5 Basic Steps Contractors Can Take to Jump-Start Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Even if you’re preferred workspace is on the jobsite rather than behind the desk, it’s crucial as a building or remodeling pro to take the time to keep your website it proper working order, especially when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is how you ensure your company website will appear in Google search results (and ideally at or near the top of those results) when potential customers are looking for contractors to build their home, remodel their kitchen, or replace their siding. Appearing in search results can help increase traffic to your website, build brand recognition, and ultimately grow your leads.

While SEO is complicated enough that there are folks whose jobs are solely dedicated to the practice,  there are a few basic steps you can take right now to ensure your company’s website is checking off the basic must-have features.

1. Ensure your contact info is up to date: Make sure your website has your current company name, address, and phone number, both on the contact page and in the static footer.

2. Update your Google Business Profile: If you haven’t claimed and updated your Google Business Profile, it’s critical that you do so right away. When potential customers search for your type of business, such as “siding contractors in Fairfax, Virginia,” having an up-to-date Google Business Profile will help ensure you appear in the results and are shown in the Google Map Pack (see image below)—which also means you’ll show up before all paid and organic listings.

SEO Google Map Pack

Keep your Google Business Profile updated with as much current information as you can, including contact information, hours of operation, photos of your location, and before/after project photos. Encourage your customers to write a Google review of your company so those results show up, as well. (Click here to learn more about Google Business Profile and what it does, and check out this article for step-by-step setup instructions.)

3. Use regional language: Make sure your website banner and content include your location and region. Consider what people search for (perhaps “siding contractor in Fairfax, Virginia”) and make sure you’re specifying those keywords.

4. Create original content: Google prefers websites with organic content, so create and maintain a blog if you can (see an example from Westlake Royal Building Products customer Boston Exterior Remodeling). Even a weekly post featuring design tips, reflections on the latest industry trends and topics, descriptions and images of recently completed projects, and other educational articles can give you a boost. Weave keywords related to your business, including regional references, into the content when practical. (For instance, an article on design trends may include “While dark exterior siding colors are trending nationwide, we find that our Fairfax, Virginia-area homeowners are still preferring classic white siding with dark trim.”)

If you want to dig further into the most popular keywords for your work areas, a tool like SEMrush provides research tools along with website and SEO analysis.

5. Ask for help: If you want to get beyond the basics, it can be helpful to hire an expert. A digital marketing agency or an independent consultant can evaluate your current website and fix any key problems without requiring a huge investment, freeing up your time to do what you do best—build.

If you want to dive deeper into these tips, check out Backlinko’s Definitive Guide to local SEO here.

How to Leverage Completed Projects in Your Marketing Efforts

A beautiful photo of a beautiful home can attract customers more than nearly anything else. And if you’re like most building and design pros, you have had many of your projects professionally photographed (and if not, it’s time to start). But are you just using those images in brochures, on your website, and on the walls of your conference room?

Here are a few more low-cost ways to use your projects and photos to market your company.

  • Write a case study: What makes your home stand out in addition to looking pretty? What challenges did you have to overcome? How did you meet the needs of the client? Write a short story about your stand-out projects that explains what makes that home—and your company—special. Here’s an example. Once it’s written, you can:
    –Post the case study with images to your website and/or blog; link to it from your e-newsletter
    –Send the case study to your local news media (regional lifestyle magazines, the home section of your newspaper, etc.) as well as to the national trade magazines (Remodeling, Professional Builder, Qualified Remodeler, etc.) for their consideration for coverage.
    –Turn it into a video walk-through to share on your web site and social media.
  • Showcase your skills: When photographing your projects, don’t just take pictures of the overall home and rooms. Zero-in on the details that make it special—whether it’s a unique gable end detail, a hidden storage compartment in the kitchen, or an advanced-framed wall that will save energy costs.
    –Share individual photos of those elements on social media calling attention to what’s unique.
    –Share those photos/details with local and national media. Many publications not only cover full projects, but also like to highlight simple details or installation techniques. For example, NKBA magazine has a “Details” page for this exact purpose.

