At some point, as many as half the homeowners researching a home improvement project will type a keyword into an Internet search engine. You have to find a way to be there when the search results hit the screen.

The easiest way is to turn to lead brokers such as Reliable Remodeler, ServiceMagic, or The lead broker will require a contract but it will be a far smaller commitment than a Yellow Pages schedule, and the cost per sale will probably be lower than advertising in the Yellow Pages. Lead brokers are especially valuable to smaller contractors who need just a few leads and can survive on low margins.

Why? Lead-broker leads are often like Yellow Pages leads: price shoppers choosing between “comparable” contractors on price alone.

Page-One News To continue growing your company, at some stage you must break from the pack and position your business as one that can command a premium price. And if you're going to reach the growing number of Internet searchers, that means competing with the lead brokers for that precious first-page listing.

You're not likely to unseat the entrenched brokers from the top of the free listings in the center of the page. But, sponsored listings, such as Google Adwords, offer links at the top and side of the search page and charge you for each click to your Web site. It's here that you can compete and win. Tell your company story. Offer in-depth information about specific products and discounts. Keep the focus local. Change the message daily.

You can adjust your budget and your bid-per-click so you're at the top of the page half the time rather than at the bottom of the page all the time.

Now, do you have or are you willing to invest in a quality Web site that uses landing pages to greet a click-through with specific information about a product or promotion? And have you or are you willing to name an employee or a marketing company to manage your pay-per-click program? If so, chances are you're ready to claim your spot on the first-page listings. —John Stevens is a partner in Peterson Stevens Inc., which specializes in brand building and lead generation for the home improvement industry.