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Cleanfax Live Interview – What is SEO?

Here is a live interview with Cleanfax Magazine’s Editor-In-Chief Jeff Cross covering this often mystifying subject:


Is Pay-Per-Click getting you calls? Or Just Draining Your Wallet?

Does this sound familiar? “Google is bleeding me dry!”

This is what I hear form a majority of my clients that do Pay-Per-Click Marketing.

First, let’s get this out of the way: Pay-Per-Click (PPC) works…if done right.

Now that  being said, it may not be working FOR YOU.  So we have to look at why that is.

PPC is Google’s billion-dollar beast, their cash-cow. And for those of you who aren’t quite sure what I’m talking about, look at the image below. PPC ads are those ads just above your search results when somebody Googles for you. Every time someone clicks one of those ads, the company who placed the ad (you), pays each time a person clicks on it. These clicks can be as little as $5 per click and I’ve heard as high as $80.00 per click and more. Now, this doesn’t mean “phone call” mind you, just the click. Now, when the person clicks on the ad, Google takes them to your website. They still may not call you. So you’re just paying for each one of these “clicks.” Calls are not guaranteed.

Water Damage Restoration PPC

Ok, so, let’s not forget what I started the article with, “PPC works.”  Then why do I hear so many complaints about how “Google is bleeding me dry!”  PPC is like anything else that becomes a real speciality. No part-timer or hobbyist is really going to be that successful at it. It takes a real professional now to do it successfully. There are nuances to it…tiny ones. There’s changes with Google that only a real professional would know about, changes that could cost you lots of money.  There’s only two ways to do PPC successfully.

  1.  Become a total professional at it.
  2.  Hire a professional.

The amount of money I’ve seen people lose in the “learning curve” is astronomical.   I once knew a guy who spent over $50k to get 2 phone calls, neither of which landed him a job. Crazy.  A lot of companies want to do it on their own, without committing to be total pro’s at it with the false idea that it will save money. Nothing could be further from the truth. Google designs these ads to make them billions. And in some ways, it is designed to make those billions out of your ignorance.  Ask anyone who has been in internet marketing for a long time.  They pulled a stunt about 2 years ago that meant lower quality people looking at your ads so you get more “clicks”, but far, far less phone calls for you (I can get into great and nerdy details about this).  And no hobbyist PPC guy knew any difference, except that their PPC bills got bigger and bigger while their call volume stayed the same or reduced.

Hiring a pro, even though you’ll pay him to do it, is the way to go unless you’re going to decide to become a pro yourself.  And my company does not sell PPC so don’t worry about this being a sales pitch.  A real pro will save you a ton of money in learning curves alone, not to mention start-up time, knowing when to air the ads at the right times and in the right locations and for what keywords, etc. There’s a lot know here.

Ok, so what if you have a PPC guy and it still isn’t working? Get a new one.   PPC and SEO for Water Damage work. And if you’re not getting calls from these things online, get a new guy.  I’ve worked with hundreds of water damage companies all over the world. I know how much money these guys make and how much business is driven into them online from successful SEO and PPC strategies.  If it isn’t working for you, it does not mean “it doesn’t work” it just means you haven’t gotten it to work for you…yet.


As  you already know, building a successful business is for the persistent, not those who give up early.



Dan York

Founder, Stellar-eMarketing, Inc.


Are you getting phone calls meant for a big Franchises?

I’ve been in this business for a long time. I’ve seen a lot and I know just about everybody out there. And because of that, I know where everyone’s calls come from. And here’s something no one really talks about publicly, and for good reason: A lot of you are getting calls for other companies (usually franchises) from phone call lead generation companies you’re using, or your own internal Google marketing guy.


I was at a convention this weekend and was approached by a lot of guys asking me about this and asking if that is what we do.  And the answer is no.


Let’s first cover what is going on when this happens, exactly.   You pick up the phone, the person on the other line calling in for their water damage emergency says, “Is this such-and-such franchise?” and you convert the call into your job.  I’ve heard guys say everything from, “yes, it is” to just not answering the question and saying you’ll handle it, skating the question entirely.  Basically anything to get the job.


