The following is a from an online chat we had with Steven Hoodlebrink of BeFoundUSA.com. Steven specializes in a variety of online services including PPC, organic SEO, website development and more. This is a lengthy read, but worth the time. Also take a look at the promotion on our homepage that includes a $50.00 Encapstore gift card when you sign-up for any BeFoundUSA service.
ES: Hello everybody. Tonight’s the night where we talk to the one and only Steve Hoodlebrink of befoundusa.com as we discuss Google Guarantee and a few other subjects. This should be about an hour long chat. There he is. How have you been?
SH: I’ve been pretty good. Staying busy, doing tutorials for a new website. Showing people how to do what we’re going to be talking about here. Not so much about Google Guarantee because there’s not a lot of strategy with that because you basically pay what Google wants you to pay and Google gives you the leads. But there is a lot more in Adwords with respect to strategy.
ES: So let me kick this off with a question to you: Google has launched Google Guarantee over the year or so. The question is what does it cost? What are the requirements? And what kind of results are your clients getting from Google Guarantee?
SH: Google guarantee has been around since about 2015, but not in the carpet cleaning area. It was originally for just for locksmiths and plumbers, because Google realized there were a lot of bad or unethical tradesman in those industries. They tested it out in five cities but they’ve expanded it nationwide geographically, and to all service trades. I believe it should be available to almost everybody now, but I know it’s still rolling out in a few smaller areas that aren’t near big metro areas. It hasn’t reached the rural areas, but nationwide it’s available to almost everyone.
As far as cost goes, I’ve seen prices from $19 to $50 a lead. It is a high price for a lead, especially when you get past the $30 or $40 mark. But the goal is use the lead to get them into a retention program. So you can think of it as a loss leader. It’s supposed to be a better quality lead, but the jury is still out on that. There used to be good leads from places like Home Advisor back in the day, and people used to kill it with them. And now it seems that those leads are junky or fake.
The overall problem with leads is that you can’t really pre-qualify them. The only pre-qualification now is what Google is guaranteeing to the end user, which is that they (Google ) do a background check on you and your employees, if those employees go into homes. These background checks are done by a third party service. They also check out how bad your reviews are across the web. So if you have good reviews, and you’re ok with the higher up-front costs, this stuff really appeals to people who are interested impulse buyers, i.e., “buy now” customers. People who “buy now” are more motivated to use the Google Guarantee service, as opposed to buying from businesses that market through Adwords, SEO or Facebook. The latter are more cautious buyers and like to investigate merchants before they buy.
But as far as Google Guarantee goes, I see leads average $20 – $35. If you can turn that lead around into a $200 or $300 ticket, that’s pretty good. If they only want a three room special, then the cost for a lead might not be an ideal investment, especially if you don’t have a retention plan in place.
When I work with merchants, I always ask them if they have a retention plan in place. Any type of marketing you do should have a retention plan in place, particularly if you have a home service business where you have the opportunity to sell your service several times a year. If you don’t have that in place, I recommend that you put your money into that. Whether it’s Servicemonster, House Call Pro, or putting a postcard program in place with mailmerge or something like that, or even using a do it yourself service. Look into that stuff first before you hand your money over to Google Guarantee.
ES: Right. Work on retaining leads the leads you have before you buy more from Google Guarantee.
SH: Yes. You might get some good leads, but at a higher per lead cost. A good cost per lead is between $8 and $18, depending on your segment of the market. That’s a good initial marketing cost. Under 20% if your minimum is $100 and the job is only going to be $100, you want to keep your lead cost under 20% so you can have a little profit after operating cost, labor, chems, gas, etc. If you have their attention your lead cost can be cut to $3 or $6 with a retention program, and that levels out your costs. It doesn‘t make sense to spend a lot on marketing if you don’t get that residual income.
ES: Next question. Has this had an adverse effect on other keywords? In other words has it affected the price, or the traffic of the searches that you see on other keywords?
SH: No not really. You notice a little bit less traffic, but I don’t think the consumers have completely caught on to it yet. If you look around you don’t really see Google marketing it a lot, it’s just a new section that popped up. And there are still people who somewhat understand exactly what searches are providing. People have been using Google for a long time, so when they’re searching for “carpet cleaners” they also search for different terms, like a store name. They are still scrolling down to the Three Pack, and they are even scrolling down to the organic search results.
