Getting The Picture: Taking Your Best Remodeling Project Photos

We live in a visual world, and having great photographs of your projects is key to presenting your work in the best light possible, from beginning to end. Not just for using in your marketing on your website, social media networks, and printed collateral like brochures and newsletters, but to make a strong case for your work in award entries.

There are some phases of project photography you can — and should — do yourself. But when it comes to showcasing your amazing work, you’ll get your best results and save time by using a pro. You need to hire someone with an HD camera, a variety of lenses, and a lighting kit. And they have to know how to use it. Check their work, and pay attention to how they photograph difficult rooms like bathrooms — there are so many reflective surfaces in a tight area that angles and lighting become even more important. 

Prep Work

It’s important to get photos of the project site before you start work, and this is something you or someone on your team can do with your phone smartphone. This is the time to strategically get the “before” photos that will tell the story of the space’s transformation.

Schedule time for you, or someone on your team like the designer or your marketing person (if you’ve got one) to take photos of the space. Print out a copy of the approved plan, make notes, and circle places that need to be documented. This is your photo plan — get shots of these key areas and keep the plan and the photos to use a reference for the final “after” shots.

Having almost identical views and angles of your work shows how much of an improvement you’ve made to the space. Mark your locations on the plan as you go. Having lower-quality photos may actually help — the difference will be more striking. But there are still some things to remember, and using a simple editing app like Preview or Photos on Mac or Microsoft’s Photo Editor will give you the results you need for these photos. Some things to remember:

  • Take photos in both landscape and portrait mode
  • Use your photo editor to correct any tilted photos
  • For any area, take close-ups, medium, and longer range photos
  • Select the photos you want to use and create a file on Dropbox or Google Drive and make sure you save them

The “After” Shoot

The project’s done, the appointment for photographing the space is approaching. Pull that plan back out and print small versions of your selected “before” photos on one or two sheets of paper for reference.

You or someone from your team should be at the photo shoot — to explain the work, orient the photographer to the plan and the space, and lend a hand decluttering and moving lights and equipment. Take some time before going to the site to review the photos and shot locations to refresh your memory after all this time.

At the home, walk the photographer through the project with the plan for reference. You or your team member is directing this shoot — don’t leave the results to chance.

  • Point out any detail work you want a close-up of — the photographer may miss those without explanation
  • Go over the “before” photos and make sure to get the same angles and perspectives
  • Be prepared to declutter — take a couple of bins or laundry baskets to stow “stuff” safely, and remember where to put them back when done.
  • You may need to move or rearrange furniture
  • Be especially vigilant in baths and kitchens — clear the counters, remove hand or dish towels, wipe surfaces.
  • Bring a flower arrangement that will complement the decor — and leave it behind as a thank-you
  • Check the photographs with the photographer at regular intervals and make adjustments as needed

Pulling it All Together

When the photos come back, organize them to reflect the best matches with your before photos, as well as the photos that showcase the overall project. These files and results are ready to tell the story of the transformation on your digital outlets like your website and Houzz profile and in awards presentations.

You may also want to put a collection of “before” photos together for your client in print or digital format. It’s an effective way to prompt referrals — when they’re proudly showing family or friends the new space, especially folks who didn’t see it before the work was done, picture of how far they’ve come help them tell the story of your work.

[Podcast] Episode 36: How to Make Your Photo Gallery a Lead-Generating Powerhouse with Tanya Bamford

One of the most powerful sales tools your remodeling company has often lies fallow on your website — your project photo galleries. With a little creativity, those photos can be transformed into compelling client success stories. This will boost your organic search rankings, super-charge lead generation, and result in more sales.

The power of storytelling, and a few tricks, can make all the difference.

In this episode, Tanya Bamford shares her insights about connecting all the dots to make the most of your online marketing efforts.

Tanya is the managing director of R/A Marketing Inc., our new sister company serving the needs of the remodeling industry. Tanya has been helping remodeling companies prosper for the better part of the last decade as the owner of a boutique marketing firm in southeastern Pennsylvania. Her work for two Remodelers Advantage members first brought Tanya to our attention.