Look, I get it.  You’re getting the calls. You want more calls.  But in the marketing world this is known as ole’ bait-and-switch.  Those of you who are trying to build good solid businesses ethically and stably (the right way) know deep-down that it’s not right.  Those of you who don’t care, fine.  But here is the truth- it won’t last forever, it can’t.  And in fact, it will recoil eventually.


Now, how exactly does this happen? Whether you’re using a Lead Generation company that sells you phone calls for $300 per call or an internal guy, the route is the same:  Your Lead Gen company or internal marketing guy buys ads from Google (called Pay-Per-Click Ads, you pay per literal click) that show up at the top of Google when people are searching for Water Damage Emergencies.  You create your water damage ad that shows up. But  then, in the background, you have to pick the words, called keywords, that you want to market for.  Well, currently Google suggests that they use Franchises names to show up for, and BIG Franchises names too. “But isn’t that Trademark infringement?”  you say. Well, that’s the question isn’t it?  Is using keywords using big franchises names Trademark Infringement?  The ads your Lead Generators are creating cannot say any of those big franchise’s names, that’s for sure, but currently Google allows you to put your ads up when people search for them by keyword.  This is how you’re getting phone calls from people saying, “Is this such-and-such Water Damage Franchise Company?”


Again, this won’t last forever. And it will recoil at some point in the future on the people who are doing it the most. When? Who knows. But you can’t do questionable things at high levels for a long time without expecting some sort of recoil at some future point.  You can get away with something for a long time, but it always catches up with you.


But how do you keep clean and still get calls? There are a bunch of different ways to do this.  The biggest companies I work with, funny enough, don’t do what I’m talking about in this article. They don’t need to.  I have plenty of other articles that go over ways to do this, but keeping your business ethics tight is a good start.



Dan York, Founder of Stellar-eMarketing, Inc.

Is your website’s design driving away your water damage calls to your competitors?

I’m in the business of getting new business for my clients. There is no way around this: Either you can or you can’t generate new business. When things are that cut and dry, you get pretty good at figuring out every little thing that gets phone calls or drives them off to your competitor’s websites. You would be shocked at the little things I’ve found that will literally drive away the calls from your website.

This is a tough business and only the persistent make any money doing it, but when they do, it is significant. Ask anyone who is doing it well.  Internet marketing and websites are still  relatively new marketing methods and everyone has an opinion about it. But, as with anything else, the only opinion that matters is the one that gets the results.

So, the 1st thing you really need to know and understand in order to NOT turn away phone calls with your website is:

Your internet marketing must be viewing as a multi-leg relay-race. If it isn’t you’ll give up and leave a lot of income on the table for someone else to come and grab. Every step of the way has to be run successfully, then the next step must be run successfully, then if you run all of the legs successfully, the phone call comes in.

It looks like this:

Water Damage Emergency ==> Go to Google ==> Sees Result they like/agree with ==> Click on Website in Google’s Natural Listing==> If they like what they see they ==> Call You

Unless every single one of those legs works, you won’t get phone calls.

Ok, so now that you know that, here are things to know that can kill your phone call volume and drive them to your competitor’s websites and tips on what to do/not to do:

  • If your website can’t be read and understood in 3-5 seconds, they will not call and leave your website. No joke. People online are “browsers” not readers. Especially in an emergency.
  • If your SEO is excellent and your website is bad for phone calls, it is not your SEO, but your website design turning away customers. Do not turn off your SEO. By the time you find out what was turning away customers on your website, your rankings in Google will have dropped and now you have another problem to solve (still no phone calls).
  • DO NOT change your website when you get bored of it or let a new marketing person you hire change it because they think it is a good idea. ONLY change it if it is not driving phone calls. If it is working, leave the design alone.
  • Look like your customer. Don’t design a $15,000 website showing mansions and looking like you cost a fortune when you are located in the middle-class, blue-collar suburbs. They won’t call you.
  • DO NOT put a giant image or image slider (multiple images) at the top of your web pages. My staff and myself call those images and image sliders “phone call killers”.
  • Your website needs to be designed for mobile browsing as well. Probably 40% of all of your internet traffic these days is on a mobile device. Always look at your site on an iPhone, iPad, etc.  Is it understood in 3-5 seconds? DO NOT let a web designer design a mobile site in addition to a regular website. This kills your rankings in Google. You want what they call a “mobile friendly” website. 
  • Your SEO may be good, but your website may be killing the people calling in. DO NOT stop doing SEO, start scrutinizing the website points that are killings your phone call if your rankings are good.
  • Do not change  bunch of things on your website at once. Change only one thing at a time. Then you’ll find what was killing your phone calls. Otherwise you won’t know and may accidentally change something else that makes your phone ring and you’ll never figure it out.
  • Do not let internet marketing generalists work on your water damage site. This is a very specialized market, and it is fickle and you’ll waste at least 6 months of your time and money on someone who doesn’t know what they are doing or “educating them” on your dime.
  • DO NOT “do what everyone else is doing out there”. Trust me. I’ve worked with hundred of water damage companies in North America let alone in the countries. The more real and individual you look on your website,  the better it will do.

