Search engines are arguably the most important marketing channel for reaching consumers and generating leads in today’s digital economy. Especially for local service-based businesses like plumbers. But not all search engines are created equal.
When it comes to search engine popularity, Google is hands down the winner. According to GolbalStats Statscounter, Google has a North American search engine market share of 88%. So, when we talk about search engine marketing in Canada or the United States, your focus should be on Google. If you follow SEO best practices with a focus on Google, you will naturally help your search rankings on other search engines such as Microsoft’s Bing search engine.
When a consumer has a need for plumbing services, one of the first places they begin their search for a plumbing company is Google. If consumers have a hard time finding your plumbing business on Google, you are missing out on a lot of plumbing leads and customers. In fact, a well executed search marketing campaign will likely account for the majority of your plumbing leads and customers.
But there are different ways consumers can find you on Google and understanding these differences is key to succeeding with Google search marketing.
When a consumer conducts a Google search they are presented with what is referred to as the Search Results Page or SERP for short. SERPs are comprised of two types of search results - paid search results and organic search results. Paid search results come from Google Ads and organic search results come from search engine optimization (SEO).
Both Google Ads and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) are tactics of search marketing - the practice of improving your visibility on search engines, so consumers can easily find you when they need you. The question is, which one is better for generating plumbing leads, Google Ads or SEO?
Google Ads and SEO are each comprised of various tactics and options. Let’s take a look at both to gain a better understanding of how and when you should use Google Ads and SEO for your plumbing business.
Google Ads is comprised of a few different advertising products. The two most popular ad products for local businesses are search ads and local service ads known as LSAs. We’ll start by looking at Local Service Ads as they are at the top of the hierarchy on a search results pages.
Local Service Ads, or LSAs for short, are a newer ad product from Google. LSAs are ads that are shown at the top of a Google Search Results Pages above Google Search Ads.
While LSAs and Google Search Ads (which we’ll discuss in a moment) both appear at the top of Google Search Results Pages, they are different in a few ways:
If you would like to learn more about LSAs including if they are available in your market, and how much they cost, visit: https://ads.google.com/intl/en_ca/local-services-ads/
Even if you are not familiar with Google Search Ads, you’ve most likely seen them and clicked on them. Google Search Ads are the text based ads displayed at the top and bottom of Google Search Results Pages.
What makes search ads so unique and popular is that you only pay when consumers click on your ads. This form of advertising is known as pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. It’s how Google generates the majority of their revenue. So, if you think that no one clicks on ads, you’d be wrong. In 2021, Google generated over $200,000,000,000 from their advertising products (including LSAs). Yes, you read that right, over two-hundred billion dollars.
The advantage Google Search Ads has over Local Service Ads is the amount of control you gain. While there are not many options for LSAs, Google Search Ads options can seem endless. There are lots of settings you need to keep your eye on. At a minimum, you’ll need to monitor and manage your Google Search Ads once per week.
I do not recommend that any plumbing company manages their own Google Search Ads without prior experience. While it is relatively easy to make a small fortune with Google Ads, it’s just as easy to lose a small fortune. While you can manage LSAs yourself, you should hire a professional to take care of your Google Search Ads.
Local Service Ads are great for plumbing companies that want to manage their own ads. Once you are approved for LSAs, they are easy to setup and take very little time to manage.
On the other hand, Google Search Ads are great for plumbing businesses that want complete control over their ads, and either have experience managing them, or are willing to hire a professional to manage them on their behalf.
It should also be noted that you can use both Local Service Ads and Google Search Ads at the same time. However, this is not generally recommended unless you have a healthy ad budget. If you are working with a small advertising budget, splitting it in two may dilute your results.
As your plumbing business grows and you can afford to invest more in online advertising, you should consider hiring an expert to manage Google Search Ads. While Local Service Ads are quick and easy, they may not be as affordable as Google Search Ads when managed properly.
Google Ads is part of a comprehensive digital marketing strategy, but that doesn’t mean you should use them all the time.
Google Ads is a great marketing tactic for generating plumbing leads and customers quickly. So if you are a brand new plumbing company just starting out, or an established plumbing company that needs work to keep your crews busy, you should consider using either Local Service Ads or Google Search Ads.
When Google Ads are managed properly, they will always generate more money than they cost. For this reason, it may seem to make sense to always run Google Ads. But keep in mind, plumbing leads from Google Ads almost always cost more than organic plumbing leads.
What I recommend Plumbing companies do is use Google Ads until they have established strong organic rankings in Google Search Results. When the majority of your plumbing leads come from organic, you can consider turning your Google Ads off (you can turn them back on anytime you want).
When you're able to turn your Google Ads off without having a major impact on the quantity or quality of the leads you are generating, you can reduce your cost per lead dramatically and pocket the savings, or re-invest them into your marketing strategy.
