On this video Josh Nelson of HVAC SEO explains how you can get your Cooling & Heating Business ranked on the Google Map for your AC Related Keywords in your city.
One of the most common questions that I get from HVAC and plumbing contractors all throughout the United States is how do I get my company to rank on the Google map when someone types in my city plus my service? There are multiple layers of complexity when it comes to answering that question.
It's not something you can buy your way into. You can't pay-per-click. You can't pay per spot A or spot B. You literally couldn't call Google and say, hey, I'll give you five grand if you put me in spot A for San Diego AC repair. It's just not an option. There are actually three core components that come in to play when getting ranked on the Google Map.
The first is having a claimed and optimized Google Places listing. That's just a function of you going out...There's a formal process for claiming your Google places listing and letting Google know that you're the owner and then optimizing it by putting in good information -- pictures of your staff, your trucks and what you do as an organization. Make sure you've got the right category selected and a clear description of your services. So, claiming and optimizing your Google Places listing.
The second real critical component is having a consistent name, address and phone number online. So, not just having your company name listed in Google Places. In order for Google to feel that you're an authority in your market, that you're a credible player, to really place you in the map, you need to be listed on other sites, like Citysearch, Angie's List and Judy's Book with the same information. The same name, address and phone number. So, having a consistent map across the web and that's what the second image is. It's you being referenced all over the web.
The third critical component is having real reviews. Online reviews from your real customers in your real service area, we find is a critical component for getting ranked on the map for your service plus your city. Obviously, you don't want to try and scam the system. You don't want to try and get fake reviews. You need true reviews.
The fourth component, which isn't as heavily weighted as the first three, is helping Google understand your true service area, especially within home services. Google doesn't know whether you serve a 10 mile radius or a 50 mile radius. So, helping Google understand your true service area is another critical component for getting ranked on the Google Map.
I'm going to drill down into each one of these in more depth.
So, let's start with claiming your Google Places listing. If you haven't already done this and this is new information to you, I would say take out a pen and paper and write this down immediately, Google.com/places. I'll just skip forward here. This is what the page looks like. It's Google.com/places. When you click that image on the right, there, that says, "Get Started."
There's a formal process that Google takes you through where you can formally claim your Google Places listing. From there, optimize it with information about who you are as a company, what you do, pictures of your company, pictures of your trucks and things like that.
Let's talk about how to claim your Google Places listing and some best practices. When you go in and claim your Google Places listing, it gives you the option to list your company name. One best practice, as it relates to doing that, is you only want to list your true legal name. You don't want to list Pete's Plumbing and Heating in Tampa, Florida. That's adding information. You only want to put your company name there. So, just Pete's Plumbing and Heating, if that's your company name. If that's how it's listed online and that's how you incorporated your organization, then, that's the way you want to do it. Don't ever add additional key words here.
There's some outdated information online that would indicate, hey why don't you just add your city in there, that will give you some more authenticity and it will help you to show up more often. That strategy is actually against Google's policies and procedures. You don't want to play that game. You don't want to do that.
Then, you're going to have the option to add your website address. Obviously, you want to put your address in there. Your website address creates a nice inbound link and also helps your consumer, your potential customer, to be able to go and get that additional information.
You always want to use a local number. Don't use an 800 number. As a matter of fact, 800 numbers don't rank very well. I rarely see in plumbing and HVAC companies with an 800 number ranked. The reason for that is it's called Google Plus Local. It is specifically meant for local businesses.
So, the connotation behind an 800 number is, I'm in Tampa and you're in some other state. You're in San Diego and if I dial this 800 number I won't be incurring a charge. Don't do it. It doesn't rank well. Plus, statistics tell us that local numbers actually convert better. If a customer gets to your HVAC website and they're reading about who you are and what you do and you've got a local number, they're more apt to call that local number than an 800 number.
Another best practice is you need to use a local address in your Google Places listing. It's not going to work to use a P.O. Box or UPS Store. There was a time where you could do that. It really just doesn't work that well. Google's privy to that.
