Having a quality website gives a great first impression but doesn't do any good if no one can find it. With any website, you won't get to the top of Google right away. It takes time, and a lot of work! Getting your website to rank higher Google can be frustrating if you're not sure what to focus on or what will even make a difference. That's why it's important to have some basic SEO knowledge before you dive in.
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What is SEO?
SEO (search engine optimization) is the process of increasing your rankings on organic search engine results for specific keywords. This involves optimizing your online presence in a variety of ways discussed below. The purpose of SEO is to generate free traffic from search engines like Google
What are organic search engine results?
When you search something in Google, most of the time what shows up at the top of the page are paid ads. Organic results are natural and free. They show up based on relevancy, not because you paid for them.
Google's job is to show the most relevant search results to its users, so it prioritizes quality, relative content. The more SEO you do, the higher your organic results will be for relevant keywords.
Why is SEO important?
Your online presence is a vouch of credibility and if you don’t have one, it could be a red flag to a potential customer. Think of your online presence as your “online reputation”. You need to have one. If you don’t, it’s like having no credit. Most of your potential customers start their search online. You want them to be able to find you.
What is involved in SEO?
There are many variables involved when search engines are indexing your website. Although Google keeps its official list of ranking factors a secret, there have been many case studies done by experts to determine what exactly contributes to a website's SEO. There are estimated to be over 200 factors that Google uses in its ranking algorithm, all weighted individually based on importance. Most of these factors can be broken into core categories, listed in order of perceived importance:
Top SEO Ranking Factor Categories
- In-bound anchor text
- Quality of backlinks
- Domain authority of backlinks
- Quantity of backlinks
All businesses should have a website. It’s a sign that you’re legitimate. It’s like a step above having a business card. This wasn’t always the case but it’s 2020, if your business doesn’t have a website it may as well not exist.
Your site can be extremely basic. Don’t feel like you have to spend a ton of money on some amazing website. If you’re just starting out, I’d recommend to start with a free website. You can make one in Google, I’ll go over that more in the next slide.
Once you have a site, you need to know what to put on it. Think about what your customers are looking for. Give them the information they want. What services you provide, whether or not you’re certified, some inspectors like to be transparent and put pricing on their site.
Your website is your chance to make your sales pitch to potential customers that found your site by searching “home inspectors near me”, and they’re evaluating their options. Put up a friendly looking picture of you and some recent reviews saying how awesome you are. Look at your competitors websites and make yours better.
Here are some on-page factors that Google will rank your site on:
- Content quality and length
- Security (HTTPS vs. HTTP)
- Schema markup
- Keywords in title tags
- Domain authority
- Page speed
Related article: How to Properly Optimize Your Home Inspection Site
- Click-thru rate
- Mobile clicks to call
- Time on site
Google My Business Signals
There’s no reason you shouldn’t have an account with Google my Business. It’s free and super easy to set up.
Google my Business listings show up above regular search results, below where the map is. So there’s another chance for customers to find you.
Having a Google my Business account is how you get Google reviews. Customers are more likely to call a company that has good 5 star reviews over one that doesn’t.
If you have a Google my Business account, they offer you a free website. Yes it’s very basic. No it doesn’t come with a free domain, but you can buy one of those from Godaddy for literally 2 dollars.
Here are some contributing factors that Google will rank your website from your Google my Business account:
- Keyword in business title
- Geo-tagged photos
Related article: How Google Determines Local Rankings for Home Inspectors
A local citation is when your business is mentioned online. It can be any form of your company name, phone number, address, zip or postal code, and website address.
Citations are really good for SEO because when credible websites have the same information about your business, it signals to Google that you’re a legitimate business. This improves both your website’s rank and your Google my Business rank.
You can start building local citations by listing your business in online directories. Google my Business is a citation, and the most important one. Yelp and Facebook are other good citations. If you already have business accounts on these sites, you already have citations. You don’t have to do anything special. All you have to do is set up an account on these sites. As long as your business information is listed, Google recognizes it as a citation.
You can check your citation score on Moz.com, just type in your business name and zip code and it’ll show you where you’re listed and give you some suggestions on how to improve your business listings. Moz also offers a paid service to build and manage citations for you, just to be clear I’m not promoting that. I just use the site for the free citation checker.