It’s (Google Guarantee) taken up real estate on the page, yes, but the other neat thing is that you can rank in the little Google Guarantee three pack in smaller areas if people haven’t caught on to Google Guarantee. You can get a free lead if people pick up the phone and call you directly. You can under some circumstances actually appear without paying for the service. We have a couple of clients who are doing well this way. They were thinking “we don’t like cost per lead, but let’s just keep doing what we’re doing with respect to SEO.” As they gain traction from specific areas we notice that driving certain traffic from certain cities or areas actually manipulates that a little bit, as far as how they rank people in the Google Guarantee section. It’s not an exact science, but about just continuing to market the company. You can’t manipulate it as easily as you can with SEO, but even now it’s becoming less and less possible.
There are a few tricks you can use to improve ranking, but it’s still a good idea to approach marketing as a multi-pronged effort. Don’t put all your money into just Google Guarantee or just Adwords, because customers are coming to you from a variety of scenarios. Some people are looking at your Facebook page, some are reading your reviews, and some are going directly to your site or checking you out on Yelp. People research service companies in a variety of ways, and it’s a good idea approach marketing in a way that reaches them where they are in the scenario.
ES: For those of you not familiar with Steve, he was a long time carpet cleaner and restoration expert. He worked in the supply side of the industry for a while. And for the last seven years now he’s been doing web design and SEO.
SH: I started around 2010, but didn’t go full time until about 2013.
ES: So Steven has a lot of experience related to the carpet cleaning industry and SEO in general. He’s a great resource, so you might want to send him a friend request on Facebook and check out BeFoundUSA, the page for his business. So my next question is you mentioned how important it was to be diversified in your approach to web advertising and promotion. Besides Adwords and Google Guarantee, where else should someone look for getting leads and new clients?
SH: Obviously Adwords is the most important place. Another interesting way of getting leads is by to create a local scholarship at your local high school. It requires a financial commitment, but it’s also a part of natural link building. If you are a booster of a school or a scholarship provider, the school will provide a link with your company name, and educational websites are good places to have links back to your site.
But the main ways of getting leads are Adwords, Google Guarantee, the three pack, organic links, Facebook, Yelp…Yelp is one of those things where you have to check if people are using it in your city. There is a lot of controversy surrounding Yelp, but it must work because people pay advertising to them, and its a billion dollar company so they must be doing something right as far as generating leads for their customers. You may not agree with their other practices, especially with respect to their policy on reviews, for example. I was talking to a client last week about the importance of having a directory listing on Yelp, make sure you’re on HomeAdvisor, AngiesList, make sure you’re on all those directories. Take the time to fill out the profiles. The leads may trickle in, but it only takes five minutes to fill out the profile. It’s all a part of natural SEO, making sure you have a consistent presence online.
But in general it’s important to stay in touch with the customers in your database, not just with respect to postcards like I mentioned earlier, but using your website. That’s the idea behind the tutorials on our site. We used to never worry about our website traffic, we always concentrated on building traffic for our clients. But we’ve found that making our site actually useful can be profitable. I know that carpet cleaning is not the most interesting topic in the world. There are only so many ways to talk about how to vacuum your carpet, or spot clean, things like that. But if you can figure out ways to drive traffic to your site, you’re going to win.
But your promotion strategies can differ from market to market. For instance, Yelp has never really taken off in the Midwest where I live, but it might be different in California.
ES: Is blog content still important? For years that was critical.
SH: Yes and no. Things have changed some. Just posting to get keywords out there is a dumb way of approaching it. If you are going to invest time in blog content, you might better drive traffic to it by linking to it in a newsletter. If you write content no one finds, it’s a waste of time and Google won’t rank you, even if your content it interesting. Putting a link in a newsletter will send them directly to the post.
See, it’s helpful to think of Google primarily as a company that sells advertising. So, when people search for information, they have expectations of what those results should be. If people are going to your post, even if it’s through a newsletter link, Google knows that the content is relevant to someone, and it is going to pay you more to have their ads on your blog page.
You want content that is engaging. If you do a blog post, I recommend you do a video, and then either transcribe the verbal content or succinctly summarize it in the text portion of the post and include some images, like screen caps from the video. Post this content everywhere you possibly can. Google MyBusiness now has a post feature. You can post video, pics, links to your blog. You can post a review from Yelp if you want to. Post to Facebook Twitter LinkedIn, everywhere you possibly can. You want to get as much content out there to drive traffic to your site.
