A lot of residential solar companies contact me about programs for them, and one of the first things I do is look at their websites. Some are okay, but often they’re outdated and missing several key elements that every modern website should have.
So, for the benefit of not repeating myself and helping these installers to at least look modern, here now is a list of 15, count ‘em, 15 residential/small commercial solar company website elements that every modern website should have.
1) Photos and a photo gallery with images of your own installs, not stock images. Why would you use a stock image of a solar home? You’re a solar installer, and you do great work. Hire a professional photographer, go back to old clients, and get a few, and feature those on your home page. For all other installs, at least get a snapshot and put it in a photo gallery. If possible, include smiling, happy, customers in front of their solar homes.
2) Customer testimonials. Equally important as real solar photos are real testimonials from happy customers. It’s very easy to ask customers for a quote and permission to publish, including a thumbnail headshot photo and a real first and last name. It’s important because website visitors don’t trust you yet, they trust their neighbors who are wiling to put their faces and words on your website, supporting you and your excellent service. Very powerful for building trust and call you for a quote.
3) Videos. Film or photograph the stages of your installs. In addition to written testimonials, ask customers for video testimonials. Seeing several people talk about your great service is even more important than written testimonials. And the great thing about video is that you can transcribe those words for print brochures. You don’t have to hire people today. Just have a tripod with a camera and computer editing software, and you really can do it all for next to nothing.
4) Bio page. Stop hiding from your customers. People want to connect with other people, not a faceless website or corporate logo. Include a picture of who you are and why you’re in this difficult business. Tell your story and your goals, not what you think people want to hear.
5) Certifications and memberships. People may not know what ASES and NABCEP are, but they can click on those logos and find out. Same for BBB, Angie’s List, etc. Put those somewhere in your website footer, or at least as part of your About Us page.
6) About us. Once again, tell your story. As a company, who are you and what do you want to accomplish? Why should anyone contact you? What about your company deserves their trust and possible spamming? Convince them and put a link at the end for your email address and a call to action, like, “Have more questions? Contact us for a free, no-obligation quote, or for any concerns.”
7) A blog. It’s 2013. Blogs matter. I write about this frequently, and it’s not just me. Every marketing expert in every industry agrees that blog content is the basis for every social media plan today (and really since 2007). If you don’t have one, bummer, but it’s not like it costs you anything but time, so ....do it.
8) Contact info on every page. Do you know how long it takes for someone to click away from your website if they don’t find the info they want immediately? 2.5 seconds. So, don’t make finding the contact button a chore. Have your phone number and perhaps an email at the top every page.
9) FAQs. About a year ago, I wrote a Solar Fred post here on REWorld about the top 10 FAQs every website should have. If you missed it or forgot it, read it here.
10) How solar works. To most residents, solar is scary. It’s new, it’s (supposedly) expensive, and maybe it’ll burn down my house! Alleviate those fears. Have a graphic of how solar works and point to features that make it safe, clean, energy.
11) Calls to action. Every page should have some kind of “call-to-action” that encourages the reader to contact you about the information on that page. “Have more questions about how solar works? Contact us.” That little call-out is far more effective than just providing the info. It’s subliminal, but studies show it works, so do it.
12) Sections for commercial, residential, and government. Most sites do this today, but I’m doing a laundry list here. Make sure the copy in there isn’t the same, but addresses each segment and their needs. The more generic you are these specific sectors, the more the reader will shrug and seek more specific info about their needs. So be brief, but specific.
13) Downloadable brochures. In some ways, your website is a brochure, but sometimes people want to download something to print out and show to their spouse, friend, or co-worker. Make it easy. Put a one-sheet on a PDF and include a link to it in your About Us and Contact pages.
14) A solar calculator or specific page about costs. As much as we’re all trying to save the planet, most people are concerned with costs. If you have a simple calculator that’s accurate, put it on the website. If you can’t do a calculator, have a specific page with a nice chart that gives a range of prices based on a home’s square footage. I know that’s not going to be accurate for everyone, so say that: It’s going to vary by the number of people and home’s average electricity bil, yada, yada, yada. As general as that is, it may at least satisfy their fears about costs. Be sure to include explanations about local and federal rebates, and why that can affect/reduce costs as well. If you have a leasing program, PACE, or other financing available, put that in there too. And of course, a relevant call-to-action on the page.
15) A logo with a slogan at the top of every page. A nicely designed logo with a memorable slogan separates you from the fly-by-night electrician or roofer who’s dabbling in solar. Once again, think about who you are and why you’re in this business. Translate that into a unique image and a short slogan. The slogan should be simple and easy to remember. Next, hire a graphic artist to translate your ideas. It shouldn’t cost that much, and it’s an investment that can be used with all of your marketing materials for many years.
That’s it. If you’ve done the above already, then great. Welcome to 2013. There’s more to do, of course, but at least do those 15 basics above. Google and your customers will love you for it, and I will love you for not having to repeat myself. UnThink Solar. Please.
Tor Valenza a.k.a. “Solar Fred” advises solar companies on marketing, communications, and branding. Want more solar marketing info? Sign up for the Solar Fred Marketing Newsletter, or contact Solar Fred through UnThink Solar. You can also follow @SolarFred on Twitter.
The information and views expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author and not necessarily those of RenewableEnergyWorld.com or the companies that advertise on this Web site and other publications. This blog was posted directly by the author and was not reviewed for accuracy, spelling or grammar.