SEO For Contractors – How To Rank Higher (In Layman’s Terms)

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Graphic of long term sales cycle for contractors

Disclaimer: There is a lot of information about SEO not included in this section, but my goal is to explain this as simply as possible. If you want to go down the SEO rabbit hole, there are a ton of resources online that will break it down for you.

When I started marketing at Premier Ponds back in 2014, the big name in the contractor marketing game was Google. As time has gone on, Google is still the king in this space.

I knew that Premier Ponds wanted to be at the top of Google, but I had no idea how to do that. When it was the Yellow Pages, all you had to do was call their sales rep, pay money, and you were in the Yellow Pages.

Logo on tombstone

To get to the top of Google when someone searched for you, there were so many different factors that went into it. On top of that, Google only gave suggestions on what to do instead of telling you step-by-step what it took. I was confused by it all, which in turn, made me frustrated by it all.

My dad hired Tom Reber ( to help me learn all of the “Google stuff.” What he taught me about how to get to the top of Google is still the same as it is today conceptually, but the actual tactics behind it have changed. My goal in this section is to first break down the concepts behind it and then discuss some of the tactics that still work today. 

Graph of organic rankings for Premier Ponds

While I started doing SEO for Premier Ponds in 2014, here is a graph that shows you the past five years of data. In June 2017, Premier Ponds had 1,799 people coming to the website through Google and other search engines. In June 2022, Premier Ponds had 30,468 people come to the website through Google and other search engines. That’s an increase of 1,593.6%, which is pretty unheard of in the contracting world. 

Like everything else in this document, if you can learn the concepts behind any of the platforms, it makes it easier to execute even if the platform changes.

How Google & Other Search Engines Make Money

At the heart of it all, the way that Google makes money is from ad revenue. When you search on Google, you’ll see ads at the top of the page that you can click on. When you click on that ad, the advertising company pays Google.

Google’s entire goal is to keep you coming back to it so when you use it for internet searches, you’ll hopefully click on some ads while you’re searching so they can make money. And the way to keep you coming back to Google is for Google to provide a really good experience when you’re searching for information online.

How Google Works For The Contracting Space

Premier Ponds wanted their website to show up #1 whenever someone searched for anything related to any service they provided. So if someone in Silver Spring, MD searched for “Pond Maintenance Company Near Me,” Premier Ponds would be the first result in Google, and the link would take that searcher to the website. The same thought is true for every service they provide within their service area.

How Google decides which companies (and results as a whole) to show is still technically a mystery. There are many really, really smart people who specialize in SEO, and they estimate that there are 200+ factors that Google takes into account when deciding what results to show. However, Google has never said exactly how many factors there are, what factors are more important than others, etc.

The way we like to describe SEO in layman’s terms is it’s like someone’s credit score. Someone’s credit score is a combination of several factors that tell creditors how reliable it is to lend to that person when they come together. Google’s algorithm works the same.

And remember, Google wants to showcase the most relevant results to the people using their platform, so they continue to come back and use it repeatedly.

Although Google doesn’t come out directly and tell the public what goes into its algorithm, we know it can be boiled down into three concepts; relevance, authority, and usefulness.

Relevance To What’s Being Searched

This is probably the easiest one to understand.

If you’re searching for a pizza restaurant on Google, would it make sense for Google to show you all the shoe stores in your area? Not at all. 

The first thing that Google looks for is “what is this searcher wanting to find?” Google is getting smarter and smarter by the day and now guesses what you’re looking for, even if you don’t directly search for that thing. For example, if someone searches for “pizza Charlotte,” Google is smart enough to figure out that they are looking for a pizza restaurant in Charlotte. That person didn’t type in “Google, please find me a pizza restaurant in Charlotte, NC.” Google knows what that person is looking for.

So when I say “relevance” as a concept that Google uses when figuring out what to show, it’s simply Google wanting to show what they deem most relevant to the search.

How Does Google Know What’s Relevant?

I wanted Google to know that they provided a pond maintenance service with Premier Ponds. That way, whenever someone searched “pond maintenance service” or anything related, Google would hopefully show Premier Ponds as an option for people to use.

Keep in mind that Google is smart, but they don’t work using magic. We still need to feed Google information so it can better understand what Premier Ponds does as a company. So instead of Google wondering if Premier provided that service, I created a Pond Maintenance Service page on their website. This helps signal to Google that Premier Ponds actually does provide that service.

Authority; Are You Credible?

This is probably the second easiest to understand.

With more people accessing the internet over the past decade, the ability to spread information has increased significantly. Since it’s becoming easier and easier to do so, Google wants to show more credible search results to people, so they’re not spreading misinformation. While this may not seem like a huge deal in the contracting space, it’s really big in other industries.

For example, if someone is searching for a doctor’s office to visit and there is some shady doctor nearby, we probably wouldn’t want to see that doctor. Well, Google knows that, so they do their best to show search results from the most credible and authoritative sources.

