Optimizing a website for search engines is important, but did you know that much of that process begins during the design portion of website development? Investing in professional web design if imperative for plumbing contractors across the nation. Not only does it set the foundation for every subsequent internet marketing action, but it ensures that benefits that come as a result of the website will belong exclusively to your plumbing company.
There are many elements that make up a professional plumbing website. But before we explain what to do to make your website a long-term business asset, we should first explain what NOT to do.
What Not To Do for a Plumbing Website
1. Don’t Use a Website Builder
In today’s marketing climate everybody wants a website, and most want it fast. Certain services have taken advantage of this demand by offering quick web design solutions that satisfy the customer’s immediate need. Examples of these services include, Weebly, SquareSpace, and Wix. While the ease of use is undeniable, as these services allow relative amateurs to create professional looking designs without any knowledge of HTML or CSS code, there are several downsides that are often ignored by the customer, who is blinded by the immediacy of the website. Some of the disadvantages to using these types of sites include:
Unbeknownst to many in the internet marketing industry, content management is one of the most important factors for growth. For Google to properly crawl and index new content, it must follow explicit guidelines in regards to URL structure, presentation, and hierarchical positioning. Platforms like SquareSpace and Wix do not offer the marketing-friendly content management style that WordPress does. In fact, no other platform on the net can match WordPress as it relates to ease of use as well as SEO proficiency.
Think of a website like real estate, and hosting as the land. With Weebly, Wix, and others, you are renting property, on someone else’s land. All the work you put into your property is not entirely for your benefit since once you’re gone, those improvements will remain on somebody else’s property. With professional web design and hosting, like the services from Plumbing Webmasters, the website is controlled only by the principal owner and / or their desired marketer or manager. In this case, you own the property and can reap the benefits long-term.
In relation to the concept from above, SEO that is not owned by your company fails to serve as the long term business asset that it really should be. But worse than that, SEO is actually much more difficult to implement on a pre-made website. With these drag-and drop services, much of the base HTML and CSS is code is locked into certain parameters, many of which discourage search engine rankings rather than encourage them. By having no control over the coding of your website, you are severely limiting its SEO potential.
2. Don’t Hire a Novice
For plumbers with budget constraints, hiring an affordable designer with zero experience might seem like a chance worth taking. Things are not always what they seem. Before you make that mistake you should consider the vast long term consequences if it does not turn out as hoped. You might be thinking, so what? If it doesn’t turn out well, at least I haven’t invested much money. While you may not have invested money, you still invested time and resources, many of which could and should be contributing to the acquisition of new plumbing customers, as we speak. Consider the following before bottom feeding for a designer:
In today’s marketing landscape, presenting well on mobile is even more of a priority than desktop. Google is on the record of saying that most visitors of your website are likely to be using mobile. As you may know, mobile devices come in many shapes and sizes, each of which must be accounted for in regards to presentation. We haven’t even talked about tablet devices which are sometimes considered as part of the mobile family. While a beginner might be able to make a passable desktop version of a website, do they possess the expertise and attention to detail required to present displays optimally on each device? That is unlikely.
The problem with a novice web designer is that they can’t be trusted for HTML coding, and this is the most important building block for a website. The code must be clean, proficient, and conducive to subsequent optimization. For many beginners, clunky and obtrusive code is a common occurrence and render any additional design practices useless. There is also the common mistake of using flash within the code which can ruin the aforementioned mobile experience of a user. Optimizing on page content is important, but without a solid structure to build upon, none of it will make a notable difference.
For designers working with WordPress, particularly those not fully comfortable with HTML and CSS, plugins become a sort of crutch for apparent website enhancement. Plugins are a WordPress feature that allows the use of 3rd party features, that can be added to your site without editing the code. While these plugins can be useful, they also affect the crawlability of your site, and make it less conducive to ranking at the very top of organic results. Besides, having a bunch of plugins stacked on top of really basic code does not make for an impressive business asset, nor one worth investing in long-term.
3. Don’t Use an Amateur Domain Name
Something that goes beyond coding in the web design process is domain name registration. With some of the previously mentioned website factories, domain names come as part of the website. For example theplumbingbros.weebly.com would be an example of a subdomain partnership with a website building service. This does not look good from a marketing perspective. Your domain looks amateur, and thus the first impression of your brand is associated with a negative perception. Some other indications of poor domain names are:
If you think your domain is a good place to stuff some keywords, you are wrong. In fact, Google updated its algorithm to discourage the use of exact match domains that are attempting to manipulate search engines. For plumbing companies, an example of a stuffed domain would be cheaplumbingintx.net. Not only does Google now work against ranking websites like these, but the domain generally gives a spammy and unprofessional feel to your company before the user has read a word about it.
Lack of Dot Com
If you visit domain name suppliers like GoDaddy, NameCheap, and others, you will probably notice that the pricing of your domain name depends on its suffix. A suffix is the series of letters that appear at the very end of your URL address. For example the 2or3plumbingbros.com would contain the best suffix; the .com. In contrast, URLs like 2or3plumbingbros.net, 2or3plumbingbros.org, and 2or3plumbingbros.info, all wreak of unprofessionalism. While government institutions can present .org because of their pre-conceived authority, anything outside of that jurisdiction is doing themselves a marketing disservice.
