With rapid growth continuing in hot solar markets from Southern California and Phoenix to Long Island and even South Carolina, every solar installer these days seems to have an insatiable appetite for sales leads. Real-time leads, aged leads, direct phone transfers, exclusive and shared leads. Solar companies can’t get enough of them.
The 64 kilowatt question is: How to get solar leads that actually lead to sales?
The Frustration of Low-Quality Solar Leads
Buying them from lead generators sounds good in theory. But unfortunately, most solar leads that you can buy from someone else convert at a low rate. Even cheap leads wind up being very expensive if you have to buy hundreds or thousands of them just to close one sale.
It’s no wonder that solar installers are looking not just for more leads, but for better leads. That’s why so many installers have downloaded our ebook “Stop Buying Solar Leads and Start Making Your Own Better Ones.” (Download your free copy now). They’re looking for a better way to get leads.
And given the explosion of the internet, social media and mobile devices, that better way to get leads is online.
Of course, if you’re in a hurry (“I need leads yesterday!”) then you can buy ads on Google or Facebook. If the ads work well, you can get leads quickly. But if the ads don’t work well, which is usually the case, you’ll spend a lot of money for a lot of worthless clicks and “impressions.”
It’s too bad that so many solar installers are in such a hurry. Because haste, as they say, makes waste. If you rush too fast to get leads online, then you may have the same problem as before when you bought leads. The quality is low. The customers aren’t interested. You don’t make any sales. But you’ve sure spent a whole ton of cash on pay-per-click ads!
For solar companies that can plan ahead, a better way than buying leads or buying ads is to make your own leads organically. That is, with free traffic to your website.
And the question we get all the time is: how long does it take to starting generating those organic leads?
Well, if that’s your question, then today’s your lucky day. The answer is below!
First You Need Traffic — Then You Can Get Leads
In our experience, it takes about 50-100 visits to a solar installer’s website to generate a single immediate lead (eg, free quote request) or 3-5 longer-term leads (eg, email address in exchange for ebook download).
Given that, we can simply do the math to estimate how long it will take to start generating your own organic solar leads based on web traffic.
1. How Much Traffic Does Your Website Get
First, you need to know how much traffic you have on your website now. Hint: For most solar installers, the number of visits per day is approximately zero. Actually, it may be 5-10 visits per day, which is pretty close to zero. If that’s your situation, then it means you’re basically starting from scratch traffic-wise.
2. How Many People Are on Your Email, Social Media and Blog
Second, you need to estimate how much traffic you can start to generate from your existing online audiences. To do that, count up your company’s connections to current customers, unsold prospects, and other interested people in all your existing online channels:
- Email list (how many subscribers?)
- Social media accounts (how many followers/friends?)
- Blog or RSS feed (how many subscribers?)
Fortunately, many solar installers who have low traffic to their websites may have good sized audiences on their email list or even a couple thousand friends on their Facebook page.
3. How Well Do You Do in Google Searches
Companies that don’t have these audiences, I’m afraid to say, are starting again from basically zero.
But don’t despair. You can redeem yourself if you do well on web searches for key terms in your market, such as “solar panels San Diego” or “business solar upstate New York.”
Thus, the final thing to look for is how you do on search engine optimization or SEO. To test keyword performance for our clients, we use some of the keyword tools available online. But an easier way for you to do it yourself is just to try keyword combinations in a Google search and see where your company comes up.
- Yes, you should search for your company name. If that doesn’t come up at the top of the first page of Google results, then you’re in trouble SEO-wise. But obviously, that’s not enough. A homeowner who wants solar panels in your area probably won’t be searching for your company’s name. They’ll more likely be using more general keywords, like “home solar” or “no money down solar” plus the name of their city or town.
- But you really need to search for what your customer searches for. So you should either see the keywords that have brought visitors to your site in the past (look at Google Analytics if you are able) or otherwise, just make an educated guess as to what keywords your likely prospect will search for.
If your company comes up for any of these terms on page one of Google result, then congratulations! It means you’re doing well on SEO. But if you don’t come up on the first page, then you won’t get much organic traffic from search engines.
