In the solar industry, leads can be hard to come by, or at the very least, take a lot of work for drum up. If you're tired of door-knocking, expensive advertising campaigns, and waiting for those referrals to trickle in, it might be time to take a different approach. Digital marketing and search engine optimization don’t have to be intimidating. In fact, some of your primary tools, like Google My Busines (GMB) are even free and in this article, we break down everything a solar company needs to know about getting their Google My Business account to fire on all cylinders.
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You might be wondering, “How are Google My Business and SEO even related?” Well, when we look at Insights for businesses using their Google My Business profile, we see that on average, a shocking 85% of traffic to a business’s website comes from Discovery searches. This means the majority of traffic reaching a company in a Google search gets there from searches like “solar companies in Houston,” as opposed to “Sunpro Solar.” So if you aren’t easily found in a Google search, you’re majorly missing out on potential customers.
Of course, that’s not news to you! What might be news to you is how much a Google My Business profile can help you be more easily found on Google. And we’re here to break it down for you—from the very first steps to the most elaborate details. If you follow these steps (and most of them are a one-time action) you WILL get more interest in your business and leads than if you missed out on GMB. Plus, it’s free, so you might as well take advantage!
Let’s start with the very basics, shall we?
Step 1: Verify or Claim Your Google My Business Listing
Why care about claiming your GMB listing?
Your GMB listing is how you appear on Google, and it’s there whether you claim it or not. When you claim your GMB listing, you’re able to control all the information that consumers see. This can be as basic as your hours, website, and location. Google is well aware of your business and does its best to put your business into a category that makes sense. But when you claim your listing, you control the narrative. And if you don’t, it’s possible for false information (not necessarily malicious but just incorrect) to show up in people’s web searches which does not help you get more business!
We commonly talk with small business owners, both in the solar industry and outside of it, who don’t know if they have a Google My Business account. If that’s you, THAT’S OKAY. Google My Business is a relatively new resource, and especially for companies that are more focused on boots on the ground sales and installations, it’s easy to miss out on some of these tech things!
That’s where we come in.
To see if you already have a Google My Business listing, go https://business.google.com/ and try signing in with any Gmail accounts potentially connected to your business. If someone else began the Google My Business for your company and you don’t have access to it, we plan to tackle all the nitty-gritty of that in another post.
Request Your Verification Code Postcard
If you discover you haven’t claimed your listing, you’ll have to request a postcard from Google. And to do this, you’ll need a physical address. Your address is an easy detail to add if you have a brick-and-mortar office. But if you don’t, you may need to use your personal address (which you can block the whole internet from seeing—don’t worry!) Google will not allow you to use a virtual box or a P.O. Box. It’s against their Terms of Service.
You’ll also need a Gmail account if you don’t have one already. Like most email services, this is free to set up and is worth it to gain access to the vast tools you get when using Google My Business.
Once You Get That Postcard
The postcard will have a six-digit code that will allow you to verify your account. Trust us, although this process might seem tedious, it’s better than having someone else claim your business!
It generally takes a few weeks for the card to come, and watch out! It definitely looks like junk mail, so don’t throw it out on accident! If it takes longer than a few weeks, you can request a new postcard and start the process over again. And once you get it, it will have easy-to-follow instructions on what to do next.
Step 2: Choose Your Category
Why care about choosing your category?
All businesses creating their Google My Business account need to choose a category for their business. The purpose of selecting a category is to help Google know where to start showing your business in web searches, essentially indexing your solar company along with all the other solar companies out there.
Think about it like books in a library. If you don’t have the right category, it’s possible your book about solar panels could be filed in the cookbook section and make it a lot harder for consumers to find you.
We did the work for you so you’d know exactly which category to pick when setting up your Google My Business account. The categories you can choose from are (drumroll, please….)
- Solar Energy Company
- Solar Energy Equipment Supplier
Choose one of these categories and your business will start popping up on those “Discovery” searches we were talking about, especially in Maps. Solar Energy Contractor is also a solar-related category, but much less commonly used by other solar companies. Pixel Cut Labs recommends thinking about the primary offering of your business, not the amenities or specific services you offer when choosing a category.
