Tree Service Marketing and Search Engine Optimization
How to Generate Digital Leads for Your Tree Removal Company
This article is an in-depth look at some of the technical marketing techniques used to generate online leads for local tree service contractors
Warning: This is a very long article covering many of the tree service marketing techniques I am currently using. You should read it start to finish if you want to get the most value out of it.
First of all, many of you reading this article will know that generating a continuous flow of qualified tree leads can dramatically change the face of your business, your earning potential and your lifestyle. As someone who has spent the last 12 years generating online leads for Arborists, in most urban locations I believe there are likely more leads available in the online space than your business can currently handle.
‘All the time’, is the right time for digital marketing and all clients have experienced strong growth in this area, even in challenging times like the global pandemic. The reason for this is our foundations are ready for anything. Strongly branded business, organic search traffic, paid search traffic, conversion optimised website, useful website content and lead tracking are just some of the things that give my clients an edge, and almost a decade of data and testing is what gives me a massive advantage in this field.
In this article, I will dive deep into detail about the most effective tools for building online tree leads in 2020 and how to apply them to your business.
Some of the key points we will cover include:
- What are The Best Marketing Strategies for Tree Service Companies
- Who Are The Ideal Tree Removal Clients?
- Tree Removal Service Website
- Tree Removal SEO
- Tree Service Advertising
- Tree Service Marketing Costs
- Work with Matt
Whether you are starting a new company, looking to build a lead generation website, or looking for the best tree service marketing solutions, then this article is going to tell you everything you need to know. First off, here is some inspiration and a little proof to show you I know what I am talking about.
This first example shows the past 25 months growth of a client based in Australia. This business was doing around 60-80 quotes per month already before committing to growth and now hitting between 400-500 per month. Make no mistake, this company owner has been fully committed to growth, being able to go from 1-2 crews to 4-6 crews consistently, hiring several office staff and several quoting staff to handle the volume.
This is not for everyone and takes a keen business owner. The next example shows a client in another Australian capital city who started with me 12 months ago, running 1 crew and no office staff.
As you can see, in only a few short months we were able to boost the amount of leads coming into this business, maxing out the capacity of the business every month. In fact, you will see from the dips, that these were areas we actually scaled back our paid strategies to reduce quotes, as work was booked several weeks in advance.
This company now has a full-time office worker to handle the leads and has been able to acquire the extra resources to run 2 crews. Running 2 crews really boosts the earning potential of a tree company and makes the fees I charge seem irrelevant. This is a true, ROI based digital marketing model and you can find out more about partnering with at the end of this article.
THE BEST MARKETING IDEAS FOR TREE SERVICE COMPANIES
Through my own observations, the best marketing strategies for your tree service are those that target people actively seeking a contractor to carry out tree work via permission-based strategies. This is more effective than interruption-based strategies which are too broad and inefficient in my opinion, though they can certainly still generate leads.
Here is a permission-based example..
A homeowner has noticed after a storm that there is critical damage to nearby vegetation that is endangering people and property below. They know it has to be removed so they come to google to actively seek a contractor in a short timeframe. This customer already has urgency built into their scenario and we already have their ‘permission’ as they contacted us. We really need to be in front of these people with effective search marketing techniques to acquire this lead.
Some of the tools we would use for permission strategies include Organic and Local Search Engine Optimisation and Google ads.
Here’s an example of an interruption-based strategy..
We decide it is time to scale up our lead generation efforts and run a Facebook video ad to let people know who we are. We target domestic clients who own homes and are aged between 30-65+. It is very likely that all these people have trees, however, there will be less than 1% that actually need tree work and of the ones that do, there will be a much small portion who convert. The result is we spend a lot of marketing dollars on Facebook ads targeting people who don’t need our services, and the conversions are low, hard to measure and expensive.
WHO ARE THE IDEAL TREE REMOVAL CLIENTS?
This may be a little different for everyone but generally, larger clients with bigger budgets and repeat business are very attractive to tree companies. Some examples of ideal tree service clients are as follows:
- Local Government, Councils
- State government, road maintenance and land clearing
- Real estate managers, Strata Managers
- Insurance companies ( Storm & Fire damage)
- Golf Courses
For many of these examples, you will have to work a little harder to seek out and form relationships with these stakeholders, as many of your competitors are doing the same thing. Having a properly implemented digital marketing strategy however will land you some of these bigger clients by default and this should form part of your long game.