Your galleries are fallow — to borrow a farming term — because they’re not particularly productive, but hold immense potential. They are the basis for telling a story from your clients’ perspectives, which are more compelling to prospects than technical details. You need to find the “why,” says Tanya. “You removed a wall and added a load-bearing beam, but you need to tell why that mattered to the client,” she says. Other ways to make your galleries work for you include:

  • Using the photos to tell a story on your blog and social channels
  • How to tag photos for better search engine rankings
  • Why the size of the photo also matters
  • What photos to take
  • And more…

Online marketing is getting more complicated all the time. Using the photo content you already have — in the right ways — can turn your website into a lead-generating machine.

Click Here to Listen to Episode 36 >>

Securing Your Website: It’s Time To Lock Things Up

I’m sure you pay a lot of attention to security. You lock up your materials, tools, vehicles, and job sites. Your office probably has an alarm. And your phone undoubtedly requires a password, a secret pattern, or your face to unlock it.

But what I’m not sure about is whether or not you’ve thought much about securing your online presence.

If not…it’s time.

Google’s latest update to its Chrome browser displays website URLs differently according to SSL certification status. Secure sites start with “https” rather than the non-secured “http.”

In Sept. 2018, sites without SSL are marked “Not secure” in the address bar, while https sites get a lock icon in green. By October, the “not secure” message will turn red with an exclamation point, drawing users’ attention.

If your site doesn’t have SSL certification, you’ll get the red warning sign. Google hopes it will act like a stop sign for people looking at unsecured sites.

What’s an SSL certificate?

SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, which creates an encrypted link between the server a site lives on and the browser someone’s using to interact with it — it makes sure any data passing between the server and browser remains private.

The certification says SSL is there and working.

Why is it important?

While it’s obviously important for businesses to encrypt data like credit card numbers when selling over the web, the security setting carries implications for any business site.

Your website is your front door online. As a remodeler, trust is a huge part of why you get, and keep, clients. Even if you’re not taking payment information online, you probably have a page for prospects to contact you, and landing pages for offers or events.

But you’re not taking or storing anything like credit cards or social security numbers on your site — why do you need that extra layer of security? Users will get used to seeing green or red messages, and Google’s teaching them to inherently distrust red sites. 

Even if you don’t think it will affect your brand image, people may see the red and hesitate to even enter basic contact information. If web leads are important to you, showing your site is secure should be too.

You don’t need any red flags about not being trustworthy on your own website.

It affects your Google rank

Google has been using https as part of its ranking algorithm for a while now, but industry watchers predict it will become even more important. Think of the time and effort that went into making sure your site is SEO-optimized, or the money spent on Google Ads for keywords. You want your site to come up first in a user’s search. Adding the SSL certification could help raise your site’s profile online.

Google has been working on elevating https over http for a few years now. With the latest changes, Google’s taking steps to make the web more transparent and safe for users — and users learn to trust those safeguards. Now may be the time to get your site SSL secure.

Rethink Your Remodeling Content Strategy in 2018 To Get Noticed — Part 2

Last week, we looked at the changes in SEO and content when it comes to your marketing strategies. This week, we’ll go further into how to create and organize your content so it draws your audience in the new search landscape. To get the most out of the new search tools, you need to better structure your content to totally embrace search marketing.

How? Well, back in 2017 new buzz words quickly took over the marketing world:

  • Pillar Pages
  • Topic Clusters
  • Linking structure

Most of your audience will begin their searches for a remodeling company by using common terms. Let’s use “Remodeling” as an search term example. Take a look at your website and see what type of content you’re focusing on.

Let’s say you take inventory and you have the following information available to attract potential new prospects to learn about what services you provide.  

Content Pages:

  • Bathroom Remodeling
  • Kitchen Remodeling
  • Exterior Remodeling
  • Whole Home Remodeling
  • Basement Remodel
  • Additions
  • Projects Portfolio
  • Cost vs. Value 2018 Report by Service/Market Area

Honestly, having these eight content pages available is a great start.  

Now ask yourself:  

  • Do you showcase all of your services?  
  • Is there any content missing from your website?
  • Is it easy for your website visitor to navigate the different pages?  
  • Are you offering helpful resources for each of the core pages?

