Simple Tree Residential Solar Lead Program

Going to Walk Through Our Entire Process

I wanted to create this post and video to share our exact digital strategy we deploy for our clients in building near term and long term lead generating assets.

Goal of this post is to help residential solar companies understand why investing in their own marketing assets will yield a higher return on investment, higher quality leads, lower cost per lead, and increased brand equity compared to 3rd party lead buying, door knocking, or cold calling.

I was at SPI this year in Anaheim, and I was very surprised to learn how many solar installation companies weren’t investing in their own digital marketing. Most I spoke with both at the trade show and over the phone primarily use marketing budget for 3rd party leads, call centers, and door knocking. Although yes these produce results, (or else it wouldn’t be used), anecdotally I’ve seen cold calling and door knocking create a negative feeling toward he brand and solar as an industry itself. Spread throughout the U.S. are commission based, hungry salesmen knocking on doors, who can put off some customers who require a slower, education based approach. 3rd party leads are great to mix in your marketing budget, but should not be relied on exclusively, as your just allowing your competitors and lead gen companies to further dominate your local market and control the funnel.

Fact is most people begin their search for just about everything online. In between, we are glued to our phones browsing Linkedin or Instagram and the barrage of ads and information becomes normalized. Makes little sense why a solar company wouldn’t begin a program as it only continues to become more competitive and thus more expensive. The sooner you start iterating and testing now, the better.

Step 1: Verify New Google My Business Listings

The very first step we do when we bring on a client, is obtain new verified Google My Business (Google Maps) Listings across target cities in our client’s service area. We need to get these verified ASAP and let these “age” as much as we can (typically 2 weeks – 1 month ideally) before we begin any serious heavy lifting and optimization as to not trigger any manual inspections from the Google Team. While we are verifying these, we are optimizing and structuring the website for local search.
Local SEO with Google Maps for Solar Companies
(Helping our client visualize and select which cities with verified Maps Listings would produce the most leads in their service area with Google MyMaps)

What’s a Google My Business/GMB/Google Maps Listing?

GMB stands for Google My Business. It’s a product that allows businesses to create verified listings to display on both Google Maps, and regular searches. Google is the most widely used search engine. One of it’s core features is it’s Google Maps. More often than not, local searches return a “Map Pack” at the top of Google, just below it’s paid ads. Google My Business for Solar

This Opportunity Likely Won’t Last Forever!

As of fall 2018, we are able to obtain verified GMB listings across a client’s service area without requiring a physical office or mailbox in the target city. (traditionally what you need to verify a listing) This strategy is extremely powerful that very few other solar firms are utilizing. Effectively, it allows us to take advantage of the most prized piece of real estate in the digital space: above the fold visibility that requires no ad spend. Candidly, we don’t expect this strategy to last forever. Already I’ve heard from google employees personally, that this method is known internally, and they are doing everything they can to stop it. Google’s #1 priority is to be able to control it’s Search Engine Results Page 90% of it’s revenue is from Google Ads. It’s unknown how long this opportunity to secure permanent visibility on the most widely used search engine will last.

Wherever you have a physical office that can receive mail, you likely already have your Google My Business Listing (aka Google Maps Listing). Once verified, we can now we can begin to rank this in the 3 pack for our various key terms.

Getting a map listing is huge. Once we have a verified listing we can begin communicating all sorts of geo relevance back to our local page like building local citations, optimizing photos, a new brand network links specific to a city and begin to take over the first page for key solar searches with our brand.

We pair this with a website structured for to rank for local solar searches in a particular region. We can multi purpose our GMB for commercial solar searches as well.

This is how SolarReviews generates most of it’s leads is through organic search. Lucky for us, we can get above them using this Maps strategy.

Local Maps SEO – The Most Valuable Asset

Local Search Site Structure

Without delving to much into keyword research, and technical SEO on page, the key takeaways I want to give you is how we structure our website for local organic search, and local maps searches.

Page Structure

Page structure is all about making your website and topical (content), authoritative (links) source for all things solar + state/county/cities. It begins with writing and building city specific pages that target various solar searches; i.e. “solar installation {city}, solar companies {city}, solar contractor {city}, solar panels {city}”…etc.

This simple SEO strategy isn’t anything revolutionary, (SEOs reading this are probably rolling your eyes) but time and time again I come across residential solar sites with zero SEO strategy in place, essentially wasting their pages’ very existence. By building local SEO pages that target solar contracting in every city of your service area, you’re:

a) increasing brand visibility
b) increasing search traffic (once you’re on the first page)
c) adding more geo relevance to your site overall
d) increasing lead forms and calls from people already in your service area
e) putting all those hard earned backlinks to use with an on-page strategy

The steps to build these pages are simple.

