Learn how to get more leads from Google and other search engines. In this four-part series, Michael and Chris will dig into the best practices for marketing your painting business in local search results pages. In this episode we cover keyword research, content, titles, your first paragraph, and article length. Grow Your Painting Business is a free podcast from SearchPrimer.com.


Chris Raines: How to use SEO best practices for your painting contracting business. This is Episode 1 of Grow Your Painting Business.

Intro/Outro: Welcome to Grow Your Painting Business, a podcast for commercial, residential, and industrial painters to grow their businesses in their local or regional markets. We’re experts in digital marketing for painters and other trades, and this is a show to share our experience with you. Grow Your Painting Business is a free podcast from searchprimer.com, the experts in digital marketing for the Trades.

Chris Raines: Alright, welcome everyone. Episode 1, here we go. Grow Your Painting Business Podcast. My name is Chris Raines. I’m joined by the great Michael Utley.

Michael Utley: Hello. Glad to he here with you.

Chris Raines: Michael, what is this podcast? Why are we starting it? There’s a bajillion podcasts out there, why are we doing a podcast for commercial painters?

Michael Utley: Oh, that’s great. GoEpps is a digital marketing agency in Nashville, Tennessee, headquartered with Bullhorn Media, your company, here on Main Street in Nashville. Over the years, we’ve launched different products and sort of packaged up what we do. So far, and now in our seventh year of business, our most successful product launch ever has been SearchPrimer. It’s SEO content and just digital marketing services for the trades. We’ve especially been active with commercial and residential painters. Because of the success of this business and this channel and how it’s helped grow our clients’ businesses, we want this to be a big part of the direction of GoEpps going forward. GoEpps is still working in healthcare and manufacturing, but SearchPrimer is just kind of a hit. We’ve got a little bit of a hit on our hands. So we’re going to push down on that and go further.

So the podcast is a way to capture some of that, tell some of the stories. We’re going to do some informational interviews with me, some of the things that we’ve been able to teach our clients. We’re also going to interview some painters, other folks in our industry who help painters, along with painters themselves. People who are either clients of ours or just friends and family in the industry who have a lot of insight they want to share. So a podcast just seemed to be the best format. We mainly want people to grow and learn. We want them to come away inspired. We want it to be fun. This just seemed like the right format. So we’re super excited to get this off the ground today.

Chris Raines: Yeah, great. A lot of fun stuff to look forward to in future episodes. But I will say, the bulk of this is probably going to be digital marketing focus. That’s your area of expertise, my area of expertise. So to kick that off, I mean, Episodes 1, 2, and 3 … This is Episode 1. We’re going to talk … or 4, that’s right. Episodes 1, 2, 3, and 4 are going to be strictly focused on digital marketing, specifically search engine optimization. This is a big area. If you’re a painter in 2018, you really need to have a system set up where you’re generating leads online and not relying strictly on old school methods of marketing. So Michael, why don’t you kind of lay out these 4 episodes for us really quickly, and then we’ll hop into the content for this episode.

Michael Utley: Yeah, these would be 4 episodes that it would be good to listen to in order, and actually, good for having an entire marketing team capture a vision for. I think it would be appropriate to listen to these and understand and then give us a call to talk about how you want us to do the heavy lifting on some things. We’re sort of educators at heart, so we like for people to learn and to grow. There is a little bit of a sense in which this is the secret sauce. We’re kind of giving away the secret sauce. But what we found is that when we do give our recipe away, clients tend to say, “Well, that’s a lot of work. There’s no way we’re going to do all that. How much does this cost?” So for us, it’s a benefit to have clients getting up to speed.