If you’re doing video, it doesn’t have to be super long. If you’re getting people to watch four to five minutes of video watching two or three videos on your site, and your competition has an average of, say, 30 seconds of viewing time, Google cares about your site that your competition. Because you have shown that you have something that people want to see, read, etc.
ES: Post compelling content.
SH: Yes. Focus on creating good content. Again, this may sound tedious, but showing people how to vacuum properly is a good way to start. There is, after all, a right way to vacuum and a wrong way to vacuum. If you have the beater bar set too low, you can damage the carpet. Make sure they are getting the edges because of filtration soiling, or make a video about vacuum maintenance. It’s kind of silly stuff, but people watching your video might not know this stuff.
You have to think about your target market. Most carpet cleaning clients are women, at least with respect to residential cleaning. So you have to come up with stuff they care about. You can also do off topic stuff, just to convey that you are a down to earth person. You can do videos about stuff for kids to do during the winter. If you throw in stuff like this every now and again, it won’t hurt your ranking.
Even if you link to other people’s content, Google still sees that people think your site is interesting enough to visit, and you still get “partial credit” for them going to other content through your site because the social connection aspect is part of the Google ranking algorithm. People will remember your site, and that helps your branding.
Make sure you have stuff ready for people to “Buy Now,” because if a customer is on the fence between you and a competitor, or sometimes you have people come to your site who aren’t even thinking actively about having their carpet cleaned, but they encounter instructive content on your site that helps them decide to get their carpet cleaned on the spot, you want them to be able to do that.
One of the people in the chat says “be human.” Potential clients are inundated with promotional content all the time, and they get jaded from being “sold” all the time. Being human simply means being a part of your community, and finding ways to provide information to that community not only about what you do, but do something to make their life easier. People will remember you if you do approach it that way.
ES: Looking back in hindsight, with respect to commercial cleaning, I would offer profiles of my clients. Like “We just cleaned the carpet at Larry’s Restaurant and here is what we did and how it turned out.” Make it like a profile of the customer and for the customer. We can show what we do, and they get a little promotion for their business. It’s a very natural exchange, it’s still about cleaning, but it’s not the same ol’ same ol’ promotion. It’s something new to talk about.
SH: That’s right. Mix it up a bit. If you have a multi truck business, do a “Meet Our Crew” feature, or an “Employee Spotlight”. If you have a smaller owner/operator operation, do a “Here’s My Dog” or a “Here’s My Family” feature. Make it personal, because people remember you that way. If you’re cleaning a restaurant—you don’t want to say “Look how filthy this place was until we got there”—say “this place is really busy and gets tons of traffic and this is how we helped them keep the place looking in tip top shape.” You don’t have to even do an explicit before and after shot, because people get that these places get pretty dirty and that keeping them clean is a task unto itself. You want to present it like you’re helping another business out.
Someone in chat asks how often you should post to social media. I would say once a week, whether it’s your own article, a before and after, like you mentioned case studies. People find seeing things cleaned oddly satisfying. There is a quirky subreddit called “Oddly Satisfying. ” It’s a little hard to explain, but it shows picture of things that are, well, satisfying to see. And tile and carpet cleaning pictures and videos are very popular. People just love to see this stuff. Gary Hite’s tile cleaning video went viral all over the world, because people love seeing that. Showing people that you can make Kool-Aid stains vanish, they will be amazed and they will remember this. Memorable impressions will make them remember your business.
With respect to live videos, out here in the Midwest we have problems with filtration soiling. Set up the camera, get the product down, scrub it, make it go away. When they see that they will immediately look at their baseboards. I had the problem with filtration soiling. Feature videos that make people relate to real life issues, restoration problems, how to prevent water damage. You’re showing them how to prevent it, but if they don’t do it, they will still remember your video and that means they remember you. “this guy told me what I had to do to prevent water damage, but I didn’t do it so I guess I have to call him now.”
ES: Nice. With respect to Facebook and social media – obviously it’s critical to drive traffic—but a lot of cleaners complain that they are not getting results from boosted posts. Others claim to be wildly successful with them. Why do some people have success and others don’t? We have to keep in mind that some people are, well, for one reason or other exaggerating things. But this does seem to be one of those topics that are either black or white. What’s your take on this?
