We had a customer in a hurry.
Stucco Today was a brand new business offshoot of an established masonry restoration company, focused 100% on stucco repair and remediation. Stucco had been slowly growing to be a larger and larger portion of that company’s work, until they finally made the decision to concentrate on it solely. They needed a new website, branding, and messaging, and they needed it yesterday. Their best season for work had already started. The planned website needed to be immediately visible, getting traffic, and generating leads.
As people in the business know, generally Search Engine Optimization (SEO) work is prefaced by very careful management of expectations. No, we can’t get you to #1 for your service on Google in 1 month. No, we can’t guarantee you ever being there, because those spots are usually occupied by aggregators like Yelp and Houzz. Yes, you should be seeing significant results after 6 months, and it’ll be constant improvement from there. Yes, if you need immediate results, we generate them for you with AdWords.
Well in this case, Stucco Today was not content to wait. So we pitched a plan centered around video content and AdWords advertising, Stucco Today signed on, and off we went.
Video as a Design Element
Before we get to the advertising, we need to back up for a second. The most important element of any Search Engine Marketing (SEM) campaign is a well designed website that converts the visitors your marketing brings in into paying clients. And since Stucco Today was completely new, that was our first step. Well, actually our third step. The first step was to decide how we wanted to represent the business, and then the second was to create the physical elements of the brand: the logo, letterhead, sales collateral, etc.
What we decided on in large part gave rise to our video SEO plan to begin with. Stucco Today does very good work in an industry where bad experiences are the norm. Honestly, when was the last time you heard a friend talking about how much they liked the contractor that just finished working on their home? Quite reasonably, normal people are skeptical of contractors touting ‘quality workmanship’, ‘great service’, or the like. So how do you convince potential customers that those things, for once, actually are the case with this contractor? Customer testimonials. The best way to convince a potential client of good service and quality is to have their peers vouch for it.
But wait, there’s more! Why have visitors read testimonials about work they can’t see, when they could watch and listen to the customer speaking about a project they see unfold in front of their eyes? We set out to create a handful of video testimonials comprised of 2-4 minute interviews with homeowners along with video footage documenting the house before the work, the damage underneath their siding, the construction site and the work in progress, and then the finished product. Check out the example below, featuring a homeowner who clearly is not a professional actor:
Back to the website. Given that video testimonials were the crux of both our marketing and sales strategies, we wanted to build a website that capitalized on the video recording we were already doing. The result was the website we launched on April 21, at stuccotoday.com. Our goal was twofold; show Stucco Today’s work, and highlight customer testimonials. The full screen video background on the homepage, and the video and image rich project pages were the central ways we accomplished that.
A Well Planned Launch
As soon as we launched, we got busy. Along with the standard business profile building we do on sites like Google My Business, Houzz, Facebook and many, many more, we created accounts at YouTube and Vimeo, and filled them with the video that we had spent the preceding two months filming and editing. Videos were optimized for SEO; they were geotagged, transcripts were uploaded, they were linked back to stuccotoday.com, and they were embedded on stuccotoday.com pages filled with even more content related to the projects. The result was pages like this one, which features the video above.
In conjunction with the video content and SEO blitz, Google AdWords was used to put stuccotoday.com into stucco repair and remediation related search results immediately. No matter how much effort is spent on search engine optimization, a new site is never going to be ranking well for all or even many target keywords for a significant amount of time. AdWords is the solution, though even an AdWords campaign takes some time to settle and ramp up. Beyond expected improvement over time through ad copy iteration and negative keyword list building, quality scores tend to rise over a few weeks as performance data accumulates (assuming the campaign is performing well, of course).
Stucco Today was a willing customer, though, so with AdWords as well as our SEO efforts, we moved much faster than usual. Off the bat we set up automated bid adjustments targeting the first position on searches most closely related to Stucco Remediation (much higher value work than repair), as well as adjustments for the highest value localities. We also set up experiments for both our creative and landing pages. The result was that, due to the client’s willingness to spend inefficiently on clicks in exchange for placement and data, we immediately captured a large share of the available Stucco Remediation ad inventory and compressed our initial account optimization into less than a week. Within 5 days we had an average click through rate of nearly 10% for the whole account, with a bounce rate of only 33% and an average time on site of 256 seconds for Stucco Remediation related visitors (data averaged from 5 days post launch until the 20 day mark).
These numbers probably don’t mean a lot to anyone looking at them without the context of years of experience running SEM campaigns, but in this case the results spoke for themselves. Twenty days after the launch of the website (May 10, after an April 21 launch), we got an email from the owner of Stucco Today. Unfortunately, he said, Stucco Today was now booked solid through the end of July, and so he needed to cut back his spending on AdWords drastically. He didn’t want to be paying for leads just to be telling them he couldn’t help them within the time frame they needed. We figure that’s about as strong a measure of success as can be.
So we knocked down Stucco Today’s advertising budget by 80%, and adjusted our bidding strategy to hold the last ad position on the first page of search results instead of the first ad position. The result has been less of a hit to Stucco Today’s traffic from PPC than they expected. Cost per click was reduced by about 60% by the change in strategy, so overall traffic only fell by about 30%. This is something of a testament to good ad copy. If ads are well written, and iterated aggressively to find language that works, position on the search engine results page is less important.
AdWords is only half of the story, though.
On the organic SEO front, Stucco Today has also had as good a first 20 days as could possibly be expected. Within 2 days of the launch of the website and the video publication and optimization blitz we had planned, Stucco Today was ranked on the first page for it’s primary services for every location for which we had a video. Within the same time frame, they started ranking for many lower competition or longer tail keywords in the greater region (e.g.: Rank #7 for Thorolastic Coatings in Philadelphia, on April 21, one day after launch). Over the subsequent 20 days, those initial results have gradually improved, and the number of keywords and locations on which Stucco Today is ranking highly has increased steadily.
The approach we took had one other major benefit, beyond simply getting our client ranking highly and quickly. With the diversity of media we had to work with, we were able to create multiple properties capable of ranking on our major search terms. Take a search in one of Stucco Today’s primary markets, “Stucco Remediation in Pipersville, PA“. Not only is stuccotoday.com ranking both #5 and #6, but the #4 result is the project video on youtube, and the #3 result is the project page on Houzz. Stucco Today owns the #3 through #6 search results:
It’s great when you rank highly for your most valuable services, in your most valuable markets. It’s even better when you own 2/3s of the top 6 search results instead of just one. It’s better still when your listings on the search engine results page are more graphically interesting than your competitors’, and that is the case when one of your listings is a YouTube video.
So while we have cut back drastically on our advertising activities for Stucco Today, the SEO work we’ve already finished for them, as well as additional filming and optimization we will be doing over the summer, will continue to pay dividends. Constantly improving search engine ranking and coverage will guarantee Stucco Today a healthy stream of leads and business over the long term. All while demonstrating the value and quality of Stucco Today’s work, and making the sale easy.