Definitive SEO Guide for the Plumbing and HVAC Industry
Plumbing companies have always been on the front line of marketing. In the online battle to rank on the first page of Google, there are a lot of SEO companies out there offering different points of view and strategies. I’d like to take the time here to set the record straight and give a solid definition of and best practices to be used for Search Engine Optimization in the HVAC industry.
How to Approach SEO for the Heating and Air Conditioning Industry
SEO is not one or two fixes, it is a culmination of hundreds of ranking signals that Google’s algorithm processes to determine where your website should rank for certain search phrases. Going through a process of improving these elements can dramatically cause your website to increase the number of times your website will show up in search results and raise the exposure it gets by being higher in the rankings.
Two hundred ranking factors and hundreds of variations for each is sometimes to much to think about. As you are considering each improvement to your AC Repair website keep in mind these three factors.
Use these as guiding principles as the work is being performed. Google sees these three principles as defining the ultimate goal of Quality for all of its ranking factors.
What it Takes to Rank on Page One of Google
If an SEO agency guarantees you a placement on the first page of the search results, this is a sure sign of a company you should avoid and Google will be the first one to tell you that. The Air Conditioning industry is full of supposed marketing companies that promise the world and often times deliver a lot less.
If you want to be guaranteed to show up on the first page of Google, then you can set up an AdWords account and pay for each click. This is not a bad strategy, but it can get expensive. Google does not charge you to rank organically and to do so, you need to do SEO for your website to compete with the rest of the plumbing industry.
Most HVAC companies think it is enough to put up a website and wait a few days. Google will easily see that they provide Heating and Air Conditioning in their town and simply put them first or second in the rankings. Many of these companies realize after spending a good amount of money that there is usually more to it than just having a website.
When a residential consumer or commercial business is looking for a plumber, they are usually seeking a local company or at least a local office of a larger company. This means you are not trying to rank nationally for these keywords. Even a business that has locations throughout five states needs to focus on each of the cities or towns that they are trying to do business.
Each area has it’s own competitive keywords because these websites have intentionally or unintentionally localized their SEO. This is a good thing since trying to show up in Google’s Rankings for HVAC repair and compete nationally would be a monumental task, especially since the search engine algorithms have had years of experience in understanding consumer intent. When someone types in these services, they are usually looking for someone local.
Let’s start with HVAC Keywords
A keyword is simply a word or multiple words in a phrase that your website gets known for in the search engines. The term “keyword” have been one of the least understood topics both inside and outside of the digital marketing industry. One of the big reasons is because it was such an easy catch phrase for internet marketers to dazzle their clients with and sounded like you were able to just type a few words in the right field and you were done.
In fact, in the very early days of optimizing for search engines, this was not too far from the truth. Meta keywords were a strong ranking factor and our industry abused this practice so often, Google and the others started ignoring this technical tool. Keywords are still important but are utilized differently now.
Knowing the keywords you want to rank for and what will drive the right prospects to your web pages is the first step in a very straightforward process.
Air Conditioner service
Trane certified technician
Emergency AC service
The list can get very long in the HVAC industry so we always want to start with the most important keyword for your business, which is your company name. Ranking for your company name is something many new companies neglect when first starting out and it is one of the easiest keywords to capture. Let’s get started.
Ranking in Search Engines for Your Company Name
Your website is read by Google and because of this, it is extremely important to have your Name in text throughout the site. I specifically point this out because many HVAC companies add the name of their business to their logo image and think that they have satisfied this minimal requirement. The big secret is that, believe it or not, Google can not read that image.
The search engines only know what they can read in text format. Your image on the home page of your site could be half the size of the browser window with text big enough to read across the room and unless you label that image properly, search engines will never be able to see the name of your company. We’ll talk more on this in a bit.
To get started you need a Google My Business listing. It is one of the easiest and fastest ways to tell Google the name of your business and ultimately your website. This profile is free from Google and gives you the opportunity to tell Google a lot about your company. If filled out properly, it informs the search engine about the physical location of your business, your industry, what you specialize in and most importantly your website. Think of it as an introduction.
Your profile is also used in the maps which ultimately will land you within the local three pack of results that show when Google sees that the intent of someones search warrants a list of businesses. Remember, search engine optimization isn’t 100% based upon your website.
