Hunting for new contractors seems like everyone’s least favorite pastime, and for good reason. It’s stressful, time-consuming, and filled with pitfalls. “Are these companies trustworthy? Can I trust the customer reviews on their website?” These are the sort of questions flooding our mind as we shop around online.
At HVAC SEO Webmasters, we continually strive to better understand the consumer search process so that we can deliver stronger results for our SEO clients. We recently conducted a research project to uncover insights into how homeowners (and commercial prospects) overcome search fright to find the next HVAC contractor for their property. We also delved into preferred contact methods for interacting with heating and AC contractors.
We specifically hunted for insights into the following questions:
How do consumers prefer to contact an HVAC pro when it’s their first encounter?
What device(s) are they most likely to use?
Do consumers conduct additional site research before calling for the first time?
What website features encourage consumers most when they consider a new HVAC contractor?
Online analysts and consumer experts continue to describe shifts towards consistent personal research. In a Pew Research study conducted in 2018, 81% of the Americans surveyed said “before making an important decision…they rely a lot on their own research”. That number was significantly higher than the percentage of people consulting friends, family, and even industry professionals. Reviews play a huge part in that personal research process. One Statista report states that that 82% of consumer decisions to use a local business are affected by negative reviews (91% for positive reviews).
Even before the surveys, our researchers knew how important online search is for HVAC consumers, especially the process of consulting customer reviews. With the data we gathered however, we were able to understand even more how testimonials affect the behavior of prospective clients. Our data also reinforced the necessity of maintaining the proper communication channels!
Crucial Findings From Our Consumer Surveys
Our Survey Process
Using Google’s streamlined survey tool, our team conducted a series of surveys designed to tackle some of the crucial questions we listed above. Each survey was released to a sample group of 300+ individuals, spread across the continental United States. Since we specifically needed data from consumers who might require heating and air conditioning services, we confined the respondent age group to the 35+ year range, male and female.
All in all, we ended up collecting responses from over 1200 individuals. Thanks to Google’s tool, we achieved a well-spread sampling across genders, age groups, and US region. For the purpose of our post-survey analysis, respondents were broken into four age groups: 35 to 44 years old, 45 to 54 years, 55 to 64 years, and 65+.
Our Consumer Questions
You discover a new, well-rated heating/AC company on Google Search. The company’s phone number and website address are both listed. Assuming you needed service, would you…
Immediately call their listed phone number
Wait and visit their website first
You’re visiting the website of a heating/AC company that you’ve never used before. Which of the following make you feel the most comfortable with choosing their services?
Testimonials from happy customers
Clear descriptions of the company services
Approval badges from HomeAdvisor
Pictures of the company owner & crew
Videos of recent AC/heating projects
You’re on the website of a heating & cooling service you’ve never used before. You’re about to contact them for the first time. Which method would you prefermost?
A direct call
An email link
A contact form
A direct messaging (DM) box
Which of the following devices are you most likely to use when you contact a heating/AC service?
A mobile phone
A desktop or laptop computer
A voice-controlled personal assistant
Key Lessons for HVAC Pros
Lesson #1: Testimonials Take Priority.
When asked which website features made them feel most comfortable with choosing the services of an unfamiliar heating/AC company, 43% of respondents said that happy customer testimonials took priority. This lines up with the findings of numerous industry researchers from the last few years.
According to a study late last year, the average US consumer reads through 10 reviews before they trust a business. Younger polled age groups were likely to read an even greater number (Statista.com). This seemingly high number of testimonials is likely related to the growing distrust towards online reviews. Fake reviews in ecommerce fueled much of the problem, but that distrust has spread to other industries as well.
Despite this, customer reviews clearly still play a crucial role in client adoption rates. Among the popular features listed in our survey, testimonials outweighed most by a wide margin. That margin widened even more for the women polled in the survey, as seen in the table below.
While features like HomeAdvisor badges, original company images, and project videos took priority for a number of consumers, clear service descriptions (more on this later) and testimonials consistently took top placement across each age bracket.
Actionable Takeaways for HVAC Pros
Keep collecting those reviews! Not only do they provide evidence of your company’s trustworthiness, they also serve as a significant ranking factor in SEO. New reviews are especially valuable for prospective clients who haven’t utilized your services before.
Nothing makes a business more attractive than glowing testimonials of excellent customer service.
While testimonials showcased on your website may not be quite as genuine as those on Google Reviews, they still boost consumer confidence. So post away! Get those happy stories front and center on your website. You’ll notice a difference in your site KPIs.
Lesson #2: Consumers Need Clear Descriptions.
In one of our recent podcasts, Creative Director Jason Landry stated that website design ultimately breaks down into two key elements: information and presentation.
According to our study, clear descriptions of a company’s services are essential for higher conversions. That’s especially true among men and younger demographics, who may not have as much experience interacting with home service companies. How HVAC companies present their service information makes a significant different in adoption.
Consumers continually show keen interest in personal research. According to the Pew Research study we mentioned earlier, personal research is even more important than recommendations than friends, families, and industry professionals to many consumers. This lines up with the findings in our next survey.
When asked whether they’d immediately call an HVAC provider or visit their website first, polled consumers showed clear desire to research the website. For one, this enables prospective clients to dig more into the services available from the provider. Second, the additional research allows the consumers to craft a fully perspective of the company in question.
If the consumers were worried soley about star ratings, fewer would click through to the site. After all, local map packs (the primary source of traffic for many service keywords), showcase Google Reviews aggregate ratings for each listed business. They also desire a better understanding of the company’s services.
To-Do’s for HVAC Companies
If service detail is what your prospective clients want, give it to them! Write full, keyword-optimized service pages for every one of your solutions. Your clients will appreciate the helpful information and reward you with higher conversion rates.
Keyword-rich service pages also enable rankings for a much larger variety of terms. In other words, that’s more people coming to your website for specific services you provide! So many HVAC companies injure themselves my skipping this process in favor of a cheap bullet list on the homepage. That doesn’t work for SEO, and it won’t work for your prospective customers either.
Get those customer reviews! Write those service pages (or have a professional do them for you). Of consumers say it’s important, it matters.
