to action
Building buyer confidence by securing lots of positive customer reviews
With these pillars in place, the next most important step is to find customers where they are and convince them that this business is the one they want. Social media marketing is often about the long game. We all have brands that we follow, whether for a favorite coffee or a favorite beer. Small businesses can build a local following in the same way over the years if they consistently follow the six main ideas listed above. However, real growth requires maximizing views, aka impressions.
SEO has become so competitive that it takes 10-12 months for websites to rank consistently on the first page of Google for valued keywords. See this article on how the first page of Google has shrunk in recent years.
The most effective use of digital marketing for service contractors is through paid advertising. Paid advertising is the best chance we’ve got to get contractors in front of buyers, and yes, posting on Facebook is helpful, and buying paid ads on FB has been shown to generate some qualified leads. However, we have found that the two most profitable paid lead products are Google Ads PPC and Google Guaranteed LSA. Google Ads pay-per-click leads tend to be more expensive, but they generate the highest lead volume in the least amount of time. Google Guaranteed requires a more extensive vetting process and time to ramp up, but patient contractors are rewarded with high-quality, less expensive leads. Many of our customers choose to target new businesses using the “Trifecta” approach, which combines traditional SEO practices with Google Ads and Google LSA.
What Lies Ahead for Social Media Marketing?
Looking ahead, social media marketing is likely to see rapid changes and further advancement. Here are some trends and changes that can be expected in the coming months and years:
Rise of video content: Video content has become increasingly popular on platforms like TikTok and Instagram. Brands are likely to leverage short-form video content to engage with their audiences and showcase their products or services.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and chatbots: AI-powered chatbots will play a much more significant role in social media. We’ll see more responsive AI-generated customer service and engagement practices to provide personalized experiences.
Lead Nurturing and Database Reactivation: Generating inbound leads is vital to a business’s success. Equally important is collecting data from contacts who visited a landing page but chose not to buy on the spot. The use of targeted text and email campaigns is proven to convert stale leads into new customers at a fraction of the cost.
To stay ahead of the curve and deliver optimal results, 99 Calls has consistently adapted to industry changes and embraced current trends. As the social media landscape continues to evolve, 99 Calls remains at the forefront of the latest trends. They understand the power of great content, the growing influence of AI, and the importance of maintaining a strong social media presence. By embracing emerging technologies like AI and chatbots, our team has been able to create higher volumes of relevant content to keep our service contractors at the forefront of searches.
When deciding which company to contact, potential customers will almost certainly check your ratings and reviews on Google. When they see that your business consistently replies to reviews, you are one step closer to that next lead. When you are attentive to reviews, both good and bad, it shows potential customers that they can trust you.
Responding to positive reviews is easy. When a satisfied customer leaves a nice message about what you did well or even just a 5-star rating, your response should have the two As: acknowledgment and appreciation. Acknowledge them by using their name and show appreciation by thanking them for their review. The simple inclusion of their name gives the response a personal touch.
“Thanks for leaving a review” vs. “Hey John, thanks for leaving a review”
When a customer takes the time to leave a longer message by detailing what service you provided, commenting on your friendliness, or noting the speed and quality of the job, your response should also have a little more. Let them know that you’re happy to hear they’re happy and that you look forward to working with them again in the future.
“Hey John, thanks for leaving a review. We’re glad to hear that you’re happy with our exterior painting services. We look forward to helping out with your future projects.”
You can also like a review by clicking the thumbs-up icon underneath. When reviews have lots of “likes”, they tend to rank higher.
While negative reviews may seem daunting, they present an opportunity to show potential clients your commitment to customer satisfaction, as well as fixing the relationship with the disgruntled reviewer. By engaging with dissatisfied customers, you have a chance to turn their negative experience into a positive one. Studies have shown that customers who have their issues resolved are more likely to continue doing business with the company.
