Search Engine Marketing for Joe the Plumber

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Joe the PlumberAre you a “Joe the Plumber”, or a new or small business owner needing to get Google to drive new business? Then grab a coffee and have a read as I plan to pack as much value into this post for you to get you started. And as always, any questions or comments, make a comment below or drop me a line.

Often in presentations and chats with small business owners, let’s call them the “Joe the Plumber” of the world ;-), we tend to get so involved in all the wonderful things Joe could do for his small business to bring in new business from the web, that we tend to forgot Joe is just getting their feet wet in the internet marketing pool. In these cases, we need to re-address our approach and language to put the wonderful internet marketing ideas into plain simple english, tailored to Joe the Plumbers specific needs.

Over a coffee with Joe we may go on about what search engine marketing could do drive new business to his website, or what an email marketing program could to do create and sustain dialogue with his customers throughout the year. We could get in-depth about how a Facebook business strategy could help get Joe engage and interact with his customers or how a media / pr tactics will gain him free publicity offline, as well as online while at the same time feeding his SEO strategy.

But in the end, Joe is a business owner in Vancouver BC, he knows his business best, and nothing or very little about marketing over the Internet. His needs are simple. He needs new business, needs to get the most mileage from his budget (which is the size of a jar of jam), needs a powerful impact on the web, and needs guidance and trust from someone who can understand his business and his needs.

So this is where we begin with Joe. He knows Google is great, but not sure why, but knows everyone talks about Google when they turn to find a service or compare a product, such as plumbing services in Joes case.
Joe knows his current classified ad in the Sunday paper and Yellow pages is not growing his business, but keeps spending money on it every week.

Joe the plumber knows he needs to get his business playing friendly with Google, but what he does not know is how or even why. This brings us to the conversation we had with Joe at his favourite coffee stoop in Vancouver.

Joe the Plumber:
Did you know your white chocolate cafe mocha has almost as much calories as a McDonalds Big Mac?

Good one Joe. My wife must have called you in advance. She reminds me of that every time I order one. (laughing).

Joe the Plumber:
So here’s my problem. I need to grow my business. I know I need to get on the web, but no idea on how to best approach it, let alone much time to put in myself. I want my business on #1 on Google and Yahoo when I search for it. My friend has a website and said he’s #3 and he’s getting lots of people visiting his website. I want the same. I want people to find me in Google, and call me. What can you I do, and where do I start?

Are you already listed on the web, either in a business directory or your own website?

Joe the Plumber:
I have a website. My neighbours kid put it together for me. It’s Ok, put I know it needs some work. And I’ve listed my services with Yellow Pages, so I assume it can be found on their website.

Ok. That’s a good start Joe. Congrats on your website by the way. I assume you have not received any customer leads, emails, phone calls, etc. from your website then, thus the point of this conversation?

Joe the Plumber:
Yes. I mean, I receive some email, but typically it’s not related to my business. Honestly, I don’t even know how many people, if any, are visiting my site.

To confirm then, your need is to get listed highly in Google, and drive in more sales inquiries, whether it be via phone or email or referrals, correct?

Joe the Plumber:
Yes, I want to be #1 in Google!

Yes, Joe every business owner, your competitors, your suppliers, etc. want to be #1 in Google. This is the ultimately goal we aim for when devising a search engine marketing strategy for clients. The reality of it is however this goals can take time to acheive the top position your seeking. And most importantly, the top position on the keywords your customers are using to find your business in Google.
Joe, whether you come on board as a client of mine, or you decide to take the information from this conversation and hire another consultant or agency, always keep in mind that no one can promise you a #1 position. I’ve seen many online marketers that claim this to attract the client in, but in the end, the results are disappointing as these people are giving you what they promised (in some cases), but getting you a top position in Google on keywords and keyterms that no one ever uses when searching in Google. For example, I can promise you I can get you the top position in Google for the keyword “Joe (last name) plumber toolman in Vancouver”. Sounds good, but in all honesty, unless you have a household brand name like Nike, no one is searching for your services using keywords like this. But these internet marketing companies who make the claims and promises will deliver, but giving your irrelevant results and no new business.

One of first essential steps when it comes to building a search marketing company for clients in Vancouver, for example, is to perform an initial “Discovery” phase, where we research and audit your business, industry and market and “discover” what the most used and popular keywords and terms your market is punching into Google today, to find your plumbing services in Vancouver. High relevancy = high results.

