Most lawn care and landscape professionals know it's not enough to slap together a five page website and wait for the calls to start coming in.
To establish an effective web presence, you need to invest in search engine optimization (SEO).
But, here's the secret - SEO for landscaping websites is not rocket science. There's no need to feel intimidated at the mere mention of it. SEO is all about ensuring your website generates the right signals for the search engines, and your potential clients.
To illustrate how simple SEO can be, following are seven basic practices which you can complete over the next three to six months to optimize several elements of your website.
Improving Domain Age
Let's start with the easiest task. Though it won't significantly change your rankings on its own, domain age is an important factor for your website’s credibility. Search engines not only care about your past, they also take into account your future.
If you currently own a domain, visit whois.com and check your domain expiration date. If it expires in less than 12 months, renew it for at least two years into the future. The same principle applies to new domains. Purchasing domain names over several years adds credibility to your website and shows the search engines that you plan on being in business for a long time.
Finding Local Keywords
In Bullseye, published in Lawn & Landscape Magazine's October issue, we discussed creating buyer personas. You can apply the same practice when determining keywords as well.
The first step you should take in finding the best keywords for your business is defining your target service area. Where are your potential customers? Which city, state, county, neighborhood, etc.? Does your local service area have a geographical referrer e.g. “panhandle”, as in Florida panhandle?
The second step is discovering how specific you need to be in defining your service offerings. What problems are your clients trying to solve? Do they want general landscape services? Or something more specific like grading or irrigation installation?
To find the most appropriate keywords, you can use a paid service, such as Hubspot, an inbound marketing software. Or you can use a free service, such as Google Keyword Planner or this handy-dandy keyword tool.
Optimized Title Tags
Title tags are part of your website meta data, which acts as a more descriptive and formatted version of URLs on your website. Each page on your website should have a unique title tag, which is not more than 55 characters long.
To explain this further, take a look at the website URL for HighGrove Partners in Atlanta, Georgia (disclosure: HighGrove is a client of Landscape Leadership):
HighGrove's current home page URL: www.highgrove.net
HighGrove's current home page title tag: HighGrove Partners | Commercial Landscaping Atlanta Austell GA
As illustrated in the image below, the company uses unique title tags on each of their pages to replace their non-descript URLs with local keywords and services. These flow more naturally, like short sentences describing the services referred to on each specific page.
Engaging Meta Descriptions
Similar to your page title tags, meta descriptions are created in your website meta data, which means they are not visible on your website, only in search engine results. Consisting of 150 characters, these descriptions should contain one or two compelling sentences describing your specific company services and local service area to give your potential clients a preview of the contents of your webpage.
Each page of your website should contain a unique meta description which focuses on improving your click-through conversions, not just your rankings.
For examples, conduct a search on any type of business in your area. Scan the search results and compare the optimized, and un-optimized, meta descriptions below the web page titles. Which websites were more effective in convincing you to click through?
No matter what type of lawn care or landscape service you provide the results are generally visual. Which means, the majority of your website will feature photographs of your work. There are three values you can update or add to your image files to fully optimize them:
- File Name - Delete numbers and generic photo attributes. Instead add location and services provided to the file name.
- Image Title - Add your company name, specific location and services provided, similar to your page titles.
- Image Alt-text – Basically a short meta description for images.
If you format your images properly, they can help you to initially attract potential clients to your website, then assist in closing the sale by showcasing the results of your services.
Google's local business directory, Google+Local (formerly Google Places), is the largest online local business citation available. There are many advantages to listing your website with Google+Local, including increased exposure in local search results, step by step driving directions through Google Maps, hosted branding and service images, as well as promoted client reviews.
For new lawn care and landscape companies, it's important to create a listing as soon as you are ready to start promoting your business. To start a listing, visit the Google+ Local website and create an account.
Once the account is active, you can navigate to the listing page add your company Name, Address, and Phone number (NAP). Be sure to add other details, such as your tagline, company description, hours of operation, etc.
Also, check the business category and ensure that you are listed in the right services. If possible, pick the most specific category available, for example Landscape Designer or Commercial Landscape Maintenance. A complete listing will always be more effective than a basic listing.
In the image below, you can see how HighGrove Partners has added their logo and branding to their Google+ Local page.
Consistency in all citations
Since the recent Google Penguin update, Google has allowed certain citations to have some influence in your search rankings. Citations are listings on local business directories, such as Bing Business Portal, Foursquare, Manta, Yellowpages, Yelp, WhitePages, and YahooLocal.
Google crawls each of these sites and compares the NAP information you have entered against other citation listings, so ensure multiple citations display the same information about your business.
Because Google discounts mismatched information, exact matches of all data helps to improve your website credibility and search rankings.
If you are not sure where and how you are listed, you can use Landscape Leadership's free website scanning tool: Citation Listing Scanning Tool
Remember, do not list your company in hundreds of directories. Focus on quality over quantity. To save you time, we've compiled a downloadable list of the top 20 citations: Local Business Directories Worksheet
Start right now
The amount of time it takes to implement these improvements depends on your experience with website design and the size of your current website. With this seo for landscaping websites checklist at your side, these improvements could be spread over a week or over the next month.
And, many of these quick-fixes are one-time tasks - once you get them right, title tags, images and meta descriptions, may never need to be updated again.
You may not notice instant results with these 7 quick-fixes. These are just the building blocks of a complete SEO strategy. If you are struggling to establish a foothold in your local search results, these basic practices will help you to improve your rankings and build credibility for your website.
But if you want to maintain your position, you must consider a more comprehensive inbound strategy.
Image credit (top): Niklas Morberg