Maintaining a blog is a major undertaking that may not be the best strategy for every plumbing business. In this post, we explain why it can take years to see a major return on your investment. On the other hand, we also look at why a blog for your plumbing business, can have one of the best cumulative impacts of any marketing strategy.
To write this guide, we talked to Isaac Holmgren, the co-founder of Labtorio, a consulting firm that works with home service professionals and contractors. Holmgren has an extensive background helping plumbing companies with their marketing strategies.
Read on to see whether a blog is right for you. And if you do decide to start a blog, you can follow our step-by-step guide to creating a successful content strategy.
For a home services business, the main benefit of a blog is to attract new customers via Internet searches. When someone searches for a plumbing company in their area or any other related search, you want to show up on the first page.
A quality blog can boost your site’s overall domain authority. This is a search engine’s idea of how relevant your site is to a specific topic. You want a domain authority for anything related to plumbing.
When you have twenty-plus quality pages related to various plumbing topics on your site, this tells Google or Bing that you know what you’re talking about when it comes to plumbing.
This can help your site rank better overall. How this works:
1) You’ve written a blog post about preventing clogged drains. It’s more informative and useful than most other web pages on the topic, so it begins to rank well on searches related to clogged pipes.
2) Next, you write similarly helpful posts for sewage issues, what to do when a pipe breaks, etc. More blog posts start to rank well.
3) Google begins to see you as a plumbing authority and starts to rank all of your pages higher. You’re more likely to show up higher on more competitive searches like “plumbing companies near me.”
Here’s the strategy in action. 3 Mountains Plumbing Company in Portland, Oregon maintains a great blog with six years-worth of posts. Holmgren discovered the blog when he was researching companies in the Northeast region for another client.
It’s probably because of their blog (and other great site content) that they show up multiple times on the first page of many search queries for plumbers in Portland.
Why is theirs such a great blog? Holmgren explains:
“They do a good job of writing like a human, addressing actual problems that their customers would experience, and actually providing real information.”
Want more examples? Check out our list of eleven great plumbing blogs. And we’ll get more into how to write a great blog in a bit.
What Nobody Tells You about SEO
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the technical name for any activity you do to improve your place in the search results. And it is a mysterious, complicated thing, especially when it comes to local businesses. Google is constantly updating the algorithm it uses for search results. As a result, it’s impossible to be completely confident about the results of your SEO strategy.
So what I just wrote above is generally true, but not always.
For instance, your blog posts are more likely to be displayed to people searching in your area, but it’s not a given.
If you search for something like “How to fix a clogged drain,” the search results will probably favor national companies because it’s less likely a person doing that search is looking for a local company.
But ideally if a search seems more service related, you may see more results from small companies that have a local focus in the search results.
The problem is: sometimes these search results come from companies that aren’t even close to you.
As an example, I’m in Chicago, but when I search for low water pressure, I get results from plumbing companies in New York City and San Francisco.
As Holmgren explained, “Google’s not perfect at figuring out the relationship between a search query, a business’s location and the searcher’s location, but especially if a business has Google My Business connected up to their website, Google does take location into account.”
There are other reasons to start a blog. If a technician is talking to a client about the advantages of an electric water heater or why they have low water pressure, they can follow-up with useful posts that contain more information. These posts can help with customer retention by showing your business cares about being a resource and not just making a sale.
But they also help with sales. Blog posts can be crafted with upsells and cross-sells in mind by mentioning equipment and services a client might not have considered otherwise.
A blog can be a great marketing strategy if:
You have the time or financial resources to write good content
You don’t need an instant return on investment.
In other words, Holmgren explained, it all depends on your objective and how quickly you need to make your money back.
“If you’re planning to do it, you should plan to measure your timeline in years. It’s not something you can do for weeks or months and immediately know whether this is working or not. It’s a marketing decision that you commit to and see the results retrospectively over a longer period of time,” Isaac said.
Other marketing tactics like paid ads via Google Adwords or Yelp can have immediate results but not the same long-term payoff. “They’re more fickle and don’t build up over time the way that blogging does,” Holmgren said.
What Nobody Tells You about SEO
A blog is not the only way to improve your SEO. Google just wants to see multiple pages of quality relevant content. These can also be twenty static pages about all of your services and major frequently asked questions.
Also keep in mind that Google’s search result pages keep getting more and more complicated and often rewards folks who spend money with them.
Even if your site does rank really well organically, you have to compete with a lot of page space reserved for sponsored content. To really do well on Google and bring in new leads, you probably need both: paid ads and a good organic presence.