It’s crucial to maintain a professional tone when responding to negative reviews, regardless of how unfair or exaggerated they may be. Avoid getting defensive or engaging in arguments. Instead, acknowledge the customer’s concerns and assure them that their feedback is taken seriously.
While it may not be possible to please every customer, make an effort to address their concerns and find a solution. Apologize for any inconvenience caused and offer a resolution, such as a refund, replacement, or the opportunity to discuss the matter further offline. The sooner you are able to respond to the review, the more likely you are to reach a resolution.
Despite your best efforts, there may be instances where it’s impossible to satisfy certain customers. No matter what you say or do, the customer won’t be coming back. It is still important to respond professionally — negative reviews (and therefore your response) will be seen by others.
Occasionally, a customer may grossly exaggerate or fabricate information that could turn others away from your business. In these instances, you may need to clarify misunderstandings or explain your side of the story. Clearly and politely present the facts, without getting into a back-and-forth argument with the reviewer.
“John, we are sorry we could not come to an agreement regarding the incomplete painting job. Our company strives to finish projects in a timely manner, and we were unable to deliver on this occasion. However, your review is not accurate. You claim we made no effort to make amends. We made multiple attempts to contact you and even offered a discounted rate for the entire project, which you refused.”
By responding to Google reviews, you are leaving potential new customers with a positive first impression. Engaging with positive reviews increases the likelihood that a satisfied customer comes back. With negative reviews, you can learn from your mistakes and potentially salvage the relationship with an unhappy customer. And for those customers who are gone for good, you can protect your image by offering perspective on damaging and misleading reviews.
99 Calls helps businesses gain positive reviews and improve their online reputations.
Adopting digital marketing trends has become increasingly critical as consumers utilize the internet more and more. Digital marketing encompasses many different strategies for lead generation from SEO and PPC to content marketing and email marketing campaigns. Utilizing different aspects of digital marketing together allows you to connect and communicate with your potential clients throughout all stages of the sales funnel. In 2023, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Social Media Marketing (SMM), video content, lead nurturing, pay-per-click (PPC) and pay-per-lead (PPL) are all fundamental pieces of digital marketing.
SEO Is Still At the Core
The aspects of digital marketing intertwine and work with each other. Take SEO as an example. Gone are the days when you could create a website and listings with minimal content and start seeing results in a matter of weeks. Now, in order to see your website ranking organically, creating quality content is crucial.
Social Media Marketing Builds Brands
Social media marketing is often used to build brands and does generate leads for businesses with a strong visual aspect or a longer sales cycle. Over 80% of adults use social media in one capacity or another which makes social selling another excellent way to connect with prospective customers. Social media is prime real estate for building brand awareness. You can connect with more potential leads just by keeping your business’s social media updated.
If Pictures Say 1000 Words, Videos Speak Volumes!
One of the most effective and popular methods of digital marketing is videos. Why say everything you want to in text form when there are so many more effective options? Videos are an excellent way to connect with your potential customers and inform them about your business and the services you provide. Some of the most popular video types include explainer videos, video testimonials, and “behind-the-scenes” videos. Each of these videos has its way of engaging potential customers and showing off more of your company for a more personalized feel.
Start Nurturing From The Moment of Contact
Missed calls will hurt you. If you’re not answering your phone when it rings, your potential customers will move on to the next business on the page. With advances in digital marketing, you can engage those customers instantly. Some businesses are sending instant texts when they miss a call. Some send an audio message to their callers. From here, businesses can craft a nurturing campaign to keep potentials engaged and stay on their minds. You’ll want to be careful to find a “just right” frequency of contact. If you’re annoying, customers will opt out.
Nurturing Builds Relationships
Email nurturing is one of the biggest trends in marketing. Meeting potential customers where they are in the buying stage and keeping up with them along their journey is an economical and productive way to grow a business. You want to keep your business at the forefront of potential buyers’ minds. This is accomplished through short-term nurturing. The prospect may already know what they need or they may still be weighing their options. Either way, sending them informative, targeted emails will help guide them further in the process. Sometimes it takes longer than a few weeks for they’re ready to take action and commit which is why having a long-term nurture sequence is also essential. Long-term nurturing allows you to keep in contact with potential customers and to continue building relationships with them.
