For solar companies, ranking well in internet searches is key to successful solar marketing. A contractor’s website needs to appear high enough in search engine results that prospects can easily find it. As discussed in a previous article in this series on digital solar marketing, a great starting point is to make the site easy to use and filled with useful content that answers the questions of its target solar customers. To truly dominate Google rankings, however, solar contractors need to incorporate search engine optimization (SEO) practices.
SEO is all about ending up on the first page of Google, the first Search Engine Results Page (SERP). First-page organic (i.e. unpaid) search results are even more important than paid ads (70% of clicks are on non-ads). Plus, the first page of Google has captured up to 92% of clicks in recent years while second-page results come in below 6%. And where the result is on the first Google SERP matters: the first three organic results see 67.6% of clicks, whereas the remaining five just receive 3.73%.
Clearly, the payoff can be significant for solar companies that take the time to optimize their website’s SEO to rank on Google’s first page, particularly if they can make it into the top four to five listings. Search engine rankings won’t skyrocket overnight–it takes time to build a site’s reputability with Google search algorithms, but this is a long-term solar marketing strategy well worth pursuing.
In this two-part article, we explore some of the SEO strategies solar contractors can apply to improve their website’s ranking in search results. In Part 1, we discuss considerations for choosing the search terms (keywords) to focus on ranking for. In Part 2, we discuss specific SEO best practices solar contractors can incorporate on their websites to improve their search rankings.
Choosing target keywords
Perhaps the most foundational part of SEO is identifying the topics most important, most relevant to an installer’s prospects and then choosing keywords (or key phrases) that these prospects are most likely to search for to address those concerns and questions. An installer wants the best words to help these prospects find the company’s services–and then they want to strategically incorporate them throughout the web pages.
When choosing keywords, a contractor should be guided by the goals of the company’s website. Make sure the keywords align with the words prospective customers would use to get to the site, and that the content matches what they will be looking for so that they’re not surprised or disappointed when they arrive on the site. An important factor in Google’s ranking process is dwell time, how long someone stays on a site’s pages (the longer the better).
There are a number of strategies to help identify these keywords, including researching best words, analyzing the competition and considering the various types of phrases to include.
Finding the best keywords for a successful digital solar marketing campaign requires some research. An installer can use an analytics system for the site, whether it’s their own or a tool like Google Analytics, to find which keyword phrases are bringing traffic through organic searches. Or they can do a more comprehensive search using a number of tools, free or paid.
Google tools for targeted keyword identification
Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords) Keyword Planner is a free tool that allows a contractor to use data like search position and volume, percentage of traffic and level of competitiveness to make decisions about a keyword. It also lets them filter results for a particular geographic area (great for regionally located solar contractors) and call up lists of other types of related keyword phrases to give them some additional phrase ideas.
They can also check on the viability of a keyword in Google Trends to see its trend history and projections. For example, they might discover which low-volume phrases are worth seeding in their content now so they can see benefits later.
Checking out the competition
Doing competitive research, or finding out what keywords and content are sending traffic to competitors’ sites, can make it easier to SEO web pages and other online content in a way that allows a company to compete, whether geographically or by industry.
SEMRush is a paid tool that gives an installer comprehensive keyword and competitor data. Aside from the keyword research the Keyword Planner provides, SEMRush also allows them to do an audit for their own website content to help optimize more effectively. It also allows for a rich, detailed understanding of the competitive landscape. Installers can find out what phrases specific domains and pages are ranking for, including typical keywords and positions in Google’s organic and paid search results (plus reports and charts that help with quick and comprehensive analysis).
Ahrefs Keywords Explorer is similar to SEMrush, but has additional features like a larger database, metrics on clicks and clicks per search, and comparisons of a website’s keywords to those of competitors. Other popular SEO tools include Ubersuggest, Moz and KWFinder.
Factors to consider when identifying target keywords
A strong solar marketing plan includes using keyword phrases that vary in length. Head terms are short and generic (one to three words long) while long-tail phrases are three or more words long. Having a blend of both types helps to balance out an SEO strategy.
Head terms (“solar panels,” “solar finance”) are searched more frequently but are more competitive so they take longer to rank for them. Long-tail phrases (“no money down solar Boston” or “solar carport pricing”) attract the more qualified searchers more quickly. These longer phrases help an installer connect with more specific customer needs and can boost SERP ranking and conversion rate.
Keywords for different stages of a customer’s decision-making process
Solar contractors can also look to have keywords for a page or post match the stage of the buying journey a prospect may be in. If a prospect is in the early stages of their search—awareness and education—try keyword phrases that include words like “issue” and “risk.” For prospects further along looking at pricing and company comparison, include words like “provider” and “cost.”
And don’t forget those long-tail phrases for late-stage prospects: someone searching for “best ground mount solar installer Des Moines” is more likely to be ready for a phone call than someone searching “solar panels.” Doing this increases the likelihood that prospects will find the right pages on the site during the right point in their decision-making process.
Achieving that all-important high ranking in a Google search requires a specific, data-driven understanding of which keywords will get a site high up on that first SERP page. Revisiting that research and the resulting strategy at least every three or four months will help a solar contractor stay as visible as possible to its prospects over the long term. In Part 2 of “Optimize your solar website for Google search,” we look at particular SEO techniques solar contractors can employ when designing their digital solar marketing strategies.
About Aurora’s digital solar marketing series
This article is part of an ongoing series from Aurora Solar, providing a guide for solar companies to develop a cohesive digital solar marketing strategy to connect with more customers. We explain the value offered by different digital marketing options and highlight concrete strategies to make the most of each.
Part 1 (Intro): Five ways digital solar marketing can grow your business
Part 3: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for solar contractors: Choosing the right keywords