There were some guys that were teaching you to, in every little city that you wanted to rank in, go out and set up a UPS box store and claim your listing in those different areas. For the most part, the companies I've seen that have done that in the past are now black balled. They can't even rank in their main city. So, don't try and play that game. Use your real business address. If it's a house, that's fine. You can get away with using a home address because there are businesses that happen to operate out of a home. You just need to play by the rules.
One of the rules that Google dictates is, as you go through the process of claiming your Google Places listing, it asks, do you service customers at your place of business? In other words, do they come to you, like at a store or at a dentist? Or, are you servicing them out in the field? And it's a yes, no question. You obviously need to answer that, no, we don't service them at our place of business. We go out to them.
Then the next question it asks, once you say, yes or no to that is it asks if you want to show your address or not. So, you have the option, at that point, to either say, yes, please show my address or don't show my address. If you work from a home office, you can hit, no, please don't show my address because you shouldn't show your address.
Google mandates that if you work from a home office, you should not be showing your address because you don't want people using the Google Map to find you and come to your house. So, you need to put, no, there. You can still rank. We have clients that rank quite well on the Google Map from a home address with a hidden address. So, play by the rules. Use your real address. Hide the address if it's a home office.
If you don't have a physical address and you can't list your home office, the other option is a virtual office, as a worst case scenario. A virtual office is those office buildings that will rent you a suite within their building. Maybe you don't actually work there, but you have access to mail and you've got someone that answers the phones for you there. You can usually get a virtual office at a relatively cheap rate. That's an option for you to be able to at least establish yourself on the map and have a place of business because you're going to have to verify via phone.
The next thing you want to do within Google Places is upload photos. You want to upload as much content as possible. Google allows you to upload up to ten pictures and up to five videos. On the pictures, upload ten pictures and try and make them as authentic as possible. By that, I mean, don't just grab stock photography -- you know, the picture of the guy with the wrench and a picture of the AC unit.
The more authentic the photos, the real pictures of you and your team of guys, your trucks stacked in order, the building, and your guys out in the field with a wrench in front of a Trane AC unit, for instance. That type of stuff resonates well. It works well. You want to do that.
You upload videos, too. It's very, very simple to create a YouTube channel. Make a simple video, either from an iPhone, or a little mobile video camera. Just a brief video, maybe a picture of your truck, a scanning picture of your truck, scanning picture of your team, and then you're standing in front of the camera saying, "Hey, I'm the owner of Pete's Plumbing and Heating, and we provided AC installation and repair services to this specific area." Talk about your unique selling proposition. That's it.
Save that. Upload it to YouTube. Sync it to your Google Places listing, and that resonates well, too. The more authentic information, like that, that you can put out, the better. Just some additional tips on what you can do with video, and your pictures, is first of all your images. Name them something specific. Don't just name it image one, image two, image three, or use the default that your camera spits out for the image.
Name it your city plus AC repair dash your company name, and then AC repair dash your city and then company name. That way you're getting some keyword context into your images.
Another really best practice, as far as how you can leverage your images, and get more context to it, is to use a tool like Panaramio. Panaramio, you can go to panaramio.com, is a image sharing site. What you can do is you can upload an image to panaramio.com, and then you can name it, like I just said, but then you can also geotag it. You can put your company's address in the settings on the image.
Now Google says, whenever you've uploaded it to YouTube, Google spiders to your Google Places listing, follows that image off to Panaramio, sees the GPS information, follows that GPS information back to your map listing, and it gives a lot of context and a lot of authority information. It would say, "OK, this is a real company that's operating in this area." It really helps with all of that.
Those are some really good best practices on how you can optimize your Google Places listing. One thing to pay close attention to is, if you haven't claimed your Google Places listing, and you're doing this for the first time, you're going to get the option to either verify via phone or verify via mail.
If you haven't claimed your Google Places listing, and you've been in business for some period of time, it's going to give you that option to verify via phone. Where there's available, you always want to do it. You select "verify via phone." When you press submit, you'll get a call almost immediately. It will be an automated system that says, "Hey, this is Google. Your PIN code is 44632."
