As an owner, manager, or marketing director of a lawn care or pest control company, you know that maintaining a competitive edge means constantly working to find and keep new customers. You need to get your name in front of the people and companies that need your services, then find a way to convert them into recurring customers.
It's well established that the Internet — when used strategically — can be a powerful tool for growing a company's customer base. While door hangers, direct mail, and traditional print or broadcast advertising are great for branding and throwing a wide net around potential customers, these mediums have their limits. The hope is that someone receiving the solicitation just happens to be looking for a new service provider like you. Nothing compares with being first in line to show up in a prospective customer's Google search.
When a potential customer enters, "How often should I water my grass?" or "The best way to rid my house of roaches" into a Google search engine, you want your company's name to show up as high as possible on the user's search engine results page (SERP).
The best way to climb to the top of a SERP is through search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, or a combination of the two.
This article offers an in-depth analysis of SEO vs. PPC, starting with what SEO and PPC are and how they work. It covers when and why you should use each. It also explores how working with an expert provider specializing in website design, content marketing, and online advertising — specifically for pest control or lawn care — can help you accelerate growth and scale your business.
Search engine optimization usually referred to as SEO, is the practice of making content available on the Internet, so your site gains greater visibility to users searching for information using a search engine like Google. When SEO is thoughtfully and strategically incorporated into your site's content, your website or publication has the potential to show up more often in the internet searches of the individuals you want to target. SEO is why maintaining an optimized website, producing a blog, and publishing content in third-party online publications can be excellent vehicles for finding new contacts and converting them into customers.
SEO leverages the power of keywords, which are the specific words and phrases that Internet searchers use in their search queries. For instance, if you typed "PPC vs. SEO for my lawn care business" into the Google search box, this article probably popped up since it is about SEO vs. PPC and refers to lawn care businesses throughout the text. The relevant keywords appear organically in the copy you are reading because this article is designed to provide information to people exactly like you. If you run a pool service company, for example, you might publish a blog about what to do if a homeowner's pool water looks cloudy after a rainstorm. This would target the people experiencing a problem you know how to solve.
There is a science — as well as an art — to finding and strategically placing the right SEO keywords into well-crafted content. First, you need to understand or work with an SEO expert who understands the latest Google algorithms and how to optimize your target audience's user experience (UX). Then, you'll need sound SEO research and writing chops to create content that organically incorporates the right keywords to match your prospects' searches.
SEO can also be enhanced by maintaining and periodically updating your website to keep its content fresh and relevant, keeping an up-to-date Google Business Profile, and maintaining a blog or online newsletter.
Because there is no cost to appear in organic search results, SEO is a great way to increase your competitive advantage by raising your search rankings without breaking the bank.
Pay-per-click advertising is a type of search engine marketing (SEM) where businesses pay each time a user clicks on their ad. PPC ads can appear on search engines like Google or Safari or social media sites like Facebook. Since you'll only have to pay when someone interested in your ad clicks on it, you are directing your marketing to individuals with a higher probability of wanting and needing your services.
For instance, if someone conducts a Google search for affordable lawn care, the chances are that if your ad with the headline "Most Affordable Lawn Care" pops up at the top of the Google search engine results page, they will click on it. The ad will direct them to more information on your services — often on a specifically-designed website landing page — which will, in turn, encourage them to sign up for your services by offering immediate incentives and opportunities to convert to a customer. The point of a PPC ad is getting the individuals you are targeting to take a particular action, such as signing up for your newsletter, calling or emailing your office for more information, or making an appointment for an in-home quote.
The cost of PPC ads will depend on the search volume of the keywords or phrases you're targeting. How much you will pay for each click on your ad is determined through the search engine's keyword bidding process.
For instance, when you sign up for a Google ad, you'll base it on a particular keyword or phrase. You'll be asked how much you're willing to pay each time someone clicks on an ad incorporating those key terms. Your competitors are bidding on the same keyword or phrase. Since the highest bidder's ad that uses that particular keyword or phrase will reach the widest audience, knowing how much to bid is essential, especially for small business owners who need to make the most of their marketing budgets. The goal is for your ad to appear at the top of the search engine page at the lowest cost possible per click. Sound analytics coupled with a sophisticated form of trial and error will help reap the results you're after.
Many people ask, "Is SEO different than PPC?" As you develop your search engine marketing strategy, it's important to understand how they differ and the pros and cons of both.
Some of the best reasons to explore SEO for your business include:
SEO increases credibility. Homeowners or commercial property managers looking for your company's services trust organic search results more than ads, even though organic results appear lower on the search engine results page. When they see a specific lawn care service or pest control company pop up with useful information, they tend to trust the information and the company it came from.
SEO increases visibility. The more your business appears in search results, the more visibility it garners among the people you want to reach. Visibility is an important aspect of branding, and well-executed SEO provides great visibility while lending authority to your name and the content you're providing. A local pest control company that might have trouble competing with national brands on television and radio can easily win the internet visibility game with the right targeted SEO.
Clicks are free. While optimizing your website and online content for organic internet searches can be time-consuming and even a bit costly as you learn your way around the SEO world, you never have to pay a cent for a click. When a prospect sees your name associated with the content and then clicks on the SERP information to open the page, you pay absolutely nothing.
Optimized content has a long shelf life. Once you load up a page full of useful content and strategically paid keywords onto your site, it's accessible to all until you decide to delete it. So if the articles you provide on your lawn care website cover evergreen topics like "when to fertilize your lawn" or "how to rid your garden of weeds in the spring," people searching for expertise on those topics can find you. Your content can easily be accessed if you keep your content fresh and your keywords current. The highest-ranking pages are more than two years old, likely because the more visitors you get, the more traffic you will attract.
