Digital Marketing Strategy & Consulting
for Local Service Companies
Digital Marketing Strategy & Consulting
for Local Service Companies
A plumber hires a marketing company to build a new website. The new website is equivalent to a Ferrari with a broken engine – It looks good, but is getting them nowhere.
Traffic to the website plummeted by a whopping 97% (as shown in the graph at the top of this page). Such a huge contrast to what they had before:
If you’re not found, you’re not hired.
The following is an in-depth analysis of steps taken to diagnose the root of the problem, all the way to the solution.
As well as, insights gained that can help the plumbing company and other local home service companies.
A local plumbing company hired a new marketing company. But in the 4 months following, there has been a significant drop in calls from customers. The call volume dropped so sharply and suddenly, they’ve had to layoff their employees.
The owner of the plumbing company stated, “We’re spending an excessive amount of money on marketing and the results are very underwhelming.” They are spending:
$3,500 a month is very expensive for a small family owned plumbing company (especially when you’re not seeing results).
Let’s dive in and see what insights were gained in order to help the plumbing company and other local home service companies.
Why was there a significant drop in calls from customers suddenly after changing marketing companies? What is the underlying cause?
Before starting the audit, let’s quickly check if the “search engine visibility” has been turned off. On the backend of a website (usually in the settings area), there is a clickable button to discourage search engines from indexing the site. Sometimes developers will click that while building the website, often to keep test pages from indexing in search results.
In this case, the website is visible to search engines, and should be indexable; so there is something else causing the problem. It’s time to start the auditing process.
Since we’ve verified that the website IS visible to search engines, let’s use some free Google tools to get an overview of WHAT is visible. With hundreds of audits under my belt, I find it most helpful to start the research process by checking:
Note: The Google Business Profile (GBP) is a free tool that improves your visibility on Google maps and Google SERPS (search engine results pages). It’s a vital marketing tool for any local service company.
It’s important to check the online visibility of the business. Look at the company’s GBP profile to check:
Has the business been suspended or removed from GBP? If so, that could explain the sudden drop in phone calls from customers.
In this instance, the GBP listing was Live, so this is not the cause.
Has the important information on the GBP profile been changed and is it still accurate?
Since a GBP profile can be updated automatically by a Google Bot or maliciously by a competitor, it’s important to regularly check the accuracy of the details in your GBP listing.
In this case, the GBP listing was live, up-to-date, and accurate.
The next thing to do is get an overview of traffic to their website. Let’s use Google Analytics to get check traffic over an extended period:
First, look at website traffic for a minimum of 12 months leading up to the date when things significantly changed. Has traffic to website declined? Google Analytics will show all traffic to your website and the source of that traffic.
In this case, there is visible and significant drop off in website traffic. It was not a steady decline overtime; but instead, traffic tanked suddenly.
Let’s dig deeper and compare the website traffic with the same months in the previous year.
It’s important to do a side-by-side comparison of traffic with the same months in the previous year. Did the drop in traffic also happen in the previous year? After all, some industries are seasonal. BUT plumbing is a year round service industry; so, seeing the decline is out of place.
In this case, the previous year shows steady traffic (with only a few slight dips).
With this data in front of me, I was immediately curious about the specific date that the traffic declined.
What happened on that day? What could have possibly occurred to cause the negative change?
Channeling our inner detective, now it’s time to search for any events that may have caused the website traffic to fall. Did any major outside event occur in the days leading up to the loss of traffic?
Note: The Google algorithm is a complex system that retrieves and interprets website data, and then delivers the best possible results when someone does a search on the internet.
When you see a significant change in the performance of your website, such as a sudden decrease in traffic, check to see if your website was affected by an algorithm update. Does the date of website event correspond to a Google algorithm update?
For this case: When researching that specific month, there was a major algorithm update… BUT it occurred several weeks AFTER the decline in traffic. So, this traffic decrease is NOT caused by any algorithm update.
What else could have happened?
What other event occurred around the same time as the traffic drop?
For this case: When talking with the plumbing company, they stated a new company was doing their marketing. After getting a complete list of items the marketer was tasked with doing, one item stood out. The plumbing company had a new website.
The new marketing company rebuilt the plumbing company’s website, from scratch. It went live on the same exact day as the decrease in traffic shown in Google Analytics.
Now that we know the new website went live the same day as the traffic decrease, we can conclude that the problem has something to do with the new website.
But there are hundreds of possible problems that can occur when switching to a new website. What is the exact cause for the plummet in website traffic?
Since the problem is presenting as a lack of website traffic, maybe the plumbing company’s pages/posts are no longer shown in Google search results.
What pages / posts show in search results results page (SERPs) when typing the name of the business into a Google search query?
In this case, the plumber’s home page is on the 1st page of results. BUT when looking through the next 500 search results, not another one of their pages or posts appear. (Note: During their previous year’s audit, the plumbing company had 27 pages/posts on the top of page 1 in SERPs.)
Normally, I would click on each result in order to check if the link works and if the links are the exactly the same. But with the lack of results, let’s check their Google Search Console (GSC).
In order to check what pages/posts are indexed on Google, the next step was to look at the plumbing company’s Google Search Console (GSC).
