You've spent good money on your company's Web site and now you're sitting back, waiting for the leads to come in. Instead, you get the occasional random visitor.
Creating a great site, even a really good one, is only a part of Web marketing. A flashy site doesn't guarantee that the people out there looking for a home improvement company or product will be steered in your direction. Make no mistake, they're there. A recent study showed that 73% of offline buyers did research online before making a buying decision. So if your excellent site gets little or no response, somehow consumers are bypassing you.
GETTING THERE It isn't magic that's going to point consumers in your direction. It's the search engine Google. Without it, you don't exist to the online homeowner.
You can get your site on Google in two ways. The first is by optimizing, that is, by providing content targeted toward specific keyword phrases as well as links containing those phrases. (Example: “Minneapolis siding.”) The more search-friendly your site, the higher it will appear in “organic” search results. Done right, you could get in the top 10 listings of organic searches, at least in smaller markets. That dramatically increases your chance of being called or contacted.
Your site may need some serious work to make it “search-friendly.” That would involve modifying the HTML code to comply with standards, swapping image files with readable text, and adjusting your pages' metadata so they're targeted at your desired keywords. Links are crucial. Generally, sites that rank in the top 10 organic results are those that have the most links to and from other sites and directories.
Hiring a company that specializes in search engine optimization is a one-time-only investment that pays rich dividends because it doesn't cost you anything to actually appear in Google's organic search results. But be aware that rankings change hourly, and daily, and that staying close to the top requires attention. Someone will need to monitor search rankings, make site improvements, build links, and report results.
The other way to show up on Google is to pay for it. Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising — those links that appear at the top or to the right on your Google search page — can cost thousands of dollars per month, depending on your market. But the advantages over organic search results are huge.
PPC is regional, so you pay for searches only within your market, and you can push visitors to a page specifically designed to get them to contact you. Yes, organic results are free, or at least inexpensive, and people tend to trust them more. But the bottom line is that if you need to produce leads, the most controlled and guaranteed way is a paid search.
TWO-PRONGED ATTACK Combining organic and PPC almost doubles the chances of your link being clicked. And if consumers do come to your Web site? Make sure you have a contact form that is traceable and allows you to attribute each lead generated to the source that brought them to your site (organic search, paid search, banner ads, etc.).
In addition, you want an employee who is well-scripted to contact that homeowner to sell that prospect into an appointment. You know they're interested in your product(s), but are they looking to buy now or at some point in the future? Building a database of potential future buyers through your Web site will keep your company in leads for months and years to come.
—Tom Audette, a former home improvement executive, now works for Three Deep Marketing, an online marketing company focused on lead generation. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.