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Tuesday, November 22, 2022

We have not been shy about emphasizing the value of customer reviews. The recently released Impact of Local Business Reviews on Consumer Behavior report by Moz features a survey they had conducted with 1,300 people in September 2022 that sheds even more light on the impact of reviews. This will be the first of two blogs in which we will highlight the pieces of the survey that we think are most important to painting contractors.

First, here are some of the major points which mostly reinforce previous findings:

  • 96% of consumers read online reviews
  • 56% of consumers read online reviews at least weekly
  • 36% said the star rating matters most to them when looking at reviews
  • 28% said the written content of the review matters most
  • 17% said recency of the reviews matters most

It’s safe to say that almost all of your customers and potential customers are reading online reviews for your business. What’s most interesting to me about these five data points is that 28 percent said the written content of the reviews matters most to them. That goes to show that when you can you absolutely want to encourage happy customers to write a review that includes details of the services you provided and the customer service they experienced.

The rest of the questions we’ll cover in this blog are very valuable questions about how people look at reviews that I’ve either never seen asked or haven’t seen asked in this specific way.

How many positive reviews do you normally read before deciding a business is worth a try?

Wow! I would never have thought that 57 percent of people want to read 10 or more positive reviews for a business before they are willing to give it a try. I see many painting contractor Google Business Profiles that don’t even have 10 reviews total.

How many reviews do you have for your business? If it’s less than 20 you should definitely put some urgency into your efforts to ask happy customers for reviews.

Who do you trust more, the business or customers?

Who do you trust more the business or the customers?

This is not a surprising number, but I have not seen this asked so directly in such a high quality survey before. Think of it this way – 1 in 3 potential customers are going to trust what you say while the other 2 are going to put much more stock in what your customers say about the business. And of course, where do they most often go to find that information – reviews.

After reading enough positive reviews to be interested in a business, what do you most often do next?

What do you do next after reading a business's positive reviews?

As a painting contractor you may not have a “place of business” for the potential customer to go to. But that’s okay, that 27% will probably be split between visiting the website and direct contact.

The website point is important. Potential customers want to see additional proof of a business’s credibility and having that website can play a significant role in providing the proof.

Apart from visiting review sites, what else do you do to understand a business’ reputation?

What else do you do to understand a business's reputation?

It’s no surprise that consumers ask their friends and family about a business. But look at how close the second and third most popular choices are. Looking on social media for feedback about the business is only 12 points lower than asking friends and family. Looking at reviews/testimonials on a business’s own website is a little further behind than asking family and friends but it’s still relatively close to 50 percent.

So, while people are still turning to friends and family, they are also looking for additional social proof on social media and your website. We will often talk to painting contractors who take for granted the opportunity to include reviews/testimonials on their website. They will say that those reviews don’t really matter on a website. But as you can see here, they absolutely do matter.

If you are not currently asking consistently for reviews from happy customers I hope seeing this data will convince you that it is really important to do so. If you are in a market where the competition doesn’t have a lot of reviews you can very quickly get a huge competitive advantage on them by building up your reviews. On The Sharp Edge Podcast we highlighted how to ask for Google reviews and what to ask for.

A massive thank you goes out to Moz for commissioning this survey and producing this report that can help so many small businesses make good decisions about how they approach reviews and marketing. They also created the cool graph images featured above.

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!


Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Are you taking enough photos of your work? We talk to a surprising number of painting contractors who don’t have photos of their most recent jobs. This is a missed opportunity! Here’s why photos can be your best selling tool.

1. Homeowners make emotional decisions

It’s true – the vast majority of humans make emotional decisions and then seek to justify them with facts and logic. A picture can evoke many emotions. Seeing a breathtaking photo of the beautiful work you’ve done is a great way to influence a potential customer. They see that and say to themselves, “Wow! That’s beautiful – I want something like that.”

Even if it’s not the type of job they are looking for, just seeing your beautiful work and the really cool jobs you’ve done over and over again will evoke an emotion that convinces them that you are a true craftsman. They want great work done on their house and they are going to want you to do it.

Rib Eye Steak

A good comparison for this is pictures of food. Whether you like fancy food or comfort food you have almost definitely seen a picture of a specific dish and thought that you wanted to eat that as soon as you could. Homeowners can experience the same thing when seeing pictures of your work.

