Websites are a crucial part of the landscaping business. Your company’s website is most likely the first thing potential customers will encounter and sets the tone for whether they’ll want to hire you.
So what do you do if you’re still getting your business off the ground and don’t want to pay a professional to create a website for you? Or maybe you only trust yourself to get the job done right. In either case, the fact remains that you need a website – and sooner rather than later.
Here’s some advice from the professionals about the basics you need on your site:
If someone is looking at your site, he obviously wants to know what you do. If you’re strictly a lawn-maintenance business and this person wants to have a fire pit installed, don’t waste his time by being vague about your services. List them clearly and concisely in a location that is easy to find.
Another piece of basic information is your service area. Fielding calls from people outside your service area wastes your time and theirs.
If the person perusing your site has found that you do what they want and you’re in their neighborhood, they’re going to want to see some examples of your work. A portfolio of previous jobs is essential and allows your online visitors to see what your company is cable of. Because you’re in the business of making things visually pleasing, pictures of your work are your best friend.
Perhaps most basic of all is your company’s information, which should be prevalent throughout the site.
Jay Correia, CEO of DreamCo Design, suggests three different “calls to action” that landscapers can use on their sites: The first, a “ us for a free consultation” offer, provides website visitors a reason – and an incentive – to reach out to you. The second call to action could instruct visitors to “request a quote” by filling out a short form, which will give you their information for future outreach. Finally, invite website visitors to call right away and provide the company’s telephone number.
For those who choose to go the phone number route, it is important the number be easy to find and easy to read. Just as important, however, is ensuring that someone is available to receive the calls and set up appointments or provide more information. Don’t kid yourself into thinking potential clients will leave messages. They’ll just move on to the next company until they find one that responds.
“You’re not as available as a one-man show,” said Drew Wagner, director of business development at Sod Solutions. “Push people to fill out an email form that only requires the information you absolutely need.”
Those collected emails can be used later to send out special offers or news of added services.
Along with the musts, there are some things you should definitely avoid in establishing your website. Poor design is easily spotted by a professional, but your common sense will help you steer clear of many problems.
For example, failing to put your information on your homepage is foolish, though easily fixed. Clashing color schemes are never good, so take care not to drive traffic away from your site with an obnoxious design.
When choosing website-builder software, make sure the resulting site can be optimized for mobile users. More often than not, someone looking for a local landscaper will be googling on their phone, not sitting in front of a monitor. If your website cuts off half your pictures when viewed on a smartphone, you have a problem.
Correia says landscapers should avoid “stock photos that are obviously not their own work,” low resolution or low-quality original photos, as well as poorly written content.
Another thing you should avoid is overwhelming your customer with options. Hick’s law states that with every additional choice, the time required to make a decision increases as well.
The longer it takes a potential customer to make a decision, the more likely he is to leave the site rather than decide. However, that doesn’t mean you need to get rid of some of your listed services; you may just need to organize the information more effectively.
“The thing we try to do with that is break it up in service categories, break it down by customer types and then go into depth,” Wagner said. “It also helps with SEO (search engine optimization).”
One of the greatest challenges about your website is making it stand out from the competition. You’re going up against companies that do have professionals managing their websites.
“One of the most important aspects of a successful website is telling your story of differentiation, uniqueness, qualifications and history,” Wagner said.
Information you can share includes how long you’ve been in business, how and why you got started, your experience, what makes your process unique (better than others’ practices) and how you separate yourself from the competition. Your goal is to make visitors like you based on your website alone.
“Content is king,” Correia said. “High-quality, professional content will make the biggest visual impact. The keys to an effective landscaping site, he says, are great-looking photos and “simple yet professional text that is deep where it needs to be and very simple to see in the headings elsewhere.”
Blogs and social media help your company show up in Google searches, but a word of caution about adding these features: They represent a serious commitment of time and effort.
“If you’re not posting on a blog regularly, it will kill you,” Wagner said. “People think the business is shut down if the blog isn’t being updated. Remove dates on blog posts if you can’t update regularly.”
Blogs should be updated at least monthly, while social media accounts should have a new post at least once a week. Don’t overthink this content. Customer shout-outs and simply posting what projects you are working on can help with exposure.
If this all sounds too complicated, don’t rule out a website design company.
“Having a professional web development company build the website allows the site to get the time, attention and professionalism it requires to be successful,” Correia said. “A lot goes into making a website look great, function well and actually get traffic.”
Wagner suggests using a website developer in your area. Prices vary widely just as websites do, especially in terms of functionality. For DreamCo Design, typical prices range from $1,800 to $3,500.
Sod Solutions has noticed that bundled packages are becoming more popular. Their customers pay $150 a month for management and ongoing updates of the sites.
“We do this every day,” Wagner said. “It’s not something that you’re going to do overnight. It’s going to get out of date.”