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Why Your Solar Company’s Website Gets No Search Engine Love

On internet, everyone is hot and sexy.

OK, I lied.

Most people on internet are just like.. people in real life.

truth-about-online-dating

Most are, well, let’s just say.. if it weren’t for internet dating, most of these people’s heritage lines are doomed. (Side note: online sales lead generation is just like dating.)

And websites are no different: ugly useless ones don’t get any love and go home alone while pretty useful ones get to do all the egg laying.

Yes, believe it or not, there are ugly and useless sites. And your solar company’s website is probably one of them

  • Ugly – Looks like it was built by a drunken monkey using a tablet.. i mean like the tablet that Moses used in the B.C. era
  • Useless – No information, nothing of any interest to anyone.. just bare bone contact information.

Here’s why you won’t get any love from search engines, or better yet, people of the internet.

People are used to simple clean designs like Google, Facebook, and Twitter.. AND have tons of insanely great content.

And because of this general trend towards clean user experience, EVERYONE is following suit.

In another words, people are mentally being trained to equate clean looks & lots of information with professionalism.

If your website is ugly (and be HONEST with yourself), guess what.. others probably think the same.

On top of that, if your site has no real good information for search engines to digest and understand what you’re really about, guess what.. you ain’t gettin’ no search engine love. (i.e. traffic / potential customers).

There are TWO negative repercussions with this

  1. NO one is linking to you because it’s untrustworthy AND has no interesting information for people to refer to….  which means, no customers
  2. your website visitors are leaving you, telling search engines that your site is pretty much useless…

If you have Google analytics installed, you’ll notice this thing called a bounce rate.

bounce-rate

If it’s high (like more than 60%), that means people are leaving you within 2-3 seconds of being there.

And if your bounce rate is high, search engines are taught to push you “down” the search engine results because to show relevant results to people (i.e. the users get there and stay there for more than 3 seconds)

Why? Because if they show the “right” stuff to people, people will think that the search engine is good… and that they’ll come BACK to the search engines so that they can show more ads and make more money.

(Yeap, as much as we’d all like to think, search engines are for profit businesses..)

So what’s a small mom pop operation with limited budget and expertise to do? Simple.

1) Make your site pretty

FUNNY-FUN-FUN.COM

Dammit, don’t be cheap.

Get a designer and make your site nice and clean… AND  ORIGINAL. (Not some el cheapo off the shelf crap.)

It won’t cost you more than a few hundred bucks. Trust me, it’s worth the investment.

OH yeah.. and don’t ever make THESE online marketing mistakes

2) Add lots of content

funny-pet-image-pawshpal

Simple fact of business success: more media = more customers. Bottom line.

If you don’t create media, how are people suppose to figure out what the hell you do?

On internet, (key)WORDS are the CURRENCY. You want more dough? well start typing.

3) Be friendly & helpful.

<funny-friendly-bear-car-window.jpg>

Just like you skip the commercials when you watch TV, no one wants to read your stupid sales pitch.

If this visit your website, the chances are that they are probably looking for information.

So why don’t you be nice AND tell them something good? OR something even nice.

Things like “how does solar work”… “how does solar financing work”… “how does net metering work”… etc.

Yes, I understand they are far in the decision part of the buying cycle (and if you are completely blank when it comes to that, a good tutorial on the intent & online buying decision process/cycle )

Be helpful and provide a lot of information and share tons of information.

Don’t be worried about people stealing your trade secret or what not.. because I’ll be frank, no one wants to steal your crap.

If they want it, they’ll be more than likely to contact you and ask you for help.

TaeWoo Kim is the founder of Solar One Media, a solar lead generation company specializing in  generating solar (PV) leads. You can follow him on Twitter @taewookim

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Top 3 Useless Online Marketing Tactics Used By Solar Companies

definition-of-insanity

Ever wonder who comes up with marketing strategies?

OK, i don’t claim to know EVERYTHING there is to know about marketing, but I can tell you who’s wasting big bucks on useless crap.

I’ve seen more than a dozen marketing campaigns from various sized solar companies.. multi billion dollar solar panel manufacturers, regional solar distributors with multi million dollar marketing budget, and small mom/pop solar installation companies who’s primary marketing channel is word of mouth.

And to be frank, I’ve seen better marketing executions that blow my mind from smaller innovative guys  than I have from bigger corporate types.

But no matter how big the size, they almost aways seem to make the same mistakes when it comes to online marketing.

So without pointing any fingers, here’s the top 3 that I see that makes NO ROI sense..