Joe the Plumber:
Good point MJ, never thought about that. I have heard these promises before, but never thought of it this way.

Yes, well this is the foundation to a solid search engine marketing strategy Joe. I recall one client who we did a search marketing project for outsourced the work to a guy in the UK. Couldn’t beat the price. He was cheap. It turned out not only did our client not get any results that were promised, his business website which is his name behind the brand, like “Joe the plumber” services, was being found under unethical and distasteful keywords relating to the adult industry. Definitely not a message he wanted to put to his market or customers.

Joe the Plumber:
Interesting. I never knew that could happen. So where does a small business owner like myself start?

Well, first and foremost we need to know what you want to achieve. We want to define your goals and the outcome of those goals. We want to make them measurable and quantifiable. I want to be able to sit down with you X months from now and show you we took your business from #101 in Google, to #5 or ideally, #1 or #2. I want to show you your website traffic increased from 5 visitors a day to 100. I want to show you your sales leads/inquiries increased X% which equals $X per lead. I want to show you the ROI and revenue you’re generating from the results that we attained.

Joe the Plumber:
That sounds good MJ. All in all, I don’t have a lot of money to spend on this and was hoping to attempt this myself.

Well, to break it down Joe, to get more qualified traffic to your website through a “starter” search engine marketing strategy, you can follow this general outline. I’ll break down each component for you and ask any questions.

  1. Discovery
    You know your business best, but its a good idea to write this out. Outline your business, define your top 2-3 goals (or more) and objectives, who is your target customer/market, where do the live if you’re targeting local visitors (ex. from Vancouver), what keywords do you think people are using to find your services. Ask your friends who are not in the business of what they would type to find your service in Google. There are more points here which I can forward to you in an email an outline.
  2. Keyword Audit
    This is using some of the tools available on the web to research the keywords people are using today in the search engines. You can see which keywords, terms, variations of keywords are being used in search engines, and the popularity of these words. It’s important to note the popularity as you want to get ranked as highly as possible for these popular keywords.
    Though when you do this, its important you remember who you’re targetting. You don’t need inquiries from people seeking Joe the Plumber services from Miami or Toronto. So think local. People will search using local city keywords, such as “vancouver plumbing services” or “richmond plumber”, etc.
  3. Organic Search vs. Paid Search
    You have a choice. Your goal is to aim for those natural search result listings, then you’re going to need to do some SEO. SEO (search engine optimization, is a medium to long term strategy, but can give you the best results. PPC or paid search marketing is good, very quantifiable, and instantaneous results. These are the results you see along the very top of the Google search results page, or along the far right column. These are also the results you see in other websites that advertise through Googles, known as Google AdSense. I won’t go into to much detail on this Joe as I want to stay focused on an organic or natural search strategy for you. Again, I’m giving you the basic foundation, and once this is in place, let’s build on this. OK.Joe the Plumber:
    Ok. Thanks MJ. So the “natural” or “organic” search results is what I want, right? Â

    Yes, this is what we’re going to go through today. Keep in mind to achieve a good strong organic or natural search position, takes time and commitment. And there is proof in the results. Did you know, an average website sees 30% to +50% of visitor traffic from search engines? As you can see, search engines are a major driver of sales leads to business websites as your own.

    Joe the Plumber:
    Where do the other 70% to 50% come from?

    This traffic may come from typing in your website name directly, may have come from other websites that link to you, paid search advertising, affiliates, email campaigns, and more. There is a variety of web channels a visitor may find your website. Search engines however make up a big piece of that, especially if you have a small business website that has done limited internet marketing in other web channels.

    Joe the Plumber:
    Interesting. Ok.

