How to Build a Successful Contractor’s Website


Since 2010, Sofionik has specialized in building websites for Seattle-area remodeling contractors, landscapers, electricians and hardwood installers. We take pride in crafting engaging contractor's websites that stand-out from the cookie-cutter sites we typically find dominating the top of the search results page.

The benefit to our unique and comprehensive approach, is a website that goes beyond a good looking design and tons of keywords to generate more leads for higher paying jobs. This guide is for any remodeling or construction contractor who is looking for a simple, proven method to succeed online. We hope you find it useful.

Part 1 – The Blueprint of a Successful Website

What's Wrong With Most Contractors' Websites?

If you do a Google search for a local contractor and browse through a few websites you’ll notice a pattern. Apparently there’s a only a couple of available options for a contractor’s website and  they look something like this:

Option One:

  • Buy a generic template and make a generic home page
  • Write a generic About Us page
  • Insert random pictures of work from two years ago
  • Hire an SEO company to cram keywords like “Seattle home remodeling” on every page

Option Two Looks Something Like This:

  • Buy a one-size-fits all website template for 20 bucks a month with nifty built-in SEO features that guarantee you’ll be generating traffic within days
  • Hire an SEO company to stuff keywords like “Seattle Kitchen Remodel” on every page

All you need now is to add a Facebook icon to your homepage and invite visitors to “Like” your nearly empty Facebook page. (Insert sarcastic thumbs up!)

The great irony to these types of websites is that while they promise outstanding results, they can’t ever deliver what a well-crafted website can. A website like that doesn’t speak to customer’s problems or offer a compelling case for choosing your business over another one that looks just like it. Sites like that don’t look professional, they look cheap and poorly designed – the last impression you want to give if you’re remodeling kitchens in high-end Seattle homes.

Imagine you’re a hardwood installer and I’m a homeowner. Do you really think a generic template with some meaningless content is enough to convince me to give you $10,000 for new wood floors?

Lesson:

There just aren’t any cheap and fast solutions. In fact, if someone’s offering you a quick route to success on a tiny budget, our advice is to run.

Here's What a Successful Contractor's Website Looks Like

Okay, we identified the problem. Whew. I feel better, don’t you? Let’s move on to talking about what goes into a well-designed website that gets results. First let’s get more specific and identify what we mean when we talk about “results.”

{Results: As far as we’re concerned, the primary goal of your website is to attract your ideal customers and motivate them to contact you for services. This is a clear and specific goal, much more specific than “traffic” or “hits” or any other individual metric. We need to look not just at how many people are coming to your website, but how many of those people end up signing contracts. Results isn’t more traffic, it’s more money.}

We offer a completely different approach to contractor website design and it doesn’t look much like the two options above. Our process takes a lot of hard work from both the business and from Sofionik to build a sustainable web marketing strategy.

There’s never a cookie-cutter solution to effective website design, but there are some guiding principles. Here’s what we think every website needs:

Personality

Who are you? Why should I care? Your site needs to speak more to human beings than to search-engine robots. What is it about your company that makes people want to work with you? What qualities do you have that stand out from the crowd? Websites with a strong personality engage visitors and help build relationships that last long after you’ve finished the project.

Goals

What does success on the internet look like to you? Set realistic goals, for example: generate 15 leads a month.

Target Audience

Who are your ideal prospects? How much money do they make? What problems do they need solved? Identify your most profitable prospects and get inside their heads. This makes it easier to:

Speak Directly to Your Prospects Needs

What are customers looking for in a home remodeling company? What questions can you answer? By speaking directly to your prospects needs you have an opportunity to showcase your expertise and offer compelling solutions. Every bit of content on your website will be optimized to attract your perfect customer and show them you’re the best choice.

Customer Interaction

Now you’ve attracted the perfect prospect and impressed them with your personality and professionalism. Don’t just leave them hanging there. Invite visitors to interact with you so you can learn more about their needs and they can learn more about how you can fulfill them. Interaction can be tricky because it’s different at every stage of the buying process. Customers ready to buy can interact by filling out a contact form and requesting an estimate while visitors still doing research will be interested in downloading content like buyer’s guides and product information.

The point is to exchange something of value for the visitor's email address. This will help you categorize the lead based on the type of information requested. Using the two examples above, a ready-to-buy customer is considered “hot” while a visitor who downloads a white-paper would still be only warm.

Part 2 – Putting Principles Into Action

So now that you have an idea of the principles behind a successful contractor's website, let's take a look at the three primary components of your website.

1. Identity

A well-designed website and targeted content are excellent ways to stand out from the crowd, but why not go for more. How about being memorable?

