When we critique a lawn care, landscaping or related business website, here's what we look for.
Because we are pretty active on different online communities and forums, a topic we see often is members asking for a critique and feedback on their website. In this post, we're going to tell you what we look for, from most important to least important, when critiquing a website for a lawn care and/or landscaping business. Much of the points below will focus on organic search engine optimization, but will also consider visitor conversion.
Note: Most of these elements could have an entire post dedicated to that one element. In the list below, we'll briefly describe what to look for.
Critically Important Elements.
The critical elements in a website review would be what we consider to be detrimental to the success of the website, if not done properly. These are elements that you need to fix before doing anything else. Here is our list of critical elements to look for when critiquing your website:
- Crawlability - Can Google actually see, crawl and index your pages? This is typically controlled using meta tags or a robots.txt file. To find out if your website is having any crawl issues, register your website with Google Search Console (previously Google Webmasters). Once registered, click on the pages under Crawl to determine if there are any problems.
- Pages - The pages on your website separate topics. We look for the correct structuring of your content across your pages. For example, you should have a separate page dedicated to each service you want to be found online for. If someone searches on Google for "lawn mowing service near me" and you don't have a page that heavily focuses on lawn mowing specifically, you may have a difficult time ranking for that key term.
- Meta Title - This is the most important piece of text on each page of your website. Your meta title is typically shown as the link to your page on search engines. Your meta title should be around 60 characters, be descriptive and similar to your headline 1 tag (<h1>) for the page.
- HTML Headlines - Using proper headlines (h1-h6) is critically important for telling search engines what your page is about and what the content immediately following a headline is about. Sub headlines (h2-h6) tell search engines when the topic is changing to a sub topic.
- Written Text - The written text on your website will be the most time consuming parts. However, this must be done properly because it plays a major role in your ability to rank on search engines for your desired keywords. The written text on your pages should be:
- 100% unique
- Utilize your keywords and variations
- Scannable (use headlines, paragraphs, bulleted lists, bolding, etc)
- Full of meat with little fluff (teach your visitor something)
- Decent length, we recommend a minimum of 500 words
You should have a separate page dedicated to each service you want to be found online for.
High Priority Elements.
The high priority elements would not be considered show stoppers, but should be checked during your critique and fixed as soon as your critically important elements above are in good shape.
- Mobile-Friendliness - Make sure your website looks great on all devices. This is important because the majority of all traffic on the Internet is from a mobile device. Also, having a mobile-friendly website will increase your search engine rankings, especially for prospects searching on a mobile device. You can test if your website is mobile-friendly using Google's online Mobile-Friendly test.
- Proper HTML Coding - HTML tags are more than just containers, especially when it comes to HTML5. Proper use of HTML tags will describe the different parts of your website to the search engines, as well as what is important in your content. For example, there are HTML tags for header, footer, nav, main and more. Your site should also make use of proper tags for items such as lists, headlines and paragraphs. Without proper HTML coding, the search engines will have a more difficult time determining the important content on a page.
- URL Structure - We look for search engine friendly URLs for your pages. When Google stores your webpage, they do it using the URL (or link). The URL itself can tell search engines and visitors what the page is about, if properly implemented. URLs can also be utilized to categorize your pages, if your site has more than a few pages. An example of a good URL would be yoursite.com/lawn-mowing/. If you have a larger site, you could categorize like this: yoursite.com/commercial/.
- Strong Call-To-Action (CTA) - Once you have a visitor to your website, you need to convert that prospect into a lead. In the lawn, landscape, tree and other home service industries, the majority of leads from search engines will call you directly instead of filling out a quote form. Therefore, your website should have a prominent and clickable phone number. You should also strategically place your quote forms, great options include after photo galleries, end of pages and floating forms that are always visible.
- Name-Address-Phone (NAP) - Because you're a local service business, your NAP citiations are important for local searches. Make sure you have your name, address and phone number on each page (usually in the footer) and it matches exactly to all of your other NAP citations across the Internet.
Proper use of HTML tags will describe the different parts of your website to the search engines, as well as what is important in your content.
Medium Level Elements.
Once you have your critical and high priority elements taken care of, it's time to take a look at these medium level elements.
- Home Page Spotlight - Your home page is the most powerful page on your website. This page should be carefully thought out to place emphasis on the most important sub pages and topics. For the lawn and landscape industry, it would be smart to highlight your top few services using a photo, sub headline, a short description and a link to the dedicated page. This is also important for the user experience and conversions, which leads to the next point.
- Design & User Experience - Your website should represent you as a professional business with a clean and professional design, even if you did it yourself. Besides looking professional, visitors need to find what they're looking for fast. When you highlight contact information and the most popular services, visitors can find what they need immediately.
- Images - For each image on your website, you'll want to check the alt tag, the file name and the file size. Images can be resources hogs that slow down your website, or great SEO helpers. Your image file names should describe the image (not keyword stuff). An example: home-with-new-landscaping.jpg. The alt tags should be similar to the file name, but more descriptive in sentence format, example: Tampa home with new landscaping by XYZ Landscaping. The file sizes should be as small as possible. This is done with appropriate sizing, quality and compression. You can compress your images using this online tool: https://tinypng.com
- Meta Description - Your meta description is often used as the paragraph under your link on search engines, unless it is poorly written. Each meta description should summarize the content on the page, be unique to that page and be around 160 characters long.
- SSL Security - When Google blatantly tells you they use SSL security (https) as a ranking signal, why not do it?
When Google blatantly tells you they use SSL security (https) as a ranking signal, why not do it?
Low Impact Elements.
These low impact elements are things you can work on when you get around to them.
- Schema.org Markup - This is special code on your website to further describe elements and content on your website to search engines. Though Google hasn't stated schema.org markup increases your search engine rankings, it most definitely can impact how much real estate you take up when shown. When appropriate, Google will show schema.org elements along side your website, such as a photo, breadcrumb trails, sitelinks and more.
- No Outlet/Dead End - The Internet revolves around linking. You don't want your website to be a dead-end on the Internet. Good ways you can link out of your website include linking to organizations your affiliated with, places where you have online reviews and social media.
- Social Media Integration - In today's world, the are so many people on social media. It has become the norm for prospects to look at your social media pages, like Facebook, to see how others are interacting with your business. Sending prospects to a platform they know can help you engage with them in a way that they're more comfortable.
- Live Chat - Using live chat on your website is a great way to increase engagement and conversions. If you have someone that can stay online throughout the day AND invite visitors to chat, you'll see an increase in your conversions. However, this method will have no impact on your search engine optimization or the traffic to your website.
What do you struggle with on your website?
Building, critiquing and maintaining your online presence is not easy. Each of the 20 elements listed above could have an entire page dedicated to them. Over time, I'm sure we'll dive deeper into some of these. In the meantime, let's hear about the hurdles you're facing with your website. For example, are you having trouble getting traffic? Do you need to increase your conversion rates? Or maybe you are having trouble writing your page text? Leave your comments below.