So make sure you’ve got photos of all your best work and of those jobs that were a little beyond what you typically do.

2. Homeowners want to see proof that you’ve done the job they are looking to get done

For the smaller percentage of homeowners who are more logic or fact focused, they want to see pictures that show that you’ve successfully delivered on the type of job they have. That’s also true for those emotional decision makers who are now looking for facts to justify their emotional decision that you will delight them with your work.

If your bread and butter work is residential repaints, make sure you have a lot of pictures of residential repaints. That’s true for whatever specialty you may have. You’ll also want variety and comprehensiveness. Make sure you’ve got many pictures of all the different rooms in a home.

It’s also important to remember, in most cases whether it’s through your website or social media, your prospective customer is going to see these photos before you even get a chance to talk to them. Make sure you’ve got pictures of all potential jobs.

With that in mind, here are some to-dos:

  • Make a list of all the types of work you do and the photos you need to show your work. Focus on the details and be specific – rooms, specialties, exterior, etc.
  • Next, make sure you have at least five photos of everything you put on the list.
  • If you are missing some, make sure you start capturing photos of those specific things in upcoming jobs. Create a plan to ensure this happens.
  • Take photos after you complete every job. Make it part of your closing process. Catch up on the photos you need. Take pictures of especially interesting elements. And don’t overcomplicate it – your phone can take pictures that will work great on your website and/or on social media.
  • Make sure you’ve got updated photos on your website. As you get in the habit of taking photos, make sure you post those photos on your website or send them to your website provider to post. You don’t have to post every photo of every job, but be sure to post at least three to five.
  • Post a steady stream of photos on your social media channels. I will always say that you are better off focusing on one channel than spreading yourself too thin. If you can post daily on Facebook and Instagram it would be ideal. The good news is that through your business account you can schedule out posts. If you can’t do that, try to post at least two to three times a week on one of those platforms.

A picture is worth a thousand words. That’s absolutely true when it comes to communicating the value you provide and the great work that you do. Use that to your advantage and leverage photos to bring in your target customers.

We can help you use your best photos to attract new customers through your website and Google Business Profile. If you’d like to know more, please contact us today at 919-424-6121 or schedule a meeting for a day and time that is convenient for you.


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.

“You need to renew your domain immediately!”

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.

“I found errors on your website!”

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.

The deceiver will highlight a bunch of things that are truly not affecting the website’s ability to search well and draw in customers.

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.

Predatory marketing companies will hold your website to a standard that can only be met by the biggest brands.

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.

Painting Contractor search in Garner, NC

“Nobody can find your business on the web!”

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.

The Good News

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 martin.morgan@propainterwebsites.com 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

What do people do when they need to find a local service provider?

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.


The Competition to Win on Search Is Strong

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.

How Do I Search Well on Google?

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.


What does that mean for you?  Let’s deconstruct what Google wants and talk about how you can provide what it wants.

1. Proving You Serve the Customer’s Area

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.

2. Proving You Provide the Right Services

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.

3. Proving You’re Reliable

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.

  • Provide Friendly Service and a Great Paint Job – Sometimes businesses get unlucky. But in general, businesses who provide great service tend to have happy customers.  When businesses fall short and don’t make it right with the customers those customers spread the bad experience – and each time they talk about it, the story gets exaggerated a bit more.
  • Request Reviews from Customers – Even if you provide great service, customers tend to not leave reviews unless you ask for them. Asking happy customers for a Google review is important because businesses with great Google reviews typically search better than other businesses.  Google wants to prioritize businesses that provide the best customer experience.  Reviews are one of their most important sources of customer feedback on service quality and reliability.
  • End the Customer’s Search – One of the things that Google tracks is how many people have their question answered by your website.

    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.

In summary – the key points for searching well on Google:

  1. Prove you serve the customer’s area. Define the area you serve well.  Reference it broadly and specifically in the content on your website.  Create individual pages for cities and towns.  Set your service area in your Google Business Profile.
  2. Prove you provide the right services. Reference all of the services you provide in multiple places on your website.  Create individual pages for each service or at least for the service category (interior painting, for example).  Include significant content about the services.
  3. Prove you’re reliable. Provide great service and request reviews from happy customers – especially ask them to post Google reviews.  Ask them to contact you on your website and respond to them as quickly as you can when they do.

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.

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