Google search for remodelers is always changing, and the changes aren’t always pleasant. If you’ve had a website any time over the past 10 years and you’ve been concerned with your overall search engine visibility, you know one thing is true– Google changes everything at the drop of a hat.

As a remodeler, you might feel your website is an important part of your overall business strategy, or you might not. Either way, your website is where homeowners go to research your business before they choose you as a contractor. They’ll visit online review sites and your social media pages, too, but your website really is your best opportunity to make a good first impression.

So what happens if they can’t find your website?

Google’s search results just became a harsher place for remodelers. You might have already noticed a slight decrease in web traffic and website leads.

To stay competitive, you need to be aware of:

Google changing its local “7-pack” to a “3-pack”

Why Google reviews are more important than ever

The “pay-to-play” nature of Google’s search results for home service providers, including remodelers

Let’s get started.

Reality #1: Pay to Play

The Reality: Google is testing a new ‘home service ads’ service for plumbers and locksmiths in the San Francisco area. True, these are not remodelers, but if it’s successful (and it will be), expect it to roll out to your niche and city soon. Google likely places remodelers in the ‘home services’ camp, as well, so expect it to apply to you sooner rather than later.

Basically, remodelers who buy ads through Google My Business will have their websites listed at the top of search results for specific queries.

Have a look:

Google Home Service Ads

To buy these ads, Google requires that you’re licensed, bonded, and verified. They’re working hard to make sure no unqualified home service professionals show in these paid results.

Google also charges on a per-lead basis, so you’ll need to make sure the leads you’re paying for are qualified. That means creating great and targeted content on your website, including the specifics of your business. It also means knowing who your ideal customer is. Which homeowners in which neighborhoods result in the most profitable jobs?

Another thing to notice– you still see each business’ reviews and ratings here. So, in theory, even if you pay for these home service ads, you’re not going to outdo your competition unless you have the Google reviews to back up your expertise.

Strictly speaking, you’ll never have to pay for these ads, but you’ll be at a disadvantage without them. In a way, though, this levels the playing field for qualified remodelers who provide excellent service– you’ll just need to factor these home service ads into your marketing budget. If you’re interested, I wrote about this in greater detail about how SEO for contractors is on life support.

What You Can Do: When the time comes, optimize your site for attracting qualified leads. Make sure your content is in line with not only who you are and what you do, but what your core customers (most valuable homeowners) want from you and your services. Speak about the customer, not just about yourself.

Reality #2: The 3-Pack

The Reality: Two months ago, the local search results you saw for remodelers were presented in a “7-pack” (here is an example of what that looked like). That number has now been reduced to just three.

That’s right, only three local remodelers show up in that coveted spot for any related search query. The listings also show phone numbers, Google review ratings, and partial addresses. When searching from a desktop computer, options for driving directions and a website link are also shown. With searches on mobile phones, Google gives users the option to call in right from the search results.

Simply put, now Google’s desktop search results more closely resemble its mobile search results. Google displays fewer business listings and those listings take up most of a search engine results page (SERP)’s “above the fold” real estate.

If your remodeling business isn’t in the 3-pack, homeowners won’t see it without scrolling down. So, what happens to the remodelers that held those now-absent four spots in the search results?

From search marketing giant Moz:

Just how much traffic were those sites listed in positions 4-7 getting? For Google to make this change, it is very likely those results weren’t clicked on nearly as much the top three. But again, this likely comes down to positioning and screen real estate. In mobile, even if they were showing 7-packs, it is the top three that fill the mobile screen, making those 4-7 spots invisible until someone scrolls down.

Regardless, those 86’d remodeling businesses are missing branding and exposure opportunities. Plus, showing up in the top search results is always better than not showing up in the top search results.

What you can do: Focus on your own SEO. Make sure Google’s web spiders can crawl your site effectively. If you’re not sure where to start, this guide should be helpful.

With your SEO basics in check, you have a much better chance of showing up in the 3-pack.

Reality #3: Reviews Matter Before Homeowners Even Read Them

The Reality: Let’s take a look at the actual search results:

Google reviews

Did you notice two of those remodelers don’t look quite as good as the other one?

If you’re fortunate enough to be featured in the 3-pack, Google displays your Google reviews– or lack thereof. Homeowners are naturally drawn toward remodelers who have four or five stars, and they’re likely going to gloss over the remodelers who display no reviews.

From search engine expert Andrew Shotland:

Based on the current display, particularly the “local finder”, it does appear that ratings & reviews are much more prominent in the UI. So focusing on making sure your business has a high rating with a decent amount of reviews should be a priority.

In the search results for local restaurants, consumers can sort the eateries they see by their review scores. It might not be long before homeowners can similarly sort their search results, too. If you don’t have any reviews, how can you compete?

If you don’t have any Google reviews at all, life just got a little harder: Google recently removed Google+ pages from their search results, too. Google+ made it easy for homeowners to leave you a Google review, but now it’s not quite as easy.

Basically, homeowners are confronted with your Google review score before they even click on your listing or visit your website. Your review score, even on an initial glance, sets you apart from other remodelers in the 3-pack.

What You Can Do: Work on earning more positive Google reviews from the homeowners you serve. If you run a new business or don’t have any prior Google reviews, visit this Moz article and do an in-page search (ctrl+f) for “new businesses & reviews.” That should help you get started.

Necessary Evil: Google

Google search is a constantly changing landscape, especially for local businesses. As a remodeler, you’ll always fall into that category. Your core customers likely use Facebook, YouTube, Yelp, Angie’s List, and possibly Bing for their search needs, but they’ll still use Google more at the end of the day.

If you want to compete and thrive, you have to cope with these harsh realities. You can grouse about them all you want, but you’ll need to earn great reviews, make sure your SEO fundamentals are in check, striving for qualified leads, and paying to play if you want to stay profitable down the line.

It’s Google’s world, we just live in it.

To your inbound marketing success,

Brodie Tyler