What we’re going to talk about really falls into three categories. Episodes 1 and 2, we’re going to talk about website content. We’re going to talk about all the different touch points, how search engines are looking at your content. Episode 2, we’re going to talk about … or excuse me, Episode 3, we’re going to talk about website architecture. Depending on what system your website is built on, this can be easy or hard. Then Episode 4, we’re going to talk about offsite factors, things on other websites, a lot of different platforms that are out there. So these together really give you a 360 degree view of how search engines interact with your business. This is a good topic for us, because we’ve had this … the outline for these 4 podcasts is actually the GoEpps SEO Best Practices for 2018. It’s a document that we update internally every year. We’ve been on the frontline and in the trenches with this set of best practices for, gosh, 20 SEO clients maybe, maybe 25. So these are sort of tried and true things that we’re using in the trenches day to day, front lines, and really have a honed sense of what works, what doesn’t. That’s what we’re going to go through in these episodes.

Chris Raines: Awesome, awesome. Yeah, this is in the trenches stuff, guys. You can literally take this and steal it and run with it if you wanted to. But this is great. Okay, so let’s talk about content. So like you said, those three kind of broad areas of how Google determines what should show up and what shouldn’t show up for any given search term. So if I’m a painter, do I want to show up for monster truck rallies in my town? The keyword, “monster truck rallies,” do I want to do that?

Michael Utley: Yeah, no. Back in the day, maybe, gosh, I would say 15 years ago … I’ve been doing this for 18, 19 years. There was a practice call keyword stuffing. It was effective. A lot of people still have some of this kind of mindset, because maybe they were exposed to a little bit about digital marketing a long time ago. It’s really changed. Google’s done a really good job I would say since the Panda update of, gosh, maybe seven years ago now, I’d have to look it up, of making it really about quality content. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t need to work on these technical aspects.

So yeah, so number one is keyword research. We start with keyword search. That’s number one on your list if you’re taking notes at home. Keyword research is the process of finding the actual terms that people are entering into search engines and understanding which of those are being used more often. You might have two phrases like, “painter,” “commercial painter,” and, “painter contractor.” Well, painter may be much more widely used, but it’s really unspecific. It could mean an artistic painter, it could mean, “How do I become a painter?” It could be anything. But, “painting contractor,” “commercial painter,” those are pretty specific terms that shows some intent. If someone enters a phrase, “painting contractor,” there’s a high level of intent built into that phrase. So yeah, doing keyword research and understanding what your people are actually putting into search engines to find you. Then this thing about intent, it’s a really big sort of high watermark to distinguish between whether or not something’s worth investing time and energy to show up for and whether it’s just too broad to be worth bothering with. So yeah, number one for us, keyword research. That’s where it starts and that’s what matters.

Chris Raines: Yeah, and everything else is sort of built from that, which leads us to number two, the content itself. This is probably the biggest onsite signal that you can give Google. Talk a little bit about content, how that relates to keyword research, and what people should be thinking about when they think about adding content to their painting contractor site.

Michael Utley: That’s good. Not all content is good content. It’s not good to have something that looks and feels like it was written by a robot. So having folks lined up who can really know your brand and dig in and walk the long journey with you to get to know who you are, that makes a big difference. We focus on a handful of different formats of content. We build out a lot of webpages that cover the services in much more depth.

If we see a page of commercial services and a bulleted list of what’s included in that commercial service, we’re often going to build out additional pages for each of those bulleted items. So imagine if you’re a commercial painting contractor and you’ve got a page on your commercial services, you might have sandblasting listed maybe as a bullet point. Well, we’re going to go ahead and build out a separate page on that. That’s the kind of thing we do. A keyword optimized, top-to-bottom, really strong page. Really strong enough that it stands on its own as a complete service page, so as good as any of the pages you already have on your website, but to a much greater degree and deeper into the service set of what you’re offering. So service pages are good. It’s really hard, sometimes … you would think that search engines would really be good by this point at knowing your service area, but they kind of struggle with that. So localization pages are another type of content that we focus on quite a bit. Blog posts are good. In the past, blogs were just sort of a way to kind of game the system and get a lot of content out there. Now they’re really part of an integrated strategy of publishing to your website and to your email list and to your social media channels all at the same time. For us, when we see a blog post that’s really popped up and the data’s telling us that it’s a good topic, we’re also converting that into a video. Then we’re  taking that video and embedding it on a page and creating a landing page where we might have a transcript and other information.