I did not put domestic clients in the list above as they are more so your default client with jobs starting from very small up to some good medium size tree maintenance. I am not trying to discredit this lead source though. In reality, for most businesses (especially when you are starting out) residential work will be the greatest volume of your leads and the bulk of your income. There is still tons of money to be made domestically, it just takes more quotes and more effort, than the ideal repeat customer model from a major organisation.
TREE CONTRACTOR WEBSITE
Before we really get into the nitty-gritty of digital traffic-generating strategies, we first need a place to send that traffic to. As is the same for any contractor vertical, a correctly built tree care website will be a place that showcases the company’s credentials, qualifications, contact details, service areas and any other company-related data and content that will build trust with the user, and ultimately convert digital traffic into leads.
Before we get all wrapped up in thinking we need the most beautiful looking, or the coolest website, we have to remember that the user experience, layout and functionality of the page have a much higher impact on whether or not our traffic converts to a lead or not.
Below are two of the most important considerations for a lead generation Website
CONVERSION RATE OPTIMISATION
The landing pages we build out need to grab the attention of the user in no more than a few seconds, while at the same time letting them know that our page is very relevant to the search query that brought them here in the first place. It also needs to contain useful information about the topic that first bought the user to the page.
Synergising all these processes is what is known as conversion rate optimisation or CRO. This is not something that most web developers will tackle and usually, they will be more focused on physical appearance as this also is what the business owner gets stuck on.
Don’t get me wrong, having a beautiful website is certainly desirable, but without CRO, it is not going to be the lead generating tool you hoped for. CRO is a detailed topic that we could discuss for hours but just know you are going to need this implemented into your web layout if you are striving for outstanding marketing success.
By creating thoughtful, relevant, useful, interesting and entertaining content to optimize our Arborist website we do two things.
- We provide useful answers for our customers that may help them to problem solve and we also gain trust with them by establishing ourselves as an authoritative and knowledgeable source within the industry.
- We show the search engine that we are an active site within the tree service niche that produces great content. The search engine rewards us by displaying our content high in the search results, hence giving us more traffic and potential clients. As we build more content, our domain authority becomes higher and hence our search ranking potential is further increased.
Acquiring fresh, useful and quality content has always been one of the hardest tasks in a digital marketing campaign. As an arborist, you are actually in one of the best positions to write the content as you have the knowledge to do so. On the other hand, it is very time consuming and your time is better spent quoting and being on the tools.. this is where your money is made.
Outsourcing becomes the only real answer, but quality control will be a real problem if you try to do it on the cheap. For my own clients, I inevitably end up writing some of the more informative and knowledge-based articles that get high page views and assist with our SEO and conversion campaigns. For other more generic pages, I will outsource it to trained writers and make any minor tweaks I need before publishing.
TREE SERVICE SEO
I really don’t want to turn this into a ‘How to do tree service SEO’ course because that is a very detailed and technical undertaking. I will, however, be pointing company owners with some web know-how in the right direction. Personally, I have been building and ranking sites in the search engines for the past 9 years, so I have picked up a lot of skills.
Half the people reading this article will be business owners looking for genuine knowledge to help boost their search position, the other half will be SEO’s trying to figure out how to rank a site for the tree removal client they just sold SEO services too. On that note, I will only be discussing ‘Google Safe’ white hat SEO tactics that web experienced business owners could potentially implement by themselves if they were that way inclined.
By only implementing the safe SEO described below, you are also not degrading or damaging your domain’s ranking potential and it will be still ‘clean and un-damaged’ when you decide to hire a professional SEO.
WHAT IS TREE REMOVAL SEO?
SEO is the acronym for ‘Search Engine Optimization’. It is the process of increasing the quality and quantity of website traffic by increasing the visibility of a website or a web page to users of a web search engine. Simply put, it is making your website rankings in google appear above your competitors.
Generally, we would be trying to rank web pages from your main business website for organic traffic, however, we may also be trying to rank your GMB in google maps or other brand-related web properties such as social media profiles or web 2.0. Below is a list of must-haves to get you started.
GOOGLE MY BUSINESS (GMB)
The greatest qualities about GMB’s are they are a free service provided by Google and they convert prospective search traffic very well. When you create a ‘my business listing’ you will need to supply a business name, address and phone number that will be used to verify that this submission is a real business entity. This makes these map listings a very trusted source from a searchers point of view and in googles eyes. Verification is usually done by sending a postcard to the address you specify when creating the listing. On this postcard will be a code that you use to verify the listing from within the GMB dashboard.
