More and more people are turning to Google to find local tradesmen, including for plumbing and heating services.
In fact, more people are using Google full stop. According to Internet Live Stats, there are over 4.7 billion Google searches worldwide a day and this number grows by about 10% a year.
This is why SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is becoming increasingly important. SEO is the skillset related to getting your website to rank high up in Google’s search results.
This is important because the highest-ranking website gets the most visits from users (‘traffic’).
One study found that the number 1 highest ranking result on Google gets 31% of the traffic for that search. The top 3 results combined get 75% of the traffic between them.
By contrast, all of the results on the second page combined only get 0.78%.
Furthermore, 46% of all searches have local intent. Searches for ‘plumber near me’ and ‘plumbers near me’ in the UK alone currently at 74,000 and 65,500 per month respectively.
In short, if you want to gain a share of this huge new source of customers, you need to start thinking about SEO.
What kind of SEO is relevant to plumbers?
When people talk about SEO they are usually referring to traditional SEO rather than local SEO. That is despite the above-mentioned stat of 46% of all results being for local searches. There is a lot of overlap between traditional and local SEO but also some key differences, which I will mention again later on in this article.
Local plumbing SEO is, as the name suggests, is simply SEO that is focused on ranking high for local searches. Traditional SEO, on the other hand, is SEO for more general searches related to national or international products and services or simply searches for information.
For example, to make your website list high for someone searching for ‘plumber near me’, you need to focus on local SEO. But if you have a website that teaches plumbers how to do certain tasks, that you want plumbers from all over the country (or world) to visit (perhaps after searching things such as ‘plumbing training videos’ or ‘articles about latest plumbing innovations’ etc.) then you should be focusing on traditional SEO.
So, in short: For plumbers, the most important type of SEO to focus on is definitely local SEO. (However, as I will explain later, knowing about traditional SEO is useful, too.)
The first (and most important) step for local SEO: Set up Google My Business
Opening a Google My Business account is the most important first step for plumbers looking to get clients from Google.
Google My Business is a free platform for all kinds of business (local and otherwise) to sign up to. Signing up takes about 10 minutes and confirm your account simply involves waiting 4 days for a postcard with a confirmation code to appear.
Your Google My Business account populates the information displayed in Google’s 3-pack. This is the information presented at the top of the search results (underneath the map) in a pack of three, like this:
Most plumbers will put their home address in Google My Business. You should make sure you click ‘hide my address’ if, like most plumbers, you don’t serve customers at your from here. If you don’t hide it, Google may suspend your account because they will think you are proving misleading information.
By providing but hiding your address, Google has evidence of where you are based and can rank you accordingly for that area.
Maintaining you Google My Business account
Once your account is set up and confirmed, the next task is to keep it updated. The two main ways to do so are:
Stay active and keep information on your business hours and deals updated
Ask customers to put reviews on there (and respond)
You can download the free Google My Business App to help do this quicker and more conveniently. When updating information, it is important to be consistent and clear (i.e., if you go on holiday, adjust your working hours accordingly, and don’t forget to re-adjust them when you get back to work!).
You can ask customers to leave you reviews either by looking up your profile or by directly sending them the URL provided by your account.
Be sure to respond to all reviews, positive or negative! If it is the former, something along the lines of ‘Thanks for your feedback!’ is fine. If it is the latter, feel free to apologise or disagree with their complaints – but either way, be sure to remain calm and professional.
The platform also allows you to post pictures of your work. Doing this regularly will help keep your account updated and information-rich, which are two things that Google loves and will reward you for by placing you higher in the rankings.
Remember, some bad reviews are almost impossible to avoid no matter how good you are and potential customers will likely be reading these.
Why having a website is still important
There are three main reasons why having a website with good SEO is still important for plumbers.
1. Organic SEO influences your ranking in Google 3-pack. Your organic ranking is known to have an influence on the ranking of your Google My Business profile in the Google 3-pack ranking itself.
2. 40% of traffic from searches still goes to organic results. This is a lot of users that still scroll down past 3-pack results and look at the top-ranking websites. This means that this space is prime online real estate that you could be gaining a lot of customers from.
3. Having a website improves your Google My Business profile. There is a space on for websites in the Google 3-pack results:
By having a website hear, you are giving the potential customer another point of information and opportunity to build trust.