Lesson #3: Get Even More Mobile-Friendly
Desktop computers continue to fall by the wayside as consumers eagerly harness mobile technology. Google even recognized the user shift in July 2019 when they switched to mobile-first indexing. Since most search engine users rely on mobile devices for their browsing, it’s no wonder direct calling is their preferred choice when it comes to reaching out to your business!
75% of our surveyed consumers said they’d most likely use a mobile phone to contact their HVAC service provider.
At near 17%, men were the most likely of the sexes to reach out on a desktop computer, while only 8% of women said the same. Tablets followed in the 8-10% range, and voice-controlled personal assistants (PAs) came in dead last with a 4% average. We’ll discuss these devices more later.
This high usage rate for mobile phones just re-emphasizes the importance of adopting truly responsive design. If your website doesn’t conform to user devices, then you’re missing out on a lot of traffic!
Key Action Items for Mobile Usage
Be sure your design caters to a mobile audience. Features these make browsing much easier:
Clickable / tap-able phone numbers
Direct messaging / texting tools
Adding these elements to your web design allows people to read and call on the go. For an even more convenient user experience, ensure that all your CTAs (calls to action) are clearly visible and hyperlinked.
Lesson #4: Go Beyond Direct Calls
“But you just said…” True. Direct calls are the most preferred method of contacting HVAC professionals. However, take a moment to consider the results from our last survey.
While approximately 58% of consumers preferred direct calls for contacting a new HVAC company, over 42% said they’d rather use other means. Email and contact forms were the most selected runner ups to direct calls, at 20% and 14% respectively. 8% of respondents – these were mostly from the 35 to 44 age bracket – were very interested in direct messaging as their first interaction tool of choice.
Potential To-Do Items for HVAC Pros
Expand the number of ways first time prospects can contact your business. A large portion on the consumer base we polled would rather contact your company through email and/or contact forms. Even if you’ve already provided these contact channels, consider whether or not they’re visible enough on your site.
Summing Things Up
For many consumers, the company website serves as a first point of interaction. Consumers are hungry for information, more so than ever before, when it comes to key purchase decisions. Beyond visual design and graphics, there’s an obvious need for encouragement from client testimonials. Equally important is the provision of detailed descriptions of your services.
Most of our findings boil down to two key issues: comfort and contact.
Reduce the barriers between your prospective clients and their choosing your services by making them more comfortable with your brand.
Take the time to gather original, unmanipulated consumer reviews from your happy customers. Again, 43% of polled individuals stated that happy customer testimonials are the most important feature for making them comfortable with an unfamiliar HVAC company.
Instead of lazily dropping all your services into a homepage bullet list, craft informative and keyword-rich pages for each one. This may be a standard practice in organic SEO, but it’s also matters very much to your would-be clients! Remember, the customer is (almost) always right.
Finally, consider expanding your customer contact options beyond direct phone calls. Not every method is appropriate for everyone, but additional options could help some prospects reach the conversion threshold. Be sure to consider all the contact tools that lie outside of your website too, such as direct messaging tool on your GMB profile. Experiment, analyze, and adapt the tools that work for your business!
A Note From the Team
The infographic and all related charts from our consumer research will be available in an upcoming HVAC Marketing Statistics page (in development). Some charts may have been altered for better visualization, but no data was changed. Our study focused on consumers within 35-65+ years of age to improve representation of the average homeowner. Younger demographics may have different browsing habits, and merit further study.
When it comes to casting a creative vision for your website, it’s easy to get carried away with artistic license and expressionistic design. When it comes down to brass tacks however, web design should ultimately balance the needs of the business with the experience of users. Successful design is practical above all else, and nobody knows this better than Jason Landry of the Webmasters.
We sat down with the Creative Director to get his two bits on developing a productive service business-to-consumer (B2C) website. Bust out your pen and paper (or phone), because you’ll want to take notes!
Key Takeaways for HVAC Professionals
Website design goes way beyond visual aesthetics!
Site visitors prefer familiarity over artistic expression.
Personalized photos are incredibly valuable, for SEO and branding.
Design breaks down into two segments: information & presentation.
Design: Making a Difference
The average consumer’s first exposure to your company brand won’t be sitting off the freeway or driving through the neighborhood. It won’t be ingrained in a catchy tune on the radio, and it certainly won’t be smiling back through a cable television ad. Can you guess where they might see your brand?
Most consumers (residential or commercial) discover your brand online via local search.
That means the majority of first impressions are made on your website. If that impression says anything other than “professional, relatable, and reliable”, customers are going to bounce long before you have the chance to make your case in person. On the other hand, you can paint a generous portrait of your brand and make true connections with a first-rate website design.
What Winning at Website Design Looks Like
In case you’re thinking “Bah, humbug!” and breaking out the mailer cards, you better hear what a quality website can offer first. An optimized site, even a simple one, will generate more leads for your HVAC company than all the billboards, car wraps, and newspaper clippings combined. In most cases, it will also outperform television, radio, and printed ads.
Not only does professional web design and SEO generate more leads, it produces them at higher quality. Forget about paying a shot at leads a dozen other companies are fighting for. These are your exclusive leads to pursue, and they’re much more likely to convert into sales than those from other channels.
Winning at web design means securing a reliable channel of calls for your services. If that’s not worth investing in, what is?
Making a Productive Website
Does it seem like most successful HVAC websites look suspiciously familiar? That’s because most heating and cooling service companies utilize the same basic concepts for design. That could be a problem for flashier, artistic industries. But consumers don’t demand a lot of pomp from their AC mechanic. They only want convenient, accessible service.
That’s why the most profitable websites are rarely the most original. You will find several practical features that link them together:
As Creative Director Jason puts it, “Web design is all about information and presentation.” If you can provide the right information about your services in a presentation style that’s easy to digest, you’re golden.
Frequently Asked Questions
What design elements matter most for SEO?
Simply having dedicated, optimized pages for all your services makes a huge difference in SEO! Many HVAC professionals shoot themselves in the foot by creating a handful of pages and relying on a bullet list of services. That simply doesn’t work for search. Frankly, it doesn’t work for anyone.
