Table of Contents
Let’s start here.
Why did I make this guide?
I have come across too many businesses that feel as if they cannot compete online because they don’t have the construction marketing budget that the larger companies do.
However, there is an incredible amount of opportunity for businesses in construction to win on Google without spending a dime on paid advertising.
This guide is designed for the same reason we built Gearflow.com, to help your business compete online as more customers go digital.
Although this guide is geared toward suppliers in the construction equipment industry, these tactics can be applied to any business.
By following this guide to construction marketing and sticking to it, you will not only outrank your competition on Google, but you will also do it without spending a dime on advertising.
Let’s get to it!
Chapter 1: The Consumer is Changing, Don’t Get Left Behind
Before we get into the tactics, I want to emphasize why your digital presence is so important.
I’ve written about the need for ecommerce in construction previously given the change in consumer behavior.
Millennials are now between the ages of 25-39, and they are increasingly becoming the decision makers.
Their first step towards a buying decision?
According to a Google study, 71% of B2B researchers start their research with a generic search.
There are roughly 13 million searches a month for construction equipment related terms in the U.S., with three-quarters coming from mobile devices.
This amounts to a lot of opportunity for the businesses that win on organic search.
However, to win search, you MUST show up on the first page of organic results on Google.
75% of all clicks for any given Google search go to the top three organic spots.
The 10th spot on the first page, which is the last result on the page, has a 3% click through rate (CTR).
What happens if you fall off the first page?
The second page on Google has a combined CTR of 0.78%.
To Recap These Stats
71% of your buyers are starting their purchase with an online search.
75% of them are clicking the top three organic spots on Google.
You cannot buy those customers.
The average CTR for the sponsored results purchased through Google Adwords for the business to business (B2B) category?
According to Wordstream, 2.41%.
That means that you have a better chance of getting a customer to your website if you are the 10th organic spot than if you paid for a sponsored result.
So how do you land on the first page of Google?
This is what is called Search Engine Optimization or SEO.
Chapter 2: What Is SEO and Why Is It Important?
Google’s primary job is to surface the most relevant, trustworthy, and authoritative information for any given search while also matching the intent of the search.
They do this by way of their ever-evolving algorithm, which ranks the expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness of every URL on the internet based on roughly 200 different factors.
SEO is the practice of optimizing your website and content against each of these factors to give your website the best chance to be highly ranked on searches relevant to your business.
SEO is often confused with search engine marketing (SEM).
The goal of SEO is to acquire organic traffic.
SEM includes strategies to acquire both organic and paid traffic.
Organic traffic acquisition does not require an advertising budget, but it does require time and patience.
In fact, it typically takes 6 to 12 months of regular content marketing for the effects to take hold.
Below is a case study on a construction equipment rental company that invested in SEO as their primary customer acquisition channel.
For five years since their founding, their traffic was relatively flat.
In May 2017, they started investing in their blog and regularly posting articles strategically written for SEO. At this point, they had about 7,500 unique visitors to their website a month.
By December of 2017, they still were only seeing 9,000 unique visitors a month. However, they continued to invest their time in content.
By July of 2018, they had 31,000 unique visitors a month. By July the following year, they were seeing over 100,000 unique visitors a month. As of July 2020, they are approaching 180,000 unique visitors a month.
Content marketing has compounding effects, but it requires patience and consistency to hit an inflection point in traffic.
Most businesses give up on their content marketing efforts before they hit that inflection point.
SEO is not as simple as posting blogs and hoping people find them.
Content marketing requires a formulaic approach that extends far beyond keeping up with a blog.
The following chapters will walk you through a recipe for success in construction content marketing and SEO.
First, let’s go over some table stakes.
Chapter 3: Table Stakes
This chapter covers the table stakes – the (fairly) painless wins that cost you little to nothing financially.
If you have an outdated website, you are not alone.
The good news is that, contrary to popular belief, creating a modern website does not require an agency that specializes in construction businesses, a freelance software engineer to build you a website, or a listing site to build and host your website for you.
In fact, a modern website is more achievable now than it ever has been before.
The bad news is that if you don’t have a modern website then the rest of this guide is moot.
Their tools are intuitive, have many helpful third-party integrations built in, and are already technically optimized for SEO.
These websites will not necessarily get you a total ecommerce solution, but they will get you halfway there – a clean-looking site that represents your brand and enables you to attract customers online.
Google My Business
Google My Business is a free tool from Google that allows local businesses to appear in local searches and on Google Maps.
Google ranks local businesses based on relevance, distance, and prominence.
Prominence is the one factor you can control.
