Once upon a time, in a kitchen junk drawer far, far away, there was this thing called a Telephone Book. 

In addition to making a stellar booster seat for the kids’ table at Thanksgiving, it served as one of the primary means of advertising for contractors. You remember, don’t you? Muted yellow pages of rectangular ads of varying sizes, organized alphabetically by service category and then business name? Those were the days.

Yeah, well… you know as well as I do, “Let your fingers do the walking” simply doesn’t cut it anymore. Now, people carry tiny computers around in their pockets, ask Google to “find me a plumber,” and in less than a second, get millions of results. And guess how those listings are organized. 

I’ll give you a hint. Cha-ching. 

That’s right, my friends: The likelihood of people learning about your business via Google is nearly 100% determined by your willingness to pay for advertising.

So is it worth it to make paid ads part of your home services marketing strategy?

Absolutely. But only if you go about it the right way. In this article, I’m going to break down for you:

  • The best online advertising platform for contractors, construction, and home services providers
  • How much you’ll want to set aside to spend on paid advertising
  • What the deal is with Facebook and Instagram advertising

Ready to find more leads and get expert home & building business marketing advice, all in one place?

The best online advertising for contractors is Google

The vast majority of people looking for your services are going to look for you online, and the overwhelming majority of those people won’t even bother looking past the first page of Google’s search engine results page (SERP). In fact, less than one percent of people will click on a result on page two. 

Google search results and ads for contractors and home services
Example of Google’s search engine results page (SERP) search using “ServiceMaster” as the search term. From The Download: Making Sense of Online Marketing for Home & Building Services.

How do you get a spot on page one of the SERP? Generally speaking, you buy Google Ads. Now, it’s possible to land on page one organically (that’s Google-speak for “free”). But it’s improbable, it’s a lot of work, and it can take forever for contractors, home services, and construction companies. 

Google Ads, when done correctly, will zip your site to the top of the SERP in no time. And there’s more good news! These are pay-per-click (PPC) ads — which are exactly what they sound like: You only pay when someone clicks on your ad. Take that, yellow pages.

So, what does “done correctly” mean when it comes to Google ads?

It’s frustratingly easy to waste a bunch of money on Google Ads. Make the most of your ad spending by avoiding these four common mistakes:

  1. Don’t show your ads to the wrong people. Some advertisers choose the wrong online context (like an ad inside a solitaire game instead of on the SERP) or in the wrong geographical location (like halfway across the country instead of in your actual service area). For contractors and construction businesses, choose to display your ads on the Search Network and set your location correctly.
  2. Don’t choose the wrong keywords. Keywords are the words and phrases people type into the Google search bar. When you set up your Google Ads, you get to choose which keywords to target with your advertising. Plenty of contractors make the mistake of guessing what keywords to use, instead of doing their homework. For more details, spend some time with Google’s Keyword Planner, and check out these keyword tips for plumbers that can be adapted for any home services or construction business.
  3. Don’t set up just one ad and call it good. Sometimes, changing one tiny word in an ad will make it a gazillion times more appealing to your audience. But you won’t know which tiny words get you the most results until you test a bunch of them. Remember, you’re only paying for clicks, so it costs you exactly zero extra dollars to test several variations of ads to see which ones perform the best.
  4. Don’t waste money on Google Ads until your other marketing is in good shape. There’s no point in paying to get leads via Google if your contractor website isn’t built to convert those leads. Likewise, if your website doesn’t have a simple way to capture leads so you can nurture them via email marketing, you’re not leveraging Google Ads to its fullest ROI potential.

TIP: Check out the step-by-step tutorial for placing a Google Ad through Constant Contact.

How much should you spend on Google Ads?

Ah, the million-dollar question.

As you can likely guess, the answer to “how much” is “it depends.” In some industries, businesses can start testing Google Ads for as little as $100. That’s not the case for home services and construction. Because there’s so much competition, common keywords like “plumbing” or “remodeling” may cost upwards of $50 per click — which means $100 in our industry just doesn’t go very far.

So will $200 do it? $500? Unfortunately not. If you’re just starting out with PPC, you’ll need to set your first month’s budget somewhere between $1,500 and $2,000, or about $50 – 65 per day

You OK? Are you hyperventilating? I get it: That’s a substantial investment. But that’s really the only way to get a sufficient baseline test of your keywords, and it’s the only way to generate enough traffic to be able to track conversions (when someone actually is “converted” to being a lead from one of your ads). 

As you experiment and learn more about which ads actually generate results, you can adjust your budget from there. Many home services businesses can decrease their PPC budgets as their organic traffic increases through SEO efforts and online referrals.

What results can you expect from Google Ads spending?

This might help you breathe normally again: The potential average return for contractor advertising is super-high. Google’s conservative estimate is that advertisers earn $8 for every $1 they spend on ads. 

That’s not a guarantee, of course, as getting the most bang for your Google Ads buck depends on a number of factors, including how your direct competitors are using Ads. For example, if you and your number one rival are both targeting the same keyword and their budget’s higher, you can guess whose ads get displayed.

Should contractors advertise on Facebook and Instagram?

I recommend starting with Google — because SERP position is that important. As you gain traction there, it’s not a bad idea to add in some Facebook and Instagram advertising for contractors. Just keep in mind that in our industry, social ads are unlikely to bring you new business quickly. These ads are more about awareness than they are about quick sales.

The power of social media advertising has to do with targeting and retargeting. You can dial in your ads to display to specific people based on location, demographics, interests, behaviors, and connections. You can even create a lookalike audience to target people similar to those already on your email contact list.

Get our free guide to online marketing for home & building services

The best place to advertise for contractors is online. But paid ads aren’t your only option! To learn more about other marketing opportunities for contractors and construction companies, check out The Download: Making Sense of Online Marketing for Home & Building Services.

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