Top 10 Ways Local Business Owners Botch the All-Important Homepage, and How You Can Get Yours Right

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It’s a shame so many business owners spend more time chasing shiny new objects than they do nailing the fundamentals.

Mess up your homepage and your local rankings won’t be all they can be, or you’ll scare away people, or both.  It’s of outsize importance to Google and to customers/clients/patients.  Craft an excellent homepage and you might give yourself wiggle room to mess up in other areas – and maybe for it not to matter as much.

In helping business owners make rain, I see and get to work on more homepages than your average bear.  Here are what I’d consider the 10 most-common homepage mistakes, and how you can avoid making them:

Homepage mistake 1: It’s wafer-thin on content.

Most homepages skimp on info about specific offerings (services, products, treatments, or practice areas).  Have at least a blurb on each offering you care about, and include links to the pages where you describe them in more detail.

Homepage mistake 2: There’s little info about the service area or locations.

You don’t want Google and customers to have to guess or dig to determine where you are or what areas you serve.  Make it as plain as day.

Homepage mistake 3: It’s got no or too-few links to important subpages.

If you’ve got other pages you want visitors to see and for Google maybe to rank well, you’d best link to them.  Maybe your most-important 5-10.  I like bullet-point lists.

Homepage mistake 4: It’s been colonized by a slider.

Most sliders slow down the load-time of your page, push your strongest material below the fold, and are ignored by visitors.  Consider taking yours behind the barn, or at least replacing it with a static image.

Homepage mistake 5: There’s nothing unique or compelling in the title and/or description tag.

Having your keyword(s) + city is not enough.  Be a giraffe among zebras.  Weave in as much of your USP as you can.

Homepage mistake 6: Not tracking visitors’ clicking and scrolling behavior.

Use a tool like CrazyEgg or HotJar to determine which parts of your page visitors care about and which they ignore.

Homepage mistake 7: Clear calls-to-action aren’t in all the places they should be.

Having one call-to-action at the top and bottom of the page is a no-brainer.  If it’s a long page, have a call-to-action somewhere in the middle.  Because you’re tracking clicking and scrolling behavior (see above point), in time you’ll probably know which one pulls the most weight.

Homepage mistake 8: A functional Google Map isn’t embedded.

If you’ve got an office or bricks-and-mortar location, your would-be customers probably want to be able to pull up directions easily.  Google may like to see driving-direction look-ups.

Homepage mistake 9: It’s filled with knickknacks for non-customers.

Links to social profiles, a “recent blog posts” section, etc.  Eschew them – unless you want people to pay attention to those doodads and not call you.

Homepage mistake 10: It assumes the visitor saw the reviews.

Will your homepage impress a word-of-mouth referral or others who might have gone directly to your site without Googling you first?

Hhomepage mistake 11 (bonus): It’s too reserved.

Don’t assume everyone will even see other pages on your site.  Make it very clear where visitors can get more in-depth info on you and your services if they want it, but don’t assume they’ll click or scroll.  Say your piece, say it early, and say it plainly.

Any homepage mistakes I forgot?

Any you don’t think are mistakes?

What do you consider the most or least serious issue, and why?

Leave a comment!

Amazon Home Services for Local Businesses: the Ins and Outs

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I’ve wanted to write about “Amazon Local SEO” for a while now.  I had it planned out.  But then last year Amazon retired their daily-deals program, at which point 50% of my content became about as timely and relevant as MTV.  Oh well.

But the other part I wanted to write about was Amazon Home Services, which is relevant to your local visibility if you’re a contractor, and it’s a program that seems to be expanding.

Yours Truly had procrastinated for only about 2 months when Corey Barnett of Cleverly Engaged sent me some good lab notes (as he did last year).  His observations and insights impressed me, so I decided to accept a guest-post on this blog for only the 2nd time in the last half-decade of blogging.  (Colan Nielsen put together a mean quiz here 3 years ago.)

If you’re in the home-improvement space, you’ll benefit from these pointers on Amazon Home Services.  Here’s Corey:

Search results have become more crowded in recent years. National brands have earned more SERP real estate, often at the expense of local businesses. Even competitors to Google’s model (Facebook, Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc.) received increased visibility in 2015 as reported by Search Engine Journal.

The fundamentals have also changed, like with all seven packs decreasing to 3-packs. Sure, free directories are still very visible for many local terms: Yelp, Yellowpages, and recent entrants, Groupon, Houzz and Facebook.

