In today’s digital age, running a successful snow and ice control business requires more than just your experience and time behind the wheel. When asked, 97% of people say they learn about a local business online. This makes it important to invest your time and eﬀort into building an online presence for your business. Here are four vital online tips to help expand your reach and leverage new customers.
Make Your Website Easily Accessible for Users
First impressions matter. Users have come to expect a certain level of speed and quality with websites and will become frustrated if they encounter a poor web experience that doesn’t work properly or isn’t mobile-friendly.
Website Speed & Technical Structure
Broken links and slow-loading pages are unprofessional, and with so many options to choose from, most people won’t wait for your site. Users are impatient—they skim, scroll, and move on. One sure way to build trust with your customers is through speed and reliability.
TIP: Use Lighthouse to determine how well your website is performing. If the results aren’t favorable, you may want to consult a website development firm to discuss your opportunities.
Responsive, Mobile-Friendly Design
Since more than half of all website searches come from a smartphone (and that number continues to increase), a mobile-first mindset and responsive website are crucial. The top drivers for a positive mobile experience are that it’s easy to use, secure, and fast. Google uses these factors in their ranking algorithm, and if your website meets the criteria, it’s more likely it will rank higher. In 2019, Google started to roll out mobile-first indexing where it crawls the mobile version of your website instead of the desktop version to determine how well to index and rank it.
TIP: Run the Google Mobile-Friendly Test to see if your website passes. If it fails, you may want to consult with a developer on their recommendation. A lot of content management systems these days like WordPress are built to be responsive and are extremely easy to update without any coding experience.
Wait, Why Should We Care About Google?
It’s where all of your customers are. Google is the powerhouse of search engines with about 90% market share over Bing and Yahoo. They update their machine learning algorithm about once or twice per day with a constant evolution of testing, implementing—and testing again. You never know when the next core algorithm update will be released so it’s best to stay relevant with website best practices.
Gain “Free” Organic Leads From Your Website
Don’t doubt the power and value of a well optimized website—the better you rank in search engines, the more “free” leads your business will receive. It’s more than just a beautiful design. Your website needs to speak to search engines and also anticipate user intent. Although it sounds intimidating, optimizing your website to perform well on Google really comes down to providing the best user experience. If you focus on the needs of your customers and meet them better than your competition, your hard work will pay off with website traffic and leads.
Industry Keyword Research
At a basic level, start with what you know to generate a list of keywords and keyword phrases. What are your main services and what products do your customers commonly ask questions about? What do you think they would typically search for to find a business like yours? Add those to the list and brainstorm any variations you can think of.
You can also see what Google’s search autofill suggests to see what is commonly searched. Look into Google AdWords to see which keywords have the highest search volume. And look to see what industry leaders use as the main keywords in website tags or headlines. This research will give you a pretty good idea of which keywords to target in your SEO efforts so you can embed them into your content strategy.
TIP: There are also paid tools out there like Moz Keyword Explorer or SEMrush Keyword Magic Tool that can quickly identify the top performing keywords for snow and ice. SEMrush can even track your ranking improvements for each keyword over time.
Content Strategy & Optimizations
Once you’ve completed keyword research, it’s time to put that knowledge to work. Content is still king in the world of web and SEO. Optimizing your website helps Google easily crawl it, index the pages appropriately, and ultimately rank your website better for important keywords.
- Optimizing Existing Pages:
Start with the low hanging fruit first. Look at the content that already exists and find ways to improve it. If the appropriate keywords are not already in your title tag, meta description, page title, and intro paragraph you should take advantage of those opportunities to show the importance of that page. Using keywords with high volume searches will help new customers find your site in search engines. Then provide internal links to relevant pages and a clear, direct call-to-action to help users determine next steps and navigate through your site with ease.
TIP: Don’t overthink it, write naturally. You can always go back later and make tweaks for further optimization. If you’re using WordPress, the YOAST plugin can analyze your copy and tell you what edits are needed to bring your content to the highest standards of SEO and overall readability.
- Photos & Videos:
People can process visuals 60,000 times faster than text. Which is why photos and videos are such a critical component to your website. The faster users can get the information they are looking for, the better.
Although text is important for Google and getting new users to your website, visuals create trust in your business. How-to videos, before and after photos, video testimonials, and behind-the-scenes tours give businesses an authentic edge that drives users to take action. Not to mention, 85% of people would like to see more video from brands.
