Before making any significant purchasing decisions, the average consumers have been known to “Google” their options. This trend is not going anywhere, and your business should be among the top results should anyone search for solar installation services in your city. Doing nothing to rank on the first page is the equivalence of accepting defeat to your competitors.
You can rank on the first page of local searches made by “ready-to-buy” customers through a process termed Local SEO.
Let’s look at what Local SEO means in the context of a solar installation company and discuss how you can rank on the first page on Google.
What is Local SEO?
Search Engine Optimization is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results when internet users look up anything related to your services or products. Local SEO refers to the optimization of your website so as to attract more local customers in and around the location in which your business is operating.
The internet, by design, opens up the entire world of potential customers for your solar installation business. This is good, but when you consider several factors including that people in your city are perhaps the easiest to convert into paying customers for your energy setup, you’d want to rank locally first.
Local SEO for Solar Companies?
Knowing is the first step, and now that we’ve established what we need to achieve and why Local SEO is the way forward, let’s now break down how to do it. While you could Google your way around each step until you have done this on your own for your business, it is best practice to have a professional SEO practitioner take care of it. However, in this article, I’m assuming you don’t have the budget and you decide to do it yourself. We’re only going to talk about basic SEO that has the biggest ROI.
Here’re the steps:
- Basic On-site SEO
- Google My Business: Verify Your Listing on Google Maps
- Local Citations
- Content Creation & Blog Topics
- Link Building
1. Basic On-site SEO
Technically speaking, you need to do Keyword Research before starting onsite SEO, but since we’re talking about “bare-bone” basics, I’m going to assume that you’re trying to rank for keywords like:
- “Solar installation + [your city]”
- “Solar company + [your city]”
- “Solar project installation + [your city]”
Your website is the center of attention when talking about SEO. Anyone who discovers you through Google will ideally be directed to your website. On your website, your homepage by far the most important hub of information. The homepage should have clear metadata for search engines.
The meta title (SEO title) is what search results display. Because relevancy to a prospect’s search queries is the name of the game, you must make good titles that meet a searcher’s needs. They should be relevant, including the keyword (which may be the product or service), and should also contain a solution to why someone is searching for information around your service in the first place.
That as the title would tell the reader exactly what they’re going to read if they click and follow to the linked website. Each page you create should also have a strong title with relevant information in your meta description. Since most people build their website with WordPress, we will use WordPress’s backend to show you how basic SEO should be done. Even if your website isn’t built with WordPress, simply Google “[your platform] + Metadata,” such as “Squarespace + Metadata” or “Wix + Metadata,” and you will find articles and videos on how to do it yourself.
Other On-site SEO Tasks That a Non-technical Person Can Do:
- Compress your images: Images are part of the content that loads when your website loads. How fast your website loads affects the way people behave in the first few seconds. Remember that you are among a dozen other companies that a visitor will look at during their hunt for services. Slow websites will hinder conversion! As such, each image should be less than 100Kb. There are WordPress plugins such as Smush that optimize image sizes while upholding quality and online tools such as ResizeImage.net if you don’t use Photoshop.
- Build internal links: Internal links are links to pages that are on the same website which means visitors following these links stay longer on your website. There are various reasons why this is good for your overall ranking. To make it short, internal links make it easier for a reader to navigate your website to read more elaborate on-site articles. The more internal links a page has, the more search engine’s algorithms think that page is important.
- Include keywords in headings: In addition to the title of a page, Google also considers each heading’s wording within the body when evaluating how relevant a page is to search queries. This means incorporating keywords (or synonyms) in the heading also helps your ranking. It applies to all types of pages including “money pages” and onsite blog.
[Screenshot from Willie]
- Keywords in image’s Alt tag: Each image uploaded onto your website should be properly described in the Alt tag, ideally including keywords because Google algorithm doesn’t read images well yet. A good rule of thumb is to imagine telling someone over a voice call what an image is all about. It is as simple as locating the Alt-space when you are editing an image in WordPress and stating what the image displays.
2. Google My Business: Verify your listing on Google Maps
Did you notice how each time you search for services on Google, a list of companies registered as service providers appear on the first page with their information provided for your convenience? Business information on Google Maps has made our lives easier, but what you probably do not realize that a verified and informative listing on Google Maps helps Google understand your business better.
Once you’re verified, you’ll have access to a Google My Business account to edit your listing. It’s important to have as much information and as many images as possible about your business. Please try your best to fill up all the fields.
3. Setting Up Local Citations
“What is a local citation?” you might ask.
Well, Moz defines a local citation as “any online mention of the name, address, and phone number for a local business. Citations can occur on local business directories, on websites and apps, and on social platforms”.
“Why is local citation important for local SEO?”
Simply put, local citation affects your Google ranking because search engines validate your business information on these platforms. Search engines trust increases when they recognize you like the same company across all the places that have your information. It also impacts the customer’s purchase decision. When well-put together, a reader should be able to see your listing everywhere when they Google your brand.
“How do you do a local citation?”
The easiest way to do local citation is to use Moz Local and follow its steps. It only costs $99/year and you probably only need one subscription.