Identity/persona/mission – whatever you choose to call it – is the core of your marketing online and will dictate everything from your logo to your contracts. When you craft your identity effectively (the only way we like to do it) you'll consider your ideal client, your company's goals and nearly every other aspect of your business. When you've finished these first steps of building an identity, you'll have clear goals and a strong vision for the look and feel of your website.

Your company's logo is the visual representation of your identity online. Don't waste time paying for logo software or cheap online tools that promise you can create your own  in minutes. The days of clip-art websites are over and most web surfers can easily tell the difference between a pro-designed logo and an amateur one.

A great logo can convey many things: professionalism, experience, creativity, compassion, integrity, and even a sense of humor. A bad logo says you didn't make the time or the effort to do it well.

Your logo goes on everything – not just your website. Your business cards, letterhead, envelopes, brochures, even the shirts your crews wear. Do yourself a huge favor and invest the time and money to do it right the first time.

ArtelCraft Logo
Here's a logo we designed for hardwood installer ArtelCraft.

2. Design

“You’d trust a bodyguard in a perfectly-pressed black Armani suit more than a guy in cut-off jeans and a ripped Grateful Dead t-shirt, wouldn’t you Appearance can greatly influence perceptions, and we carry that mental model with us when sizing up a website.” –from Designing for Emotion by Aarron Walter.

What impression are you making with your site design? Have you ever visited a website that left you feeling like the company behind it was less than satisfactory? We make a lot of snap judgments about the people we do business with and if you're offering expensive custom home remodeling services, your website should look as good as the work in your in your portfolio.

Sofionik's Contractor Web Design Principles:

It Should Be Functional...Always

Websites that don't do what they're supposed to are frustrating for visitors and don't inspire confidence in your company. Make sure that all your pictures load properly, links go where they are supposed to and every button works the way it should. Test your site on multiple browsers and operating systems and for goodness sake, make sure your site is always up and running. Customers check your website at every stage of the buying cycle and so do the people they refer. Dead URLs or  blank pages with “Coming Soon!” do not make you appear professional.

Your Website Should Be Usable

We've seen some pretty decent websites completely ruined by being entirely unusable. This problem often occurs when contractors accumulate or produce a lot of content but don't make it easy for visitors to consume it. We've all landed on pages that had too many text boxes, images and advertisements while at the same time menus and navigation seem virtually hidden.

Put navigation items like menus and sidebars, where it makes sense to find them  and be sure that a visitor doesn't have to spend a lot of time finding what they need. If you offer 24-hour emergency electrical service, you'll probably want your phone number displayed prominently on the home page.

The goal with usability is to make everything as simple and intuitive as possible so visitors have the confidence to explore your site. Deliver information in the right place at the right time and you'll be surprised at how much time people will  actually spend reading your content.

Make a Lasting Impression

Good design is memorable. It excites the senses and stimulates creativity. Your website can help visitors visualize their home remodel, new hardwood floors or granite countertops. Every page should contain thematic visual elements, and strong call-outs should lead visitors to galleries and portfolios for examples and ideas.

3. Content

The more your remodeling services cost, the more convincing you have to do to get customers to choose you. We've found that the best strategy to show you're the right contractor for the job is to provide useful content at every stage of the buying-cycle. Content can take any form, though we find that for remodeling companies, builders, electricians or other contractors it's best to stick with straight-forward, informative stuff.

Sofionik recommends contractors try how-to guides, buyer's guides, detailed portfolios, product galleries and leave-behinds like cleaning and maintenance instructions. Customers benefit from this type of strategy before and after their initial purchase. Savvy contractors will find ways to leverage that sort of engagement for referrals and repeat business.

Marketing With Content Is Easier Than Without it

It might sound like a lot of work to create original and informative content and put it out there for your prospects, but it ends up being easier and more sustainable in the long-run. One of the patterns we see with smaller contractors who rely mostly on referrals is that work comes in cycles, sometimes its slow and difficult to know where to turn for more leads. It's critical to understand that thousands of potential clients are searching everyday for your services.

74,000 people a month do a search for “kitchen remodeling” – when your website is optimized to attract and convert that kind of traffic you've built a fantastic marketing machine.

For an inside look into Sofionik's development process, check out this blog post

Should You Blog?

Yes. Probably. Maybe. No.

Our answer to this question changes with every project and is typically based on the answers to these questions:

  • Will your blog be unique?
  • Will your blog posts be well-written, useful and engaging?
  • Will you monitor and respond to comments?

If you answered “yes” to all three, we think you should have a blog (we'll even write and manage it for you). If you answered “no” to one or more, then our answer gets progressively less enthusiastic.

Blogs are a fantastic way to attract search-engine traffic and engage visitors. A plumbing company for instance, could blog about household plumbing issues based on the questions homeowners ask everyday. Give your prospects useful information to establish your expertise and experience. When it comes time to choose a pro, you'll be the only company they consider.

