Roll back the calendar...it’s 2016. I’ve had my own frustrating experiences marketing at a $13 million lawn and landscape company and now, after coming to work at Landscape Leadership, I have realized my misfortune was a common green industry marketing epidemic.
Ask me the question, “Is Pay-Per-Click (PPC), specifically with Google Adwords, a good idea for a lawn care company?”
The answer then was, “No. Stop wasting your money.”
But...now I would say, “Maybe…” Let me explain why.
As we discussed in a previous article, our firm stance back in 2016 and prior was to not encourage this lawn care marketing tactic for these reasons:
Click-through rates on PPC ads aren’t impressive. Organic results (below the ads) drive way more clicks.
It’s still advertising and lacks credibility. If you pay, you show up. That doesn’t bolster consumer confidence.
PPC clicks don't always result in good prospects. These people are often skeptical and tire-kickers.
PPC ads come at a high cost. It could realistically cost anywhere between $5-$30 per click….a CLICK….not a qualified lead, a click. If that doesn’t turn into a paying customer...OUCH. You could be spending seventy cents on every dollar of new revenue to acquire a customer when it’s all said and done.
PPC is not a self-sustaining strategy. It’s like a faucet. Turn it on and the leads flow. Turn it off, and the leads stop. You’ll always be forking over tens of thousands of dollars each year to feed Google.
All of those points are still true. So what has changed to get me to “Maybe…”?
A Lawn Care Marketing Story
Let me first say that I’ll eat almost anything, even my own words. But that’s not exactly what happened to get me to the “Maybe…” answer now.
What has happened can best be illustrated with a real-life story.
It’s a little over a year into a successful marketing relationship with one of our lawn care clients. The organic search traffic is way up. All that blogging and SEO work on the website has paid off! Some months we were seeing hundreds of lawn care leads from organic traffic alone. About 60% of those organic leads were turning into actual customers.
(The chart above indicates the amount of new customers that resulted from Organic traffic over a period of almost 2 years.)
I’m asked, “Do you guys think we should also do PPC?” My typical experience and those of others led to a firm, “No. Let’s continue to focus on this organic strategy. You could say goodbye to Landscape Leadership next year, and all of this work will continue to give you leads for years. That won’t happen with PPC.”
The client then responds, “Okay, well we’re going to also spend some money with XYZ Agency and see what they can do with PPC as well.”
Needless to say, I watched closely. Yes, they got leads through Google Adwords and the agency’s effort. At that time, I didn’t know just how much they spent, but something was dripping out of the faucet. Not the results compared to organic, but it was working to some level.
Almost one year goes by. The client then says, “This isn’t ideal. We love what you guys do. We’d really love to have you also do the PPC for us. It would make our life much easier and I’m not sure we’re getting the best results with XYZ Agency.”
We agree. We look at what they spent and where. We charge a similar monthly “management fee”. We dive into the ads, make tons of changes and in one year we get 4x the PPC leads with about half the cost per lead.
It worked...and even better.
(The chart above shows the the contrast of how many new customers their prior agency generated compared to our results the next year.)
Now at this point, you’re probably saying, “See Chad, you were wrong. You’re eating your words. PPC is a good idea.” Well, maybe I am eating my words, but it’s just a couple nibbles. As I said, the answer now is “Maybe…”
(RELATED READING: 5 Meaningful Website Metrics to Understand & Track)
The Big, Typical Problems With Lawn Care Pay-Per-Click Ads
This story did not have a typical ending. What’s most typical, and may be your case (as it was mine and that of many others), is that you switch your PPC to another agency and get similar, lackluster results again.
This bad PPC experience is due to these common causes:
Lawn care companies often don’t spend enough at PPC. If you’re not paying an agency at least $750/month they aren’t spending much time “managing” your ads. And if you’re not allocating at least an average of $2,000-$3,000 per month for your click budget, good luck showing up against competitors with deeper pockets.
Lawn care companies are taking a ride with their agency asleep at the wheel. I once had a lawn care company owner tell me his marketing was “kind of a set-it-and-forget-it” thing. What a terrible way to run a business. You don’t just set up PPC ads and let them fly. That’s a good way to waste money. There’s always a way to improve ad performance each month.
(The chart above indicates how many new customers were generated by traffic source. Notice how Organic is #1, and the improvement of PPC.)
Lawn care companies are too focussed on the short term. Yes, PPC will generate leads and quickly, but if you really want healthy growth you should make this a supplement to your organic search strategy. As your organic results build up over 2-4 years, use PPC in peak seasons. After you’re cranking out hundreds of organic leads per month, then ramp up PPC. Unfortunately, if you’re not allocating $50k/year on that organic strategy first, you’ll be waiting a long time to get to the aggressive PPC stage.
Hey, I Just Clicked You...and This is Crazy…
But here’s my number...so call me, Maybe….? Maybe you’re staring at that last bulleted list and realizing you’re guilty of one or all of those things. Then your answer is still “No. Stop wasting money on PPC.”
But...maybe you’re like our clients who have invested in an organic search strategy first and foremost. Maybe you are only going to use PPC in certain times, for certain services. And maybe you’re going to keep a close eye on your marketing agency and make sure they’re actually doing stuff each month that makes your cost per click improve and your leads increase.
Then, forget “Maybe”, I’ll give you a solid, “Go for it.”
Tired of wasting money on advertising that doesn’t turn into paying customers? Find out if Landscape Leadership is a good fit for your lawn care, landscaping, or tree service company. Schedule a meeting with us today to learn more.