PPC/PPL Has Become Essential
With SEO competition higher than ever, securing a spot on the first page of search results is difficult for even the most experienced marketers. You know the saying “Don’t keep all of your eggs in one basket”? This applies to online marketing as well. SEO alone is no longer the most substantial option for generating a steady flow of leads each month. The organic real estate on the first page of Google has shrunk over the last several years making pay-per-click and/or pay-per-lead marketing a much-needed, additional method for lead generation.
How Will You Utilize Digital Marketing?
Digital marketing has become an essential part of any business’s marketing strategy in 2023. By utilizing SEO, SMM, video content, lead nurturing, PPC, and PPL, businesses can effectively reach their target audience and build relationships with potential customers. The future of digital marketing is bright and businesses should strive to stay ahead of the curve by utilizing the latest trends. Not sure where to begin? Call the lead gen pros at 99Calls!
We’re all looking for an advantage, a way to stand out, get noticed and get more leads. You may be surprised to know that the best practices for ranking on a desktop search are the very same that will get you ranked for voice search. This is the newest angle that telemarketers are using to convince businesses that if they don’t suddenly hire them to optimize their website for voice search, they will be left behind.
Here’s the thing. We have been writing about voice search since 2019 and the strategies have not changed, but have become more understood. What’s more, if you are using best practices for ranking a website on the first page of Google, you are already optimized for voice search. Why? Because typing a query on your phone, iPad or computer is almost the SAME THING as speaking your query to Alexa, Google, or Siri.
Example: You are having a dinner party this weekend and you just spilled red wine on your dining room carpet. What is your first action? Try to clean it up yourself. If that fails, you’ll go to your device and type or speak “Carpet cleaner near me” or “Carpet cleaning company in (your town)” or “spot removal contractor”. A well-positioned carpet cleaning company is going to come up in a search, regardless of whether you typed or spoke the keywords. And your query is the keywords.
Companies try to make this concept sound complicated, but it really isn’t. I’ll do this experiment now, live and share my results:
First, I’ll engage Siri. Speaking, “Carpet cleaner near me”, prompts Siri to produce the following suggestions on Apple Maps:
I personally prefer to use Chrome, even on my mobile phone. When I open the Chrome browser on my iPhone speak, “Carpet cleaner near me”. Here are Siri’s suggestions:
From the suggestions offered on my iPhone above, I will click the top entry, “carpet cleaner near me”. Here is what comes up. I have placed the long thread side by side below:
With the long screenshot placed side by side, you can see the way the page rolls. Above the images, I was first shown images of carpet cleaning machines. But Google recognized my intent (finding a contractor to remove the wine stain from my carpet) and made suggestions.
Looking at the results, you will first notice the two Google Guaranteed paid search results. Also known as LSA (Local Search Ads), Google Guaranteed services are offered by 99 Calls and are probably the most cost-effective paid ads available, as long as a business can pass the rigorous verification process.
Next, you’ll see the maps section, including a sponsored map placement in the top spot. Next on the page are the organic results (this is the section that requires great SEO practices to be found). There are a couple of local carpet cleaning businesses found in this section as well as some directory entries like Angie’s and Yelp.
Now what if my search was done on my phone without asking Siri? What if I simply type the same keywords into my Chrome browser? Here are the results that come up:
Look familiar? It should! Yes, try this at home. You will find that voice search and typing your search into a browser will yield the same results. Paid ads will be found the same, whether the business is using Google Guaranteed or Google Ads.
Now I’ll conduct the same search on my desktop computer.
Of course, the larger desktop monitor provides greater depth because of the larger screen. Still, the same companies are coming up on the first page of the search.
