One of the biggest trends in online marketing right now is the rise of local search marketing. More consumers are using search engines to find information about products and services located close to where they live and work, or in their immediate area, by searching from their mobile devices. This trend is creating big opportunities for small businesses who can capture more of their local market by making it easier for people in their local community to find their website with relevant search terms and keywords.
We talked with Idan Shpizear, President and Co-founder of 911 Restoration, a home restoration business specializing in water damage and disaster recovery.
Shpizear’s company has achieved significant success with local search marketing and search engine optimization (SEO). They strategically focus on helping people connect with local franchises of 911 Restoration whenever they are dealing with the aftermath of an emergency or disaster in their home (fire, flood, pipe bursts, sewer backup, etc.) that needs to be cleaned up.
In addition to serving local customers in the Los Angeles area, 911 Restoration makes money by selling franchises to other business owners throughout the U.S., providing a complete “business in a box” and customer service support to people who want to start their own business by purchasing their own local 911 Restoration franchise. Shpizear said that in the past year, his company has sold more than 13 franchises, amounting to more than 50 locations total, after only 7 years in business. 911 Restoration plans to double its number of franchises to 100 by the end of 2015.
Idan Shpizear offered several helpful insights on how local search marketing has made a difference for his company, and how other small businesses can achieve bigger success with these high-potential marketing techniques.
What type of local marketing have you done this year? What has worked well?
Our business model differs from other disaster restoration companies in that it revolves almost completely around local marketing efforts in conjunction with an overarching marketing agenda. We use targeted Search Engine Optimization to single out specific keywords for each franchise. We create hundreds of new web pages that all link together to form a cohesive chain of authority that Google recognizes and thus advances us to the higher orders of search result ranking. For example, we have a franchise in Chicago, but we have created not only a web page for Chicago, but also one for every city, village, and community surrounding it as well.
What are you doing differently with your local marketing, compared to a year or two ago?
Google and other search engines continue to change the algorithms and metrics that they use to rank websites and provide search results. We are in a constant battle to determine how the metrics and algorithms work, and then we tailor each website to specifically utilize that information so that we can reach or maintain our position at the top of the ranking results. Last year Google used a different search engine logic set than they do today.
Is local marketing becoming more important to your business? If so, why? What do you see as some of the overall trends driving this? Have you changed your technology/online marketing approach to be more “local-friendly?”
Local marketing is our business, and our metrics are almost entirely based around localizing our mobile search engine optimization efforts. When people these days search for what they want or need, more often than not they are doing so on their smartphones. That requires us to discover what works for the search engine and then we conform our keywords and marketing agenda around that. Essentially we are always chasing down the latest way to be at the top of the list when a person searches for something.
We generate leads and thus income almost entirely from people who search for specific terms on Google, Bing or Yahoo. Our strategy is to create web pages for specific franchisees in all of the locations that they could reach within 45 minutes of their home base, as that is our standard response time. Then when people search for specific terms or “keywords” within the area that indicate they are experiencing the problem, such as “pipe burst” or “sewer backup” or “mold removal,” our results pop up at the top of the list and we are much more likely to get a conversion from that view of our website and turn it into a service call.
For example, when you type “water damage” into your phone or ask Siri, it will recognize where you are searching from and tailor the results to your specific location. We work with that, rather than work around it, by building websites for pretty much every location possible within hours of each franchise. So if you’re in a suburb an hour outside of Chicago and you type in “water damage”, it will still put us at the top of the list of Google search results, even though our main office is in Chicago metro and you are in a small town outside the city that most people have never heard of. But we have targeted all of those smaller locations, and we have dedicated websites for them.
Do most customers in your industry tend to look for a restoration company that’s close to where they live? Is it a location/search-based thing, where people suddenly have this problem – fire damage, water damage – and they need to find someone who’s in their area and they might not have any idea where to start? What’s your customers’ typical mindset when they are searching for information?
We decided to pursue local marketing as a strategy because business is all about location, location, location, and our business model is no different. When you have a pipe burst in your home, you solve the problem by calling experts, like ours at 911 Restoration, while you’re standing in the pool that was once your living room. You don’t go to work while the leak is still flowing and then search for the companies that service your area. Our model works for the most part because emergencies happen all the time, and someone proficient in solving them needs to be at the ready all the time for whenever the customers call. That’s why our services are offered 24/7, and we will always respond within 45 minutes.
For other types of services that we do that aren’t necessarily an emergency, we rely on simply ranking at the top of the list for whatever they might search for. This allows us to compete with other restoration companies who rely on quasi partnerships with insurance companies for leads. People who are calling because of an emergency situation are usually a bit frazzled and likely require some quick advice, followed up with our technicians on scene to solve the problem in person.
Many times we save homeowners from excessive damage simply by telling them how to shut off the water main to their home. This lessens the damage that is ultimately caused, and so we save our clients time and money through quick bits of advice over the phone.
Lots of small business owners might feel intimidated by doing SEO or might not be sure how to get started. How would you advise them to take that first step toward doing more local search marketing? Where should they start, even if they’re not ready to hire an SEO firm?
We started out doing mostly pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, and then we realized that there is a whole world open to us in SEO marketing that we needed to take advantage of in order to remain competitive. So for us, it was a necessity to learn the SEO trade. As more and more people increase their mobile Internet usage with smartphones, the number of people that use traditional Yellow Pages to find their solutions is depleting rapidly, and we knew that we needed to keep pace with the times.
To those that haven’t yet taken the plunge into SEO marketing, and can’t afford to hire someone with SEO talents, the road will be a bit longer, but nothing is impossible. There are a number of great sites out there to help you start building your website. They provide you with information on what works and what doesn’t, as well as how to build domain authority, ranking, and the ultimate goal – conversion. SEO is only worth the time investment if it converts views into sales for whatever your business is.
If you truly know nothing about SEO, but you do have the ability to hire someone who does, then I suggest searching for someone with lots of previous experience, but who is also willing to walk you through what they are doing so you can gain an understanding of what you’re paying for. If you can’t hire someone to teach you, then you’ll have to spend some time learning the ropes and taking some chances that might not work out, but at least because you did it, you’ll understand why.
I suggest to someone that has never tried SEO marketing before and is willing to spend some time, to start by learning to build your own website. Then once it’s “done” find out how it ranks, and how many people have seen it using Google’s analytics tools, or AuthorityLabs.com as another metric for success. Then when you get an idea of where your page stands in the search engine rankings, you can start experimenting with things like back links and authority building to advance your purposes. We experiment with new techniques and test them out on a weekly, and sometimes daily basis.
But this level of participation shouldn’t scare anyone off from trying SEO marketing. It can also be really fun to dive into SEO techniques and get better at it. When I first started exploring all of this it seemed nearly impossible to wrap my head around, but a few deep breaths and lots of reading and I started to grow an organic understanding of how it all works. And an important thing to keep in mind is that no one knows everything about this trade. We try and do the best we can, and hire the smartest and most talented people we can get, but at the end of the day the SEO world is a constantly changing landscape and you just need to roll with the punches as they come.
One thing that is almost guaranteed to bring better search results that anyone can do on their own is to create content that is highly engaging. Word of mouth still exists on the Internet too, and if you are the best at what you do, and your website reflects that, then you’re already a huge step above much of the competition. Have you ever gone to a website and just been bombarded with ads and junk writing that doesn’t teach you anything, or help in any way? That is the exact opposite of what you should do if you are a legitimate business with legitimate skills. Make it good, and they will come.
Have you tried local search marketing and SEO to get more sales leads for your business? How important is “location” for your business model? Leave a comment and let us know – or tweet us at @KabbageInc.