Use of Subdomain
As mentioned before, subdomains within the free website builders might seem like a good deal, but they are bad for marketing. When your domain appears before .weebly or .wix, it indicates one of two things. Either you don’t have the necessary funds to present a legitimate website, or you don’t care enough to pursue one. In either case you are discouraging business growth and dissuading engagement. One thing customers look for in a plumber is professionalism, and if there is an immediate breach in that perception, it won’t inspire conversions.
What To Do for a Plumbing Website
1. Do Your Homework
Going with the first web design service you see is a mixed bag. While it saves you time in analyzing all of your options, it doesn’t help you compare and contrast the strengths and weaknesses of various competitors. The review process can help you learn more about what your plumbing company is looking for in a design. Not only will you make a more informed choice with whom to pursue services, but you will learn more about the process as a whole which is invaluable. Some of the factors you should consider when making your decision are:
One quality most plumbers find valuable is industry knowledge. If the design service you choose serves a wide array of customers throughout all lines of work and industry, the chances of them having a in depth understanding of the plumbing business are remote. With that said, there are options that cater specifically to plumbers. For example, Plumbing Webmasters designs websites specifically for plumbing contractors and knows exactly how to market it through keywords, consumer appeal, and other marketing techniques that can only be known through personal experience.
Any designer worth the price of their services is willing to provide legitimate examples of their work. If you are inquiring via website, you may notice a portfolio page on the menu. It is that link that should take you to visual examples of current websites designed by that service. Getting a visual feel for the elements of design and presentation can help you determine if it is the right style and fit for your vision. If the portfolio link is nowhere to be found, you should contact the designer via email or phone and ask for several samples. Never agree to a deal without seeing a visual example.
Standing and Reputation
With the amount of review platforms available today, finding out the reputation of a marketing service isn’t difficult. Check Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook, etc. for customer reviews that can provide some insight into the credibility level of your prospective choice. Red flags to look for include, consistent negative reviews, bad reviews without responses, and lack of authentic looking reviews. If every single entry says 5 stars with no true explanation, there is a chance that the company in question is paying for good press.
2. Layout a Site Structure
More important than the visual aspect of your site, is the structure. There should be a defined hierarchy of pages that each have subsections. In other words, you’ll want a series of parent pages (top pages) along with a series of child pages (sub pages). URLs will correlate to the hierarchy allowing for a seamless navigation experience throughout your pages. It is not until the structuring is completed that any visual elements should be added. Some of the things that make up a sound structure are:
Since design is the infant stage of website development, it must account for things that will come after it. When laying out a site structure, one thing you’ll need to account for is authenticity. Basically, only create web pages for services you actually offer. If you are a residential plumber who does NOT offer garbage disposal repair, do not make that part of your list of pages. If you feel you have too few categories to present, consult with your marketing team to find new ways of presenting your current services.
The number one priority of your URL structure should be user experience. You want the navigation of pages to “make sense” and feel seamless. Let’s provide an example. One of your top pages can be called Residential Plumbing, and a child page underneath that can be called Toilet Repair. When users visit the homepage, they will navigate the menu to find their desired pursuit, and sub categories within that. When combined with internal linking, structure can make your website valuable by its mere presence. Since Google continues to prioritize user experience over anything else, the design process should account for it.
In addition to accounting for both user experience as well as practicality, site structures must also account for optimization. What does that mean? It means creating condensed URL slugs so that search engines can most efficiently crawl your website. For example, if you run a plumbing site called 2or3plumbingbros.com, an example of a SEO friendly URL would be 2or3plumbingbros.com/residential/toilet-repair. In contrast, an example of a highly problematic URL would be 2or3plumbingbros.com/residential-plumbing-services/tolilet-repair-plumbing-services. Make them as short as possible while still descriptive.
3. Choose a Good Domain
Now that you know what makes up a poor domain name, you should consider some of the factors that make up a good one. We’ve talked a lot about how plumber websites serve as a long-term business asset. With this in mind, you’ll want to choose a name that you consider to be something something you can use for a long time ahead. This will be a representation of your company and is not something you can change without losing a substantial amount of progress. This is one of the most important marketing decisions you will make. A valuable domain name is:
Since your site is a business asset, that asset should be properly branded. The text within your dot com domain should reveal your company name, or perhaps some abbreviation of it. Instead of going for the exact match keywords that we talked about earlier, go for your company name and a simple industry keyword like: plumbing, plumber, plumbing services, etc. The URL should be synonyms with your company image, and will perhaps even be listed on your plumbing truck.
Keep your site name short. Keep in mind, you want people to remember this URL in their minds and be able to easily type it into an address bar. Furthermore, that URL will be listed on several marketing channels, both on and off of the internet. Business cards will list it, online directories will list it, social media profiles will list it, etc. Make sure it is concise, easy to recall, and easy to type. To be clear, this is not, specifically, about SEO. If you properly optimize your website, it can rank for keywords regardless of its name (as long as the name is not manipulative), but it is about marketing, as consumers, in general, prefer short and to the point names.
If your brand name is already taken, you must at least ensure the relevance of your URL. There are ways to work around the problems that an unavailable domain name present. The key is brand recognition, meaning you have to make people know that is you. Through abbreviation, and industry relevant keywords, you can do just that. Again, certain keywords are off limits. Spam like words such as affordable, cheap, free, etc. will not be a good look. Industry specific words like plumbing and plumbing company will be. Part of search optimization is generating the right traffic,instead of traffic just for the sake of it. Appealing to quality traffic increases click through rate and decreases bounce rate. To further discuss building the perfect plumber website, give Plumbing Webmasters a call at 877.388.9884