How to Make Your Website Work for You, Part 2

May 13, 2009
In my last article, I answered some important questions to get you thinking about how you can leverage your HVAC website to generate leads for you. Today, we’ll talk about attracting customers and prospects to your site, and some insight into tracking your results. If you missed the previous article, click here to read it.

In my last article, I answered some important questions to get you thinking about how you can leverage your HVAC website to generate leads for you. Today, we’ll talk about attracting customers and prospects to your site, and some insight into tracking your results.If you missed the previous article, click here to read it.

Q. I got my site to the first page of a Google search, but now it’s gone. What’s wrong and how do I get it back?

A. To begin with, congratulations on getting your site to rank so high—even if it was only for a short period of time.

I think the real questions here are “How does ranking work?” and “How can I impact my results?” The answer to both is about understanding relevance. If you enter a search term, say “air conditioning”, the search engine—in less than one second—will deliver up what it thinks are the ten most relevant sites out of the 3,650,000 sites it finds.

Think of it like walking into a library and asking the librarian for books on air conditioning. One librarian will refer you to completely different books than another librarian. And, most likely, the librarian will ask you some questions to help refine your search. Search engines do not have the benefit of asking you questions, so they make assumptions based on certain closely guarded criteria.

Each search engine has its own set of algorithms that determine how relevant a particular site is. (This is why two different engines will produce different sites—just like our two different librarians.) Of the many factors that indicate relevance, linking, and keyword placement and frequency, are two of the most important. But other factors, such as fresh content and click-through rates (the number of times a suggested site is actually clicked on) also play a role. In addition to having unique sets of algorithms, the search engines are constantly changing the algorithms. That means—to answer your original question—yesterday Google found your site relevant and today it doesn’t.

One word of caution. You can’t beat the search engines at their own game. Trying to build your keyword frequency (by “stuffing” the page with keywords) or increase your linking by joining a linking program (or other so-called “black hat” strategies) will likely result in being penalized by the engines.

Q. What about my existing customers? How can I get them to come to my website?

A. It’s always a good idea to think of your visitors in two groups: existing customers and prospects. Obviously, they have very different needs.

For prospects, your site needs to answer three basic questions:

  1. Do you have the products/services I am looking for?
  2. Are you in my service area?
  3. Are you someone I want to do business with?

For your existing customers, it’s a different story. They have a specific need they want you to address, such as scheduling a tune-up. Once you have them trained to go to your website for the kind of information you have available, you’ll enjoy the added benefit of reducing phone calls for your CSRs.

So what are some of the needs you want to address online?

  1. Frequently asked questions. Answers to questions such as “How can I conserve energy?”, “Should I have my system repaired or replaced?” or “How can I improve my indoor air quality?” provide valuable information that your customers will want to get from your website.
  2. Shopping for new equipment. While your customers won’t purchase a system online, they will check out their options online first. The chances that they’ll call you to do the replacement will increase if they’re coming to your site to explore their options.

If your goal is to drive your customers to your website--and it should be--the key is to give them relevant information in an easy-to-access format.

Q. Can I keep track of who is coming to my website, even if they don’t register or log in?

A. Yes and no. As part of an SEM campaign, you will receive some rather complicated reports that will give you an enormous volume of information about the traffic on your website. While much of this information needs to be interpreted by someone who understands what it all means, the bottom line is this: Search engine marketing is some of the most measurable, trackable marketing you can do. You can learn how people come to your site, where they’ve come from, how much time they’re spending there, what pages they’re going to and a lot more.

The point of having all this information is that it allows you to constantly adjust and tweak your site so you get more of the people you want, and fewer of the people you don’t want. While you can’t learn the individual identity of a particular visitor (email address, etc.), you can find out an enormous amount about them, and that enables you to understand the patterns of your website’s traffic.

We’re always happy to answer your questions about your website and what works and what doesn’t. Here’s a little test you can do for yourself to see if what you have is “working.”

Go to Google and enter a search string that includes the service you most want to promote and your location, the county or a nearby town. (Don’t use your own town; that’s too easy.) For example, enter “air conditioning Franklin OH.” If your website comes up on the first page, good job! Try a few other searches and see how they fare. If your site doesn’t come up, then your website is not “working.” Think of it like throwing a big party and forgetting to send out the invitations.

Today, it’s relatively easy to put up a website and pay little or nothing for hosting. But it would be a serious mistake to do so before giving careful consideration to not only what you want the site to say about your company, but also what you want the site to do for it.

Blaine Fox, Vice President of Warm Thoughts Communications, is a recognized expert on the residential mechanical services industry. He is currently working with some of the nation’s leading HVAC contractors to improve their marketing, fine-tune their operations and grow bottom-line profits. Previously, Blaine was general manager of ServiceMark, a $32 million HVAC contractor with more than 25,000 service agreement customers. Blaine oversaw 160 field employees, 30 install crews, 12 sales people and a call center that handled 140,000 calls per year. Blaine is a sought-after speaker, and will be presenting at Comfortech 2009. He is also a frequent contributor to HVAC industry trade publications. He can be reached at [email protected]