Editor’s note: Adams Hudson is taking a break this month and turning his column over to his colleague, Contractor Listing Queen Lissa Monroe.

Everybody says, “You should be on page 1 of Google,” but no one tells you how. This will help change all that.

How to rank #1 in Google Search Engine 
Phase 1: Claim
Phase 2: Optimize
Phase 3: Measure

Oh sure, we all know that Google and the other top five search engines dominate contractor lookups the way the Yellow Pages did years ago. Except in the good ol’ days of the Yellow Pages, you generally …

• Paid more for a bigger ad;

• Paid more for more ads; and

• Paid more for more books.

Anyone notice a theme there? At least you knew how to play the game. Yet now — due to Google’s (and everyone’s) mystical algorithm — you get to guess what is rewarded or penalized on getting your listing ranked highly. They don’t tell you. There is no rule book.

So, you can spend years changing and testing bits of data month by month until you figure it out or you can just suffer miserably on page 2 or page 20 or wherever fate takes you.

But here’s a scary and costly fact that should change everything you think about your listing: 91% of searchers never make it to page 2.If this doesn’t get your attention, please check your pulse. These are shopperswith intention and need who will not go past page 1 to hire a plumber, HVAC or electric services company. They are only calling page 1 results companies, so if you want that to be you, it pays to figure out the rules.

And lucky you, here is what we’ve found so far …Google logo

First, the test. Out of 630 individual contractor listings, we pared down 44 variables that could affect your ranking. If your calculator is broken, that’s 27,720 bits of sorted data. We assigned + and - to the bits, then ranked the data according to a statistical hierarchy such as “more important” or “less important.”

And if you’re bored reading about it, imagine if you’d had to do it! Then we came up with a way to “grade” contractor listings, giving them a number and a letter grade — A through F.

Guess what happened? It worked. The higher the grade, the more likely you’d end up on page 1. This little (!) experiment is why they call me the Contractor Listing Queen and why I’m slightly more nearsighted. (Adams has yet to adjust my pay accordingly though. Seems a queen should carry a premium.)

Anyway, instead of choking you with all 44 bits, here are the top seven most important influencers that determine rank and lead count.

Phase 1: Claim 

1. Claim your Google+Local page.Nearly 30% of contractors who request a test have not even claimed their Local page!  If you don’t have a listing, it can’t be graded. So claim your listing, assign your categories (beware of the “Is Not Does” Rule) and, if you are strictly service, hide your address. Set your service area and then verify the listing by mail or phone.

2. Be consistent. Do a search for your company and see what comes up. Is your company name listed three different ways? Google thinks that’s three different companies. Did you move in 2005 but still see your old address or worse, an old phone number pops up? The more consistent, the better.

Phase 2: Optimize 

3. Keyword compounding. Use the same words prospects use looking for your services and load them onto your listing, description, history, photos and tags. This is critical. Nearly 90% of the listings we grade get an F in this area. No wonder their results suffer.

4. Photo tagging. This means naming your photos with keywords. Use as many tagged photos as each engine will allow. (Be aware that Google+Local uses photo recognition software, so the more unique the images, the better.)

5. Reviews are more important than ever. This is your “word-of-mouth” endorsement for the world to see. We have methods to generate more of these automatically.

6.Citations.These aren’t traffic tickets but refer to being listed on multiple authoritative sites such as Yelp, MerchantCircle, Bing and SuperPages, making sure your listing follows these rules.

Phase 3: Measure 

7. Watch your analytics. Measure your results, then adapt your individual strategy. I adjust items on some listings monthly, others seasonally, since the engines reward activity. Also, what works in Minnesota doesn’t work as well in Texas. (Personal experience talking here!)

We measure a contractor’s rank when sent to us and then we apply the 44 parameters (starting with these seven) and begin measuring. Usually in 60 to 90 days, we’re seeing good progress. After that, we keep tweaking, adding, improving.

For some contractors, we’ll link video, then pull it in favor of a coupon and then pull that in favor of a seasonal special. It’s a matter of regularly updating and optimizing.

Domination of page 1 on Google is not a “set it and forget it” approach like the dormant Yellow Pages. It is active, dynamic and constantly moving. If you don’t keep your listing active, Google considers you inactive and drops your results.

Yes, it takes time, but the rewards come in terms of higher ranking, more credibility and, most importantly, more leads that turn into more sales. A great listing pays for itself many times over. 


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