Think back: When’s the last time you opened your Yellow Pages? I’m talking about the phone directory made of paper, the one you’ve got sitting under that plant on your counter. Or did you Google whatever you were looking for on your laptop or smartphone? Be honest — would you take the time to flip through the yellow pages for something like home remodeling?
These days, more people are finding their information online than they are in a phone book. (As I write this article, someone has posted a Facebook photo of their Yellow Pages book in the trash.)
That means, for a majority of the population, paper is passé. People are searching online for phone numbers. And why not? It’s fast and your phone is always at hand.
Paper is so outre — it’s all about the web now
What this means to home remodeling professionals is that your search engine ranking is absolutely crucial to your success. Unlike a phone book, Google doesn’t list search results in alphabetical order. Google’s goal is to return the best possible match to the words you type in. The search engine ranks home remodeling services like yours based on over 200 signals — including the quality of your website content, its load speed, its mobile-friendliness and even your Google Business listing.
Having a home remodeling website isn’t enough. Clients have to actually find it online for it to bring you any business.
So if you want to be found when people in your city or service area do an online search, you’ll need the help of a search engine optimization (SEO) company or professional. An SEO knows a lot of the tricks of the trade to help improve their clients’ placement in Google, Yahoo and Bing.
(I’ll refer to Google in this article because they control 65 percent of the U.S. search engine market. Just know that this information applies to the other two search engines as well.)
So how to find the right SEO company?
Much in the same way homeowners decide whether you’re the right home remodeling company for them. They do research, ask questions and ask their friends. You’re going to do the same thing. You’re going to do some research, and ask some good questions, in order to find the best SEO professional for your company.
(It’s also important to note that I’m talking about organic search results — not paid search. Anyone can pay for a top ranking in Google’s ads, so that’s not going to take a special company. It’s going to take a fat wallet.)
A duck walks into a bar …
There’s an old joke in SEO circles that you can find the best SEO company just by searching Google. “If you’re not at the top, you must not be any good.”
Except that’s not accurate anymore because Google now rarely shows the absolute rankings for any category. Instead, what you see listed first, second and so on is based on a variety of factors, including your location and your past search history.
And if you’re logged into one of your Google properties — Gmail, Google Drive, or even YouTube — they know a lot about you. That means they’re going to deliver the best possible results. Hey, they want to make you happy with their service so you’ll use them again.
But if you’re like most business owners, you’ve probably Googled your company name and found that you already rank fairly high. Do you even need help with SEO?
Let’s do an experiment
Google the phrase “home remodeling.” What’s at the top of the page? Hopefully, it’s your company. In fact, I’m betting yours will be one of the top results, if not the top result. That’s because Google is looking for the home remodeling company closest to you, which is … uh, you.
If your business doesn’t show up near the top when you search “home remodeling,” you need help.
Remember, Google always searches for the best possible match for your needs, so they’ll look at your Google Business listing, whether you’ve shared your web address on Twitter, whether you’ve visited that page previously — they might even look at your past Google+ activity.
There are a number of factors in play, but chances are, your home remodeling company will show up at or near the top because Google wants to show you the result that matters the most to you, the searcher: your company.
(Hint: If your company didn’t show up at all, you’ve got bigger problems. You don’t just need the right SEO company, you need one right now. Keep reading!)
If your business did show up at the top, it doesn’t mean you’re winning at Google. It means you’re winning at Google in a very small radius around your current location.
I had you do this to illustrate two very important points:
- You may need help with search engine optimization (SEO) in order to get your listing in front of more home remodeling clients.
- You can’t trust Google to find the “best” SEO company, because the best company won’t necessarily show up in your listing — the closest one will.
If you want to find the best SEO home remodeling service, do a few web searches. Check out your local Chamber of Commerce member listing. Look on LinkedIn. Search for SEO companies in other cities, and check them out on Twitter. (But avoid the ones who email you out of the blue on LinkedIn. I’ve been getting a lot of spam from those guys, which never speaks highly of a company.)
