The Ultimate Guide to SEO for the Green Industry
Increase Your Leads by Dominating Google Search Results
The Ultimate Guide to SEO for Irrigation, Lawn Care & Landscape companies.
Have you ever wondered if there are secret SEO strategies that are specific to your business?
The answer is a resounding, yes!
We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to SEO that combines our digital marketing expertise with our green industry experience.
This guide will teach you everything you need to know to start climbing to the top of the search engines. You’ll discover:
How to land on page one of Google’s organic search results
The secret to getting 2X, 5X, or even 10X more traffic
The content you need to create now to make your phone ring off the hook
Why We Created This SEO Guide
When people in your community need the lawn care, landscape and other services you provide, most of them start online with a Google search. In fact, 46% of the more than 3.5 billion Google searches each day are for local information.
Having a strong online presence is no longer optional; it’s a requirement. And, one of the best ways to ensure your business is found online by people who need your services is to have a website that ranks at the top of the search engines, especially Google.
When done correctly, SEO (search engine optimization) can position your site front and center, resulting in an influx of leads and a dramatic increase in revenue.
However, SEO is a complex and long-term strategy that requires a high degree of care, skill, and nurturing – not unlike your clients’ outdoor living spaces!
We created this guide to SEO to help you compete and win in your local market.
What is SEO?
You’ve probably heard the term SEO several times, but let’s back up for a second and explain what it is so that we’re all starting in the same place.
SEO, short for search engine optimization, is the process of making a site appear prominently on search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.) with the goal of getting more traffic to your website.
For example, if a potential customer is searching for “landscape design services near me,” your website should appear (also called “rank”) on the first page of Google (and ideally in the number one spot on the page) if it’s been optimized for the search engines.
As you can imagine, there’s more than one way to make this magic happen. Also, given how valuable this real estate is, you can bet your competition is working to get their pages ranked, too.
This guide will give you a comprehensive plan that includes both proven methods and the latest techniques recommended by Google for the present and future.
How SEO Can Help Green Industry Businesses?
SEO is an essential part of any successful marketing strategy because the exposure it brings attracts more customers, which can lead to more revenue.
For green industry business owners, SEO done right can help in the following five ways:
1. Get more website traffic.
The more prominently your name appears in the search engines, the more clicks you’ll get to your website. It’s a simple numbers game; let’s make sure that you win.
2. Get more leads.
The more traffic you get to your website, the more likely you are to get phone calls and people requesting your services.
3. Increase your conversion rate.
When people visit your website, they’ll have the opportunity to learn about your business, read up on your services, and view a gallery of your successful green industry projects. By the time they call you, they’re more informed and often ready to make a decision to buy from you.
4. Build brand credibility.
By earning the top spot in the search engines, you automatically signal to the public that you’re a reputable company with a relevant service offering. The companies that appear on the first page of Google are associated in a customer’s mind with companies that are top players in the industry.
5. Improve your business overall.
Google and the other search engines reward businesses that have useful websites by placing them at the top of their pages. Keep in mind that Google is a business, and they want their users to have a good experience.
As a result, the Google algorithm (the system that decides how to rank websites) has become increasingly focused on ensuring that a website is high-quality and relevant to a user’s search intent before showing it on their platform.
When you work to optimize your website for Google’s standards, you ultimately end up creating a website that is comprehensive, user-friendly, and a magnet for new customers.
Curious how your current SEO strategy stacks up?
Is SEO Dead?
In recent years, some skeptical marketers have claimed that “SEO is dead.” They point to Google PPC (pay-per-click), Facebook and YouTube advertising, e-mail marketing, social media, influencer marketing, and other new strategies as the tactics that businesses should focus on.
Further, they point to Google’s tendency to award more prominent search engine real estate toward ad space:
Based on the image above, one might reasonably conclude that there’s little point in trying to rank your green industry website on the front page of Google when the top half of the page is filled with ads.
However, you might be surprised to learn that nearly 68% of all clicks come from the first five organic results on Google. It turns out that the majority of people prefer to click on an organic result instead of a paid ad!
Why is this?
