5 Critical Elements to Having an Awesome Remodeling Website

Members frequently email me with website questions. Over the years, I’ve been asked everything from on-page SEO techniques to logo placement.

But by far the most common question I get is, “what am I doing wrong?”

Yes, this broad, all-encompassing question always makes me chuckle. It’s virtually impossible to cover in an email. In fact, I do a two-hour-plus session at our annual Master Your Remodeling Business Workshop where I evaluate attendee websites and provide feedback and still we only scratch the surface.

So what are you doing wrong? Well, I’m not clairvoyant, but I’m going to take a guess that the things you’ve heard in the past relate to technical website components: things like “you need good on-page SEO” and “you need good link architecture.”

But some of the most overlooked elements of a website pertain to the user experience. So here’s five critical elements that will make your website more user-friendly and, in turn, improve the visitor’s experience.


1. Scannability

85% of people scan a web page before reading it. They want to determine quickly if the content on the page is relevant. So if you don’t want people to abandon your website then you’ll want to employ these scannability components:

  • Use headers (H1, H2, H3) to segment your content.
  • Use crossheads to break up the monotony of large blocks of text.
  • Use bullet points and numbered lists.
  • Keep sentences and paragraphs short.

2. Grammar & Spelling

Obvious, right? And yet not one workshop goes by in which I don’t see a few websites with spelling and grammatical errors. This is the single most avoidable mistake being made, and it makes you look really bad in the eyes of your prospects. If you struggle with spelling and grammar, then I recommend you check out www.grammarly.com. It’s a great tool.


3. Use Images and Video

include pics and vidsThe human brain is a visual organ. We process visuals 60,000 times faster that text. In fact, 90% of the information absorbed is visual in nature. So to not use images and videos on your website is depriving your visitors of the one thing they crave most.

It’s not a coincidence that the top ranking web pages average seven images per page. So, it turns out a picture is worth 60,000 words.


4. Use White Space

Too many websites try to cram content into every corner of the page. But the use of white space is critical to good design. It helps visitors focus on what you want them to see and makes everything feel more open and “comfortable.” According to CrazyEgg, white space alone increases content comprehension by almost 20%.


5. Be Responsive

Responsive Websites are a MustI’m not talking about how quickly you respond to inquiries. What I’m referring to is having a mobile-friendly website. More than half of website visits (56%) are occurring on mobile devices according to marketingland.com.

Believe me when I tell you, there is no greater pain than trying to view a desktop website on a smartphone.

If you want a user-friendly website, then this is a must-have element. Although you could have a “mobile version” of your website, most website owners are moving to responsive design. This means that the web page itself repositions the content based on the screen size (i.e., responds to screen size). This is a much easier solution than having to manage two separate websites.


Conclusion

I wish I could tell you that once you implement these five elements, your website will be perfect. But this is just the tip (of the tip) of the iceberg. However, it’s a great place to start if you want to get your website in shape.

If you really want to dig in and have your website whipped into shape, then you should come to the annual Master Your Remodeling Business Workshop this June. I’ll be there to analyze your website and give you the help you need to turn it into a lead generating machine.

But that’s only one small part of the workshop. There’s a slew of top industry minds covering topics in Production, Sales, Management, Financials and more in this two-day intense business training event. I hope to meet you there.


Have questions?

Just drop them in to the comment section below!


Is this Website Mistake Costing You Remodeling Business?

Recently, I attended a Google Partners event and heard a statistic that almost knocked me out of my chair: 45% of people would rather give up vacation than their smartphone. This stat is confirmation of what most of us already know—people really love their phones. You can see it when you venture out to any public place. Everyone is glued to their phones—and it’s not just teenagers.

In recognition of the importance smartphones and mobile devices play in our lives, earlier this year, Google began using mobile usability as a ranking factor in mobile search results as of April 21, 2015. The search engine predicted this change would have a significant impact on search results—giving mobile ranking priority to those sites that pass its mobile-friendly test.

Does your site pass the test or are you seeing something like this:

mobile-friendly test

If your site isn’t mobile-friendly by Google’s standards, you can kiss your mobile SEO, and the leads and sales it generated, goodbye.

Does This Really Affect My Business?

