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Thursday, September 22, 2022
Unfortunately the marketing industry is overloaded with businesses that thrive on using fear and misleading tactics to get the attention of small business owners with the sole intention of selling their services. Painting contractors are definitely one of the businesses they target.
We hear from clients all the time about an inquiry or warning they got from somebody making a claim that scared them into action. Here’s what to look out for and how you can investigate the claim yourself.
Companies doing this are one of the worst offenders. They try to scare you into thinking your website will be going down very soon if you don’t pay them to renew your domain.
Yes, domain renewal is important. If you don’t keep your domain actively renewed your website will go down and you could even lose your domain quickly in an auction. But, in almost all cases the companies that are sending you these notices don’t hold your domain. They may be able to renew it for you, but they are going to charge you a significant premium to do that.
What to do
Check with your current website provider about the status of your domain. If they don’t manage it for you they should still be able to tell you who does the hosting and help you check on it.
If you manage your own website, you want to be sure that you keep track of who you originally selected as domain host and have login information available. If it’s too late for that, reach out to the platform you are using for your website to see if they can help you identify who you have registered your domain with.
You can also go to https://lookup.icann.org/en/lookup. Under Domain Information and then Dates, you should be able to see when your domain registration expires. You may also be able to get the contact information for the hosting company there.
Once you’ve got this information be sure to store it somewhere you will remember so that going forward you’ll know exactly where you stand.
As a company that builds and manages websites for painting contractors, this is one of the most irritating tactics. Very rarely are there actually “errors.” When I think of “errors” I think of misspellings, incorrect information, maybe bad links, those types of things.
The follow up to these red flags usually takes one of two approaches neither of which are actually highlighting “errors”:
1. They highlight a bunch of things that are truly not affecting the website’s ability to search well and draw in customers
2. They hold your website to a standard that can only be met by the biggest brands.
Before mentioning the specific issues with both of these approaches, it’s important to note that what matters most is results. For almost all small businesses, the main job of your website is to get you found when somebody searches for the services you provide in your area. There are other things that are important like branding/reputation and conversions, but ultimately you want your website to show up toward the top of the organic search results.
If your website is showing up toward the top of the search results for the services you provide in your area, then there are no significant SEO or content issues or errors on your website. Case closed.
It’s important to note that there are very few “perfect” websites. It’s really easy for a marketing agency to nitpick and point out things that are wrong. And the worst of them will do that without any regard for the search results the website is producing.
Let’s dig a little bit further into the two approaches that I mentioned that are usually taken in these misleading efforts.
Some of the favorite focus areas here are load speed, citations or listings, and AMP.
Is load speed important? Yes, it is a known factor that Google uses in the search algorithm. Some predatory marketing or SEO agencies would have you believe that load speed is the number one factor in search. That is absolutely not proving to be true.
As far as citations, otherwise known as listings, there are really only a handful of these that are relevant anymore and you are probably already focused on them. They are Google, Facebook, Yelp, Bing and Yahoo. Why would Google care what City Search says about your business? Google owns search. Nobody has used City Search to find a local business in at least 10 years.
AMP is just not relevant to painting contractors.
What to do
First, check your search results. If you are showing up on the first page of the search results for the keywords related to your most important services, then disregard any of these claims.
If you are not seeing the search results you would like to see, load speed could be an issue. Reach out to your website provider to ask them to take a look at your search results and ask if load speed could be affecting them negatively.
When it comes to citations/listings, make sure your business information is accurate on Google, Facebook, Yelp, Bing and Yahoo. You should also check industry sources that you currently have profiles on (HomeAdvisor, Houzz etc.). Don’t be concerned about the rest.
Usually the biggest “errors” they highlight here are backlinks (links from other websites going to your website) and social media.
We recently looked at a report that was sent to one of our clients that gave them an F for Links and an F for Social Media. The F for links highlighted that they had 365 external backlinks. For a localized painting contractor, that’s pretty good! It is just plain deceptive to give them an F for that and shows no recognition of the true competition for the business.
The F for Social Media was given because they only had a Facebook page and didn’t have Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn profiles, or a YouTube channel. If you are a painting contractor who can consistently use those social media channels then that is great. If you don’t have the time, you are far better off putting the time you do have into one channel and not spreading yourself too thin by trying to use multiples. As for social media’s impact on SEO, it’s believed by experts to be minimal at best.
The technique the evil companies trying to exploit you using this lie typically fall back on is to say that they didn’t find you in the Local Pack. The Local Pack is the box listing 3-4 businesses that shows up high on Google’s search engine results page right next to the map. There are several things that are deceptive about this approach:
1. The Local Pack results are significantly impacted by location. Most of the people perpetrating this lie just search for something like “painting contractor Milwaukee” from wherever they sit and then use those results to scare you. These are not the same results that somebody who was actually in Milwaukee searching for a painting contractor would see.