The 3 pack is an SEO industry term referring to the three Google My Business profiles that are shown in the search results under a map. Google in recent years limited this number to three where previously there were 3, 5 and 7 packs.
Fill out your Google listing to the best of your ability and upload photos as well. We want this profile to have plenty of info regarding your company and since it lands on the SERP’s, it can be optimized. By the way, a SERP is the acronym for a Search Engine Results Page.
Before we move on, do not be dismissive of Bing! and Yahoo. They too have their own Profiles and it is a very good idea to set these up as well. Google, Bing! and Yahoo look at each others profiles to match them up and confirm that your name address and phone number are the same on each. This instills more confidence in their own profiles, and is a strong way to further optimize your online presence. Besides, even though they have a far lower percentage of searches on the web, people do use these search engines too.
Get the Name of Your Plumbing Business on Your Website
Let’s talk about the logo of your business again. Images can be optimized since there are places to add text. The two most important details are the name of the file and the “Alt Text”. Before uploading an image to your website, it should be named properly and in the case of your logo, name the image after your business. Business-Name.jpg
Once your image is uploaded to your website, there should be a place to update the Alt Text. This alternative text is actually a tool to assist the visually impaired so that the image can be read aloud by a computer. Search Engine programmers thought it was a good ranking factor so they adopted it into the algorithm. Because of this, SEO practitioners have been keen on optimizing images. Add your business name to the Alt Text of your logo image.
Since it is just good practice to add your business name to your website, we try and get your name into the title text which often resides in the header of your website, depending upon the web design. At the very least, you should add it somewhere in the footer. Ranking for your business name is no small achievement and lots of sales opportunities can be missed because someone remembers the name of your plumbing company but can’t seem to find you when they search.
On Site Website Optimization for Heating and Air Conditioning
Time to get a little technical. Since your HVAC website will be read by the search engines, there are important elements to keep in mind to help the algorithm understand and categorize your pages for the best results.
The Meta Title which is very often referred to as the Title Tag is arguably the most important element on your web page. I say your page because in SEO all of your pages are important. It would be very difficult to try and get just your home page to rank for all the keyword terms that you are shooting for. Each page will have it’s own set of keywords you are trying to rank for.
The title tag is used for multiple purposes. It is a clear declaration to the search engines of what this page is about and all of the other information on the page should support this title. Nothing complicated there. You don’t usually see this tag showing up on the page itself, instead if you hover over the tab in your browser, you’ll see this text and even a quick hover feature that will appear.
This text is so important it is generally used as the title of the search engine result.
What is interesting to note is that Google chooses whether to use that text in part or even adds to it based upon the intent of the search. It may even keep the title you have written in full. You’ll often times see them add your company name to the title. Since it is their search engine, they can do what they want.
When you write a title tag, you want to be specific about what this page is about. If you write all pages with the same title tag, such as Air Conditioning Repair and Service, then all of the pages have the same focus, and quite literally are trying to compete with each other. You already have enough on your plate trying to compete with the other Heating and Cooling companies out there.
If you are writing a page on Heat Pump Repair, then that is a great keyword phrase and should have it’s own page with written content and photos supporting this phrase. Now we want to focus on one other tactic and that is the localization. Most people have been doing searches long enough that they know to get a local search result, they usually add in the city as a modifier.
Your title tag just got a little longer and a little more specific. Heat Pump Repair in Worcester. Now that is a Title Tag. A hotly debated topic in our industry is how long a title tag should be. Google allows for about 50 to 60 characters and some say you should fill the entire line. I recommend learning to walk before you run. Focus your page on a few keywords and add to it as your rankings improve.
Google will probably add the company name to the end of your short title. The nice part is since the search engines will crawl your site from time to time, they will pick up on the changes and improvements you keep making. It is actually encouraged and is considered a strong ranking factor. If a page is constantly being refreshed then that might mean more relevance and updated information. These are metrics that Google places high value on and updating your site is a great signal.
Do’s and Dont’s for Title Tags
Many websites I run into have not had the attention they deserve. Someone probably created the original pages years ago and left title tags with terms such as; Home, Services, Air Conditioning, or even worse …Page 3.
This is an example of a missed opportunity. Many of your larger HVAC companies have experienced marketing people that spend time crafting these details. To make a search engine struggle in understanding the intent of the content, it is no wonder that a result like the one above is on page six. The only reason it is that high, is because there is content elsewhere on the site that mentions the service and the city.
