On this episode of To The Point, we welcome RYNO Strategic Solutions‘s very own Chief Experience Officer, Mike Venidis! Now with RYNO for over a decade working side-by-side with host and RYNO CEO Chris Yano, Mike joins the podcast to talk about FREE things contractors can do to boost your digital marketing efforts.
Like many of our guests, Mike didn’t start out with his sights set on working in the trades industry, let alone marketing. In fact, he was a touring frontman musician! If you’d like to hear Mike’s killer voice, you definitely should watch or listen to the episode. Long-time listeners of the podcast will get a kick out of finding out that Mike’s band is actually the source of our original intro theme song!
Of course, life had another plan for Mike. He was attending the art walk at a First Friday in Downtown Phoenix (a local event most Phoenicians will recognize), just enjoying the different exhibits and nightlife with a group of friends. Naturally, there was some drinking, and Mike ended up having to more or less “babysit” a pretty inebriated woman. As the two waited for the crosswalk on the corner of Roosevelt in Downtown Phoenix, a group of young men approached them. Mike immediately had a bad feeling about things. The group appeared to be intoxicated, and the woman he was with was drawing some unwanted attention from them.
Mike and the woman were separated, and as he was walking through a park to get back to his car, the group found him once again and attempted to rob him. One of the younger men had a gun pointed at Mike’s face, and demanded his wallet – which Mike had actually forgotten that night. Frustrated, the gunman demanded his iPhone, which Mike pointed out had GPS tracking and wouldn’t really be worth stealing. The situation escalated as the gunman became increasingly frustrated with the lack of loot to be taken, and shot Mike in the leg. Mike lunged at the shooter, and another shot was fired – this time to his stomach. They left Mike alone in the park bleeding out. He woke up in the hospital in shock. As they hadn’t taken his phone, the police gave it back to Mike (as it wasn’t evidence), and Mike realized that he had taken pictures of the shooter when he first encountered him and had a bad feeling about things. That allowed for the police to catch the shooter – a 13 year-old boy, it turns out – through the news and silent witness program.
Mike was in pretty bad shape after the shooting, and couldn’t even walk for some time. He was admittedly scared, and started to worry about how he’d make ends meet. He took at job with RYNO on our Call Listening & Reporting team, which changed the trajectory of of his life. Mike describes the whole situation as a shortcut into gratitude. He understands how quickly everything can be taken away from you, and it’s given him a genuine appreciation and humility about everything he has now. 11 years later he’s still with RYNO, having worked his way up through the ranks and continues to be passionate about what he does.
If you’re trying to improve your digital marketing efforts, you may or may not have an agency. Perhaps you’re just trying to do a few things on your own to get started, or maybe you’ve hired on an agency and you just want to know what you’re getting into. The first thing Mike wants you to understand is Google. Google controls everything, so when we’re talking digital marketing, you have to understand how it works and how to manipulate it in your favor. We often get caught up in trying to generate that new customer that we can forget that Google is in between us, acting as a referee.
“You have to understand how Google thinks and operates. That means understanding the rules of the game so you can dictate the outcome of the match.”
For starters, we can break down Google into two sections. The first is the free portion of Google, and then there are the paid advertising segments. The free tools exist in the free segments. Now, keep in mind that trust is Google’s key currency. People use Google because they have earned the trust of the consumer. Google wants us to maintain that trust. Google benefits from being pad for their PPC and LSA offerings, but the trust they can’t lose exists in their organic SEO. The best free tool you can utilize yourself is SEO – specifically in Google Maps. We’ll get into that more in a minute.
So, what is Google looking at when it comes ranking search results? This is incredibly important to know because, well, that’s our goal here! The higher up you rank for a search query, the more likely it is to get that click – and ultimately, that lead. There are more factors than listed here, certainly, but knowing these three is essential.
It might seem obvious, but you have to actually offer what is being searched. Google isn’t going to rank a roofing company if the search query is “plumbing repair”. Relevance is always going to be the number one ranking factor. Google uses an algorithm that is trying to determine the best possible results for the person performing the search based on a number of things, but relevance is always priority. That means we also need to be telling Google what services we offer.
So once Google narrows down the possible search results based on relevance, it’s going to factor in location. Where is the user searching from, and what are the closest businesses that provide relevant services?
You have to have a good reputation. Google isn’t going to want to put you in front of consumers if you don’t have good service. Without positive reviews, Google is risking their own reputation by recommending you. They aren’t in the business of giving bad advice!
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) may seem like smoke in mirrors to a lot of people, but it really isn’t. There are clear methods that work, and it’s all backed by data. One thing that’s important to distinguish is the difference between what is referred to as “On-Site SEO” and “Off-Site SEO”. On-Site describes any SEO efforts that you’re doing on your own website. Off-site is any SEO work being done outside of your website on other sites and directories that you don’t have full control over. We’re focusing on Off-Site SEO right now.