3) Pay to be Listed in Trade Organizations

I’m sure you’ve heard the sales pitch…

“We’re XYZ Solar Group. Our readers include top 50 solar companies in the world, including John Doe from ABC Solar, Peter Smith from DEF PV Inc, etc. If you buy a placement for your company in our directory, your company is GUARANTEED to get exposure to the top industry players.”

Umm.. right.

funny-dog-pictures-sucker-punch

Ask yourself this question: when was the LAST time you ever picked up a directory and ask yourself “hmm, I need something.. let me look up through a thick 2inch book and look through THOUSANDS of people that do the same thing, and maybe I’ll buy from a guy in page 27, column 3, row 48 in the most boring 10 point font that I can BARELY read”.

No, that never happens.

People go to this thing called.. the ‘in-ter-net’.

Blogs, social networks, search engines, mobile apps…heck.. TV!

NOW you get the idea.

But I don’t want to totally poo poo on trade organizations.

If the solar trade organization’s website has tons of traffic, maybe it is worth it.

What would I do? Test to see if being placed in a solar trade directory for 2-3 months and see if it brings any business.

2) “Free XYZ with Your Home solar Analysis”

Ever walk down home & garden show or farmer’s market and see this?

(By the way, if you’re targeting these 2 event categories.. kudos to you. This is where potential solar buyers hang out. Men, 40+, $50k+ income. SHAZAM! Ninja marketing 101!)

Ok, I see where the marketing ploy comes from.. but there’s something wrong with this.

If you offer them a physical product that costs you money and people really want it, they will just take advantage of it.

false-advertisement-free-beer

For example, a solar company out of San Jose used $50 gift cards to Starbucks with a free home solar analysis.

Did they get a lot of leads? Yes.

Did they get a lot of customers? No.

Does it ALWAYS not work? Probably not 100% failure rate, but im guessing a pretty dismal success rate.

This is the problem with INCENTIVIZED lead generation is that sometimes people are more focused on the incentive than they are on the offer.

It CAN work (i.e. cost of incentive exceeds the net revenue to the company).. but like with anything in marketing, you MUST test.

What makes a better sense is to offer a GIFT with purchase of a solar system.

That way, you ONLY spend if your company makes a sale.

1) Buying Co-Reg, Incentivized, and Over Shared Leads

Ah yes..

If I got a quarter every time someone asked me if buying co-registered/incentivized/over-shared leads is a good idea, I wonder if I can be Bill Gate’s neighbor.

But since, no one will pay me a quarter to say “no” to his/her face, I might as well give you something just as comparable:

slap-some-sense-into-you

The answer is NOOOOOOOOOOOO….

Incentivized => Read point #2

Co-registered leads => This is a complicated topic, so instead, read this blog entry about what lead providers do.

Over-Shared Leads => Would you want to talk to a potential customer who’s been called by 10-15 of your competitors already? No, they’re gonna be cranky. And even if they are open to your sales pitch, now they are gonna scrutinize every part of your offer. This is what’s known as “sales pitch fatigue” and your ROI on these paid leads can suffer drammatically.

If possible, go for exclusive leads.. if not, shared leads sent to 2 or 3 companies MAX.

TaeWoo Kim is the founder of Solar One Media, a solar lead generation company specializing in solar (PV) leads. You can follow him on Twitter @taewookim

3 Reasons Why Your Solar Company’s Website Sucks

meh-facebook

Let me ask you a question.

How many solar installers are there in US?

Well, that was more of a rhetorical question.. actually I do not know either.

But thanks to the open web, I managed to find the number of registered SunPower dealers in US.

As of, September 2012, there were 349… and the break down?

sunpower-solar-installers-by-state-2012

Now, let me ask you a second question.. if you ran an solar installation company in California, you are competition is at LEAST 130…

Fine, granted that solar installation business is a local business, you might the competition isn’t as stiff.

BUT, you have to remember.. that’s just SunPower. What about companies like SolarCity, Verengo, Sungevity, etc..?

Now about dealers that work with SunTech, HanHwa, Trina, SolarWorld, etc..?

Yes, the competition is stiff. VERY. (Did you really expect to sell $30-$50k systems with huge margins and not expect anyone to give you some resistance? Come on..)

dont-be-slowest

As a founder of Solar One Media, a performance marketing company specializing in solar leads online, I know this for a fact.

When people are looking for solar or companies to install solar on their behalf, people start with the web.

So if your website sucks, guess what, you’re losing on a HUGE opportunity to market to these people who want to GIVE you their money.

Here’s why most solar companies’ websites suck:

1) Stop confusing people. Tell them what the hell they are people supposed to do on your site.

confusing_signs

Be honest. If not, do me a favor and ask your wife or your neighbor to look at your website.