2. Somebody looking for a painting contractor is likely to click on the “More businesses” button at the bottom of the Local Pack to see the full list of options. Google’s treatment of service area businesses is notoriously fickle so you can get a better read on your results by looking at it that way.
3. Probably most important – more searchers click on the organic search results that show up below the Local Pack than do on the Local Pack results. If your website is showing up in the organic search results, that is what is most important.
What to do
Check for yourself. Search for “painting contractor” when you are in your number one targeted town or city. Are you showing up in the Local Pack? When you click on “More businesses” do you show up in the top 10? Is your website showing up in the organic search results?
If you don’t see your business anywhere, reach out to your website provider and ask them to take a look at how you are doing in local and organic search. If you manage your own website, ask somebody you trust in your network that knows a thing or two about websites if they can find your website and what they might suggest to help you search well if they can’t.
I promise you, not all marketing firms are manipulative, self-interested jerks that only care about taking your money. I’ve seen a number of quality providers at PCA events and heard them on PCA podcasts and APC’s Paint Radio podcast.
If you have questions about anything I covered here, please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-600-5166. I love to help small businesses and I hate to see business owners get taken advantage of by deceptive practices.
Thursday, August 4, 2022
You may hear many people talking about how reviews are important. But how important are they and how often do consumers use reviews to help them decide what painting contractors to reach out to?
Thankfully we have data from BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey 2022 to help us better understand how often consumers look at reviews and some of the specific things they look for when they need a local service provider. This very well-done survey offers great insight. We’ll cover some of the key points and what you can do to best position your painting company for success.
98% of people at least ‘occasionally’ read online reviews for local businesses.
77% of consumers “always” or “regularly” read reviews when browsing for local businesses (up from 60% in 2020).
These two stats go hand in hand and help us understand how often consumers look for reviews for local businesses. With 77% of consumers “always” or “regularly” reading reviews, you should assume that everybody who is looking for a painting contractor is going to be looking at reviews. So if you don’t have good reviews for your business, now is the time to ask happy customers to post a review.
This response further solidifies the previous insight and makes it even more important for painting contractors to have good reviews. Consumers pay even more attention to the reviews for service-area businesses and tradespersons than they do care services or healthcare!
More consumers use Google to evaluate local businesses than ever before. In 2021 81% did, up from 63% in 2020.
Google plays a huge role as the main platform that consumers use to evaluate local businesses. Yelp (53%), Facebook (48%), Tripadvisor (36%) and the Better Business Bureau (31%) also are used fairly significantly by consumers. However, you can make the biggest impact by asking your customers to specifically leave reviews on Google.
Consumers care most that the review describes a positive experience. That’s because consumers like to see themselves in the reviews. They want to be able to picture themselves as a happy customer that is pleased with the job that was done. The more reviews you have that highlight a great experience, the more likely a potential customer is going to be to find one that fits their situation.
Also highly important are the star rating and that the business owner has responded to the review. The survey had additional questions on both those points that shed further light…
54% would want to see an average star rating of 4-star or more
When you read that 58% said that it’s important that the business has “a high star rating” you may have asked yourself what qualifies as a high star rating. For most consumers it would have to be an average star rating of 4 or more.
89% of consumers are ‘highly’ or ‘fairly’ likely to use a business that responds to all of its online reviews.
57% say they would be ‘not very’ or ‘not at all’ likely to use a business that doesn’t respond to reviews at all.
These numbers paint a clear case for the importance of responding to reviews. If you haven’t been doing that you should probably start today – 89% is a huge number and a great chance to win business.
48% say that a review must be left within the last month or more recently to impact their decision to use a business.
Recency matters. With all that has changed in the past two and a half years, many consumers feel that only the most recent reviews can give an adequate representation of the service the business provides. Consider restaurants, if you’ve gone out to eat you’ve probably experienced a number of ups and downs based on requirements, supply chain, staffing, etc.
The best way to ensure you have recent reviews is to consistently ask for reviews.
Much of the data from this recent survey echoes the information that we shared in our blog Online Reviews – 5 Key Factors. The main point remains this – reviews are one of the most important factors for who a consumer decides to call when they are looking for local services. To give your business the best chance to get that call, you want to consistently ask your happy customers for reviews.
Our Integrated Reviews platform helps our customers get more online reviews. To learn how we can help do that for your painting business, call us at 919-424-6121 or schedule a meeting with us at a time that’s convenient for you!