Some simple examples of Off-Site SEO are the directories that everyone uses to find local service businesses. These include Yelp, Google Maps, and HomeAdvisor. These directories are very importanted to understand. Google knows that trades companies are location-based. You can’t serve a customer in Alaska if you’re an HVAC company located in Florida, right? In addition to Google Business Profile (GBP) listings, Google will use these additional directories to make suggestions. Directories are essentially digital phone books full of business names, addresses, and phone numbers. In many cases, like with Yelp or Angi, you’ll also see reviews.
Whether it’s you or your agency trying to rank your website and company for specific search queries, you need to understand that these directories are going to rank highly no matter what because of their value to Google. On-Site SEO is very important, but if you can’t beat some of these Off-Site directories, why not join them? Manipulate them the same way you do with anything else. That means filling out your profiles on these websites, generate reviews and respond to them, and make sure your information is accurate. This is all 100% FREE to do!
Google Business Profiles (formerly Google My Business) have been somewhat of a nightmare recently. From Google removing their app and customer service hotline to lots and lots of suspensions and strange glitches, everyone is a little confused. Right now, making any changes to your GBP listing can be dicey. Even if there’s something slightly inaccurate on your profile, it might be better to to leave it alone rather than risking a suspension. We’re currently doing some A/B testing to figure things out.
Aside from the offshore outsourcing of customer support, no more direct support phone number, and lots of confusing issues, how can we leverage GBP? As the title of the episode suggests, there are FREE things you can do right now! One thing is to use the free insight reports that GBP offers. They show you your lead generation data from your Google Maps profile, call insights, and guess what – even the phone numbers that called you. That means you can call these numbers back directly! There is a lot of data that even sync with your FMS (field management software) for added convenience and tracking. In fact, there are additional insights including clicks, how much activity on your profile is discovery-based vs. brand-driven, and even keyword searches that you used to need to have a Google Ads account to see.
The main thing to takeaway? If you don’t use it, you lose it. If there is a field to fill out, do it. Google is always rolling out cool new features. They want to advertise that. If you have everything filled out and it’s part of a new feature and your competitor doesn’t, that’s going to give you an edge. Best of all, filling out this info is free.
Did you know that there is a FAQ section for GBP profiles? It’s easy to scroll past it, but it’s there. If you type a question into that, you can actually watch as Google crawls the already asked-and-answered questions to try and answer your questions before you ask them! Mike has done A/B testing and gathered data to prove that Google does, in fact, crawl reviews – why not use this as an opportunity to add in a keyword? Think something simple such as “Hey Jack, we’re happy to hear you were satisfied with the AC repair we performed for you!” You can even use the FAQ section to preemptively ask and answer commonly asked questoins for potential customers.
It’s simple: if you have not set up an LSA (Local Service Ads) profile, do it. It’s FREE. Most of the time, LSA profiles are going to be at the top of the search rankings anyways. It’s also the one thing Google still has a customer service phone number for! Your LSA profile syncs to your GBP profile, and you’ll be able to see reviews shared between the two. There are also LSA-specific features Google wants to advertise like the messaging feature that, once again, are free to use. Not only that, when you use the messaging feature (be sure you can respond in a timely manner!), leads are at a reduced rate compared to phone calls!
Generating reviews is KEY. You should also be responding to your reviews – both positive and negative ones alike. It’s easy to say thanks to a good review, but what’s the best way to approach a negative review? Mike suggests to never admit to fault, but take accountability. Use those 1-star reviews as a stage. Lots of consumers will search out those bad reviews to find out who you actually are as a company. Don’t neglect those bad reviews, and certianly don’t just come up with excuses like “we didn’t service you” or “we don’t have your name in the system”. Respond to them directly with their name, and give them a real name and phone number to call directly. Let them know this is not who you are as a business, this is not what you stand for, and you want to make it right. You’re suggesting you take that conversation offline, discuss together, and find a solution.
You know what else is great about responding to those negative reviews and making things right? More often than you’d expect, people will naturally go back in and edit their bad review and write you a good one in its place.
Google might be the big dog in town, but it’s not the only player! Don’t forget about Yelp, Facebook, and all of the other apps that might be used by potential consumers. While they are in the minority, there are plenty of people that have loyalty to certain apps or that purchase out-of-the-box products that come installed with apps like Apple Maps or Bing Maps. You to have to generate reviews there as well and be active in the same ways, otherwise you’re missing out on what could be valuable opportunities.
From SEO and GBP to your LSA profile and more, Mike has laid out a ton of completely FREE things you can to do stretch those marketing dollars even further. He’s incredibly passionate about what he does, and genuinely cares about both his clients and all of the team at RYNO. He wants to give a personal thank you to anyone that has given RYNO and himself a chance to represent you. This is your life’s work, and he doesn’t take it lightly.
Just like his insights, the whole foundation of To The Point is giving back! We’re always ad-free and free to listen to, and work hard to bring on great guests that have valuable takeaways that you can implement in your own business. Until next episode!