Sadly, some remodelers are simply unaware of how much mobile website traffic they receive. I found this out while manning our booth at the 2014 Remodeling & Deck Expo in Baltimore, MD. I showed business owner after business owner how they could see, in their own Google Analytics account, that 25-35% of their website traffic is from visitors using mobile devices. Surprise turned to terror when I pulled out my iPhone and iPad and showed them what their website actually looks like on those devices!

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that just because your website looks great and functions properly from your laptop, it also looks good on a smartphone or tablet.

Based on my research, the odds are high that it doesn’t.

In 2014, my team at Blue Corona used our website analysis software to analyze nearly 3,000 remodeling contractor websites—including Remodeling Magazine’s top 550. Although we only reviewed the mobile usability factors for a small subset of sites, what we found was alarming. Most of the sites we reviewed had significant mobile-usability issues (i.e. they probably would not earn a mobile-friendly score using Google’s test).

So much for believing that your “web guy” is thinking about and handling all this stuff for you. As a web marketing guy, I can tell you that most of my competitors’ sites don’t pass Google’s test either. If you ask them, I’m guessing they’ll tell you a story about the cobbler’s kids’ shoes.

It’s Time to Get Serious About Mobile-Friendliness

Test your site. If it passes, awesome. If it doesn’t, you’ve got some work to do. Not only are you putting your search rankings at risk, you’re also irritating your prospective customers! Look at your company’s site on your phone, on your friend’s phone, on a tablet, etc. Ask yourself—is the text big enough without having to pinch or zoom? How easily can you find your phone number? Can you click to call it?

In my opinion (and this is also Google’s preferred method), a responsive website is the best way to make your remodeling company mobile-friendly. With a responsive website, you have one website (versus a desktop website AND a mobile website) that adjusts the way your website looks depending on the size of the device.

Here’s a visual example of how a responsively designed site functions:

responsive web-design

The only drawback is that a responsive design generally requires a redesign and rebuild of your current site.

Even if your remodeling company has missed the April 21st deadline, Google says you can still benefit from the update once you launch your mobile-friendly website and the search engine re-crawls it. And if you choose the responsive option, most website design companies should be able to set you up with a temporary mobile solution while you’re waiting for your responsive redesign.

A couple things to prioritize with your mobile-friendly remodeler website:

  • Quick page load speed
  • Large, easy to read fonts
  • Good text-to-background contrast
  • Click-to-call numbers
  • A mobile-friendly remodeling portfolio/gallery

What about you?

Do you have a mobile-friendly website? Are you utilizing responsive design to achieve it? Please share your comments or questions below!

How to Find a ‘Reputable’ SEO Company for Remodelers

If you have a website or are doing any Pay Per Click advertising on Google, then you’ve probably received a sales call from an SEO company or two (or a 100 . . . they’re everywhere!) Unfortunately SEO companies have a bad reputation. They are very similar to contractors in that respect: because of the few “less-than-reputable” companies out there, the whole industry has a black-eye.

In truth, there are some very good SEO specialists, you just need to know how to find them.

Let’s break down the signs, qualities and components you should look for in a good SEO company as well as the services they are proposing.


What Should You Look For in a Quality Remodeler SEO Company?

1. They Put Content Marketing First

Really good SEO companies aren’t really SEO companies anymore. They are content marketing companies. Content is the foundation for improving your website’s ranking in search results. Content marketing is used in conjunction with SEO (or “optimizing”). You can’t “optimize” a page or blog post if you don’t have a page or blog post. In order to target keywords, you need content. Make sure that content is excellent and that the company you’re working with is putting a big emphasis on content as well as keywords.

2. They Understand the Remodeling Industry

If we think about the point made above (putting content first), it makes sense that this prospective marketing partner of yours should understand your industry. If they are going to be writing on your behalf and creating content, they need to understand you, your company, and your customers. They need to have knowledge of your customers burning pains, their top questions and their concerns.

3. They Focus on Lead Conversion

Usually, your SEO company (or prospective SEO company) wants to focus on keyword ranking, getting you to “number 1 on Google” and talking about increasing website traffic. Increasing website traffic is extremely important, but it’s all for nothing if your website doesn’t convert those website visitors into leads. Your SEO company should have a plan in place for converting traffic as well as getting more of it.

A good SEO company will talk to you about creating value added offers, calls to action (CTAs), and landing pages. If you aren’t hearing these things, they probably aren’t including a lead conversion aspect in their strategy.

