In this episode, Michael and Chris talk about how your website helps you market your painting or trade business. Learn the must-have elements for an effective website to keep people engaged and turn clicks into customers.

In this episode, we cover:
Why does your website need to be fast for mobile users?
How can you better focus your lead capture forms?
Are your visuals strong enough to sell your work?
Can a smartphone user use your site easily?
What should go where on your homepage?
Is your website content something customers value?

For more information on the tools and resources mentioned in this episode, please visit:
SearchPrimer: https://www.searchprimer.com
Google Page Speed Insights: https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/

Transcript

Chris Raines: 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: And welcome to episode 13 of Grow Your Painting Business. I’m Chris Raines joining me, as always, the great Michael Utley. All right Michael, today, this is Grow Your Painting Business where we talk about how to use digital marketing and digital advertising to grow your painting business. So if you’re a painting contracting business owner, this is the podcast for you; this is about using the internet to grow your business. So, Michael, this episode is going to be all about the website. So we’ve titled this The Five Elements Of A Great High Performing Website.

Michael Epps Utley: That’s right. So yeah, I think of a lot of companies, a lot of people sort of come into digital marketing with a background from sort of whatever they’re familiar with. And a long time ago, maybe people were familiar with print marketing or maybe billboards, and a lot of that print thinking sort of carried over.

Michael Epps Utley: But now that we’ve had the internet for a couple of decades, people getting a little bit more familiar, so yeah, we’re going to touch on some different things that make up an effective website. And some of them are a little bit counterintuitive, some of the factors of success are a little different than what you’d expect.

Chris Raines: Yeah, we’re going to talk about aesthetic things. So when people think about websites, they think about the design, or how the homepage looks, or the hero image and all that kind of stuff; and we’ll touch on some of that. But some of this is actually technical, there’s the under the hood part of a website; so I’m just going to kick it off. Element one of the five elements of a great website, fast pages and a fast overall website. Michael go into detail about why speed is so important.

Michael Epps Utley: Yeah and we’ve talked … So the first four episodes of the Grow Your Painting Business podcast, are all about the best practices in SEO, search engine optimization. So check back to episode seven, if you want to hear more about page speed. But last year Google … For a couple of years, they’ve been letting everybody know “Hey we’re really going to hammer down on page speed, your websites need to serve really, really fast pages.”

Michael Epps Utley: And last year, they started moving everyone over; essentially judging every website based on how it works for mobile devices. And with mobile, you have more of a constricted delivery, it’s the same amount of information trying to get through a smaller pipe. And what Google has done is they’ve started moving websites over to mobile first indexing; and this is a real problem.

Michael Epps Utley: If you have something like a background video element on a homepage above the fold, or maybe a slider with five or six really great looking images, now those are a problem because Google is evaluating websites based on how well they work for mobile devices. So, even if you’ve got responsive design, and you’ve avoided having anything embedded, or any third party tools on your site that are slowing it down, maybe you’ve moved to a faster hosting platform; we’re still seeing pressure from Google to make those pages faster and faster.

Michael Epps Utley: So what I’d recommend everyone do out there who’s listening just to sort of get your heads into what this means, is do a Google search for page speed test, and your first result is going to be a tool from Google. Put your website address in there, and be sure to hit … this is easy to miss. They’re going to be two different scores, and it’s easy to miss that these are two different tabs in the results.

Michael Epps Utley: And sometimes this tool sort of poops out halfway through trying to pull a website, so you might have to try it a couple of times. And then once you see the results come up, be sure that you’re clicking both the desktop and the mobile tabs, because you’re going to see some numbers there. It’s going to show you kind of a grade, it’s kind of like green, orange, or red which is sort of good, passing, and failing; and look at those for both desktop and mobile. And what we saw starting around October last year was that the mobile scores were severely shifted down. So websites that were getting a 50 or 60 mobile score; which was okay, suddenly got dropped down to a 13.

Chris Raines: Yeah.

Michael Epps Utley: And if Google-

Chris Raines: It’s not that the websites got worse-

Michael Epps Utley: No the-

Chris Raines: It’s Google got a lot more strict in how they were judging them.