As Internet users become savvier, they’ve come to understand that anyone can appear in the ad section. When they’re searching for information about a service in their local area, ads can appear that are too far from their home or aren’t relevant to what they’re searching for.
By clicking on organic search results, users find that the websites they’re clicking on actually have the information they’re looking for. So, while it’s also a smart idea to run PPC ads to capture the very top of Google’s search results pages, you can clearly see that SEO is far from dead.
The Basics of How Search Engine Results Work
The first search engine dates back to 1990, but it was little more than a directory listing. In 1998, Google entered the scene, and this search engine came to dominate the search space. The speed with which Google could deliver relevant search results won Internet users over, and today, Google accounts for over 86% of all searches.
In this guide, we’ll focus solely on Google. Not only does Google have the biggest market share, but you’ll find that the same practice that helps you rank higher on Google will also work for the other search engines as well.
When a user specifies something they’re looking for, a landscape architect, for example, Google crawls the billions of web pages that currently exist and ranks them in order of what they think matches the user’s search intent.
As you saw in the image above, Google delivers a variety of search results, not just organic listings.
Here’s a summary of what you can expect to see after performing any Google search for a local business:
Paid Google Ads Listings
The image above shows two distinct sections of paid listings. The top row has a carousel of local service businesses, and if you pay to play (while also participating in a new feature called “Google Guaranteed,” you’ll be featured at the very top.
The next section is also comprised of ads based on keyword searches. Users can see a subtly bolded black text that says “Ad.” To appear in this section, you’ll need to purchase ads through Google. From here, you can specify how much you want to pay for clicks or conversions, and you’ll only pay when someone clicks on your ad.
At AquaTerra, we don’t just set up your ads–we maximize conversion opportunities and track results.
Google Maps Listings
As a local business, showing up in the Google Maps area is the most coveted and valuable place to be. These listings are organic, but there is now a way to sneak in with an ad. This map section, also called the 3-pack, is often the biggest lead generator for a local business.
To learn more about showing up in Google Maps, check out our guide How to Get Ranked in Google Maps.
Organic Search Results
The focus of the strategy in this guide is learning how to appear in the organic search listings. Though this section has been pushed farther down over the years, it’s still where most of the clicks happen.
Depending on the competition in your area, it can be extremely difficult to show up on page one of Google’s organic search results. You can’t buy your way in here. However, if you follow the steps that we’re about to show you, you have an excellent chance of earning the top spot, even if you’re in a very competitive and crowded market.
Choosing Your Keywords
The first step in any SEO project is to figure out which keywords you want to rank for. This entails figuring out what words your potential customers are typing into the Google search bar when they’re trying to find your type of service.
If you’ve been in business awhile, you probably have a good idea of several search terms already. No matter what business you’re in, you can develop a sizable list by starting with keyword phrases that include your city and keyword. For example:
“Your city” + lawn care
“Your city” + lawn care services
“Your city” + lawn care companies
Lawn care companies
Lawn care maintenance
Lawn mowing service
Lawn care near me
Yard maintenance services
In my area
It can be tempting to get caught up in coming up with hundreds of keyword variations, but as a rule of thumb, start with about 20 and prioritize them. Your most important keywords could include the services that are most profitable or services that you are trying to get more exposure for.
The 2 Types of Search Engine Optimization Strategies
SEO falls into two main categories:
1. On-Page SEO – This strategy involves improving what’s on your website to help it rank. This includes content, keywords, and even how fast your page loads.
2. Off-Page SEO – In addition to optimizing your actual website, you also need to build authority by obtaining inbound links from other quality and relevant websites, as well as making sure your company is listed in valid directories (Yelp, Angie’s List, Home Advisor, Thumbtack, etc.).
These links, called backlinks, demonstrate to Google that your site is worth visiting, as evidenced by high-powered and relevant other websites pointing to you as a resource.
You might have heard in the past that building links is the single most important ranking factor, but in reality, it’s only one piece of the SEO puzzle.
There are hundreds of factors that go into Google’s ranking algorithm, and that algorithm is updated about 500-600 times per year. Yes, you read that right.