Just remember the internet audience is fast, impatient and fickle. Especially in the water damage side of things.

Persist through the cycle I showed you above. I know how much money my clients make on internet marketing. And the ones that do not persist through that cycle as described above always say the same things, “internet marketing doesn’t work.”


Dan York, Founder Stellar-eMarketing, Inc.

Top Way Internet Customers find you when there’s a Water Damage Emergency?

It is very different driving calls into your company today than it was in 1995, or even 2008 for that matter. As we all know, practically no one uses the phone books anymore.

Two of the largest forms of internet marketing these days use either ads or the natural listings in Google. You see them all the time – the 4 ads at the top of the screen and then then what everyone typically uses, the “natural” listings below those ads and the map. And of course Google is the king of the jungle of that game.

So which one works better for getting business? Ads or the Natural results?

For years, Google has reported that the ads outperform the natural results. However, in our company, we never found that to be true. We’d see a lot of clicks into a customer’s website, but not the phone calls. Plus, we’d ask people and maybe 1 out of 10 people would tell us that they use those ads. Most people don’t even look at them anymore. So the data that Google provided on this didn’t ad up, then they straight-up hide some of the data from everyone.

A while back, Groupon – the giant online coupon provider – did a test for us all.  They shut down their website from Google, literally turned it off, to test how much of their internet traffic came from Natural results in Google. What they found was startling. They found that 60% of all traffic that Google would report as “direct” is actually organic search.  For the the full article, click here

So what does this mean for all of us? It means that if you aren’t marketing the natural results, you’re losing out on the majority of business available for the internet. 

Where, after all, do you think the leads that the lead gen guys are selling you come from? The natural results and the pay-per-click ads.   




Dan York, Founder and CEO 



and for our SEO for Water Damage Restoration Companies click here

What is more expensive in the long run – Amateur work or Professional work?

Our prices in my company aren’t cheap, we know (not the highest by any stretch either).  We’re the best at what we do, that commands a certain price.  We’re professionals in a constantly changing, difficult business (any of you who have done it know what I’m talking about).  But talking about price, without establishing why the price, is actually an amateur focus. Why? Because this:

The most expensive dollar you’ll ever spend is the dollar you’re not making.

Which begs the question, “Who’s more expensive? The Professional or or the Amateur?”

Let’s dig in….

Tesla. Amazing piece of American engineering. It’s expensive right? $80k and up.  TOO expensive. Way too much money for a car, simple transportation.  But…did you ever drive one?  Once you drive it, do you know what you wonder? Why Mercedes and BMW’s cost as much as the Tesla. It’s a self-driving car of the future, now. It’s way more advanced than anything else out there. It’s as fast as some super-cars are too. Once you drive it and experience it, it sort of becomes…a deal.

Ever get audited by the IRS or sued? Who do you want to hire? The amateur discount lawyer or accountant or the expensive one?  I learned a long time ago that a cheap accountant or attorney means, I get the short end of the stick on whatever they are working on on my behalf.

Anyone in business for a long time only wants to work with professionals. They’ve been down the amateur road, it ends up in expensive heartaches. They know that to some degree and it is presumed that the higher price means better quality and in most cases it does.  I won’t go into this much further as everyone sort of knows this already or at least will after a few good jarring experiences hit their pocket books because of it.