Here’s the Question Businesses Should be Asking:
“So if the same practices for producing great SEO will yield results for voice search as they do with typing in questions and keywords, what are these practices and how can I rank my business when customers are searching for my services?”
The same advice that was given back in 2019 in this blog is still relevant today. I’ll add a couple more that are also important. Below are the best practices for getting found in any type of online search:
Format your content to be featured in snippets (use headers, lists, and short paragraphs)
Create content based on commonly asked questions in a conversational tone
Get more 5-star reviews! If you don’t have many dozens, make this your top priority
Make sure your site is designed for mobile-first indexing (they all should be by now)
Include relevant local information to show your viewers (and Google) that you’re local
Keep content simple and clean
Get built for speed. Landing pages should load within two seconds.
I’d like to add, “It’s that simple”, but the reality is, ranking in any form on searches is tough stuff. As you can see from the examples above, there are many more paid positions on the first page of search results. Google Guaranteed and Google Ads PPC are taking the most coveted positions. This is true no matter how you search. The truth is, trying SEO practices, even mastering them all, will not yield the same results (and by results, if you’re a contractor, I mean leads) as they did in recent years. In order to get found and get called with enough frequency to stay afloat, businesses need to utilize other strategies and a lot more of their marketing budget to paid ads. For more information on how the first page of Google has (evolved or devolved – you decide) over time, see this article, entitled The Incredible Shrinking First Page of Google.
For more information on SEO, ranking with keywords and voice searches, and pay-per-click or pay-per-lead marketing, call the experts at 99 Calls!
If you are a small business owner with an online presence for at least 5 years, you have seen the first page of Google searches change dramatically. The amount of space for SEO or organic search results is rapidly shrinking. What is causing this shift and how can small businesses generate leads on small budgets?
When we opened our doors in 2010, it seemed as though there was plenty of room for anyone who wanted to establish a presence online. 99 Calls began as a team of 4 professionals. We built websites for service area businesses, and within days, our clients would start to receive leads. We earned our first 50 customers by offering a free 30-day trial. Once contractors saw the number of leads they were receiving from their organic presence, most were more than happy to sign on for ongoing services.
It didn’t take much to get pages ranking back then. The main components were well-written content, stating the contractors’ service offerings and the areas served and building listings for online directories such as Google, Bing, Manta and Yelp. Almost all sites ranked highly within a month or two and often much more quickly.
The First Page Begins to Shrink
Although Google claims that they never accept payment from customers to rank well organically, they have shrunk the available playing field, especially for small businesses. The natural, or organic section became less achievable for owner-operated businesses as they made way for large national chains and huge marketing firms.
Beginning in 2013, we began to see major national businesses claiming the first positions on searches. Companies like Yelp, Yellowpages.com, Home Advisor and Service Pro mysteriously showed up at the top of local organic searches all over the country, knocking small owner-operated local businesses down on the list. This marked the beginning of a trend where smaller businesses were struggling to achieve prominent placement on Google search.
Google Ads – A Game Changer
Although Google introduced Adwords in October of 2000, there were very few early adopters. Adwords was their self-serve paid advertising platform, and their first solid step toward monetizing the first page of search. Between its inception and the end of 2012, the playing field on the first page of searche made a significant change.
The playing field was reduced by 30%. Instead of showcasing 10 companies in the organic section, the number shrunk to 7 to make room for 3 prominently placed paid Google Adwords results at the top of each page. An article from wordstream.com explains the changes seen during that time.
Free Organic Placement is Threatened Again by the Emergence of LSA
In 2015, Google introduced its newest venture; Google Guaranteed, also called Google Local Service Ads (LSAs). LSAs were first tested in small markets for a select group of industries. By the end of 2019, many cities across the United States had access to paid Google Guaranteed campaigns in industries such as carpet cleaning, house cleaning, and handyman services.
The image below shows that Google Guaranteed/LSA paid ads are shown at the very top of local searches:
Google’s verification process is more stringent for those who run LSA campaigns than for those running Google Ads. It requires providing documents such as drivers licenses, business licenses (where applicable) and proof of insurance insurance. Background checks are also often run on the company owners and their employees.