Schema markup and structured data make it easier for Google to crawl your website. Original photos also add more juice to your strategy, beating out sites that rely on stock images. Finally, content formatting (headers, bullets, and alt tags, for example) elevates your material for stronger search results.
Which design aspects are important for users?
Make it ridiculously easy for people to find the services they need. On top of the standard dropdown menu, sprinkle related services throughout each page. Add schema lists, and put breadcrumb labels at the top of every service page. Any given prospect should be able to find the exact service they need within 30 seconds.
Beyond that, be sure to provide your office number throughout the site. For phone-shy individuals, consider a contact form and/or email link. If you cling to a pleasant, convenient user experience, you’ll intuitively find areas to better serve your customers!
How do you balance SEO and user experience?
Google may be technological super-company with revenue in the billions every year, but it still takes the time to pursue a positive user experience. Simply put: if your site visitors are happy, Google’s happy too! Continue researching your industry keywords and carefully infuse them into your conversational writing.
Take time to listen to common client questions address them in your pages / blogs. If you can’t remember any, try your luck in the People also ask section of Google Search results. You can also find helpful tools like Answer the Public, who conveniently do the work for you!
Practical design takes your business out of the backside of Google Search and onto the front pages. It’s not about fluffy visuals or fancy tools. It’s all about serving the customer as best you can.
If you’ve struggled to develop a successful website, our team at HVAC Webmasters would love to help! Thanks to our custom sites, hundreds of professionals are earning fantastic leads from local search. We provide sustainable brand growth, all at very reasonable cost.
Almost every business begins with little to no funds for marketing. As a result, even experienced companies can experience a dry season. However, a few steps could make all the difference in the coming years instead of battening down the hatches and doing nothing.
Today, Jason and Nolen discuss how to start up your HVAC marketing plan even if you don’t have lots of funds. They’ll focus primarily on growing your search presence, which gradually creates a steady influx of HVAC leads for your business. So if you’re operating on a tight budget, be sure to listen in.
HVAC Marketing Tips for Professionals:
Always begin by setting up your Google My Business account.
Buy a cheap template site to start developing your online presence.
Start asking for client reviews, and never stop!
Register your domain as close to your name as possible. Avoid generics.
Low Budget Marketing
Let’s not waste time. There’s an ideal way to do online search marketing, but sometimes a tight budget prevents people from choosing the best. That’s life. Thankfully, you don’t have to sit on your hands and hope that business will pick up enough to start getting online clients one day!
The following HVAC marketing plan focuses on free and extremely low-cost solutions that will build a foundation for your brand. We need to be extremely clear: you (probably) will not notice tremendous results from the start. However, your business will be in a much better place six months from now if you faithfully follow this process.
Here we go.
Step #1: Get Listed in GMB
Google My Business(GMB) offers free listings to help your business get started in local search. These listings are essential if you want any organic leads. According to a recent publication bySearch Engine Journal and extensive research by Merkle, “Organic search produced 23% of all site visits in Q2 2019.” However, without registering your company with GMB, your company is unlikely to earn any leads from Google.
2. Submit your company name, location, and industry information.
3. Set your service radius from your business address (or home).
4. Submit your contact information.
5. Choose a method to confirm your listing with Google, then confirm.
Step #2: Build a Cheap Website
There’s a couple of sweet spots for getting the biggest bang for your marketing budget (or lack thereof) when it comes to website design. On the low end of the spectrum, we’ve found that it’s usually better for startups to begin with a free template design or something dirt cheap. There’s no illusion of fanciness or complicated optimization.
Many HVAC companies start experiencing problems when they move beyond the $100 threshold. Of course, you’d expect somewhat higher results and capabilities from a $300 website, but most companies who offer those design packages use a cheap template anyway. So you might as well save the money and invest it in another part of your business.
Step #3: Register Your Domain
Your domain name (the address or URL) is one of the most crucial branding assets your company will ever claim. Of course, you must protect it at all costs, but most businesses don’t even know how to pick a compelling name. There are a few basic rules to follow when it comes to selecting and claiming your domain.
Aim for a verymemorable and non-generic domain name!
Generic names are harder to rank for in search. Business listings with ultra-generic names (dallasheatingandcooling.com, for instance) may not even show up in search. People should remember your name and laugh, then for them not to remember your name at all!
On an equally important note, make sure that you own the domain name, not a hosting company. You don’t want any complications with your host trying to sell the domain to another business. Believe us; it’s happened too many times!
Reviews Can Make or Break Your Reputation. So always Ask Happy Customers for Feedback!
Step #4: Ask for Reviews
Reviews are a form of online currency, but they’re so much more. Client feedback is a testament to your team’s capabilities and your customer service. Unfortunately, most people forget to provide reviews unless they’ve had an awful experience.
That’s why you and your team must consistently ask your clients for reviews. Don’t wait either! Ask immediately after concluding services. At the very latest, you might wish to wait a couple of days (say after an installation) to follow up and ask for reviews. Asking in person creates goodwill with the existing client and trust with prospective consumers.
Google prefers reviews to come from various resources, so try to spread out the feedback between Google, Facebook, and other citations. By routinely asking happy clients for reviews, you’ll easily drown out any different sort of negative complaints from that odd customer.
Step #5: Review Your Progress
Once you gained some ground in local search, leads should start to come in at a much faster rate. That steady stream of business to your website means you’ll have better funds for future marketing ideas! You can even take some time to upgrade your website and strengthen your brand.
One of the most challenging life lessons is learning when to let go. Unfortunately, dropping an unproductive website proves more than they can bear for many HVAC contractors, even if that site is harming their bottom line. Nolen and Jason discuss why starting from scratch is usually the best approach for getting your SEO and online marketing back on track in our latest podcast.
If your business has struggled to earn leads through your current website design, be sure to listen in closely.
Key Points to Listen For:
Visuals do not drive website performance.
Patchwork efforts from multiple vendors waste time and money.
Quality website design utilizes coding, content, and visuals.
Ditching the Old Website Design
Imagine the prettiest, high-dollar air conditioning unit money can buy. Your customers call asking about the installation process and how soon they can buy their system. Orders pile in, and these exciting projects start filling up the calendar. Then, weeks into installing these brand new (and expensive) appliances, you receive startling news: they don’t work. The blower motors can’t summon enough power to drive air through the duct lines due to a previously unknown design flaw.