But let’s look at the most expensive aspect of amateurs that no one really looks at: The dollar never gotten.


Why is this so hard to see? Because it wasn’t there to begin with. It’s hard to see something that is not there.  What’s a perfect marriage? It’s hard to say until you’ve been married for a long time or divorced a couple of times, then you REALLY know.  You had to see it first to then know it.

Where you choose to use a cheap company as it “saves” you money, how much does it cost you in lost revenues? Hard to see that, right? Then, maybe you get upset that you’re not getting more business, so you go to another cheap company. And then another. And another. Heartbreak after heartbreak. Finally you say, “it just doesn’t work.”  This is so common in our industry it’s not funny. Ask any real professional in it.  They’ll tell you. Then, after all that, when the professional picks you up, there is so much work to do to clean it up, it takes some time, sometimes a long, frustrating time.  What about comparing the auto-repair bill and the length of repairs of the car of a woman who takes it in consistently for scheduled maintenance, to the bill amount and the length of time a car is in the shop from a woman who waits until all of her dashboard lights are on.  Point made?




Dan York

How “Company Hopping” Ruins your ROI

What is “Company Hopping?”

It is jumping from one service company to the next, every few months, for whatever “good reason.”

There are a lot of people who have this operating basis on various services. Call me old school, but I like a relationship with a proven-out service provider and once I find that relationship, I hold onto it for as long as I can. I’ve had the same cell phone provider for 11 years. I know people who change their phone numbers and service providers every year.  What’s the result? Everyone I’ve ever known has my phone number and always knows how to get a hold of me. This other person? I never know their number. I always ask who it is texting me and then find out it is them with a new number and new phone provider. The result? I’m creating stability, they are creating erratic and unpredictable communication.


How does this relate to your marketing?


Well, let’s first acknowledge that in the internet space, there are a lot of let’s just say “non-ideal” people providing service that just plain shouldn’t be. But that happens in every business too so, that’s that.


In our space, internet marketing, there are business owners that hop from one company to the next, every 3-6 months, sometimes only after a few weeks. And every time they go from one company to the next, they say the same thing, “Those guys sucked! Hopefully you guys are good!” I actually have my sales dept. trained to filter out and not sell to guys that have gone through 4-5 companies in the last 2 years or so. At some point, you have to ask yourself the question, “Did all 4-5 of those companies suck? Or did the client not persist with any given one of them so none of them could be successful?” Why would I want my industry-leading staff to work with someone like that?

When you’re hiring a new person for your company, it takes 2-3 months for the person to get genned in and learn everything, and that’s not even them hitting their stride! Imagine firing and hiring everyone who took longer than three months to learn their job in full. You’d have no staff! You’d blame a bad HR dept. for this problem, not all of the employees who “didn’t make it.”

And so it goes with your marketing. In our business, there is a runway for take-off, including all of the planning, strategy and execution that goes into a program, the establishment, and not to mention any damage control that must be done from earlier, bad work, which is super-frequent these days. What I just wrote in that sentence above can sometimes take 3-6 months.

I am often asked by potential clients, “How can we be more successful at what we are doing online?” The answer is too simple: Find a company you trust and like to work with, get to know them, create a long term relationship with them and persist through all of the inevitable bumps in the road you two will encounter together. The most successful clients I have are of course, the ones that have been with us the longest.


Any marketing program is like a relay-race. There are multiple legs to the race that must be completed to get the next leg of the race. If a company-hopper only completes the first leg of any race with any one given company, you never win the race and end up with the opinion that “internet marketing doesn’t work.” Tell that one to the business owners that I know that make millions with their online marketing.


Ultimately, company hopping wastes your time, their time, and everyone’s efforts and money.  You want a  return on your investment right? Company hopping almost never returns your investment. So if you’re sick of spending your marketing budget with no ROI, consider what I am saying. Find a company who you like, one that is competent in what they do, work with them, stick it out. Go through ALL of the legs of the relay race with them.  If you do this, you’ll find out what I know, “Hey, these guys don’t actually suck.”




Dan York

Designing Your Water Damage Restoration Website the Right Way

No matter how much you market, if your website is not designed the right way, your website could be having a bad impact on your potential customers who go there from any of your marketing sources.