    Instagram TRG Home Concepts
    TRG Home Concepts showcases its custom capabilities and creativity by showing—and explaining—project details on Instagram.
  • Share everywhere: Take advantage of every free platform at your disposal—Houzz, Instagram (posts and stories), Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest. And use each platform’s unique written space wisely: Instagram is photo-heavy, so make captions catchy and to the point. LinkedIn is geared toward for pros, so think about what that audience cares about. Pinterest is a mecca for search, so be sure to use keywords when tagging those items. Facebook’s slide shows offer a chance to show a handful of pictures with meaty captions. Adjust accordingly!

    GH Buildings Instagram TruExterior
    GH Buildings Inc. showcases its projects on Instagram.
  • Offer advice: Installing a unique detail or using a method that consumers can learn from? Take a video as you do so to educate viewers. This showcases your work while also positioning you as a leader.

    Video Peter Brown Design Patio Roof YouTube
    Peter Brown Design creates animated YouTube videos detailing installation techniques, including “How to Attach a Patio Roof to an Existing House”
  • Create an infographic: Does the exterior of the home or one of its rooms have a lot of unique elements or features that set your company apart? Create an infographic pointing out those elements and how they contribute to your and your client’s vision.
  • Generate engagement: Got an in-progress project? Why not have your fans weigh in with their thoughts? On Facebook or through an Instagram story, post the exterior before the paint is chosen and offer a poll with two options for the paint color. Offer up two faucet choices to vote on. The more your fans interact with your social posts, the more they’ll get seen by non-followers, and polls are a great way to do that.
  • Assemble trends: If you have a blog or newsletter, use your own projects (or combine your projects with some you find on Houzz) to assemble trend stories for your readers. For example, “6 Ways to Incorporate Red into Your Exterior” or “Tesla’s Solar Roof Tiles: We Tried Them.”

    Design Build Pros blog post Midcentury Modern
    Design Build Pros offers trends and design advice on its blog.
  • Enter contests: All of the national trade magazines have design contests that, if you win, provide lots of great, free publicity in addition to prestige and bragging rights. Professional Builder’s Design Awards are just one example.
  • Create a look book: Follow the lead of fashion designers and create a look book that shows off your best work in an elegant, sophisticated way. Tie the theme of the look book back into your company’s mission statement and keywords.
  • Partner with your favorite manufacturer: Project photos are also one of the best ways for manufacturers to market their products and, trust us, they’re always looking for good images to use in their own publicity. Reach out to your rep about sharing your project stories and photos with their marketing department; they could be perfect for the manufacturer’s own case studies, advertising, editorial, and social media—which means free publicity and recognition for you.

Want to share your Boral projects with us for consideration in our marketing efforts? Email Becky Duffy at becky.duffy@boral.com.

LEAN Principles That Increase Efficiency

LEAN principles shadow board

The first thing you see when you enter the Boral Discovery Center in San Antonio, Texas, is what you can’t see—no clutter, no chaos, no extraneous noise. Because while nearly 30 people, including scientists, engineers, and support staff, work throughout the facility’s labs with numerous machines, hundreds of materials, and thousands of samples, a concentrated focus on safety and efficiency guides each step.

Assisting in those efforts is a facility-wide adherence to LEAN principles, much like you would find at some manufacturing plants.

“We are a lab with many, many projects and many samples,” notes Sarah Fortenberry, a Discovery Center research technician who also leads the facility’s LEAN programs. “So you have to manage not only the individual projects as well as the amount of materials coming in and going out. LEAN principles help us do that.”

Fortenberry notes that following LEAN guidelines also is key to maintaining a safe, healthy environment.