Wednesday, June 1, 2022
The vast majority of people now search online to find local service providers. Some people ask a friend they trust if the situation arises, and those recommendations are very valuable. But most people don’t poll their friends or family on all of their service providers.
And nine out of ten search engine queries happen on Google. That market domination is how Google made $34 billion in 2020. While places like Facebook and Instagram are great for name recognition and showing off your work, their biggest benefits are keeping you connected with people who are already following you and increasing your online presence, helping you place better on Google.
That’s why this article focuses on Google.
There are billions of searches on Google every day – and 75% of the time, the searchers never view the second page of search results. That’s why big companies spend enormous amounts of marketing dollars to earn top placement for the most common search phrases.
Fortunately, as an independent painting contractor, you don’t need to search well for those really (really) expensive phrases. That’s because you’re only looking for customers in your area, and it’s much easier to search well when you’re only interested in people who live nearby.
But there’s still plenty of competition. Some painters in your area have probably had active websites for years. Websites like Porch, HomeAdvisor and Yelp are also competing for those spots, hoping to steal those potential customer clicks so they can sell them back to you as leads.
While independent painting contractors can absolutely search well and get business from Google, it’s going to take a lot more than putting up a five-page website with a phone number and a list of your services.
Google’s search formula is one of the closest guarded secrets in the world. But thousands of companies (including ProPainter Websites) spend their days tracking what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to getting great Google search results. We all provide a service called Search Engine Optimization, or SEO.
Unfortunately, there are also a lot of cheats and con artists out there who claim to do SEO but do little or nothing. One sign that a web provider can’t (or won’t) help you is that they can’t explain what they actually do. Don’t fall for their buzzword boloney – SEO isn’t complicated, but it is hard. Like painting, it’s a straightforward task, but it requires patience, focus, and a lot of hard work.
To search well, you have to think like Google. Google makes money because everyone uses its search engine – and everyone uses Google because it’s extremely good at answering their questions. When someone searches for a painting contractor near them, Google wants to provide that person with the best options first, and it also wants to avoid providing any false or outdated information.
When people search for house painters or painting contractors, Google lists contractors who serve that customer’s area – and it puts the ones it’s most confident about at the top of the list.
When people search for specific painting services, Google prioritizes contractors that it knows provide those services. It prioritizes contractors it knows are reliable – contractors that are still in business and still do good work. That’s how Google keeps people coming back to their search engine, and that’s how it keeps making money.
When people look for service providers online, Google wants to show them service providers in their area. But what is an “area”?
In most cases, “area” means city. If you work in one of the biggest cities in the country, an area might be a neighborhood, like Queens or the Bronx. If you work in a rural area, an area may be a county or multi-county region.
If you want to search well within an area, the absolute minimum requirement is that you list the area on your website as a place you serve. Get specific. It’s much better for each defined place within the area you serve – think cities, towns, villages, etc. – to have its own page within your website. While Google knows that most painting contractors cover a wide area, they want to provide searchers with options that they know offer their services close to them.
You’ll also want to be sure that you have your service area well-defined in your Google Business Profile. Google will use that as a key indicator of what locations you serve.
People are looking for many different things when they search for painters online. Of course, many of them want to find a house painter. Others are looking for a cabinet refinisher, a portrait painter or an automotive or boat paint shop. And then there’s a long list of oddball requests – art galleries, wine and design studios, face painters, industrial coatings and the list goes on.
That’s why Google’s algorithm examines your content to see if you’re really offering what the searcher is looking for.
Google prioritizes websites with great content on a topic – content that’s informative, easy to read, and shows up well no matter what computer or smartphone a person is using. So when someone searches for “exterior painter near me” or “interior repaint”, painting contractors whose websites have the best information about those specific services will show up toward the top of the results.
But what if the search is more specific? If someone searches for “crown molding painting”, Google will examine local painters’ websites for information about painting crown molding. If your website has that information, you’ll perform much better in the search results than competitor websites that don’t. The same is true for faux finishes, or even deck staining or garage epoxy. Websites with paragraphs of content on these topics will search better than websites that just list them. And if your site doesn’t reference the specific service, you’re not likely to show up in the search results at all.
So, just like the individual pages for towns and cities, you’ll want individual pages on your website for each of the services you provide, or at least for the categories of services you provide.
Up to this point, all you’ve needed to do to place well on Google is say the right things in the right places on your website. That’s great news, because it means that a competent web provider with enough content on specific painting services can do big things for your web presence.
