A beginner's guide to getting the ball rolling on building a lead-generating web presence
April 5, 2022
7 min read
Content Marketing Manager
In an industry built on the backs of interpersonal relationships, search engine optimization (SEO) sounds like it'd be in 1,192nd place of marketing tactics that general contractors need to concern themselves with. But for those trying to attract eyeballs online, to both field prospects you’d otherwise not have met or to bolster your reputation with the prospects that are looking to acquire additional intel on you, a decent SEO game is vital to your success.
SEO's been useful for long enough that we can know for a fact that it isn’t a passing fad or an of-the-moment gimmick, but rather the foundation of building a strong web presence. In the next 5-10 years, it's possible that a general contractor's website will be their most valuable marketing collateral. For up-and-coming GCs, an SEO strategy is paramount to gaining a foothold. Whether an owner's doing some research on local GCs with a good reputation or a trades professional's vetting which GCs to work with, we all turn to the internet to do some reconnaissance.
If you’re working at a general contractor that doesn’t turn up on the first or second page of Google on a search, rest assured that your competitors will. And in 2022, one way to measure who your competitors are is to see which GCs turn up above you in Google search results for the terms you’re relevant for.
Search engines scan websites, blogs, and other sources of content to determine the value of what’s included. It determines how valuable something is based on the keywords on that page. Yet, it’s also a smart system in that just filling a page with words that describe your business isn’t enough. It takes careful placement and planning, especially when considering things like your target audience (the people looking for what you offer), your target area (local communities where you provide services), and user intent (what people want from their search).
If this feels overwhelming, it’s just because you don’t yet know this niche facet of marketing. The good news is that just because there may not be construction-specific guides, a sound SEO strategy is industry-agnostic.
Semrush, Ahrefs, Moz, and Patel’s own Ubersuggest are invaluable SEO management tools that will help you keep working toward goals and see what your competitors are doing. To not employ one of these tools while prioritizing SEO at your company would be akin to flying blind, so we suggest trying a few of them and seeing which one you vibe with. At Buildr, we use Semrush and find the user experience, educational content, and overall usefulness of the tool quite excellent (but have heard many good things about the other tools listed).
Here are some SEO tips to keep in mind for your digital marketing strategy that general contractors can benefit from right away.
Keywords are the most succinct terms that people type into the search engines to find what they are looking for, whether that’s a product, a company name, or a service. Most often, general contractors prioritize localized keywords, ie., “commercial general contractor Chicago,” “multi-family GC Ohio.” That helps the search engine to know that you provide services like this in a specific region.
If you examine the web traffic for most general contractors, whether they’ve prioritized SEO at their business or not, you’ll see their keywords are usually surrounding specific projects they’ve done, ie., a high school or a car dealership the GC had a hand in building. The more projects you work on, the more opportunities you’ll have to harp on (in an SEO sense) the fact you’ve worked on them. While you chip away at the harder terms, especially if you’re in a very competitive market, you can rest assured knowing your web presence will snowball from keywords surrounding your projects.
Just like the planning and development of any project, it takes time to work from the ground up to build a website that attracts search engines and places your website high on the results page. That’s because there is a significant amount of competition in any given area, and it takes time to determine the value of what you have to offer. Develop a plan, work towards your goals, and then be consistent about maintaining your strategies.
Just because you don’t rank for your goal keywords within 3 months doesn’t mean you never will. Don’t give up; SEO is a marathon, not a sprint.
A simple page that outlines what you do isn’t enough. Most of the time, search engine crawler bots need to see more valuable content. You don’t want to be the general contractor that says “yes, I can do that.” Rather, you want to be sure your website tells the reader, “Yes, I can help you with that, and here’s all the information you need to know to get started.” It’s quite a bit of investment in content to reach that point, but that shows Google that your website will meet the expectations of anyone searching for that information.
For general contractors that provide blog content, it may be worth mentioning that growing your web presence through educational content and tertiary terms (ie., keywords that aren’t exactly the most catered to your bread and butter and may field web traffic that isn’t necessarily looking specifically for what you do… yet) is a great way to play the long game. Bechtel and Turner Construction, for instance, are especially good at this.
Another component that goes into ranking well in Google is to have a link strategy. When one website recommends another website to their readers, Google understands that the recommended site is valuable. That gives it a boost. As a general contractor, you do not want to recommend competing services (any type of service that you offer). However, you could create a linking strategy that shows the value of your site. It may have links to community building codes. It may offer outbound links to product manufacturers for pieces of technology you utilize. It’s also important to have a local component to the process to help with local SEO goals.
It’s worth noting that backlinking used to be much more important for Google than it is now, as Google has seemingly begun to circumvent the more savvy banklink abusers by getting smarter about what makes content actually valuable for those that wind up on it. For general contractors just starting out with SEO, it’s worth dedicating your energy more toward other facets of SEO than backlinking.
The content and keywords used on your business’s website need to matter. That is, they need to showcase exactly what your business can do for the customer searching. For example, it’s critical to define who your customer is and what they are using to search for services. Do you provide residential or commercial services? Do you handle large projects, such as new home construction, or do you retrofit existing commercial structures? Define what you do and then choose keywords and build content that reflects that very narrow audience. If your ideal client doesn’t feel spoken to on your website, they may wander off to a competitor’s site that better communicates to them.
SEO isn’t a one-hit wonder. It’s not a weekend project that is knocked out once and never thought of again. Rather, it’s a facet of your company’s marketing strategy that you should continuously keep in mind to achieve your marketing goals. One silver lining: it’s worth noting that the more popular your web presence gets, the less you need to prioritize SEO as the web equity just rolls on in. Your SEO will become an every-now-and-then check-up rather than a daily multivitamin. Having a digital marketing strategy in place enables your website to rank well eventually. When it does, that means a higher likelihood that you’ll have more visitors to your website. More visitors equals more presence equals more leads equals more popularity.
Seriously, you should sign up to be a construction insider. Everyone will be so jealous of you.