build it and they won’t come

February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine’s Day! Today’s the day I realize that despite my daily professions of love for my wife, it’s been months since we first spoke about getting our garden fence replaced and I have utterly failed to get a quote for the work, never mind a new fence. Admittedly, part of this is how I have prioritized my time. The other part of this is the apparent high demand for fencing contractors in my area. I expect I’m not the only chap in this quandary so for those of us trying to demonstrate a lifelong commitment to a partner on this special day, let’s see whether we can figure this out together.

A quick search on Google features an ad from aggregator HiPages – more on this in a minute – followed by a series of search results, the majority of which are directory listings from Yellow Pages, TrueLocal and the like. I know from past experience that clicking on these may lead me down rabbit holes to companies that have no website, that have closed down or who don’t answer the phone. I want to find a company that looks reputable, approachable and actually calls me back. Unfortunately I don’t get to first base unless they show up in the first page of Google’s search results for the terms that I feel should work: “fencing contractor”, “fence replacement”, “fence installation”, “wooden fencing”, and so on.

hello HiPages

I gave HiPages a whirl. The concept is sound: “You know what you want done, and we know an awful lot of tradespeople. We match you up with reputable people who can do the job for you.” The user interface of the website and responsiveness of the HiPages customer support staff were top notch. I specified the work that needed doing as clearly as possible and uploaded a photo of my fence that needs to be replaced. I was therefore both disappointed and surprised when a few days later I received a message saying that none of the HiPages fencing contractors had elected to respond to my request. I definitely posted my job before the US president posted his one for a Mexican wall, but started to wonder whether my own job was too small for the Sydney fencing fraternity. Or perhaps the fraternity itself is too small and busy. Or maybe the HiPages commissions are too high.

attracting new customers

So how does an already overworked fencer grow his or her business? Or any organisation, for that matter, that provides services to a within-driving-distance audience? Word-of-mouth, friends of friends, referrals. If you’ve done a good job for someone, they will mention you to other people they know. That’s fine if you’ve lived in the area for years and have built a solid reputation. But if you don’t have that luxury, or would prefer not to spend so much time playing phone tag each day, then your website is going to be your best friend, allowing you to “go direct” and cut out the middle-man, be it an aggregator or the local rag.

If you have a website already, well done. Sadly, you are not the only one and you’re essentially in a queue in the Google search results along with every other fencer and his or her dog. If you’re not near the front of the queue, Godot may arrive before a valuable lead. You’re probably wondering why you commissioned a website in the first place.

Thankfully, it’s something you can fix and Google provides two ways to do this. The first way is to buy text advertisements on Google’s search results, called AdWords. Prices for the ads fluctuate according to demand, but thankfully you have two things going for you. Firstly, there are very few local businesses doing this right now, so there is very little competition. Secondly, you only have to pay Google when someone actually clicks on one of your ads. As long as your ad is relevant and well written, you should be able to attract the right sort of interested potential customers to your website. At this point in time, each click on an ad will set you back only a dollar or so, and you can limit the amount you end up spending to – say – $40 per day. If the fences you’re selling earn you a profit of $2,000 and you know from past experience that 0.1% of your web site visitors end up buying from you, it’s worth paying up to $2 to attract a visitor. (We can discuss ‘lifetime customer value’ some other time.) If this is not working for you, give us a call and we’ll figure it out. (I’ll take a fence as payment.)

The second way Google prioritizes search results is dependent on the content and structure of your website. These so-called “organic” search results are displayed below any paid ads. (Naturally Google prioritises its revenue-making listings first!) If your website is perceived by Google to be very relevant to particular search terms, it will rank higher in the results than another less relevant site. Now, what makes a website “relevant” to “fencing repairs”, “fence replacement” and so on is both an art and a science, but Google is getting very good at determining what users mean. (Mostly. I was amused to see that at one point during my searches, Google thought I might want to learn how to fight with a foil.)

how being first is better than being second

Recent research has highlighted the importance of a good organic rank in Google. It’s essentially becoming more important than even a year ago to rank in the first 5 results:

Rank Likely Share of Clicks
1 26%
2 18%
3 12%
4 8%
5 6%
6 or lower 30%

 

So there it is – a gap in the market. Whether you’re a builder, a not-for-profit, a global hotel chain or a bank, you need to get into bed with Google. Help yourselves – and my marriage – by making sure Google loves your website, before Valentines Day comes around again.

(If Google’s already giving you all the traffic you want, well done. You’ll want to make sure you’ve got clean pipes.)

marcus crowley/head of digital

Categories: Digital Marketing, SEM, SEO
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