For the second time, online marketing solutions company Blue Corona has done a deep dive by analyzing more than 10,000 HVAC and plumbing websites.
The analysis indicates a digital divide forming in the HVAC industry. On one side, you have forward-thinking HVAC contractors investing heavily in online marketing. These companies are amassing fans on Facebook and running tests to determine how to engage them. They’re the companies upgrading their websites every few years and ensuring they pass Google’s mobile-friendly test. These are the companies experimenting with website videos and weekly blogging.
On the other side of the divide are HVACR contractors that either aren’t sold on the whole idea of the Internet as a marketing channel; are too busy to take action; or perhaps they want to take action, but aren’t sure where to start.
“Looking at our analysis, it’s pretty clear what the top 250 sites do things differently than the rest of the industry,” said Ben Landers, owner, Blue Corona. “Small- to medium-sized HVAC contractors would be wise to use the metrics in our study as target benchmarks or, at the very least, a compass to guide their future Web marketing investments.”
Plenty of contractors are making the investment and finding it beneficial. Steve Lauten, president of Total Air & Heat Co. in Plano, Texas, is a good example.
“We’ve found our website to be a critical factor in earning new business and sustaining our existing customer base. It seems everyone is using mobile devices to do business and make decisions. It’s vital your website be mobile-ready and easy to navigate, and it needs to be designed in a manner that it enhances your organic results, plus has the right info to enhance SEO [search engine optimization] and SEM [search engine marketing] results,” Lauten said.
While Lauten understands the importance of being mobile-ready, only 32 percent of the top sites analyzed in the Blue Corona study use a responsive (suitable for any size device) framework.
“This industry is a bit slow to come along, and I understand why,” said Landers. Some of the companies in our study are smaller businesses. When they first hired someone to build their websites, it probably took a lot longer than expected. It was probably also more expensive than they realized.
“Most business owners go through the website design and development process once and think, ‘Man, I’m not going to go through all that again for a long time.’” Landers continued. “A website is like having a star sales rep in the field bringing in jobs left and right. So, as painful as it may be, it’s worth it.”
The analysis also showed website size does indeed matter. A total of 87 percent of the websites in the study had fewer than 100 pages. However, when you look at the top 250 sites, 82 percent have more than 100 pages on their websites. This is a jump up from the 76 percent of the top 250 that had more than 100 pages in the 2013 study.
“Most HVAC sites continue to be small, hosting less than 100 pages. The connection hasn’t been made by most that Google doesn’t really rank websites per se — Google ranks website pages. Every unique page of content on your website has the potential to earn additional organic visibility on Google’s coveted first page. All other things being equal, the more visibility you have, the more website visitors, leads, and sales you’ll make. You really see this when you compare the HVAC industry to other categories of companies in the home-services industry,” Landers said. “The most successful, most visible sites are constantly adding new information. They have blogs that are frequently updated. They have news articles and information about their team members. Each of these is indexed by Google individually. Think of it as if you were a publisher. Be the authority for your local market. If you add value for your prospects when homeowners have problems, they’ll reach out.”
While 69 percent of the websites analyzed still do not have a sitemap, of the top 250 sites, 72 percent have a sitemap.
“A sitemap is a list of all the pages of a particular website — sort of like the table of contents of a book. Sitemaps help human visitors and search engines like Google find their way around the website,” Landers said. “Creating a sitemap is free. You do not need to buy software to create it. Despite this fact, a majority of HVACR websites don’t have one. Considering the potential benefit, that’s just crazy. And we think this is an untapped opportunity for contractors of every size and level of Web sophistication.”
Of the top 250 sites analyzed, 71 percent have an on-site blog. But, of sites with a blog, the vast majority update it a handful of times per month. This is significant because the sites with the most organic visibility on Google typically blog multiple times per week.
There were many other places where the top 250 were ahead of their counterparts. For instance, 44 percent of those sites had a video on their website, and 31 percent had a video on their homepages. Almost half advertised “free estimates” on their websites, and 80 percent offered online specials or coupons/promotions to appeal to price-sensitive shoppers. A total of 61 percent featured information on financing.
And, of course, there is social media. Of the top sites, 83 percent of them link to their Facebook pages, though a majority of them have fewer than 500 likes. Twitter isn’t nearly as popular as Facebook in the HVAC industry with only 64 percent of the top websites linking to Twitter.
“A lot of people post a lot on Facebook, but nobody is interacting with their posts,” Landers said.
According to Landers, the Web offers vast opportunities for HVAC contractors.
“HVAC contractors willing to try new things are sitting in front of an enormous opportunity because, for as much as some of the top sites are investing in the Web, compared to our 2013 analysis, there was less movement than we would have thought. This is an especially exciting opportunity for small contractors, given how inexpensive various forms of online marketing are compared with traditional media investments like direct mail, television, and radio,” Landers said.
Publication date: 10/19/2015