by David Kirkpatrick
Knockout Pest Control is a regional pest management company servicing 10 counties in the New York metropolitan area including Long Island, Westchester-Rockland, the five boroughs of New York and Bourbon County.
According to Arthur Katz, President, Knockout Pest Control, the company's goal is to provide pest management services to residential, commercial, industrial and health facilities with a focus on buildings.
"I describe it in the simplest way," he said, "if it has four walls, we're interested in doing pest control, which delineates us and separates us from lawn care, tree care and things of that nature."
He added the company's marketing depends on separating the audience into different segments, such as private homeowners, multi-family dwellings (i.e., apartments and co-ops) and health care or nonprofit organizations with multi-family dwellings (i.e., drug rehab centers).
Knockout utilizes a variety of channels, including digital marketing, direct mail and trade shows to reach its target audiences.
Companies that have been in business for a number of years — Knockout has been in business since 1975 — at some point realize that what previously worked in marketing just isn't providing the same results.
Katz said he saw the world changing for his business. Newspaper advertising, display advertising and the Yellow Pages just weren't working any longer, and he wanted to "get more into electronic media."
One immediate digital marketing challenge was Knockout's website. Katz said around 10 years ago, he was interviewed by an industry magazine about the site, and he was quoted at the time as saying, "It was business card."
The old website was a static provider of basic information, but Katz saw that half of his traffic was coming from mobile devices. He understood that these visitors most likely had a pressing pest control need and most likely needed more from the website than simply the company contact information and accolades. These visitors needed information about their particular issue and how Knockout can help solve their particular pain point.
This realization led to an effort that completely changed the digital marketing landscape for Knockout. Read on to learn about all the different channels this campaign reached into and how that effort dramatically increased website traffic over two years.
Katz's goal with diving into digital marketing was to "make the phone ring." SEO was important in order to drive people to the website as well as getting a conversion on the homepage because Knockout site visitors most likely have a pressing pest control problem — such as a mouse in the kitchen — and want to be able to immediately call or email.
Step #1. Educate the website visitor (and gain SEO benefits in the process)
The Knockout website became a place where, instead of selling, it provided a service to educate potential customers. Katz's plan for the website's content and focus combined creating awareness about the company, educating visitors and improving SEO, and this process worked to improve website performance.
For example, the original site had a single page on bedbugs — a major business for Knockout. The new site added multiple pages on the topic
- What should you do to prevent bedbugs?
- What kind of tools are out there to help you with bedbugs?
- What should you do if you find a bedbug?
- How can you tell if you have bedbugs?
The idea with all these pages is to provide information for the visitor rather than sell to them. The SEO benefit comes from having a lot of pages around one topic, and search engines then find the overall website as a resource for that topic. From there, individual pages within that topic area can be optimized around subsets within the topic.
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In this case, it might be difficult for Knockout to rank highly for "bedbugs," but more detailed, long-tailed search engine optimized webpages on specific topics, such as the list above, can gain those higher search engine response page (SERP) rankings.
During the remake of the website, a lot of the longer-tail webpages that were subsets within a broad topic, such as "bedbugs," were driven by researching what people were searching for and then creating pages that answered those Web searches.
After finding the keywords for each of the new pages, these keywords were implemented in multiple areas:
- Title of the page
- Page headings
- Metadata in the images
- Included in the page copy, but not overdone
Step #2. Engage in link building
The key link building tactic in this effort was linking within the website from page to page to help build SEO. Katz also writes articles for publications that provide backlinks to the Knockout website, essentially a public relations link-building tactic.
Another way Knockout engaged in link building tactics was simply by commenting on relevant websites. In one case, the headquarters of Vogue
magazine in New York had a rat problem, so the company commented on that story. Although the comment link is "no follow" and there was no true link juice, so to speak, the company did get direct referral traffic from the comment.
One thing the team avoided in this campaign was link farms and offers for "X" numbers of links for a fee. Search engines penalize websites that have non-genuine, low-quality links. Katz advised of these offers, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."
