When someone in San Francisco types “house extension cost” into Google, five out of the top ten results will be from lead generation sites.
Lead generation companies exist to gather the contact details of consumers and company owners to sell on to related businesses, and their owners are, from my dealings with them, absolutely obsessed with SEO. They live, breathe, and feel it—and that passion is their most important weapon.
So how can marketing teams compete with such a daunting adversary? Play them at their own game.
Why lead generation works
Lead generation companies make a lot of money. HomeAdvisor, one of the sites featured in the top results for “house extension cost”, charges up to $75 per lead and they often sell each lead to three different contractors. That’s a cool $225 for a name, address, email, and telephone number. Contractors also have to pay a $28.99 monthly fee for access to these leads too, according to VadaliaRental.
After a reasonably significant initial investment of time and money in keyword discovery, content creation, and backlink building, a lead generation company’s ongoing costs are then minimal.
Contractors put up with the high costs charged by lead gen companies for three reasons. First, they need leads to survive. Second, they often lack the ability to find new leads themselves. Third, each lead is heavily qualified to assess the actual level of interest in each enquirer prior to offering it for sale. A very effective way to get rid of tire kickers.
The secrets of its success
Owners of these companies generally dislike and distrust pay-per-click and they rely almost exclusively on organic search results to generate the leads they sell to clients.
These are the main approaches they take when producing and promoting organic content to win traffic and leads:
- Create super-long, keyword-dense, information-packed articles with tables, images, and external high domain authority links.
- Make sure to place the contact form above the fold.
- Target lower-competition, higher-volume keywords. Spend hours looking for intent-laden keywords on Ahrefs, Moz, and SEMRush which may have been overlooked by other companies.
- Link obsessively—external, internal, and backlinking particularly to .gov and .edu sites for better Trust Flow.
- Create top- and middle-funnel content with the purpose of providing internal linking to the main lead generation pages.
- Never let a hit to any page go to waste—always make sure you do everything you can to get visitors’ contact details.
How to compete against lead generation companies and win
First, find high-volume, low-competition keywords which have the necessary buying intent.
For example, according to Ahrefs, “dog groomers” attracts 86,000 searchers a month in the USA and it needs 123 or more quality links to rank on page one of Google SERP.
A better keyword to target would be “dog groomers near me.” That gets 89,000 searches a month and requires just six quality links to get onto page one. HomeGuide.com did just that and gets 19,000 visits to the page every month.
Before they decide on a course of action, the most successful lead generation companies I’ve worked with first look hard at the SERP for a potential keyword. What results does Google return? Which other sites have decided that this keyword is important enough to go after and what do they want from each visitor they receive? Would finishing on page one for this result make money?
Second, create supporting long-tail keyword blog content which links to the relevant main product or service page for SEO value. Lead gen companies hav the attitude of one chance to impress, mirror that and pitch your heart out to try to get their contact details.
For content, work with an experienced SEO copywriter who has a track record of balancing the need to please Google with the ability to sell in written form. The cost of hiring such a writer may be intimidating for smaller companies but it’s important to put this outlay in context with PPC.
Third, update Google every time content is added to or changed on your website. Compared with just a few years ago, the search engine giant seems to process the results remarkably quickly.
Finally, for national companies, build quality backlinks on high domain rating .com-type sites as well as .gov and .edu sites, but only target 3rd party sites whose content actually relates to your products and services. For regional companies, localize your content as much as possible and build a formidable Google My Business presence.
SEO experts rightly tell marketers to concentrate on high-volume, low-competition keywords to win traffic. The success of lead generation sites proves them right. But that’s not the only reason they do well. For lead generation sites, buying intent is often just as important as a keyword’s winnability.
After all, what’s the point of spending time and money creating content to get thousands of new visitors if they’re never going to leave their contact details?