Prominence is based on your SEO and the number of positive reviews. Google states that your position in web results affect local search results so SEO best practices still apply.
Ask your customers to leave reviews on your business to help with your local search results.
Manage and respond to your reviews. This shows that you are engaged, and Google will reward you for the engagement.
Add photos, posts, and products to your Google My Business page. Completeness and freshness of the content on your page boost your rankings.
Google My Business is a must-have to appear in local searches, such as “Scissor Lift Rental Near Me,” it’s free, and takes less than an hour of work to get set up.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console is a free tool to help you understand how your website is being indexed by Google and what errors need to be addressed.
It will also identify what search queries you are appearing in and how many clicks you are earning over time.
IMPORTANT: Google Search Console is where you submit your sitemap.
You can think of your sitemap as the blueprint of your website. Your sitemap makes it easy for Google to find your site’s pages and understand the contents.
A lot of businesses in the construction equipment space do not have a social media presence. Most of them are under the assumption that their customers do not use social media.
The statistics say otherwise.
- 78% of adults 30-49 and 64% of adults 50-64 use social media.
- 76% of all Facebook users visit the site every day.
- The average person spends 50 minutes a day on Facebook and its properties.
Even if customers in the construction industry spend half the time that the average person does on social media, you still have an opportunity to get your brand in front of your customer for 25 minutes a day.
The social following that listing sites like Rock And Dirt and MachineryTrader have achieved are proof that there is a large audience on social media in the market for construction equipment and parts.
It takes time, quality, and consistency to build a large social media audience.
It does not require any money.
A newsletter is an excellent opportunity to build relationships, attract new customers, and promote your business.
Email newsletters should contain content that people actually want to read (a breakthrough, I know).
Too many newsletters are used as promotions, especially in the heavy equipment and tool industry. This is the wrong way to think about email marketing.
Instead, provide insights into your business, promote your best customers, and offer guidance.
Give your readers a reason to read and share your newsletter.
Hubspot and Backlinko are both examples of companies that have done an outstanding job with their email newsletters. The free content that these companies distribute has led to hundreds of thousands of email subscribers for each of their businesses.
Again, you may think that email marketing doesn’t work for the construction industry.
But again, the statistics say otherwise.
The construction industry has the second highest email open rate (45%) among the 28 industries analyzed by Hubspot.
Start with free tools such as Mailchimp or Constant Contact and grow from there.
Here is an example of one of our newsletters. You will find that there is nothing promotional in this email, it is instead designed to be a resource to our readers.
Chapter 4: How To Decide What Content To Write
The purpose of content marketing is to transform your business into becoming a resource for your most valuable customers.
Getting content marketing right turns your website into a magnet, drawing prospective customers to you as opposed to paying to push your products to them.
There are several steps to take before you start writing that will keep you focused on producing the most valuable content for your most valuable customers.
1. Identify Your No. 1 Most Important Customer
Start with identifying who your customers are.
Be intentional about this step and think about the person, not the business, that works with you.
The next step is to determine who your No. 1 most important customer is and what are the unfulfilled needs of that customer.
This is closely related to finding your niche, as we discussed with Kevin Gray at Skyreach Equipment.
Your most important customers do not have to look alike. NFX, the venture capital firm in Silicon Valley specializing in marketplaces, refers to this as your white-hot center.
Think of the following items when determining your white-hot center:
- What are the basics? i.e. demographics, geography, role
- What is really important to them?
- What is the job to be done?
- What will cause them to buy?
- What hesitations or worries do you need to overcome?
The best way to gather this information is to interview your customers and ask them these questions. You will be surprised what you find out. Businesses often discover their white-hot center is not what they thought it was.
For more on this, I’d suggest reading into Clayton Christensen’s “Jobs To Be Done” concept.
2. Map Customer Questions To Stages Of Buyer Intent
A common misconception is that search is strictly a “bottom of the funnel” tactic or, otherwise put, solely for customers who are in the mindset to purchase a specific product or service.
However, there are three other stages of intent, or mindsets, that commonly start with a Google search. The kinds of searches for each stage of intent follow similar patterns.
Click through rate significantly increases when the content matches with the customer’s stage of intent:
- Discovery: These are ancillary questions about how to complete the job to be done. For example, if you sell air filters, you may consider having content on ”How do you know when you need to change your air filter.”
- Explore: These are typically searches for lists of the best products to get the job done.
- Evaluate: At this stage, your customer has narrowed their search down to a few options that may best fit their needs.
- Purchase: These are the product-specific searches that most people think of when considering search engine marketing.
Begin jotting down questions from the perspective of your most important customer and map the questions to the four stages of intent.