Here are a few of the LEAN tools the Discovery Center has implemented:

• Shadow Board: In areas with tools and equipment, storage areas are outlined and labeled, as shown in this photo. This includes everything from duct tape rolls to a hammer to extension cords. “There’s no wasted time trying to find an item,” Fortenberry notes. “It’s labeled, it’s where it should be.”LEAN principles shadow board The 5 S’s:
Sort: Frequently determine what you actually use and get rid of the rest. This helps keep work areas clutter-free and safe.

Set in order: Label everything and where it goes. The most important items should be the closest.

Shine: Keep work areas clean.

Standardize: Have a standard method for tools and equipment. Everything is labeled—every tool, every shelf, every drawer. This also pertains to samples, which ensures every test is tracked and identifiable. The process of managing samples is the primary reason that LEAN is essential at the Discovery Center.

Sustain: Establish how you keep the workplace clean and a cleaning schedule.

• 3C Board: The three Cs stand for Concern, Cause, Countermeasure. In each work area, the team has a 3C board. If something is wrong in the area, it goes up on the board, what’s causing the problem, and, eventually, what is being done to fix the problem.

• Total Productive Maintenance: Broken machines lead to costly downtime, so each machine has a list of maintenance steps needed to keep it running properly.

• 5S Fridays: At the end of every Friday, the team convenes to address problems on 3C boards. “We work as a team to get to and maintain a sustaining level of production,” Fortenberry notes.

• Kaizen: Kaizen is Japanese for “continual improvement.” The team hosts kaizen events in which they visit areas of the lab and track team members’ steps to see where there is wasted movement and how those steps can be consolidated. Bringing in team members who don’t work in that area provides a fresh perspective and out-of-the-box thinking.

“It’s made us more of a team, working as a group to improve our areas,” Fortenberry says. “Through the kaizen events and 5S Fridays, we can do something in a short period of time that would take someone weeks to do alone.”

Culture, Commitment Fuel Boral’s Standout Service Department

To fully grasp how unique Boral’s customer service department is, one need only look at two numbers: a 95% call-answer rate and a 0% turnover rate.

“We take a proactive approach in our call center, and that has afforded us a very high service level,” notes Tim Barber, Boral’s director of customer service. Most call centers average around 80% of calls answered in 20 seconds or less; Boral’s average at that rate is 95%. “If you call, we pretty much answer immediately. We know that busy contractors need answers fast and that jobs can be held up if we don’t meet that need.”

But while phone calls are the primary form of communications, the omnichannel department responds just as efficiently to requests made via email, fax, EDI, and pretty much any other form of communication with a hands-on strategy Barber calls a “concierge approach.”

“We really hope to cultivate an experience that keeps customers coming back to our family of brands,” Barber says. “We want to make sure we’re ending the call having solved the customer’s problem and having used their time effectively.”

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The employees’ dedication shows in the department’s high tenure rate, including 0% negative attrition (firings or voluntary company departures) for the past two years, a significant feat considering the typical rate for call centers is 30% to 40%.

The department fields as many as 800 to 1,000 calls a day, taking orders, addressing warranty concerns, providing tech support, and responding to any number of other topics. Staff numbers ramp up during busier months from April to October, and the full team is engaged with onboarding new employees.

“We’ve been fortunate to have a fabulous staff that comes to work every day with their A game,” Barber says. “We’re building our culture around customer service. Our culture is important—you can’t have success without good culture and good leadership, with people feeling like they can contribute. They come in and do the best they can for customers. We empower them and provide an atmosphere that’s supportive.”

Have a question? Contact Boral’s stellar customer service team by calling (888) 926-7259 or submitting a contact form.

New Initiatives Aim to Address Construction Labor Shortages

As the housing industry continues its steady climb, the shortage of skilled labor is only intensifying. In fact, builders have indicated that cost and availability of labor is currently the No. 1 problem facing their business, according to a December NAHB/Wells Fargo surveyA Home Improvement Research Institute study found that 60% of skilled trade professionals believe there is a shortage of labor.

In January, the construction industry’s unfilled jobs reached 250,000, up from 159,000 in January 2017 and just shy of the post-recession high of 255,000 last July, according to NAHB analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The challenges can lead to scheduling problems, budget woes, and quality concerns, among other issues.

