According to research by BIA/Kelsey and ConStat, 97% of consumers now use the internet to find local businesses, or to research local businesses before making purchases.

What this means for your business — which is, after all, an inherently local business — is that the online realm should be an increasingly integral part of your marketing strategy, if you want to capture any fraction of those 97% of consumers who are searching for your services in your area.

While crafting your online presence to maximize sales and leads is a bigger topic than we can cover in this single blog post (for more information about how to optimize your website to maximize sales, check out our free white paper, “Putting Your Website to Work: Best Practices for Home Performance Professionals”), one of the most important components of an effective web strategy is Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

You may be familiar with SEO already, you may not be; either way, this post focuses on basic on-page SEO strategy specifically for home energy professionals. So if you have a geothermal, solar or otherwise related business, read on.

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Professionals think one way. Consumers think another way.

Before crafting a keywording strategy for your home energy business (i.e., before writing any content for your website), remember this: You are well-educated in topics related to home energy, you are familiar with insider terms, and you know the “right” way to describe your businesses and your services. Most consumers (e.g., potential customers), in contrast, don’t. Consequently, the terms that you may use to describe your business (e.g., “home performance” or “ground source heat pump”) — although technically accurate — may not be the terms used by consumers searching for your services online.

That’s because when people are sitting in a cold, drafty room (or a hot, muggy room), they’re not thinking “air sealing.” They’re thinking “I’m hot.” And when they’re thinking about sexy renewable systems for their house, they’re probably not thinking in technical terms (“ground source heat pump.”) They’re thinking about the sexy terms that they’re friends are all talking about.

So they hop online, and they start searching for what they think is the answer to their problem, or what they think is the best renewable system for their house.

Comparing Search Terms:

Consider these two search terms (numbers represent global monthly search volume):

For someone working in the residential energy efficiency industry, common sense would say to use the term “energy efficient home” more frequently than “green home.” But while you may not be motivated by the “green” element of energy efficiency, the data suggests that you should market the green aspects of energy efficiency, at least to an extent, in order to capture the search traffic of people looking for ways to make their homes greener.

Similarly, consider the residential solar field. The insider terminology for home solar systems is “solar photovoltaic” or “solar pv,” but keyword research suggests that most people are old-fashioned: they’re searching not for “PV,” but for good old solar panels:

While these two comparisons might make some sense, further research shows that many of the search terms around home energy are simply hit-or-miss as regards search volume. Check out some of the randomly chosen search terms below and how they stack up against the rest:

As you can see here, “solar panels” and “insulation” pretty much blow everything else out of the water, which is interesting. But there are some other interesting tidbits: “heat pump,” for example, is getting more search traffic than “geothermal.” “Energy audit” beats “home energy efficiency,” and “air sealing,” despite being one of the most important measures for reducing a home’s energy consumption, loses big.

Takeaways, Further Research:

Now, remember that these numbers are constantly changing: a search term that may not be getting much traffic today could blow up tomorrow — say, for example, CNN runs a story about the benefits of air sealing: the term “air sealing” is likely to enjoy an increase in traffic. So, while it’s important to keep high-traffic search terms on your radar, you don’t want to write your website’s content exclusively with these numbers in mind. (Also bear in mind that, while the term “solar panels” gets a large number of searches, it’s also likely a more competitive term than one with less traffic — so if you focus on a few lower-traffic terms, you’re more likely to show up in the first page of search results.)

Each of these figures we’ve come up with using Google’s Adwords keyword tool, although there are a number of other keyword research tools that you can use to determine the best keywords for your industry and your market.

In the case of Google’s Adwords tool, simply enter the keyword you’re curious about, and Google will give you an approximate figure for global monthly searches, local monthly searches, and the same figures for a number of related search terms. It can be pretty fun. Here’s a screenshot of the interface:

If in your travels you’ve discovered any other interesting keyword figures in the home energy arena, we’d sure love to hear about them in the comments section. And, for more updates and insights about web marketing in the home energy space, be sure to check out the Energy Circle PRO blog.