Step #3. Improve website navigation
The nature of Knockout's business created something of a navigation challenge. The goal was to create website navigation that was logical and intuitive, but there was a large navigation element that wasn't part of the static menu for a reason.
Because the business is seasonal — for example rodents become more of a pest issue when the weather gets cooler and they begin moving into people's homes — the team had to create essentially two separate systems of navigation. One was the menu navigation that was described as "clean, logical and intuitive," and the second was spread throughout the page instead of locked into a menu and was more ad hoc and changeable on the fly to adjust to the seasonal topics.
Adjusting to the seasonal topics
Katz explained some of the seasonal elements faced by Knockout, saying, "I'll tell you right now that between March 1 and June 1, termites are going to be swarming in our area. I know that a high percentage of our business is going to be going to be people looking for information on what termites look like — 'What do I do?,' 'What are methods of resolving that issue?' That's spring. In the late spring, it's carpenter ants. In the summer, we start getting bees and wasps. In the wintertime, we have cave crickets."
He continued, "We want to make it easy for people to find solutions to the pain that they're having this month."
Step #4. Optimize for mobile
For this stage of the website redesign, the team decided to not incorporate an entirely different mobile website or responsive design on the main site. Instead, the team worked to make the single Knockout site as mobile-friendly as possible.
The approach the team took to optimize the Knockout site for mobile was to simplify the navigation and ensure that Knockout's contact information was very prominent. The idea behind this thought process was that anyone hitting the site with a mobile device likely had a pressing pest control need and wanted to contact the company right away.
The team did acknowledge that the current website doesn't include Flash or Java elements, there are no registration forms, no pop-ups and no redirects — all site elements that can negatively affect a mobile experience.
Although the current mobile experience is on the main Knockout website, a separate mobile website is under consideration.
Step #5. Integrate social media in the new website experience
Knockout is primarily utilizing Twitter and Facebook, along with LinkedIn for Katz's more B2B-centered activities and markets, and the strategy is to provide content that is sharable instead of really pressing for "likes" or "followers." The team understands most people aren't going to like or follow a pest control company, but the team works to share relevant information when a problem arises.
For example, around the holidays, the team created shareable content around "unwelcome guests," highlighting when people have other people into their homes for the festivities, those guests might be bringing an "unwelcome guest" of their own — bedbugs.
Another example occurred when Katz was invited to opening of a Long Island property that was a charity for homeless vets. He had a photo taken of raising the flag with service members at the opening ceremony and created a blog post from the event. This post drove commenters who wanted to support the charity.
He said, "Had we used social media where it's perceived as advertising, no one's liking you, and I don't even know if they're even looking at it. But you do something that really is of human interest — I'm still getting the publicity value, but I'm doing a good deed."
Proving the point that when engaging in social media, it's important to find the platform where your audience is active. One of Knockout's main drivers of business from social media is Angie's List.
Katz said most of his ratings are an "A," but after seeing one "B," he reached out through the site's comments section.
"A woman comments, 'You were wonderful. The guy was great. We're very happy with the service,' then gave me a B. So I posted online, 'Thank you very much for your post. What can we do better to earn the A?'" he explained. "When I go to Angie's List, I put my name and my email for every customer to see. So the president of the company is saying, 'Call me. Tell me what is wrong.' I think that is valuable."
Because the entire purpose of the campaign was to improve the website, the key metric is a 308% increase in web traffic in the two years the effort has been in effect. Also, at the start of the campaign, 65% of website traffic came from natural search. Two years later that figure is up to 81% — a lift of 25%.
Katz's advice for marketers looking to increase their digital marketing efforts is finding the right partners to work with. Also, before hiring someone for SEO, read up on the topic and research material that is relatively new — three to six months old — in order to be abreast of the latest practices in an ever-changing field.
He added that a current focus is the mobile presence and the ease of use of that experience. According to Katz, he intends to explore those metrics to find out more about the length of mobile visits as well as how many visitors are actually calling through to Knockout Pest Control.
- Webpage on bedbugs with links to additional content
SourceKnockout Pest Control
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