Michael Epps Utley: Yeah, Google moved the finish line on what makes a good, acceptable mobile web page delivery. And so yeah, so I think one of the biggest changes that we’ve gone through over the last few months … And we’re sort of scrambling to get all of our websites that we manage up to the new standards and it’s going fine, but it’s a lot of heavy lifting on technical staff to make changes; we’re optimizing a lot of images. Batches of thousands of images being optimized and then reloaded into the back end of websites just to try to work within what Google says is acceptable. So yeah, so number one on five elements for a great website, fast pages, fast website.

Chris Raines: Perfect, yep so important. And, again, if you want to hear a deep dive on that, just go to episode seven of Grow Your Painting Business; we go into a lot of really practical things you can do to increase your page speed. All right, number two really focused contact forms or lead forms. So that’s the part of your website where people, if they want to reach out to you, they’re going to enter their name, maybe their email, their number, potentially a crap ton of other things.

Michael Epps Utley: Yeah.

Chris Raines: So, what do we mean, Michael, when we say we want really focused contact forms?

Michael Epps Utley: Yeah, so a lot of people want to sort of put the work on the customer to sort of pre-qualify themselves; and sometimes I think they go too far. I come from an eCommerce background, and any click that you add, mathematically speaking, there’s going to be some amount of fall off. Anything that’s required, if it’s another page, in a cart, if it’s another click that’s required to navigate to something. Why have a big button for contact form when you can just put the contact form right there? Remove the steps, remove the clicks.

Michael Epps Utley: Also, think about the things that are going to feed into that contact form. What do you have in your top nav? Do you have a clickable phone number so that a mobile user is able to click to call? Do you have a link for a free estimate? Excuse me, and do you think about it from the user’s point of view so that they’re able to, as easily as possible, get to your lead forms and then complete them as easily as possible?

Michael Epps Utley: We’ve seen … Not even getting into big software integrations for self scheduling, or for estimating; but companies that are putting on their lead form things like “How did you hear about us? How many rooms do you need painted? Tell us about the square footage of your structure.” Listen, none of that information coming from the client is stuff that you’re not going to talk about on the phone with them anyway.

Chris Raines: It’s just another hurdle for them to go through to-
Michael Epps Utley: It’s a-

Chris Raines: Reach out to you.

Michael Epps Utley: Yeah, you’re making their brain do work. If at all possible, name, phone, email, nothing else. Sometimes if you have an integrated CRM, it’s okay to have a drop down for “How did you hear about us?” If you’re using market sharp or something and you want to integrate your market sharp form to capture the lead source. But for the most part, most people are working in an environment where they severely overthink how much information they think someone’s going to take time to put in. And they really need to just put that on the sales team to collect that once that connection’s been made. You want to get people, as quickly as possible, out of the mode of researching online and into the mode of talking to a person.

Chris Raines: Get them on the phone.

Michael Epps Utley: They got to become a lead first.

Chris Raines: Yeah, great. Okay so number one, fast pages number, number to focus lead forms. Number three, strong but simple visuals the show the high quality of your work. These are painting businesses, so this is a visual; we need to see what you’re able to do. So Michael talk a little bit that strong but simple visuals.

Michael Epps Utley: Yep, sometimes that cell phone pic is not good enough. If you’re going to show people the quality of your work, you need to get some decent photography for your website. But, you don’t need to overthink having too much of it. You may have three or four different major service areas that are all very different from one another. Well guess what? Your challenge is to pick an image that’s representative, that gets the idea across.

Michael Epps Utley: If you’re a roofer, you need to show some kind of roof that’s typical of the types of materials you would use. If you’re a landscaper, you need to show one great shot of a landscaping project that you’ve completed. But you don’t need to do anything like a visual collage, or anything where you’re trying to communicate two or three pieces of information crammed together with one visual. You also don’t need to … We talked about page speed; we’re getting away from sliders.

Chris Raines: Yeah.

Michael Epps Utley: People feel this overwhelming burden to convey too much information. And that what they’re assuming is that the audience is as close to the question as they are. But guess what? The audience isn’t; they’re much further away from it. It’s better to take a step back and if you’re an industrial painter, you need to show a guy painting a big, beautiful machine in an industrial setting. And just make sure everything’s looking clean, and crisp, and you’re not showing any sloppy work or any OSHA violations. But you need something that’s kind of bold, and simple, and visual that conveys what you do. But you’re just not going to get the opportunity to tell your entire story when you’re making that first connection with people with visuals.

