We've had pretty good results using Google AdWords (GAW). However, I found that we had to spend quite a bit of money to get any actual results.
Last year our flooring sales (the product we promote with GAW) increased almost 100% with the advent of GAW. We took our entire print advertising budget (which the previous year netted us ZERO) results, and put it into GAW.
I hate Yelp. They tried to scam me into paying them money, but the fine print told me exactly the opposite what the salesman did, so I dropped them like a hot potato.
I have a free Houzz page, and the concept seems ok, but realize that you need to put a lot of effort in to get something out. IMO all these alternatives (FB, Yelp, Houzz) are substitutes for a web site. I'd rather do a good job on my website and then drive people to it, than have to maintain a zillion different "faces".
My neighbors run a Merry Maids franchise and they swear by Yodle. By my understanding, it's basically outsourcing for PPC (pay-per-click) on AdWords etc. Yodle seems to have some very good data tracking to help you pinpoint what works and what doesn't, in fact I think they are incentive-ized to make the right campaign decisions for you. We prefer to be a little under-the-radar as it keeps us from wasting a lot of time with tire-kickers. Yodle didn't give us the assurance that they could weed out the unqualified leads, so we looked elsewhere.
Houzz seemed like the ideal solution but when the contract was ready, they wanted a year commitment and nothing less. Sure, I understand that a campaign takes months to show results, but I would have been happy to settle for 6 months. Makes me wonder why they felt they needed to lock me in for such a long term.
I'm less interested in growing the business lately, and we get all the work we need from current relationships and our website. Seems like every time I make a new blog entry or post new photos of our work, we get a little bump in inquiries.
I have had a few bites from my free listing on Houzz, nothing that converted to a sale. After some several in depth discussions with a Houzz rep., I almost bought in to a years contract. What turned me off was in my opinion, they were just going to be acting as a middleman, and running a basic adwords campaign. Two things I did not like was the 12 month contract, and I would also be locked into one geographical area. With no flexibility to change. The plus is they would assign a team to run the campaign, and I would not be doing that part. However, I would still need to spend time in selecting the keywords and phrases for the search hits.
Since I work in a lot of different areas, and I enjoy doing some things myself, I decided to pursue eventually doing my own adwords campaign and putting the money there. At this time. I haven't started yet, still doing my research.
I did do some ad words for Murphy Beds for about 6 months but it only produced one job and was not worth it.
My shop neighbor does shutters and swears by Yelp.
Not sure what the product is, I'm pretty sure I want to steer clear of kitchens because of home owner emotions. I was thinking maybe garage cabinets or entertainment centers or home offices because of little installation time. Prices seem pretty low for those areas though.
Anyway if I'm hearing you right the consensus is build your own traffic.
"Sure, I understand that a campaign takes months to show results."
This is only opinion, but I don't believe it.
In print, yes. Because the people that see you may not need you right now.
But, in my experience, the internet is mostly a "right now" thing. At the very least they are researching for a possible upcoming project. We have found that an online campaign has measurable results in less than one month.
BTW, if you spend enough money on AdWords, you will get assigned a rep who helps you massage your campaign(s). The first time I got a call (yes, a call from a real person with an American accent) I didn't believe it. But the CID said Google and they verified my account number. The guarantee it was legit was that they didn't ask for any money in the entire 30 minutes I spent with them...
From my understanding, Yelp gets pretty high search results, so using them might help you get a higher rank in search engine results. If you don't mind getting a little more involved with your online presence, having an active blog helps you get higher search results as well. You will, however, need to post fairly regularly on this, I'd say at minimum once/week for it to be worth your while. Of course, pages on Linked-In, Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter get pretty high ranks in the search engines as well.
I attached a good article that covers some of the basics of using online sources to optimize online visibility. Hope that helps!
I would argue that the most important part of advertising isn't so much whether you choose Yelp or Adwords or you own website, it's the product or service you choose to advertise and how well you match up your campaign to your product.
You don't yet sound committed to any given product or service. If you put up a website offering Murphy Beds and Kitchens and Garage cabinets and other items, I think you're going to have a real messy and frustrating advertising experience.
My advise would be to take some time to think about which specific product you enjoy making most and/or make the most money on, and then focus all your marketing time and money on that single product.
The advice I've heard so far on this thread is good, but it's putting the cart before the horse.
Lo and behold, the day after I posted my reply to this thread, I received an email from my Houzz sales rep. Not coincidence, I guarantee.
Even if I thought an AdWords campaign would be useful, I'd be far better off with a middleman who knows how to work a campaign efficiently. People like Paul Downs have spent years learning the ins and outs, I have not the time or money to burn on a poorly managed campaign.
Evan does that mean you changed your mind and are going to go with Houzz?