    Ok, so moving on…

  4. Natural / Organic Search Results
    This is where you need to focus on a) SEO (search engine optimization), b) link building.
    Search engine optimization is the process of “optimizing” your website content so that its highly focused and funneled on a particular keyword that you want people to find your site on within Google. For example, optimizing your website for the keyword “Vancouver plumbing services”. So when people type this into Google, ideally your website comes up near the top. I’ll get into more detail of SEO shortly.
    Link building. This is getting other websites to link to you. It sounds simple, and it is, but there are some critical areas to consider before you go out and ask the world to link to you. Again, I’ll get into link building with you shortly. But the key thing you need to take away with point #4 for natural / organic SEO and link building.
  5. Let Google know your online – Submit
    Once your SEO strategy has been applied, and again, I’ll get into more detail on this shortly, the next step is to let the search engines as google know your online. Once you submit your website to Google, Yahoo, MSN, they will visit your website to 1) index your site (essentially adding your website to their database so it can be found by people searching the web), and 2) figuring out where to position your website, #5 or #55 in the search results of different keywords.
    Also just as important if your targeting the local market, such as Vancouver, ensure you submit your website to “Google local”. When you search in Google for local businesses at times you’ll find the first organic / natural search results are local results with a Google map displayed. This is where your website should be. Through Google local allows you to create a local listing to get positioned here. And, as your search engine marketing strategy begins to kick in, eventually you should be able to attain not only a top local search result in Google local, but also a strong position just below the Google local in the organic / natural search results.
  6. Monitor Results
    Once you’ve launched your newly optimized website for the search engines, you’ll want to monitor the results. And by this I don’t mean just sitting back and waiting for the phone to ring or email to come in, which is quantifiable, but what I mean by this is to monitor your website analytics. If you’re not familiar with website analytics this is a tool that monitors your website and tells you real time information on how many people are visiting your website, what service pages on your website they’re looking at, how long they spend on your website, what keywords they typed in to find you, how many people visit your website from Google, or Yahoo or your Yellow Page listings, etc. etc.
    There are some free web analytics you can add to your website to do this. I recommend you check out Google Analytics. Its free and provides a wealth of useful information to help you in making your business decisions.
    You’ll use this information to monitor your results and change your site as needed to test what will improve results.

Joe the Plumber:
Got it. This gives me a good plan to follow. Thanks.

Well, there is that old saying, you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Joe the Plumber:
True, true. So tell me more about the search engine optimization and the link building.

SEO. Short form for “search engine optimization”. The basic concept is to optimize your website content to become most relevant for the Google’s of the world. SEO is not a one time shot and you’re done. SEO is a commitment and a continuous effort. Engines as Google, Yahoo and MSN want content, and not just static content, but fresh new content. Content is king and is the food their after.
Now you have a business website on plumbing services in Vancouver. So you may not always have something to say. But you can have content tailored specific to the keywords people use to search for your services. And, there are means that would allow you to provide some form of fresh content, regardless of what industry your in.

Joe the Plumber:
Come on now. I’m in a technical trade. I’m a plumber with my own business. Who the hell is going to be coming along to hear me speak about backed up toilets or old pipes?

You have a point, but also keep in mind those business owners who have become spokes people for their market in their city. You may have some new content on your website speaking about the a short case study of a recent project, the problem, challenges, solutions and recommendations, or you may have an online journal, such as a blog, that you update every week or month or whenever you want that discusses the “How To’s” of fixing plumbing. I’m sure there is numerous “do it yourselfers” who turn to the web to research a plumbing problem and a solution. By becoming a spokesperson on the subject matter, allows you to interact and engage with people who are actively seeking or considering your services. Plus, you’re generating fresh new content on the subject matter you know best. You thus become that spokesperson or icon in the local market on plumbing.

Joe the Plumber:
I see your point. Interesting. Though for starters, what can I do with my existing website?

Ok, #1, start with the plan we discussed earlier to formulate a road map. Next, to start, select maybe 5 (or more) keywords you want people to find you on. Ideally these are keywords that are popular and tailored to your local. Example, “Vancouver plumber” or “vancouver plumbing services”.

Joe the Plumber:
Ok. But what if there are like a hundreds of words to choose?

Divide and conquer. Start with the top 5 or so most commonly used keywords and terms. Once you finish optimizing your website on these keywords, over time, perhaps weekly or bi-weekly, create new pages of content with more additional keywords.

Joe the Plumber:
Makes sense. So how exactly do you do the optimization on a website?

Right. Consider your website like a pie divided up into many different pieces. Each piece is a different size. Similar to your website there are multiple pieces you’ll optimize, and some pieces of your website will be more heavily weighed and scrutinized by, for example, Google, to determine the relevancy and importance of that page.

So to when you optimize a web page, you’ll look at the following:

  • HTML Meta
    This is located in the background of your website, behind the scenes in the code. The HTML meta are tags, or lines of code. There are 3 crucial meta’s to optimize, however there are multiple types of meta tags you could use to help the search engine understand your web page. When a search engine visits your webpage, it’s going to look at the code view, not the front end view that you and I see, but the view of the code behind the scene.
    The three core meta tags to optimize are 1) title, 2) meta keywords, 3) meta description. There are many others you could use, such as the author, location/locale, copyright, content theme, etc. In these meta tags….