Part 3 – Marketing Strategies

You've developed a compelling identity, crafted an engaging design and created valuable content. It’s time to let your prospects know about it. People aren't going to start reading your home-improvement blog just because you started publishing it. Explore the wide variety of options available to you and develop a strategy that meets your goals and your budget.

Should You Be Using Social Media?

The short answer is that there is no short answer. More often than not, we find ourselves telling clients not to put the effort into social media unless you're really going to put the effort into doing it right. Please don't put a Facebook link on your site if your Facebook page has no content.

That said, we recommend Facebook's slick new “Timeline” which you can turn into a very nice looking page if you take full advantage of it. Have a look at ours for an example.

LinkedIn can also be a good resource you don't want to pass up. Make sure you've got it properly filled out with updated company information, an appropriately-sized professional logo, and don't update it daily with advertisements. Social sites like LinkedIn are great as a headquarters for referral programs and to network with other contractors but typically homeowners aren't using it to find a counter-top installer.

Did you know? Social media profiles help your search engine optimization and give you more web real estate to use to target your ideal customers.

Search Engine Optimization

Local SEO strategies are pretty straight-forward and can take anywhere from 6 to 12 months to yield significant results. Some companies will promise to get you on the first page of Google right away, but even if that worked, it wouldn't be sustainable. Search-engine algorithms have become quite complex and pretty darn good at weeding out websites that don't provide a lot of useful content for visitors. Google, for example, recently updated their search algorithm to avoid content which is considered “low-quality.” This underscores the point we made before about creating useful content people actually want to read. Besides, it's not the search-engine robots purchasing your services, it's human beings.

For more about how to get found by search-engines, read some of our blog posts about it here.

Referral Strategies

The Internet has made it easier than ever to build successful referral programs for a steady stream of clients. Referring your company is as easy as hitting the “Like” button on Facebook, emailing your website address or giving a brief recommendation on LinkedIn. Contractors who profit the most from these features are ones who make it easy and automatic to refer them. Build a page on your website specifically for your referral program and offer customers a $50 gift card or other incentive if they introduce you to another paying client.

Leave behind a few business cards with the URL to your referral page on the back and you've built a superb lead-generating mini-site.

Testimonials and Reviews

Think back to every time a customer said “great job” and then imagine yourself following it up with “Thanks, would you like to put that in writing?” Don't forget to smile big.

The best time to collect testimonials from clients is when the job is done and they're congratulating you on your work. Just as with your referral system, you should make it easy for them by putting a form on your website or emailing them a template to fill out.

Reviews can come from site like Angie's List, Yelp and Google Places and it's easy to link to them or embed excerpts directly on your page.

Keep Your Content Fresh

One of the best marketing strategies these days is to consistently publish fresh content. It's not just a great way to stay relevant to the search-engines, but it keeps real people coming back to discover what you have to give them. Don't confuse fresh content with constant marketing messages, no one likes a Facebook page that is nothing but monthly specials or other marketing blasts. Keep past and future clients engaged with compelling blogs, newsletters that actually have useful information, or updates to your portfolio that inspire design ideas or home-improvement projects.

The “Last” Step: Analyze and Refine

If you've done your work on identity, design, and content, you'll have a solid foundation to build a successful online marketing campaign. Many business quit there and call it good, but outstandingly successful contractors will track results and refine their strategy for optimum results. Don't make the “set it and forget it” mistake, your website isn't a rotisserie oven! It takes consistent effort to yield long-term results. 

Does your traffic grow steadily? How are people finding you? Do visitors read your content? Do they download your eBooks and white-papers?

Adjust your content offerings and fine-tune your page copy as you discover how your target audience is searching for you and responding to what they find. At the end of the day, the most important question is whether or not the traffic you are attracting is resulting in paying contracts.

Go Forth and Be Ridiculously Successful

At Sofionik, we really get a kick out of making everything we touch a lot better than we found it. We hope that this piece of content will help you do the same. We work hard every day to develop  helpful, informative content that's of use to remodeling contractors and service professionals. If you have any questions about web design, online marketing, content marketing or identity development don't hesitate to contact us here.

Here's what a Puget Sound electrical contractor has to say about his new website built by Sofionik, based on the strategy we outlined:

“The new design has made our company seem like a more reputable company, a business that cares about its reputation and how others see the company. Everyone loves the website and it has improved our chances of being hired for their electrical needs.

Competing with other contractors in the residential market, we have the upper hand with content and design since it is really difficult to select a contractor, they all look the same. Customers know we'll do a better job.” –Vlad Razumovich, Ample Electrical Group, Inc




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