The residential thing is new to me so my idea is to see what others are doing well with. So Calif is a different market these days as the market here is flat. Partly because there has been a dearth of jobs created and because the demographics/population is becoming older people who buy less.
The Murphy bed idea came from a couple of guys I read about. But they were in retirement areas. After 6 months of PPC ads, based off of the responses I got this area is not.
Before I did the ad words I had a website person rework the website to gear it toward Murphy Beds. I did get responses but the responders wanted to buy something pre made with no home office to go with it and wanted to pay nothing.
The garage cabinet thing may be viable as well as the entertainment center thing. The reason I think this is that there is a guy down the road who produces these products and has 12 install trucks. As near as I can tell he does no advertising but has grown through word of mouth. But does have the Yelp reviews in his favor. Which is what the shutter guy swears by.
Anyway perhaps advertising with Yelp grow organically as per the consensus on this thread. Despite David's dislike (and what I have read from others on the WW) of Yelp it appears to pull customers?
Pat, message me your email address and I'll forward you the contract I didn't sign.
Looking through the stuff again I was reminded of some other things I didn't like.
What you're paying for is "targeted marketing", so if someone searches for "kitchen cabinets in mytown", the guy that paid for the ads comes up before the guy that didn't. Also, even if you click on the guy that didn't pay, there will be an ad for a paid member. However, I didn't find that to be the case. First off, I found no competitors' ads at all. I finally suggested to the sales guy that my AdBlock plugin might be blocking them; he insisted that was an impossibility because of how the web page was configured. However, after trying a bunch of things and no ads, I turned off AdBlock and lo-and-behold, there were the ads. So not only did they lose my confidence that they know what they're talking about, but anyone who has AdBlock (a free plug-in for FireFox) will not see what I'm potentially paying for.
Then, you are paying for a certain number of ads per month. It starts at 450 and goes up to 2700 (at least, in my proposal), and they "guarantee" those results. But in the contract it specifically states (all caps in the original) "YELP MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EITHER EXPRESS OR
IMPLIED, ABOUT THE AD PROGRAMS AND EXPRESSLY DISCLAIMS THE WARRANTY OF MERCHANTABILITY AND WARRANTY OF FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE...OR NUMBER OF AD IMPRESSIONS.".
Lastly, the salesman tried to make me believe that they know who is getting the ads because of the users' profile info. But you can use Yelp without even setting one up. I have rarely felt so conned. And I almost fell for it.
That's beyond the whole question of whether an online review system is even relevant.
Other than my actual gripes with the product and way it was promoted, I had serious questions it was even right for me. Restaurants, sure. Hotels, ok. Manicures, yup. But our products are big dollar items and we serve a regional area. We had to pick a "town" to make our home base. There are fewer people in our entire town than the average high rise in NYC. In fact, in the entire township (100 sq miles) there are about as many as died in the WTC.
Pat, if I were going to advertise at all, it would probably be Houzz. Every consumer on that site is thinking about a home improvement project. A paid subscription simply pushes your profile to the top of the page, and now the consumer is looking at pictures of your work instead of your competitor's. I didn't realize Houzz was also a PPC reseller, is that really true Mitch?
Yodle by my understanding is a PPC reseller. If they are better than you at tweaking all the knobs and dials on AdWords, then it's probably worth it.
Of course Yelp only works when you have a significant number of reviews, so you'll have to sell the first few jobs yourself. Then get those customers to write reviews and don't bother signing a contract with Yelp until you have several 5-star reviews. A colleague gets most of his work from Yelp, he does closet organizers etc. Just have to make sure you never have unhappy customers, even if you run a tight ship you will spend money to keep the wackos from writing bad reviews.
I think you're on the right track in terms of product. Go for quick turnover type of stuff and don't offer too many options. Around here, residential space is minimum $400/SQFT so $5,000 to fit the minivan in the garage again seems like a bargain.
Evan, there is probably more to the Houzz contract than I briefly explained, but basically that was my take from the conversations I had. I do recall I would pay a set fee of close to $400.00 per month for a year. I don't think I would pay more for higher levels of traffic, but the market approach was very similar to an adwords campaign. I know I did not want to lock into those kinds of fees, as our market can fall flat at times, and ad money can get scarce. With adwords I could pull the plug if I choose, plus I can run campaigns in different areas if I wanted to as well. I play around with Google Analytics, and use their information to monitor our website, which lets me see how free listings on Houzz can increase traffic to our site. Google Analytics can be set to track the free web listing on Houzz too. I do like the free listing on Houzz, it is a great place to save pictures of work and potential customers like looking at our work there. Unfortunately I usually get the customers elsewhere, mostly referrals, not from Houzz itself. I just use the Houzz site as a sales tool after the contact has already been made. I did find too that normally after posting pics of a new project on Houzz, my website traffic will increase. For instance if I post a project completed in Valdosta, Georgia, analytics will show new website visitors from that area. So posting pics with the area included, does seem to be effective with Houzz. If the paid performance is as good as the freebies, it may be worth while to some one with a healthy budget.