Web providers can help with reliability too. They can make sure your website is kept up-to-date, and that the content changes periodically so Google knows you’re still an active business. They can make sure that your site loads quickly and reliably when people visit it. They can even provide tools to help make it easier to get positive reviews.
But there are three things that web providers and digital marketers can’t do, and those are the things that help businesses with good search results get the very best search results.
If a person visits your site and stops searching for information on house painters, Google interprets that as a searcher finding the information they were looking for. Over time, this boosts your search results!
But if a searcher visits your site and quickly returns to Google, that tells Google the searcher didn’t get what they wanted from your website.
As hard as it can be to stop working to take a quote request (especially if you’re already booked) this is one big reason it’s important to answer calls whenever you can. If a customer can’t reach you, they quickly return to Google and continue their search. Not only are you likely to lose the lead, but this can also impact your search results.
If you are thinking that this is a lot of work – it is. But if you are able to execute on it well, it will be well worth the effort.
If you’d like somebody to help you, we’d be happy to. We’ve built dozens of pages of content for painting contractors and we’ve tested the content to confirm it searches well. We also have a platform that can make it much easier for you to ask clients for reviews. Contact us today at 919-424-6121 or schedule a meeting for a day and time that is convenient for you.
Thursday, May 5, 2022
Social media can be tricky to use effectively for any small business. It can be a massive time suck. It’s easy to confuse activity with progress. And one controversial post can ruin a reputation you spent years (and maybe decades) building.
In this blog we are going to share some advice based on questions that we often get asked by painting contractors about social media.
The first question you should ask yourself is: what are you trying to achieve on social media? Are you using social media deliberately to accomplish something for your business? Or, are you really using it for personal use?
If you are on there because you just enjoy it and it’s fun for you, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. You might enjoy being a part of a community of painting contractors, or your local community. Both of those are great.
However, if you are doing it with the hopes of attracting customers, whether you are targeting new customers, repeat customers or both, you have to think through your approach. The first step is to build your audience, your second step is to increase engagement of your audience.
American Painting Contractor (APC) conducted a really interesting survey recently where they asked painting contractors what their social platform of choice was. Here are the results:
The question doesn’t distinguish whether it’s for personal or business use but we can probably assume that most people who answered the survey factored in both.
However, if you want to utilize social media to help you attract new customers you should use the platform that is going to give you the opportunity to connect with the most potential customers. Who is your target audience? What is their social media platform of choice? That’s where you want to be.
No! What usually happens is you spread yourself too thin trying to do it all and end up using them all poorly. You will be much better off focusing on one or maybe two social media platforms at most.
Encourage everybody you interact with to follow you. Provide content that informs, entertains and engages your followers.
This depends partly on the platform you are using, but as mentioned above you want to inform, entertain and engage your followers. Notice that I didn’t say “sell to.” We recommend using the 80/20 rule with at most only 20% of your content being sales-type messaging. That may include a special promotion or a new service. Feel free to do less than 20%. If you hit a new follower with buy, buy, buy then they will turn you off and you’ll never have an opportunity to reach them again.
The quickest way to build your audience beyond asking everybody you interact with to follow you is to educate or entertain your followers. Share your painting techniques with them. Tell them how to identify signs that the outside of their home needs to be re-painted. Share trends in homeowner color choices. Poll your followers to see what their favorite color is for kitchen cabinets. This is the type of content they will be most likely to share with their connections.
You can also feel free to post great photos of your best work and new jobs you complete – those could inspire your audience. Providing inspiration to pursue those renovation projects they’ve always wanted to purse is another way to engage them.
We recommend posting consistently three to five times a week. However, stick to the plan and make sure your posts meet a certain quality level. If you are just going through the motions to check off a box then reassess whether you should be posting at all. Fewer posts of a higher quality are better than many posts that stink.
This depends on many things including how active you are, the size of your market and how well you are able to engage your audience. That being said you would hope to have gotten a new customer by the six month mark of your consistent efforts.
There are several other things that we could cover but hopefully these tips will at least get you started or provide you some new guidance to improve your current social media efforts. Different things will work with different groups in different markets. Pay close attention to the posts that get you the most interaction and try to do more of those types of posts.
To learn how ProPainter Websites can help you attract more customers, call us at 919-424-6121 or schedule a meeting for a day and time that is convenient for you.
Thursday, April 28, 2022
With 93% of consumers using the internet to find local businesses, painting contractors with websites that show up high on Google’s search engine results pages are highly likely to receive lots of calls from potential customers. But how can your website consistently achieve strong performance in search?