    • Title: Use short keywords that are explicitly to the page subject and tailored around the keyword you’re optimizing on. For example, if you’re optimizing the page on “plumbing heater installations”, then you might use a title for that page of “Vancouver heater installations – Plumbing services”. Note this title is 1) focused on the locale of Vancouver, 2) targets the primary keyword of “heater installations” we’re focusing on for the web page and is found to be a popular keyword used in the search engines, and 3) not always necessary, but good to have, is the general theme of the site…”plumbing services”.
    • Meta Description: This short description should be est. 2 sentences in length, brief and contain the relevant website theme or target keyword of that page. Again, driving the mention of the locale can be the crucial difference of attracting a visitor from Miami, vs. your home town of your business.
    • Meta Keywords: Utilize the keyword here, different variations of the keyword (ex. plural or misspellings), and a few lateral and relevant keywords associated. Keep this to est. no more than 10 words as a general rule of thumb.
  • Content
    • The content you write for the specific optimized page should contain a good weight of the targeted keyword, and variations of it. For example, “vancouver plumbing services” and “plumbing services in vancouver”, etc. The content should also contain lateral and related keywords position near or next to the keyword within the content. While no one really knows the perfect formula of the right amount of keywords or lateral keywords you should have, it is important that you don’t over do it as to many repetitive mentions of the targeted keyword may be flagged and penalized by Google for what’s known as “keyword stuffing”.
      A general rule of thumb, have more than est. 300 words on the page for good content. I always aim for between 300 to 500 or more.
    • Attempt to bold the target keywords and related keywords probably no more than 3 times throughout the copy. Bolding simply emphasizes the key points and subject matter.
    • Headings: When using headings to add a title to your content and sub headings for dividing the content into sections, ensure you use what’s known as “html heading tags”. These are defined by a “h1” for the title, and perhaps a “h2” for the sub headings. Now you should begin to see the relevancy of the page. You have the title which describes the keyword, titles focused around the keyword, content written with bolded keywords, etc.
    • Links
      • Links are what the search engine will use as a doorway to find your other web pages. Attempt to use probably 2 or 3 links per page of content. 1 is fine, but ensure you have at least 1 and no more than 4 or 5. To many can potentially penalize the page. Link the most relevant and targetted keywords to the specific page. So for example, on your homepage you have a paragraph talking in general about your services, hyperlink the key term of “vancouver plumbing services” to the specific page on your website that talks about “vancouver plumbing services”.
        Lastly, to help describe the link, you can edit the hyperlink code to include a “title” tag to the hyperlink which will help describe to the search engine and the visitor what the link is for. Every bit helps.
    • Images
      Even images will help search engines understand what the page is about. Within the coding of an image in a web page, include what’s known as an “ALT” tag. These are tags to help describe the image or picture. It’s original use was for people using browsers with images turned off, and for slow downloading of web pages. It would help the end user understand what the image was about. For the more advanced individual, when you manipulate and optimize your photos say in Photoshop, you can add information to the photos properties about the image. In here, you can include keywords and information that is relevant to the page, plus, helps with cataloging your websites photos in image directories (ex. Google images) that people may use to find your related topics,.

This pretty much covers the general concept of optimizing a web page, though when you get into optimizing a web site (keyword site vs. page), you’ll also want to look at some of these other areas.

