In today’s business world, there is no running from online marketing and no hiding from social media. At a recent session called “Marketing Myth Busters: 2023 Paid & Organic Marketing Dos and Don’ts,” Colleen Keyworth, Women in HVACR immediate past president and director of sales and marketing at Online-Access, discussed three key parts of online marketing: website design, Google Business Profiles (GBP), and social media. Keyworth shared best practices, what to do and what not to do, what Google likes and doesn’t like, and that content is king.
To start, Keyworth highlighted some basic things HVAC contractors need to ensure their websites have.
Website Basics Checklist:
- Clear contact information (clickable phone number, location info/map)
- A clear call to action
- List of services
- About us/company/mission statement
- Owner picture, or team pictures
- Additional methods of communication
- Customer testimonials
- Trust statements, badges, guarantees
- Color scheme matching company branding
- Clearly advertised service area
- Financing options
- Video content
- Social share buttons
- Current coupons or offers
- Mobile friendly/responsive design
Website design is inherently important — from clickability to, accessibility, speed of the page, and the images used on the website.
“Unless your last name is Stock, lose the stock photos,” Keyworth said. “People like to see people. So whether it’s getting a picture of your guys next to your sign or a truck or a landmark in your area, it’s a big deal. And it makes a difference.”
Keyworth said every big, successful company out there has one thing in common: professional photos of their team interacting with their customers. Google ranks content in the search results based on high expertise, authority, and trustworthiness, and personal photography helps build those three things.
Having “real” photos also increases company engagement because it builds trust with current and potential customers. If they can see on the website the owner of the company, and the technicians and contractors who will be entering their homes, they are more likely to trust the service — and therefore, the company.
While photos do make all the difference, content is still king, Keyworth said. Content shows expertise and trustworthiness. Plus, a big update with Google is that content is actually more important than photos. For one thing, Google reads what the photos on the website are tagged with; for another, the content is especially important on the subpages or secondary pages of a website (the pages that aren’t the homepage). They have to have content flooded with keywords around HVACR.
“Then Google can actually agree with you on where you're supposed to be in the searches that are coming up,” Keyworth said.
Keyworth noted that while AI-generated content can make life easier for a contractor, Google is now developing its own algorithms to determine which websites use AI-generated content, in order to decipher who to rank where based on trustworthiness, authority, or expertise. It may take a while for Google to develop that, but it could lead to a company’s rankings being penalized.
The links a company has on its site also builds authority within Google. However, building a page within the website with links to other websites of local charities, businesses, or community organizations the company supports is only half the battle. The other half is getting the reciprocating link.
“You have to go to those [businesses or charities] and have them link back to you. It's the whole handshake,” she said.
Google takes into account who those HVACR company’s partners in the community are.
“Build the recommendations, go build a link page but get that reciprocating link, and you will see a difference. Because your authority as far as search goes, goes up, because now there are other things validating your existence locally.”
It’s All About Google
Google wants people to stay on Google. They don’t want to send people to a different non-Google website if they don’t have to.
“They don’t want to send traffic to you unless they don’t have the immediate answer, or you’re paying them,” Keyworth said. “Be aware that they are cannibalizing your traffic.”
But not paying attention to a Google Business profile (GBP) isn’t the answer, because Google is still the one ranking the companies within the search results.
Keyworth provided a number of factors in which GBFs are ranked:
Primary GBP category
Is the company under the right category for the service they provide?
Keywords in GBP business title
Ensure a company name has those key HVACR words people will be searching for on Google.
- Proximity of address in the city of search
Google does a lot based on proximity. By listing a company’s location and the areas they service, they’ll have more authority within Google. However, Google assumes convenience when it comes to location. This works for hotels, restaurants, or any place where the customer is the one traveling to the service, Keyworth said, but less for HVAC contractors.
“You are a service area business. You’re usually traveling to your customer,” she said. “You have a 25-30-40 mile radius that you're actually servicing.”
And since Google assumes that businesses only care about those first few miles within where they are located, HVACR contractors need to clearly specify their entire service area on GBP.
- Additional GBP categories; quality and authority of inbound links to website domain; keywords in native Google reviews; high numerical Google ratings; removal of spam listings
When customers leave detailed reviews with keywords pertinent to the service provided, and the response of the company is equally keyword-heavy and detailed, authority is built in the fact that the company is a legit business.
“Google doesn’t care about you. They care about what everybody else thinks of you,” she said.
Yes, companies with more reviews generally rank higher. However, companies with more reviews are usually bigger companies that have double the opportunities as a small HVAC company, Keyworth said.
“But that doesn’t mean you should stop. Think about if you have five jobs a day, those are all opportunities for [reviews].”
Keyworth noted it’s important that HVAC companies do:
- Have one listing for each physical storefront they have,
- Work with a marketing team to remove any duplicates, and
- List all verticals under the same listing (unless they have separate signage and entrances);
- Create more than one listing per storefront, or
- Do anything to artificially increase their number of listings.
There is no running and no hiding from social media. If they haven’t already, it’s time for HVACR companies to truly take advantage of and leverage what it can offer their companies.
“If you are an owner of a company, you need to get someone to do [social media] for you,” Keyworth said. “If you have a sister, brother, nephew, niece, or someone just out of college and knows everything about [social media], capture them while they still know everything and have them come work for you.”
Social Media Do’s
- Build relationships with followers and clients
- Share locally relevant and engaging content
- Have a small budget for boosting and promotion
- Make followers feel special
- Customize social pages for brand and audience preference
- Engage with audience (ask questions, etc.)
- Fill out the entire profile
- Participate in local groups
- Hold company to a posting schedule
- Use pictures and videos instead of just text
- Show pictures of company life/work
- Have a social media policy
Social Media Don’ts
- Don’t buy likes or shares
- Don’t post every day
- Don’t obsess over the number of followers (play the long game)
- Don’t engage with negative reviews
Referrals and reviews are big on social media, specifically on Facebook (now Meta), but it’s a hard line to tread. With every review and response, a company’s online reputation is being built, for better or for worse. So it’s important to be smart in responses and remember that everyone’s watching.
Tik Tok and Instagram have a combined 3 billion monthly users; its influence is vast. While an HVACR company may not necessarily be placing ads on these platforms, creating and cultivating an account and filling it with personal, in-the-moment photo or video content is pertinent to not only bringing awareness to the business, but also humanizing it.
While an HVACR company might not be able to measure a direct ROI from social media, Keyworth said, that isn’t necessarily what social media is about. It’s a place where people (customers) go to be social. Be social with them, but do it wisely.
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