You have to remember this: 97% of all people searching for service companies will check them out online BEFORE calling them.


Ok, so let’s say you’ve got us working for you getting you found on the internet, some lead generation companies going, Value-pack coupons, plumbers sending you referrals, etc…but, every single one of those people will eventually check you out on your website.  And beyond that, let’s look at the people who weren’t referred, the ones that go to Google now instead of the phone book. They are seeing your website first and without the referring source to back you up right away and give you that immediate credibility. So what are they seeing? Is it right or wrong? Your phone call volume from those sources will tell you the story.


Let’s turn a critical eye to our websites and become our potential customer and see if we are turning away business by showing the wrong things:


1st, know this: If a customer wanted to call one of the big franchises, they would have…right? They know them already. So the fact that they didn’t call them, tells you something right there. So, do not design your website to look like one of the big franchises unless you want to be a big franchise.


2nd: You must view your website as someone who doesn’t know your business as well as you. You know too much about your business and unfortunately most website designers aren’t in the water damage business so don’t understand the emergency nature of it and that makes their advice potentially ineffective.  So, you must take off your hat as business owner.  Become your potential customer, not you. Look at it as if you have a water damage emergency in your home.  What are you gong to look for? What do you want to see? How fast do you want to see it?


3rd:  Now that you are seeing things like someone you’re trying to attract as a client, we can get to this: You must look like the potential people you are marketing to.  What does that mean? What if your company is in the heartland, or an extremely middle-class area and you put pictures of mansions on your website or the site looks like it is too “corporate” or looks as if you spent $20k on your website design?  Do you think your locals will be calling you?  No.  You must know who your buyer is and look like them. In this example, if you are in middle-class suburbs, what do you want your website to look like? I would want mine to look clean, but not too good, but an average website that does not look like I spent a lot of money on it. I would have pictures of me and my staff on it. It would be fast to view. Get the idea? Now if you are in Santa Monica servicing movie stars’ houses, well then again, you’d better design the website with that in mind. Look the part. Be your audience.


4th: Trust. People browsing the internet these days are smart. They can see through things, don’t underestimate them. They are also impatient. How is this communicated with your website? Well, let me ask you this: How do you feel about a website that you go to that looks like every other website with with a bunch of stock photos of models answering phones or a service technician picture that is obviously a model or a bunch of over-politically-correct customers standing there smiling at you? You think it is fake. And half of those websites are fake companies. And your customer won’t call that website. It doesn’t convey trust. When you design your website, it has to convey that you are REAL, you exist,  you’re not a bunch of models. And guess what, it has to convey that in like 5 seconds or less or else they will go to another company and call them.


This isn’t the phone book days where you could put AAA before your name in the phone book listings to be in front of everyone else and you’d get the calls. These days you have to be up where your customers are looking (that is my company’s  job) and you have to look like they want you to look. And fast.




Dan York


Failed Marketing and Consistency of Marketing

I see a lot of failures in Marketing out there in the water damage world, and not just with internet marketing.  It could be in generating plumbing referrals, working property managers, postcards, Valuepack Coupons, etc. I get to talk to those who have these failures.  Here’s what they say, “it didn’t work for me” or “I wasted my money” or “no one uses it” or many other things that are all, frankly, wrong. These things work for others, why not you?


So, your marketing program didn’t work? What happened? Well, it could be a lot of things. But I’ll tell you the #1 thing it most likely is: You were not consistent enough.


Did you know in the sales world, it is a well-known fact that 80% of all sales are made on the 5th-12th contact with the prospect?  Most sales people are losing 80% of their sales simply by not being consistent and persistent! A majority of sales people make 1-2 contacts, then give up, and become sub-par sales people. The same principal applies in marketing.

We’ve marketed to people for years before they ever call us. They call us and say, “You know, I’ve seen you guys in Cleanfax, I get your emails and for years I see you online, but just decided to call you…finally.” It goes to show you that it takes persistence and consistency to actually win at marketing your company. The killer for you is this: an “on-again-off-again approach.” I know all of the reasons why you do this, I’ve heard them all over the last 10 years. And none of them matter. You know why? Because all of them hurt your marketing consistency and thereby destroy your marketing results, in short, your ROI.


