COVID-19 Resources for Contractors (PDF)

Search engine optimization for small contractors


By Ray Litvak

In the last article, way back in September 2019, we discussed how to add and verify a contracting business to be eligible in order to use Google My Business (GMB) and Google Maps – for free. It also touched on the benefits of having a verified listing on Google My Business.

In this article, we will look at how to dominate your local competitors (regardless of their size) on Google My Business and get new leads.

As Google evolves, so should your GMB listing. Unlike the Yellow Pages print directory, this is not a case of ‘set it and forget it marketing’ and hope that the phone rings.

As a result, it pays to update your GMB listing regularly and engage with visitors to your site, when they’re ready to buy. Doing so allows Google to know that your GMB profile is actively engaged, and this will pay dividends.

For example, is your contracting business affected by COVID-19? If so, you can update your GMB profile to address customer concerns and any changes to your operation, including:

  • Adjusted hours of business if they have changed.
  • Any delays that your business may be experiencing.
  • The temporary closure of your business.
  • How your COVID-19 protocols for in-home visits keep customers safe.

Pro Tip: Use Google Posts and Business Description and or a Video to convey your protocols, which will be of particular interest to the elderly and those with underlying conditions.

Engage with customers

Engaging with customers has never been more critical than during this challenging time. How does a GMB listing engage with customers?

Within Google My Business, there are three distinct types of searches that customers use to search for services:

1) Direct Search – Customers who find your listing by searching for your business name, address or phone number, also known as ‘NAP’ in Google speak.

2) Discovery Search – Customers who find your listing searching for a category, product, or service, also known as ‘keywords or search queries.’

3) Branded Search – Customers who find your listing by searching for a brand related to your business.

An optimized GMB listing should appear for each type of search. If your contracting business is new and/or if time is an issue, then focus on Discovery searches in order to generate awareness.

Discovery searches are typically used by people that do not have a business name or product in mind. Instead, they’re searching for a service provider in their local market, i.e. HVAC contractor Toronto.

Pro Tip: Track how customers use Google Search and Maps to find your listing, and what they do once they see it. This is part of the ‘Insights’ feature of your GMB dashboard. Because customers find businesses on Google Search and Maps, Insights focuses its accuracy. It includes customer views, searches, and actions from both organic search results and Google Ads.

Categorizing your business

How do I rank for Discovery searches in Google My Business?

The first step to ranking for this type of search is to select the best primary category, service area(s), and or product(s) you carry in your Google My Business dashboard. Choosing the right primary category and service area is crucial for success with Local SEO.

For example, if you are an HVAC company, your primary category would be HVAC Contractor. If the specific category does not exist, select the category that is closest to it.

Google My Business allows you to list more than one category. As an HVAC contractor, related categories may include:

  • Air Conditioning Contractor
  • Air Conditioning Repair Service
  • Heating Contractor
  • Furnace Repair Service

Additional categories can be selected, such as Plumber and Electrician, if you offer those services.

Pro Tip: You can change the categories of your GMB listing. If your primary category is HVAC Contractor, you can edit it to Air Conditioning Contractor and or Heating Contractor if your business is seasonal. Also, keep in mind that Google will edit, add, and delete existing categories on occasion.

Location, location, location!

If your business serves customers within a specific location, you can list it on your Google My Business page. This feature is known as ‘Service Areas’ and is based on the cities, postal codes, or other areas that you serve.

It’s for businesses that visit or deliver to local customers, also known as Service Area Business, or SABs. You can add up to 20 locations for one GMB listing. Showing this information helps to let customers know where you’ll go to visit or deliver to them.

If you update your business information, then keep in mind the following:

  • If you don’t serve customers at your business address and don’t want them showing up to your place of business, leave the address field blank in your GMB profile and only enter your service area.
  • If you serve customers at your business address but also have a service area, enter both your address and service area.

Use the GMB app

What else can I do to optimize my GMB listing? Download the Google My Business app on your mobile device. It can be downloaded on Android and IOS and gives you full access to your business profile, including newer features, some only available on your mobile device. Some of these features include, but are not limited to:

  • Products – Google My Business recently made its Product Editor available to many categories of businesses, including contractors. With the Product Editor (found in your GMB dashboard), you can showcase regular and ‘featured’ products on your GMB page to current and potential customers. The Product Editor is for small-and medium-sized individual businesses.
  • Services – Individual Services is another feature that is now available. In your GMB dashboard, use the Menu or Services Editor to keep your services and prices accurate. Organize your services by grouping them into sections (I.e., HVAC Repair, Plumbing Repair, Electrical Repair etc.) When customers find your Business Profile on Google Maps, they’ll see your items under either “Menu” or “Services,” because those are available only on mobile apps.
  • Instant Messaging – Receive and respond to Text messages in real-time from customers who find your business listing on Google. Once you turn it on, customers will see a “Message” button on your Google My Business listing and be able to contact you at any time. You can answer their questions, tell your business’s story, and attract more people to your location.
  • Book Appointments – Once it’s activated, the ‘Bookings’ feature lets customers schedule appointments from your GMB page. If you don’t have a booking provider to help manage your bookings, you can choose one of Google’s supported scheduling providers.
  • Offers – Attract new customers with a deal or coupon by using the ‘Offers’ feature in your GMB mobile app. For example, “10 percent off when you book a complete HVAC Inspection.”

Strapped for time

If you’re strapped for time, as most busy contractors are these days, then focus on and update these five GMB features:

  1. Complete Information – The more complete your GMB profile, the better the results for Local SEO. Add your business title, categories, service area, hours, phone number, and website address and as many other fields as possible.
  2. Reviews – Read and respond to reviews. You can reply to reviews from your Business Profile on Google Maps through the Google My Business app.
  3. Google Posts – Google Posts are like mini-blogs. Attract customers by posting events, offers, photos, updates, recent reviews, and newsworthy events.
  4. Business Description – Write a brief and accurate description of your business, making use of the primary keyword(s) and location(s) that are most relevant. Describe what you offer; what makes your offering different, years in business and specialization.
  5. Photos – Add images profiling your products, services, and staff.

Pro Tip: Add a video of your business through your GMB dashboard for more engagement.

Following these tips for your contracting business will help you see more leads and keep a competitive edge on the competition that isn’t doing this.


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