We recently wrote a blog highlighting the Top 10 Organic Search Ranking Factors for Painting Contractor Websites in 2022. This is part two of that blog, covering ranking factors 11 through 20. To begin, let’s take another look at the chart of the top 20:
A big thank you goes out to Whitespark for their 2021 Local Search Ranking Factors Survey. Now let’s look at each of the factors ranked 11 through 20 and how they apply to painting contractors.
This is the number of links you have coming into your website from other painting industry websites. Websites that would qualify and help you here include the PCA (Painting Contractors Association) and American Painting Contractor, as well as other website platforms that you may have established a profile on including Porch, Houzz, Angi, HomeAdvisor, etc.
How to Improve
Create profiles with links to your website on any of the web platforms that are free. Do what you can to get more links to your website from these sources and additional industry websites. Ask for links from all industry-related organizations you are a part of.
The only reason this factor isn’t higher is because it’s been a factor for long enough that almost every website is built with responsive design. That means that your website will adjust to look good on (almost) all devices that somebody might use to access it.
How to Improve
If you are unsure about your website, use your phone to access it. If it looks different than desktop and you can read the words easily because the font is bigger you should be good to go. If it looks like a miniature version of the website you see on your computer and the words are tiny then you want to get it fixed as soon as possible. The penalty for not having a responsive design/mobile-friendly website is that you likely won’t show up in any searches.
This is another emphasis on the importance of having a website that is well built out with rich, relevant content and lots of well written pages.
How to Improve
Make sure you have individual web pages for all the services that you provide. Make sure you’ve got good, quality content on each of those pages that describes the service in as much detail as possible, along with the experience that the customer can expect when they choose to work with your painting company.
This is part of proving your credibility to Google. The more websites that have links to your website, the more Google sees you as a credible expert in your field. Think of it a little like reviews. The more strongly positive reviews you see from more people for a business, service or product, the more likely you are to decide that business, service or product is high quality. Google looks at links to your website the same way.
How to Improve
Get more links to your website from other quality websites. Similar to #9 and #11, ask all of the businesses and organizations you are involved with to post links to your website. Don’t try to take a shortcut and pay somebody who tells you they can get you hundreds of links in a matter of days or weeks. Those will be very low quality links. They may even be considered “toxic” by Google and then your website is at risk of a significant penalty.
This one is a little bit technical. Your GMB landing page is the page that the website link on your Google Business Profile goes to. H1 and H2 tags are the headlines that you have on that page. You want to have relevant keywords in those headlines.
How to Improve
Take a look at the H1 and H2 text you have on the page linked to your Google Business Profile. If needed, edit them to include your one or two most important keywords.
Pretty simple here – this is the number of links to your website from other websites.
How to Improve
The same thing that helps you on #14 helps you with this one – get more links to your website from other quality websites.
Google does factor in user interactions to determine future search results. When Google sees that users are clicking on a specific website in the organic search results it will move that website up. Google is seeing that as a very good answer to the search the user is conducting.
If users are not clicking on a specific website in the search results then Google sees that as a sign that the website is not what users are looking for when they conduct that search. That website will fall in the search results.
How to Improve
Pay attention to your title tags and descriptions. These are your opportunities to get users to click on your website in the search results. You want these to include marketing language, but you don’t want to mislead users. If you do mislead users you are much more likely to get an immediate bounce, meaning they’ll click on your website but then almost instantly hit the back bar. That’s a big negative in Google’s eyes.
In this instance your domain refers to what is before the .com, .net, .biz or whatever other extension you may use for your website. So, for example our domain is propainterwebsites.com.
How to Improve
At this point you likely have what you are going to have. But, if you are able to include topical and location-based keywords in your domain it could definitely benefit you. Something like atlantahousepainters.com would absolutely help. If you haven’t already, take a look at what domains are currently available that could help you here.
For this one, take #11 and specifically apply it to the web page that your Google Business Profile links to.
How to Improve
Most painting contractors will have their home page linked on their Google Business Profile. They’ll also have their home page linked to from their business profiles on industry web platforms and other websites. In those instances, this will take care of itself. However, depending on the nature of your business, you may want to have your Google Business Profile link to a different page on your website. If that is the case, you’ll want to work to get industry links to that same page, as well as your home page.
You have no real control over this one – this is the text before and after the link on another website to your website.
How to Improve
While you can’t control it, you can help your chances of doing well on this by getting links from the types of websites that have been mentioned earlier in the article.
There is a lot of information contained in these two blogs and it could definitely be overwhelming. One of the best things you can do is to chop it into small chunks, prioritize based on the rankings, create a project plan and then start chipping away at it little by little.
If you want to hit the easy button and work with a provider that can take care of most of these things for you, we can help! Please call us at 919-424-6121 or schedule a meeting for a day and time that is convenient for you.