Making Your HVAC Small Business Website Relevant
An HVAC business without a good small business website may as well put a CLOSED sign in the window and hand out directions to its competitors.
Most HVAC, plumbing, and other local field service businesses DO have websites, although some are not up-to-date or lack the features consumers expect.
That results in a bad user experience and low Google ranking, which can be worse than having no website at all.
Word of Mouth Has Moved Online
Word of mouth has always been a reliable source of new business, as long as people are saying good things about you. It is one of several marketing channels we will discuss in this article, but with a different twist: word of mouth has moved online.
These days, word of mouth travels faster and speaks louder. Your website is your communications center to help you participate in the discussion. People are going to talk about you whether you join in the conversation, or not. It’s better to join in and tell your own story.
Your website must be ready to do business whenever consumers decide to act. That often is in the evenings, after people get home from work. You can’t afford NOT to be ready when they’re looking for help.
Is Your Website Stuck in the WayBack Machine?
The websites of the 2000s look quaint by any modern standard. Those sites worked because nobody else had anything better. Now they do. Unfortunately, as technology advanced, a lot of small business websites didn’t keep up.
Nothing shows how to keep up with changing technologies and design like a look at the WayBack Machine, which shows what many current websites looked like years ago. We found a great example of how to keep a small business website relevant and up to date by looking at the website of one of our clients with the WayBack Machine.
Roman Plumbing, of New Port Richie, Florida, has kept its site constantly evolving and improving. These three images illustrate the evolution of their website. The site had many more changes between the times these snapshots were taken.
2010 – The company name is Roman but the website had a Spartan look that was common then.
2015 – Website design had taken big steps forward, providing a more attractive, organized look. The header emphasizes the name, phone numbers, services offered, and 24-hour service. A navigation bar made it easier to help visitors find what they were looking for faster. Also, there is more copy on the page to provide visitors (and search engines) with more details about the company.
2023 – Today, Roman Plumbing’s website is a model of contemporary design, including all the information in the 2015 header, but with a cleaner look, a new logo, simplified navigation, and customer endorsements from the “Best of the Best” award stickers.
Our favorite, the “Book Now” call to action buttons (installed with a Sera widget) invites customers to schedule service. The content communicates the benefits of doing business with Roman. More details appear when visitors scroll down.
Research by Zippia, an online recruiting website, shows why you can’t afford to be left behind:
- 99% of consumers use the internet to find local businesses, while 56% search for local business online every day or several times each week.
- 81% of consumers research a business online before using its services, and about half of those searching will visit a company’s website as part of their research.
- 70% of those researching local businesses use Google.
If your website isn’t producing leads, customers, and sales, you are not on a level playing field with your competitors.
To paraphrase Dirty Harry, “Right now you’ve got to ask yourself one question: Is your website relevant?”
Your Website as a Marketing Hub
We use the term small business website because local, small businesses have different online needs than mega corporations. Local businesses must fine-tune their websites to offer information of specific interest to audiences in their service areas.
To do that, you need to have content throughout your site that makes it clear where your business is located and what areas you serve. That message needs to appear throughout your website, not just on a page or two.
For potential customers to find you when they search online for “HVAC repair near me” or “plumber near me” your website must be optimized using local search engine optimization (SEO) best practices (covered below).
Make your website the hub of an integrated marketing platform that drives all your online and offline marketing activities. The connecting lines and arrows in this illustration represent the interconnected nature of all those channels.
For example, the same information that goes into a press release can be expanded to make a blog post. Both can be added as pages to the website in different formats and lengths. You should link social media posts to pages on your website, too.
The core content on your site should describe your company and its products and services. It also must ask people to do business with you by presenting informative, persuasive copy, with calls to action (CTAs) throughout nearly all the pages on the site.
Good websites are never finished. Keep adding content and features that show people what you can do for them. Give them a reason to choose you over your competitors.
The other marketing channels in the illustration should direct visitors to the website. As your business grows and you want to reach more people you will likely find additional marketing channels helpful. However, you may want to start with only one or two you can manage well.
For example, press releases and webinars may not be immediate priorities. Blog posts, social media, and newsletters should be.
Use offline activities such as shows, events, and public speaking to drive more traffic to your website. Any literature or cards you may hand out should include your web URL, or better yet, a QR code that mobile uses can scan to go straight to the desired page on your site.
Your Website as a Service Platform
The “Schedule Service” (or similar words) button is one of the best ways to make a small business website relevant for your HVAC or other field service business. It is the place that turns visitors into customers by using a direct call to action that allows you to secure more business with less time invested, and it reduces expenses.
It may not seem like a big deal, but offering prospects and customers the chance to schedule an appointment when they are on your website is a major game changer. It helps fill up your schedule and it provides consumers the satisfaction of taking action to solve a problem.
A “Book Now” button on Absolute Airflow’s website first appears in the header on the home page. The creative graphic design draws attention immediately.
Give People What They Want
GetApp, which helps owners and managers evaluate business software, has researched customer preferences regarding booking appointments online versus calling. Here’s what they found:
- 67% said they prefer online booking.
- 59% are frustrated by waiting on hold and having to call during office hours.