Don’t accidentally be found, be intentional. And whatever you do, stay away from outdated tactics. Keyword stuffing is rampant in the AC industry. This is seen as intentionally trying to manipulate the search engine algorithm.
Heating System Installation | Heating Repair | Heating Services
This is a title tag just waiting to be penalized. You will from time to time see a page like this show in a SERP, but that is probably because the competitors are not trying hard enough. This article is about best practices and believe it or not, playing by the rules will get you farther and keep you out of trouble when your competitors panic about losing rankings due to an algorithm update.
Should You Put Your Phone Number in the Title Tag?
Adding the phone number to your title will not add SEO value. It may even diminish the keyword strength of the Title tag as well. What it will do is give someone an opportunity to see and possibly take action before even visiting your site for Air Conditioning services. This is not a bad thing. SEO professionals will avoid doing this because it is difficult to track whether the lead was generated from internet marketing efforts. Since this is your website, you can do what you want. In this article, we will focus on SEO techniques.
The SEO Value of Meta Descriptions
Since we are discussing title tags, these go hand in hand with meta descriptions. These are in the html code of your page also and appear below the title in a search engine result. Think of it as your sales pitch to convince someone that this is the right result to click through.
Meta descriptions actually provide very little SEO value, but should still not be ignored. For the time that it takes to write two sentences, they are well worth it. Besides, if you don’t create one, Google will most likely pull the first two sentences of the content on that page and insert that as the description.
You’re Headline Tag is Also Known as an H1
An H1 is a technical tag used to identify a segment of text in the HTML code to render on a web page usually as large, bold text. For SEO purposes there should only be one H1 per page on your website and if possible, it should be very high on the page, preferably in the space that loads into your browser and seen before you start scrolling.
Think of your Page as an article from a newspaper that you cut out and you are going to file it away. If the Title tag is the label on the tab of the file folder, then the H1 is the headline on the news article. Without reading the article, you should be able to tell what the article is about. All summed up in about seven to ten words. You have a little more flexibility with this tag but it should still be keyword rich.
Heat Pump Repair Certified Technicians in Boston, MA
Keep in mind that we want these tags to be search engine friendly and at the same time written for people who will actually read them. A title tag is meant to get someone to click on your link in Google while the H1 is to confirm to the person that they have reached a page they were intending on finding and want to continue reading. These tags should be similar but not necessarily the same. Otherwise people are going to land on your page and in some cases leave as soon as they arrive.
If you have the title tag referring to Lennox Air Conditioners and they find out that you are only a supplier for new installations when they arrive on your page and read the H1, then they will hit that back button right there in the upper left hand corner. Search engines prefer specific pages, so be sure the Headline tag is specific to the content.
Since H1 tags exist, you will also deduce that there are also H2, H3 all the way to H6. As you move down through content you should segment the article paragraphs in succession. But in reality, you can make the others all H2’s. Yes, a single H1 and multiple H2’s are OK. In doing it this way, it will help to keep the styling of the page consistent as these tags continue to reduce the size of the headline font on most websites.
The Content on a Web Page for HVAC
You will hear about content marketing, copy writing, SEO content writing and so many other terms in our industry. HVAC content is very straight forward. You are not telling a story about a happy home maker who suddenly hears the AC unit stop and feels the house warming by every passing minute. Writing for an air conditioning business is far more simple. You just need to answer the questions that are in people’s minds.
- Are the technicians experienced?
- Are they certified to work on my brand?
- Will they come to my home at 11:00 at night?
- Do they look like a professional company?
Content for the most part is written words and images. It can also often times be video and other media, but let’s start with the first two. The copy on your website needs to be unique. This means you cannot find the copy on a website in a city 500 miles from you and copy it to your pages. I have seen many HVAC companies utilize this tactic and simply change the location along with the business name and publish.
The first thing that is wrong with this is that it is covered by copyright, which should be the first red flag of why it shouldn’t be done. But even in the case where a manufacturer allows you to copy the description for a specific model unit, the search engines will pick up on this duplicate content. It is not that you will get a penalty from Google for this, it is just that the algorithm will pick up on the similarity in the words and favor the original, more authoritative website for this content.