Know what to ask
There are a few things you need to look for in an SEO company. Knowledge, experience, and past performance are the three big areas to examine. You want a company that specializes in SEO, but you could settle for a marketing agency with an SEO specialist on staff.
As you talk to these companies, there are a few questions you want to ask.
1. How do your current clients rank in search? Normally, this would be “can you show me past samples of your work?” but SEO can change so much that what worked three years ago won’t work now. So, instead, you want to see how their current clients are faring. That will tell you how the SEO company is coping with the current Google landscape and requirements.
2. What are some of the tools you use? You’re not so concerned with what they use, but that they use any tools at all. Good SEO companies rely on more than just blogs and WordPress plugins. If they say things like Moz, SEOBook or Lipperhey, that’s great. If they don’t use any tools, or they tell you they do it all with blogging, they’re not going to be a good fit. (You do need blogging, but it’s part of an SEO strategy, not the whole strategy.)
3. How long have you been in business? Newer is not always bad and longer is not always better. The better question is how long the people have been doing SEO, not the company. You may encounter a new company started by someone who left an SEO agency a few months earlier, so that’s still someone worth working with.
4. How did you learn SEO? How do you keep up with changes in the industry? There are no real college classes, but there are plenty of online webinars, books and articles. Google is always changing its SEO best practices, so you want to work with people who are always learning and improving their knowledge.
The right answer to the question, “What kind of results should I expect?” is “I don’t know, it varies.”
5. What kind of results should I expect? The right answer is “I don’t know, it varies.” The wrong answer is anything that promises a ranking or percentage. No one actually knows how any SEO campaign will work. No one can accurately predict any kind of improvement. So if your SEO company promises actual quantifiable results, they’re not being honest with you.
6. How will you measure success? This is the most important question. You’re not just interested in how your home remodeling company ranks in the search results, because you could rank for a term no one searches. The whole reason you’re considering SEO is so you can get more leads from interested clients, not just to boost your Google rank. You’d be better off ranking 8th for “home improvement Indianapolis” than you would ranking absolute first for “handcrafted door and window restoration experts for Second Empire homes.”
Can I ask for a guaranteed ranking?
No. No, you cannot get a guaranteed ranking on Google.
Be wary of any SEO professional who promises you a guaranteed rank on Google. They either don’t know what they’re talking about, or they’re lying. There is no third option.
If you ever get a telemarketing call or email promising you a No. 1 ranking on search engines, steer clear of them. Those are extremely dishonest because they’ll either get you a No. 1 ranking for a very esoteric keyword, like “organic bathroom tile mildew removal services” (that no one is searching for) or they’re counting on you not knowing about local search results. They’ll tell you you’re ranking first, and hope you don’t realize it’s for a three-block radius around your house.
Second, ranks change on a regular basis. What was first today could be fifth tomorrow, and you have no way of knowing or predicting. So how would you measure a No. 1 ranking? The length of time? Rankings for different keywords? You could hold the top rank on Google for two hours, and they’ve met their guarantee. (Then you drop 400th the following week, because they used some forbidden practices to boost you up in the first place, and now they won’t return your calls.)
Search engine optimization is as much an art as a science. And no one actually knows how it works because Google won’t tell anyone.
The best SEO companies test ideas, do original research, and keep up with what the industry leaders are doing elsewhere.
Bottom line: Choose wisely, then be patient
As a home remodeling company looking to boost your ranking, you want to work with a reputable SEO company that has the experience, knowledge, and skill to help you improve your search engine rankings and your sales leads on the keywords that will help you the most.
It’s an ongoing process, so don’t expect a quick fix. Find someone who can deliver on their promises and make sure you want to work with them for several months. If you find the right SEO firm, they’ll pay for themselves with all the extra work you’ll be getting.
Finally, if you still have questions, Google has an excellent explanation of what SEO is, what it does, and what you have to do (and not do) to be included in their list. Look it over before you call your first SEO company.
Want to learn more about hiring for SEO? Check out the articles in the “Contracting SEO” series:
- Hiring an SEO company: 7 dealmakers
- Hiring an SEO company: Straight facts and gut checks
- Why your SEO company might recommend a website redesign
Also published on Medium.