We get tremendous results from Houzz.
We have 14 viable projects on the board right now out of twice that many initially contacted us. The projects range in price from $12,000 to $150,000.
We do this without paying for sponsorship.
Our position within Houzz is arrived at organically rather than a pay for play plan. The primary reason we opted for organic positioning is that we wanted our pages to be nutritious when somebody actually landed there. So many of the sponsored sites are filled with nothing but cereal. Everything is perfunctory as if designed by a first year MBA student.
Photography alone won't seal the deal. You need it as an admission ticket but everybody has great photography. The amount of eye candy our customers have available is so commonplace it ceases to impress.
You need to look at this from the lens of the customer. You're really excited you are going to finally get the kitchen of your dreams. You are utterly fascinated and simultaneously terrified. It's the perfect storm for people in our industry. What do these people need on this day? More pictures?
Blogging - on your primary domain - is a strong tool in the inbound organic arsenal. Far beyond pictures, since web-crawlers can't 'read' pictures. The pictures are there for the people that get to your site by searching with words which your site happens to present (in a nutshell).
What do you blog about? An easy place to start is with the questions you are asked by customers/prospects. Chances are that if 1 person has asked you something, others hold the same question. State the question, answer it, show examples, talk about alternatives, etc. Tell a story. Sprinkle it with a few keywords you want to get found by.
If you do one a week, in a year you will have added 52 pages of content to your site. Lots of little, specific landing pages for people to start considering you based on something they searched for.
Here's an example and a test. See if you can find the 4 search words this article is trying to catch:
The main point was "recovering", which we never use and is not used elsewhere on our site. But folks have used it when inquiring. So i had to get "recovering" in with "furniture" and to localize it somewhat with "New Jersey". "Reupholstery" had to get in there as context.
The cool part about blogging is you get a whole bunch of "long-tail" (think bell curve) search phrases (strings of words) represented in one article. Like "recover sofa in New Jersey" or "estimate recover chair seats" or "upholster sofa cushions New Jersey."
Most of our inbound search results are phrases like that vs single keywords - especially since smartphone spoken search (semantic search) has become a thing. To surface more than a few variants and combinations on a main website page would be very user unfriendly and probably violate web crawler best practices. So a blog is a great place to cast a net for those synonyms and variations (cost/price/expense, estimate/quote/proposal, etc.)
BTW here is a great article about the long tail: (this is only part of the article, the rest is at the link)
Long-Tail Keywords: A Better Way to Connect with Customers
Long-tail keywords are longer and more specific keyword phrases that visitors are more likely to use when they’re closer to a point-of-purchase. They’re a little bit counter-intuitive, at first, but they can be hugely valuable if you know how to use them.
Take this example: if you’re a company that sells classic furniture, the chances are that your pages are never going to appear near the top of an organic search for “furniture” because there’s too much competition (this is particularly true if you’re a smaller company or a startup). But if you specialize in, say, contemporary art-deco furniture, then keywords like “contemporary Art Deco-influenced semi-circle lounge” are going to reliably find those consumers looking for exactly that product.
Managing long-tail keywords is simply a matter of establishing better lines of communication between your business and the customers who are already out there, actively shopping for what you provide.
Think about it: if you google the word “sofa” (a very broad keyword sometimes referred to as a “head term”) what are the chances you’re going to end up clicking through to a sale? But if you google “elm wood veneer day-bed” you know exactly what you’re looking for and you’re probably prepared to pay for it then and there.
Obviously, you’re going to draw less traffic with a long-tail keyword than you would with a more common one, but the traffic you do draw will be better: more focused, more committed, and more desirous of your services.
When We Say Long Tail, Think Chinese Dragon
The phrase “long tail” is a visual metaphor for the shape of a distribution graph (we promised a dragon above and don’t worry, it’s coming):
long-tail keyword graph
Say we were to create a graph of web-wide keyword popularity, a very few phrases (Facebook, sex, Justin Bieber) would rack up an enormous number of searches.
But here’s the surprising part: those keyword searches, the “head” of the dragon, in reality account for a surprisingly small percentage of all searches, about ten to fifteen percent, depending on how you measure. Another fifteen to twenty percent of searches come from mid-length keywords, meaning that roughly seventy percent of page views are the direct result of – that’s right – long-tailed keywords. It’s a Chinese dragon: the tail goes on and on and on.
Well, this is not a wordpress site. It is the blogging platform built into the content management system I use from Squarespace. It is important to use a blog domain that at least uses the root domain of your website when at all possible.