How Does Google Know Who Is An Authority?

While understanding the concept of “authority” may be relatively simple, how Google determines who is the most authoritative gets a bit more complicated. Long story short, Google really likes strong brands because those typically have a lot of authority behind them.

If someone searched for a doctor nearby and Google had the option to show a doctor’s office that had been around for 20+ years compared to a brand new one, Google will probably show the doctor that has been around for a while. It’s not because the newer doctor’s office is bad, it’s because more trust is built around the first office.

Your contracting company is the same. If your company is brand new, or brand new to the online world, Google doesn’t quite trust you yet. Like building relationships offline, trust takes time to build, whether we like it or not.

Many things help build authority in the eyes of Google. Some matter more than others, but I’m going to focus on a couple of simpler ones that are easier to understand.

Content Creation

One of the best ways to build authority is to create content around your services because Google values expertise. For example, creating a Pond Maintenance Service page on Premier’s website is good because it helps to tell Google that they provide that service. But how does Google know if Premier is actually any good at the service? This is where content and blogging directly on the website comes in.

Instead of telling Google that Premier provides that service, I needed to prove to Google that Premier was good at that service too. So I wrote blog articles surrounding every aspect of pond maintenance. This included:

  • What pond maintenance costs 
  • How long pond maintenance takes to perform
  • How to clean a pond
  • Helpful tips to keep the pond clean 
  • What factors make the pond dirty in the first place

And the list goes on and on. Doing this helped position Premier Ponds as an expert in pond maintenance. When Google saw this, it helped to prove to Google that Premier is great at that service because Premier knows everything about it. 

Candidly, it’s similar to you reading this document right now. I could tell you that CGN helps contractors with awesome marketing strategies, but you’d just be taking my word for it. But with this document, I’m helping to show you I actually know my stuff. Google is the exact same way when it crawls the internet to see what web pages are out there. 

So after writing all of those blog articles where I talked about every aspect of pond maintenance, Google looks at Premier as an authority when it comes to pond maintenance, thus increasing the likelihood they’ll show Premier’s website when someone searches for a pond maintenance company.

Google Business Profile

Another way to help with authority is a contracting company’s Google Business Profile listing. Think about this from a human perspective first. If you looked at the two electrical companies below, which company would you choose based on their Google profiles?

One has fewer reviews, a lower overall rating, and a lot of missing contact information. The other has a ton of reviews, a 5-star rating, all of the information, and even a photo of their team in front of their fleet.

Like you, Google will probably assume that Viva Electric is better than Preferred Electric Co when providing electrical work. So at Premier Ponds, collecting client reviews was part of my role. Prospects like it. Google likes it. It’s as simple as that.

Your Google Business Profile is a large part of local SEO, so don’t sleep on it!

Usefulness; Is Your Content Served In The Way People Want It?

This is the last of the three concepts and is probably the most difficult to understand.

Now that we know Google wants to show relevant search results from authoritative sources and companies, we need to deliver it in a method people want.

I remember during High School and college being told we’re not allowed to use Wikipedia as a source of information when writing papers. So I would grab the information from Wikipedia and then lie in my paper saying I got the info from some publication. It wasn’t because the information from Wikipedia was better than the publication; it was that it was significantly easier to understand.

I didn’t have to read page after page on Wikipedia to understand what the hell some professor with 3 PhDs was saying. I could go to Wikipedia and get the information I wanted in an easy-to-understand way. And as you can guess, it wasn’t just me who felt the same way. Everyone else in the class did the same thing. Google understands this, which is why they always show Wikipedia near the top of Google.

The blog articles I wrote for Premier Ponds had to follow the same thought process. If I wrote about “how to clean a pond” using tons of industry terms that only pond contractors would understand, it would frustrate the person reading it.

In addition to speaking in terms that anybody could understand, the format of what I wrote had to be in a way that people enjoyed. Going back to that example of the Wikipedia article compared to the article that the Ph.D. wrote, Wikipedia formats its articles in a way that is significantly easier to understand. I can quickly scroll through an article to find the section I’m looking for. With the Ph.D. article, I have to read a lot of it to find the one piece of information that I’m looking for.

With Premier, I had to do the same thing. When writing an article about “how to clean a pond,” I couldn’t just write an entire block of text and move on. I wanted to break it out where each section discussed a different step in the process. On top of that, I wanted to include an image that showed what I was talking about for each step of the process. All of this wasn’t just for Google, it was because I knew that whoever was reading the article would want to see what I was talking about.

By doing everything I could to make the article as helpful as possible to whoever was reading it, people naturally really liked it. And when people liked it, Google knew. So, in turn, they started to look at Premier as even more of an authority when it comes to pond maintenance!

Starting to pick up how this all works?