Those companies that are able to successfully complete the verification process often reap great rewards. LSA is a pay-per-lead service, as opposed to the pay-per-click platform of Ads. LSA has a bit of a ranking process that makes it more similar to organic than paid Ads as well.
Those companies that are well-established and have lots of 5-star reviews on their Google Business Profiles and/or their LSA Profiles benefit from being shown much more often than other companies. Although LSA has its benefits, it has also contributed to the shrinking space available for organic results.
The image below shows how one business trended downward in placement on the first page of a Google search through the years.
As The Giant Grows, What Happens to the Little Guys?
In 2020, more than 80% of Google’s worldwide revenue came from their Google Ads platform, and that number is still climbing, according to an article posted by CNBC.
The page layout is as follows. When you search for a service in your area, you’ll see three or more Google LSA advertisements, followed by three or more google Ads advertisements, followed by Google Maps with three entries (which they are also beginning to monetize), and finally, a small organic section with three or more results. This is followed by more paid ads.
Where there were 10 opportunities for a small business to be shown on the first page of a local search, there are now just three, and often the first one or two is a large national company.
Although there are usually only up to three organic results showing on the first page of a search, there are also three Google Maps listings, and for now, these are still free. In order to claim a prominent spot with Google Maps, your Google Business Profile must be complete, follow Google’s best practices and have lots of 5-star reviews.
That and a little luck might make your business visible here (outlined in red):
Google has made it all but impossible to be found without investing in one of its paid services. That said, small businesses will no longer be able to build a site or pay for SEO services and expect to receive a sustainable number of inbound leads. You’ve got to pay to play. That isn’t in question.
The key now is to find a way to play with ROI in mind. Online marketing, when done right, isn’t an expense. It’s an investment in your business. Every dollar you invest will ideally result in at least $5 in return. The good news is that there is plenty of return to be had when you use Google’s services. However, if you are unfamiliar with bidding strategies and optimizing campaigns, you’ll want to invest in a business that can deliver profitable results.
What to Look for In a Digital Marketing Company
Given that organic lead generation takes much, much longer to produce and delivers fewer results, and Facebook ADs are a good option for some businesses but not as effective for service contractors, the two best bets for lead generation are the paid lead platforms on search; Google Ads and Google LSA.
If the name of the game is getting found online and getting leads coming in at a cost that will generate revenue for your business, you’ll want to do your research.
Questions to ask potential lead companies so that you can do your due diligence include:
What are your monthly service fees?
Do you charge a monthly fee plus each Google Ads or LSA lead I receive or are they included?
If the company is charging a flat fee for leads plus a management fee, ask, “What is your markup?”.
What is your conversion rate for my service offerings/industry?
How many other companies do you work with like mine?
What kind of reporting do you provide so that I can measure my ROI?
Once you get your answers and compare them, a clear winner will hopefully emerge. Remember, sales reps get a commission when they sell you. If you feel you’ve made a good connection, that’s great, but the sales rep probably isn’t going to be the person who sets up your account or continues to support your business in the future. Try to stick to the facts.
For questions or more information on how to win with Google’s LSA or PPC campaigns, call 800-717-4669 or schedule a free consultation.
3 Mistakes Contractors Should Avoid as the Slower Season Begins
4 Strategies to Implement in 2023
As colder weather rolls in, many contractors begin to pull back on their marketing efforts, but the winter is a great time to do just the opposite! While the demand for many services slows down between November and February, there are still many benefits of holding your marketing efforts steady.
1. The winter months may not bring in the highest volume of leads each year, which will allow you more time to focus on other aspects of your business, including marketing.
The winter months are a great time to beef up your SEO!
Add fresh content to your website like photos, videos, and blog posts.
Confirm that all information on your website and online listings are up to date and make any necessary updates.