Here are some examples of content pieces you may be missing:

  • eBooks or guides
  • Remodeling a House, Creating a Home
  • Kitchen Design Guide
  • Beautiful Bathrooms: Remodeling for ROI
  • Exterior Remodeling 101

Checklists

  • 10 Questions to Ask When Considering a Remodeling Professional

Projects Portfolio Page

  • Showcasing the objective of the remodel, highlighting the challenges and how your team helped convert the space to make your clients happy. Show before and after imagery, and a rendering to create a helpful visual for any website visitor

Thinking about how your audience searches will help you identify topics you want them to find on your website or blog. Taking inventory of the content you currently show on your website will help you identify any holes (content you don’t currently have) and take steps to create that content.

Pillar Pages & Topic Clusters

The Pillar page is your basis for all Subtopics. It covers the aspects of your topic on a single page. This can be a longer blog post or a content page on your website. In this example, the pillar page is “Rochester Remodeling.”

To create a Pillar page, think through all the topics you want to rank for on a Google search. A Pillar page should answer your searcher’s questions and allow them — through links — to find more detailed information on the Subtopic page.

A Topic Cluster is comprised of a Pillar page and Subtopic content you’ve compiled for each of your core topics (or services as outlined in the “Remodeling” example above).

The following subtopics are a part of the Pillar:

  • Remodeling Costs
  • Exterior Remodeling
  • Kitchen Remodeling
  • Interior Remodeling
  • Remodeling Process
  • Additions
  • Home Remodeling Resources
  • Bathroom Remodeling

Pillar page + Subtopics = Topic Cluster

A Topic Cluster should contain about six-eight Subtopics that address specific questions your “remodeling” searchers want answers to, related to the Core Topic of your pillar page.

Pillar Page: Kitchen Remodeling Subtopics:

  • Kitchen Design
  • Kitchen Cost
  • Kitchen Style
  • Kitchen Appliances
  • Kitchen Storage
  • Kitchen Cabinetry
  • Kitchen Flooring
  • Kitchen Countertops
  • Kitchen Hardware
  • Kitchen Project Portfolio

Here’s a helpful article from HubSpot that provides a more detailed explanation around each of these new content strategy optimizers.

This is what we’re using as a Pillar page about Remodeler Marketing — this is what a core topic and relevant subtopics look like for us.  

Core Topic: Remodeler Marketing

Subtopics:

  • Search Engine Optimization Tactics
  • Website Traffic
  • Lead Conversion
  • Content Creation
  • Social Media
  • Inbound Marketing Tactics
  • Lead Generation
  • Sales

This Pillar page highlights helpful and relevant articles the user can click on to do their research on their own time, such as:

  • Marketing Case Studies
  • Resources, such as eBooks and Blogs
  • Remodeler Marketing Articles
  • Remodeler Content Marketing Articles
  • Remodeler Social Media Articles
  • Remodeler Sales Articles

Structuring your content around one core topic at a time will help you organize for the new way people search. Having six to eight relevant core topics strategically linked to and from your Pillar page provides a good user experience — which means Google RankBrain will reward you by showing your content in search results. Plus, your content will be coming up in more searches, your business will get more attention and — ultimately — you’ll get more leads.

Consumers have changed the way they look for information and Google has adapted. With Google RankBrain, search marketing now favors companies that make it easy for the user to find information quickly. With that, it’s become important to think about how to best organize the content you want your potential client to find.

Instead of focusing on specific keywords, you need to create Pillar content about a Core Topic and link to and from the Core/Pillar to relevant subtopics. This enables your prospective customer to quickly find all the answers they need and connect with you. Their positive user experience and the appreciation of the helpful content you gave them will combine, creating a feeling of trust — exactly what you want when a prospect is choosing a remodeler.

If you missed last week’s installment, catch up here.

Rethink Your Remodeling Content Strategy in 2018 to Get Noticed – Part 1

Content marketing and SEO are changing — quickly. Strategies that just a few months ago grew your organic website traffic simply aren’t as effective today.  

What’s a marketer to do to continue helping her company get the results that were promised? Well, roll up her sleeves and do what a marketer does best — do her research and dig into new marketing trends!

Not too long ago, Google changed its algorithms and started using Google RankBrain. You may be wondering why this change was so critical! Let’s dive in!

The Way We Search the Internet has Changed

Most households started connecting to the Internet in the late 1990s, and smartphones weren’t in everyone’s hands until later in the next decade. Technology changes have been fast and furious, and consumers needed to adapt quickly. Need a jolt of caffeine when you’re on the go? Siri helps find the nearest Starbucks. Remember printing maps at your home or office before setting out? Now map apps get us to our destination via the fastest route.