Some points to remember when creating a Google My Business listing:
- Use your exact business name as it appears on your business registration certificate.
- Use your correct business address. You can make your business address your home address, as tree contractors are service-level businesses. Once verified you are given the option not to show your actual business address in google, and this is actually recommended.
- Use the phone number that clients will be able to call you on. This is a number you will be happy to have displayed across your website and will also be used by people calling directly from the GMB listing itself.
After this info is added, you can then go through the listing and update all fields that are available to update. You can then upload media such as photos, logos and videos as you wish. These listings are a fantastic way of getting local leads as their display prominence in a search engine result is very much weighted by the searcher being in close proximity to your business.
TREE REMOVAL SEO KEYWORDS
Many people take a little bit of time to fully understand what is meant by the term ‘Keyword’. The best way to think of keywords is they are terms that users would be typing into the search engine when they are looking to acquire a tree service. For example, a person might live in the suburb of ‘Bondi’ which is part of the eastern suburbs of Sydney. They need to have a tree removed, so they come to the search engine and type the keyword ‘Tree Removal Bondi’.
A keyword does not have to be one word, it can be a string that we often refer to as ‘long tail’. In the above example, we have what is called a ‘geo modified long tail’ as we are referring to the service ‘Tree Removal’ and the geographic area “Bondi”.
As local SEO’s, we are always trying to help the google bot understand relationships between business names, service and location. By doing this we have the best chance of sourcing leads as close to home as possible from free search engine traffic. My recommendation when implementing keywords into your web pages is to build out separate pages for some of the top tree services within the industry.
So what are the best tree service SEO keywords?
The best tree removal service keywords are:
- Tree Removal
- Tree pruning
- Tree trimming
- Tree cutting
- Tree Maintenance
- Tree Care
- Tree Stump Removal
- Stump Grinding
- Wood Chip Mulch
- FireWood Supply (if you do it)
If you are an Arboriculture Company owner looking to build some of your own content, pick one of these KW’s at a time and start writing about them in detail. You will be surprised how fast you end up with a great article, and you will be surprised how useful the content is to me when you decide it’s time to come on board and kick your online leads into overdrive.
Also referred to as ‘on-page seo’, it specifically refers to the way we arrange our text content and HTML in a way that the bot can interpret and understand, while at the same time giving the reader the best user experience. Good SEO, absolutely always starts with good on-page SEO practices.
To keep it simple, when you are writing articles about specific things (eg Tree Pruning), try to keep the content specifically about the topic. In this example, your main page title would contain the words “Tree Pruning”, so don’t go off on tangents are start talking in detail about ‘firewood’, as you will likely create some ambiguation, making it harder for the search bot to determine that the article is about ‘Tree Pruning’.
If the bot cannot determine what the article is about, then it will not favour the article in the search position. Again, as this article is aimed at business owners, I am not going to make this a 4 day course on on-page tree removal SEO. If you just do what I say and write good quality, truthful and useful articles about the specific areas I mentioned above, you will lay a good base platform for an experienced SEO to help you out in the future.
To prevent all confusion, when we talk about ‘Off-page SEO’, we are referring to external web properties that have links pointing back to our site, namely, Backlinks. The type and quantity of backlinks referring to your domain will determine how high you can rank in a search engine, assuming your on-page is done correctly. Backlinks are a critical part of the ranking algorithm and you won’t rank if you don’t have them.
At the same time, build a dodgy link from a dodgy site and you might spend several years stuck on page 5. The only links I recommend a non-SEO company owner to build are links from branded social media properties and some high quality branded directory links. The reason for this is as long as you are using branded anchors, you can really only help a website rank and you cannot really create any imbalances. Some of the safe social and directory links I recommend building include the following:
- Get Pocket
Something I highly ‘Do Not Recommend’ is going to Fiverr and buying cheap link packages from so-called experts. There is so much at stake in a link building campaign and if you trigger a google penalty through bad links it could take many years to recover. Also, when you go to hire a quality SEO that can genuinely help your lead generation and we see a whole bunch of dodgy links we have no control over, we may have to decline your patronage.
SCHEMA STRUCTURED DATA
As schema is starting to move into the realm of technical SEO, I felt inclined to leave it out of this article. As I feel it is important, however, I will discuss it quickly, prepare the code and send it to you for quick installation.
All schema is, is a way to tell the search engines specifically what a page is about in a language it can understand. It is also a great way to tie our branded entity to the services on the page. Usually, the easiest way to implement it is by using the JSON-LD code format and pasting it into the head of your website.