Chris Raines: Yeah, and with the slider people don’t care about … They’re not going to make it to your third or fourth image anyway. They’re looking for-

Michael Epps Utley: Yep.

Chris Raines: What they’re looking for.

Michael Epps Utley: That’s right.

Chris Raines: They’re going to look at your homepage, they’re going to evaluate it for a few seconds, and then they’re going to go right on to wherever they’re looking for to evaluate to see if you’re going to be in the consideration set. So-

Michael Epps Utley: That’s right.

Chris Raines: All it does is just increase your page load speed and make it a more bulky page, and it doesn’t really add a lot of value.

Michael Epps Utley: That’s right. So yeah, we work with big commercial companies all across United States, all the way down to million dollar residential painting companies. And we always say “What’s kind of the main thing people know you for, and what do you want to do this year.? And if they say “Oh well, we’re really primarily commercial now.” Well say “Okay, guess what? You’ve had a house on the front of your website for five years, this year you’re gonna have a building, and we’re just going to go ahead and make that jump.”

Chris Raines: Yeah.

Michael Epps Utley: And if they’re looking for houses, they’re going to see residential in your top nav.

Chris Raines: Right.

Michael Epps Utley: You’re not going to lose everybody, but we need to have one bold simple visual and not over complicate things.

Chris Raines: Great, great, so that was number three. Number four of the top five elements of a great website, a mobile first strategy that works well with how search engines are indexing your site. And we mentioned mobile earlier, so what does it mean to have a mobile first strategy in terms of design?

Michael Epps Utley: Yeah. So, here’s the thing. This mobile first thing really comes down to making the right sacrifices. And your audience of your website is people, but it’s also the search engines. You need to have a website architecture that’s going to work well for search engines. We’re big fans of a couple of different platforms, Craft CMS is good, WordPress is good, we build some stuff on HubSpot, we’re not big fans of Squarespace; if I can say that. Taking a position.

Chris Raines: Okay.

Michael Epps Utley: There is-

Chris Raines: All right. All right.

Michael Epps Utley: It’s uh

Chris Raines: So a lot of people use Squarespace-

Michael Epps Utley: Yeah.

Chris Raines: And it’s very popular, they did a Super Bowl ad last year, I think.

Michael Epps Utley: Yeah.

Chris Raines: So-

Michael Epps Utley: Yeah.

Chris Raines: What’s the downside of Squarespace?

Michael Epps Utley: Yeah, we just run into little things that we don’t have the ease of ability to update, and it’s all supposed to be in there. But in our experience, we run into inability to manage some of the hooks that we want for how our information’s going to display on search results pages. So now Squarespace is probably catching up with that all the time, so who knows. By the time you hear this, it could be different.

Michael Epps Utley: But the core principle here is, search engines are looking at a lot of different things when they decide what to show, and mobile first changes how you think about your website. Most of us … I’ve been doing digital marketing for 20 years; most of us think of the internet as a desktop computer. But guess what? The internet is a cell phone, the Internet’s-

Chris Raines: Yeah.

Michael Epps Utley: A cell phone. And it’s a desk that you can also connect to it and browse around with desktop computers, but first and foremost, it’s a cell phone. So what that means for mobile is, you’re going to want that phone number to be top and present and clickable. Because if somebody’s looking for something they’re probably very likely to speak to someone if they’re a click away from talking to a human.

Michael Epps Utley: Also, on your top nav, you want have your nav expandable for them to see your core services and not a lot else. The history of the company is probably not important to them as you think it is. You can have that stuff in your footer and they can get to it, but your About Us page really is not nearly as important as the big buckets: residential painting, commercial painting, cabinetry, carpentry, industrial cleaning. If it’s a major business unit for you, it should be in your top nav, plus an additional point of call to action in the top nav. Other than that, it needs to go in the footer, it needs-

Chris Raines: Yeah.

Michael Epps Utley: To be put aside.

Chris Raines: Yeah, I think the overarching thing to remember is people come to your website with a problem; the reason they’re there is they have a problem to solve. Likely that problem isn’t, “I wonder if this company started with a pickup truck in 196-”

Michael Epps Utley: And somebody’s grandfather. Listen, your grandfather-

Chris Raines: Like, you look-

Michael Epps Utley: Your grandfather’s a sweet guy, nobody cares.