Ideally, this situation would never happen in real life. After all, contractors take time to make sure their inventory performs as designed. But what if you heard of a contractor that knew of the part flaw and continued selling the system without warning customers? You’d probably be pretty angry, and rightly so.
Digital marketers have been selling flawed website designs for years.
Various marketing agencies sell template websites that discourage high rankings on SERPs. We previously talked about the untold dangers of website template designs, which offer impressive visuals but lack the power of SEO. The type of templates that most heating and cooling professionals invest in (especially the bargain variety) doesn’t produce the traffic level businesses need for sustained growth.
Escaping from Stagnant Online Performance
As our team at the HVAC Webmasters has found over the years, the vast majority of online-active HVAC contractors have yet to grasp this truth. As a result, when shown concrete analytical data that their websites are underperforming, some companies cling all the more fiercely to their old website designs. As a result, they continue to earn a fraction of the leads they could achieve if they switched to a more optimized site.
What’s keeping these professionals from letting go?
Below, we will tackle some complex facts about website design and why templates don’t provide the results HVAC companies need. If any of these points hit home, it might be time to dig into your Google Analytics and see if your website is due for a change.
Fact #1: Your Visuals Don’t Drive Performance.
All the professional graphic design and eye-catching templates do almost nothing to drive your HVAC SEO performance. While they certainly add to the user experience (UX), visuals don’t draw people to your website. To put this in perspective, let’s consult the typical process of how someone finds your website.
Google Search Process (The Basics)
Step #1: A user enters a phrase and begins a search.
Step #2: Google examines keywords in the phrase.
Step #3: The search engine recalls related pages from its vast index.
Step #4: Google arranges entries by order of relevance in a SERP.
Step #5: The user browses the list and chooses a listing.
Step #6: The user arrives on your website.
The rest is history. Either the user likes what they see and investigates the site further, or they “bounce” and examine other sites. Your graphic design and other site visuals are essential during this phase, but most people don’t make it that far. No matter how gorgeous the design template a site may have, Google Search users will never even see it if the website fails to draw traffic in the first place.
Fact #2: It’s All Tied Together.
“Okay,” you might think. “I’ll add in all the elements that I need to draw people to my site. How hard can that be?“
HVAC SEO (search engine optimization) involves many facets of website design. One crucial portion of the optimization process comes from keywords and their integration into the content throughout the site. That plays a massive role in how Google categorizes your services and ranks them for search.
Then there’s coding. Perhaps the most under-acknowledged driver behind local search performance, schema coding tells Google how to interpret the content inside your website. Unfortunately, most site templates come from graphic designers who attended art school but probably had minimal experience coding a website.
There are many other elements of site optimization, such as navigation, page structure, image attributes, and more. Unfortunately, these are tied directly to the template’s design and can’t easily be changed (effectively). The result is an attractive but underperforming site that doesn’t drive traffic.
Fact #3: It’s (Usually) Cheaper to Start Fresh.
Let’s say you’ve purchased an attractive template that seems to represent your HVAC company well. We’ll even say that your design company input your logo and slightly altered the template theme so that coloring matches. That’s pretty typical for a cheaper service.
You paid a couple of thousand for the site, but it’s underperforming. What are the options?
Option #1: Let the site stay as-is.
Option #2: Patch in missing SEO elements.
Option #3: Choose a website redesign.
Option #1: Let it Stay
If you’re not satisfied with the performance of your website as it is now, there’s very little chance of significant change happening on its own. Keep in mind that even the most highly optimized websites take a few months to get results when they first launch. However, older websites won’t spontaneously jump from page 10 to page 1. There has to be a dramatic change in the site’s optimization, which is hard to achieve with a template.
End Result: You have to rely on other forms of marketing to compensate, so you’re still spending extra money.
Option #2: Tack on Additional SEO Elements
Enhancing a given website template may take more time, money, and effort than you’d like. For one, site updates often require input from multiple specialized marketing vendors. One adds a reviews tool; another rewrites the content. Even if all these facets find their way into the site, you’ll need to ensure they work together (and not against each other).
End Result: Multiple site projects and vendors makes managing the site extremely frustrating. There may be performance improvements in local search, though.
Option #3: Ditch the Template
A fresh start sometimes offers the cheaper path of least resistance. Even if it takes thousands of dollars for a trusted company to design your new custom site, the resulting traffic influx will more than compensate. Plus, you won’t have to worry about spending additional funds for patches, redesigns, or getting multiple vendors to fix random bugs.
End Result: Your company earns lasting traffic improvements to your site, and you can start ranking up in local search. No significant update costs are needed.
What if Your Site Could Earn Thousands of Pageviews in a Few Months?
Team Up With HVAC Webmasters
You can probably tell which website design option we prefer at HVAC Webmasters. Our team produces custom-coded, highly optimized websites for companies all across the country. As a result, clients earn enormously better traffic volume, deeper customer interaction, and more substantial lead generation in their local service area. If your business has struggled with gaining ground in online search, we’d love to team up with you to change that.
Buying a lead is not the worst idea for an HVAC contractor. After all, leads drive your business. Unfortunately, in our experience, when HVAC contractors do buy leads, the leads are expensive, and the contractor is unhappy. But the issue with purchasing HVAC leads expands even further beyond the negativity surrounding them. Buying leads can be a pitfall for your company and might discourage you from investing in marketing resources that increase your brand visibility and generate sales sustainably.
Finding a Lead Source for HVAC Companies
If you are a heating & cooling contractor, who struggles to find a solid lead source, you aren’t alone. Although buying leads as a concept is not foolish since every business’s goal is to profit, the practice presents challenges. Low-quality distributors who offer “shared” leads rather than exclusives are the most common problem. But even with so-called exclusive prospects, HVAC companies are climbing uphill to secure the sale.