As mentioned, Google Ads is comprised of a few different ad products. In addition to search ads and LSAs, Google Ads also offers display ads (image based ads), and video ads, to name a couple. While these types of ads can be good for brand building, they typically do not perform as well as search ads and LSAs for generating leads.
I only recommend exploring these other ad options once you have achieved success with search ads and/or LSAs. If you ever decide to try Google’s Ad products, I advise you do so with the help of an experienced professional.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of optimizing your business's online assets, so it’s easier for consumers to find you when they conduct a Google search. The better visibility you have on Google, the more opportunities you have to generate plumbing leads and customers.
Before we discuss SEO further, I want to make one thing clear. SEO should never be the primary reason to do something. The primary focus of everything you do should be guided by the audience you want to reach and serve. SEO should support your audience initiatives, not trump them.
While on-site and off-site SEO are both important, on-site SEO has one advantage- you have much more control over it. While you are at the whim of third-party providers when it comes to off-site SEO, with on-site SEO you have control over your website, and can therefore implement and manage SEO as you see fit.
There are numerous on-site SEO elements you need to be aware of and manage. Here are a few of the more important elements you’ll want to keep an eye on:
There is a lot more to on-site SEO, but the above items will put you on the path to greater SEO results.
Off-Site SEO is the practice of optimizing content off your website - on third-party websites. The purpose of off-site SEO is to attract people to your business from outside sources. One of the primary goals of off-site SEO is to create links back to your website or other assets that you own and control.
Because Google’s goal is to provide the most relevant information to searchers, Google needs to understand which web pages it should display in search results. To determine which web pages are most valuable for a specific search, Google analyzes all of the external links to a web page to help determine its ranking in the SERPs. The more links you have coming to your website from high quality third-party sites, the better chance you have of being ranked higher in Google’s SERPs.
There are numerous off-site SEO tactics you can use to improve your visibility in Google’s SERPs. Here are a few of the tactics you should consider:
Off-site SEO needs to be part of your long-term marketing strategy. If it's not, you are doing your plumbing business a disservice.
Many people find SEO complicated, but it’s not. While you need a basic understanding of the elements you can optimize to improve your visibility on search engines, the underlying principal is to do what is best for your target audience.
Google’s primary objective is to provide consumers with the most relevant information they are searching for. If Google does a good job at this, consumers will continue to use them as their preferred choice of search engine. If Google provides poor search results or another search engine provides better search results, consumers will stop using Google. So, the simple rule to keep in mind when it comes to SEO is this: Do what's in the best interest of consumers - the target audience you want to reach. If you take care of the consumer, Google will take care of you.
When it comes to SEO, Google Business is one of the most important tactics you can use. A free Google Business Profile (GBP) can help you generate hundreds of plumbing leads each month. It won’t happen overnight, so the sooner you start, the better. Here are a few tips to put you on the path to GBP success.
As a plumbing business, you should be using both SEO and PPC as part of a comprehensive lead generation strategy. However, you should prioritize SEO long-term, as you will typically generate far more leads for less money.
If you are a new plumbing company just starting out, or you're an established plumbing company that wants more leads in the short-term, Google Search Ads is a great option.
Let’s look at a real world example of a PlumberMarketing.ca customer. I can’t share their name, due to the terms and conditions of our service, however I can anonymously share their results.
We’ve been working with this particular plumbing company for nearly six years. For the first few years we ran Google Ads alongside our SEO efforts. In 2020, as the pandemic started to affect businesses, I recommended they stop Google Ads. My recommendation wasn’t arbitrary- it was based on their data.
On October 11th, 2021 we stopped all Google Ads. To understand how it affected their business, we’ll look at their data from October 11, 2020 to October 10, 2021 and compare it to October 11, 2021 to October 10, 2022.
October 11th, 2020 to October 10th, 2021
October 11th, 2021 to October 10th, 2022
Here are the results a year after stopping Google Ads:
As you can see, their results from 2020/2021 were not bad to begin with. But the results they achieved in 2021/2022 were far better. We only changed one thing - we stopped running Google Ads.
To put this in context, our plumbing customer didn’t abandon Google Ads, they just temporarily stopped using them. In fact, we just launched a new Google Ads campaign to focus on a specific service they want to grow.
Because this plumbing company adequately invested in a comprehensive digital marketing strategy from day one (including both Google Ads and SEO), they now have much more flexibility and can pivot their marketing efforts in ways many of their competitors cannot.
Now, you might be saying to yourself, “Why not run Google Ads along side SEO all of the time?” You absolutely can. But having the flexibility to stop Google Ads without affecting your overall lead generation, gives you marketing options your competitors don’t have.
If you want help managing SEO and/or Google Ads for your plumbing business, contact PlumberMarketing.ca. Our Advisors are here to help.