After all, if your description and reviews more or less match your nearest rival, but they have a (good) website and you don’t, which one do you think will gain more customers?
Building and maintaining a website
To build yourself a small website (most tradesmen’s websites don’t need to have many pages), it will usually cost about £160 – £200 pound initially and at least a day’s work – if you know what you are doing. The only costs after this initial set up will be your server space, which should cost at about £150 a year and domain name which will be about £15 per year.
If you don’t do it yourself (and let’s face, most plumbers are too busy to!), it should cost approximately £4-600 to set up and then around £200 a year on maintenance and updating costs.
Maintenance means running crawls and fixing any errors which naturally occur to any website over time. Updating simply involves updating plugins and any other information listed on the site.
Your website should provide all the basic information about who you are, what services you provide, what areas you cover, and how to get in touch. Make sure that all information here is clearly listed and consistent with the information on your Google My Business account.
Improving your website’s SEO
Once you have made a website, the next task is to rank it. There are three main things you should think about for doing this:
1. Technical aspects. This mainly includes how fast it loads and that it doesn’t have any broken pages. If you are doing this yourself, this only needs to be focused on when you are setting up the website and then about every 3 months thereafter.
The reason this is so important is that if a user clicks on your website and it doesn’t load or takes to long to load, they will immediately leave your website.
If Google sees many users make a search, click on your website and then more or less immediately click off it, that tells them your website isn’t useful, and they will demote you down the rankings.
These are words and phrases related to plumbing that people searching for plumbers will use. For example, they might type ‘plumber near me’ in the search engine. Or, they might write something more specific, such as ‘power flushing service’, ‘burst pipe’, ‘boiler repair’, etc.
Your website site should have as many of these relevant terms as you can find.
Take note though, you can’t just write these terms on your website and leave it at this – this is called ‘keyword stuffing’, something which used to work on Google long ago, but which will now get you punished.
After all, simply stuffing a page with these terms is quite meaningless for users looking for answers. They need to be naturally embedded in relevant text. For example:
‘I provide a range of plumbing services, including power flushing services, fixing burst pipes and boiler repairs.’
There are a range of tools you can use, some free and others paid, that will help you find all of the keywords you should be adding to your website.
The more relevant keywords you have, the more likely it is that a user searching for these keywords will find you.
Backlinks are links from other websites to yours. They can come about in a number of ways.
For example, you could write an article about the best way to fix a sink for a plumbing website. When the plumbing website publishes your article, it will include a link to your website on the post.
Or, perhaps one of your regular clients is a beauty salon. They could post your company logo somewhere on their website with a link to yours, below a line that reads ‘Our local plumbing partner’.
For local SEO, it is important that the backlinks you get are locally ones (such as the beauty salon). However, getting backlinks more generally is (like the plumbing website example) useful for your overall SEO.
Backlinks tell Google that another website trusts you, which improves your rankings. Generally speaking, higher ranking websites will have more backlinks.
However, quantity is more important than quality.
Avoiding backlinks from ‘junk’ or spammy websites is important, because having them may mean Google thinks you are simply finding underhand ways to gain backlinks and trick them – something many people do and have their websites penalised for.
Backlink building takes time. Above I have outlines two different ways it can be done, but there are others. Each legitimate way of gaining them will include time (or sometimes money) being spent on earning them.
However, they will pay off. Over time Google will reward you for them with a higher ranking, which will grant you access to more traffic and customers.
The above is a brief outline of what steps plumbers need to take to build up their SEO. In the next article I will go more in depth on some of the matters discussed, such as keyword research and how to get backlinks.
Even if you don’t plan doing your SEO work yourself, it is helpful to know about what is involved. This knowledge will help you choose which SEO freelancer to use and understand their work.
Remember to avoid any freelancer who claims to be using shortcuts to improve your ranking.
Keyword stuffing, dodgy backlinks, etc. are all to be avoided – though they may gain you a short-term boost, in the long run they will lead to Goole penalising you. It is always best to build up your SEO in a legitimate and sustainable way.
Gaining customers from Google could be a game-changer for you and your business. To end, let’s sum up the main steps listed above once more:
1, Set up a Google My Business Account
2, Maintain an updated Google My Business account and asking clients to give you reviews on there
3, Create a website
4, Check technical aspects of your website are working
5, Do and apply keyword research
6, Get backlinks!