Remember the old days, when you could find all of your competition in the local phone book? These days, we know that customers look online first when they’re seeking a contractor or embarking on their hunt for heating and air conditioning equipment or maintenance. Those countless pages of online content mean that your competition is essentially limitless – anyone, anywhere, at any time can offer advice, instruction or promises to your would-be customers.
Here’s the good news. All providers of online content are not equal. By committing to quality blog content, strategic online practices and a consistent posting schedule, you’ll draw readers and keep them coming back. A well-executed blog helps you stand out from the competition. And that translates to a growing business, as you enhance and maintain your HVAC contracting company’s position as your community’s No. 1 provider of HVAC information, equipment and service.
While some small business owners worry that they lack the time or know-how to be serious blog competition, it’s a crucial part of building your online marketing strategy. Whether you do it yourself, assign the job to one or more employees or outsource the content creation, here are some ways to set your HVAC company apart from the blog competition:
Make quality your mantra. When your potential customers seek information online, they have no problem finding great quantities of material. What’s more difficult to track down is quality content. Set yourself apart from the blog competition by offering something of value to your customers in each post -- useful, relevant and timely information from a reliable, expert and local source.
Think about the resources you return to repeatedly for help running your own company. You go back to them because you know that you can bank on the information they provide and the services they offer. That’s what your blog should be to your current and potential customers: the go-to online source for well-written, expert HVAC information.
Along with quality content, quality design goes a long way, too. Your blog should be well-organized with no extraneous clutter. It should be easy to navigate and facilitate searches for past blog entries.
Employ search engine optimization practices. SEO refers to practices that bloggers use to score high rankings in Google or other search engines – which goes a long way toward ensuring that readers can find your content. But how do you improve your search results?
• Smart use of keywords is one way to optimize your ranking and move you above the blog competition. Keywords anticipate the words and phrases your prospects will feed their search engines and deliver content that matches them. For example, if you are writing a post about the benefits of beefing up the R-values in attics, your keywords might be “attic insulation.” The more often you can weave your keywords into your post – while still offering prose that reads naturally – the higher your blog should appear in the rankings.
• Here’s another sometimes overlooked aspect to good SEO practices: the use of hyperlinks. Create links from keywords in your blog posts to relevant pages on your website or other reliable resources. The use of keywords in links also helps to boost your search engine rank.
Write titles that are concise, on target and compelling. Writing blog titles is an art and a science – but it’s not an opportunity to show off your prowess with a pun. Instead, your titles should precisely convey the useful, relevant information contained in your post. Your title is your opportunity to grab readers’ attention, to differentiate your post from the blog competition. Titles are also another important factor in where your post appears in search engine results. Your keywords should appear in your title -- near the beginning -- as well as in the body of your post.
Avoid the hard sell. When your prospects or customers are seeking expert advice, nothing’s a bigger turn-off to a customer than a sales pitch. Instead of going for the sale, stay committed to using your blog to provide a service. Sure, include a call to action in each post, inviting readers to call or click to contact you. But remember that the long-term goal of your blog is to position your HVAC contracting company as the go-to expert in your regional community.
Maintain your blog religiously. Unlike fly-by-night marketers who pop in and out of search engine results, your blog should stand out as reliable and reputable. One way to achieve this is to post consistently, at least a couple of times a week. Regular postings will also help boost your blog’s search engine rankings.
Be patient. Seeing results from your blog often takes quite a bit of time. Some of our customers see results in just a few months. Others see results in a year. That said, they all see results by consistently creating content on an ongoing basis. Most blogs end up not working for HVAC contractors when they give up on the blog after just a few months. Remember, this is not paid advertising where you can expect a return from the ad or flyer or sponsorship immediately. Content is an asset that can work for you for years, but you cannot expect winning results immediately.
For experienced bloggers as well as newcomers, standing out from the blog competition requires a commitment to quality. But once you've made that commitment, your customers will notice the difference -- and you'll see the results.
Joe Pulizzi is CEO for SocialTract, the leading blogging/social media service for HVACR Contractors. Joe’s new book, Managing Content Marketing, is now available on Amazon and Kindle. Joe can be reached on Twitter @juntajoe or by email [email protected].