That being said, Google usually releases a major algorithm update once every year or two, and these updates can dramatically affect a website’s rank in the search engines, especially if black hat SEO practices were involved.
For example, in 2012, Google’s Penguin update punished websites that relied on spammy link building practices. These practices involved people buying irrelevant backlinks or setting up a bunch of spammy sites for the purpose of linking back to their main properties. Google realized that this violated the spirit of the search engines, and they’ve begun to weigh their decisions more heavily on the user experience.
In fact, the most recent algorithm update, scheduled for 2021, is called the Page Experience update. According to Google, they are going to reward websites that make using the Internet a “delightful” experience.
Big Takeaway: SEO changes at the speed of light, but you’ll always be in a good position if you focus on what Google’s customers want – a premium user experience. If you’re not paying close attention and studying current best practices, your business can be left behind in the dust while your competitors grow and thrive.
If you’re not sure what constitutes a premium or delightful user experience, think about the websites that you like (and hate) to use. What do you like about them and why? Is it the design? Easy navigation? The ability to get ahold of someone directly from any page on the website?
Study what you like about those websites and incorporate those practices into your content and design.
Want some help with your SEO strategy?
How to Do On-Site SEO
Once you’ve identified the top 20 or so keywords you want to rank for on Google, it’s time to put your plan in action. We’re going to walk you step-by-step through what to do next.
The first thing you’re going to do (we can call this Step 0) is to map out how you’re going to use each of your keywords on your website. You want to do this because Google will identify only a couple of main keywords for each website and then figure out how to rank them.
A mistake a lot of novice SEOs make is to think that they have to include their favorite keywords on every page.
The problem with that approach is that it dilutes your efforts and confuses Google. For example, if you include “Landscape Design + Your City” several times on every page of your website, Google doesn’t know which page they should be serving to visitors when they type in that query.
Instead, identify one or two keywords that you’d like each page to rank for, and then create a table where you can map those out.
We’ll get you started with this example:
Keywords Mapped to Which Page
As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to include the desired keyword phrase once in the title of your page, in one headline, and about two to three times in the content of the page itself. As we continue, we’ll give you more guidance here.
The takeaway here is that you want the keyword front and center, but don’t overdo it by trying to “stuff” the keyword in random sentences. That was the old way of doing SEO, and professionals stopped with that practice years ago.
As a rule of thumb, your main keyword for a page should appear in the following places:
1x in the page title
1x in the headline
2x - 3x in content
1x in the meta description
Step 1: Plan Your Site Architecture
There’s been a trend toward simple, one-page sites in several service-based businesses, including the green industry. Though these “landing pages” can be effective in generating leads from a PPC campaign, if you want to climb to the top of the search engines, you’re going to need an authoritative site with several pages of helpful content.
Keeping in mind that each business is different, at a minimum, you’ll want to include the following:
Include your unique selling proposition, a summary of your services, testimonials or reviews, links to locations you serve, social media links, and calls to action (call us, request a quote).
Main Service Page
Create a page that details your primary service. Describe what the service is, answer frequently asked questions, show before and after pictures, etc.
Secondary Service Pages
Create a page for each type of service you offer.
If you serve more than one city, consider creating location pages for your top service areas. Each location page would be a mini summary of your services that includes the city name as one of the keywords.
Some companies with a national footprint can get overzealous here, and sometimes the tactic shown below is necessary to compete. However, the example from this company did nothing more than clone dozens of pages and change only the city name.
Creating blog posts is a perfect way to educate potential clients while also helping SEO efforts.
If you’re not sure what to write about, you can get a wealth of inspiration from Answer the Public. It’s a free tool that will give you valuable insights into what people are looking for online. All you have to do is type in a keyword, and you’ll immediately get dozens of questions that you can answer. Each one could be a potential blog post!
Step 2 – Optimize Each Page for Search
Now that you’ve decided which pages you’re going to create, it’s time to write the content and do the other critical on-page SEO work.
Here’s what you should do for each page you create. If you’ve already created your website pages, go back and check to see if you’ve followed these steps. If not, follow along and make the changes as necessary.
The title tag is the name of the page. It should include the main keyword you are trying to optimize for and a city/location name if relevant. The title tag for your home page should include your brand name and city.
