You don’t know where to start. You need a website — either a new website, or a better website because the old one isn’t doing the trick. You know contractor websites can be successful, but you’re not sure what the process entails.
You’ve done your research, though. You know you need a domain name, a host, a website, some words, and some photos. You know the importance of search engine visibility. After all, what good is a contractor’s website if homeowners can’t find it?
You also know you have little desire to waste time on excessive trial and error. You don’t want to fool around with a dozen social media platforms. You want a website that produces leads, but you don’t want your life to revolve around answering emails from tire kickers.
You want more leads, and you want those leads to be qualified homeowners. You want the phone to ring more consistently, since word-of-mouth isn’t always steady. You’re not sure how to make a website that captures those leads.
But, you know you need a website.
So, where do you start?
Do I Really Need a Website?
If you don’t have a website, that’s already one strike against you in the eyes of most homeowners. The same goes for a bare bones website that says nothing about who you are and what you do. Some homeowners will call you directly based on word-of-mouth from their friends, coworker, or family, but most will research you before they contact you.
They’ll probably look at your social media profiles, and they might check out sites like Yelp or Angie’s list. Other than your Facebook page, your website is the one centralized online location that holds all of your information.
Homeowners are looking for:
- Specifics on your services
- Your credentials and accreditations
- Contact information
- Photos and descriptions on past projects
- Demonstrations of your expertise
- What makes you different
There are homeowners who don’t care about your website, and it’s foolish to pretend otherwise. But 81% of consumers do online research before they purchase a product or service, and that’s a number you can’t ignore.
A good website tells a homeowner what they need to know about you. A good website also helps capture qualified leads. If you’re willing to work hard on your website and keep tinkering until you get it right, it can provide a steady flow of leads when word-of-mouth is slow.
Your potential customers are looking for you online, so you need a website to represent your services and the locations you serve.
What to Consider
Before you buckle down and pay for hosting, a domain, and possibly a developer, you need to think about your website. What do you want it to convey? What’s unique about you, as a contractor? Your website should reflect both your personality and the way you do business.
Just as you can’t complete a job by doing things halfway, you can’t make a website that resonates with homeowners by doing things halfway.
When it comes to your website, you only get out what you put in.
Open up a blank word processor document or take out a notepad. Write down what you want your website to say about you, your team, and your business.
Also take notes on these factors:
- Quality – How do you want your website to look? Most homeowners don’t want it to look like a multi-million dollar interactive multimedia storehouse, but they want to see some professionalism. If it looks like you did it yourself for no money at all, they’ll think that carries over to your work, too. Your website needs to look professional, and it needs to be optimized for capturing qualified leads. An informative, descriptive website will capture those leads. A bare bones, half-baked website will yield tire kickers, spammers and other time-wasters.
- Audience – Which neighborhoods do your favorite and most profitable jobs come from? What are those homeowners like? How much money do they make? What are their concerns, problems, and fears? When you answer all of these questions, you’ll have a good idea of your ideal customer. Build your website with those homeowners in mind. Know who they are well before you start the project.
- Content – Websites require content, and you have to commit to either producing content yourself or hiring someone else to produce it for you. Treat your website like a journal– take as many photos as you can on every job site and write about what you experienced. Answer frequent homeowner questions. Teach them how to do small home improvement tasks on their own. Your content demonstrates your expertise. Expert content is highly effective and influential when homeowners are making a purchasing decision.
- SEO – Search engine optimization is somewhat complex and multi-faceted, but it’s not hard to learn. If you’re willing, you can learn the concepts and the bare-bone- basics in a week or two. Essentially, good SEO practices help search engines, mainly Google, find your site and present it to homeowners when they do a search for a contractor in your area. Basically, SEO means search engine visibility. If you want to get started on SEO, I recommend spending a few nights after work or even down hours between jobs and calls with this guide.
- Marketing – SEO helps homeowners find your website when they perform a search, and your own content sells them on your services, but homeowners don’t exclusively use Google. Digital marketing encompasses pay per click (PPC, or paid search), social media, video content, email newsletters, and much more. Marketing is a big arena, but you’ll need to think about where homeowners in your area hang out online and how to reach them there.
- Maintenance – Like any other structure or machine, a website requires maintenance. You’ll occasionally have to deal with broken links, broken photos, server issues, and more. Google also appreciates fresh content, so consistently publishing new blog posts and new pages is essential.
With all those factors in mind, you’re ready to tackle building a website.
Doing It Yourself
Once you’ve decided you need a new or better website, you have two options. You can either do it yourself or hire a professional. Which method you choose depends on your time, resources, and commitment to learning the ins and outs of successful websites.
At the very least you need prominently-placed, easy-to-read contact information, written and/or video content that displays why you’re different and better than your competition, and photos of your past jobs. There’s more to a successful website than those three elements, but you’ll at least to be able to come out swinging with those in place.
When you’re selecting a host and domain, note that most providers require either monthly or yearly payments, and the yearly option is nearly always cheaper.
