Keywords used to be the magic bullet for search engine optimization (SEO), but no longer is peppering your website with target terms a smart strategy; nor is it effective. As an HVAC business owner, you want to be found for the right reasons, by the right consumers. In short, you want to be relevant. Today’s search engines are designed to provide the highest quality search results to users, and they’re continuously improving the way in which they do so through advanced technologies like “semantic search” and “machine learning.” Simply put, this means search engines now have the ability to evaluate a person’s request within the context of their past behaviors – in other words, they predict the intent of one’s search.
So what does this mean for the HVAC industry? How can you ensure your business shows up when someone in your region is looking for the service you provide?
The most obvious goal for any business when it comes to search is to be found. Arguably, the most essential first step is to ensure that your business’ information is listed correctly on major directory sites, otherwise you risk driving your potential new customers straight to your competition. The top sites to target are Google, Bing, Yahoo!, Yelp, the Better Business Bureau and Facebook, but there is a myriad others.
Consistency is key. Ensure the name of your business, address, phone number, hours, and service details are the same across all listings. If you have multiple locations, triple check all phone numbers and addresses are matched correctly. Google and other search engines cross check business information across other listing sites. If your business has inconsistencies in a listing (for example, if your phone number on Google business pages is different than what is showing on Yelp) you’re less likely to be pulled for a top search result, which could drop you below a competitor in a search page.
Another reason to stress the importance of accurate listings is the growing popularity of voice search. Voice search results are mined from the directory sites, and consistent, relevant information are decisive factors in capturing those customers. In 2016, 20 percent of all Google searches were conducted via voice search. With the prevalence of smart home devices like Google Home or Amazon’s Alexa, voice search will continue to grow. Showing up when a customer is searching is imperative - especially for services often called upon in urgent situations (like the air conditioning going out on a blazing hot summer day).
The next step in ensuring potential customers find your business is by tapping into the details that matter most in today’s digital marketplace. Be relevant and user-friendly. Does your website provide the answers a customer needs when they visit? Are they able to find those answers quickly?
When it comes to appealing to semantic searches, key phrases (SEO) do play a role, but valuable content is a bigger factor. We’ll dive into content in a future article, but it’s a tactic that is helpful even if it seems unnecessary. For businesses like HVAC services, sharing quick maintenance tips and how-to’s are an excellent way to build trust with customers and establish credibility. You’re not losing business by showing homeowners a few easy tasks they can manage themselves – you’re creating a relationship for the moment the job does get too big. They won’t think twice about who to call.
Navigation and layout of your site go a long way in building that customer relationship, too. Make sure the information your customers are looking for is easily found and not buried in a maze of pages or broken navigation links. It’s always wise to have your website reviewed by outside parties. You may think your site is great, but when you’re too close to it, you often miss the issues.
Getting noticed in search results is a complex and long-term process. Making a few rapid-fire tweaks to your website or pushing out a ton of irrelevant content will backfire. You have to keep your expectations in check and understand that you won’t achieve top ranking results right away. In fact, it can take several months to see the fruits of your efforts start to blossom. Think of the metaphor, “it’s a marathon and not a sprint.” Too often business owners give up when the finish is nowhere in sight because they think it’s not working. Relevance + consistency + patience = a recipe for success.