Why would Google use your page as the search result when it already has a page with almost identical text that it indexed a while back? It is just a better approach to write your own text. There are too many options nowadays not to either write it yourself or hire a professional. It doesn’t have to be written by Shakespeare, it just has to be concise.
There are plenty of places on the web to find affordable copy writers. If you don’t like to write yourself but can talk about these topics in your sleep, find an app for your phone that will transcribe as you talk. Use that twenty minute drive in the morning as an opportunity to get thoughts down in text. Start with something easy like rewriting or adding to your about page.
How long have you been in business? How many technicians do you have? What makes you different than your competition? Do you do Installation, service/repair or all of the above? Do you specialize in Commercial, residential or industrial?
You’ll be amazed how much starts rolling out when you stop thinking about what to write. Remember, you can edit it all later.
The SEO Value of Your Domain Name
Let’s make a slight detour from content and discuss the search engine optimization value of the URL’s and specifically the domain of your website. Just to clarify, the domain is the primary section of the URL that your website is known for on the web, comanyname.com
This and others are known as the URL’s of the pages. So your home page can be www.yourbusines.com, http://yourbusiness.com.index.html or any number of ways your web developer set it up. The other URL’s for other pages can be https://yourbusiness.com/services or even https://www.yourbusiness.com/ac/boston
This is a clarification because terminology is helpful for this topic. Many companies consider it to be important to have their most important keyword in the domain of their site. This can sometimes be useful but Google is not so simple as to rely so heavily upon this one signal. It is not to say it isn’t helpful, but our focus is to get the keyword into the URL itself. If it is in the Domain, even better but not necessary.
There is not a lot of difference for search engines to read:
The difference in the SEO value for these two URL’s is minuscule. If you have a domain that does not contain your industry keyword, you can still rank for that keyword term. It really comes down to naming your permalinks properly and organizing the site architecture well. A topic to be discussed a little later on.
Content and Keywords
Your home page is the most important page on your website. It sets the all encompassing focus category and company name for the entire site. All other pages are subcategories of this page. Because it is still a page it should have content to give the search engines something to read. This is one of the biggest missed opportunities in the HVAC industry.
This is especially true with websites that like to use a big hero design. You see them all over the internet.
The intention is that the picture would tell the story, but the website is not telling the story to Google. I think this is great design and could be used in many instances, but SEO is focused on showing up in SERPs and getting people to your website. I would have to question if that big text in the middle is an H1. There is hardly any content above the fold.
Above the Fold is a left over term from the newspaper industry. It correlates to a a web page because like a folded newspaper, there is more to the page as you scroll down just as if you pick up a newspaper you see the rest of the articles on the front page.
Websites should look nice but User Experience is not exactly a ranking factor for search engines. As such, we need to focus on what is important to them. If you are unable to get more text above the fold on a website, then you should at least get more content on the home page somewhere. Even if it is two short paragraphs.
As for the interior pages, they should be chock full of content. Never ask how many words. This is too vague a question and will ultimately be determined by your competition. If your competitors are outranking you, then it is back to writing more content, getting more optimized images on the pages, improving your title tags, rewriting H1’s, evaluating pages to see if they need to be split into two, and the list goes on.
Lots of plumbing companies will try to have one page for service and installation. If you are ranking well, then great. If not, you might want to consider one page for each. The same goes for towns. Again, many businesses will try to have it all with the least amount of work.
AC Repair in Quincy, Hingham and Weymouth
If this gets the job done, fantastic. If not, then we know what we need to do.
Hierarchy and Permalinks for On Page Optimization
Let’s go back to discussing the architecture of your website. As you start creating these pages, you want to think of the hierarchy since it is a helpful way to show Google how to categorize the pages on your site.
There isn’t a wrong way to do this, just better ways. You want your sub-pages to strengthen your main categories and vice versa. So it would make sense to have a service page have a sub category and possibly solid keywords included.
Sine you are probably going to be making a bunch of changes moving forward, you need to be knowledgeable of a tool that is available called redirects.
If you are changing your website URL’s, you should do 301 Redirects
Whenever a heating and cooling company talks to me about a website redesign or even making changes just for SEO, inevitably they ask if they will be able to retain the SEO value that they currently have. The answer to this question should always be a resounding, Yes.
Your HVAC website has a history with Google. The search engines have gotten to know your pages and any backlinks that have been built to them. All of this previous history can and should be retained in any change to your website.