If you’ve decided that a blog is right for you, what comes next is a step-by-step guide laying out how to start.
Start With Your Customers
“The business owner is the expert. You know the problems you go out and fix for people. You know what they call you about,” Holmgren said.
Create a list of topics based on your customers. What services do you typically perform for them? Ask your technicians what questions customers commonly ask.
This also goes back to using blog posts as resources for existing customers, as well. If you’re constantly being asked about the different kinds of water heaters, it might be useful to have a resource you can point to on your site!
See What Other Plumbing Companies Are Writing About
You can use other plumbing blogs as inspiration. The goal here: write about the same things, but do it better.
Lots of plumbing companies have blogs but fill it with generic and unhelpful content. Check out what they’re writing about and what they’re specifically missing that your customers would want to know.
Remember, you shouldn’t steal their content. Don’t blog using the exact same title. Just use these blogs as starting points.
Check Out National Trends
Every six months or so, check out Google Trends to see what these national trends are that you can capitalize on.
Some topics will be relevant in any region. For instance, residents everywhere across the U.S. have issues with clogged drains, etc.
Check Out Related Searches
Built into Google’s search results pages are two ways to see what other topics people are searching for: the “People also ask” and “Searches related to” sections. Use these sections to find out what to write about and what keywords to use in your posts.
For instance, people search for clogged drains or blocked drains. It would be useful to use both terms in a blog post to make the post more relevant to both search queries.
If you use Chrome or Firefox, you can install a tool called Keywords Everywhere which will show you popular related searches, how many people search for those specific terms per month, and how much it would cost to advertise using Google Adwords.
If you haven’t already installed Google Analytics to run on your website, do it now. You’ll want to keep track of a few things:
How many people are visiting your website
Where they’re coming from (from Yelp, Google or Bing, etc)
What web pages they’re visiting
While you’re at it, make sure your website is linked to Google My Business which is how you show up in location searches and get reviews from customers.
Does someone on your team have both the time and ability? They need to be knowledgeable and able to write clearly on technical topics.
Not a grammarian? Consider hiring a proofreader. According to the Editorial Freelancer’s Association, the average rate for a proofreader is $30-$35 an hour and can handle nine to thirteen pages in that hour. Each blog post will be one to two pages max, so you’re looking at at least four to six blog posts for $35. Write a bunch of blog posts at once and send to a proofreader.
If you decide to outsource your blog, make sure you look for a writer or agency that cares as much about quality as they do traffic. Check out their portfolio. Did you learn something? If they don’t have plumbing experience, do they seem to have the ability to pick up technical topics easily? Start with a couple of trial pieces before signing a contract.
Posts should be between 450 and 800 words. “Most of the time, you’re trying to reach a small group of people that have an urgent problem, especially with plumbing.” Holmgren explained. “Your posts have to be succinct and to the point, they have to be useful and answer questions. If they do those things, they’re much more likely to be helpful to you and to your customers.”
There’s a misconception that you need to be blogging weekly to see a benefit. This isn’t true. Google values quality over quantity — just do it consistently. If you post one to two new posts a month for a couple of years, that adds up to a lot of great content that can help you be found and provide resources to your customers.
Unless you’ve found a way to integrate puppies or celebrity gossip, more than likely, your blog posts aren’t going to be widely shared, and that’s okay — it’s not really the goal.
Your main goal is to attract people who search for specific topics online. But there’s still value in sharing this content. Remember you are writing posts that educate home and business owners. Here are there sharing tactics to consider:
Share useful posts via a newsletter to your existing customers.
Share posts on your Facebook page.
Partner with other local service businesses to share each other’s content,
1. New Customers Mention a Blog Post
The number one way to know a blog post is successful is when a new customer mentions it. You can also encourage these mentions.
At the end of each blog post, add a line such as “Mention this blog post for 5% off your first service!” This serves double duty by encouraging leads to work with you, and it tells you what posts people are reading.
If you figure out what kind of content and topics people are engaging with, write more of them!
2. Set Up and Track Calls to Action (CTAs)
3. Use Google Analytics to Track Traffic and Queries
Google analytics can tell you how many people viewed each blog post and what they searched for that led to your site.
By itself, a blog isn’t a complete marketing strategy. As Holmgren explained, a blog is a great long-term marketing strategy that will pay off over a matter of years. But you should always be trying new things that help you attract new leads and retain existing customers. Try a mix of tactics to ensure both short-term and long-term growth.
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