Getting More Leads
Despite well-documented disgust with lead sources many contractors continue to buy them. Why? Because at the end of the day they still want more leads. Securing a sale brings money to their business and becomes a cyclical process. The profit is just enough to seem like it’s worth it for the heating & cooling business. Getting more leads can be a challenge especially with sources offering shared leads. Worse yet, it often distracts contractors from other forms of marketing, like SEO, that will actually end up producing more sales over the long run.
Investing in Your HVAC Company
When you purchase a lead from a 3rd party platform, their brand benefits most. Next time the customer needs HVAC services, they will probably go back to the source instead of your HVAC company. Your goal should shift towards investing in your brand and growing the allegiance of consumers. This way, you will generate sustainable business for your company and not shell out hard-earned funds to 3rd parties.
The first thing you’ll need is a custom website with schema markup. A website can be the central hub of your HVAC company and create a foundation for sales. Unfortunately, today, most websites use templates, either from a WordPress theme market or from DIY website builders like Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace. While they have their advantages, of course, they don’t have the type of long-term potential that custom sites do. As a result, they limit ROI in terms of organic optimization and the long-term control of your brand, which we want to avoid.
Google My Business
Nobody will take your company seriously without a Google My Business listing. You might ask how GMB is different from a 3rd party lead platform. First, you are not investing money. Google My Business listings are free and allow you to rank in the Local Map 3-Pack. Second, you can link your website URL to your GMB listing so that your web property becomes associated with the Google listing as well as the Google Reviews. All of this is free of charge for companies.
Search Engine Optimization
The best leads come from organic clicks on Google. For example, ranking for terms like “ac repair” and similar phrases can drive searchers to your website or Google My Business Listing. In either case, with websites optimized for conversions, you can earn most of your profit organically. SEO is the best long-term strategy for online marketing since it is an investment in yourself and becomes a sustainable profit generator for years and decades to come.
A Full-Scale Approach
A single strategy may not always work out, but the combination of several techniques helps HVAC companies earn sales online. Investing your marketing dollars in leads only or ads only discourages long-term growth. You can still buy HVAC leads, but only if you optimize your brand at the same time. Using SEO, you can reap the long-term rewards of a complete and robust web presence. Try partnering with a full digital marketing agency like HVAC Webmasters, the top-rated agency in 2021.
Sometimes, contractors have a false perception of a quality website. What you see as a website that looks good to your eyes might not even rank in the top 20 for its target keyword. The best websites can be easily crawled by Google and rank on page one of SERPs for relevant terms. SEO for HVAC contractors is about many factors, and Google considers them all.
Here’s what you’ll learn in today’s podcast episode:
Visual Appeal Doesn’t Always Translate to SEO
SEO Myths vs. Reality
The Primary Function of a Website for HVAC Companies
Visual Appeal Doesn’t Guarantee Rankings on Google
The best-looking HVAC websites don’t consistently rank on page one of Google. Great-looking sites often fail to rank at all. Since many websites neglect SEO, they do not rank for keywords and rely 100% on direct traffic or branded search. In the worst cases, websites might not rank for their brand name after failing to optimize their homepage correctly. While good-looking sites might convert those who visit based on your business card, word of mouth, or a truck wrap, you still lose more customers than you gain by failing to optimize your website. So next time you see a competitor bragging about their websites’ design, ask them how much traffic they get from organic search results.
SEO Myths Vs. Reality
Some HVAC contractors mistakenly believe in SEO myths. For instance, one of our clients asked if they can insert more keywords on their homepage. Since the page already had several cases of the target word, adding more would hurt its ranking and disappoint readers. Antiquated SEO strategies that worked in 2007 no longer work now in 2021. Another myth some companies believe in is the branding myth. While it is crucial to brand your company for Google, it is not as important in a traditional sense. Google wants to see that your company is listed on reputable directories and has a consistent name, address, and phone number. They don’t care about the philosophical brand notions of your logo colors, etc.
The Primary Function of HVAC Websites
As a home service provider, you shouldn’t want to enter your website into an art contest. The function of your site is to generate HVAC leads and grow your company online. Inserting calls-to-action is a great way to achieve your goals, but some companies think it makes their site look bad. Some even believe it hurts their SEO efforts. The reality, however, is that CTAs are essential for online success and don’t hurt SEO when adequately implemented. The pros at HVAC Webmasters handled hundreds of client accounts and used our data to create the top-performing sites on the web. Ask about our web design services and contact us today.
The foundation of an HVAC company’s online presence is website design. A healthy website facilitates search engine optimization, brings legitimacy to your brand, and helps convert traffic into leads. Digital marketing concepts like SEO, PPC, and content marketing increase online visibility, but the website’s quality converts that exposure into sales. Many factors dictate a website’s design quality. Still, as a heating & cooling contractor, the ultimate goal is to grow your business online and capture leads and sales within your local service area.
In 2022, anybody can build a website. With DIY website builders like Wix, Weebly, & Squarespace, along with an abundance of templates for content management systems like WordPress, it’s never been easier to get a functional webpage published. But design is not always about the front-end visual display of a website. The codebase is a significant consideration in air conditioning website design, especially as it pertains to SEO and marketing. The back-end of a website requires creation as well, and it is as important, if not more so than the visual presentation.
What is HVAC Website Design?
Website design is constructing websites with layouts, user interfaces, and other aesthetic imagery, including graphics. Without a functional website, it’s challenging for HVAC companies to convert leads. Even if you pay for PPC ads on Google, Facebook, or other platforms, the absence of a converting landing page will nullify the majority of clicks. Even SEO, which is an organic methodology, is heavily reliant on the quality of the website.
While there are more platforms on which to promote a brand than a decade ago (Social Media, Google My Business, Etc.), you can’t maximize any of them without a related website. Since contractors’ goal is to increase sales, the direct correlation between web design and sales conversions should be enough to garner focus.
In our search engine optimization guide, we demonstrate the importance of generating traffic to your website. But the harsh reality of any internet marketing method is that it is only as valuable as its final result. In many ways, AC company web design is a part of search engine optimization. Attempting to implement one without the other is a waste of marketing resources. By keeping your focus on the ultimate goal (sales), you can take actions that align with this underlying motivation and stay the course to reach your desired destination.