Another thing to do is Google search your competitors in your area, like “solar companies San Francisco.” Check out the first three or four that pop up in the Maps section and see what category they chose. The category shows up as slightly small print just under the stars/reviews and above the address.
Step 3: Choose the Service Area
Why care about choosing a service area?
The main reason you need to pick a service area is that you want a potential customer to be able to look at your Google listing and determine if you will or won’t be able to install solar panels at their home. Consider a solar company based out of Denver. They may choose service areas that cover the suburbs of Denver. But at some point, heading an hour north or an hour south from the city is not realistic for them.
Choosing a service area can be intimidating. Many businesses want to cast a wide net. More business, right? This can certainly be true. But we recommend setting your service area to the area you truly want to target. The more specific you can be, the more business you’ll get for that actual location.
The pitfall of casting too wide a net is that you might end up with some jobs that aren’t as profitable based on the drive-time and gas costs. More targeted service areas produce more targeted results.
Step 4: Update the Basic Info
Why care about updating basic info?
Why should you spend your time filling in the basic info on your GMB profile? Easy. Companies with completed GMB profiles are seen as more trustworthy than companies that don’t. Also, this completed profile is absolutely critical in being found in Google searches. Remember—this is your chance to set the record straight. We work with companies all the time who have incorrect information out there on the web in various directories and other places on the web. This, of course, does not bring in traffic and leads.
In your Google My Business dashboard, you’ll see a column on the left-hand side with a number of different sections you can fill in. We recommend starting with “Info” as this is the most basic and necessary info that people searching for you on Google will be looking for. It’s also a chance to start inserting some of the keywords that you want to emphasize.
Additionally, use this section to manage essential information about your solar business, like your hours, your location, and if you are open or closed on certain holidays. Google also rewards, for lack of a better word, businesses that are active on their Google My Business account. Under info, you’ll see (and be able to edit) your:
- Business Name
- Business Category—See Step 2
- Location—This information is for the benefit of searchers on Google, so it can be masked if you don’t have a storefront where clients visit.
- Service Area—See Step 3
- Hours—Set your hours as your true hours—hours that you would want the phone to ring and someone would pick up. Some of our customers are companies that offer emergency services so they list 24-hour availability here, but that would be the only circumstance we would recommend doing that. As a solar provider, it’s much more realistic that you’d have set hours.
- Phone Number—Make sure this is set as your office phone number, consistent with the phone number listed on your website, and a phone number that is going to get picked up.
- Website—Your website URL.
- Products and Services—See Step 5
- Attributes—This is where you are able to give your business the attribute of being women-led, black-owned, and other safety attributes (mostly related to COVID for now).
- The Description—This piece is so important we’re going to jump down below and give it some more space.
The description is the primary way to let Google know what your business is all about because if you don’t tell them, how do they know? It’s 750 characters jam-packed with the heart and soul of your solar business. It’s a place to utilize as many keywords as possible and give your potential customers dialed-in information. We think it’s so important, we wanted to provide you with a sample.
“Helpful Solar is a solar company in Albuquerque that has been providing high-quality solar equipment and services throughout New Mexico since 2009. Founded by Adele Montoya, who’s passion for clean energy drove her to start her own company, Helpful Solar has installed solar panels on thousands of homes and businesses over the last 10+ years.
With our values of customer service and high quality, we guarantee your solar installation done correctly and efficiently. And if there ever is a need for solar panel repair, our experienced technicians will be out right away. Start raking in the energy savings and lessening your environmental footprint. Plus, New Mexico residents get both a state and federal tax credit! Contact us to learn more.”
Takeaways for your business:
- Use your main keyword in the first sentence. In this case, ours was “solar company Albuquerque.”
- Use secondary keywords like “energy savings,” “solar panels,” or even use some of the primary brands you install throughout.
- Use as many as possible of the 750 characters!
- Talking about the founder, the owner, or the values of the business can create trust.
- Mentioning all available services like installation, repair, commercial, and residential helps Google and your readers know what you offer.