If you go the DIY route, you need to consider:
- Turnkey contractor websites – When I talk about turnkey websites for contractors, I’m referring to websites built by companies like YP and Yodle. You don’t own those websites, so once you stop paying, you stop getting leads. Many other companies provide turnkey websites, but they’re geared mostly toward eCommerce businesses and affiliate marketing. Those website often come with copy-pasted content that doesn’t reflect your business, high hosting costs, and no SEO fundamentals. These are generally low-quality websites that won’t reflect well on your brand or business, and they won’t do well in the search results, either.
Veteran internet marketer Rae Hoffman says it best:
Do you really think Google wants to index (and promote) thousands of pages of automatically generated content that took less than 10 minutes to create?
- Domain – If you’re starting a new website, you’ll also need a domain name. Most hosting companies allow you to purchase domains through them. You want a simple, easy-to-remember-and-type domain name that reflects your business, and a .com domain is always preferable to a .net or .biz domain. If your hosting company doesn’t offer you domian purchasing power, you can check here.
- Host – A website needs a web hosting service, and there are many available. Most packages include your domain, file storage space, and a number of email accounts. GoDaddy, BlueHost, HostGator, and SimpleHost are all popular options. You can even buy hosting services from a company owned by Hulk Hogan. Whichever host you go with, make sure to read reviews. You want a host that provides good monetary value and great customer support, especially if you’re building your own website. This site should give you a decent starting point.
- CMS – A CMS, or content management system, is basically the tool you use to modify and load content onto your website. These include WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. Some companies provide their own unique CMS if you sign up for them, as well. Basically, a CMS allows you to load everything you need onto your website. This post goes in depth on ten of the most popular content management systems.
- Building the site – When it comes time to build the site itself, you’ll either need to learn some code or select a CMS. WordPress, for example, is easy to use, works with any domain and most hosts, and allows you to select from thousands of templates. SquareSpace is also easy to use, and they have some versatile packages for businesses. Wix is easy to use as well, but it doesn’t offer blogging support, and you can’t ever migrate your website to another platform. GoDaddy also features a website builder, but many users complain that the sites don’t look professional, and setting up basic SEO is difficult. If you’re set on building your own site, WordPress and SquareSpace are both good choices. WordPress is much more robust and versatile, but SquareSpace is quicker and easier. This article from Paste does a good job of giving you a quick and reasonable analysis of many of your options.
If you’re creating your own website, invest your time and money into something good. As a contractor, you have a real business, and you need a real website that reflects your expertise, dedication, and work ethic. If you want to include more, reference that list in the second section of this post. You don’t want homeowners associating you with a shoddy website.
Hiring a Professional
If you don’t have the time or resources to remodel your website or build one from scratch, it’s time to hire a professional. You can find big money web design/development firms, small design businesses, freelance designers, or even college kids at the end of their web development degrees. It’s up to you.
Before you hire someone, look at their portfolio. Inspect their prior work. Ideally, they should have a contractor or other home services website (or a dozen) under their belt. It’s best if you can meet with your developer face to face, or at least speak with them on the phone.
They should be able to demonstrate how the sites they build are effective for contractors, and demonstrate that they’ll take a unique approach to your business. They should also be able to explain how their websites help you, the contractor, capture leads. You’re not like any other contractor, so your website should reflect that reality.
Most developers work exclusively with certain web hosting companies, so they should take care of that part for you.
Note: some design/development companies offer pre-built, turnkey websites that come loaded with content and photos they’ve used for other clients. If you’re already shelling out a decent amount of money, it’s best to get something new that reflects your work as a contractor, your business, and your personality.
It certainly doesn’t have to be fancy– functional is best. But, it needs to be user friendly and appealing to homeowners.
If you want to find a local company or freelancer to meet with face-to-face, you can use the following services:
As always, you can also perform a simple Google search.
Before you decide on some to build your website, you should at least ask these questions:
- Ask to see similar projects and ask how they’ve performed
- Are you covering the SEO basics? (page titles, meta descriptions, image titles, meta tags, image alt text, etc)
- Will you properly title and tag ALL images?
- How do your header tags work?
- Will you create an .xml sitemap?
- Will you properly set up my robots.txt file so search engines can crawl my site?
- Is all text on the site searchable?
- Will the site be compelling to the average homeowner?
- How will you consider my target audience?
- How will you present my contact info and capture leads?
- How hard is it for me to make small changes to my website?
- Will making blog posts be easy?
- Can I easily add new photos to my gallery page?
Communication is essential when you’re working with a developer. Up front, tell them what you want, what you need, and what you want your website to do. Check in with them regularly. If you don’t like something about your new website, tell them immediately, and be tactful. Most developers are happy to make changes, but they resent being told you hate the website at the end of the process.
A good developer wants to make you happy, and they’re fine with making changes. Just don’t wait until the last minute.
Many companies and freelancers will also take care of everything for you after the site is built. If you want to add or remove pages, they’ll handle it. They usually require a retainer fee, but it’s handy to have a web professional at your beck and call.
Now that you’re armed with this knowledge, you understand what a good website can do for you. You also understand how you can go about creating one or having one built, and you know what to avoid.
Contractor websites attract homeowners because they’re already searching for your business online. A contractor’s world is highly competitive, so you need a web presence. Profiles on social media and review sites are excellent, but you need a centralized, online hub where homeowners can learn about your business while they’re in the research phase.
You’ll go far with a good website.
To your marketing success!