When HVAC workers talk about their brand, they mean their trust level within their community. A functional and appealing website does wonders to strengthen a brand. Consumers invest trust in companies that showcase their professionalism with a website, but search engines like Google reward them as well. Aside from converting traffic that reaches your domain, robust web design can also influence said traffic and serve as a central hub for inbound links from all of your secondary media platforms like Facebook, Google My Business, and even Yelp. Digital footprints leading back to a primary domain increase its authority as well as the legitimacy of your brand online.
The front-end of a website is what most consumers take notice of immediately. It is the only thing users consider when judging your site, especially those without the knowledge of HTML, CSS, or any other coding language. So what do viewers prefer? Factors like colors, white space, aesthetics, and overall user experience top the list. Many of these work on a subconscious level, and the user may not express why they like the looks of a website, only that they do.
In 2022, presentation is more dynamic than ever before. Consumers visit websites on various devices, including mobile, tablet, and desktop, and thousands of iterations of each. A website should appear optimally on each machine, which is attainable through responsive design principles. When a website is responsive, it adapts to the user’s device without having to create an entirely new website for each one. Google has gone as far as to recommend responsive design principles to professional heating and air web designers.
Palettes are critical in modern design. They inform the experience of the visitor, but they create cohesion between brand and platform. The diversity of a palette stems mainly from an HVAC company’s logo. Creating or updating your company logo is of great importance. A logo with lots of colors will distract the average user, but a logo with only one color will bore them. Having 2 or 3 colors, a primary and 1 or 2 secondaries, is ideal in modern website design.
A funny anecdote about white space is that it is not always white. The phrase refers to empty spaces between images, text, and blocks of content. The modern consumer prefers information that is digestible since they can become overwhelmed by excess. The function of white space is to foster a feeling of organization and conciseness. Both can improve the visitor’s experience, and both can influence behavior metrics like bounce rate, pages per site, duration on site, etc.
If you’ve ever heard a visitor discuss the “feel” of a website, aesthetics are at play. Defined as the “appreciation of beauty,” aesthetics might not be something HVAC contractors think about for their business. But make no mistake, everyone considers aesthetics in website design. That includes your prospective customers who are reading about heating & cooling services. Don’t assume that the subject matter disqualifies any website from aesthetic appeal.
A website’s look and feel have great appeal, but its functionality can make or break its effectiveness. Let’s say a user enters your HVAC website and likes what they see. Imagine now that as they are attempting to navigate to other sections of the site via a smartphone browser, that they can’t seem to scroll down or click the desired page links properly. Once something like this occurs, the visual appeal becomes mostly irrelevant. Users will leave a website for functional reasons instantly (literally) and never return, regardless of the site’s visual impression.
Navigation is one element of usability but is not the only one. Consider site speed (loading time), URL structure, menu links, and user interface as some of the other most prominent factors. Responsive design is equally essential since usability should translate to all kinds of devices, from mobile to desktop, to tablet, including the endless variations of each device category (iPhone, Android, MacBook Pro, HP, etc.). The user must be able to use your website at their convenience because they will move on to the next search result, which does it better.
Nine times out of 10, the most frustrating part of a poorly designed website is its navigation. If the user cannot scroll properly and get to other sections of the website with ease, they will become discouraged and exit the site. Mobile websites are typically the most complicated to navigate, which is why designers should pay extra close attention to mobile design. Since the screen is smaller than a tablet or desktop monitor, it should be incredibly convenient for the user to find their way around the site and all of its elements, scrolling primarily with their thumb and index finger.
Over half of internet users will exit a website that does not load within 3 seconds. That puts HVAC websites on the clock immediately after a user clicks on their result. If we’re honest with ourselves, that 3-second number is likely to have lowered even more in recent months. In 2022, that number is more than likely closer to 1 second. The attention spans of users have shortened, and designers must take notice. You can check your existing website speed using Google PageSpeed Insights, giving suggestions for correcting errors.
A website URL hierarchy is an integral part of a site’s functionality for users. If you have pages for each service, the URLs should be both logical and hierarchical. Let’s say you provide both residential and commercial HVAC services. If so, a page for residential ac repair should be categorized as a child page underneath the parent page, residential HVAC services. A sound hierarchy closely relates to your HVAC SEO efforts and helps the user navigate your site.
Useful HVAC websites link every critical page from the homepage menu. When converting traffic into customers, you want them to see all the services you offer and easily access the one that intrigues them. In alignment with URL structure, menu links should have main categories (parent pages) and subcategories (child pages). You should also have a Contact Us page and an About Us page to help connect with the visitors.
User Interface (UI)
User interface, often shortened as UI, hones in on the user’s projected need from your website from a functionality standpoint. According to Usability.gov, UI combines interaction design, visual design, and information architecture. They break down UI elements into four sections: input controls, navigational components, informational components, and containers. They stress simplicity, consistency, and purpose as the driving principles of an effective user interface design.
Code is not used only for website design but really for any kind of web or software development. Think about Facebook or iTunes. Each of these has a codebase that informs not only its presentation but also its functionality or usability. Coders are often the most technically sound webmasters in the room and can implement the average person’s elements. Although website builders have turned everyone into amateur designers, they have not familiarized everyone with coding, which is still what separates the legitimate professionals.
HyperText Markup Language (HTML) is the actual code used to write every website. HTML annotates text with tags, suggesting a browser to display it in a way that the designer intends. The language uses a series of tags that range from very basic to very complex. For example, text surrounded by a <strong> tag on the back-end is bolded on the front-end. HTML is closely associated with SEO since header, title, and meta tags are all part of the HTML language. A CMS like WordPress makes HTML alterations simpler from an SEO perspective, but the design itself still requires in-depth knowledge of the coding language.
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is code that instructs a browser on how to display HTML. While HTML tags suggest things like bolded text, the CSS code instructs the browser on what that will look like on the website’s front-end. CSS references what designers call rules. A CSS rule contains three parts; a selector, a property, and a value. More advanced CSS mechanisms like inline link CSS and internal CSS always play a role aside from CSS rules. The simplest way to describe the codebase is the stylization of HTML tags. CSS is very much related to the display presentation of a website, a concept outlined earlier.