    1. Website structure
      Is the website built efficiently for search engines to scan through the page? Remember, search engines crawl the code, not the front-end that the public sees. Using to many coding approaches as tables to align your web page elements can restrict the search engine crawler from “seeing” your content and the links to follow. Attempt at best to limit the use of tables to no more than 3 when nesting a table inside a table. The less the better.
      Another important point on website structure is if your website is considered static, or dynamic. I assume your website is static, as with most websites. Though some websites catalog their content in a database and delivers the content to the webpage. These web pages you’ve seen have a website address with funny characters in the URL address, such as “?” or “=”, etc. These are not considered “friendly” for search engines to crawl. What you want is a SEF (search engine friendly) URL for Google to crawl. You’re safe if you use the regular static HTML web pages. Though if your website uses a database in the backend, such as a content management system that delivers the content, you can have your programmer build a short script in the website to convert these “dynamic URLs” into safe or search engine friendly (SEF) URLs.
      File naming. When creating new web pages and saving their file name, consider incorporating your target keyword or phrase into the file name, and even in your folder / directory structure. The more targeted and relevant you can get, the better. This brings to mind the same lines of thinking with your domain name and any subdomains. Keywords if possible. And while it may be difficult to incorporate the keyword into your primary domain name (ex. “”), you can create sub-domains within your primary domain name to categorize your website content (ex.
    2. Website navigation
      A crucial component for search engines to understand the structure of your website and how to crawl through the site to find your webpages. Ensure you website navigation is easy for search engines to crawl. Using linked images are fine, but what’s even better is to use common static text links. Though as not to detract your website function over design, I recommend to at the very least replicate your primary navigation at the footer of your website template using text links.
    • Site map
      Create a page on your website that is used to catalogue all your web pages. This page will simply display a list of webpage sin your site, and link to them. Consider this the master index to locate all pages in your site. While more people are using sitemaps to quickly find the information they’re seeking, a site map is great for search engines to find and crawl. This way you’re guaranteed they search engine will have likely crawled all your web pages.
      A second type of site map you can create is one that is specific to the search engine, so a Google sitemap or a Yahoo sitemap. Visit Google webmaster tool area to learn how to create one. This will be a web page you’ll save on your server that only search engines will see.
    • Webmaster tools
      While search engine specific site maps can be created within webmaster tool kits as Google Webmaster, also are other tools that provide value in your organic search marketing strategy. These other tools include such things as “authentication” to verify your website with the search engine and provides you the information to verify Google is crawling your website and if Google finds any errors when it crawls your site.

Joe the Plumber:
(sips his coffee)

Plain and simple, eh Joe?

Joe the Plumber:
This is good stuff. Yes, I admit a bit of this sounds confusing, but its logical and gives me a good platform to begin my online marketing in the search engines.

Exactly. I’m not expecting you to figure this all out in one hour. But what I wanted to do is give you the general framework to begin your thinking when working on your small business search engine marketing plan. Consider this your 101 of search marketing.

Search engines are very powerful to drive business and revenue…if done correctly. There are other indepth search engine strategies an owner as yourself Joe could employ in your business, but start with baby steps as what I’ve just described. As you get your website SEO’d, we can discuss other powerful Internet marketing strategies and tactics to build on your search engine plan, such as web media and press, link building, blogging, sister sites, and more. As well, there are other areas we can talk on beyond search engine marketing, including affiliate marketing, online advertising, email marketing, referral marketing, web press / media, etc., etc.

For now Joe, this 101 on search engine marketing should keep you busy for the next while and allow you to compile any questions you may have that you ask at a later time.

Joe the Plumber:
Excellent. Thank you MJ. I’m sure I will have tons of questions along the way. And as I want to learn this myself, I’ll likely bring you on for more search marketing consulting.

Sounds good Joe. And as you dive into this, you may find you’ll want to employ our full vancouver search marketing services as the best results typically come with time and experience…all of which you can buy from us 😉

Joe the Plumber:
True, true. I’ll keep that in mind.

About MJ
Michael J. Allen, CIMBS (MJ) is a veteran Internet Marketer with 11 years experience in Internet marketing and business strategy, planning, communications and entrepreneurship. An authority in his subject matter and an certified Internet Marketing & Business Strategist, his holistic attitude towards Internet Marketing is in strategy and planning with domain experience of web channels as search, email, social media, analytics and online advertising, coupled by technical expertise in website design and development management. Â

He’s helped small mom & pop businesses to leading the direction of all global eMarketing for the Bodog organization, a $6 billion online entertainment company, highlighted on the 2007 cover of Forbes Magazine. He’s worked directly, and collaboratively, with names as, ESPN, Fox Sports Network, The Score, Google, Sirius Radio, Olympic Dairy, NFL Superbowl’s Halftime Lingerie Bowl, Mike Ditka, Reggie Jackson, The New York Times, Esquire Magazine, Calvin Ayre, Bodog and many others.

Located in Vancouver, BC, Canada, MJ offers professional Internet marketing consulting services in the role of his agency. His reputable experience includes counseling entrepreneurs, business owners and marketing professionals in online marketing strategy, ebusiness start ups and web development. He’s successfully launched two entrepreneurial dotcom start ups and a high profile social community network.

If you have any questions or would like to solicit MJ’s consulting services, inquire within.

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