Every HVACR business should be taking advantage of a free service provided by the leading search engines. The local sections of sites like Yelp, CitySearch, Yahoo! Local and Google Maps allow you to list links to your website, full contact info and some distinguishing marketing information about what makes you special. Right now, that service is free on all search engine and directory sites.
Taking advantage of this gift is simple. Search engines and directories usually make the first step easy for you. Because they want their users to get good search returns, they have already bought database information on HVACR businesses across the United States and are displaying it right now. Try typing in “HVAC” and your ZIP code on Google Maps if you have not seen this yet. If your business has been around for a few years, it is likely they already have your basic information (name, business type, address and phone number) as well as a map to your address ready for display. But the catch is that the databases they access usually consist of information that is anywhere from one to four years old. This article will detail how you can get a listing on the top sites and make your business stand out online.
There are five basic steps you should take right now to get more business from the Web-based local listings.
Confirm that your listing is on the major local search directories. Go to Google and Yahoo!, and click on the Maps or Local tab. Type in your business name or business type and your ZIP code or city name. If you don't see your business listed on the first few pages, you may need to submit it. Look on the Local page for a link to their listing submission service, click it, and it will connect you to a form that guides you through the process. It is fairly straight forward, and depending on your Web smarts, you'll be through it in between 5 and 15 minutes for each basic submission.
If the search engine already lists your information, review it carefully for any errors or omissions. If there are errors, look for a link on the page that prompts you to correct bad information, and you can quickly make the changes you need. Be aware that the search engine may take a day to a week to make the changes, and they may require that you respond to an e-mail they send you as the “account owner” as a security measure.
Take full advantage of the opportunities available to you. The search engines each differ in what you can add to your free listing (photos, logos specific to HVACR services or payment-type information are some examples), and they seem to improve and add more features every year. If they allow you to upload your logo or give you space to describe your business, do it. The more you can stand out from other businesses displayed on the same page, the better chance you have of landing that new customer. There are so many wholesalers and contractors who have never seen their free directory listing that even a little extra effort on your part can make a difference. And of course, add your URL to the page. Some wholesalers and many contractors in our industry don't market their Web address here out of laziness and end up losing a chance to get a customer to their own site.
Lastly, make a note on your calendar to check your free listings at least every six months. The search engines may have added new features to make your directory listing stand out or be more complete; your information may need updating for seasonality or other changes. And finally, its always a good security measure to keep an eye on your listing in case someone has decided to monkey around with it.
If you decide this is a hassle to do on your own, contact a Web marketing firm to help you manage your local Web directory listings. The cost of this service usually ranges between $200 and $500 annually.
The top sites I recommend that HVACR wholesalers and contractors submit to are: Yelp.com, CitySearch.com, Google Maps, Yahoo! Local, Kudzu, Local.com, InsiderPages.com and Ask.com. There are more, but these are key.
Increasing numbers of potential customers are using local Web directories to find businesses like yours. Rising Web usage and better search technology are creating a dynamic opportunity for you. Local listings cost you little to nothing but provide a reliable and effective way to generate more business. Make them part of your marketing and public relations efforts in 2009.
Griffin Davis is vice president of Marketing for Market Hardware Inc. Griffin has worked in Internet Marketing and Small Business Marketing since 1993. A member or partner provider for ACCA, RSES, PHCC and MCAA, Market Hardware helps HVACR companies compete on the Internet with websites, search engine marketing campaigns and local listing management specifically for this industry. For more information, visit www.markethardware.com/hvac or call 888/381-6925 to learn more about programs like Get Listed.
© Market Hardware, Inc. 2009