Schema.org or Schema Markup is a vocabulary of semantically related tags inserted into HTML to help Google interpret the page. Microdata tags from Schema.org exist to help search engines like Google better categorize pages and subsequently promote them on search results. Schema is fundamental to SEO and is perhaps the most critical optimization element of a website’s codebase. Since schema comes from search engines’ instruction, we know that Google considers it when pages are crawled, indexed, and ranked.
The increased mobile usage of the average American has made mobile design more critical than ever before. Researchers estimate that over half of all HVAC website visitors will access the site through a smartphone. Because phones are accessible 24 hours per day, seven days per week, there is an infinite window of opportunity for contractors to reach their most extensive consumer base. SEO can drive traffic to your website and other web entities (Google Maps, Facebook, etc.), but a sales conversion remains unlikely without a simple website to use on mobile.
Several design elements will be embellished or adapted to narrow the target in promoting services to a mobile user. One such example of this is a call to action. A CTA on a website for desktops might list an HVAC contractor’s phone number. On mobile design, it should have a clickable number to connect to your phone line directly. Because conversions are the goal of websites, CTA’s are crucial. Strategic CTA placement has never been more pertinent than in 2022 when mobile usage increases daily.
Screen size matters and smartphones have less space for users to operate. Pair that with low attention users, and you have yourselves one of the primary challenges of modern design. How can you, as a web developer, intrigue the mobile user through your website? You have limited time and space and must make the most of it. A layout should be instructive and straightforward while creating urgency for the visitor. A clear call to action with a clickable phone number is ideal. Other layout factors to consider include height, width, image and logo placement, and space.
Websites should load quickly regardless of device, but it is even more crucial on mobile. Sites that don’t load within 3 seconds will lose more than half of their visitors, a timeframe that has likely already decreased and will continue to with each passing day. Google’s tool, Test Your Mobile Website Speed, can give HVAC companies an idea of where they are currently and perhaps where they should be relative to other sites throughout the web. For contractors, the fear is that slow-loading pages will prompt visitors to try the next result.
Mobile Call to Action
Web developers must tailor calls to action to the mobile user. The best example of this is a clickable phone number that can be a stylized button or text. The goal is to create urgency for the mobile user, so accompanying the phone number with a statement like a call now for a free consultation is something every contractor should consider. There’s a fine line between creating urgency and becoming overly sales-driven, and the most successful websites can navigate that terrain to generate high-quality leads.
Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace help the average person create nice-looking websites. If they have a disadvantage, it is their lack of customization. Certain limitations come with using website builders that don’t exist when investing in a professional designer. While not every Wix site will look identical in presentation, the back-end codebase will be similar and less customizable. Site builders can hinder SEO efforts needed for a website to get traffic. As we’ve stated, website design cannot exist exclusively from SEO if increasing sales is the goal.
Besides custom codebase being a superior SEO protocol, customization is part of every aspect of design. From the placement of a logo on the page’s layout to the palette color scheme on the CSS style sheet, customization can go a long way towards increasing conversion rates and satisfying users’ needs and attention spans. It’s not to say that website creators cannot work under any circumstances, but instead highlight why custom design is so useful. It becomes the HVAC company’s choice based on its digital marketing goals.
Tools like Wix provide options for display. Website makers can choose their layout, buttons, and even color schemes. While this might differentiate one website from another, the code will remain similar. You see, even with a change in the color scheme which alters the existing CSS code, the skeleton of the style sheet stays identical. Google can identify Wix websites based on their internal codebase. It doesn’t make it a wrong choice, but it can make SEO a more complicated process to execute and ultimately discourage your coveted sales growth.
Tired of your website’s footer saying something like “designed with Weebly?” If so, custom design may be for you. With custom design, you control what appears on your website and where it appears. There are no mandatory insertions of code. Instead, you can add your logos, awards, and badges of honor to your header and footer. Customization = control for HVAC contractors. Consider something as simple as your logo width, which could be limited in Wix.
With genuinely custom web design, you can brand your HVAC company in a manner not replicable through website builders. A unique codebase, layout, and color scheme can differentiate your website from others in the same industry and service area. You may find the differences between a template website and a custom one to be minimal at first glance, but Google sees it differently. Perhaps most importantly, users growing accustomed to your brand through website design can only help expand awareness and foster a long-term, sustainable online presence.
We’ve noted that most visitors will access HVAC websites through mobile smartphones, but the highest conversion websites cannot ignore any of its users. That includes those who access the website on a desktop, tablet or another 3rd party device that is not a smartphone. Since it’s not plausible to design a site for each device, brand, and model, the best solution is responsive web design, sometimes shortened as RWD. The primary advantage of RWD is to optimize display and functionality for a website on any device efficiently and reach all possible customers.
Mashable named 2013 the year of responsive design, and six years later, it is now considered the norm for websites that perform well on Google. The search engine has gone as far as to recommend its usage to web developers and has even offered RWD tutorials on their Web Fundamentals platform. RWD fixes would-be problems that designers would once dread. For example, an image displayed on a mobile site might appear too small on desktop, but responsive design incorporates flexibility and resizes the image to its optimal display.
The area immediately visible to users is known as the viewport. As you might imagine, viewports vary by device, so an iPhone 11 viewport won’t compare to a Dell PC monitor. Before mobile’s emergence, designs often focused on desktop viewing, which created viewport distortion on mobile. If you remember older mobile phones, you also remember some of the worst-looking websites of all time. Imagine trying to book a phone call with your local HVAC contractor using that display. It would be a disaster.
Breakpoints are browser measurements declared to change the display based on a specified range. In responsive design, breakpoints usually adjust to the width of the screen. Sometimes a breakpoint might shift the viewport from displaying two columns to displaying four columns. Designers should focus on breakpoints by device rather than the model. In other words, smartphones should be a category, but Apple iPhone 11 should not be. Breakpoints’ significance also varies. Some of them can be quite obvious, while others are more subtle. Use tactfully.
Graphic Design (UX)
A website’s graphics are part of its visual presentation but can be considered an entirely different skill altogether from a designer’s standpoint. Graphics can be everything from logos to interactive buttons and everything in between. Graphics are often tied into a site’s color scheme but are not the color scheme itself. Most color palettes work from the starting point of the logo. If your HVAC company has an existing logo with brand recognition, you should maintain or enhance it. Brand new contractors might be looking for an original logo from a professional designer.