We also wanted to give a shoutout to LA Solar Group! In searching the internet for solar businesses with great Google My Business descriptions, theirs stood out to us as one with a lot of useful information, heart, and legitimacy while using up most of the allowed character count.
Step 5: Update Services and Products
Why care about updating services and products?
There are two main reasons why the services and products sections are helpful. This first is that the services you offer and the products you carry is very useful information for your potential clients to know! It might be the difference in them giving you a call or not. Secondly, it’s a great opportunity to use your keywords which help your Google ranking. This includes using brand names that consumers might be searching for.
You can find the services section in the left-hand column on your Google My Business Dashboard. This is the ideal place to fit in more keywords and provide your potential clients with a solid understanding of the services you offer. Each service is accompanied by a 300-word description, and don’t leave this out! The more you fill out your GMB profile, the more effective it is. Potential services could be:
- Solar Panel Installation
- Solar Panel Repair
- Commercial Solar Panels
- Residential Solar Panels
- Home Energy Audit
Be as detailed as you can be, without getting spammy. A service that Google would not want to see would be “Solar Panels Near Me” because they already know based on your listed service areas and the location of the person browsing the web. Or another spam-like service would be something with way too many keywords or a service title that was very long. We’ve all seen enough spam to know what spam looks and feels like, so just be aware of that as you fill in this section.
Some solar businesses choose to include Products as well, and this is certainly something we recommend. This is an excellent opportunity to include the brand names of popular products you carry. People may do a web search for “Panasonic solar panels” and if that’s one of the brands you carry and have cataloged on your GMB listing, you’re more likely to be found.
Download your FREE Google Business Profile Guide!
Step 6: Add Photos
Why care about updating photos?
Solar is a high-trust industry. When people get solar panels installed on their home or business, they’re making a big investment and want to have confidence in the company they choose. Photos are an important way to gain trust and prove your legitimacy as a quality business. Images of staff make your company more relatable and images of completed installs visibly demonstrate the workmanship people can expect from you.
We know it can be annoying to track photos down, but we promise it’s worth it! When we do a Google Business Profile package for a client, we always ask for 30 photos from the client to upload, so that’s a good place to start.
And if you want to see some truly staggering data, check out this recent article from Search Engineland. They cite a recent study showing that businesses with 100 images get 713% more Discovery Searches and 1038% more Branded searches than the average business! Conversely, businesses with only one image got 65% fewer Discovery searches and 71% fewer Branded searches than the average business.
We wanted to give a shoutout to Pep Solar for their use of photos in their GMB listing. As you can see, their photos show team members at work, completed installs, their office space, various awards they’ve received, and members of their staff. These are all valuable things to include.
There are a handful of categories photos can fall under. Here are the most common ones:
- Overview—All of your photos and videos show up under overview.
- Video—Fairly self-explanatory, but any promotional videos or informational videos you want to include.
- At work—Can include office staff as well as work in the field. People want to see your team doing what they do best.
- Team—A great place for headshots and group photos of the team.
- Identity— Includes the “Cover Photo” and logo.
- Interior—If your business has a physical location, this is where you can upload interior shots of your workplace.
- Exterior—If your business has a physical location, exterior photos create legitimacy and trust so people know what to look for when they come in.
If you have professional photos, those are great to include. But if you don’t have many, don’t stress. Even photos taken from a smartphone are much better than not having any photos on there. Thankfully, Google has a very thorough article on how to upload photos and what the specifications are. We will let them do the heavy lifting, and you can check all of that out here.
A few things to note that Google does NOT like are:
- Stock photos (they’re able to tell if the same photos are showing up on the internet over and over)
- Images that have a lot of words superimposed on them won’t be allowed. The rule is any text needs to cover less than 10% of the image. Read all the regulations from Google here.
Step 7: Get Reviews
Why care about getting reviews?
Reviews are invaluable in the world of digital marketing. Rocket Digital shared one study that found 88% of consumers consult reviews before making a purchase. When a customer sees a business with a lot of Google reviews, they’re more likely to reach out to you over competitors that have fewer or no reviews. And, all of this works together to reduce friction during the sales process.