- 94% said they would be more likely to choose a new service provider if that provider offers online scheduling.
Online scheduling software comes in more flavors than Baskin-Robbins ice cream, so you have a lot of options. Most of these apps provide scheduling only, and some can cause interoperability problems with other software you may be running.
When scheduling, customers are using Sera’s Customer Hub. The Hub also provides them direct communication with service providers and offers secure storage of records for all equipment and service calls. Schedule a private demonstration.
When we designed Sera for HVAC, plumbing, electrical, and other field service businesses, we integrated online customer scheduling with automated dispatching to create a fast, seamless customer experience. This not only provides exceptional customer service, it also saves hours of staff time and expense each day.
Benefits of a Small Business Website
We’ve talked all around the edges, so let’s quickly summarize what a relevant, up-to-date website can do for your business as you build your brand.
- Online Visibility – You are present and open for business 24/7/365. Potential customers searching for HVAC and plumbing services in your service area can find you.
- Credibility and Trust – People trust businesses that present themselves online with attractive, professionally-designed websites. Unattractive sites can have the opposite effect.
- Information and Services – Showcase your people, services, hours of operation, contact information, and any special offers or promotions with their own pages.
- Online Booking – Customer self-scheduling online is a must. Make service windows tight – preferably one hour – so people don’t have to sit around half a day waiting for a tech.
- Showcase Projects – Showcase your work with photos, videos, case studies, and customer testimonials. Techs can gather most of the information on smart phones.
Must-Have Website Features and Capabilities
In the first paragraph we said a relevant small business website must be up-to-date and offer the standard features consumers expect. The list is long but here are some of the most important ones.
Clear Value Proposition – Explain why people should do business with you instead of the competition. What makes you better?
User-Friendly Interface – Your site must be easy and fun to use. It should be intuitive, clean and uncluttered looking. Make it easy to get from page to page and back without using the “back” arrow.
Responsive Design – This detects the device a person is using and optimizes the look for the visitor’s device. 82% of customers use mobile devices to book appointments.
Search Engine Optimization – To be listed in search results, written content must contain the words people use in online searches. They should be used an appropriate number of times and in specific locations. Amateur writers tend to over- or under-optimize and not make the list.
Quality Content – Google ranks websites on about 200 different criteria. SEO experts place high quality content at or near the top of the list. Content must be original, not copied. Short video clips add originality to a page and keep visitors on your site (that’s the goal). 88% of users will stay longer on a page that includes video.
Fast Load Times – 40% of consumers will wait no longer than three seconds for a web page to load. The average load time for pages that appear in the first 10 Google results (the first page) is 1.65 seconds. You need a professional webmaster for this, but you can do a quick speed test yourself with this tool.
Contact Information – Make it simple for visitors to find your contact information. Include a dedicated contact page with multiple contact methods, including phone, email, and a contact form. Also, provide a Contact link in the footer, which appears on every page on websites.
Site Security – Many older sites still don’t meet minimum security standards. A secure website URL begins with https:// and not http://. Implement security measures to protect user data. Display trust badges, SSL certificates, and secure payment options to instill customer confidence.
Analytics and Tracking – Businesses with small business websites should pay special attention to performance analytics. You can buy analytics tools, but Google Analytics is excellent and it is free. With good analytics you will know where your site traffic is coming from and what words people are using to find your site.
NOTE: Google switched to GA4 and stopped using Google Analytics UA on July 1, 2023. Any sites still using the old version should switch to GA4 now.
Do You Need Help to Have a Relevant Small Business Website?
Most business owners will need professional help. If you currently do not have a website, you can create a 5-10 page site with tools offered by GoDaddy, WIX, and others. This should be a temporary solutions until you can hire a professional web developer, graphic designer, content developer, and webmaster to build a site. You will get back far more than you invest.
A good, relevant small business website optimized for local search is an investment, not an expense. Like real property, a good website will appreciate over time and increase the value of your business.
Start by hiring outside help. It will cost more at first than doing the work in-house, but you have a far better chance of getting the job done right. You have the option to bring the work in-house later, if you wish.
A good way of thinking about the initial investment of hiring outside professional help is to compare it to the cost of hiring one employee to do all the website work. A person with that knowledge and experience will be expensive, conservatively in the $40,000 – $60,000 range, depending on your location and business needs.
A small business website is essential to build your brand and grow your business in your service area. It complements your brick and mortar business by effectively keeping your doors open 24 hours per day, year-round.
However, a poorly designed or out of date website can do more harm than having no website at all. A whopping 99% of US consumers use the internet to find local businesses, and more than 81% research local businesses online, including visiting their websites.
A good small business website serves as a marketing hub that interacts with blogs, newsletters, social media, press releases, webinars, and more. It also serves as a service platform where customers can schedule their own appointments.
Essential features and capabilities for a small business website include:
- Clear value proposition
- User-friendly interface
- Responsive design
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Quality content
- Fast load times
- Contact information
- Site security
- Analytics and tracking
Most businesses should hire professional website and content developers to get the best results.
Sera doesn’t build small businesses websites; however, we can make your site a high-powered service platform while improving your operational efficiency and profitability dramatically. Schedule a personal Sera demonstration now.