4. They Put Strategy Before Tactics

Tactics are great because they are usually very actionable. However, a lot of remodelers (and SEO companies) can get hung up on these bright shiny objects.

“Ooo, a new social network Pinterest just launched. Let’s spend time “pinning” photos.”

“Wow! A new video platform came out yesterday. Let’s upload all our videos there.”

These are just a couple of common examples of “getting tactical”.

Don’t get me wrong here. Tactics are great if they funnel into a larger strategy. Pinterest may be a good idea for you, but only if it fits into your over-arching goals. Make sure your SEO company is helping you form a strategy that is designed to meet your goals. And “getting to #1 for a keyword” is not an over-arching goal. If we’re being honest, you probably have a sales goal and/or a profitability goal. Those should be used to back track to a marketing activity plan.

5. They “Eat Their Own Dog Food”

Need I say more? You want the company you hire to be practicing what they preach. If it isn’t working for them, why would it work for you?

6. They Stay Current on the Latest SEO Best Practices

SEO, Content Marketing, Online Marketing and Social Media. These are all changing so fast. Look for a company that has a process in place for staying up to date. This is an on-going effort, not a once per year “go to a big conference” sort of thing.


4 Things to Watch Out For

1. Rotating Keywords

If your SEO company tells you that they will be rotating keywords every month or every several months after they “see what’s working”…run! The best practice is to select the best keyword or keyword phrase for a page and stick to it. When you “rotate” keywords, it essentially re-sets the SEO equity you’ve built for that page and you’re restarting your efforts.

2. No Content Strategy in the Proposal

We talked about content earlier in this article, but it’s worth mentioning again. If your SEO company doesn’t mention content or a content strategy as a part of their SEO strategy, that is not a good sign. You need content to optimize.

3. Low Quality Content

Ask your SEO company for sample blog articles. Read them! The articles should sound intelligent. You’re the one that will have your name (or your company’s name) on the article, so it better be good stuff! If the content is shaky, you won’t have much to build on for your SEO strategy.

4. Shady Link Building Techniques

SEO companies that are all about link building can be a gamble. Ask them about the process they use for building links. If they mention directories, blog commenting and article submissions, that’s probably a bad sign. If they mention creating great content in order to attract links naturally, using social media to share that content and using local, relevant directories, you’re on the right path!


Summary

Search Engine Optimization is extremely important today, so it’s important you find a company you can partner with for the long term. This shouldn’t be a 3-6 month adventure for you. This is a long-term partnership, so do your due diligence, find a reputable company and then work with them to improve over time.

Remember, blogging should be a huge focus in the SEO company’s strategy to improve your website ranking and credibility. Ask good questions, do a little bit of research and you’ll certainly find a great company to work with on your SEO and Content Marketing Strategy.


Bonus!

Want to know what questions you should ask when interviewing potential SEO companies? Builder Funnel has provided a great question (and answer) guide exclusively for PowerTips Subscribers!

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Are your prospects looking for specialists, or are you the perfect fit?

Are you the perfect choice for your customers? I have no doubt that you are. The fact that you are a loyal PowerTips reader proves that you’re committed to being the best at what you do.

But do they know that?

Do your potential clients arrive at your website and say, “This is exactly what I’m looking for.” Odds are the majority do not. And that’s to be expected. After all, here’s the type of content you’ll find on a typical remodelers website:

Our services include additions, kitchens, bathrooms, master suites, interiors, interior design, decks, porches, landscaping, finished basements, in-law suites …

Phew! And therein lies the rub. You offer all these great services and you want the world to know it. But this “we do it all” approach doesn’t necessarily leave your site visitors feeling warm and fuzzy. At least not in the short term.

You have 25 seconds (at most) to convince them that they should not hit the back button and go to the next result in their Google search. So how do you do that? One powerful way is via microsites.

A microsite is a website that is comprised of only a handful of pages and is dedicated to one specific service you provide.

The benefit of running microsites is two-fold: A) your site visitors know the moment they arrive that you specialize in the exact project they need completed. This is comforting and validating. B) You have a tool that helps you own the top position in Google search.

Lets look and both benefits more closely.

Benefit A: I’m Home!

Assume for a moment that you’re in the market for a red baseball bat.

Imagine, if you will, what a visit to the fictional website Anns Sporting Goods.com would look like. You probably envision a navigation bar listing all the sports (football, baseball, hockey, hiking etc.) tons of sub-navigation like Apparel, Equipment, Shoes, and so on.  A clearance items section, images of fit athletes running. Is that about right?