Optimized content often has a higher click-through rate (CTR). Since people trust information reached through organic searches more than ads, they are more likely to click through to your content and, in turn, purchase services or at least enter your sales funnel. Items appearing on the first results page of a Google search have a click-through rate averaging 28.5%, with CTRs dropping in line with the position of the result.
SEO offers a high return on investment (ROI). The time and money you spend generating and posting content optimized for search engines will pay you back when it comes to your return on investment. Compared to other types of marketing — from direct mail to all types of paid media, traditional and online — organic search traffic tends to result in a better ROI in the form of more conversions. In fact, 60% of marketers report that optimized content is their highest source of quality leads.
Of course, like all things, SEO has its cons.
You need to play a long game. Garnering enough organic traffic to surpass your competitors does not come easy and does not happen in a flash. A small mom-and-pop pest control provider won't overshadow the guys driving around in mouse cars overnight, just like a landscaping crew trying to penetrate a new territory isn't going to knock the established players out in a week. But with persistence and the right SEO partner, you can eventually find yourself standing side-by-side — or out in front of — your biggest competition.
Creating all that content on your own can be daunting, if not impossible.
Even if you have the know-how to create killer content that piques the interest of every homeowner or property manager who needs lawn care, or every person looking for a dependable and safe pest control service, you likely don't have the time to write all the optimized content you will need. Next, factor in the additional expertise you'd have to develop to produce the proper links and maintain them over the long haul. It becomes apparent that you will need the help of an expert SEO strategic partner who understands your industry.
Pay-per-click advertising has its share of pros and cons. Some benefits of PPC are:
You can set a budget and stick to it. With PPC, you get to decide exactly how much you want to spend on advertising each day. Because each PPC ad is set up with pre-programmed parameters, you are guaranteed to stay within your budget. Once you've reached the maximum number of clicks you've paid for, your ad simply disappears from search results, ensuring you'll never pay more than you expect.
PPC is a fast way to get your name out there. Because a PPC campaign can be designed and executed in days or even hours, you can decide to promote your discount lawn cutting service on a Monday morning and have your ad up in front of potential customers by Tuesday morning. Even with the inevitable reconfiguring of keywords and bid amounts, you could have a full-fledged campaign up and running in a couple of weeks.
PPC lets you turn on a dime. Do you want to expand your pool service business to the community pool and multi-family housing market? Are you considering creating an irrigation company to enhance your current landscaping business? With PPC, you don't have to spend much time establishing content to create credibility. You can run a short PPC campaign to test your new business idea or flesh out the viability of a territory expansion at any time.
It's easy to know your numbers. PPC campaigns can be thoroughly tracked and analyzed so you can tell what is working and what isn't. The right analytics software will give you visibility into customer behavior — what causes them to convert, abandon a page, or linger on a particular page — that you can leverage for future PPC campaigns and your organic SEO campaigns.
The drawbacks of PPC include:
When PPC campaigns end, the ads disappear forever. Unlike SEO, which can live forever on the Internet as long as links are adequately maintained, PPC ads disappear once you stop paying for them. The Internet does not remember them — PPC ads won't raise your organic search ranking — so if your target audience didn't catch an ad while it was live, they would never see it.
You can get in a bidding war. When your campaign is at a great price point for ROI, a competitor starts bidding up the cost of your coveted keywords. This happens often and can throw your advertising budget into a tailspin. Small companies are often at the losing end of this type of price escalation. Suppose a national lawn service chain notices your local landscaping business is taking over market share. In that case, they can decide to strategically overbid for the best industry-specific keywords and sink your whole campaign.
Deciding whether to pursue SEO or PPC is going to depend on several factors. One isn't necessarily better than the other, although each may make more sense given the circumstances at any particular time.
If, for example, you just started your pest control business and didn't have a huge marketing budget, you might pursue the SEO route first. You'll need a website for your business, so employing sound SEO techniques as you populate the content on your site makes sense. Putting your eggs in the SEO basket will help you build your brand recognition and authority while reaching out to your target audience to build up your business. SEO is also an excellent way for a company to pursue expansion plans without overextending its marketing budget.
PPC may be the right way to go if you need results in a shorter time frame. For example, say you're offering a pest control special for a short amount of time to coincide with the upcoming hot and buggy summer season. You are going to be better off pursuing a thoughtful PPC strategy to get the word out quickly.
Most seasoned marketing professionals will tell you that it isn't a question of SEO vs. PPC as much as how to thoughtfully combine the two to achieve a favorable return on your marketing investment. A strategically combined PPC and SEO campaign will help establish or enhance your organization's credibility while driving traffic to your website and particular landing pages. To successfully reach your target customers both organically and through paid ads, you will have to research and choose the most relevant and beneficial keywords and phrases and then leverage those keywords as you craft content that speaks to the customers you want to reach. Once you stop looking at SEM as a question of SEO vs. paid search and, instead, work to achieve the right balance between PPC and SEO, you will be able to see how the two bolster the power of one another.
For example, a lawn maintenance company that plans to expand into landscape architecture might want to pursue a long-range SEO strategy as it works to establish credibility in this new business area. On the other hand, if the lawn services company wants to drive traffic to a new landing page it's developed, designing a series of PPC ads that link to the new page makes sense.
Working with a marketing and software solutions provider that understands your business and its challenges makes all the difference. At FieldRoutes, we are dedicated to seeing field service companies like yours prosper and grow.
As a leading lawn care and pest control SEO company, our paid advertising and SEO strategies are an integral part of our robust marketing suite dedicated to the needs of field service enterprises. And our FieldRoutes gives you access to the metrics you need to gauge your SEO and PPC marketing effectiveness.
Want to know if PPC or SEO is the right investment for your business? Contact us today and schedule a free demo.
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