Contractor Magazine Says SEO is a Priority for 2021 — Is Your Home Services Business Prepared?

Home services is a diverse industry that includes roofing, plumbing, home inspection, self storage, and many other types of businesses. What they all share in common are the challenges — and opportunities — that have arisen around the COVID-19 pandemic. 

For example, one report published earlier this year revealed that, while the industry initially “experienced a significant decline…in March and April [2020] when stay-at-home directives were implemented across the U.S.,” the industry nonetheless “ended the year exceeding pre-pandemic growth levels,” marking an incredible turnaround. In fact, the report found that “median revenue in [the] Home Service [industry] saw consistent positive growth beginning in June, and reached a record high for the year in December with 23% growth year-over-year.” The “Green segment” in particular, which provides outdoor services such as lawn care and landscaping, enjoyed “record growth” throughout 2020, reaching an impressive “32% year-over-year growth in December.” 

These figures paint an optimistic financial picture for home service businesses in 2021 and beyond, especially as COVID-related restrictions continue to relax and more consumers receive vaccinations. However, if you want to successfully capitalize on this surge in consumer spending — and stay one step ahead of your competitors — your business needs to identify key challenges and trends in the home services industry for 2021. And according to Contractor Magazine — whose content is geared toward home services professionals who work with “plumbing, heating, specialty piping and fire protection systems” — one of the most important trends for 2021 is SEO (Search Engine Optimization). As Contractor highlights, “staying at the top of search results” will be absolutely crucial for these types of businesses. 

Our response scribes strongly agree, which is why we recently wrote about the importance of SEO on our blog. But what does SEO have to do with online review management, and why is it of particular value for brands in the home service space versus other industries? What are some of the additional challenges facing home services companies this year and into the future? And how can responding to reviews help your business or agency overcome those challenges more successfully? We’re about to explore the answers. 

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Want Your Home Services Business to Rank Higher on Google? Start Responding to Your Customer Reviews 

SEO is the process of making your website more likely to appear in Google search results, enabling you to reach more consumers and gain more business. This involves making certain improvements not only to your own website — for example, increasing its speed and using header tags in your content — but additionally, making “off-page” or “off-site” improvements. For example, it’s important to build backlinks, maintain an active presence on social media, and — as this Google My Business (GMB) support page recommends — respond to your online reviews. 

As a separate GMB page points out, responding to reviews “can help build customer trust” — which, as any business owner knows, is essential to gaining (and retaining) customers, especially in an industry where consumers trust service providers with costly, large scale projects on their own private property. In fact, there is recent research showing that most consumers — about 81% of 16,000 survey respondents — prioritize “trust” as a key factor in their purchase decisions, regardless of demographic factors like “geographies, age groups, gender and income levels.” According to the 2019 edition of the Edelman Trust Barometer, which has been released annually since 2000, consumers “are more than twice as likely to stay loyal to a brand they trust, even in the face of disruption, such as a trendy or innovative competitor (62% versus 29%).” The report also found that consumers “are more than twice as likely to advocate for a brand they trust (51% versus 24%), and almost twice as likely to defend it when things go wrong (43% versus 22%).” 

Put simply, trust matters to consumers — and, as Google has made plain to business owners, responding to reviews can help enhance that trust. But trust doesn’t only matter to consumers — it also matters to search engines like Google, which uses an algorithm called TrustRank to filter out “useful web pages from spam,” as SerpStat explains. 

You can read more about TrustRank here, or check out Google’s own explanation of its search algorithms. Be forewarned that Google’s ranking factors can get complicated — there are, after all, more than 200 of them (that we’re currently aware of) — so to make life easier, here’s the short version: having a sufficient quantity of recent, authentic reviews sends a signal of trustworthiness that, in combination with factors like relevance and authority, can help your business move closer to that coveted first page in Google SERPs (Search Engine Page Rankings). 