The title tag for a service page can stand out by having a call to action and a phone number. For example:
The meta description describes what the page is about. Though the search engines don’t officially index the words in the meta description, they can help your click-through rate. Click-through rate, also known as CTR, is the percentage of people who click to your page after conducting a Google search.
By having a compelling meta description, you can increase your CTR, which not only results in more traffic, but it can also be a quality signal to Google.
The H1 tag is the header tag. It’s the title of your page that appears at the top of your content. It should contain your keyword and ideally, be a sentence. Make sure to use only one H1 tag per page.
SEO is essential to lead generation and reputation building, so we ensure your website shows up on search engines’ first page and it ranks higher for your industry’s most important keywords.
H2 and H3 Tags
These tags are subheadings that break up the content and make it easier to read. Instead of subjecting readers to a wall of text that will make their eyes glaze over, you can help them navigate down your page by calling attention to key points with these headings.
You can also use H2 and H3 tags to incorporate synonyms of your keywords. The Google algorithm will pick up on synonyms and interpret them as relevant signals for your on-page SEO.
Keyword in the URL of the page
If you’ve already got a website, you might not be able to include the keyword in your home page URL, but you can include it in your service pages. For example, if your page is about irrigation repair in Austin, consider having a URL like:
Images and Videos
Having unique images and videos on your page can help with both your SEO and your conversion. Whenever possible, take your own photos of your team, equipment, and projects instead of using stock photos.
To boost your search engine rankings, make sure that the title of the image file has relevant keywords. In your CMS (content management system), you should also edit the alt tags to include keywords.
If you’ve got videos, we also recommend uploading them to YouTube and then embed them on your page. Because Google owns YouTube, this video platform can also add “SEO juice” to your website.
You’d be surprised to see how many of your competitors treat content as an afterthought. They either don’t create it, or they hire cheap outsourcers to throw a bunch of words on a page that might help slightly with SEO but miss the mark with your target audience.
For a page or article to rank, an ideal word count is about 500 to 1,000 words. And, of course, for each page of content you create, make sure you’ve followed the tips we outlined earlier in this section!
How to Do Off-Site Optimization
Now that you’ve optimized your website and each page, it’s time to build authority so that Google knows your site is the one to rank.
The best way to signal authority is by having other great websites include links to your website in their content.
There are three ways to get links back to your website:
1. Outreach – Contact other businesses, and ask them to provide a link to your website. This method is time-intensive, and it takes hustle and creativity. One way to encourage others to link to your site is to create a piece of content that another website’s audience can benefit from.
For example, if you create a content piece about drought-tolerant plants, you could reach out to garden blogs. Let them know that you created this content, and their audience might want to read about it.
2. Create Great Content – If you are creating amazing content or providing stellar service, other people are going to want to share. This approach is passive, but the longer you’re in business and the more content you create, the more links you’ll build naturally.
3. Get Listed in Directories – One of the best ways to build backlinks to your site is to submit your business to directories. The obvious directories for the green industry are Yelp, Angie’s List, Houzz, Home Advisor, Thumbtack, etc. There are also more inclusive directories here that are relevant to any business.
How Long Does It Take for SEO to Work?
Now that you know that SEO is something you should be working on ASAP, the next question we often get is how long it takes to see the time and effort you put into SEO pay off.
Unlike paid ads that can take effect immediately and begin delivering leads within hours, SEO is a longer-term strategy.
In most industries, including green industries like lawncare and landscape design, you can expect to see results within about three months.
You should start seeing your website begin to inch its way up for a number of your desired search terms (like “best turf care company + your city”).
If you remain consistent with the strategies in this guide, then after six to twelve months, you could end up on page one of Google for your top keywords, and even in the coveted top spot.
The reason it takes a substantial amount of time to achieve the desired results is that Google is constantly crawling the billions of pages on the Internet. It takes time to sort, organize, and rank all of this information.
Plus, Google is also analyzing user behavior and adjusting how they deliver web pages to their users in real-time. As the data continues to accumulate, Google gets a better idea of how your site can be useful to their audience and will rank you accordingly.