How To Know How To Make Something Useful?

Since I know I want to write a blog article in the format the readers want, I need to figure out the best way to do that. And this is where it starts to get tricky.

When I wrote the article “how to clean a pond,” I knew I wanted to break it out into sections and add photos under each step to help the reader. However, that may not actually be enough for people to be able to clean their pond properly. 

I have to remember that I’m not just writing this article to prove to Google that Premier is an authority in the pond maintenance space; I actually have to write an article that someone searching for an answer on “how to clean a pond” can use to solve their problem. If I don’t, all it will take is for another pond company to write an article better than mine. Once that happens, Google will see the other company as more of an authority than Premier and potentially rank them higher for pond maintenance services.

One of the problems when writing the article was that I had the curse of knowledge. Growing up in a pond contracting household, I had worked in the field a lot, so I knew the equipment needed to clean a pond. People trying to clean their pond for the first time didn’t know what equipment was required. So if a rival pond company wrote a blog similar to mine but included an equipment list, people (and Google) may have liked their blog better.

So instead of guessing what format and information needed to be included in the blog, I searched “how to clean a pond” and went through the articles already showing up pretty high on Google. Now, I just had to write a blog article using similar information and formatting but with my own spin on it in hopes that people (and Google) liked mine better.

This spin could have been me adding an actual video into the article. Or maybe the way that I described cleaning the pond made more sense. Or perhaps the photos that I used were better than the others. There were many ways to do this, but I just had to remember that it needed to help the reader. 

All of this is why this concept is probably the hardest to understand out of all 3. In addition to the format and information, word count is kind of part of this equation. Although Google has said that word count is technically not a ranking factor if the top 3 articles all have 2,000 words and at least 12 photos each, it’s smart for me to do something similar. 

It will probably be hard to write a better article if I only used 300 words since it may not be complete enough. Additionally, a 15,000-word article may be seen as overkill in the same way that if you wanted to watch a YouTube video on making a PB&J sandwich, you probably aren’t clicking on the 2-hour-long one.

Final Thoughts On SEO For Contractors

And these are three big final thoughts.

First, the articles I wrote for Premier Ponds weren’t just to help them rank for all the services they provide. Their prospects actually want to know this information. Their website allows thousands of people in their direct service area to understand more about the pond they own. And as we all know, the most educated prospects typically turn into the best clients (which is precisely why I’m writing this document!)

So when it came time for that prospect to get tired of cleaning their own pond, they would call the company that wrote a blog that helped them clean their pond on their own.

Graphic of how prospects buy in a long sales cycle

SEO helped begin the Premier Ponds brand when prospects were still just doing light research on how to clean their pond. By being first to the game, they had a HUGE advantage over all the other pond companies who only tried marketing to their prospects when the prospect was ready to buy.

Second, SEO does take time to work. While Google has not announced a timeline for how quickly it notices and ranks content, the rule of thumb is six months for Google to start to notice what’s going on. Then, it can be 12-18 months for the article to fully mature. The big SEO companies usually say that SEO is a 24-month play.

SEO graph of a contracting company

Many companies start SEO and then bail prematurely because they’re not getting the leads they want. A lot of activity goes on behind the scenes, showing their rankings increasing. The analogy I like to use to describe what the first 6-9 months of SEO look like is boiling water.

The goal is to boil water and turn it into steam.

When you boil it, it takes forever to reach 212 degrees. Then it finally hits 212 and doesn’t instantaneously explode and turn into steam. It still needs a lot of energy to then actually become steam. SEO is pretty similar.

A lot of it happens beneath the surface that you don’t see. You don’t get any phone calls because you’re showing up on page 6 of Google. What you don’t see is that you went from page 10 to page 6 within two months. So even though you aren’t getting more phone calls, you’re actually moving up the rankings. And what will happen is you’ll continue to move up the rankings, but it generally happens slower than we entrepreneurs want.

Then finally, you’ll be at the bottom of page 1. You finally made it to the promised land… only to have nobody call you still because you’re at the bottom.

But little by little, as you creep up from the bottom of page 1 to the top of page 1, your water that’s been sitting at 212 degrees is starting to become steam. And that’s when everything changes.

Third, the best way to increase your SEO results once you take off is to build that authority as quickly as possible. The more reviews you get and articles you write, the more authoritative you’ll be seen in the eyes of readers (and google). I’ve read articles on SEO companies going from 0 to 1.5M website visitors a month in a little over a year because they pumped out hundreds of articles per month. So the more authority you build, the faster you’ll get results. And if that doesn’t convince you, here’s a direct quote from Google’s Search Advocate:

“Hard to call a site authoritative after 30 articles.”

Someone complained that their website wasn’t ranking after writing 30 blog articles, so he responded with that. Content is king, baby!

If you want to step up your SEO game for your contracting business, check out how we do SEO here at CGN.

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