SH: Well sometime people aren’t targeting right. If your ad isn’t getting results, Facebook has an AI feature built into its algorithm that takes the first 1000 impressions and if you aren’t getting any results for your form submissions or getting website hits, whatever, then FB sends it out to whom they THINK it should be going out to. And this isn’t necessarily who you wanted it to go to. That’s not good.
The original question was how do you target an audience better? You need to pre-target. That’s what the website is for. I want them to reach this page and then I want them to do this. If they don’t do this, I can create an audience to target them in 15 days or 7 days or 3 days whatever. Or I want them to go to this page and then go to this page and then do this. It’s kind of a sales funnel. I know Shane Duvall talks about this. He says you need to chew your audience down. You can go back up to 6 months in Facebook. Send out an ad every month or so to those who didn’t buy back then. Eventually you sort of wear them down. Keep in mind that you are going to pay more and more to go to a smaller audience. As your audience gets chewed down , if only a couple hundred people end up going to your web site, sending out ads to that focused audience you will pay more per impression.
It’s a good idea to test small. A lot of people start big. They think “I really need to gin up some business” and they start throwing money around and spending hundreds of dollars on an audience that’s too broad. Starting smaller lets you test things, play around with the different interests and demographics, but just test. Try AB testing. Swap out a picture and see what your feedback is. Use a picture with a cute family with a dog, and one with a before and after photo. Too many people do a One and Done, and if it doesn’t work they say it sucks and they give up. But they never really test it. You can send out two different ads to the same group, or even three different ads. Adwords recommends you do three or four ads because they will compare your ads and the ones that do best are the ones they will prioritize, and they will do it for you because it’s in their best interest for your to succeed. So test test test.
You can also just post on your Facebook page alone. But if you do that you have to remember that only a small percentage of the people who could see your posts are seeing it that way. It’s kind of a pay to play thing. So even if you boost your posts to only to people who have liked your page, that will be a good investment. Because you are targeting people who already know you, they might be ready to buy. If they have not yet bought from you they might still like your posts and are already primed to buy. You don’t have to target people who don’t know who you are. It’s not a bad idea to target people who have already seen your brand.
Targeting wide audiences on Facebook has become the new cold calling. You just need to hit the people who are at different stages in the buying process and start chewing down. It takes effort, but again you need retention programs in place keep the ball rolling, and as you keep the client longer and longer, the cost of that original leads becomes cheaper and cheaper.
ES: You hear a lot of people talking about incorporating a ‘pixel’ into their website. Can you explain that?
ES: So if you don’t get a conversion on your site the first time from Adwords or organic search, you retarget them through Facebook. Right?
SH: Not with Pixel, though. The Pixel comes in when they come from Facebook and go to your site. There are ways however to build an audience from the referring domain to Facebook. So if someone goes from Facebook to your website, you will see referring domains like l.facebook.com and m.facebook.com. You can build audiences from those and retarget them that way. Retargeting on Adwords is a lot cheaper than retargeting on FB. On Adwords it can cost literally pennies, and you can do it with text ads or a display ad. Ryan Kettering can put out an awesome display package for you. Some of the people in the chat have had this and they will tell you its super cheap.
I said Google retargeting is a lot cheaper than Facebook retargeting, but it really depends on your return on investment. If you have an audience that’s ready to buy, because they forgot about you in the past or whatever the case may be, but they are ready to buy now, and you’ve chewed that audience down, then you need to decide for yourself if a Facebook retargeting is worth the money. At the same time you can get people from your Google Adwords, and then build an audience within Facebook to do that. It’s a little tricky, and very difficult to explain. I can go into the system and do it, but explaining it is tough. We’re trying to come up with some tutorials on it, but that will come later. It’s possible though.
ES: Concerning YouTube…Is YouTube a good vehicle for ranking? Do people use YouTube when searching for a carpet cleaner?
SH: Sure people use YouTube. If you make a video make sure that your brand is in there. Put your company name in the title, along with your city. Or carpet cleaning and removing wine stains or Kool-Aid. Fill out the full description, put in your website or to a relevant page or blog post on your site, link to your Facebook. But if you’re going to the trouble of making videos for YouTube, put them on your website and on your Facebook page as well. It’s important that people see the videos. There was a craze for a while, to make tons of videos and put them on YouTube. But if people don’t see them, so what good does it do? That’s why you put them on your Facebook page as well.