You can manage your Google reviews from your GMB profile. In fact, the GMB mobile app (see Step 9) makes responding to reviews so simple—but more on that later.
A 5-star Google review is like gold on Google, and the more of them you can accrue, the better. Digital Harvest offers a review management service that provides an automated way to ask for reviews (often connected to a client’s Quickbooks or CRM system) if you’re curious about how to gather more reviews with very little effort!
And, once those reviews start rolling in, it’s essential to respond to them! It shows potential customers that you care and are involved, and it shows Google that you’re active on your GMB account. Even those inevitable bad reviews deserve a response. If you ignore them, it only makes you look bad.
We love this review and response from NM Solar Group. The review is glowing (great work, guys!), and their reply is personal and thoughtful.
Also, we have to give huge props to Solar Works Energy, who did exactly what we recommend you do if you get a negative review. From their response, you can tell they looked into the incident before responding. And instead of getting emotional or taking it personally, they kindly explained their intentions and took ownership of the problem. They also reached out with the information they had on file, provided contact information for their staff, and went above and beyond to make it right by offering them a gift card to a restaurant of their choice!
Even if it seems as if there is no basis to the negative review, it’s still important to respond. This isn’t even always for the sake of the person writing the review, but for the other people that will read that negative review. A negative review doesn’t have to be bad news if you can demonstrate you handled it professionally. In fact, Rocket Digital shared that one study showed a negative review can even increase conversions by 67% if it’s responded to well.
Step 8: Create GMB Posts
Why care about GMB posts?
GMB posts are another one of Google’s free offerings to businesses, and as we like to say it, Google prefers businesses that use more of their products. And as the social media scheduler, Hootsuite says it,
“One of the reasons GMB posts are so important is because Google prioritizes quality data in its search results, so making sure you’re giving your customers what they want may well improve your search ranking.”
Hootsuite also explains that unlike other social media platforms, you aren’t competing with every other person and business on a consumer’s feed for attention. You’re only providing information to people who are already looking for you. So you can get right to the point with the valuable updates—things like deals and promotions, updated hours, and descriptions of your services.
We include GBP post creation and management in some of our SEO packages, but if you’re not ready for all that, it’s fairly simple to create GBP posts yourself from your Google Business Profile Manager on your desktop.
How to Create a GMB Post:
- Go to the desktop app or mobile app and choose
- There you’ll get to choose from several categories of posts: COVID-19 Update, Add Offer, Add Update, Add Event, or Add Product. Each of these categories are fairly straightforward and give prompts of what information to enter. For example, “Event” posts give a space to enter the date and time of the event. “Offer” posts let you select how long the offer is available, and so on.
- Add a photo or video to your post. Each of the post types, except for the COVID-19 update, also allow you to add a photo or video. If you have access to a graphic designer or simply someone who’s good with Canva, these images can include text overlays with even more information. If not—don’t sweat it. Any original photo (not a stock photo or screenshot) will do!
- Add a button and button link. All of the post types allow you the option to add a button to your post, linking back to your website. Adding a button is one step you should not neglect since it allows you the chance to build more links back to each page of your website.
- Don’t forget hashtags. You can and should use hashtags in GMB posts. Just a handful are fine, no need to get crazy. Think of your main keywords and go off of that. For example, use #solarpanelsmiami #solarcompanymiami #cleanenergymiami, and you’ll be good to go!
When it comes to GMB posts, one disclaimer, and something we often explain to our clients, is that GMB posts are a relatively new offering from Google. And, it seems as if they’re constantly changing where the GMB posts are actually seen. At the time this article is published, GMB posts are showing up in web search in the GMB profile for a business on the right hand side of the page. But that isn’t always the case. Sometimes they show up in Maps. Sometimes they aren’t customer facing at all. So our customers often ask, “why bother with something that consumers might not ever see?”
We understand that frustration. But, we promise even if customers aren’t seeing your GMB posts, they are working hard for you behind the scenes. Google really pays attention to, and prioritizes, companies that are actively using their GMB profile, and this includes GMB posts.
It’s Google’s job to show consumers the most relevant information on the internet, and it does this by showing them the businesses that are constantly updating and refreshing, not the ones that haven’t touched their website or GMB account in years.