Backlinks are when another website links to your website for whatever reason. It is a ranking factor in Google and is a very important part in search engine rankings.
If website or content improvements have been made and done well, most websites should see an increase in their ranking and probably rank for more terms. But the first thing that should be done after the change is a single or even multiple 301 permanent redirects should be created. Here is an examples of the process.
Let’s say you are going through a website redesign or improving your SEO. One of your most important pages may be:
Through the process of development, it is determined the new URL for this page should be:
When the old page is no longer there and the new page is indexed by Google, many issues can occur.
Google knew the old page and could take time in developing trust in the new one, not even realizing that the new one may have even retained all of the same content (It is just an algorithm after all)
Any backlinks that were built to the old page are no longer passing value to the site because Google no longer sees the page anymore. Instead, the visitor to the site and Google receive what is called a 404 error page. This tells everyone that the page no longer exists.
Redirects are performed on the server level to tell google that the old URL is now the new URL. If you type in the old URL it should automatically redirect you in the browser to the new page. This is also what happens when Google crawls the old page, it gets redirected to the new page. Over time, Google will even remove the old URL from it’s index and simply see the new URL only.
This task is probably the number one reason websites drop in rankings after a website launch. Do not confuse Google, it never turns out well.
HVAC Should Have a Focus on Mobile
If your HVAC website does not work well on cell phones, then this is one major issue that needs to be addressed. Back in 2015 a milestone was reached where more searches were performed on mobile devices than desktop. The trend continues as more consumers turn to their cell phones and many households are abandoning laptops altogether. Because of this, mobile friendly websites are a must have for the HVAC service industry.
Google is saying that by the end of 2017, they will have introduced a mobile first index update. Previously, the desktop version of your site is what the algorithm based its’ results on. Now it will be the mobile version of your site.
There is no reason to wait though. For years Google has been rewarding mobile friendly enhancements to websites.
Site Speed: The faster your website loads in a search, the more likely you will get a boost in your rankings. Large file sizes for images, bloated coding, slow server speed. These can all attribute to Google preferring a faster website over yours. If your home page has a 12 megabyte image, this could take a long time for a cell phone to download and because of this, it is a ranking factor.
Mobile Friendly: Over the years, web developers have come up with solutions for a better experience of websites on mobile devices and tablets. Years ago, you would have a mobile version of your website which could even be a separate website. Google in recent years has stated they prefer responsive web design. That is the exact same page that renders differently on multiple types of devices. If you have to pinch and stretch a web page on your phone, then google will deem this not mobile friendly you may not show up as strong in the rankings because of this.
They even provide a quick tool to test your site to see if it passes their mobile friendly test.
This will check your page, not the entire site. So test the home page but also test a couple of your more important interior web pages as well.
Interlinking Pages on Your Heating and Air Website
Since search engines are constantly trying to pick up on signals to better understand the content on each page, they look strongly at how you link to other pages on your site. Google puts value on how many pages link to a single page. It reads the actual text within the link to determine the meaning of that page. It even takes into account the content that surrounds the link text itself.
If you have an HVAC Repair page for Waltham, then you want to link to it from other pages. look for variations of the keyword phrase.
air conditioning repair
heat pump service
fix your ac
By doing this, you help the search engines to better understand how that page is important to specific keywords. This is an easy win without too much effort.
Onsite and Offsite Optimization
Most of what we discussed so far has been related to on-site optimization. That is, everything on your website. There are vast improvements in rankings that can be made with a well optimized website and still it is only half of the puzzle. In Google’s quest to find the most relevant search results for it’s users, it has to rely upon signals from all over the internet. Since it can only read your website and index the information, it has limitations with its inability to tell if the information on a web page is quality.
To make that determination, it relies on all of the other pages on the web. Since this is not on your website, it is considered off-site optimization. Not too long ago, one of the more influential people at Google was asked to share what are the most important ranking factors. The answer was Content and Backlinks. We’ve discussed a great deal about the former, now let’s discuss the latter.
What is the Value of a Backlink
To avoid confusion from many other publications online that discuss this topic, I will briefly talk about how backlinks worked a few years back. Search Engine Optimization relied heavily upon backlinks in its early days. The more links that you got from other websites, the authoritative your website became. Since there was not enough information for them to determine quality, they focused mostly on quantity. This lead to many Black Hat practitioners to set up cheap servers often times in foreign countries with thousands of duplicated websites created for the sole purpose of linking to websites that they wanted to rank for different terms.