3. Conduct Keyword Research
Now it is time to bolster that list of questions with keyword research.
Keyword research helps you determine what your customers are searching for, how often a phrase is being searched, and how difficult it will be to rank for.
What keywords to target?
All keywords can be put into three buckets:
- Highly searched: “Equipment rental”
- Mid-tail: “Equipment rental near Dallas”
- Long-tail: “Scissor lift rental near Dallas”
Although your first inclination will be to target the most searched terms, your chances of ranking for them are extremely low.
SEO has a compounding effect. This means that the more keywords you rank for, the higher your chances are of ranking for the most competitive keywords.
There are several ways to identify what long-tail keywords your customers are searching for.
Start with the questions you mapped out in Section 2 of this chapter:
- Check the related searches section at the bottom of the Google search page.
- Look at the “People Also Ask” section on Google search results.
- Search through the relevant construction forums.
- Sign up for a Google Adwords account and use their keyword planner tool.
I also highly recommend SEMRush if you are willing to pay for a tool (starts at $99 a month). There are a ton of useful tools that come with an SEMRush subscription to conduct keyword research.
Create a list of long-tail keywords that relate to the questions you brainstormed in the previous section.
The key in identifying keywords that you can rank for is to find long-tail keywords with relatively low competition that simultaneously have enough monthly searches to be worthwhile.
Indicators of low competition includes:
- Low Cost Per Click (CPC): Although CPC is the currency with which paid search is purchased, it can still be a useful metric for SEO. A low cost per click means that few companies are bidding on it. The higher the CPC, the more companies are targeting that keyword.
- Low keyword difficulty score: SEO tools such as SEMRush typically have a scoring system to quantify the difficulty to rank for any given keyword. This is measured by looking at how authoritative the sites are that currently rank for that keyword and your probability to surpass them.
- Low traffic: Long-tail keywords inherently have relatively low monthly traffic. Generally, the more traffic a keyword generates the more difficult it is to rank for.
4. Identify Your Content Assets
A lot of content marketing revolves around writing articles. However, not all keywords are best served by a blog post.
You need to identify what content assets you own and what gaps you may have.
For a construction equipment or parts supplier, common content assets are the following:
- Blog: This is where you create useful resources for customers that are in the pre-discovery, discovery, and exploration phases.
- Product pages: Your goal should be to have the best content on any particular product you offer and become the best resource for customers searching for your specific type of product.
- Category pages: Category pages should contain rich information about that category of products. Category pages can become a resource for customers that are in the discovery and exploration mindsets and are on their way to narrowing down what product fits their needs. Home Depot is a great example of what a content-rich category page looks like.
- Video/YouTube: Video does phenomenally well for customers in the discovery phase. In fact, Google can recognize the intent of a search and will serve up videos as the first results for a search with discovery intent. This is a major area of opportunity for construction marketers.
- FAQ: An FAQ section can directly answer the questions that you wrote down in Chapter 2. Ask your sales people what questions they get asked the most and create an FAQ section with a separate post per question. The on-demand auto mechanic company YourMechanic does an awesome job with this – they receive 6 million organic visitors per month from their FAQ content.
- Reviews: Positive customer reviews have a massive impact on your SEO and are one of Google’s factors for measuring trustworthiness.
5. Create A Content Web
Now it is time to bring all the pieces together into what I call your content web.
A content web is a tool I like to use to link all of these seemingly disjointed steps together into a web centered around the core customer. This tool allows you to track what content you have created, the intended purpose of the content, and what content you should consider creating next.
Below is a very abbreviated version of a content web. The anatomy of a content web is as follows:
- Centered around your core customer from section 1.
- Second layer: The topics you brainstormed in Section 2 that your core customer cares most about. At this layer, you want to have one piece of “pillar content” to rule them all for that particular topic. This pillar content acts as the anchor and all other ancillary topics refer back to that pillar content. We will get more into this when we get to internal linking.
- Third layer: The keywords you researched in Section 3 that the glazier would search for related to the topics they care most about. This layer should be supported with your keyword research so you know the exact phrase being searched for and the search volume that the keyword gets.
- Fourth layer: I added in the content asset that is addressing each keyword into the third layer although you could have more than one content asset for any particular keyword which could warrant a fourth layer.
There are multiple ways to create a content web like this. I use a free tool called MindNode (only works on Mac).
The point of a content web is to avoid a content creation workflow that is based on gut feeling. This is a tool that works for me, but there are certainly other tools and methods that could work for you.
Make this part your own.
Content Marketing Planning Recap
At this point in our content strategy we have:
- Identified our core customer and what that person cares most about.