This will help your website rank higher when warmer weather comes back around, making it easier for potential customers to find you.
This is also a great time to figure out your game plan for your Google ads campaign for the upcoming year.
Think about what budget you would like to set, what services you want to target, and what areas you want to focus on marketing in.
Google Local Service Ads, or Google Guaranteed offers an additional avenue to show off your business on the first page of Google. LSA is a pay-per-lead program which offers the benefit of a lower lead cost than pay-per-click advertising. If you begin now, your campaign will be further optimized for your busier months!
If you have a database of “old” leads that you aren’t doing anything with, you’re missing out on potential revenue! Reactivation campaigns are a great, low-cost way to book more jobs at a fraction of the price of a new lead.
Get ahead of your competitors and utilize your winter months wisely by focusing on your marketing efforts while you have the time. Using multiple methods of lead generation may seem daunting. Luckily, companies like 99 Calls can help you manage your marketing efforts and get a return on your investment!
3 Marketing Mistakes to Avoid
Fall marks the beginning of the slower season for many contractors. The period between Mid November through the New Year yields far fewer consumers looking to remodel, move or expand. People are gearing up for the holidays and the new year ahead. Add to that the uncertainty that COVID has unleashed, and the supply chain issues that have slowed the market even further, and you may be looking at a lean winter.
There are several common mistakes that contractors make when tighter times approach. It may seem to make sense to cut back, lay off and lay low to avoid any unnecessary expenses, but savvy contractors utilize these quieter months to build. This keeps revenue channels open and puts businesses in a prime position to enjoy exponential growth when the hot season begins.
Top Three Slow-Season Mistakes:
Scale way back on marketing – It might seem prudent to cut your marketing budget as the season comes to a close. However, when the number of booked jobs on the schedule begins to decrease, this is an excellent time to review your marketing strategy and trim out the efforts that aren’t yielding results.
If you are losing money on print, it may be time to pause or halt that marketing.
If you are paying more for leads that you are making in jobs, it may be time to find a new lead company. There are lead generation businesses that only charge for their performance, meaning the leads they actually produce.
Google Ads may also be a viable short-term option for increasing lead volume into the winter. The team at 99 Calls is still seeing a 15 – 20% conversion rate on Google Ads campaigns. Google Ads marketing allows contractors to target specific services in selected areas so that you can get more done with a smaller budget.
There are plenty of opportunities there to gain some leads, win new jobs, and keep your team on the payroll.
Cut back on labor – Because there is a general shortage of qualified, motivated laborers in the workforce nationwide today, if you are lucky enough to have them on your team, now is not the time to furlough or lay them off.
Do what you can to keep those smaller jobs coming in, even if at lower profit margins to keep your valued workers gainfully employed.
We all prefer the big jobs and/or recurring business, but those smaller gigs often lead to larger, more valuable jobs in the future.
Not only are you contributing to your employees’ livelihood, but you are building trust and loyalty. See #1 above for ideas on getting those smaller, one-off jobs to keep your calendar full and your people working.
Take it easy and chill for the winter – It may be tempting to take a long winter nap, but here are a couple of things to do before you decide to take that much-needed vacation or rest after a busy summer.
Take a look at your SEO efforts. Are you promoting the services that you offer in the winter months now? It takes time for new content to get indexed and start ranking on Google. Now is the time to promote the services you want to offer in February and March.
Contact current customers and offer a discount when they book winter services.
Plan your 2022 budget. What are your goals for the new year in terms of growth, revenue, advertising?
Take time in the slower weeks ahead to review what’s working, what isn’t and see where you can trim the fat.
Once you’ve got these things in place, take a quick break – you’ll be recharged and ready to reap the rewards of your efforts!
If the thought of laser-focusing your marketing dollars and finding low-cost, high-value leads seems out of reach at the moment, consider trying the bundle program with 99 Calls. For a $349 price tag, you’ll get set up on SEO marketing which will grow over time, and a Google Ads campaign that can start working for you immediately.