Chris Raines: Yeah, we love gran-

Michael Epps Utley: Yeah.

Chris Raines: We love grandpa, but your customer just doesn’t care.

Michael Epps Utley: Yeah, and those stories do matter, but those are really going to come across through human interactions, and this is more of a mechanical interaction for people.

Chris Raines: Right.

Michael Epps Utley: This is … You’re not gonna to replace your … If think about an idea like a phone book, you wouldn’t rather have some other information than the phone number itself, if you had to choose.

Chris Raines: Right.

Michael Epps Utley: Well this is a situation where you’ve got to choose “Okay, what matters most?” And it turns out it’s actually the most important to say the most obvious things “Here’s what we do, do this next.”

Chris Raines: Right, very good. Okay. Final thing of five elements of a great website for a painting business is ongoing content that people value. Now, Michael, this is stuff that search primer clients engage with all the time is ongoing content on the website. So talk about why having frequent updates and content that people actually care about is important to having a functioning and high performing website.

Michael Epps Utley: Yep, so if you’re on the internet and you’re marketing set of services, you’re sort of defacto in partnership with Google, Bing, Yahoo and any other search engines. What they’re trying to do is help people solve problems and navigate their lives with resources that are going to be helpful. So a lot of that starts with information and then it moves towards business engagements.

Michael Epps Utley: So during the information part of that, somebody might be looking for a local service provider for a very particular service. And the way the internet works is if you’ve just got your homepage of your website and nothing else, you’re kind of a thin target, you’re sort of a thin silhouette on the horizon. But if you’re publishing lots of good content that your types of customers in your market would find helpful, then you become a larger silhouette on the horizon, or a larger target.

Michael Epps Utley: So the way to be a big presence in search engines is to produce lots of good content that’s valuable to your audience. So we work a lot with … Like I said, painters up and down, excuse me, the east coast and all across the country. But on the eastern seaboard, there are a lot of really unique things that happen with the weather; hey have bl- … When I lived in Maryland, we had a blizzard, we had two blizzards, we had a hurricane, we had an earthquake, we had a straight line wind thing called a derecho; never even heard of it.

Chris Raines: What’s a derecho?

Michael Epps Utley: It’s a high speed straight line wind, it’s not a hurricane or a tornado; it’s a derecho. And so, all these things have different sort of wear and tear for homes up there. So things like ice dams in gutters, and proper evaluation and care of coastal properties during the off season if someone’s in a tourism market; those are all things that are really important. Well guess what? There are tons of people researching those problems trying to figure them out. Because they just bought a house in Cape Cod and they’re trying to decide “Hey, I see this cracking in my paint, is that a problem or is it okay?” Well, if you can have a blog post on “Hey, here’s what this cracking looks like, and what it means is you’re 12 months from wood damage.” Well then, suddenly, you’re a helpful resource to your audience.

Michael Epps Utley: Andy Warhol said “In the future, everybody’s going to be famous for 15 minutes.” Wow, what a prescient thought. Well, in the future, everyone’s going to be a publisher; and we’re there. Everyone who wants to market their services is going to be, essentially, a magazine publisher of helpful content.

Chris Raines: Yeah, we’re publishing right now.

Michael Epps Utley: Yep, that’s right.

Chris Raines: And we’re publishing right now.

Michael Epps Utley: Yeah, it works, yeah.

Chris Raines: Hi Instagram I don’t know, I see a couple of comments there.

Michael Epps Utley: Wow. All right.

Chris Raines: Anyway-

Michael Epps Utley: Somebody’s out there.

Chris Raines: Okay, all right. So that wraps up five elements of a great high performing website. Thanks a lot, Michael. Let’s go ahead and preview the next episode. What are we gonna be talking about? We’re gonna be talking about video SEO. Now-

Michael Epps Utley: Yeah.

Chris Raines: Now Michael, real quick, what’s the difference between video SEO and just SEO in general, which is what we’ve been talking about?

Michael Epps Utley: You’re going to have to tune in to the next episode to-

Chris Raines: Oo-

Michael Epps Utley: Find out.

Chris Raines: I love a good tease.

Michael Epps Utley: So it’s search engine optimization to attract people to your video content on YouTube.

Chris Raines: Awesome. All right, we’ll see them.

Michael Epps Utley: Rock and roll.

Chris Raines: 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 and digital marketing. searchprimer.com