- Brainstormed questions that they would ask and mapped those questions to their intent.
- Researched long-tail keywords related to those questions.
- Laid out what content assets we have and which ones are opportunities to create.
- Brought everything together into our content web.
We have identified what content we need to create so the next question is, how do you create content that ranks highly on Google?
Chapter 5: How To Create Content That Ranks On Google
There are over 4 million blogs posted every single day. So how do you write content that Google considers worthy of a top spot?
1. Content Quality: Become The Expert
Google’s 2020 updates have put an emphasis on E.A.T.
E.A.T. is what Google looks at as its measure of quality. Content quality includes both the material of the content and the experience that readers have with the content.
Here is a breakdown of the primary factors that go into Google’s assessment of your content quality and experience.
The depth of your content is determined by a few things.
First, it’s been found that longer posts have a higher probability of ranking in the top 3 than shorter posts and that the sweet spot for a long-form article is around 2,000 words.
A long post does not mean it’s higher quality.
Google looks at how comprehensive the piece of content is. The more you cover about a single topic in your post, the higher likelihood you have of ranking for that keyword.
Content has to be unique in order for it to rank. Google has become very good at detecting duplicate content.
You may be surprised by their definition of duplicate content:
- Copied content: Any completely copy and pasted content will be de-indexed.
- URL Variations: URL variations of a single URL is considered duplicate, which you see often times with product pages i.e. equipment.com/scissor-lifts is a duplicate of equipment.com/scissor-lifts?gs1930 if the content is largely the same.
- Multiple versions: If you have two versions of your site for www.equipmentcompany.com and equipmentcompany.com, you have essentially duplicated your whole website.
- Boilerplate text: Any boilerplate text that you have copied on several pages is considered duplicate.
- Thin content: Thin content, or a pages with very little content, is often considered duplicate content.
- Careful with Syndicated Content: Be careful syndicating your content on other sites. As long as your content is originally posted on your own web property and the syndicated content has a link back to your original article, you will be considered the original author.
- Duplicate Meta Content: Meta titles and descriptions are the text that sits in the HTML behind the page to steer Google in the right direction as to what your page is about. Duplicate meta titles and descriptions will trigger a duplicate content warning, and you will risk a hit to your ranking.
Google has had several patents for quantifying a content freshness score, which is a leading indicator of their efforts towards measuring content freshness. The fresher the content, generally the higher the ranking.
Freshness is based on:
- Creation date: The date that the content was published.
- Changes: The number of changes to the site, the amount of change, the recency of those changes, and how important the change is all play into content freshness.
- New Pages: The number of new pages added to a site over time, such as adding a new post to your blog, plays a factor.
- Engagement: Interaction from your audience, i.e. the number of comments signal content quality and freshness.
The reader’s experience with your content is an important aspect of your content’s quality.
Content is considered more readable when it contains:
- Bulleted and numbered lists i.e. 11 Reasons Why The Construction Industry Needs Ecommerce
- Images and multimedia – take pictures of your job sites and with customers to have a library to pull from
- Proper grammar and spelling
- Proper spacing – no more five-paragraph essays!
- A table of contents
Google often rewards content that uses lists, images, and tables of content with featured snippets on their search results page.
2. Content Relevance: Own The Topic
Google’s priority is to surface the highest quality content that is also the most relevant resource for any given keyword.
You can help steer Google in the right direction in determining what topic is most relevant for your content with the following optimizations:
Keyword density is in reference to the number of places your target keyword appears in your content.
It is NOT strictly in reference to the number of times your target keyword appears.
Google got wise to tricks, such as keyword stuffing, that injected the target keyword countless times behind the scenes to trick Google into thinking the content was rich with the target keyword.
There are a number of places where you want your target keyword to appear:
- Your title and title tag
- In your header and H1 tags
- In the first 100 characters of your content
- Throughout the body of the content
- Semantically related keywords should be throughout
- In the URL for your content
- In the meta title and description
Dwell Time vs. Bounce Rate
Dwell time is a measure of how long someone spends on your page on average before leaving it.
Bounce rate is the percent of people that come to your page and leave it without clicking to other pages.
A common misconception is that a high bounce rate is always bad. However, a high bounce rate is only bad when coupled with a short dwell time.
A high-quality article, for instance, will likely have a high bounce rate but a long dwell time because the reader Googled for a topic, found your article, stayed long enough to read it, and left without clicking elsewhere.
Therefore, the combination of the two are important to look at, and dwell time ultimately wins when it comes to content relevance.
There are a couple of factors that can lead to a low dwell time and high bounce rate:
- Your content is written about an irrelevant topic to the keyword you ranked for.
