Your HomeAdvisor Guide: Should You Be Advertising on there?
Let’s get straight to the point. Home improvement review sites like HomeAdvisor and Angie’s List are not a necessary fact of doing business in the digital age for landscape or design/build companies. If you will choose to live on there, it may not be in your best interest to put all of your marketing dollars into these platforms. There are be better ways to generate leads and build your business, such as SEO or Facebook/Instagram Advertising.
84 percent of consumers trust online review sites as much as they trust personal recommendations.
What this means for you is that you can be more proactive in reaching out to your customers and asking for online reviews (on Google, Facebook, Houzz, to name a few). Read more here about generating online reviews.
80 percent of consumers conduct online research before purchasing or hiring.
What this means for you is that your design/build business has to be easy to find when people conduct a search (this means optimizing your site for searches); and, your site has to be engaging and informative.
The HomeAdvisor membership costs around $300 annually; for $25/month plus the cost of advertising spend which can be in excess of thousands a month. If you’re a landscaper who is just starting out, or a smaller operation whose bread-and-butter is primarily straightforward and set-price projects such as sod installation or building decks, then HomeAdvisor may be all that’s needed to attract the attention of customers and build a solid online presence.
However, if you specialize in complex, custom and high-end projects (or starting to transition into that direction) where homeowners need even more reassurance that you’re the right company for the job, HomeAdvisor may not be the wisest use of your marketing dollars.
Some contractors sing HomeAdvisor’s praises… while others call it a scam. Who’s right?
● It works. Everyone is turning to the web to find service providers so you must have a strong online presence and you must be easily found. The question is - will they homeowner find you on the HomeAdvisor website or on yours? Keep in mind that having a profile on HomeAdvisor means that when someone searches your company name, the HomeAdvisor website is going to outrank your own site. So it will literally be stealing your own website ranking!
● It’s good for new businesses. Word of mouth is the ultimate, but you need to build a reputation first. You automatically have the trust of people who trust this review site (just because you’re on it). It also allows you to reach customers that would otherwise cost you a lot of money to find - and for a brand new landscape business, this can be a good start.
● Lots of complaints and bad leads. HomeAdvisor generates a lot of complaints with the Better Business Bureau. Most complaints center around low-quality leads (tire-kickers). HomeAdvisor rates an average of one star (out of five stars) on the Better Business Bureau. Out of the local 795 reviews we looked at, the average was one star. It is not possible to go lower than that. Given the fact that they’ve been around for a long time, and that most homeowners will visit home improvement review sites, some percentage of complaints should be expected, however we think the number of complaints is excessively high and that is due, in part, to expectations. Established design/builds expect better quality leads than what is typical on HomeAdvisor but HomeAdvisor is designed to fuel a less-established business hence the disappointment.
● Shady marketing practices. A big issue many contractors have with HomeAdvisor is their deceptive marketing practices. If you sign up with HomeAdvisor, you are giving them the rights to use your business name to promote their business! HomeAdvisor builds links back to their own site - links that are in your name, but with HomeAdvisor’s phone number - which means that your prospects can be lured away and presented with your competition’s contact information. Although this is clearly spelled out in their Terms of Service, most people don’t read the fine print.
If You Must be on There, Improve Your Chances of Winning the Job on HomeAdvisor
1. Set yourself apart in the price wars. A homeowner who gets a similar bid range from seven landscape contractors needs incentive to choose one over the others. In your bid, be sure to include: your approach, your expertise, a breakdown of the price and anything that sets you apart, for example “25 year old family business” or “veteran-owned.” The truth is, however, that HomeAdvisor is full of pricewars and if you’re on this platform, you’re usually dealing with prospects that are looking for the lowest price.
2. Set expectations. Your prospects want know what they can expect before, during, and after the project. Does your landscape project require subcontractors? If so, provide information about the subs you use. What’s the timeline? What inconveniences will they have to deal with and how can you mitigate them? What are the challenges you anticipate, and how do you envision solving them? Give prospects as much information about the process as possible, to build trust. Don’t run from transparency.
3. Educate them. Most prospective customers don’t understand the technical side of landscaping. Demonstrate your expertise and educate them on the process (including the permit process), methods, materials, potential challenges and help them understand what they are paying for… and why.
4. Guarantee your work. People are afraid of hiring the wrong landscape contractor and losing their money. Make it a no-brainer for them to choose you by highlighting your guarantee or warranty in your bid. A guarantee shows you have integrity, that you take pride in your work, and that you have your customers’ best interests at heart.
5. Follow up, FAST. Call your leads immediately (within minutes) for the simple reason that many people are on the site for convenience, and many will choose the first responder!
Other design/build lead options
There are ways to build your business outside of review sites, and many come with less expense and less hassle than review sites.
1. Create your own online listings. Google “directories to advertise landscaping business” and you’ll come up with a dozen or more places you can list your business.
2. Focus on your own SEO strategy. SEO is “search engine optimization” which is the process of making yourself searchable on Google or any other search engine using a combination of keywords, tags, links, and other strategies.