Monroe HeadshotEverybody says, “You should be on page 1 of Google,” but no one tells you how. This will help change all of that.

Oh sure, we all know that Google (and the other top-five search engines) dominates contractor lookups the way the Yellow Pages did years ago. Except in the good old days of the Yellow Pages, you generally paid more for a bigger ad, more ads, or for more books.

Anyone notice a theme there? At least you knew how to play the game. Yet now — due to Google’s (and everyone’s) mystical algorithm — you get to “guess” what your reward or penalty is for gaining a high ranking. They don’t tell you. There is no rule book.

So, you can spend years changing and testing bits of data month by month until you figure it out, or you can just suffer miserably on page 2, page 20, or wherever fate takes you.

But here’s a scary, and costly, fact that should change everything regarding your listing: 91 percent of searchers never make it to page 2. If this doesn’t get your attention, please check your pulse. These are shoppers, with intention and need, who will not go past page 1 to hire a plumber, HVAC, or electrical company. They are only calling page 1 results, so if you want that to be you, it pays to figure out the rules.

Luckily for you, here is what we’ve found so far:

Out of 630 individual contractor listings, we pared down 44 variables that could affect your ranking. If your calculator is broken, that’s 27,720 bits of sorted data. We assigned “+” and “-” to the bits, then ranked that data according to a statistical hierarchy of more important or less important. And, if you’re bored reading about it, imagine if you’d had to do it. Then we came up with a way to grade contractor listings, giving them a number and a letter grade (A-F).

Guess What Happened?

It worked. The higher the grade, the more likely you’d end up on page 1. This experiment is why they call me the “Contractor Listing Queen” and why I’m slightly more nearsighted — Adams has yet to adjust my pay accordingly, though it seems to me that a queen should carry a premium.

Anyway, instead of choking you with all 44 bits, which we will do when you request a no-cost grade guide, here are the top seven most important influencers that determine rank and lead count.

Phase 1: Claim

• Claim Your Google Plus Local Page: Nearly 30 percent of contractors who request a test are not even claimed. If you don’t have a listing, it can’t be graded. So, claim your listing, assign your categories (beware of the ‘Is Not Does’ Rule), and, if you are strictly service-based, hide your address. Set your service area and then verify the listing by mail or phone.

• Be Consistent: Do a search for your company and see what comes up. Is your company name listed three different ways? If it is, Google thinks that’s three different companies. Did you move in 2005, but you still see your old address, or worse, an old phone number appears? The more Web consistency, the better.

Phase 2: Optimize

• Keyword Compounding: Use the same words prospective customers would use looking for your services and load them onto your listing: description, history, photos, tags, etc. This is critical. Nearly 90 percent of the listings we grade get an “F” in this area. No wonder their results suffer.

• Photo Tagging: This means naming your photos with keywords. Use as many tagged photos as each engine will allow. (Be aware that Google Plus Local uses photo recognition software, so the more unique the images, the better.)

• Reviews are more important than ever: This is your word-of-mouth endorsement for the world to see. We have methods to generate more of these automatically.

• Citations: These aren’t traffic tickets, but refer to being listed on multiple authoritative sites such as Yelp, MerchantCircle, Bing, and SuperPages, making sure all of it follows these rules.

Phase 3: Measure

• Watch Your Analytics: Measure your results and adapt your individual strategy. I adjust items on some listings monthly, others seasonally, since the engines reward activity. Also, what works in Minnesota doesn’t work as well in Texas (personal experience talking here).

When we work with contractors, we always examine their rank and apply the 44 parameters, starting with these seven, to begin our measurement. Usually in 60-90 days, we’re seeing good progress. After that, we keep tweaking, adding, improving, and my clients get an analytics report every month.

For some contractors, we’ll link video, then pull it in favor of a coupon, and then pull that in favor of a seasonal special. It’s a matter of regularly updating and optimizing.

Domination of Google’s page 1 is not a set-it-and-forget-it approach, like the dormant Yellow Pages. It is active, dynamic, and constantly moving. If you don’t keep your listing active, Google considers you inactive and quickly drops your results.

Yes, it takes time, but the rewards come in terms of higher ranking, more credibility, and, most importantly, more leads that turn into more sales. A great listing pays for itself many times over.

Publication date: 3/11/2013