Recently, our National Sales Director for Home Improvement Contractors, Tom Audette was interviewed by the folks at Remodeling Magazine for their article, Web Marketing Makeover.  You can view the article here.

For the most part, the article provides a high level overview of what you can expect from your website, how you can refresh your website to receive more leads, and how many companies are relying on the web as their primary lead source.

While I agree with the general tone of the article (contractors need to have a web presence, NOW), I can't help but feel as if they may have overstated a few points and left out some vital pieces of information.

Particularly, there are several points made in the article that I would like to refute (as well as several true statements):

Myth #1: SEO Is Cheap

“Companies can get optimized for less than $2,500,” says Martin Gould, of marketing and communications company Focalize Consulting, in Cooper City, Fla. "But you can also literally spend nothing, since most high school juniors can do this.

As the old adage goes, you get what you pay for. While you may certainly be able to find a company that will optimize your site on the cheap, what kind of results will they deliver?  How long will these results last?

In a recent post, I lamented the fact that one of our least successful SEO engagements occurred when we developed and optimized a site initially, but did not have an ongoing SEO maintenance contract in place to continually improve the site.  After an initial push and lots of traffic being driven by SEO, our clients rankings and traffic declined gradually until very few search visits trickled in each month.

The fact is, it takes time and money to optimize your site.  Sure you might be able to pay someone $10 an hour to work on your site (or nothing if they are still in high school), but chances are that you won't like the results and they won't last long term.

Myth #2: SEO is a One Time Project

The search engines are constantly changing their algorithms, and as a result, you may need to tweak your site often in order to stay at the top. While anyone can learn about search engine behavior and get a site to achieve quality rankings (heck, even a high school juniors can do it for free!), staying at the top of the search engines requires spending a lot of time reading about search, experimenting, and delivering results.

While you may be able to receive some initial results from the high school junior's optimization, what happens to your site rankings when they go away to college? What about when they stop reading about search engine changes and your rankings suffer? What if they get greedy and implement tactics that get your site banned by Google? What happens when Jr. wises up and realizes the value they provide your company?

You may certainly achieve a boost in your SEO traffic by undergoing a one-time optimization, but chances are these results won't stick around forever. Hiring an agency to stay on top of the search engine marketplace is often more cost effective than hiring a full time employee... but obviously more expensive than an intern.

As for the high school junior analogy... I think that this population segment is a little more suited toward blinging out profiles than optimizing your website for the search engines.

Myth #3: Google Analytics is a "program" that you "download"

"Programs such as Google Analytics or Alexa — both free downloads — tell you how many visitors are coming to your site and how they behave when they get there. They also point to ways in which you can improve site design and content."

I'm sorry, but I just found that to be hilarious.  Google Analytics is a SaaS application (Software as a Service) that is hosted in the "clouds" - No download required.  In fact it's not even a program... just a website with an amazingly intuitive interface and some very actionable data.  We highly recommend that ALL companies place it on their website; especially contractors.

Also, Alexa hasn't been relevant since the early 2000's (and some say it was never accurate).  You should try or if your site is large enough... or just focus less on the vanity of your traffic rank, and more on GETTING TRAFFIC!

True Statement #1: You Need Someone to Make Web Analytics Reports Actionable

'Web marketing expert Gamse suggests that business owners familiarize themselves with analytics programs and manage their sites accordingly. “You have to have someone who can look at those numbers and create actionable intelligence,” she says.'

She had me at actionable analytics. As we have said many times in this blog, collecting data for your website is a great start.  However, this data doesn't do much for your company if you don't apply it to your company and make it actionable.

True Statement #2: Customer Ratings Enhance Your Online Presence

"Click on any one of 10 subject headings on Eberle Remodeling’s website, for instance, and a link on the left side of the screen says, “Click here to view our customer satisfaction ratings,” and steers you to the company’s GuildQuality page, which incorporates responses from 72 clients and gives the remodeler a “100% Recommended” rating."

Remodeling any part of your house can be a very expensive proposition... and a lot of trust goes in to your visitors even contacting your company the first time.  Adding reviews and ratings from other satisfied customers helps establish trust in your online presence.  It's all about trust and transparency online, so help visitors make informed decisions by providing ratings from previous customers (but make sure that these reviews/ratings are easy to see and understand).

As an avid online shopper, I often make purchase decisions without ever seeing a physical product.  These decisions rely 100% on peer reviews (both negative and positive).  Help online visitors trust your company by incorporating feedback from their peers into your web presence.

Closing Point

Since most of my experience working with contractors comes from online initiatives, I would love to say that all you need to do is "go online" and all of your lead generation problems will be solved. However, that's not the case for most contractors.

For most contractors, online leads should simply be a component of your well balanced marketing mix. Relying too heavily on one single tactic is probably not the most responsible way to market your business.  In fact, we have clear evidence that your online marketing efforts are significantly enhanced when they are tied closely to all of your offline marketing. All of your TV, Radio, Newspaper, Yellow Pages, Canvassing efforts can help bring visitors in to your site through direct visits and searches for your brand name.

Make sure your website does a good job of converting these visits into LEADS.