What distinguishes the construction sector from other UK industries? Its sheer number of workers who are self-employed. According to a 2018 Briefing Paper from the House of Commons, self-employed jobs in construction account for 37% of all jobs — almost three times the average for the whole economy.
‘Self-employed’ encompasses both freelancers and businesses — of which there are 1 million in the UK alone, 17% of the national total.
Chronic skills shortages across the industry means demand for builders will continue to rise, so making the investment in your online presence is all the more worth it!
Greater online visibility enables you to find more paid work on the one hand, and attract potential clients on the other.
In 2019, the UK construction sector is increasingly moving towards digital solutions on-site — think cloud computing and Building Information Modelling (BIM).
So why not bring the power of technology to your business? Here are five easy and inexpensive ways you can increase your visibility online, and drive more business, without breaking the bank.
1: Optimise your website.
Or create one in the first place! Research from the Approved Index indicates that almost 2 million UK SMEs do without a website, ¾ of which operate as sole traders.
Yet your website will be the first port of call for the majority of your customers, even if you operate on a ‘word of mouth’ basis.
Why is it so important to have a website?
Because it’s accessible 24/7, while you may be open from 09:00 to 17:00. Because it enhances your credibility and may give the impression that your company is actually bigger than it is. Because more than 80% of people research product information online before they make a purchase online, according to the eCommerce Foundation.
How do you start?
Nowadays, there are many easy and cost-effective ways to create a website, without resorting to a third party agency. Wix, SquareSpace or free WordPress templates such as Sydney are a great place to start.
Ensure that your website is free of typos, is clear in its layout and easy to navigate. Don’t forget to include a visible ‘about us’ and ‘contact’ page and appealing photos, so visitors can be sure of what you’re about, and a number of explicit ‘call to actions’ driving your potential customers to call or contact you.
Once you’ve mastered the basics, experiment with an online quote system, or even guest blogs — a great way to give your site more authority.
2: Google Ads and SEO.
Once you have your website up and running, you could consider using Google Ads to maximise exposure through the world’s largest search engine.
How does it work? In short, you bid on certain keywords (e.g. ‘home improvement’, ‘bathroom fitting’, ‘need a builder’) in order for your website to jump up the Google rankings. You pay a small sum (roughly between 50p and £3, depending on the choice of word) and pay whenever somebody clicks on the ad taking them to your website.
Ideally, you would want to have your business listed ‘naturally’ or ‘organically’ near the top of Google’s search rankings, without paying for ads. Luckily, this is perfectly achievable!
In short, Google ‘rewards’ you for doing certain things online — this is known as SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation.
What are these mysterious activities? It’s quite simple — you need to create content that is both relevant and authoritative. Having a blog on your website is a great way to achieve this, as you can write posts using keywords used by potential clients. Offering industry insights is another sure fire way to put you on good terms with Google. This article offers more in-depth advice on how to optimise your website for SEO.
In terms of authority, the aim of the game is to get bigger websites to put links on their page back to yours. Imagine you are a bathroom fitter looking to gain exposure to more customers. If you write an article for your local newspaper, let’s say about why your town needs to encourage more people to set up their own business, and the newspaper publishes your post online with a link to your website, then you increase your visibility directly whilst pleasing Google. A win-win situation, though the SEO route requires persistence.
3: Leverage review websites.
Review websites such as Feefo or TrustPilot are a great way to establish your online presence, increase your credibility, receive customers’ feedback, promote your company in other channels and strengthen your SEO – all in one.
It takes around 5 minutes to set up an account on Trustpilot for example, and their simplest package is free.
4: Get your company listed in online directories
Especially if you’re a local business, being listed in online directories is generally free, doesn’t take much time, and is great to boost your online presence, and your organic ranking at the same time.
5: Join an online builder “marketplace”.
A number of online marketplaces have emerged, connecting customers with trusted builders and tradespeople, such as checkatrade.com, mybuilder.com, ratedpeople.com. It can be a great way to help you find work and new customers and build your profile, online.
To conclude, when looking to increase customers, it is tempting to brandish your name left, right and centre. More exposure means more clients, right? However, this scattergun approach is both inefficient and ineffectual. Instead, pick two or three sites and set aside time every few days to produce relevant and engaging content.
If you are a builder looking to convince potential clients of your credentials, why not set up an Instagram or Pinterest page? Here, you can post high-quality images of your latest work, with or without a filter! Or to generate interest, creating a ‘how to…’ YouTube series would be a good way to establish your authority. It’s not all about Tweets!
Crucially, you need to identify your target audience. Taking the example of our bathroom fitter, it would be a waste of time to target a young demographic — you will be looking for homeowners with sufficient resources to outsource the repair.
With a bit of initial planning and subsequent tinkering, moving your business online will set you out from your competition, impress Google and ultimately increase your client base. Get clicking now!
This article was first published on Skill Builder, an online source of product reviews, news, guides and advice for UK builders.