Google adapted as well, researching how people search for topics, and the words they use. And now, with RankBrain’s power, the days of exact keyword-matching are over. Rather, Google now favors content (the stuff we marketers put out on the web) that helps the searcher’s user experience.

We’ve all searched for something specific before and gotten frustrated when we couldn’t find it fairly quickly. A marketer today has to emphasize the importance of user experience by creating content Google RankBrain will interpret as helpful to the searcher.

User Satisfaction and Finding the Right Content

Google RankBrain is intelligent and understands terms similar to the words users enter into the search bar. This is changing the way marketers plan their SEO strategy. There’s been lots of buzz about medium-tail keywords, optimizing a website page around a single keyword, LSI keywords, and more.

Google’s internal tools, including RankBrain, don’t just look to match keywords, but what users actually mean when they enter words or phrases into the search bar. They do this by seeing what results are users select to answer these queries, and those sites rank higher in their algorithms.

In our own research, we’ve found using emotional titles and headlines fare much better in reaching your audience than the standard, boring ones. Plus, there are new ways to grab attention from your audience — who are already inundated with emails, news feeds, and simply too much content to digest.

What’s Next?

You’ve probably heard “Content is King” for some time. Well, today, with so much information available to us, it’s more about “Quality & Structured Content” is the new King.

Marketers are taking a step back. We’re looking at content we already have, to re-purpose it while creating new quality content that will attract your audience. The content has to answer the questions your audience is looking for, more quickly and comprehensively. For example, a homeowner researching a remodeling project wants to easily find relevant resources. Maybe a video showcasing client testimonials to build trust, or an infographic diving into the steps it takes from project start to finish.

Over the past few years all available marketing channels have been flooded with way too much content leading to “information fatigue.” To grab the attention of your audience today, only relevant quality content will get read. This means marketers need to show context in order for Google RankBrain to judge that your content will provide a good user experience — and that gets your content ranking high in search results.

Next Week: Part 2 We’ll look at how to organize your own content to take advantage of Google’s search tools and give your audience what they’re looking for. Until then, if you want to get a more detailed explanation of RankBrain and how it sorts searches and results, we like this explainer.

To get ahead of the curve in reorganizing your content, here’s a checklist: https://marketing.builderfunnel.com/2018-remodeling-content-marketing-checklist

Small Business Cyber Threats – Are You at Risk?

Cyber Attacks and Threats only happen to the big guys, right? Banks, .COM Retailers, big corporations, right?

Not so fast…. You’re at risk more than ever and it’s only going to get worse…

The reality is that as the big companies spend millions on cyber security, the bad guys are now setting their sights on easier targets… YOU! The Small Business guy!

According to companies like Verizon and UPS Capital:

  • Almost two-thirds of all cyber attacks are now directed at small business & Individuals.
  • 61% of breaches hit small businesses last year, up from the previous year’s 53%.
  • Cyber attacks cost small businesses an average of between $84K – $148K per incident.
  • 60% of small businesses go out of business within six months of an attack.
  • 90% of small business don’t use data protection for company & customer information.

So what can you do to protect yourself? I’m not going to get technical here but I CAN break it down to two things to start off with.

  1. Protect your Data – that means working with your “computer guy” – whether it’s someone on staff or a vendor – and get security software installed on ALL of your computers, phones, tablets.. yep those too! Anything that connects to the internet in the office or in the field.
  2. Back-up your Data – Whether it’s a portable drive that you take with you off-site every night, or perhaps an online service like Carbonite, Crashplan or even DropBox… that backs up your data so it can’t be attacked or held hostage.

There’s so much more to this but hopefully this has you paying attention to it… Talk with your IT person or vendor to make sure you are protected and work with your team to:

  • Be aware and informed
  • Know the policies and procedures that your team will be following
  • Know the warning signs to look for if hacked and the steps that need to be taken if it does happen to your business.

Anyone out there experience a hack or have you taken some additional precautions you want to share? Please share your experience in the comments below.

Thanks, and I’ll see you next Thursday.