In doing so, they created a nightmare for Google because they were able to subvert the guidelines set out by search engines and give low quality results to users. Hence, that is why when you sometimes searched for a local Trane dealer, you would sometimes end up on a page for Viagra.
Over the years, Google has placed emphasis on the quality of these backlinks and even penalized many sites for these practices. Now that those in the industry have, for the most part, given up on this black hat tactic, it is not as much of an issue as it was just two years ago.
Links from other websites are now evaluated in a number of different ways. The relevancy of the website that has linked to yours. Is it related to your industry (keywords), what is the authority of the site, is it localized, what is the text that links the page to yours (this is called the anchor text)?
A link from Sports Illustrated would be nice. it has high authority but a link from the Carrier corporate website with anchor text of “Authorized Carrier Service Company” would be far more relevant. You can make statements like that all day long on your own website, but a link coming from an industry related, authoritative website like that would definitely reinforce and help with rankings.
Do Follow and No Follow Links
Once again, we should get technical. Going back those same years, many SEO professionals decided to find ways to get backlinks on websites any way they could. Filling out as many directory website listings as possible, creating social media profiles and even commenting on any and all websites that they could find. Again, these practices got out of hand.
The search engines decided to let webmasters know about an HTML tag that would be factored into their algorithms. It’s called a No Follow tag. By adding this to certain links on their site, it helped to ease the number of practitioners trying to add links to their sites because the link would carry virtually no value. This allowed for people that wanted to contribute to their websites to be able to continue to do so, while making it a waste of time for spammers to practice their trade.
As you are looking at links to your website, know that only the Follow links pass on value and the No Follow may bring traffic from people that visit that website, but that there are no SEO benefits associated to it. A link from your Pinterest board, even though the site is high authority, is of low value because so many others can easily get it and it is a No Follow.
What Citations are Right for HVAC SEO
Since you have set up a Google My Business profile it is important to understand what strengthens and optimizes this listing in the search results. Where content and backlinks strengthen your Heating and Air website, the algorithm approaches the 3 Pack and maps a little differently.
Since the profile relies upon validation and consistency, it is constantly trying to match your profile information to other online resources. Most importantly is the NAP listing. (Your business Name, Address and Phone number). Google is always on the lookout for mention of your business name and matching the NAP details from your profile to these online resources.
In doing so it is confirming that this business still open and that the address is still the same. The last thing Google wants is to have someone call the business and realize it is closed. This would cause you, the user, to have less confidence in Google. So having plenty of Citations (NAP listings) online that are all listed the same is the strongest way to strengthen the optimization of this SEO.
Citations can be:
Hundreds of listing sites you’ve never heard of
Similar to backlinks, you want these to be from high authority domains, industry related or a combination of both. Hotfrog.com is a very good business profile website since so many companies list there. If a web directory looks like it will take anyone, you may want to skip it.
Signs from Directory Sites You Might Want to Avoid
Reciprocal Links: If a site asks for reciprocal links, this is a dead giveaway. And you may not see this request till you have almost completed the submission. Basically they are offering a link to your website if you will link to theirs. This type of link building practice is strictly against Google’s Guidelines and is not a good idea.
Paid links: Again, this is against the guidelines. Getting a whole bunch of links because you had to pay other sites to get listed is not showing the search engines that your online profile has value. There are some exceptions for the value of having your site listed on a very HVAC industry related website such as ASHRAE. They are a legitimate organization and the listing is provided in addition to the membership. Keep in mind, you may end up paying for a few that are high quality, but if that is all that you are doing, you will not see the benefit from your efforts and could even get penalized.
Plumbing Customer Reviews are a Strong Ranking Factor for Google My Business
In addition to citations, Reviews are also a strong signal to Google that this profile is trusted. You cannot ask your plumbing clients for a great review, but you can encourage them to leave one. It is when you try to sway customers to leave a positive comment or five star rating that it goes against these same guidelines. Don’t ask me how, but they often find out and will delete them at will.
Engage these reviews, even if it is a bad one, and you will find you are rewarded over time. That star rating becomes more valuable in the more competitive local areas.