For Google, traffic is king. They have said traffic is not that important, but we’ve tested and a lot of other people have too, and we’ve found that if someone goes from YouTube to your site, Google loves that. Because it’s proof that you’ve engaged them. It means that Google thinks that your site has more good content people want. Just using YouTube as a video dump doesn’t make much sense. But if you have thought it out you have a better chance.
Make a schedule and structure your content. People think “oh yes I want to make a video on this” but they never do it. A plan without action is foolish. Put everything on your calendar. Put “on this day we post a video on this topic and make a blog post linking it. On another day we have a live video set up for such and such a Store.” If you’re in a period where you don’t have a lot of work, that’s a great time to beef up on your content. Set up an old piece of carpet in your garage, pour some Kool-Aid on it, clean it up with the video rolling. You have a video in the can like that.
Most of the time there’s no excuse to never put content out there. I’ve been guilty of it in the past, but this year we have made a commitment. You have people out there that are not buying your service right now, but if they have seen the video on how to remove a stain from their carpet, and they use your tips, when they finally do need a carpet cleaning, your brand will be in the back of their head. Make a memorable impression and make content with a purpose.
It’s all really straightforward if you avoid gimmicks and just market your company through problem solving. Find out stuff that they need solved and show them how to solve it for themselves.
ES: if you post the same content in a Facebook post, a video, and a blog post, is there going to be any issue with duplicate content? Will Google penalize you?
SH: No, not really. Let’s say you find a great step by step blog post on how to do something. You can put it in your own blog in quotes, and then put a link back to the page you got it, and that way Google will see that it’s not duplicated in the sense of being plagiarized. I don’t recommend you do it a lot, but you can do it. Giving credit to the original source is always a good idea. Most people don’t care if you copy their content if you credit them.
But if you snag your video off Facebook and put it on YouTube, and copy the description that won’t hurt you in the sense of duplicate content. Again, I wouldn’t do a bunch of duplicate content on Facebook and your blog, but every once in a while it won’t hurt.
ES: Someone in the chat wants you do define retargeting.
SH: Retargeting means you have interacted with someone, say, through liking a Facebook post. Then they click on an ad on Facebook and they see your landing page offer but don’t buy, or don’t fill out a form, or book online, whatever your conversion goal is. When you retarget it means you did not convert them the first time and you are going to give it another try. So if the original landing page offer was 3 rooms for $180.00 and you are willing to go a little lower, you can send them another ad for 3 rooms for $160. The goal is to keep them interacting with your ads and be consistently chewing down that audience until you get to the point where they are ready to buy.
You can do that same thing with Adwords. You send out an ad, build an audience and exclude them from seeing the original ad again. This discourages competitors from clicking on your ads to drive your ad costs up.
ES: One last question concerning online reviews: are reviews/testimonials on your website worth anything, or should you push for your clients to put reviews on Yelp?
SH: There are WordPress plugins that allow you to put reviews on your site. It depends on how you are marketing. Your own review system will have structured content with schema markup. Google recognizes things tagged with schema markup as legitimate. Sometimes you will see actual review stars in the organic search results, along with a meta description. Oxy Fresh is a business that does this very well. They can combine all their franchise reviews statewide in the state of Arizona or Nevada. So if they have 6 franchises with 100 reviews, it appears in the searches as 600 reviews no matter the franchise. But what’s important is where do customers feel the most comfortable leaving reviews.
ES: In the past your review stars appeared in the search results. Does that still happen?
SH: Well, we’ll put schema markup in the footer of the website, or on the review page itself. Then we pull in real reviews from there. We then put the average number of stars for the review and wrap it in schema markup. You can put it in the footer as well, which means it goes on every page. So if that page is found in the organics, the review stars might show up as well. It’s kind of hit or miss. It has worked for some clients, but not all. But when it does work, it really increases your click through rate. The more stuff you can serve up that makes the user wants to click on your listing the better.
ES: Someone in chat wants to know about click funnels.