Special Edition of PowerTips TV: Award Winner

We wanted to kick off 2018 PowerTips TV with a special edition Throw-back. Right before we closed up shop for the holidays, we received word that our own Mark Harari won a MarCom Gold Award for his work on the Summit Kickoff Video we presented in Minneapolis in September.

According to their website, “MarCom Awards honors excellence in marketing and communication while recognizing the creativity, hard work and generosity of industry professionals.”

“Since its inception in 2004, the MarCom has evolved into one of the largest, most-respected creative competitions in the world. Each year about 6,000 print and digital entries are submitted from dozens of countries.” That’s a big deal… Great Job, Mark!!

Whether you were able to attend Summit or not, watch this video to get you and your team pumped for a great start to 2018… Can’t wait to see everyone in New Orleans in September!


[Infographic] Top 8 Reasons Why WordPress is Perfect For Remodeling Websites

Whether you are looking to re-build your website in 2018, or perhaps you are building a site for the first time, it’s imperative to find a Content Management System (CMS) that will allow you and your staff to make changes to your website quickly and easily.

We have many members who have built their remodeling company websites on WordPress, but also hear from many who have not and they are struggling with making changes to their websites, keeping them fresh or can’t figure out why their search engine results have declined over the past few years.

If that sounds familiar and you are looking to make a change next year, take a look at the infographic below as you consider which CMS to use or build your website on. Beyond making changes to your website easily, here are 8 reasons why we recommend using WordPress (Click Image Below for PDF):

Did we miss any? Would love to hear from some WordPress users out there with any other reasons they decided to use it and if there are any other benefits. Leave your comments below.

9 Things to Look for When Choosing a Web Company

Your website should be more than an online brochure with pretty pictures of the projects you have completed. It should be a living, breathing, lead-generation machine. It should be the “Hub” of your digital marketing/content strategy and treated that way when looking at building or re-building your remodeling company’s website.

Choosing a website developer to work with can be daunting task. There are likely hundreds or more in your local market and there are Do-It-Yourself (DIY) outlets such as Weebly or WIX. And there’s always a friend-of-a-friend that “does websites…”

When looking for a Website Development firm, look for these 9 things when considering who to work with.

Breadth of Service

Many web development firms will build a website, launch it, cash your check and wish you luck. So you have the “hub” by having your website completed, but unless you have an internal staff of marketing pros to handle all of the associated “spokes” such as SEO, Search Engine Marketing, Social Media, Video, E-mail, etc. you have nothing but the brochure I mentioned above.

It is important that the firm that develops your website should also have a plan for what happens post-launch. Who will be responsible for writing copy for the site that takes SEO into account? How will you drive traffic to it? How will the site integrate with your social media? How will leads be handled? How often will the site change and who will be the point person on that?

The firm you choose does not have to offer every service needed but, at the very least, they should have 2-3 partners that they work with on an on-going basis to handle them. For example, the last firm I worked with did not handle SEO but we brought their partner into the planning stages prior to building the website, worked with them on the copy and then post-launch as well.

Portfolio of Work

Take a closer look at prior work.

  • Visit the websites that the firm has developed and click through them… Do they navigate well? Is it easy to find information? Are there broken links or 404 Errors (missing pages or bad links)?
  • Does the work reflect the type of website and quality that you are looking for? Remodeling sites rely heavily on presenting high-quality images of prior projects… Do they do that well?
  • Is there variety among the various websites in their portfolio? Or, does it look like they have used the same “template” and just changed the colors, images and dropped in a different logo?
  • What types of websites do they have in their portfolio? They don’t have to specialize in remodeling websites but they should understand what makes your website and our industry unique?
  • Contact the clients presented in the portfolio and ask them about their experience in working with the prospective firm. Easy to work with? Project completed on-time? Within Budget?

Technology

Many web development shops are design boutiques that create beautiful work.. really stunning visual sites.. but they lack functionality. As remodelers you may be drawn to them because of their ability to present your high-quality images but be very careful that you don’t wind up with a website that (1) can’t be updated easily, (2) can’t be found on a search engine or (3) doesn’t capture leads.

Look for a firm that not only creates professional, visually appealing sites, but also builds them on reputable content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress. The prospective firm should have a clear and demonstrated knowledge of website hosting, DNS, Domain issues and E-mail configuration as well.