1. Page Outline

Using keyword research to outline your page to rank for multiple iterations of the same keyword or “ad group”. Or emulate a competitor’s city page. Be aware of over optimization, learn about keyword densities or you can risk penalties.

2. Page Template

Taking the time to design out a Page that converts and can be replicated for all our city pages. We like to put our conversion oriented content above, and create an expand/hide div for our SEO text. Some best practices at a glance include:

  • CTA Above the Fold
  • Appointment Scheduler Sidebar
  • Lead Magnet or Guide in Exchange for Email
  • Messaging: Who are we speaking too? What is our offer?
  • Multiple Calls to Action
  • Trust Icons
  • Credible Testimonials

Step 2: Deploy Paid Search Campaign

The fact is, results from SEO takes a little while (1-4 months depending on what kind of links your website has). The quickest way to start generating leads is through paid search either through Google Ads or if your service area is big enough (county wide, or multi-county) Facebook Ads. We’ve found Facebook Ads can produce qualified residential solar leads at around $20-$40 per lead, $50 on the high end. This is what most solar lead generation companies are using to drive leads for their clients, and selling these Facebook leads at around $100-$250 per lead, and around $350 for solar appointments. Rather than sending paid traffic to your main home page, we are big proponents of developing targeted landing pages with a single Call to Action on that page, testimonials (videos a plus), and all of our retargeting levers in place. Once we have a basic lander template developed, we can just duplicate this across our various campaigns.

a. Adwords Hacks – Bidding on Competitor Brands

This is our one our most favorite tactics for getting leads quick. In some regions (San Diego for example), keyword costs for the main solar keywords (“solar company, solar, solar panels”) can be quite expensive ($20-$30/click). So, one way to bid on cheaper, valuable keywords is to bid on other solar company names. Many solar company brand names get considerable search volume. Often more than basic local searches. We know these are targeted searches because people are researching a specific brand. The commercial intent is there. An easy way to grab this high commercial search intent is by bidding on competitor’s brand name. Often these are at much lower cost per clicks, and with a compelling landing page with a targeted offer, can be extremely effective in hijacking inbounds. This isn’t revolutionary, but a super effective and quick to get off the ground. We use SKAGs Adwords methodology to build all our PPC campaigns. You’ll also want to make sure you have all your proper conversion tracking set up, so you can accurately track which campaigns are producing calls and form submits.

Traditional Keyword Search & Pay Per Call Campaigns

Beyond bidding on competitor brands, we’re using SKAGs campaign structure, or “single keyword ad groups” for our search and mobile only pay per call campaigns.

All it is, is limiting your ad group to a single keyword, iterated with different match types:

[solar company]
“solar company”
+solar +company

In the ad headline, we repeat the keyword naturally in the Headline , description, and in the URL structure.

This pattern results in higher CTR as the ad stands out to the searcher.

(Contact me for an example ad happy to share)

To keep it brief, last really important takeaway is adding negative keywords. Don’t want our ad to be showing up for low commercial intent searches. Ask us for our master list for solar campaigns.

Facebook Ads for Solar Leads

Facebook Ads is a much more complex animal to tame at first and make profitable for even experienced digital marketers. It requires a modest to healthy budget (~$2,000/mo generates around 40 leads @ $50/lead) and iterated funnel to generate leads compared to a simple Google Adwords campaign, which can be deployed in half a day. Your assets are equally important, as are the proper lead capture and retargeting triggers set up. Essentially, you’re helping the Facebook algo “learn” which users with which behaviors are most likely to engage and convert from your ad. Some of you may already have Pixel retargeting data available, which is a great catalyst for finding successful ads.

Having Pixel data allows you to:

  • a) send ads to people who’ve already visited your website
  • and

  • b) build “Look-a-like” (LAA) audiences based on your pixel data (if pixel data is big enough). You can build look a like audiences off of email lists a well if you have this available, or even test a FB campaign targeting your email list.

LAA’s help Facebook formulate a similar audience based off your current website visitors. Factors like demographics, interests, behaviors, group/friend associations, and so much more we aren’t even aware of. The bigger your sample size, the more accurate the look a like audience.

Ad type, ad copy, and the funnel you bring them through are all vital steps required for a successful Facebook campaign. Often this takes many iterations and a healthy ad budget to burn through to learn which campaigns drive leads.

We like to purchase different funnels and test each, however currently in Florida and California we have a great campaign on autopilot driving leads.

