IAM-10-dollar-seo-monthNovember 29–December 5, 2011 Business in Vancouver
Self-serve SEO
How a gasfitter optimized the power of many and rose to the top of online searches
Whether a business is a brick-and-mortar store or an ecommerce site, any suc- cessful marketing plan is dependant on connecting with the consumers, where they are most comfortable.
“You want to know your consumer and how to reach them, whether it’s digital marketing, direct mail or on TV,” said Wong, who add- ed, “The overall trend is that more people are on the Inter- net. Digital marketing is af- fordable for small businesses and, as importantly, its re- sults are measurable.” ␣
By Ingrid de Jong Joffe
Five years ago, Colin Hamilton, CEO of the Gasfitter Group of Com- panies, didn’t know any- thing about search engine optimizaton (SEO) or how to get his website to rank high in Google searches. To- day, he has built a successful lead-generation site for his company and for more than 70 heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) industry partners through- out North America.
Using a combination of online techniques and old- school marketing know- how, Hamilton launched to compete against other major online directories. His plan was to create a central 1-888-WE- GAS-4U brand at GasFitter. ca that would offer landing pages to participating gas fitting, furnace, boiler and HVAC installation busi- nesses in other regions.
“I call my strategy ‘industry army marketing,’” said Hamilton. “It uses as a hub that all of the other businesses point to. It’s the same business model that directories use by presenting a group of businesses in one place.” is an exten- sive website that offers a one-stop solution for people searching for HVAC prod- ucts and services. The busi- ness model is designed to leverage the collective power of many different businesses to negotiate volume-based pricing with industry suppliers and shared equipment.
While Hamilton didn’t have digital marketing ex- perience, he knew the HVAC business, his competitors and his customers.
“I came up with a business plan and did some SEO training,” he said. By cre- ating a single website, his industry partners can purchase a branded page and take advantage of the optimized site that ranks well in Google searches.
“In our model, there is only one client per region,” said Hamilton, whose team phones established compan- ies across Canada and sells yearly packages of $1,000 that buys rights to their re- gion of business on Gas- as well as a $100 monthly SEO maintenance package.
To date, Hamilton has signed up more than 70 businesses across Canada and into the U.S. by com- bining basic SEO techniques he learned along with tried- and-true traditional cold calling. “Each week, three to four people are signing up and buying a region on our site,” he said.
“I call my strategy
‘industry army marketing.’
It uses as a
hub that all of the other
businesses point to”
– Colin Hamilton, CEO, Gasfitter Group of Companies
“According to statistics, the average consumer reads eight to 10 different reviews before they walk in the door of a retail store,” said Martin Wong, chief market- ing officer of SmarttNet. “If you want to make a sale, no matter what you’re selling, you need to rank well in Google’s search engine for your company or product to stand out.”
In a search for “boiler installation ” or “new furnace installation,” the search re- sults lead to the GasFitter. ca site and related compan- ies that have a banner page on the site with their con- tact info and a link to their website.
This way, the business- es aren’t competing against one another, but pool their resources to develop a uni- fied and high ranking online presence. It’s a dedicated directory of professionals that follows the franchise philosophy but individual companies retain their own brands, while working together to rank high in Google searches.
“[] is an information rich site,” said Hamilton. “We write pieces about different services, show vid- eos and include quality back links. It’s the best opportunity if you don’t want to be a franchise and get good business when your brand is not that established.”
Wong explained that Google looks at different directories as part of its algorithm. If it sees the same
name and address listed in different directories, it will enhance a business’ score.
“A side benefit of using directories that list your website is that these back- links provide your busi- ness with more exposure so you’ll rank higher in Goo- gle,” said Wong.
Colin Hamilton, CEO, Gasfitter Group of Companies: “in our model, there is only one client per region [on Hub website]”