So all these different sorts of content, service pages, localization pages, blog posts, a variation on the blog post of a sample project, just sharing everything you can about a recent project that’s been completed as a standalone page, those are all good hooks for doing a couple things. For relating the batch of keywords and the correct keyword taxonomy to your URL to search engines, and then helping search engines get over this problem they have of correctly interpreting a service area. So yeah, content is huge. It’s the lifeblood of what search engines are doing to decide who to show first.

Chris Raines: Yeah. I’d like to talk a little bit about … you mentioned geographically focused pages. This kind of ties back into keyword research, because … I’m going to use Nashville as an example, because that’s where we are. But if I live in, say, Brentwood, which is a suburb just off of Nashville, I might be searching for Brentwood painting contractors and not necessarily Nashville painting contractors. If you’re in Nashville, Brentwood which is just 15 minutes away, it might well be part of your service area, but the user there is not going to be searching for Nashville, they’re going to search their particular town or city, correct?

Michael Utley: That’s right.

Chris Raines: So just to reemphasize the value of different pages that line up with the searchers’ intent and what they’re looking for online.

Michael Utley: That’s right. So this is a little bit of a two edged sword here. There’s a problem. You might have a headquarters that’s based in, for example, Greenwood in Indiana, and your servicing the Indianapolis market. This is actually a true story. SearchPrimer, we’re headquartered in Nashville but working with folks all across the United States, so we run into a couple of problems. We run into how do you show up and sort of dominate your backyard in Greenwood, but then also, gosh, you don’t want search engines to think you’re just doing Greenwood and not show up for Indianapolis.

So what we’ll do is go develop a footprint and do sort of a phased approach. We might work to dominate our backyard first, but then in phase two, we’re immediately going to that larger footprint and area. There are different neighborhoods that produce different types of projects, and sometimes you want some more than you do others. So that’s how we work around. We’re also doing things that we’ll get into in later episodes for offsite factors for letting search engines know your location, but for conquering this problem of service area, localization pages are one of the good ways to begin to show up and capture traffic and sort of dominate in a smaller market that maybe has less competition, but it’s also a way to make sure you’ve got your hat in the ring for some of the larger markets that you might be adjacent to or based in with the headquarters. We have folks in Boston, Chicago, other cities, where they’re right downtown. So we really have to go both ways depending on whether we’re working our way into the market or out of the market. It’s tough to do it with a specific street address alone, even when we’ve got a really good built out Google Maps profile that very clearly defines our service area. Somehow we just do better when we just go out and street fight, built localization pages. Those tend to give us the results we want.

Chris Raines: Yeah. Let’s talk a little bit about there’s the content, that actual words and sentences on the page, but there’s also parts of the page. So let’s talk about how … you know, we’ve got paragraph text, you’ve got headline text, which is your headers, and then you’ve got a thing called page title. These are all different pieces of your site, and Google does not treat them with equal importance. So talk a little bit about keywords in page titles and why treating a page title might be different than, say, a piece of paragraph on down the page. And what is a page title?

Michael Utley: So we tend to … these days, when we show up and we’re looking at a website, we tend to find that websites are correctly using the H1 tag to identify the title of the page. The title of the page is the title of the page.

Chris Raines: Now for people out there that might not know what H1 is, can you explain what H1, H2 is?

Michael Utley: Yeah, so search engines are always looking for indirect sources of information. So if they can look at the way pages are typically formatted in HTML, which is the code that is used to display … it’s not programming code, it’s display code. It’s the way that search engines scan and view a page, but it’s also the way a browser decides what to show where on a page and how developers decide to arrange the contents of a page. So a typical piece of that formatting is headlines. You can have a headline 1, which is H1, which is usually the main headline of your page and often …

Chris Raines: And the biggest.