So you want more business? You want more phone calls? You want more people getting your website and calling you from your website? Want more plumber referrals and property managers referring you business? Keep consistent. If you know anyone running a Water Damage Company doing millions plus, ask them, you’ll see how much work goes into it…consistently. There is no on-again-off-again approaches by these guys, that is why they got so big.  I can prove it over and over. I know guys that say that radio doesn’t work for water damage these days. And being in the business I am, internet, I am inclined to agree…except that I personally know guys that kill it using radio. I know guys that have, consistently, been using radio in their local cities for years. And what is the result? Locally, they are known just as well as the big franchise operations who  – *surprise* – are household names because of the consistency of their marketing.


Heed my words on this! They are based on lots and lots of experience in marketing. It takes a long time to learn a lesson. Reading a good lesson and doing it can save you a lot of time!




Dan York

Why Does a Customer Choose a Franchise Over The Other Guy?

Why do people think of a franchise first or pick them when doing a Google search? Well, let’s look at it from the viewpoint of the consumer.  Growing up these businesses have always been around.  Maybe one day mom wanted to have her carpets cleaned and so she called Stanley Steemer.  Decades have passed and Stanley Steemer still seems to be kicking around. So now when that consumer thinks of carpet cleaning they think of who mom called, Stanley Steemer.  So now this business has become the Kleenex of their industry. 

Know what I mean?  All tissues are Kleenex, all copies are Xeroxed, etc.  Those are in actual fact Brand names, yet they’ve become the entire industry in the mind of the consumer.  So your job now is to get them to think of you instead of the well known franchise name.  I won’t lie to you, this is not an easy task, but it can absolutely be done and our clients are killing it.

Now let’s look at the water damage industry. I won’t be listing off the franchises for your industry, but you know who they are…so let’s look at what they have:

-Nationwide Recognition

-Been around for decades

-All the same colors, logos, uniforms, etc—this is Brand Recognition

-Clean trucks in good condition

-Steady and consistent Marketing both on and off the internet

-Corporate Support

-Purchased Territories

-How to’s that come along with buying in to the franchise, etc

Alright, so you may not have a lot of the above, but that doesn’t matter one bit.  First things first, let’s look at the basics.

Look around your business.  Really look.  Are the walls dirty?  Desks in disrepair?  Are your trucks dirty or rusty?  Are your techs going to homes with filthy hands and holes in their work shirts? Are the logos or words on your trucks legible or faded and missing letters? Are you reading your online reviews? 

This is all PR, Public Relations.  It’s how you are perceived by the consumer…you know, the ones you want to call you!  Bottomline, if these basics are not up to snuff, in the mind of the consumer, you are already out of the running.  It’s literally that simple.

You have to put your best foot forward both in and out of the office as a basic foundation if you want to compete with the big dogs.  If you’ve got some work to do on that front, get to it!

Next, we don’t actively seek out franchises in our business. They generally have teams dedicated to all of their marketing. So most of our clients are family owned businesses.  These guys know all the growing pains and obstacles outside of the franchise side of life and we help them continue to grow.  Not that we don’t have franchise clients.  In fact, having the luxury of having clients that are both franchise and non-franchise owned is of great value to us.  We listen to all of our clients about how they got to where they are and where they are going.  Believe it or not, they all hit the same obstacles at some point.  It’s what they do when they hit an obstacle that determines who will come out on top.  That point alone is what evens out the playing field between franchise and non-franchise owners. 

The winners don’t have to have corporate support, but it sure doesn’t hurt.  The winners have their own team, clean respectable employees, buildings and supplies.  They are also smart with their marketing and know that if they are going to not just compete but dominate in their area, they can’t back off on marketing at any time.  Why?  Watch this video and our CEO will explain why we need to spend marketing dollars during slow times. Click Here.

So you want those calls coming to you?  Then don’t take basics like cleanliness for granted and don’t just throw marketing out like some random fishing line.  Study the marketing actions of the top guys in your industry and see what you can do for your business.  Notice I said study and not copy.  Learn from what they are doing and create  your own plan so that when someone in your area thinks of water damage service they think of you, not the other guys.

Good Luck!


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