Does Pay-Per-Click Advertising Work for Contractors?

This article is about the experience of contractors with Pay-Per-Click ads — do they pay off? If you’re a contractor who has had an experience with Pay-Per-Click, I’m interested in how it went for you. 

These days, most homeowners and businesses look for electricians, plumbers, and other home improvement contractors on the Internet. Gone are the days when most customers rely on the Yellow Pages. This means that if you’re a construction contractor like me, you need an effective website.

An Effective Contractor Website

An effective website provides key information like locations served, services offered, licensing and insurance info, and, if possible, authentic customer testimonials. A good website features professional, well-edited writing as well as friendly and clean design. It also appeals to customers by featuring their go-buttons, that is, words or phrases that in your experience interest customers. For my electrical customers, for example, I’ve found that “coupon” and “lifetime guarantee on all our work” appeal to customers.

Bringing Visitors to Your Website

Once you have a great website, you’ll need to bring visitors to it. This requires being visible at the top of the search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Per studies of Google search results, over 60% of visits are to websites in the top three ranks of Page 1. If you think about your own experience in searching, this will probably make sense. How often do you click on a website at the bottom of the page versus one at the top?

In rural areas, if you have a terrific website, getting to the top of Page 1 is possible within a matter of months. In urban areas, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is necessary. Without SEO, due to competition from other contractors, your website might languish in the back pages of the search engines indefinitely. It will have a hard time competing with contractors who are doing SEO programs.

Getting Your Contractor Website to the Top of Page 1 in 24 Hours

Whether you’re in a rural area or urban, there’s a way that search engines will deliver customer visits to your website within 24 hours. You can place a paid ad for your business at the top of Page 1 of Google and Yahoo. This kind of advertising is called Pay-Per-Click.

Likely, you’re already familiar with Pay-Per-Click advertising. On Google, these are the ads at the top and right side that are discretely labeled “Ads.” Google calls them “AdWords.” Yahoo calls them “Search Marketing.” Your company is charged a fee by Google (or Yahoo) if a searcher clicks on the ad to see your website.

Launching a Pay-Per-Click Campaign

The search engines make it easy to run paid ads. You’ll need to write some very brief text. To get ideas, take a look at the ads by other contractors in your trade. It doesn’t matter whether they’re within your locality or outside it. Feature your most profitable services and some of the go-buttons that you’ve noticed that customers respond to.

Think about the name of the location you want to include in an ad like “New York plumber.” Are searchers in your service area more likely to type in “Brooklyn plumber” or “Flatbush plumber”? If so, your ad saying “New York plumber” may not display to them. Also, put your phone number in the ad. Many contractors don’t do this, but if you do, some customers will call you without clicking on your ad — saving you the fee charged by the search engine for each click.

The search engine will ask the amount of your monthly budget for Pay-Per-Click. Set it well within the outer limit of what you’re willing to pay each month for their advertising.

Pay-Per-Click May Give Weak Results

If you’ve tried Pay-Per-Click, but it hasn’t given you a good Return on Investment (ROI), you’re not alone. Many contractors have found that Pay-Per-Click can give weak results. The fact is that fewer people click on paid ads than on the free website listings, around 80% or 90% fewer! Searchers have greater trust in the free “natural” listings of websites. This means that if you could get your website to the top of the search engines without paying for ads, you’d get 5-10 times as many customer visits.

You can check on whether your clicks are turning into customer calls by asking customers, when they first call, how they found out about you. Many customers will just say “the Internet” and not remember whether it was a paid ad. Of course, if your website doesn’t come up naturally on Page 1, likely they saw your paid ad. Only 10% of searchers look beyond Page 1. There are also marketing services that can provide you with a program that tracks whether the customer who is calling clicked on a paid ad.

Avoiding Wasted Clicks

Another problem with Pay-Per-Click is that it can quickly run up bills and not always for people looking for your contracting services. I’ll give you an example from my own experience. One day when I was checking on the weather in my town, the Pay-Per-Click ad for my electrical contracting company popped up on the weather page. At first I was thrilled. There was my company! Then, I started thinking about it. This wasn’t the right venue for my ad. Many people idly click on ads even though they’re not really interested in hiring a tradesman right then. Idle clicks by people primarily interested in the weather could cost me plenty.

Over the years with Pay-Per-Click, I’ve found that people searching for “electric razors” “electrician school” and “looking for work as an electrician” have all clicked on ads for my electrical contracting company. These sorts of “off-target” clicks can add up to a large fraction of wasted clicks. With experience, I learned how to design Pay-Per-Click campaigns to eliminate these types of clicks. I also learned the tricks of minimizing the cost of each click.

When Does Pay-Per-Click make sense for a contractor?

Pay-Per-Click can provide a good Return on Investment in these situations:

  • Ads focus on your most profitable services
  • Ads are designed to attract your type of customer
  • Expert design and management of the ad campaign minimizes wasted clicks
  • Expert design and management of the ad campaign minimizes the amount you pay for each click

In short, a good Return on Investment requires expert ad design and expert management of your campaign. I recommend that you either make a hobby of becoming an expert at Pay-Per-Click or that you hire an experienced management service. Click here for information about how HappyContractor manages Pay-Per-Click campaigns.  We take on a client only if we can provide the contractor with a good Return on Investment.

A Final Benefit of Pay-Per-Click

One of the biggest benefits of Pay-Per-Click is that it can work itself out of a job. If you have a Pay-Per-Click campaign, the search engines tell you the exact words and phrases that searchers typed to find your ads. This is a treasure trove of data from which you can learn more about your contracting customers. How exactly do they search for you? You can use this information to re-write your website so that it’s more appealing to customers.

You can also use this data for designing a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) program. Ideally, your website should rank high in the free natural listings when customers type in words and phrases to find a local contractor like you. A good SEO program will achieve this. Once your website comes up naturally at the top of the search engines, you’ll receive many more visits than paid ads will yield and they’ll be free to you. At that point, it will make sense to end off your Pay-Per-Click ads except possibly for your very most profitable services.

If you’re a contractor who has had an experience, good or bad, with Pay-Per-Click, please let me know how it went for you.