Michael Utley: … nothing else. Yeah, it’s usually the biggest font. It’s the main sort of unique piece of text near the top of the code that’s sent to the browser to display the page for a user. You might also have subheadlines, we use those quite a bit. So those are H2s. You can also have H3s, which you know, maybe be sort of an intro for a paragraph, all the way down to H4, H5. Gosh, I guess it goes down to like H7, I don’t know how far down it goes. I haven’t thought about that in a while. But yeah, most of the time when we look at a website for the first time, we are seeing H1 used correctly, whether it’s Squarespace, WordPress, any of the different CMSs that we work with. But we see quite a few headlines that really don’t have any good keywords in them. So if you’ve got a page like sandblasting, and you want to tell people that you offer that as a service, it would be okay to say, “Commercial Painting Services: Sandblasting,” instead of just, “Sandblasting.”

Chris Raines: Which tells Google, “This is important.” This is all this is really, it’s telling Google, “This is what I think is important on this page. This is what this page is about. This is how you should categorize this page.”

Michael Utley: Yeah, and a lot of times blog posts sometimes, you know, if it’s a story or some sort of human interest element, it’ll have a title that really doesn’t tell search engines anything, something like, “A Day I’ll Never Forget.” Well, “A Day I’ll Never Forget,” doesn’t tell you anything about the actual story, the thing that’s going on there if you’re wanting to show up for customers. So yeah, a lot of times titles are either poorly conceived or they’re just not getting enough traction because they haven’t really been built with keyword research having been done. So it’s important to think about your keywords, think about what you really want to show up for. If you’re not doing sandblasting, for example, of automotive parts or any of the other industries that use sandblasting, you really just want to do it for commercial structure purposes, then you might say something like, “Sandblasting for Commercial Structures.” So you’ve got to have your good keywords as early in the title as possible. You’ve also got to have the keywords there versus not at all. So that’s just really important for the title to be well conceived and to include good keywords.

Chris Raines: So we talked about paragraph text. So let’s talk about how often should we use keywords in paragraph texts and where in our paragraphs should we start to introduce our keywords.

Michael Utley: Yeah, that’s great. So if you’re taking notes at home, keyword research is number one, content’s number two, number three top keyword in the page title, four using your top keyword or idea in the first paragraph of copy. Cannot understate the importance of this. A lot of times, people maybe kind of backup and start with something that’s a little bit more abstract and maybe irrelevant, maybe sort of a story, or, “Oh, there was this project we were doing. It was such a bear. We ran into this problem.” Well, it’s easy to forget the basic thing of making sure that your top target keyword is included in that first paragraph. Then the way that we set things up is we’ll never go into a page of content that we’re creating and have just one keyword in mind. We always have about ten, because what we’re doing is we’re setting ourselves up so that when one of our writers is sitting down and they’re creating a page of content, they’re going to be able to produce something that’s in a human of voice as possible. So you might have, “painting contractor,” as a phrase, but you might also have, “painting contractors,” and you might have, “local contractor painting,” “local contractor sandblasting.” You may have a number of these to make sure that the writer has options so that readability is never sacrificed. We don’t ever want something to feel like it was written by robots. Also it’s good through the rest of the page to use variations of the keyword. We don’t really think much about keyword density anymore. That used to be a big thing, and we’ve kind of gotten away from that language, because we’re not trying to pack something so full, because really, readability is hurt by that.

Chris Raines: Google can determine how readable something is.

Michael Utley: Yeah, if the quality is not there for an individual to stay on the page for a while and to be engaged, Google’s going to pick up on that. Anything that feels like it’s overly technical or forced, it’s just not a good way to go. But having mastery of these technical things does make a difference, so using keywords in the first sentence of a first paragraph, yeah, do it every time.