TIP #1: Don’t forget to optimize your images! Otherwise, you could be missing out on potential traffic. By using alt tags and naming images appropriately, your images will be more likely to show in image search results.
TIP #2: You don’t need a large budget in order to create valuable videos. Use an iPhone, microphone, and maybe a tripod. Start small with short segments and minimal editing.
TIP #3: YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine and one of Google’s subsidiaries. Videos hosted there generally perform better than other video storage tools in search and YouTube will generate high quality backlinks to your website.
- Content Creation Plan:
You can’t do it all at once. Lay out your ideas and then break it into a few projects per month. The key is to not go stagnant, continue working towards your goal—a website is always a work in progress. When writing, focus on topics instead of keywords (although you’ll want to make sure the important ones are included during final edits). A comprehensive page that satisfies search intent, is grammatically correct, and written for the average person is the goal.
Consistent blogs are great ways to add fresh content to your website on an ongoing basis. You can give advice, oﬀer practical tips, or showcase jobs. Including some long form content that goes in depth on a topic will also position you as the expert and is a great way to attract and engage with users by providing valuable resources that apply to them.
TIP: The nice thing about creating a piece of evergreen content is you create it once, yet it can live on forever. Reuse it, repackage it, and use it on multiple channels.
Setup Business Profiles & Keep Your Information Consistent
Although business listings do not have as much power as they did in the past, they are still an essential piece to your SEO foundation. Major search engines and map directories like Google, Bing, and Apple Maps all have a free business listing setup. These search engines are also where your customers start most of their searches and look for directions to local businesses.
Having a business presence on these sites and verifying your information will prove that you’re a legitimate business to Google and make it easier for users to contact you. Including a link to your website helps to show up higher in search results. Google can see you’re more relevant and any backlinks from high value sources to your website are valuable, including business listings.
TIP #1: If you don’t have the time to do this yourself, there are paid services like Whitespark or Moz to manage online business listings for you. It’s an efficient way to make sure your information is consistent across all listings.
TIP #2: This includes anywhere your business information is located including social media websites, dealer locators, etc. Make sure your most current information is listed and if there’s an option to include your website link, make sure to do so.
Your information can easily be out of sync if you’ve never taken the time to establish it in the first place, you’ve moved locations, or bought an existing business with previous locations. You don’t want to miss out on any potential customers because of bad information.
Want even more attention from the search results? Paid search ads on Google and Bing are the most common but in recent years, Google also rolled out their Google Local Services which makes businesses go through an authentication process to get “Google Guaranteed.” This helps get priority placement near the top of the page and show as a trustworthy business that will attract new customers. Check it out to see if it makes sense for your snowplow business.
The Digital Word-of-Mouth
Word-of-mouth is essential for all businesses, and it’s no different when you go online. There are an endless number of online communities, forums, social media sites, and review platforms that users rely on to make quick informed decisions about businesses and products.
Referrals typically happen naturally through positive customer experiences. When people love the work you do, they will want to tell others about it. Whenever you have the opportunity, remind happy customers to leave you a review.
- Online Reviews
88% of consumers put as much trust in online reviews as they do in personal recommendations. Receiving consistent positive Google reviews makes your business seem more trustworthy and legitimate to search engines—and also users. Google reviews work double duty and can make more of an impact than Yelp or Facebook reviews since they help to impact Google rankings at the same time.
TIP: Google has made it easier than ever before by allowing you to easily text a link to your customers requesting a review. On your mobile device, open the Google My Business app and open the profile you want to manage. Then tap ‘Customers’, ‘Reviews’, and in the top right, you’ll see a ‘Share’ button. Copy your short URL to share with customers.
- Community apps like NextDoor allow you to become part of the neighborhood. Create a business listing, verify your information, and get in touch with the locals. Existing customers can recommend your services to others in the area and can be a great way to get “word of mouth” online for your business.
It might take some time to build a “buzz” around your business, but don’t underestimate the power of this time-tested method. You’ll be establishing reliable contacts and quality connections with new customers in no time.
While advanced measures can certainly ﬁne-tune this process, there are plenty of practical steps you can take to make sure your business gets more visibility in online search results. If you do the little things right, you’ll realize that they work together to pay big dividends in the long run. Take advantage of any digital avenue to engage with customers while boosting your reputation.