You write that down, enter it in Google Places listing at google.com/places, and you're cooked in with grease. You can go in and follow all those best practices I just recommended. If you haven't done that yet, and you're starting a brand new business, you might not have the option to verify via phone.
What's going to happen is it will say, "We're going to send you a postcard." You got to wait a few days, something like 10 business days, you'll get a postcard in the mail with your PIN code, and that's how you complete the verification process.
Actually, if you want step by step instructions on how to do this in the best way possible, how to save your images and leverage Panaramio and YouTube, you can go to hvacseo.net/free. We've actually completed a guide that takes you step by step through how to claim your Google Places listing and do all that stuff.
The next critical component that I talked about is establishing your NAP. Having a consistent name, address, and phone number across the web, so when Google looks at your organization on Google Places, it's not just finding you there, but it's finding you on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus. I'm sorry, and Angie's List, and Yellow Pages. That's how you help Google get the sense that you're a credible organization.
Remember, it all comes down to authority, you're an authority player in your market, and transparency. The transparency part is having the same name, address, and phone number. If your company name, like I said earlier, is Pete's Plumbing, Heating, and Air, and that's how you're going to reference your organization, you need to make sure that's the way it's listed on all of these different websites.
You need to make sure that you use the same phone number. I talked a little bit earlier about using tracking phone numbers, and how you can leverage tracking phone numbers to gauge how many calls you got. Recordings of your conversations and really track the return on investment.
When it comes to your online NAP -- name, address, phone number -- you need to use your true landline phone number that's associated with your business, and ideally the most historic on that you have, because it's going to carry authority and transparency. The way your company name is referenced is something to pay attention to. If you've got a couple different addresses, you need to pick which one's going to be the primary one.
Be specific with the way that it's referenced. If you're at 12553 Southwest 10th Street, is that Southwest, SW, or is it, Southwest, Southwest spelled out? Little nuances like that are actually very important. You want to make sure you've got that right name, address, and phone number on all of the online directories consistently referenced.
There are literally hundreds of online directories that you can list your company in. There's Citysearch, Google Local, and Bing. There's a tool called Whitespark, which is a citation finder that, that helps you find the most relevant citations.
A study was conducted of literally thousands of plumbing companies. Looking at the plumbing companies that are ranked at the top of the search engines. What they did was, they went and saw which citations, which is just online directories that reference a company's name, address, and phone number, carried the most weight.
What it found was: Servicemagic, Yellow Pages, Superpages, Elocalplumber, Yelp, BBB, YouTube, Yahoo Local, and DexKnows, of all places, were the most authoritative citation sources for plumbing HVAC companies. You want to make sure, if nothing else, you're in those directories, and that you've got your information consistently referenced on those places.
Now, if you want a complete list of the top citation sources and URL's, where you can just click and follow and make sure you're added, you can go to hvacseo.net/free. There we've got a complete guide that you can download that explains, and gives you direct links to all of these different places. That's citation development. Making sure you got that name, address, and phone number consistently referenced online.
The other critical component for getting listed on the map is having reviews. You'll notice that the guys that rank well tend to have a lot of true reviews from real customers in their real service area. We've found it to be a critical component for getting ranked high on the map in the area that you operate in.
Let's talk about how you can get reviews and some very specific review acquisition strategies -- things that you can do to get reviews. The easiest way to get reviews is to ask them. It might seem, "Oh, how am I going to get people to write a review for me?"
Start by creating a simple review request card, which is just as simple as creating a postcard, or a business card that says, "Hey, thanks so much for your business. We appreciate the opportunity to serve you. Please write us a review online." Giving them an easy place where they can go to write you a review. One option is to send them to Google Places, Yahoo Local, and to Citysearch.
Another option, which we've found to work really well, is to create a page on your website. That would be yourwebsite.com/reviews, or /writeusareview, and on that page, having direct links, via the buttons, so they can click on Google Places and go there, and write you a review. They can click on Yahoo Local, and go there and write you a review. The easier you can make that process for your customer, the better.