You don’t think that’s a problem? OK, then I think we need to have a little talk.
I Don’t Need No Stinkin’ SEO
As SEO guru Rebecca Gill explains, “if you’re like most website owners, at one time or another, you’ve asked if your website really needs SEO. It’s a fair question, but one I can quickly dismiss.”
The majority of web traffic is driven by the major search engines like Google, Bing, or even the quirky, privacy-focused DuckDuckGo.
Social media, email marketing, and advertisements can push traffic to your website or blog, but the bulk of internet activity is driven by search engines.
This is most clearly demonstrated by the millennial generation, who quickly suggests that they or someone else should just “Google it.” In my family I tell my kids to “ask the Google” because I know Google generally has a much better answer than I can offer myself. I freely admit, I’m not smarter than a 5th grader on many topics!
Search engines are powerful because they provide targeted web traffic. Or in other words, search engines bring users that are seeking what you offer or sell. Targeted website or blog traffic provides exposure to the exact people you want to reach.
Not yet convinced that you need SEO instead of just paid ads or social media? Consider these statistics Gill provides:
- Organic search drives 51% of all visitors to business-to-business and business-to-consumer websites
- Paid-search drives an average of 10% of traffic
- Social drives an average of 5% of traffic
So, given that organic search delivers the largest amount of traffic online by far, and that you need a high amount of traffic to start generating organic leads, the real question is: How long will it take your SEO to work?
How Long It Takes to Get SEO
For another SEO expert, John Doherty, SEO started to build traffic on his website within a few weeks. His story is a good one for the average solar installer, because while the growth is impressive, the goal is achievable.
It took about 18 months of active SEO for Doherty’s website traffic to reach its potential of hundreds of visits per day. As Doherty explains, his patience paid off. If he had stopped doing SEO in mid-2016, after about a year, then he never would have seen the spike in website traffic that came afterwards. But instead, he kept on plugging away, which got him ten times more traffic by early 2017.
And Doherty didn’t use any special tricks to build up his web traffic. All he did was post good content on his website on a regular basis and make sure that content and his site organization were easy for Google to find and index. But the biggest thing he did was stick to it and not quit too soon:
So take it from me – SEO takes time and consistency and doing all the things right – keyword research, content marketing, technical SEO. Don’t give up…SEO is patience and consistency and sticking to your strategy.
Very few solar installers say that they’re OK with waiting a year or more to get sales leads. I understand that. So I always advise them not to put all their eggs in the basket of either SEO or buying leads, but instead to take a two-pronged strategy.
- First, get continue to get short-term leads quickly to feed your sales force by buying leads. I recommend these reputable solar lead vendors.
- Second, start now on a longer-term strategy to build your SEO and other online channels. That will increase traffic to your website. And that will give you enough visitors for some of them to convert to sales leads.
The longer you wait to start building your own web traffic, the longer it will be until you can generate your own leads online.
Results and Timing from Our Clients
Our clients who are solar installation companies usually start generating more traffic within the first three months of starting a monthly inbound marketing program. They may get some leads during that time, but more leads will start to come in after six months. By the time they’ve done a good program of content-based SEO for 12 months, our clients can start to generate organic leads on a daily basis.
It’s definitely not as quick as buying leads. But it’s much longer lasting. Traffic that turns into leads on your own website becomes an asset to build your business for years to come. Once you turn it on, as long as you continue to nurture it, this traffic just keeps coming.
Our clients are located all over the United States and even internationally, but they see similar results.
And all our clients have one thing in common.
They know that if you want to get better leads online, you shouldn’t wait to start online outreach until you need new leads “yesterday.”
At that point, it’s too late to get high quality leads online. Your only option will be to keep buying leads. And at best, that’s just a quick fix to feed the beast this week that won’t help you in the long-term. At worst, buying leads is a total waste of money.
Instead, if start planning ahead for the future, you can build a stream of people who really want solar and really want it from your company. In that way, your company won’t be reliant on the fickle results of buying leads. By making your own organic leads online, your company will be built to last.
— Erik Curren, Curren Media Group