- Your site speed is slow, causing the reader to lose patience and leave.
- The user experience of your content is poor, causing the reader to have a bad first impression and bounce.
- Your content is low quality.
- Pogosticking – when the customer frequently clicks your result, backs out to the search results page, and clicks to the next result down. This signals to Google that your content is not as beneficial as the content ranked below yours.
3. Content Linking: Build Authority
One of the most important SEO concepts is building your domain authority through content linking.
In general, the more your piece of content is linked to both internally and externally, the more it signals to Google that your piece of content is high quality and the higher all of your pages will rank.
A rising (domain authority) tide will lift all (content) boats.
The types of links that help signal to Google that your content is worthy of a No. 1 ranking are as follows:
A backlink refers to an instance where a third-party site uses your piece of content as a reference and links to your piece of page.
Backlinks are SEO gold – but not all backlinks are created equal:
- High-authority backlinks: The higher the domain authority of the referring website, the greater the impact that backlink will have on your ranking. The more high-authority backlinks from sites like ENR or ForConstructionPros, the better.
- Keyword in anchor text: Anchor text is the word or phrase that is hyperlinked to your content. If the anchor text contains the keyword that your content is targeting, then that backlink carries more weight than irrelevant anchor text. For example, if I had an amazing piece of content on boom lifts, but the website linking to my site is using the anchor text peanut butter and jelly, it will be a less valuable backlink.
- Links from PR: Content about your company on high-authority news sites or industry publications are a great way to earn high-quality backlinks.
- Directory links: There are multiple ways to quickly get backlinks through paid services, directories, and listing sites. Although these help, they are lower quality backlinks and are not weighed as heavily.
- Guest contributions: Contributing content to other publications as a guest contributor is a great way to earn backlinks.
- Nofollow vs Dofollow: Nofollow and dofollow are tags in the HTML of the page that tell Google whether to ignore the link or not. If you earn a backlink, be sure it does not have a nofollow tag, otherwise it will not count towards your ranking.
There is no better way to accumulate high-authority backlinks than to consistently write high-quality, relevant content that is 10 times better than anything else on the internet.
This is where your content web comes into play from Section 5 of Chapter 4.
Although not as powerful as backlinks from third-party sites, internal links to and from your own content on your website help build your domain authority.
Your internal linking structure should mimic your content web in a way.
Your most important pieces of content should act as nodes of the content web. All content related to one of your pillars should be internally linked back to that one piece of pillar content.
Any boost in ranking that the leaves of your web get will pass that authority back up the branches to your pillar content.
This concept is important for pages beyond a blog.
It is imperative for suppliers to write killer content on their product category pages because all product pages within a category link back to that category page by way of the breadcrumbs typically found on an ecommerce site. This gives your category pages a great chance of ranking.
For example, Home Depot does a great job adding content to their category pages for their more competitive keywords like “Fasteners”.
All of the product pages under the fasteners category are linked back to the category page by way of the breadcrumbs.
You will notice that Home Depot comes up second behind Fastenal. The description you see in the search result comes from the About Fasteners section and the links come from the subcategory links they included on the page.
A well designed, shallow internal linking structure is a critical technical SEO component to get right for an ecommerce-enabled company.
Outbound links refer to the links that you give to third parties when referencing their content in your writing.
Google assumes that a well researched, in-depth piece of content will include references to external sources so it is thought that Google will favor content that includes these external references. High authority outbound links could include references to government agencies like OSHA or studies conducted by consultants like McKinsey.
However, you do not want to overdo it as that can have an adverse effect.
High-Ranking Content Creation Recap
Google’s job is to surface the most relevant content with the highest level of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness for any search on the internet.
In order to create content that ranks on Google:
- Become the expert: Create high-quality content that is in-depth, unique, and fresh while giving the reader the best experience while they read your content.
- Own your topic: Create high-quality content that is highly relevant to your core customer and therefore your target keywords.
- Build authority: Earn high-quality backlinks with your content and purposefully link your content together to continuously lift your domain authority.
I have seen far too many companies get addicted to paid methods of acquiring website traffic.
The problem with paid traffic is that as soon as the money valve turns off, traffic goes with it.
This can kill a business.
A killer construction marketing strategy can be done without a dime of paid advertising. I hope this guide inspires you to become a content-focused, digitally enabled business so you can win on Google.
The reason we created Gearflow is because we also know how hard this is to do on your own. Every construction equipment or parts supplier should have the means to be an ecommerce-enabled business.
We’re working hard to make that possible.
Now I want to hear from you:
How much of this was new?
What questions do you have?