Contractors want their websites to sell. Yet, for many, this online avenue for reaching customers falls short of their desires — and makes them wonder which way to point fingers.

Is it that marketing guy’s fault? The graphic designer’s bells and whistles? The copywriter, the server… the friend of a friend of a friend who knows something about websites? Or a combination of “me, myself and I?”

The truth is, most contractors have typically been ‘sold’ that their website will perform miracles while they sleep. Yet, they have been rudely awakened to the costly fact that traffic, visitors, SEO, PPC, click-throughs, page views, fans and followers are not leads. They are merely prospects that require a sequence of events to convert them into leads.

So, how do you get your site where it needs to be?


Selling starts at home

Your homepage design is critical. Imagine that a tic-tac-toe board is drawn over your screen. Due to eye-pattern measured response, the top three spaces left to right (1, 2, 3) are the most valuable in increasing order. Space 9 (bottom right) is next most important. Contractors should focus on including the ‘most valuable’ information in these spots. Unfortunately, I often see huge logos, ridiculous photos and un-clickable copy in these spots, and that’s a total waste.

Another big mistake is no information-capture ability. This is akin to salespersons at a store never introducing themselves. Any site (or clerk) lacking this basic ability is a sales failure.

We also see an overabundance of tabs — as if more is always better. Ask the designers of the $623 million joke of a national healthcare website if this was a good idea. We like to limit tab choices to five. Not eight, not 12, but five.

And you can quit with the Testimonials tab altogether, as it is a thoroughly pointless place to put great comments. No one goes to your testimonial page except you, your staff and the testimonial giver, so just stop it. You put these on the other pages to regularly endorse and encourage action.

A potential problem is that you may have the wrong person designing your site. If that’s you, it’s OK if you’re good at clean design, excellent coding, intuitive navigability and direct response. If not, why bother? You think a web designer can replace a fan motor?

My main advice here is do not confuse an artist with a business person. One is known to have the word “starving” in front of their title; the other understands commerce. Make sure both talents show up on your site.


What else should be on your site?

Sites with blogs get 33% more visitors than ones without (source: HubSpot). Twitter and Facebook are more for “relevance branding” than anything else, yet cross-linking Facebook to your site drives outstanding SEO.

Twitter basically drives me insane, and unless you’re a rock star or an aberrant exhibitionist — think Charlie Sheen — it is essentially too short for much product, service, advice, or banter to gain much traction. Twitter’s best feature is its feed, which allows you to pre-schedule posts. Go there now and see how it’ll make your Facebook and blog multiply your presence.

Also, this sounds like semantics, but I recommend you offer a way to “request” an appointment rather than “schedule” an appointment. Scheduling live online creates some manageability issues. Instead, keep it simple — “Click here for an appointment” — and let that open an email that requests a time or day of week. As a bonus, you instantly have their email address. Smart contractors will request a cell number.

Also, integrate your online presence with your offline marketing. For example, a physical mailed newsletter is perfect to offer on your site since it is: a) valuable; b) different from the other goofballs offering an e-zine only, as if that’s something people want more of; and c) requires a home address. The last one is the ‘real’ reason for you, as it is very difficult to tune up a furnace at an email address.


How can you get found?

SEM? SEO? Which one spells success for getting your site found on the web? Both. 

SEM (search engine marketing) is generally paid search (Google AdWords, Bing Ads, etc.), where SEO (search engine optimization) is more of your site’s ability to attract views and visitors organically (not paid, in other words). Each adds to your site’s rank on the search engine.

Here’s the deal. If you’re not on Page 1 of your main or chosen search terms, such as “Heating in Hoosegow, Oklahoma,” then your own mother can’t find you. Over 90% of searchers never make it to Page 2. So, you need SEM and SEO. If you have a $50,000 website that it’d take Vasco de Gama using a GPS to locate, then you’ve wasted $50,000.

Remember, searchers are searching. They’re not idly hoping to learn about why flames are shooting out of their furnace — they need help, like, ten minutes ago. And you’re not getting the call if you’re on Page 2. Likewise, a shopper today will know more about you than your pastor by the time they’ve read your site and your reviews — good and bad — and decided to call. They are pre-qualified today, and if you blow it by the time they call, you’re done.

Here are some ways to increase your findability:

  1. If you’ve not done so already, get your Local Listing done now. Today. Don’t let that free, simple step go undone.

  2. Title all of your web pages with pertinent keywords;

  3. Title all of your photographs the same way;

  4. Use search words (keywords) in your lead articles and headlines;

  5. Send emails to your list that invite your list to consume your good content, not sales junk; and

  6. Do the same with your Facebook followers — offer good content, such as advice, money-saving methods, answers to questions’ and more.

The above, if done weekly, will drive activity to your site, which Google rewards as relevance and activity. A good move.

Try this advanced technique, too: Include video — also titled — that addresses a topic that is searched often. Video consumption has multiplied in the past two years. In fact, we have 29 in our video library on virtually every topic a searcher would want.


Keep it current

Websites aren’t like the billboard that stays in one spot, unchanged, for 12 months. Not if you want your site to be relevant.

Weekly updates to you are becoming the norm, yet monthly would be the absolute minimum. That’s where a blog or Facebook posting comes in. They link to your site, creating activity, which Google likes a lot. Our contractors have access to a package of pre-done posts, videos, articles, reports, and ads to make the content part easier. Then they can divide the year in to a ‘quarterly focus,’ which is how our content is delivered to them.

Whatever you do, stay active. Consumers judge a company by the marketing, and if your website is your online company spokesperson, what does an outdated, dead, unprofessional site say to them? I’ll let you answer that.