As we head into the new year, many HVAC contractors have already put plans in motion to generate increased leads and sales from a variety of sources, and I’m sure you’ve got certain expectations for what your website will deliver. Progressive HVAC contractors have high expectations for the leads they’ll generate online, and you should too. In case you missed our presentation at the 2009 HVAC Comfortech, read on for some insights to strengthen your online presence.

In this article, we’re going to focus on what your site needs to do and how it needs to perform once you’ve attracted your prospects to it. Then we’ll focus on the key analytics you should have mastery of, to measure how well or poorly your site is performing.

5 common mistakes—and what to avoid

While there are many factors that affect who visits your site and how they get there, it is critical to have a website that functions well in terms of design, content and architecture. Take an objective look at your website to determine if you are guilty of these five common mistakes:

Too busy: Confusing color schemes and overuse of buttons and links can overwhelm your prospect.

Overuse of images: While pictures are important to support your copy and relieve the eye, they are not searchable and too many can lower your ranking results.

Hard to navigate: Inconsistent drop-down menus, excessive fly-out buttons and links that don’t change color all make it easy for the user to “get lost” in the site.

Confusing text: Use the four-second rule: visitors should understand what your site is about in four seconds or less. Look at your own home page. If it weren’t your company, would you understand instantly what it is that you do and what services you offer?

Annoying the user: Auto-play music and video, and moving backgrounds or pictures that serve no purpose are intrusive and interrupt the user experience.


The devil in the details—analytics

Your analytics reports are at the core of understanding your Internet efforts, because they answers these questions: How do I know my site is working? If it’s not, what should I do about it? Analytics will shed light on how well your search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) efforts are performing, as well as what parts of your site are most appealing to your prospects.

Here are some key metrics that your analytics will measure for you:

unique visits - the number of visits to your website, counting each person only once no matter how many times they’ve visited. This will provide you with a good, general metric for determining traffic.

traffic source - how the user got to your site, e.g., Google, link from a referring site, typing the name directly into the address bar of their web browser, etc. You’ll be able to pinpoint what sources are delivering for you, so that you can focus your efforts towards those areas.

• keywords - a list of keywords used to find the site and the number of visits for each.

• content - which pages your users visited and how long they stayed on each page. This will provide a glimpse into what is of most interest to your users.

• ranking - how high your keyword is ranked on a search engine’s results page. (If it’s not in or close to the top 10, it’s not working for you.)

Understanding your analytics is the key to generating traffic to your website, and ultimately to generate conversion (the web term for a lead or sale). To illustrate why this is so important, let’s look at the keyword phrase air conditioning repair. From our keyword research, we know that it generates hundreds of thousands of searches. If your analytics tell you that you are not generating traffic from that phrase, then you need to optimize a page that will. The headline Your #1 Source for Air Conditioning Repair in (your town) might just do it!

Until the next issue, I hope you each take time to enjoy the things that are most important to you this holiday season. Happy Holidays!

Blaine Fox, Vice President of Warm Thoughts Communications, is a recognized expert on the residential mechanical services industry. He is currently working with some of the nation’s leading HVAC contractors to improve their marketing, fine-tune their operations and grow bottom-line profits. Previously, Blaine was general manager of ServiceMark, a $32 million HVAC contractor with more than 25,000 service agreement customers. Blaine oversaw 160 field employees, 30 install crews, 12 sales people and a call center that handled 140,000 calls per year. Blaine is a sought-after speaker, and presented at Comfortech 2009. He is also a frequent contributor to HVAC industry trade publications. He can be reached at bfox@warmthoughts.com.