Several industry organizations are attempting to tackle the issue through new initiatives that encourage young people to consider the trades, provide scholarships for training, provide direct training, or simply promote the benefits of a career in the industry. These include:

  • Skilled Labor Fund. Created by Professional Builder publisher Scranton Gillette and with an operating committee that includes leaders from the NAHB and the National Kitchen & Bath Association, the non-profit is raising money to “build a foundation for a stronger workforce” via student scholarships, accredited trade schools, and training facilities.

skilled-labor-fund

  • Home Depot Skilled Trades Initiative. In early March, The Home Depot Foundation announced a $50 million grant aimed at training 20,000 people in the trades to help fill the labor gap, particularly in areas of the country devastated by natural disasters. According to USA Today, the Home Builders Institute will use the funds from Home Depot to train veterans and U.S. Army soldiers readying for civilian life.
  • Lowe’s Track to the Trades. In February, Lowe’s announced a workforce development initiative to support its employees wishing to pursue a skilled trade. Employees will be eligible to receive tuition funding for certification in a skilled trade, academic coaching and support, and apprenticeship placement opportunities within Lowe’s or among its contractor network.
  • Why I Build. Hosted by Fine Homebuilding, Why I Build showcases the voices of craftsmanship and shares stories about why those in the trades love what they do. The resulting videos are inspiring and demonstrate the pride and integrity associated with careers in construction.

Fine Homebuilding Masonry
Mason Jane DeWitt discusses her craft in Fine Homebuilding’s Why I Build series.

  • #KeepCraftAlive. Another program from Fine Homebuilding, this movement is designed to spark conversation and spotlight craftspeople. The magazine encourages pros to tag their social media posts with the hashtag #KeepCraftAlive to share their passion with the world (see Instagram posts here). Sales from T-shirts will fund a sponsorship alongside SkillsUSA.

Fine Homebuilding labor shortage craftsmanship
The #KeepCraftAlive hashtag, T-shirt, and scholarship help bring attention to the skills gap in the industry.

TruExterior remains committed to assisting our customers with training, as well. Our sales reps are available for a range of hands-on education opportunities, including dealer product knowledge sessions and one-on-one jobsite installation instruction. In addition, TruExterior has a fleet of mobile training units that travel the country, setting up shop at dealer yards to provide installers with hands-on experience with our products.

Boral TruExterior Training Trailer
Boral’s mobile training trailers provide hands-on education for specifiers and installers.

To arrange a meeting, training session, or trailer visit, contact us today.

Take Five for Safety

For many contractors, the safety of employees and site visitors takes top priority over nearly everything else. For firms looking for new ways to ensure and promote a safe work environment, one proactive process to consider is “Take 5,” a method for re-familiarizing oneself with a task.

When facing a task they haven’t performed in awhile, such as operating a piece of machinery, staff at Boral facilities are encouraged to pause to identify and control hazards before they start work:

  1. Stop, look, walk around the task
  2. Think about the task, have a clear plan
  3. Identify and assess hazards that exist or may be created by the task and rate their risk levels
  4. Control the risks and communicate
  5. Do the task if low risk, and keep a lookout for changes

take-5-notebook-front-small

As part of this process, staff members carry or have easy access to a Take 5 notepad that takes them through a series of quick steps: a pre-task checklist that confirms they are authorized to do the task and that they fully understand the task; a hazard-identification checklist; and a review of the personal protective equipment.

On the back, the employee identifies each potential risk to the task and its controls. Using this list, they can identify whether the task requires sign off by a supervisor or a written safe operating procedure.

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By compelling employees to stop and consider each task, its potential hazards, and its safe operation, the Take 5 process helps further ensure the safety of themselves and those around them. For builders and contractors looking to elevate their safety efforts, it’s one additional way to keep safety top of mind each day and ensure employees and visitors are actively engaged in ensuring the well-being of themselves and others.