Everyone has heard of search engine optimization, better known as SEO, at this point. The majority of people understand that it plays an important role in helping their website be found.
However, do you know what practices your landscaping company can actually be doing to improve your SEO?
Location is not just important in the real estate world. You also want your landscape company’s website sitting on the prime virtual property of Google’s first results page.
So how do you go about ranking higher in Google’s eyes? There are a number of elements to consider and they all work in tandem, so it’s imperative to not just do one of these components well, but to succeed at all of them. If this seems too overwhelming, you can always turn to an SEO consultant for help.
“Google’s algorithm is extremely complicated, and it understands things we would never think about,” says Tye Odom, director of SEO for Randall-Reilly. “They use artificial intelligence and they’re able to determine what industry and what niche this is in and they’re able to tell by the type of content and the level of writing how authoritative you are. Their first page results are their whole business model. They’re really looking for sites that are the best in that industry and the content is the best way to do that.”
One of the first simple SEO strategies is to work on including more keywords in the content that’s on your site.
“It’s always going to start with keywords,” Odom says. “They can use tools like Google Keyword Planner and then they just need to make sure that anything they are highly relevant for that they brainstorm what are the different variations of what people could search for when looking for their services and what is the search volume for each one of those and then you make sure you use those on the pages.”
What’s crucial is to ensure that if you have enough content on your pages. For example, if you have an irrigation system installation page and then a separate page for irrigation system maintenance because you see these as two different keywords you want to target, make sure each page has substantial information.
“If it’s going to be really thin content, you should combine them and just have them separated in different sections,” Odom says. “You should have separate pages if, not just if the keywords are different but if topically, they are different enough that it warrants a second page. Having thin content is a pretty big no-no.”
Odom defines thin content as a small paragraph or less on a page, or having a couple of words and then some pictures. He advises writing a couple of paragraphs on pages while still making sense and not fluffing the content.
One way to go about including keywords in solid content is to maintain a blog.
“Blogs are how you build up authority in your site,” Odom says. “Google wants to rank sites that they trust are authoritative. One of ways they can know you are an authority is through your content.”
It’s important to post to your landscaping blog at a bare minimum of once a month. Otherwise, if you are not updating your site, it can cause Google to question if you are still in business. Also avoid creating a blog solely for keyword density.
“Try not to game the system,” Odom says. “Try to provide value to your users while weaving in SEO best practices.”
The same thing goes for posting on social media accounts that are linked to your business’s website. By making a point to update your accounts regularly is a signal to Google that you are active, and your business is open.
Customer reviews play a role as well when it comes to ranking. According to Odom, Google pulls from a number of review sites and some they value more than others.
“If you’ve got a ton of negative reviews and not very many positive reviews, that’s not a good thing,” he says. “You need to be responding to reviews. You need to trying help people, but Google also knows that people will leave a bad review for no reason, so it’s not like you’ve got to prune every last bad review. You need to try to answer them as best you can.”
While not having any reviews isn’t necessarily bad, Odom does say it might hold you back if your local competition does have reviews while you don’t. He encourages landscapers to actively request reviews from satisfied customers.
Another important ingredient to ranking well is having backlinks, as these are the backbone of Google’s algorithm.
“Links are like votes in Google’s eyes, especially if it is a well-known site or a site that has a lot of authority,” Odom says. “That’s like get a thousand votes for your site.”
However, keep in mind that there is a right way and wrong way to go about getting backlinks.
“Do a search in Google for your brand name and if you find other websites that are mentioning your brand but are not linking to your site, reach out to them and ask them if they mind linking to your site,” Odom says. “To me, those are pretty simple tasks that have a huge benefit.”
You should focus on getting high-quality, relevant backlinks. Trying to exchange links on a links page will actually hurt your site.
In Odom’s opinion, the most important factor for ranking well is your site’s structure.
“Whatever is on your home page and in your navigation, they need to be only the most important internal links, meaning links to other pages on your site,” he says. “Try not to load up tons of links on your home page and in your navigation.”
“You can overcome site structure issues with a lot of backlinks,” Odom says. “You can overcome not having a lot of backlinks by having perfect site structure. I would say it is half of the game. If you’re doing both very well, you’re going to dominate.”
Hire an SEO consultant
Just like how you wouldn’t try to do a hardscaping project if you didn’t have any qualified workers you need, consider subbing out your SEO work to a consultant.
“If you’re not doing SEO, you may have all this great content that you’ve written that’s chocked full of keywords and doing everything that you think is right, but if you don’t have someone with an SEO background, your site may not be in Google’s index because of the way it’s built,” Odom says. “There are technical things that can prevent your site from even being indexed, much less ranking.”
Additionally, just like how you don’t hire just any subcontractor off the street without seeing their previous work and talking to their references, it is crucial to find a reputable SEO consultant.
“You can find an SEO consultant for a $100 a month and you’re flushing your money down the toilet because nobody can do the right work for $100 a month,” Odom says. “It’s just impossible. Real SEO looks at so many areas of your site that it’s impossible to spend the time that’s needed without charging a decent amount of money for your time.”
While pricing will be relative to the size of your site and the competitiveness of your industry, Odom says that at least $700-$750 a month is more realistic price range to expect for a legitimate consultant who isn’t with an agency.
“If you’re trying to get the most bang for your buck, I would seek someone out on LinkedIn, somebody who’s not a big agency. The more overhead they have, the more they’re going to charge.”
Odom advises when a landscaping company has a decent marketing budget that it should prioritize SEO.
“If you’re going to spend money on trying to get your name out there or get your services out there, SEO is the first place that you start because you are putting yourself in front of people who are searching for your products,” Odom says. “SEO is not like paid search where when you pull the money the traffic goes away. The money you put into SEO, if it’s done the right way, is only going to keep paying off down the road. It’s going to continue to build your traffic.”
Track your improvements
After paying for an SEO consultant, the last thing you want to do is simply assume that they’ve improved your site’s visibility.
“Make sure you have Google Analytics set up from the very moment you are even thinking about doing anything SEO-related,” Odom says. “You need to know where your site’s traffic is at beforehand.”
Odom says he tends to focus on organic and direct traffic numbers the most and doesn’t look at rankings very often.
“At the end of the day, I don’t care about the rankings; traffic is how we make money,” Odom says. “If traffic is going up, we’re making money.”
Phone call conversions are another metric that you can track to see if there have been improvements since implementing your changes, but at the end of the day, it is important to remember that SEO can only get potential customers to your site. It’s up your website and overall brand to convince them to pick up the phone or fill out a contact form that might lead to a sale.