In general if our client has no existing pixel data, we use very wide targeting demographics (Ages 35+, excluding “Recent Moves”) targeting a county or state with a compelling offer. We also A/B split test lead form ads, and double down on the ads that are working.

Call Tracking and Form Submits to Call Backs

Another really cool tool we use for our clients, is Jensen.ai, a call tracking software. This allows our partners to view all the calls we’ve generated for from our campaigns and listen to review call recordings. One of our most favorite features however, is the Form Submit to Lead Call Back feature.

For example, if someone fills out a “Request Solar Quote” form, Jensen does software magic, and auto-dials you (the partner). Jensen will then notify your trust sales person, “A new just filled out the form, would like to call them back?” Your sales man or women, then press 1 for yes, and Jensen will go back, call the Lead, and place both in a conference call. How cool is that?

To learn more about how to build one of these campaigns contact us.

Would You Like Feedback On Your Residential Solar Marketing?

We provide detailed In-bound Lead Generation Blueprints specific to your commercial solar firm. Request a Blueprint or Schedule a Call with Doug.



Transcript:

Hey, guys. Doug here with Simple Tree. I wanted to walk through a local SEO strategy that’s so easy to implement and not many residential solar firms are really using, or even commercial solar firms, but this search really works well for residential solar. It can be super easy to implement, and it’s a really low-hanging fruit that’s easily capitalized on. All it is, what I mean by local SEO, is just building out a page that targets a specific city, all for these various search terms. You can see here, these guys are doing this exact strategy, and you can see all their other city pages here, which has been working really well for them. Really, all it is to develop these pages, you can just reverse engineer what your competition is doing. You can see they’re pretty light on optimization here. You don’t need a whole lot to start ranking for these, but obviously, Houston’s a bit more competitive. You’re going to need some local backlinks, some geo-relevant and niche-relevant backlinks built to your entire domain and even the specific city page.

You can see here, there’s also a lot they can do to improve on, which we’ll go over in a bit, but right here, it’s just a quick example. It’s some keyword research we’re using to build out some of these pages. This is just exported from Google AdWords’ keyword planner. It really gives you a robust look at all the potential keywords to start going after, and maybe how to write pages to start targeting multiple keywords like this. You can see, we just color-coded these to help segment these topics, and this is just for the state of Colorado. You can do it statewide, nationwide. It really depends, but really, it would just be developing city pages that essentially duplicate this template. You’re going to want to make these all slightly unique, of course, but you get the picture. Once you have this basic template, here’s a template we wrote out for one of our clients for commercial solar. It’s really just structuring out overall what we’re trying to describe and what we want this page to rank for, and then we go in and have our writers fill in the gaps here.

For the residential local searches, it’s even simpler, especially for these maybe lower population cities and suburbs where competition really won’t be too intense, but you can still get some really easy wins. Supplementing on top of that would be ranking your map strategy, getting your map listing to rank with these local pages. If you have a verified map listing tied to these locations, you’re going to be a really powerful—you’re going to be able to come with a lot of ammunition to rank, because you have this map listing tied with your local page. Really, there’s some obviously quite a bit of strategy required into ranking these into a three-pack. It’s very competitive. You can see it has a lot to do with reviews and other local SEO tactics, but it can be done. It’s not impossible. My solution to you residential guys is, go out there and start building out these pages that target every city in your service area.

These are going to be really low-hanging fruit, especially for the non-competitive cities. Yeah, sure, the search volume won’t be there compared to a major city, but over time, these aggregate. That brand visibility does build over time, and you’re going to start generating calls. Beyond that, we have a service that can get verified map listing without requiring a physical address. This can be really huge for someone looking to scale their inbound leads because you can just grab a map listing, optimize it, build out your local page, time some local data to communicate with the both of them, and among a host of other things to get these to rank, which we’d be happy to walk through some of these tactics, but really, that’s the strategy, is getting your local visibility up there by building unique city pages and tying in a map listing to couple with that.

That’s going to be huge. These are the main call generators getting this kind of visibility. Beyond that, for low-hanging fruit, just start bidding on competitor key terms. Obviously, we know keywords like solar companies, solar installer, solar panels are going to be higher up there, but if you can start bidding on your competitors’ key terms, you’re not going to see as high of cost per click costs. We know the search relevance is going to be there because people are clearly looking for solar installation. They’re looking at competitors. That’s a really easy way to hack that visibility there, is using an AdWords campaign to go after your competitors. I’ll try to keep this short, but that’s really the gist of it. I’d be happy to explain to you more in-depth and give you a more concrete strategy of how to implement this and optimize it. Thank you. Let me know if you have any questions.