Once you get to where you want to be in the search engines, it can be tempting to breathe a sigh of relief, sit back, relax, and enjoy the fruits of your labor. While a celebration is certainly in order, unfortunately, you cannot rest on your laurels.
Remember, your competitors are hot on your heels, and they’re also vying for Google’s eyeballs. At this stage, your task is to monitor your competitors and continue to improve your strategy. We’ll show you how to do this in the Search Engine Optimization strategies section.
The ROI for Irrigation and Other Businesses in the Green Industry
There’s no question that getting more traffic to your website can increase leads and revenue, but the question still remains – by how much?
The short answer is that it depends. There are many factors that go into SEO, and they can all influence your return on investment. On average, for every $1 invested in SEO, a company can earn about $22.14, yielding an ROI of 2,114%. Sounds impressive, right?
Fair warning: What you get out of your SEO efforts depends on what you put in. A haphazard strategy with a couple of keywords and blog posts isn’t going to cut it. You need a full-court press, diligence, and patience to get these results, and that’s where we come in.
Sure, you can try to do all this yourself. But wouldn’t you rather focus on running your business? Here at Aqua Terra Digital, we eat, sleep, and breathe SEO for businesses just like yours.
Once you’ve invested some time and money into SEO, you probably want to know if it’s paying off!
It’s tempting to make the mistake of thinking that more phone calls mean the strategy is working, but without knowing which strategies work and why, you’re stuck with nothing more than a guess about how your SEO campaign is performing.
In the green industry, there are several KPIs (key performance indicators) to track. Most of this can be done in Google Analytics, which is a free tool that measures the behavior of traffic to your website. If you don’t have Google Analytics (or a comparable analytics tool) set up on your site, contact us, and we’ll give you a hand.
Here’s what you want to track and why:
Most analytics programs will break down your traffic by channel. For example, you’ll see which visitors come from your paid search efforts, social media, SEO (organic traffic), e-mail, and more.
Google Analytics will sometimes give you an overview of the keywords that are resulting in traffic, but to get real insights, you’ll most likely need a more advanced solution such as ahrefs, Keyword Hero, or others.
You can find your organic traffic data in Google Analytics by going to Acquisition > Overview > All Traffic > Channels.
Time on Site and Bounce Rate
The amount of time visitors spend on your site is important because it will tell you if people are engaging with your content or leaving without exploring your lawn and landscaping services.
Again, this information is easy to find in Google Analytics. Follow the same steps as above, and you’ll be able to view this data visually.
One of the true tests of how well your SEO is working is whether it leads to any conversions, and how many. Assuming you’re not selling any products on your site, solely your green services, you’ll have to determine what qualifies as a conversion.
There are ways to set up off-line conversions, but that’s beyond the scope of an SEO guide. We won’t leave you empty-handed, though. Some of the conversions you can track could include filling out a lead form, a phone call that lasts 30 seconds, visiting a specific page, etc.
To ensure you’re able to determine which conversions are coming from organic searches and how much money you’re earning, follow these three steps:
Set up conversion tracking. As a service business, you’ll want to follow Google’s instructions to Create a Goal.
View your goal completions by channel. Remember, to track the success of your SEO strategy, you’ll want to focus primarily on organic.
Calculate your return on investment. Determine what a phone call, lead, and contact form submission is worth to you based on your close rate, and add it up.
Or, keep it simple by summing up all the projects you win where the lead came specifically from organic search. Then plug the numbers into this formula:
ROI = (Gain from SEO – Cost of SEO) / Cost of SEO
For example, let’s say you spend $2,000 on SEO, and it brought in projects totaling $25,000. Your return on investment would be:
($25,000 – $2,000) / $2,000 = 1,150%
SEO for the Green Industry – What’s Next?
If you’re thinking to yourself, “this sounds like a lot of work,” you’re 100% right! SEO is a time and labor-intensive process.
But, as you can see, the effort you put in today will pay huge dividends down the road. Unlike advertising, which you have to constantly pay for to see results, SEO can become more valuable over time.
If you’d like expert help in this area, we’d be happy to answer any questions. We also offer a free strategy session.