When you want to find a new restaurant or a reputable auto mechanic, where do you turn to? For most people, that’s Google. Google Search and Maps have become so ingrained in our way of life that to do anything else feels unnatural.
Now let me ask you this. Where do you think the majority of homeowners turn to when they’re in need of a home improvement contractor? Google! And for those that would make the case for personal referrals, what do you think they’ll do once they’re given a contractor’s name? They research them on Google to find out if the referral is worth their time and money. Would it shock you to learn that 97% of people research local businesses online before reaching out to them?
As a home improvement contractor, there are a ton of ways you can increase your chances of getting found online. The obvious ones are following search engine optimization (SEO) best practices to make sure your website is optimized for mobile and local searches; running effective Google AdWords campaigns that target the zip codes you service; and sharing before and after project photos on all your business’s online directory listings to name a few.
I want to share with you a non-obvious way that you can get your business’s name out there and recognized within your local community. That is to become a Google Local Guide.
Who Are Google Local Guides?
Anyone can become a Local Guide. It’s an initiative by Google to enhance the quality of their search results by tapping into the collective wisdom of millions of people. It’s primarily associated with Google Maps and offers people the ability to make personal recommendations in the same way that they would for their neighbors, friends and family. These recommendations are then featured in search results and are viewable by anyone searching online.
As a home improvement contractor, becoming a Local Guide yourself provides a few key advantages:
- When you review other businesses around you, it increases your own online visibility. Each business you recommend will be notified of the review. Then when they go online to search for a local contractor to repair their roof, replace their windows or a host of other home improvement projects they need to tackle on their own home, they’ll recognize your name. You’ll already have that personal connection of leaving them a positive review. That can make all the difference in their decision on who to reach out to when comparing contractors with similar reputations.
- As a Local Guide, you’ll receive exclusive invitations to meetups happening in your area which is a great way to become more involved in your local community.
- You’ll get recognized for your recommendations. You can unlock a Local Guides badge and fun perks when you earn points for your contributions. At level 4, you unlock your first Local Guides badge that appears beside your name and photo when you post recommendations. This badge can become a beacon of engagement that you’re actively involved in your community. Then when you reach higher levels, you can get early access to new Google features.
Helping Your Neighboring Businesses
There are a number of ways Google lets you contribute as a Local Guide:
- Write a review. Tell your story of each place you visit and add as many details as you possibly can. Share what you enjoyed the most and specific tips on what you’d recommend.
- Share photos. As a home improvement contractor, you understand the power a photo can have when convincing a potential customer to reach out to you. The photos you share can be viewed by millions of people on Google Maps. Just remember that when you’re taking a photo, make sure you’re in focus, use natural light, and capture the whole scene.
- Add a place. Maybe a business just moved in down the street or switched addresses and haven’t gotten to updating their information online. Go ahead and help them by adding their address on Google Maps so it’s easier for people to find them. They’ll be notified and glad that you helped them!
- Edit a place. Perhaps a business or restaurant has incorrect business hours listed on their Google Maps listing or that they don’t have a suite number added. You can suggest an edit to their listing which in turn can save people time and helps that business maintain a consistent and accurate online presence. Imagine finding the one coffee shop to be open on a holiday but when you arrive, they’re closed even though their listing showed them as being open.
- Answer questions. You can share helpful information about places you’ve visited by answering easy questions that people are asking online. Go ahead and search for your own business and answer any questions that people have asked.
The best part about Google’s Local Guides program is that Google won’t publish any edit suggestions without your knowledge. As a business, you’re able to verify information that people have submitted about you prior to it being published on Google Maps.
Once you’ve become a Local Guide, one way to stand out, even more, is to create a list that includes all the best places to visit in your community. Your list could be featured by Google on Facebook, Twitter, and Connect (their community for Local Guides). When you’re creating this list, make sure to keep these helpful tips from Google in mind:
- Give your list a clear title so people can easily tell what it’s about
- Include a detailed description and add the hashtag #LetsGuide
- Include at least 5 local places that fit your theme
Working with a Google Premier Partner
Just as Google is tapping into the collective wisdom of millions of people to enhance their search results, they’re also working with businesses to do the same. Through their Premier Partner program, Google works closely with businesses to follow best practices and receive exclusive training.
Surefire Local is among 3% of companies worldwide that are recognized as a Google Premier Partner (there are less than 50 companies in the United States). What this means is that our team of digital marketing experts understand your industry and know the best strategies and tactics to get you results.
Our team meets every quarter with Google to catch up on the latest digital marketing trends and new product/feature updates on both sides. Just the other week, they came to our new office and revealed that Google is now offering Local Service Ads (replacing what were previously known as Home Service Ads). Here’s a fun photo the team took!
This new change is huge for home improvement contractors and will change the industry as it rolls out. This means that your business can now run promotions that appear BEFORE standard text ads, Google My Business listings, and organic search results in your service radius. One key benefit is that they’ve adopted a cost per lead business model which means advertisers only get charged for the prospective customers that actually reach out.
You’ll have to apply to get in on this but as a Google Premier Partner, we’d be happy to help you through that process and (more significantly) share some ideas that can help you reach more of your ideal clients.