Chris Raines: Article length. So you used to be able to go out there and maybe may an overseas vendor to crank out a 250 word blog post for you for $10 that has your keywords in it. Tell us about how does Google look at article length and how does that factor into SEO and whether that page is going to show up.

Michael Utley: Yeah, that’s good. We treat anything with less than 300 words as below minimum. So that applies to services pages. Heck, that applies to the Contact Us page. We’ll build out a Contact Us page that has adequate information so that search engines can review the page and say, “Yeah, we’ve totally got a handle on what we think this page is.”

Now I don’t have access to Google’s algorithm. We’re not insiders anymore than any other SEO shop or PPC shop that’s talking to Google once a week. But we do know is that when we scan a website and we get a low content alert, we know that we’re below the threshold of Google or other search engines being able to relate the full content of that page to their taxonomy and their subject structure. So yeah, anything below 300 words, we’re flagging it and saying that it’s below minimum.Now what’s ideal? For blog posts, any kind of recent project page, any kind of case study, we’re shooting for between 500 and 1,000 words.

Sometimes we’ll go over if something is sort of merited based on the quality of the content, but typically we won’t ever go under 500 words for a new page of content. Probably our sweet spot right now, we’re probably pushing out mainly 600-750 words on a page.

Again, it’s all about the subject matter. If the subject matter … like Johnny Cash said, “If my song is sung, my song is sung.” It doesn’t matter if Johnny forgot a verse. It’s okay, he sang his song. So at the end of the day, what was the idea that you were trying to get across? Did you get it across? Alright, your song is sung. Move on. But being above that minimum is key for search engines having the confidence that they’ve captured what the page is about.

Chris Raines: Just to add in along with that, it’s not just the word count, but it’s how you display your words. So what you don’t want to do is create a wall of text with nothing breaking it up of 1,000 words. So talk about … this goes back to usability and user experience, which is really what Google’s … they’re trying to provide the best experience for their users. So talk about best practices for taking those 1,000 words or 1,500, 2,000, whatever you’re doing for your blog post, and breaking that up so that it’s good for the user and good for SEO.

Michael Utley: Yeah, that’s a great point. We never want to have a wall of copy. I get nervous if I see a lot of text in one frame of view without it being broken up. Anytime you’re scrolling through a page and all you see is text, some kind of mistake has been made. So what do we do? What’s a good page layout? For us, it’s an intro paragraph and then break that up, maybe with a bulleted list, maybe with some sort of little timeline or some little graphic or concept that captures what the page is about. Also a good thing to do is to use an image on the page. Multiple images is fine, but at minimum one image. We’ll talk about some other factors of using images for SEO in another episode.

But we like to have an intro paragraph and then something text wise that breaks things up, and then something graphic wise that breaks it up, and then additional paragraphs, maybe three to four additional paragraphs with those broken up using subheaders. So we’ll talk about keywords in subheaders in another episode.

But we’re using that H2 format to visually break up the page and give a little bit of air and let people consume it the way that they want to. If they want the scan the page and kind of get the idea and decide if they want to keep reading, let them do that. You’re not forcing them to do anything. But yeah, breaking up the page, that’s a really good point and something we always do.

Chris Raines: Yeah, I think that’s how we all view webpages. We scan, we don’t necessarily go from top to bottom. A rule of thumb I like is if you find yourself using commasover and over again, break that up into a bullet point list. Don’t use commas. Alright, great. That’s all the time we have for this episode. Like I say, we’re actually breaking up this content focused episode into 2 episodes, so next time, in Episode 2, we’re going to talk about things like images, how we should treat image, image alt-text, and even things like when should you actually unpublish a page, when should you retire content. All that’s coming up on Episode 2. That’s all the time we have for now.

Intro/Outro: The Grow Your Painting Business podcast is a free service of searchprimer.com.Visit us today for more information on how you can grow your business using the latest tools in digital marketing. Searchprimer.com.