During a recent HVAC manufacturer’s marketing seminar my team attended, the founder and president of a fairly well-known HVAC marketing company suggested attendees invest in search engine optimization (SEO) and not pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. While a large part of my business is providing SEO and content marketing services to local residential service companies, I could not disagree more.
FOUR RECENT CHANGES
Four of Google’s recent changes make PPC more important than ever for your business.
Change No. 1: More Ads Showing on Mobile — Searches from smartphones and tablets are on the rise, and this trend is only going to accelerate. Pull out your phone and Google something related to your business. Google has increased the number of PPC ads it shows to searchers using smartphones. PPC ads dominate the first page of search results.
Takeaway: As the number of smartphone searches rises, HVAC contractors investing in PPC advertising will grow faster than those relying only on SEO-generated organic rankings.
Change No. 2: Reduced Local Listings — Before August 2015, if homeowners searched, “HVAC contractor Denver,” they would typically see a search page with a paid ad up top (and along the right side of the page) with a map below and seven local companies in or near Denver. Even companies with a minimal local SEO budget could find themselves on the first page of Google in the “seven-pack” of local listings.
Now, Google has reduced the number of local listings shown to just three. For a small, but savvy contractor with three spots on Google’s first page — a carefully managed PPC ad, a local listing, and a traditional organic search listing — this change hurts, but it’s not a death blow. However, for the small contractor surviving on the leads generated by a single local listing in, say, the fifth position, who’s unwilling to leverage PPC ads and traditional SEO, Google’s small change represents a 100 percent reduction in first-page visibility.
Takeaway: If you own an HVAC company looking for more business than referrals or word-of-mouth marketing can reasonably generate, and you don’t see your business two or three times on the first page of Google, you need to test PPC advertising.
Change No. 3: Home Service-specific Ad Units — Google is testing a new type of search listing where it will deliver sales to various types of residential service companies for a fee. Presently, Google’s tests have been limited to plumbers, locksmiths, housekeepers, and handymen in the San Francisco Bay area, but, depending on the results, they’ll almost certainly expand the program to include other types of home services, such as HVAC.
Note that when this program rolls out nationally, not all HVAC contractors will be eligible to participate. Contractors must go through an extensive verification process in order to gain access to this program. It’s unclear whether this program will be integrated into Google’s PPC platform or AdWords or operate as a stand-alone service.
Takeaway: Regardless of whether this new type of search result is integrated into Google’s existing PPC platform or not, one thing is certain — it will decrease the first-page organic search real estate — so contractors investing only in SEO will likely see diminished results.
Change No. 4: Customer Match Targeting — Starting Oct. 5, for the first time in history, Google will allow advertisers the ability to upload and target audiences built from advertiser-provided email lists. This advanced functionality will be available in search advertising, YouTube Trueview ads, and Gmail ads.
Takeaway: You know all those email addresses your customer service reps have been collecting from prospects and customers? Well, you’ll now be able to deliver hyper-targeted ads and offers directly to them for a fraction of what you used to pay to reach them through traditional advertising channels (like direct mail). Just think of the possibilities — ads promoting service agreements on YouTube only to new customers who did not sign on for maintenance.
THE NEED FOR SEO AND PPC
The most successful HVAC contractors in the country understand that winning online is about cost-effectively maximizing your real estate — starting with search engines. Consumers using Google demonstrate their interest and intent with the keyword phrases they use. Not everyone on Facebook is in the market for a new furnace, but virtually everyone searching “cost of furnace replacement [city, state]” is.
To maximize your search engine real estate, you must intelligently invest in SEO and PPC (and platform marketing, but that’s a topic for another time). And, though the recent Google changes listed above are largely overlooked by some business owners and marketers, they make PPC advertising even more important for local HVAC contractors.
HOW TO WIN THE PPC GAME
With Google’s recent changes, HVAC contractors set in their ways (like thinking PPC is too costly) are going to find themselves flailing.
Successful PPC advertising also requires data-driven thinking. You’ve got to know your numbers — things like your call-to-appointment booking rate, your appointment-to-sale close rate, etc.
The Web is constantly evolving. To be successful, your thinking, and your marketing team’s thinking, needs to evolve with it. The smartest marketers are constantly monitoring and tracking the industry’s landscape and testing new things before the rest of the industry has full comprehension of what’s happening.
Google has made some serious changes recently and more are on the way. You can use these changes to your advantage or you can fall behind those that do. Which choice will you make?
Publication date: 11/23/2015