Ding, Ding, Ding, bells and whistles starting to go off: The cause of the problem is coming to light. The GSC index graph shows that the majority of their pages and posts are no longer indexed.
To break down the GSC screen capture above: Green shows number of indexed pages/posts. Grey shows number of pages/posts are are NOT indexed, along with the reasons WHY they are not indexed.
Old Website: 117 indexed
The old plumbing website had a total of 41 pages and 78 blog posts, for total of 119 pages/posts. Of which only 2 were not indexed, and 117 were indexed.
New Website: 5 indexed
The new website has 49 pages and 3 blog posts for a total of 52, BUT only 5 pages are indexed. FIVE! That’s abysmal!!!
AND on top of that, when clicking on the 5 links that are actually indexed, ALL 5 are redirected to other pages. This can make the website look like SPAM, and it could potentially be flagged by search engines (Google, Yahoo, Duck Duck Go, Bing).
Questions from comparing both websites:
Blog posts are an extremely important part of SEO strategy. I tell my clients – to increase qualified leads and revenue, consistently increase the number of helpful blog posts on their websites. Blog posts help:
Now that we have found that the majority of the plumbing company’s blog posts have been deleted from the new website (and are no longer indexed on Google), let’s analyze web traffic to their blog posts.
Old Website: In the 12 months prior to the new plumbing website, Google Analytics shows their organic traffic as:
For their website as a whole:
For their #1 landing page:
While not all website visitors become customers, higher traffic volume certainly increases the odds of obtaining new customers.
New Website: On the new website, organic traffic has plummeted to less than 1 daily click on average.
Direct Comparison: In a side-by-side comparison to the same months in the previous year (October through December), both direct AND organic users have declined significantly.
The only increase in traffic comes from advertisements.
So what caused the significant drop in calls after changing marketing companies?
Simply put, poor SEO practices.
The removal of blog posts from the new website absolutely tanked the organic traffic. This drop in organic traffic resulted in the significant drop in phone calls from customers.
Main website structure was changed from URL.com to www.URL.com To search engines, those are 2 different addresses. (We will skip the technical reasons why.) This also tanked the SEO. If the main URL had stayed the same, just the removal of blog posts alone would have tanked the website traffic; since, blog posts were driving the traffic.
While there are an outrageous number of SEO issues on the new website that need to be addressed and fixed, the priority should be to:
I presented all the analytical data to the owner of the plumbing company and recommended changes.
Upon follow up, the blog posts were indeed added back to the website. BUT, and this is a BIG BUT, the marketing company did not keep the same URLs that were already indexed on Google. So visitors from SERPs (search engine results pages) are landing on a 404 page.
Note: A URL is the address that appears at top of page in the search bar. When you click on something in search results, it will open at the URL address. But if you click on something and that page URL address is no longer correct, because it has been changed or removed, you land on a page – error 404 page not found.
Furthermore, not a single Google Search Console (GSC) error has been addressed. And still only 5 pages are indexed on Google.
So while all the old blog posts are now on the new website, the URLs in SERPs are inaccurate.
Usually if a page URL is changed or removed, the website developer will put code that will automatically forward to a similar page. This redirect keeps a visitor from get smacked in the face by a 404 Error code.
But if pages and posts are already ranking high in SERPS, including page 1 (like with this plumbing company), it’s atrocious to change the URLs.
Long story short – the plumbing company fired their marketing company.
For the past 30 days, I’ve been relentlessly overhauling their SEO and fixing more errors than I can count. The effort is paying off:
At a bare minimum of once a month, put your eyes on your Google Business Profile, Google Analytics, and Google Search Console. Check to see if there are any significant errors or changes. These free tools are crucial to SEO and play a huge role in traffic to your website. I suggest a monthly report showing least the past 12 months, so you can visually see a trend in data.
Do you know your website address – which is it?
You should know this because, to search engines, those are 2 different addresses. (Again, we’ll skip the technical reasons why.) Do NOT change from www to non-www website URL (or vice versa) if you’re already ranking and receiving traffic – especially when updating or rebuilding a website!
NOTE: For good SEO, be consistent with your URL (with or without the www) across all of the internet AND throughout your website.
TIP: Check the accuracy of your website address:
Blogs are VITAL for driving traffic to your website. They expand your footprint in SERPs. Blog posts play a HUGE role in converting visitors to customers (without having to pay for ads). This is an important reminder to set aside time to strategize and publish the right blog posts that will attract qualified customers to your website!
As a reminder, the plumbing company was spending $3,500 a month on marketing. That is tremendous amount of money for a severe lack of results and blatant disregard for standard SEO practices.
Their new website was like a Ferrari with a broken engine – it looked good, but got them nowhere.
Unfortunately, the marketer’s website states their area of expertise as “website development & SEO for local plumbing companies”. The plumber thought he had hired an expert for their marketing, website, and SEO. I see this all too often – and it makes me beyond angry that an “expert” produced this website. It’s enough to put a good and honest company out of business.
It is crucial to the health of any business to do regular audits, even if you hired an expert. At the very minimum, do an annual website & SEO audit. BUT especially after building a new website, or anytime you experience a significant drop in calls from customers.
Maryann Davidson – Helping local home service companies do their marketing better and more efficiently.