Now imagine visiting Anns Red Baseball Bats.com. How clean is the picture in your mind? You see nothing but red baseball bats, right? Every size, every shape, every age group.

Which website makes you feel like you’ve found what you’re looking for? More importantly, which website are you more likely to buy from?

The same principal applies to remodeling, with a bonus kicker: specialization carries a lot of weight. A dedicated website reeks of specialization. People feel comfortable with specialists.

Benefit B: Own Google results

Without getting into all the specifics of SEO, lets just say this is a strong tool in your quest for top Google rankings. Although there are many, many variables that go into Google’s algorithm, one thing you can count on is that the actual domain URL and the content on that page carries a lot of weight. Think about it, how do you think a website called HartfordKitchenRemodeling.com (not real) would perform when someone in Hartford searches for kitchen remodeling?

Of course there’s more to it than that. But in the end Google’s primary goal is to provide relevant content. It’s difficult to argue that the sample microsites above aren’t relevant to what the people were searching for.

Parting Thoughts

This is a “top of the funnel” web marketing strategy. Use microsites to get people into your world. Get them to submit a form, call or email you. You want them to know you are the best choice for their project. After that your primary site is perfect. In fact, after they submit the contact form, have it redirect them to your main site. Saying in fact,”Look what else we do!”

See, once they know they’ve found the right company, that’s when the “we do it all” approach becomes an asset. It reinforces that they’ve made the right choice because — hey, you do it all!

How about you?

Are you currently using microsites to capture more leads? How is it working? If not, what’s stopping you? I  look forward to reading your comments below!

Six Great Web Site Tips

Thompson Remodeling, Inc., has a strong presence in its Grand Rapids, Mich., market— and beyond. The company’s reach and image are augmented by a top-notch Web site (http://www.thompsonremodeling.com/). With its scrolling photos, prominent company logo and contact information, and regular updates about the firm’s doings, the eye-pleasing site is informative and never static.

Company president Ben Thompson puts a lot of effort into staying in touch with his clients. To that end, the site also includes a subscription area for the company’s free electronic newsletter. Thompson offers six tips for remodelers who’d like to drive more traffic to their company Web sites.

1. Define your Web site’s purpose.

Is your site a business card? Is it a business card with a gallery? Is it a sales tool? “My Web site is in development for its fourth generation,” says Thompson, “and it has been all of the above. Generation 4 will be a sales tool that is all about what’s in it for my clients. (That message is ‘Love Where You Live’). My Web site is also an educational resource.”

2. Educate prospects and clients alike.

“I am committed to providing free, relevant, useful home improvement information,” says the remodeler. “Right now, I am re-integrating my blog (http://www.thompsonremodeling.com/blog) back into our Web site because the content drives the organic Google ranking.”

3. Choose your text carefully.

An organic ranking reflects a search that brings up Web sites based on relevant keywords and content. Non-organic rankings reflect Web sites that appear in search engines results because of advertising or other monetary compensation. In other words, those are Web sites that people pay to have listed on a search engine.

“Organic means the words on your Web site must relate to what the searcher is looking for,” says Thompson. “We provide useful information about bathrooms for people who want to know about bathrooms.”

4. Don’t try to trick Google with fancy phrases.

“Put good content up and Google will find you,” Thompson advises. “Optimizing your Web site really just means putting useful content on your site and writing it with words that a consumer would think about. In my world, no one knows what ‘design/build’ is. They don’t care to search for a “high-end design-build full-service remodeler.’ They are searching for ‘kitchen Grand Rapids,’ so I focus on putting information about kitchens and Grand Rapids on the site.

5. Pay to play.

Thompson doesn’t mean selling out and going non-organic. “I’d rather see a company invest $4,000 in having good content on its Web site (I mean paying an internal staff person or a consultant to think of useful wording) than pay Google $4,000 in pay-per-click advertising,” says the remodeler.

6. Think small for big results.

“Target small areas of content,” Thompson suggests. “You’ll get better results if you have small bits of information like ‘5 Tips for a Better Kitchen’ and ‘3 Things in the Bath of the Future’ instead of ‘Everything You Need To Know to Have an Awesome Whole-House Renovation.’ Break it down and let people enjoy as much as they want on your Web site.”