Then ask them what they think they should be doing next.

But before you ask, write down  on piece of paper what YOU think they should be doing.

Now, does their answer match yours?

If the answer is a resounding NO, guess what.. they’re confused.

(Most) Websites (that aren’t news/blogs) aren’t supposed to be pretty.. they’re not supposed to be funny.. and they’re DEFINITELY supposed to ask the visitor to do SOMETHING.

Stop confusing your website visitors.. tell them to DO something. (Like I don’t know.. generating solar sales leads.)

If you don’t, you’re doing this:

dont-call-me

2) People have no idea who you are, what you do, and why they should trust you

Your “about page” should be.. *drum roll*…..  ABOUT YOU!

*gasp*

I know, it’s a fascinating concept huh?

But you have know how many corporate websites I see (some belonging to Fortune 500 companies) where you have no idea who they are about or what they do.

Have you ever seen one of these stock photos on some website’s “about us” page?

about-us-unkown-people

No faces, no names… and these “people” are EVERYWHERE.

So either these are stock photos or these people run 2/3 of the companies out there.. .. or ARE THEY?

(Insert rich-get-richer-poor-get-poorer corporate conspiracy here)

Remember, people do business with PEOPLE, not with websites.

I know you people aren’t as good looking as I am, but it’s ok to show your face.

(Yes, humility is my middle name.)

If you show that there are people and faces behind the company, people will feel comfortable and safe doing business with you.

3) Your site looks like it was built by a monkey. And hence zero trust.

I know I said websites aren’t supposed to be pretty, but people, this is year 2013!

Monkey scratch websites no longer cut it. And DON’T expect to come to your site (again) with a website that reminds them of this:

funny-ugly-dog

Here’s why.

Because of the web 2.0 movement on the web (like Facebook/Twitter/Google) that emphasize simplicity in design, people are now conditioned to associate visual aesthetics with professionalism.

In other words, an ugly website makes them think that your company is incompetent.

Of course, there are exceptions.. like Craigslist.

But of course, Craigslist has been around for like 20 years and has 50+ million visitors a year, but your site doesn’t, so please stop making the comparison.

Let me ask you.. would you trust this website?

ugliest-website

(Yes, that’s a screenshot of a REAL website.)

As my math teacher use to write when he proved a theorem, Q.E.D (latin for “thus it has been demonstrated”)

TaeWoo Kim is the founder of Solar One Media, a solar lead generation company specializing in solar (PV) leads. You can follow him on Twitter @taewookim

What Google Can Tell You About Your Customer’s Sentiment

Do you run your business in vacuum? Probably not. Unless of course, you don’t like generating revenue.

As founder of a solar lead generation company, my customers are solar installation companies. And one of their biggest un-addressed issue: how do THEIR customers feel about them.

Prior to the days of internet where much of people’s conversations are not recorded (thus cannot be tracked), you pretty much had to guess.

Sure you can take surveys but if those results are skewed. Think about it, if a company you really hated sent you a survey, would you fill it out? Some of you might, but the rest of the people will just trash it.

Of course, that means determining how people feel about your company is pretty much a guess work. You can sort of guess from your quarterly sales report but then again, it’s still a shot in the dark.

With advent of social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, people will pretty much blast your company if they feel that they’ve been wronged… or have had awesome customer service.

(But let me make a clear point that social media marketing is not a form of lead generation / new customer acquisition, but rather lead nurturing and referral acquisition.)

But you’re busy and don’t have time to respond to every Facebook status update about your company.. or every Tweet… but answer yourself this question: don’t you already answer pretty much all emails that come your way anyway?

Ok fine, you’re busy. So what exactly can you use?

The same thing you use to find information everyday: Google autocomplete.

This is probably one of the more useful things about you.

Ever go to google.com and it tries to “guess” what you are typing?

The thing is, Google doesn’t really KNOW what you’re trying to type. But it does know what OTHER people are typing and tries to guess from search queries submitted by billions of people.

In another words, they’re collecting information about what people are looking for with respect to that company, product, service, news, trend, etc. So yes, Google/Bing/search engines really are social media tools.

There are several solar companies (who I won’t mention) that have huge “red marks”, so to speak, because of their rather unscrupulous practices. When you type their company name into the search box, the search box autocomplete will fill in “complaints” … “scams”.

If this happens to your company, what does this mean?

It could mean that the person doing the search got burned and is wanting to know who else got burned, what did the others do, who blogged/tweeted about it, etc.

OR

It could mean that the person doing the search is doing due diligence on your company before he/she decides to go with your solar service/product.