That’s incredibly valuable for your business because, as new data shows, more than a quarter of all people who are performing searches — about 28.5% — click on the first search result in Google, securing those businesses an immense advantage over those in even the second (15.7%) and third (11%) positions. By the time searchers reach the tenth result at the bottom of page one, only 2.5% click: less than a tenth as many. 

As you can imagine, that doesn’t bode well for websites that fail to appear on the front page. While not a guaranteed solution (especially considering the complexity of Google’s algorithms), responding to your reviews will help push you closer to the top of the rankings, enhancing your brand’s visibility to consumers. 

Tips for Replying to Ratings and Reviews for Home Service Providers 

Looking ahead to the future, Contractor Magazine makes the following prediction: “Moving forward, we can expect SEO practices to play an increasingly crucial role in a home services company’s ability to thrive in their local market.” And, as the magazine also points out, even the slightest discrepancies between your website and GMB listing can result in a suspension of the latter, interfering with your ability to respond to Google reviews. It’s therefore critical to claim and verify your Google business listing, ensure that the information is accurate, and continuously monitor your account for new reviews — or, let our review management service handle the monitoring and response work for you. Once you receive a new review, whether on GMB or other platforms, here are a few tips for responding effectively: 

  1. Aim to provide an owner response within 24 hours. Research shows that a full 20% of consumers expect a reply within that time frame. 
  2. Thank the reviewer for their feedback, even if it is negative or angry. 
  3. Try to leave jargon and industry terminology out of your response. 
  4. Personalize each review reply and avoid using copied, generic responses. (You can read more about this topic here, including some helpful tips on how to customize owner responses.) 
  5. If the reviewer left a rating but no review, encourage them to follow up with any additional feedback or comments they might wish to share. 
  6. If the rating or review is positive, warmly welcome the reviewer to visit, use, or contact your business again. 
  7. If the rating or review is negative, ask the reviewer to contact you for further assistance, ideally while providing a phone number and/or email address where you or your team can be reached. 

For more review response strategies you can use, check out our tips on how to handle positive reviews, or learn some additional strategies for dealing with bad reviews of your home service business. If you’re viewing this issue from an agency’s perspective rather than a home service provider’s, we encourage you to read about these review management mistakes you must avoid making with your clients. 

Before you go, however, we want to leave you with one more consideration looking to 2021 and beyond. According to the outsourcing service provider CustomerServ, “Monitoring ratings, review sites and social media while responding quickly to inquiries and complaints” is one of the top customer service challenges in the home services industry, alongside challenges like promoting brand loyalty and using social media. Your business must be prepared to adapt — especially considering that “home and local services” is currently tied with restaurants as the most popular Yelp review category, accounting for a full 18% of all Yelp reviews

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We’ll be exploring more about that subject in an upcoming blog post, which will take a look at both Yelp and Facebook in Part 2 of our series on online review platforms. Part 3 will cover important niche review platforms for home services and other industries, so be sure to follow our blog or subscribe to our newsletter for the latest updates. If you missed Part 1, which offers a guide to Google My Business, you can get all caught up here

Custom Review Response Service for Home Services Businesses and Agencies 

Whether they appear on Yelp, Google, Facebook, or other platforms, customer reviews are essential for home service brands. Reviews influence how search engines and consumers perceive your company — and ultimately, whether homeowners decide to trust you with major investments like new roofing, painting, or plumbing. 

Take better control of your reviews, your reputation, and your ranking on Google by providing your customers with courteous, helpful responses to their comments and ratings. Shout About Us makes it easy, providing your client or home service business with custom, on-brand responses within 24 hours. We offer flexible review management solutions that give you the option to review and edit our responses, request revisions, create responses and signatures of your own, or take a more hands-off approach. As your marketing needs change and grow, our strategy evolves to keep pace. 

Find out why Chick-fil-A, Jersey Mike’s Subs, Wyndham Garden Hotels, PostalAnnex+, and thousands of other brands trust Shout About Us to monitor, manage, and respond to their online reviews. Contact us online to learn more about our review reply service, or request a demo today. 

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