SH: A click funnel is essentially a sales funnel. You set up a goal and the funnel chews down or pre qualifies that person. You ask them a question, they provide an answer, or you provide them with content or a form, or a link to more content and end it up somewhere along the way with a call to action. Click funnels are something you can do yourself. There are some WordPress click funnel integration solutions out there. We have calls to actions on all our sites, and they essentially get people involved to do something. Do you want to email us, do you want to read reviews, do you want to look at photos, and do you want a free quote? And then at the bottom, “what would you like to do next?” Would you like to learn more about our services? We give the 4 or 5 click buttons, but there are a couple asking for sales and couple offering more information.
We’ve learned that if they are looking for this thing based on the behavior of other people on the website, like if they look at the home page, usually the carpet cleaning pages, then they go to the review page. On the other hand, if they have come directly from your FB page and they are ready to buy, maybe they want to call or fill out a free quote form, or book online now.
A lot of sales funnel stuff we integrate into their websites.
ES: You’ve helped a lot of cleaners out there. Your website is befoundusa.com, and you do SEO, you help with PPC and social media management. I know you’ve worked with a variety of budgets and developed a basket of services based on people’s needs and where they’re wanting to go with their business. So if you are in need of website help, you should reach out to Steven. He’s always helpful and can steer you in the right direction. He’s a tremendous resource in the industry. Would you be willing to do an analysis for a couple of cleaners out there?
SH: Yea that would be fine. Let me say this up front: If you’re looking for business outside your normal operating area, we’re mostly talking about landing pages for Adwords. If you’re looking for SEO, you have to be prepared to apply a budget and play the long game, because it takes time. A lot of people get irritated at how long it takes and I can’t say that I blame them. Because you’re asking people to cough up several thousand dollars for something they might not see the results for 9 months or a year. So I like to look for solutions that have a return on investment that is immediate, or as immediate as possible. If you have a site that just needs a bump in the rankings, and you have to money and are willing to wait, I can help you. But most of the people who come to us are not in that position. They want work right now.
So if you’re in a decent sized city and you’re not getting a lot of work from the internet, then we can help. We just don’t focus as much any more specifically with ranking, we focus on getting people to the web site. Ranking can play a role in that, but we have clients in huge metropolitan areas ranking 6th or 5th, but they are still getting 50 to 70 leads a month. They’re not even in the top 3. So you don’t have to be in the top 3 to get work, especially if you are searching on “carpet cleaning + city”. That’s a bad way of approaching it because people aren’t searching that way so much anymore. They are doing broad searches, simply “carpet cleaning” or “carpet cleaner” and the results can be really unpredictable because Google takes into account the searchers’ past searches and other personalization factors. We focus on, “you’ve been getting 10 leads a month, let’s see if you can bump it up to 20 to 35 leads a month.” We like goal numbers like that.
ES: One thing I want to point out to the audience is that you are good at minimizing their cost in marketing and cost per lead.
SH: There are a lot of people doing this stuff themselves, and they are getting leads and doing well, but it’s costing them $15 to $20 per lead, which is not bad, it’s not the greatest, but we can get it down to $8 to $12 per lead. That’s one of the features of our service. I’ve been in the carpet cleaning business and I understand the business really well, as far as what are good target and a respectable cost per lead. So I’m a real numbers guy. We work with all sorts of budgets. We look for signs that people are ready, before we even begin to think about Adwords. We might need to create a landing page; we might need to restructure the site some.
Our customer in Austin had a site that we did not build and we did a few things –his site was already getting traffic—but people were not able to get in touch with him easily. We put in a form and some click to call buttons, and his conversions skyrocketed. He is now investing in Adwords and his conversions are really exploding. He’s worked on branding, and improved his presence, and they find him of Google through searches now. I’d be happy to look at your site to see what needs to be done. From there it’s a process to reach a goal.
ES: Ok the site is befoundusa.com. Steven is very approachable so friend him or send him a message if you want some feedback about what you want to have to do to improve your site. Sometimes Steven can get calls coming in almost immediately if you have everything in place.
SH: Definitely send me a friend request. I only check it once a week, so it might take at least that long for me to get back to you. But keep in mind that if I work for somebody in your area I will probably turn down your request for business, because we offer exclusivity. We won’t help any of your competitors, unless you allow it.
ES: Thanks a lot Steven, you do great work.
Contact Steven at email@example.com