TREE SERVICE ADVERTISING
In this section, we will specifically discuss paid traffic strategies. The beauty about buying traffic is if we know what we are doing, we can literally set up the ad and have leads coming in the same day. When we compare this to an SEO strategy it may, in fact, be several months before we get consistent traffic and several years before we really see the true potential. Firstly, I will talk about my favourite paid traffic method, and that is google ads.
GOOGLE ADWORDS PPC
Interestingly enough, I have actually seen articles out there claiming CPC is not a recommended method for generating tree service leads. This simply is not true, however, I do understand how it may have come to be mentioned in this context.
I would be willing to bet that a very large portion of this audience has actually tried running google ads for their own tree business at one stage or another, and got their butt kicked in the process. Perhaps you ended up spending $100-$200 a day for a week and could only manage 1-2 or even zero leads… sound familiar? .. You quickly decide the only one achieving ROI is google, and you dismiss the platform.
You have all seen the ads interface and the quick ads section, where Google will have you believe that all you have to do is build a quick ad set and let it run to your website homepage. They even give you optimization recommendations and a setup score as “Guidance”. The truth about running google ads is there is a very significant setup and testing time before you find the right formula.
Every piece of the puzzle is so important to success. This includes properly conversion rate optimized landing pages, landing pages custom-tailored to the ad, the ad text custom-tailored to the search query, the ad text custom-tailored to the landing page + query, testing different ad text combinations to see what converts best.
Build a list of hundreds of negative keywords that will prevent you from getting unwanted clicks… and it’s not just hundreds, its hundreds and hundreds.
So what is a negative KW? .. Let me give you one of my favourite examples.
You are trying to run an ad for the KW ‘Tree Lopping’ in your surrounding suburbs. Google receives a search query from a user that reads ‘Tree loppers Bunnings’. As the AdWords algorithm believes this is a close enough variant of your main KW they show your ad to the user. The user does not understand google advertising and believes the first result on the page is a good match for them so they click your ad. Soon after landing on your web page they realise you are not ‘Selling a set of tree loppers” and they bounce back to the search results. This action just cost you $10 or more.. ouch.
Adding negative KW’s is your number 1 tool of isolating the ‘Intent’ of the searcher, and until you master this, google ads will keep you broke. In the example above, we would be adding the term ‘Bunnings’ to our negative KW list. This is just one example, but can you imagine how many other conflicting clicks there might be on the internet.
With this information in mind, it is not hard to see why most are not able to use the platform effectively. I have an advantage in this area because I have years of data I can literally cut and paste into a client’s ad account, that I know will isolate qualified tree removal leads. From there, it’s a matter of tuning the ads to the client’s business and location. I also have a full-time web developer working with me, so making on-page conversion tests and optimizations is something I can do quickly and efficiently.
This process has also given me the chance to develop my own custom website theme that is built for converting web traffic into contractor leads, using every trick in the book I have learnt. Again, this is something I make available only to my clients.
How much will google ads cost?
The cost of google ads varies depending on how well they are optimized and how much budget you allocate. You will be picking up by now that I only talk in ROI terms rather than flat-rate. When we are able to prove an ROI from our google ads system, then we will spend however much we need to max out your tree crews every month.
I will speak about social media content marketing shortly but in this passage, I will talk about paid Facebook ads strategies. The difference between running paid Facebook ads and paid AdWords is FB is an interruption-based platform as we discussed before. People using Facebook are scrolling their feeds looking for entertainment rather than actively seeking tree services, so we need to interrupt their attention effectively.
With the use of the right creatives (ad content, images, videos), it is possible to divert the attention of someone that is interested in our content and keep their attention long enough to engage with us. This engagement may be in the form of visiting our web page or even entering lead details directly into Facebook. I know there are a lot of marketers out there claiming that Facebook marketing will generate an endless supply of leads, but I have honestly never come across a strategy that results in so much work that it got my attention.
I will say that I have had ads that generate an ROI on Facebook and I still experiment from time to time with them. Usually, these ads have been effective for a very short period of time until the creatives and audience burn out and the ROI figures blow out in a matter of days. This type of ad strategy seems to need a lot more daily monitoring than properly optimised AdWords strategies.
In short, I think this a valid lead referral system, but the complexities make it low on my list of recommendations as a tree service lead generation tool. If someone can come and prove me wrong on this I would actually love you to reach out and show me, but for now, I can only speak from the experiences I’ve had and the reasons I have stated.