Yet more paid lead-referral networks are starting up and gaining traction online, especially in specific industries. The auto industry has RepairPal, MechanicAdvisor, OpenBay and others. And the home services industry? Quite a few, including HomeAdvisor (previously ServiceMagic), Lowe’s Porch.com, Home Depot’s RedBeacon, Thumbtack, Adopt a Contractor – and Amazon Home Services.

I’ve dealt with Amazon Home Services for some clients, and here’s what I’ve observed:

1.  Amazon Home Services Is Still a New Kid on the Block

So new is Amazon Home Services, that the network appears quite empty for some services in large Metropolitan areas. The service launched in March of 2015. On their page, Amazon reveals which cities have a high number of services.

However, a simple search for HVAC services in Dallas only brought up a handful of providers. There were only about 20 service professionals either in the city of Dallas or that mentioned Dallas in their profile for all home services on Amazon.

(To research in your own city and avoid submitting a quote, do a search in Google like the one above.)

One of the HVAC contractors listed had 6 Amazon reviews and revealed they have had about fifty customers from the platform in the last year.

2.  But It Has High Standards for Acceptance

Unlike other lead networks, there isn’t a sales team that pesters you into an application. The email used throughout the application process – selling-services@amazon.com – doesn’t even seem to be managed by a live person. On top of that, there isn’t a phone number for potential pros to ask questions.

One requirement that scared away a few of my clients were background checks. The background checks don’t need to include every employee, only those responding to Amazon requests.

Yet the most frequent cause of denials is reviews. Within the application process, Amazon asks for links to 3rd party reviews. They give examples to Yelp and HomeAdvisor, which is odd because HomeAdvisor is a competitor and another paid lead referral platform.

Above is an example of a denial, which is often the result of poor online reviews. Having experienced both clients getting approved and denied, here are some insights.

Yelp is heavily scrutinized. You can include reviews to Google, Angie’s List and other platforms in the application, but they will look at Yelp regardless. For example, I worked with a fence contractor earlier this year on the application. They have hundreds of positive reviews on YellowPages, Angie’s List and Google. Google alone has close to 50 five star reviews. Yelp has always been troublesome for their business and they have a neutral to negative reputation from only 3 Yelpers. Needless to say, they were denied, with Amazon citing reviews as the reason.

Another client I worked with was in a smaller market: Lubbock, TX. Despite a neutral to positive reputation online and the highest rating of any Lubbock company in their industry, they were denied. This was truly odd, considering Lubbock only has 1 approved service provider.

Amazon is apparently willing to sacrifice revenue, denying a service provider that would be first in their category for a market.

3.  The Catch: You Pay a Referral Fee

The actual cost of paying Amazon for the lead varies, depending on your service. It’s best to educate yourself on their website.

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4.  More Services Appear to Be on the Way

If you take a look at the application process, many more services are available than are currently on the website. Some border on the truly bizarre and specific including: Sommelier, Rubbish Hauler, Misting System Specialist, Mime, Fire Breather, Pet Waste Removal Service, Astrologer, Palm Reader and Paranormal Investigator.

Amazon has added coverage for new cities and expanded the line of services offered. But with a name change last year from Amazon Local Services to Amazon Home Services, perhaps the goal of site won’t be as expansive. In the application process, there is an entire section on business services, but none are currently offered in any city.

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5.  Should You Sell Services on Amazon?

A recent Forbes article asked a great question, “the best contractors are always busy, do they have time to apply on Amazon and send quotes to customers?”

This is really a dig at all paid lead generation services. A contractor always has time to answer a phone call from a potential customer, which could have come from Google Search, Facebook or due to positive reviews on Yelp. But selling on Amazon Home Services takes time to respond to quotes.

Customers also tend to use Amazon already for finding the lowest price on everything. If that’s not the type of customer you want to reach, it might not work for your business. The prices are set by Amazon and can’t be influenced by service providers, so make sure you have room to make a profit.

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 6.  A Case Study on Using Amazon Home Services

If you’re still on the fence about using Amazon Home Services, then check out this interview with Bell Hops, a national moving company that has had success on Amazon.

Have you used Amazon Home Services?  What’s been your experience so far?

Any questions for Corey?

Do you have a favorite cat?

Leave a comment!