I dunno how long it took to learn, a few weeks of casual diddling around. But I've been using such stuff for years.
I have had good response from my paid listing with houzz and have 45 reviews to date that are giving clients confidence to work with me. Reliable trades are hard to find in south Florida and many clients are being ripped off by flybynite shops. I still am in need of more growth and have been through 4 different SEO companies in the past 5 years, all of them give you attention at the beggining and then leave youy flat for the next big client. I am paying 500.00/month to an seo company know and i can go a week without a single call. Not sure the next step should be, but i have two good workers, a great reputation and machinery to do double the present sales. Any advice is appreciated. Harold.
Sorry if it seems like I am spamming this topic. I am rather passionate about it.
It bothers me that Harold - for example - spends 6K a year for SEO and wonders where the phone calls are. I hear it all the time - pay-to-play and the ROI sucks.
To his credit, his site has a pagerank of 3, so someone has been doing some amount of off-site optimization.
But you'd think that for the money his SEO firm would say to him, "Harold, we could do some awesome on-page SEO if we/you put up some engaging, targeted content on your site.
My bet is that he gets tons of search impressions, some clicks, few responses.
"Driving traffic to your site" is a false goal if your site doesn't have the content structure to keep folks from clicking away. "Ho-hum fill out a form to find out anything that matters to me at all. See ya."
(Harold, I'm actually beating up on your SEO/web design firm, not you. Your site SHOULD provide you prospects - by itself.)
But I see it all the time. It is like putting an ad in Veranda magazine, then running a radio spot that says "Check out our ad in Veranda magazine." It just rips me up.
Thanks for the info Jim. I will read the articles tomorrow. I keep the jewish sabbath and just read all the responses to this thread this evening. As a small shop, I just don't have the 10 hours a week to devote to this. It's enough to just run the business and besides, I do not have the know how. I am ready to pay someone reliable to guide me and I guess that's why I chimed in. Are there reliable people out there who can do the work without it costing me an arm and a leg? Harold.
Jim, all i can say is WOW!! You have opened my eyes to a whole marketing world.
I have been in business for 35 years and the first 24 were in Montreal, Canada. I was part of a very large Jewish orthodox community that i had no need to step out of. I was the only orthodox cabinetmaker and, like many cultural communities, had a certain captured market. With the average family having 6-13 children and most young people marrying at 17-20 years of age, i was doing 4th generation work for many families by the time i moved to Florida. 4 full time employees and 1million in sales from a 200sqft shop with 5-8 months backlog. Clients trusted me with the keys to the house and knew i would provide quality work and respect thier property, privacy and act in a modest and respectful fashion to wives and daughters.
I thought that moving to the US was going to be culturally comfortable and the transition would have some difficulties, but it would just be a matter of time to find clients. I sold my shop in Canada as well as my home and country home and paid cash for my condo here in Ft. Lauderdale and bought all new machinery.
I do work for several designers in Miami and have great reviews on Houzz, but marketing to such a broad base of clientele in the fraud capital of America has been difficult and expensive.
I look forward to reading the two books you recommend and thank you for this revelation. Harold Morantz.
I apologize if I insulted anyone , sociologist, but I did not make up the term and I certainly am not painted anyone with one brush, the fact is that many consumers here in south Florida are ripped off daily by unscrupulous contractors and I have been called in on dozens of projects each year by clients that have either received cabinets that were not built as promised or thief deposits have disappeared in thin air along with the fly by night shops that take their hard earned money. I also have great relationships with many wonderful shops down here and have respect for many of the guys I have met on this forum over the passed 11 years that I have been here. It is more difficult to gain the confidence of clients that have been cheated and that is a fact. I do not know what you mean by "English" and I apologize again if anyone on the site was insulted by remarks. Respectfully, Harold.
Before folks get off on a possible racist direction, you need to understand south Florida. Fraud is a way of life for some "businesses" in that area. I have also seen it in other parts of the state as well. They prey on the retired folks. They prey on the newcomers. They prey on the snowbirds. Well, they will prey on just about anyone. And, they don't care.
That leaves us legitimate businesses fighting a bad impression left by fly-by-nites, businesses that sell extremely low quality products, businesses that never finish the job, etc.
For example, my company exhibits at a major home show in Florida every year. And, at every show I hear folks complaining to me about one particular company that has a similar name and product line. They have been in business for years, and evidently continue to fleece folks. There are always newcomers to Florida, and this business appears to prey on them. And, there are other similar businesses throughout the state that I hear about as well.
So, it's not about an attitude by anyone. There is a significant fraud element here.
There is no way that Harold's post implied that he was condescending to his prospects and/or clients. I have known of Harold for many years and that just isn't him.
Sorry that this may sound like a rant by me, but his comment about his observations of the marketplace has absolutely no bearing on how he treats his prospects.
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