SOCIAL MEDIA CONTENT MARKETING
Content marketing simply means making content that may be useful, interesting or entertaining to your audience and publishing it on your social media properties. With regards to the tree industry, this might be extraordinary jobs where vegetation has fallen on a house, extra-large tree removal, videos showing interesting angles from a drone, technical tree removal techniques, company-specific information, meet the team, our story and the list goes on.
From my experience, this type of marketing is often time consuming and extremely hard to measure lead generation results. I would say it is beneficial for building a company profile and creating activity with your entity assets. Different strategies will have varying levels of success when it comes to social, but brand building, awareness, and trust are the big advantages I see, rather than direct lead generation.
While there is no specific strategy here, prospects that are doing brand research or interacting with your Facebook page, sometimes prefer to contact you directly via Facebook messenger. I am not completely sure why, but we just accept that everyone is different and has different preferences.
On that note, I am mentioning it because all my contractors receive job requests via Facebook messenger on more days than not, so it is definitely a lead source that needs constant monitoring if we are to take full advantage of our digital leads ecosystem.
Building a customer email list is something that happens over time, but making correct use of customer emails before you get out to do the quote can help customers get to know you a little better before you arrive. For example, a customer that fills out your online quote request form would always be required to leave an email. If you set your autoresponder up correctly, these people can immediately start receiving useful content such as a company video, useful things to know about hiring arborists or anything else that may show your company and your people in a good light, which ultimately lead to higher conversion rates from your quotes.
A bit of a no brainer, but still I find some contractors don’t really believe how effective this is until they get around to doing it. I have one client who I spent over 18 months chasing him up about vehicle signage, and after finally getting around to branding his vehicles he was contacting me less than a week later to tell me how many local leads it had already generated.
Vehicle signage creates trust. It will increase the number of direct brand searches online and even photos of branded vehicles online help create trust and conversions. Your vehicles spend so much time on the road, there is no good reason not to get signage on them.
Things to remember when creating contractor vehicle signage:
- Have the company name prominent
- Have the phone number prominent
- If you can, have a memorable phone number eg 1300 TREES
- List a couple of your top tier services, but very briefly. Don’t make the service stand out more than the brand and the phone number.
HOW MUCH DOES TREE SERVICE MARKETING COST?
So to answer the question, there is no one size fits all answer, and in my view, you either generate an ROI or you don’t. In saying that, I currently service clients across several contractor industries that spend anywhere between $1200 – $20,000 per month in total on digital marketing. Every one of them generates a ‘no brainer’ return on investment.
I believe many folks over analyse this question when really, it is very straight forward to define. Put simply, does your marketing spend generate a sustainable ROI or not? When you truly see a holistic digital marketing strategy generating many many times its own costs in returns, you will never have to ask your self again if you are getting value, or if you are getting ripped off.
GET ALL YOUR DIGITAL ASSETS HANDLED BY ONE PROVIDER
I understand many of you that have continued reading up till now are intending to implement many of my suggestions on your own, and believe you don’t have the capital to have all your digital assets managed by a professional such as myself. To be honest, I am not even looking to sell my services to those that are looking to stay in this small scale mindset.
The folks I am looking to find through providing this information are those that can genuinely see for themselves the true power and scaling potential a tree removal company has when lead generation is managed on a genuine data-driven, return on investment model. For the right business owners, the level of expertise and speed in lead generation you will get from me is most likely unmatched from any other provider and I have become a true expert in the way tree service leads come to fruition through online channels.
Just about every one of you will have been regularly sold too by other SEO’s and Ad agencies promising the world and delivering very little. I do not sell services individually as I truly believe that unless you are doing them all together synergistically, then part of the puzzle is missing and your ability to commit to growth is diminished. I am not looking to work with every tree contractor that gets in touch, just the ones I can see have the right drive and work ethic, dedication and intent on achieving business growth, and the highest likelihood of sustaining a long term working partnership into the future.
My goal is to provide a completely hands-off approach to everything digital, so my clients can focus solely on quoting and growth. I implement everything including conversion-optimized website, web hosting, SEO, Ads Strategies, professional leads tracking template and more. When you need to get in touch, you speak to me directly and there are no answering services. When I show you the return on investment you get from coming on board with me you will be wondering why you ever tried to do it yourself in the first place.
Digital leads expert specialising in lead generation for trades and contract services.