In addition to the 3 above, here are more things to look for:

Ownership of website: Insure that once the website has been completed, that your company owns the website, including all code, copy, images, etc. This may mean purchasing the limited rights to stock photography, video, etc. but whether you are hosting the website yourself or not, insure you own it at the end of the day.

Project Plan: Ask to see a project plan from a previous client that they worked with, or even better, ask that a rough project plan be included in your proposal.

Process: What does their production process look like? Look for a firm that has a discovery phase before building anything.

References: Ask for them and contact them.

The Prospective Company’s Website: I know there is a saying about the Cobbler’s Children’s Shoes but if I’m trusting a web development firm to build my website I want to see that their own website is solid (no broken links, typos, incomplete pages, empty portfolio, etc.)

Do a Google Search: This likely applies to any vendor you work with but a cursory google search on the name of the prospective company is likely to uncover any client satisfaction issues that you should be aware of.

Summary

Because a website is so vitally important to any reputable remodeling company, choosing the right partner to work with can be a critical business decision. A poorly designed or executed website goes further than just an image problem; losing qualified leads because prospects can’t find or don’t like your website can negatively affect your bottom line. Take your time and choose wisely.

Did we miss anything? We would love to hear any tips or advice you have in finding good or strong web partners to work with. Please refrain from posting ads or links to firms you have worked with… We want to focus on other things to look for… or perhaps any red flags to watch out for?

Lights, Camera, Action! 10 Reasons to Add Video to Your Content Marketing Plan

As we prepare to launch our next season of PowerTips TV, using video as a key component to a healthy content marketing plan is, of course, top of mind.

Why are online marketers spending so much time and effort producing and delivering video content?

According to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), your audience is 10 times more likely to engage, embed, share, and comment on your video content than blogs or related social posts. What are some other reasons?

Easier and Less Expensive to Produce:
High-quality video can be captured easily on an affordable digital video camera or even on your smart phone and the cost of easy-to-use video editing software has dropped dramatically. Marketers no longer need slick, professional videos as consumers are preferring “real” content in many instances.

Easier to Consume:
Whether you have kids or not, you’ve likely seen for yourself how easy it is for consumers to access and view video content, especially on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

It Works:
Whether you are looking at click-through rates on e-mails, conversion rates on landing pages or increased engagement on social media, including video performs across the board.

Still not Convinced?

In a Forbes Magazine article, Matt Bowman, Owner of Thrive Internet Marketing, gathers and presents these compelling reasons to add video to your content marketing mix.

  1. Video is projected to claim more than 80% of all web traffic by 2019.
  2. Adding a video to marketing emails can boost click-through rates by 200-300%.
  3. Embedding videos in landing pages can increase conversion rates by 80%.
  4. 90% of customers report that product videos help them make purchasing decisions.
  5. According to YouTube, mobile video consumption grows by 100% every year.
  6. 64% of customers are more likely to buy a product online after watching a video about it.
  7. 87% of online marketers are currently using video content in their digital marketing strategies.
  8. A third of the time people spend online is dedicated to watching videos.
  9. Video ads now account for more than 35% of all ad spending online.
  10. Digital marketing expert James McQuivey estimates that a single minute of video content is the equivalent of 1.8 million words.

How are remodelers using video effectively?

There are some great examples out there… but here are a few Remodelers Advantage Roundtables members using video in an effective way.

Website: Sebring Services does an amazing job at incorporating video into his website’s homepage. http://www.sebringservices.com/

Blog: Lane Homes & Remodeling does a nice job at adding video to their blog content. https://lanebuilt.com/blog/

YouTube Channel: In addition to their website, Patrick A. Finn Custom Homes & Remodeling has a well-executed YouTube channel with some great videos. https://www.youtube.com/user/patrickafinn.  Patrick also does a nice job at bringing that video content to social as well, as can be seen on their Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/patrickafinn

Who Else Uses Video Effectively?

I am sure there are others out there… Is it your company? Let us know about other industry companies out there using video in a creative way. Use the comment section below to share your thoughts or questions.

Summary

The audience is out there waiting to consume your content, whether it’s on your website, social media or blog… don’t be intimidated by the technology… start by simply grabbing your smart phone and capturing jobsite progress, testimonials or even some fun stuff around the office. Break a leg!