Chris Smith
Chris Smith
For years HVAC contractors used the Yellow Pages, telemarketing, direct mail, TV, radio, billboard, email, and print advertising to reach potential customers. The growing change in this type of marketing is that consumers are getting better and better at blocking out these interruptions.1

While some of these mediums can still return a positive return on investment (ROI), it takes very large budgets with a much higher number of impressions to create the type of results seen in the past.

The way people shop for heating and air conditioning services is rapidly changing. Shopping for goods and services is now predominantly done on the Internet. The average consumer will perform multiple Internet searches per day.

The better the search engine optimization (SEO) or use of keywords on a site the higher Google will list the site on the search results page. The same keyword will have a higher relevance depending on where it is used on the website. Let’s take a look at the keyword “air conditioner.” If air conditioner is used in the title of the page, it gets more relevance than simply having the word air conditioner listed in the written copy of the page.

Using the keywords in the proper places on the website is very important. It’s also very important to have the keywords used the correct number of times. This is known as density. Based on the statement above, you would think that just writing the keyword air conditioner over and over on the page would put you in the number one spot on Google.

Well that’s wrong. It would actually kill your website and Google would blacklist it for a violation known as keyword stuffing. Once your site is blacklisted, it’s dead forever. You will never get it back and you might as well start all over with a new website. Do a quick Google search on website blacklisting and you will see the offenses that can get you into trouble.

The Google search engine primarily does two different things. The first thing it does is crawls the Internet looking for web pages. This crawl is competed by snippets of software called spiders. In 2011, there were over 300 million active websites.2  There are over 100,000 new websites launched every day.3  As you can see, this is a lot of crawling by a lot of spiders! The spider will visit the website and then record all the pertinent data included in the website. The website with all its data is then listed on the Google servers. This is called indexing. When the spider crawls your site and then lists it on its servers then your site has been indexed. This index is like the world’s biggest catalog.

The second thing the Google search engine does is take the words that Internet searchers enter into the search box and then processes it to find the best matching web pages from its index. These words are known as keywords. The process it uses to find the best website is known as Google search algorithm.

The large algorithm changes are given a name by Google. In August of this year, the major update known as “Hummingbird” was rolled out. In October, Google released the algorithm “Penguin 5.” Each of these updates target different aspects of the search but they usually build on one another. The goal of Google is to provide exactly what the Internet searcher is looking for. To do this the algorithm is very complicated. The algorithm combines several aspects of a website to determine its relevance to the searcher. Each portion of this gives the site “points.” The sites with the highest points list higher in the search. To keep the list relevant to you as a HVAC contractor, I will discuss only a couple.

The first aspect of the algorithm is of course keywords. If the keywords in your site match those of the searcher, then you get points.

The second is freshness. Google wants to display the latest news and information. If your site’s information is fresher, then it gets points.

The third is images. Google wants to show image snippets to searches when possible, since a picture is worth a thousand words. If you have relevant images with appropriate alt tags, your site gets points.

The fourth is site and page quality. Google assigns every web page with a quality score. It uses a set of signals to determine how trustworthy, reputable, or authoritative a source is. One of these signals is page rank. It looks at links between pages and inbound links from other pages to determine relevance. Google is very big on trustworthy and reputable. This is why if you try to cheat the Google algorithm by the misuse of keywords, you are blacklisted from Google. This is also why you should never pay for link building or use shady/inexperienced SEO providers. Once you are blacklisted, you’re done — end of story. If your site appears reputable, you get points.

The fifth is snippets. Google uses the small previews of information such as the page title and short descriptive text about each search result. If your meta tags and description match the keywords, you get points.

These were just a few of the examples. Google literally uses hundreds of factors in its algorithm to determine which websites it will show. You can see it adds all these items up and the sites with the highest points place highest on the search results page.

The last aspect of successful Internet marketing for the HVAC business owner is finding out what your competition is doing. A few of the larger web development firms use proprietary software that will provide a competitive analysis of the Internet marketing of your competition.

This report will tell you the exact keywords, pay-per-click (PPC) ads, and monthly PPC budget your competitors are spending. Having this information allows you to create a targeted Internet marketing strategy that almost guarantees success. In the world of Internet marketing, it’s not important to be the best, just to beat your local competition.

1 Halligan, Brian, and Darmesh Shah. Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 2010. Print.