In either case, you want to make sure that whatever Google shows is not something that’s going to ding your company in the mind of the searcher.

(And on the flipside, you can even find out what keywords your competitors are targeting to drive traffic and customers to THEIR website. I know, sneaky.)

————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

TaeWoo Kim is founder & president of Solar One Media, a solar lead generation company that helps solar (PV) sales & installation companies acquire customers online.

Why is Solar Even Being Politicized?

In 1995, a rather well known expert scientist claimed that internet is nothing but a big fad. He said in a radio interview:

I’d say it’s not that important. I think it’s grossly oversold and within two or three years people will shrug and say, ‘”Uh yep, it was a fad of the early 90’s and now, oh yeah, it still exists but hey, I’ve got a life to lead and work to do. I don’t have time to waste online.” Or, “I’ll collect my email, I’ll read it, why should I bother prowling around the Worldwide Web or reading the Usenet” simply because there’s so little of value there.

If that scientist is still alive today, I’m sure he wouldn’t have the greatest reaction to people belittling him for how relevant and important Internet has become to our every day life. (And if you don’t believe me, just ask yourself this: how are you reading this article?)

What I find fascinating is that solar has become the new scapegoat for politicians and media people. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if some “expert” came out and said that solar is a fad. That all this investment into solar is going to be a big waste, and that we should stop altogether.

Can it really go to nothing? Perhaps, because nothing is impossible. Likely? Probably not.

Yes, Solyndra failled. Yes, there’s lots of politics in solar industry. But in what industry are there no failures or politics? Ever hear of AIG, General Motors, American Airlines, etc etc etc.? So why is the solar the one scapegoat people love to poo on?

Let’s look at the facts

  1. Of the 1,300 federally funded renewable energy companies, only 5 went under. (source)

  2. The clean economy employs more workers than fossil fuels industry (source)

  3. Solar tax incentives are only a fraction of coal, oil, and gas incentives (source)

What’s more important.. solar is a way for us to lessen, if not eventually completely eliminate, our national addiction to black liquid cocaine we call oil.

In any budding industry, there’s going to be a plethora of competitors, government interventions, international trade issues, and yes, price wars. With that comes trade disputes, political bickering, and of course, media sensationalism.

Solar is not just about electricity, saving money, and getting a return. Solar, when used creatively like in solar water pumps, can be used to save lives in Africa where people regularly die from diarrhea, caused by drinking dirty water. Yes, solar is a lot more than meets the eye.

I am not the most politically aware person on planet, but I do know that statues are built to remember the heroes, not the cynics, the critics, and the nay-sayers. Before these “influential” people use their influences to bad mouth an industry that’s going to fundamentally change the way we look at energy, they need to remember that solar does a lot more good than it does cause any real, noticeable kind of damage.

TaeWoo Kim is founder & president of Solar One Media, a solar lead generation company that helps solar (PV) sales & installation companies acquire customers online.

SolarWorld vs. China – David vs. Goliath or Corporate Greed?

Solar World Industries America is crying foul for Chinese solar manufacturers flooding the market with cheap solar panels. And it appears that the officials at the US. International Trade Commission and Commerce Department are going to agree.

Why? Because Solar World is all about “protecting American jobs”, as reflected by one of its organizations being called “Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing”. Now, let me ask the readers.. is Solar World acting out of interest for America or it’s own corporate profit motives?

Making an argument that what they’re doing is patriotic is a hard pill to swallow.

I live in California, and yes, there are tons of solar panels on our roofs. And yes, I run a solar lead generation company. So taking both into consideration, you can make a fair argument that yes, I am economically biased in making a statement that cheaper solar panels are good both for Californian solar buyers and solar installers who are selling & putting up panels.

But there is a greater motivation than that: energy self reliance If that sounds “holier-than-thou-rah-rah-hippy” talk, let me tell you a story of my friend Charles.

Other than the color of his skin, Charles was very much the typical American 21 year old. Grungy hair, kind of awkward around women, and of course, excited about life. When he signed up for the military and got shipped off to a foreign country for a war, neither he nor his family thought he would end up dead on day 1 without having fired 1 shot from his gun and without even having seen his enemy. His “so-called” enemy in a war he did not see a righteous purpose in.

I’m sure that I’m not the only one who’s been through the death of a friend or a family member who’s in the armed forces. And I’m sure every one of those was painful. To lose a loved one in a war that a vast number of people were against, and to die for what, oil?

Charles had a dream – to come back from the war, marry his college sweetheart, buy a suburban home, work for his dad, and have a family of his own. He used to tell me about taking his future kids to a local water park and throwing BBQs for his friends and family on summer weekends.

