Why (Most) Lawn Care Companies Shouldn’t Be Using Google Adwords

Google Adwords can be a powerful way to grow a business.

With 1.2 trillion searches each year it’s certainly tempting to go after a share of those searches with paid search.  You can start getting web traffic instantly, the clicks are people who are in the buying cycle, and you can track your ROI very accurately.  

I’ve even written about how landscapers can use Google Adwords to grow their business.  

However, I must say, that some 95% of lawn care and landscaping businesses should stay off of Google Adwords.

Adwords is a complex beast that can lose you money

No matter what Google’s marketing message says, Google Adwords is an extremely complex system.  Just setting an account up properly takes a fairly large amount of knowledge, and most businesses–large and small–get it wrong.

At WikiLawn, we partner with lawn care businesses to help them grow.  Many of them use Adwords as well, and I’ve offered to take a look at their accounts since digital marketing is what I live and breathe.

Every time I’ve looked at these accounts, I’m disappointed.  None have been set up particularly well, and most are missing even the basics.  What’s even more saddening is about half were blatantly losing money.

I can also use competitive tools combined with our proprietary knowledge of industry margins to estimate what other companies are making and losing on Adwords.  Most are not making money.

Why AdWords is particularly challenging in the green industry

For starters, even if you know the ins and outs of Google Adwords, the platform requires continuous maintenance.  Landscapers are among the busiest small business owners there are. Do you really think you have an extra 30 hours per week to spend?

Also, the nature of the landscaping industry makes setting up Google Adwords complicated.  The conversion funnel typically goes as follows:

  1. Customer searches on Google for a term like ‘Austin, TX Landscaping’ and clicks on your ad.
  2. They view your website.
  3. Customer either calls you or fills out a lead form.
  4. You answer the call, return a voicemail or follow up on the lead form to schedule a consultation.
  5. You meet the customer, bid the job.
  6. Customer accepts, you do the job.
  7. A customer may purchase follow-on services later.

Here’s how this process makes bidding on Adwords extremely complex:

  • Follow up Time:  If you’re out in the field when a customer calls or submits a form, and don’t get back to them quickly, your conversion rate is going to suffer.  The more customers you miss, the more paid clicks down the drain.
  • Conversion and ROI Tracking:  Since much of the buying process is done offline, it’s challenging to tie back the revenue and profit you earn from a customer to a click.  Therefore, it’s hard to calculate your return on investment.
  • Different Clicks have Different Values:  A one-time lawn mowing job will net you a few bucks while a hardscape installation will net you thousands.  However, the former will convert a lot higher than the latter. A properly set up campaign adjusts for this but is hard to do.

Adwords is complex enough on its own, but add in the complexities of the landscaping industry and it’s no wonder so many lawn and landscape businesses lose money on Adwords.

Here’s the kicker.  The higher you bid on Adwords, the more clicks you get.  But with so many businesses that don’t realize how much money they’re losing, it becomes very difficult to get any clicks at a reasonable price whatsoever.  

But what about hiring an agency?

Unfortunately, hiring a marketing agency is no silver bullet.  Many of the bank-account-draining accounts I’ve looked at were run by local agencies.

The fact of the matter is that most local lawn care businesses can’t afford a top-tier agency.  Competent agencies start at $5,000 / month, and that doesn’t include your ad spend. Running an Adwords campaign is a lot of work, so an agency charging a fraction of that is likely cutting corners.  

Simple agency economics don’t work out for small businesses.  It’s very hard for an agency to make money if they’re charging less than $1,000 / month.  I’m sure there are exceptions to the rule, but be very wary of retaining agencies. They tend to be better at selling new clients than they are at delivering on their promises.

Alternatives to Google Adwords

1. Upsell Current Customers

So Adwords may not be the right option for you, but there are still plenty of options to grow your business.

For starters, you can always upsell your existing customers.  This has no cost but your time. You can write a carefully crafted email campaign advertising specials, call your customers to see what they’re interested in, or spend a couple of minutes extra at each property on your route making a list of projects that they could use.  

Upsells drive revenue and customers want them.  At LawnStarter, our customers rave when the providers recommend services for them.

2. Get Online Reviews

Getting reviews is currently one of the most powerful ways you can grow your business locally.  First focus on the sites that provide organic (free) traffic, namely Google Local and Yelp.

Simply politely ask your customers to leave a review, complete your profile, and respond to every review good or bad.   

3. Join a Platform

My company, LawnStarter, and others like it partner with local lawn care businesses to send recurring lawn maintenance jobs at no upfront cost.  We handle all of the customer acquisition and customer support, so all you have to do is complete the work.

Still want to try Google Adwords?

Larger, regional landscaping businesses can afford to hire a competent marketing agency to run their AdWords, and also front the setup cost for all the tracking associated with it.

However, the bulk of the lawn care industry is from small local businesses.  If you’re one of these businesses, I can only condone that you start doing AdWords if the following criteria are met:

  1. You have the capacity to take on 10-20% more work.  It’s not worth your time if you don’t have the capacity.
  2. You’ve exhausted upsells, review sites, and online platforms–most companies have not.
  3. You answer almost every phone call, and are willing to follow up several times on leads.
  4. You take the time to learn the platform – Whether you hire an agency or do it yourself, you must know the ins and outs to make good decisions.
  5. You have the time to monitor your account.
  6. You are setup to accurately track your ROI. This way you never lose money like most of your competitors.

Still have questions about lawn care? Please visit our lawn care page for information.

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Written by Wikilawn

About Wikilawn

Wikilawn’s mission is to provide the best resources and information to help you enjoy your outdoor spaces the way you want. Whether you are a DIY, lawn-loving, gardening guru, or someone who wants help in picking a local lawn care professional, we can smooth your path to a beautiful backyard!

About Wikilawn

Wikilawn’s mission is to provide the best resources and information to help you enjoy your outdoor spaces the way you want. Whether you are a DIY, lawn-loving, gardening guru, or someone who wants help in picking a local lawn care professional, we can smooth your path to a beautiful backyard!

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