Step 9: Install the GMB App
Why use the GMB mobile app?
In the solar industry, and certainly in most industries, we constantly use our phones for work. If a task requires us to sit down at our desktop in the office, it’s less likely to happen, or at least happen as quickly, than if we can do it right from our smartphones. The GMB app makes accessing all of your GMB profile, posts, and reviews so simple. And if responding to a review or adding a new photo to your profile is as easy as taking your phone out of your pocket, you’re way more likely to do it.
How to Install the GMB App
- Just look for the “Google My Business” app in the App store or the Play store. The icon might be familiar to you, and it looks like a little blue storefront with an awning.
- Download the app.
- Log in using the same Gmail address you used to set up your GMB profile.
- Start controlling your GMB account right from your phone or tablet!
Pretty easy, right? As great as the mobile app is though, there is one feature that is not so intuitive, which is Insights. So, that leads us to our final step in this all things GMB blog—Insights! We’ll approach it from the a desktop perspective, although much of the same data can be reached from the mobile app, it just takes more clicking around to get there.
Step 10: Insights
Why care about insights?
Insights are where you’ll really be able to see how effective your GMB profile is. If you’ve done steps 1-9, you will start being found by more of your prospects, which will eventually lead to more phone calls and solar consultations.
But if you enjoy data, you’ll love the Insights portion of your GMB profile. And we like to say, “What you measure grows” so if you’re looking at Insights, you’ll notice growth, and can easily pivot if you don’t. The following are the current sections of Insights and what they can tell you.
How customers search for your business
The first thing you’ll see in Insights is a chart that shows the total number of consumers that found your business. This is broken down into:
- Direct searches—consumers searching for your business name directly like, “Solar Pro”
- Discovery searches—consumers searching for a category, product, or service related to your business like, “solar panels Las Vegas,”
- Direct searches—searches that led to you when the consumer was searching for another brand similar to yours
You can also change the timeline for this chart to show one week, one month, or one quarter worth of data. We talked in the intro of this post about the importance of Discovery searches and how valuable Google Business Profile is to increasing your Discovery searches. We think you’ll find that to be true as you track this data.
Where customers view your business on Google
This graph (which can also change to show data from one week, one month, or one quarter) shows the number of views you’re getting on Maps, versus the number of views you’re getting on Search. This is valuable information to track over time because if these numbers aren’t steadily growing, you know you need to try some more marketing tactics.
This section shows you how many actions were made directly from views of your Google Business Profile and posts. Actions tracked are website visits, direction requests, and phone calls made.
Phone calls show which days of the week you’re receiving calls on. This can be helpful information for staffing and you can see if any specific marketing campaigns may have had a greater effect.
Photo views and Photo quantity
These two sections compare your photo views and quantity to businesses like yours. So you can see how you compare to other solar companies in your region, which might inspire you to add more photos or let you know you’re doing well in that area, and keep up the good work.
If you want even more details about Insights, Google has an extensive article about it here.
Now, you know everything you ever wanted to know about setting up and using a Google Business Profile for your solar business! Maybe you’re starting at Step 1, maybe you’re diving into Step 8, but either way, we hope we gave you the information you needed to take your Google My Business profile to the next level. Remember, all of these GMB offerings are free for businesses to use, so you might as well take advantage of them!
But after all this, you might be wondering what’s next. We gave you lots of actionable information you can use to lay the groundwork for your solar company’s presence on Google.
But, while you will see results from these actions, depending on your region and your competitors, just setting up a Google profile can’t compete with a solar company that’s spending $5,000+ a month on SEO services—and some of them certainly are.
That’s where we can help. Setting up a great GMB profile is really just the first step to an ongoing SEO campaign. In an SEO campaign, we use every trick up our sleeves and get you to surge above your competitors—on Google and with your market share.
Whether you’re just getting started and need help with the basics, or want to compete with the big dogs in your area and show up #1 on Google in a competitive market, we have packages that can take you to the next level. We’d love to chat with you about what your goals are and see how we can help! Give us a call at (505) 365-1545 or shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.