Print out some simple postcards. It does not have to be super fancy. Just, "Hey, we really appreciate your business. Write us a review." A very strategic approach to this, though, would be to phase one, develop a list of your circle of influence. Your best customers, your recent customers, your friends and family, people that know who you are know I can trust you, that you'd think would want to help you out.
Of course, you want to make sure that they will have done business with you in the past at some level. Get their names and email address, and do an email. Just a simple email blast out to that group of people, saying, "Hey, you know what, we're in the process of trying to do more online, and get better placed. Part of that is getting reviews from people in this area. Being that you've done business with us before, and are somebody that we trust, we'd love to have you write us a review."
Give them either a link to the specific review profile or to that reviews page that you're going to set up. That's a great way to solicit reviews and get a nice little base of reviews from your real circle of influence and real people in your service area.
From there you want to get a process in place, where you're systematically requesting reviews from your real customers in your real geographic area. The best way to do that, other than handing them the review card, is to start to ask for the email addresses of your customers. Start collecting email addresses. There's a lot of things you can do to email with updates, special offers, get them involved with social media.
If nothing else, right after service, send them a quick, "Thank you. Appreciate your business. We'd appreciate if you could write us a review." Again, a direct link to where they can write you a review. We find that in doing this, and implementing this, in a lot of HVAC companies throughout the United States, one challenge is how do we get the customer to give us the email address?
If you're waiting for your technician to get to the home of the customer and then provide the service, and then say, "Hey, by the way, can I get your email address? I'd like to send you a request for a review." They tend to shy away from that. They don't want to give it, because they don't see any value in it for them, and they're concerned that they're going to get spammed with emails from your company.
A better approach we've found is at the point of booking the call. Say, "Hey, by the way, you're scheduled for Tuesday at 2:00, or we'll be there this afternoon at 3:00, let me get your email address, so I can send you a confirmation." If you change the process to asking for that information on the front end, we find that you get a much higher percentage of your customers that are willing to give you the email.
Of course, you want to send them a confirmation, but it gives you the ability after the service call to push out a request for a review via email. If you can do that on a consistent basis, you're going to get real reviews from your true customers in your true service area.
Now, there is a tool that can help you with this review request, and helping Google understand your true service area process. The way it works is as you and your technicians go out into the field, they would have a mobile tool that they can install on their iPhone.
The name of this tool is Nearby Now, and, basically, it would be an application they can install on their iPhone, and when they get to the place of business, they would load Nearby Now. They would check in. Press a button that would initiate a check in process. That would then capture the GPS data that's on the phone and say, "OK. Pete's Plumbing and Heating just had a service call in Tampa, FL." It would plot on the map, "OK. This was in Tampa, FL."
Throughout the day, they're checking in, they're checking in. You start to develop a heat map, like the image that you'll notice at the bottom of the screen. That heat map can then be syndicated from Nearby Now to your website, to your social media profiles, and then most importantly to Google Places.
When Google Places is now seeing true check in data, based on GPS check ins, all throughout your service area, outside of maybe just Tampa, but in the sub-cities as well. Now it says, "OK. That's they're true service area." It improves the probability of showing up on the map in the true areas that you service.
The next thing it can do is help to automate the review request process. We talked about the fact that having real reviews from your real customers is critical. The next step with Nearby Now would be you've checked in, you've left the place of business, and you press the button, "Request a Review."
An email, or text message, could go to the customer saying, "Hey thanks for your business, please write us a review." Give them the option to write the review on those various online profiles. Then you've really got an automated, systemized way for getting the reviews from your real customers. We've found it's worked really well for our clients. That tool, if you want to check it out, is at nearbynow.co, not com, but .co, so it's nearbynow.co/contractorseo. Great tool. Help you push your true service area to Google and automated the review request process.
Just to recap the critical components for getting on the map. Claim and optimize your Google Places listing, establish your name, address, and phone number profile -- your NAP across the web. Get reviews. Put a system in place to get true reviews from your real customers on an ongoing basis, and what you'll find is you'll significantly improve the probability of showing up on the map in your true service area.