Logos are likely an essential graphic for a company but certainly not the only one needed on your website. As we said, graphic design is a skill that transcends air conditioning web design. While websites use code and tags, visual artists use digital art studios such as Adobe Suite. Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop can all help create graphics for your website and other marketing materials. Graphics can be published on print materials as well, such as business cards and newsletters. Contractors can also print graphics on t-shirts, truck wraps, and other marketing materials.
An effective heating & cooling logo is both simple and memorable. Striking that balance isn’t the easiest thing to accomplish. Still, the companies that thrive are the ones that find a balance. Focus on solid colors that are easy on the eyes. 99 Designs outlines what each color evokes from the perspective of the typical consumer. For instance, blue is one color that people often associate with trust and professionalism, making sense when you understand why it’s on at least half of all logos. Think about your logo for a moment; what characteristics does it evoke?
Its graphical outline often enhances a call to action. In other words, a phone number button might appeal more to the user than merely the number itself. Why? Because consumers love to be visually inspired. Since the goal of every CTA is to create urgency and prompt action, enhancing its graphical nature can help reach that destination. Enhancement assumes the graphic is skillfully designed, of course. Keep in mind that poorly designed graphics can harm a user’s behavior. CTA buttons are important when merging illustration and web design.
What is the information distributed on infographics? It can be anything and everything as long it stays within the context of your web pages and the content published on them. If CTA buttons merge graphic and web design, infographics unify content marketing, graphic, and web design. It’s a way of threading everything the user consumes together in one cohesive construct. Like with logos and buttons, an infographic can range from extremely helpful to discouraging. Some infographics become so popular; they earn inbound links to the image address, which helps SEO.
We spoke about UI or user interface, but the most crucial part of a website is UX or user experience. Although it is less quantifiable, UX encompasses the overall experience of the website visitor. A visitor’s experience relates to everything previously discussed on this page, from aesthetics and visual presentation to navigation and website functionality. Of course, codebase remains the foundation of UX since it ultimately dictates it, even if the users themselves don’t realize it on a fundamental level. While a single metric cannot measure UX, there are groups of data that can paint a general picture of its performance, such as bounce rate, pages per session, etc.
Google understands website visitors’ behavior better than ever before and uses that information to inform their rankings. The sites that rank highest keep users actively engaged, which gets reflected in behavioral metrics. Whether it’s visiting multiple pages on a website or engaging with content elements on the homepage, users make their feelings apparent to Google in more ways than one. The goal of every HVAC website is to generate leads, and there’s no safer way to accomplish this than through enhancing the user’s experience and inspiring them to complete a call to action.
We can best understand UX through user metrics like bounce rate and pages per session. Although we can all subjectively visit an HVAC website and form an opinion on it, it is actions that demonstrate our most accurate conclusions. Any local service website that can keep users engaged and encourage participation in sales funnels and calls to action will benefit through metrics. The best way to track user behavior is through Google Analytics, a free tracking tool.
Aside from measuring user behavior, asking them outright for feedback can also be helpful. While it doesn’t provide the kind of raw data that Google values, it does inform heating & cooling businesses about their site’s strengths and weaknesses, explained from a visitor’s perspective. Sometimes people will hold back on criticisms, but if you include an anonymous survey directly on your website, there’s little for them to hold back. You might even get criticism so harsh that you wonder if they’re intentionally combative in hopes of weakening your will as a contractor.
Separate from the user’s behavior when first visiting your website, a telling piece of information can be the ratio by which visitors return. Sometimes brand notoriety can influence visitors to return to a site, again and again, something that should make itself apparent by the percentage of traffic reaching the site through a branded search or a direct visit. Other times more than brand recognition, it is about the site’s design and its UX quality. All the design elements discussed in this post can influence repeat visitations.
HVAC Website Design Company
For an HVAC SEO company, you can trust to design a high-quality website, choose HVAC Webmasters. Each website constructed by expert webmasters is custom-made and tailored to the client’s needs and brand. With a team of designers on staff (website & graphics), we can produce a high conversion online marketing channel for your heating & cooling business. A website serves as the foundation for your digital marketing strategy. It influences SEO, Google Maps, and of course, conversion rate optimization. As a company that focuses on online marketing for HVAC companies, we are uniquely qualified to construct a website that checks all your boxes in 2022.
Affordability is always a consideration in marketing but what’s most important is ROI or return on investment. A website template might cost less upfront, but how much money is it going to bring in? If you don’t know the answer to that question, you should opt for a free SEO audit that quantifies your rank position based on call volume. Lack of calls on your site means you’re not ranking on either Google organic or Google Maps. If that’s the case, even the nominal investment you’ve made in a website template is a negative ROI. Keep in mind that our services are incredibly affordable for agency-level website design, so we are happy to discuss the details further with you at your convenience.
Custom Websites for HVAC Contractors
Are you tired of template websites that hinder your SEO efforts? Invest in a custom website from HVAC Webmasters. Our design team implements your logo and color scheme within a custom codebase, creating a conversion machine. Every design technique incorporates SEO and lead generation. You’ll no longer worry whether blocks of code get crawled by Google. We have the data and protocol to ensure that Google not only indexes your site but prefers it.
Branded Websites for HVAC Companies
We don’t just build a website; we help create a brand for HVAC companies. Because the internet is more significant than any single website, it is vital to integrate your brand onto other web entries like social media networks and local business directories. This is incredibly useful when these properties link back to your website and vice versa. That’s why we include social media icons on your homepage so that visitors can find you on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. We believe that digital marketing ventures should target a complete web presence.
Website Lead Generation for Heating & Cooling Contractors
A custom branded website can generate leads with the right calls to action. Each website designed by HVAC Webmasters aims to connect relevant consumers to your office line. By integrating your contact information into our codebase, we can input clickable phone numbers in multiple areas throughout your site. Click to call functionality encourages users to take an additional step in the sales conversion process. We facilitate a connection between users who need HVAC services in your local area and yourself as contractors or companies in their general radius.