But that dream, along with my dearest friend Charles, is gone.

I’m not statistician so I can’t give you all the facts, but I do know that we as a nation are very dependent on foreign oil for our national energy needs. But if we can solve, or even lessen, our national addiction to oil by having solar panels become our #1 source of energy, then I am all for it.

The more panels we can have on our roofs, the less need for oil, and the less need for our government to intervene in political turbulent middle east where our economics needs are constantly playing chess with their political needs.

Sure, I don’t disagree that the Chinese are playing unfair in the solar market, and I am not saying that we shouldn’t protect American jobs. But the fact and matter is, the need to realize national self energy independence is much greater than the need to protect the jobs of 900 or so people up in Oregon working for Solar World.

What does Solar World’s proposed tariff do? Raises the cost of solar panels. Not only does it hurt the millions of American consumers looking for solar, but also the thousands, if not tens of thousands, of American solar installers who make their living doing the hard work of getting on top of the roof.

What does Solar World get out of it? Political & economic protection at the cost of the rest of the nation and nation’s energy needs. So is Solar World really looking out for the interests of the common man?

If the tariff goes in effect, it will be a step back from the national energy independence we desperately need. Less panels, more need for oil, and more wars

Please, let the “Charles” of the world come back home. Alive.

And to the people working for the solar industry, whether you are an installer on top of a roof in a home in a California suburb or a solar panel factory worker in a city in China, I thank you for all your hard work. No matter how much crap media give you, you guys are CHANGING the world. Never apologize for what you do, and keep the green movement going.

God bless.

TaeWoo Kim is founder & president of Solar One Media, a solar lead generation company that helps solar (PV) sales & installation companies acquire customers online.

Solyndra: Solar’s Poster Child For Failure

If solar industry had a poster child for failure, Solyndra is to solar as Jared Fogle is to Subway.

Yes, solar had its share of flops, failures, and fiascos. Wall Street bashes the solar manufacturers for its low margins, huge debts, and of course, its constant political war different countries around the world.

On top of that, when people think about going solar, they roll their eyes when they see the bottom line: single or barely double digits returns. Those people want what everyone else wants: high returns, low cash outlay, and of course, no management headache.

Right. To those people, I say “dream on”.

Granted that US solar manufacturers like SunPower are eventually going to outsource to countries where the cost of labor makes sense, there are plenty of US based companies making money from solar. Ever hear of SolarCity?

Yes, solar sale & installation is where the margin is made. I know because my company Solar One Media delivers solar leads to them. In fact, there is plethora of solar installation companies vying for the top positions: like Verengo, Petersen Dean, REC Solar, Sungevity, Skytech, etc.

And to those who think that solar returns are too low, I’d like to ask what their returns are for their comparable investments. Real estate? Commodities? Equities? What are they getting?

Solar is the ultimate golden goose. Sure, 8-12% return might be a low yield for some of them, but remember, this is 8-12% per year for every year that the solar system is in place. On top of that, there’s hardly ANY maintenance – there’s no tenant issue like you have with real estate, no marketing or sales issue like you have with companies, and of course, no people to deal with.

It’s the gift that keeps on giving, day in and day out. Whether or not you are home, whether a republican or a democrat wins the presidential election, no matter what the economic conditions are, your solar investment will yield as long as the sun is out.

But ultimately, solar isn’t just about financial investing, but also spiritual investing.

How many of us have seen Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” and thought “yeah, we gotta do something about this”. And yet, we just sit there and do nothing. Or worse, commute to work in our gas guzzling SUV’s and using that precious water resources to feed our useless lawn that doesn’t produce anything?

It is time to stop beating up solar industry because it is a fledgling industry that’s just starting to bloom. Yes there will be some issues and yes the finances won’t make a whole lot of sense to a big chunk of the population. Remember the early days of internet when 56k dialup service cost $50/month? Well, it didn’t make a whole of sense back then, but look where we are now. Internet is revolutionizing the human race and now most people don’t think twice about getting a high speed broadband service to their homes.

Why not give solar the benefit of the doubt? Unlike some silicon valley companies like Zynga whose job is to extract dollar from you by giving you hours of endless, mindless click-entertainment. Solar companies are changing the world – more solar means less oil we need to import. The less oil we import, the less need for our government to intervene in oil rich but politically turbulent countries. The less we need to intervene, the less need we have for wars. The less wars we have, the more that our sons, fathers, brothers, neighbors, and friends who are in the armed forced get the chance to come home in one piece.

So if you feel the urge to beat up this new kid on the block, please, give solar a chance. Let it grow and see what happens.