If you do hire a company to build citations for you, be careful. There are a lot of services claiming to get you thousands for citations for something like $5. Seems like a great deal, but there’s always a catch. Not all citations are created equal, they might put your citation on a thousand spam websites. If Google picks up on this, which they do, it’s a big red flag and will hurt your rankings. There are legitimate companies that offer citation building, some call themselves “brand management” companies. But do your research before you sign up with anyone. One of the top brand management companies is Yext. They do amazing work. However, if you decide to cancel your $500/yr plan with them, they take down all the work they’ve done. If you want to sign up with a brand management company I personally like BrightLocal, but if you have the time you can manage citations yourself.
Pay special attention to these factors, these are what Google looks at when ranking your site:
- Consistency across internet yellow pages and aggregator listings
- Quality and quantity of citations
- Accurate and complete listings
- Current location
- Browser/search history
One of the top Google searches in this industry is “how do I choose a good home inspector?” and you know what comes up, articles with a list of tips that include things like - check to see if they’re certified, ask for a sample report, and read their reviews. It’s part of the research phase customers go through when deciding which home inspector to hire.
Reviews are a huge part of your online reputation. 90% of people read reviews before even contacting a business.
Besides Google, some good review sites to get on are Yelp, HomeAdvisor, and Angie’s List. That’s because if you do a Google search for “home inspectors near me”, these sites all show up.
So, if you’re on these sites it’s another way for customers to find you. And that’s always a good thing. Get on as many of these sites as you can.
Don’t be worried about getting a bad review, it happens to everyone. When you do get a negative review, respond to it. Be polite, apologize, and ask the reviewer to give you a call to discuss further. Keep in mind that potential customers reading this negative review will see how you respond. It’s a chance to redeem yourself.
Google takes the following factors into account when ranking your site:
- Review quantity
- Review velocity
- Review diversity
Related article: The 3 Areas of Local SEO Home Inspectors Should Focus On: Securing Reviews]
Social media is an important part of your online presence. It tells your customers, potential customers, agents, your mom, whoever follows you, that you’re still in business.
You don’t need to be on every single social media platform. Nobody expects a home inspector to have a really active Snapchat account, but if that’s your thing go for it! I’d recommend having an active accounts on Facebook and Instagram.
That’s because a lot of real estate agents are on Facebook and Instagram. I read a statistic that 90% of the average home inspector’s business comes from realtor referrals. I’m not sure how accurate that really is, but I’m sure it’s a good majority. Social media is a great way to stay in touch with agents and remind them that you’re still in business.
Social media is a perfect platform to build your reputation. This means posting content that is relevant and helpful to your followers. Don’t just constantly promote yourself and ask for referrals, nobody likes that. Instead, think of it as a way to showcase your knowledge and personality. One day post about something you found during an inspection that you think more homeowners should be aware of. Then another day post a picture of your dog. It makes you more personable and people will feel comfortable contacting you.
The content which gets the most shares is the result of careful planning and high quality content. Shareable content should add value to the user, reflect well on them, and is easy to consume. Posting shareable content can expand your reach and increase your social media follower base.
Google pays special attention to these factors when taking into account your social media presence:
- Social media engagement
- Quantity and quality of social links
- Social shares
Key Take Away Points
If you only take away a couple key points from this article, here’s what I think is the most important.
- Have a website. Even if it’s a free one you built yourself, that’s better than not having one at all.
- If you haven’t already, set up Google My Business and start asking your customers for reviews. This will help you rank higher than your competitors.
- Create accounts on local business directories and review sites. It’s usually free and it’s another way for customers to find you online.
- Check your MOZ score and try to get it as high as possible. This will improve your SEO for both your website and Google My Business.
- If you don't already have one, set up a business Facebook/Instagram account. If you already have one, start posting!
You can't improve your SEO without improving your online presence. Having a strong online presence is extremely important for your business because it has a huge influence on the way consumers make purchasing decisions. You can do it yourself, there’s an endless supply of helpful articles and videos online. But if you don’t have the time, you can hire someone to do it for you. Building a powerful online presence is one of the most important investments that a business can make - SEO is just a side effect.