By far, consistency is the most important thing when doing local citations on different platforms. Typical information that you’d need to provide when making a local citation include:
- Registered Company Name
- All your contact details
- A link to your website
- Your location coordinates
- Clear images and videos of your business and products/services
- Links to your social media accounts
- Hours of operations
- Alternate contact information (for off-work contact)
- Attributes (much like metadata)
With time, and with more customers interacting with your listings, reviews will prove your existence along with the capacity to serve clients. In addition to reviews, you’ll have to add responses addressing concerns commented by visitors. With the number of people looking for reviews of services before they make a purchase, it is good to see that you are responsive and willing to make every customer happy. The same applies to your presence as a registered business on Google’s listings.
4. Create Local Content for Solar Energy Services
This is my favourite part because this is where SEO marries content marketing.
First of all, when it comes to SEO, “content” usually refers to blog posts (aka. on-site articles). Luckily, most of the solar businesses I come across actually write blog posts, but only a few are doing it right.
How do you “marry” content marketing and local SEO?
A well-planned strategy is essential if you want content marketing to generate solar leads for you. You should look to address issues that bring people to search for your products and services in your immediate location. Remember, it’s NOT about you! It’s about answering your potential customers’ questions and addressing their concerns.
What topics should solar companies write about?
Common questions and concerns might vary among your solar buyer personas. For example, residential solar customers’ questions are obviously different from C&I solar customers’. From my research, these are the topics most likely to generate high quality leads for you:
How much does it cost?
A reasonable modern-day shopper will google this before buying almost anything. If you’re not the one to provide authentic answers related to costs, someone else will. This is also the best place to educate them: the cheapest is usually not the best.
- Cost of solar panel installation in [your city]
- Cost of Solar power battery/storage in [your city]
A list of solar…
People love to know all the available options. Most content around this often presents itself as a sales pitch, however, stick to solving the problem and let the customer journey happen with your words nurturing, not hard selling.
- 7 solar rebates & energy efficiency incentives in [your state/province]
- 5 options to finance your solar projects in [your state/province]
Potential problems/risks of ….
Some installers think writing about potential risks is shooting themselves in the foot. I beg to differ. I think informing your clients about potential problems makes them see you as honest and authentic. Remember, if they don’t find their answers on your website, they will find out somewhere else when everything is literally a Google away. It’s better that YOU are helping them make informed decisions rather than your competitors.
- Pro and con of solar projects in [your state/province]
- Potential risks of rooftop solar & how to avoid them
Comparisons: ABC vs. XYZ
It seems that comparing is one of human nature. For most industries, “ABC vs. XYZ ” type of content works well. You can also lead your customers towards your services using list articles.
- Comparison: Leasing vs. owning solar panels in [your state/province]
- Comparison: Rooftop solar vs. community solar in [your state/province]
- An in-depth comparisonMono- vs Poly solar panels
Solar project case study
Many commercial solar customers think their situations are unique, so they love reading cases that are similar to theirs. The case study content is a great place to show off your experiences and expertise.
- [your state/province] Hospital solar project case study
- University solar project case study
- [your state/province] Warehouse rooftop solar project case study
These types of educational content often suggest solutions to problems commonly faced by your solar customers. Another great source of relevant topics would be your sales team.
If you want to come up with topics more systematically, I suggest you start by building your solar buyer personas.
Additionally, content length is often directly proportional to the depth of the solutions provided. This is why longer content around a topic almost always appears higher than 600-word articles.
5. Link Building Strategies For Local SEO
Link building is probably the hardest part if you’re DIYing SEO.
After you’ve done some on-site SEO by following my advice above, your website’s relevancy will have increased greatly, but when looking at how “important” a website is, Google also considers how many other trustworthy websites link back to it. The most realistic ways for an SEO newbie would be:
- Your friends’ websites
- The local chamber of commerce that you’re in
- Your clients: If you’re a C&I solar installer, you can take advantage of the fact that most of your clients probably have a website, and have your business logo and follow-link placed on theirs, and vice-versa
Link building is an ongoing exercise that should be combined with content creation on a regular basis. The good news is that not a big percentage of solar installers take SEO seriously. This means you most likely don’t need many backlinks to rank on the 1st page of Google anyway.
How Long Does it Take To Rank On the First Page?
I know you’re going to hate my answer. Just like when potential customers ask you how much electricity their solar panels can generate, you would tell them, “It depends on many factors.” I’m going to give you a rough timeline based on years of experience:
- In 2nd-3rd months: you would see your homepage’s ranking jump if follow my advice to put the keyword “Solar Installation company in [your city]” in the page title and metadata
- In 3rd-4th months: you would see your organic traffic grows steadily if you write about the topics I suggested and make each of them 1200-1800words/article
- In 4th-8th months: you would see the impact of local citation and backlinks
To expect same-day results when publishing content for search engine ranking purposes is a sure way to get frustrated. You simply need to be patient with SEO.
Overview: The ROI of SEO
Every step and effort invested in doing SEO the right thing always pays off. An optimized website with well-planned content and all the suggested ingredients will start generating inquiries from customers who are already convinced that yours is the best company for the job.
What you do with the thousands of visitors that come to your website due to a good SEO strategy is totally up to you. Building a simple email list could have you working with a set of return customers who suggest your business to their families.
While you can still have your hands deep in all these tasks, you probably have things you’d rather be focusing on to improve your business. It is always a wise decision to let an SEO agency handle this.