The Changing Landscape of Lead Sources for Service-Based Companies
Where are you currently getting your leads from?
If you're a typical lawn care, pest control, or other home services company, the majority of your leads are probably coming from the Internet.
Now that is a broad term--it includes people searching for services on search engines like Google and Yahoo as well as review-based websites like Yelp! and Angie’s List. It also includes your website showing up within those search engine results.
Things like Google Ads and Google Local Services are all factored into paid digital marketing channels.
You may also be bringing in quality leads through word-of-mouth referrals, as well as more traditional outbound media like tv ads, radio spots, or direct mail, but your customers are moving online and you probably have, as well!
Change is in the air
Now that’s all well and good, but things are changing online. It’s no longer a simple matter of ranking for your key terms (typically your market + your service), i.e. pest control Tampa Bay. Search engine results pages are changing, and Google is constantly updating the way it ranks sites and displays results, so it isn’t the whole picture like it once was. What does that mean? It means there are a lot more factors to getting leads online than keyword rankings, and that keyword rankings are losing their dominate position on search engine results pages anymore.
Check out Ryan Stewart’s recent article on the matter if you want to take a bit of a deeper dive on the subject, but suffice it to say, there are a number of other elements on search engine results pages that are supplanting organic rankings. The end result of this current wave of change is that you need to do more than just rank for your key terms- you need to have a strategy for all of the lead channels online- including Yelp!, Angie’s List, BBB, and heavy hitting newcomers like Amazon.
New players in the home services market
There have been several developments in the last 12-18 months that portend significant changes for lead generation for the service industry. The first is major players (Google and Amazon) getting into the home services market. Google first invested 100MM in Thumbtack last year- then announced in April of 2015 that it would be introducing a home services… uh, service. This came to fruition in July of 2015 when Google beta tested their new product in the San Francisco market, as reported in Search Engine Land. In the space that used to be allotted for Local Google My Business listings, which are free- now we have a paid ad block instead, listing approved vendors of Google Home Services. (See picture above for what local listings look like in a SERP.) So service based business will have to pay to get visibility in that space- but not only that, they will need to be qualified by Google. This actually means license checks, background checks, and a reputation check based on online reviews, you can check out the actual guidelines here.
Interesting, right? But nothing surprising there, since its inception Google has evolved to own more of the customer experience. What may be more interesting is that the move is part of a larger trend of heavyweights getting into home services. In this case Google is basically following in Amazon’s footsteps. Formerly known as “Amazon Local Services”, Amazon rebranded as “Amazon Home Services” in March of 2015. Amazon offers three types of services: pre-packaged, custom, and recurring. If you are in the pest control or lawn care business, the recurring option should make you sit up and take notice. Amazon hit the ground running by partnering with TaskRabbit, providing them with 30,000 vetted professionals right out of the gate.
The obvious benefit to Amazon customers is that they can shop for home services just as easily as they do so many other things in their lives- online and without talking to a customer service representative on the phone. Think about today’s target audience- this is the preferred method of shopping. Not only that, but consumers spend 4X on services as they do physical products, marking this as an obvious opportunity for Amazon.
What is your next move?
So, what should you be doing right now? You, or your agency, should have a comprehensive strategy that includes multiple lead source channels like Google Home Services, Amazon Home Services, Yelp!, Angie’s List, BBB, and the like. You’ll also want to be proactive about review generation through the same channels.
Moving forward, reviews will continue to be a huge factor in driving your business's presence among these and new channels. In addition, you will want to continue to adhere to basic best practices, including local optimization, on page optimization, and more.
So that gets you caught up for the moment, consider this your 2016 strategy, but what does the next wave of change look like? Stayed tuned for my next post on full stack on-demand services and how I think consumers will buy lawn care and pest control services in the near future!