Search Engine Results are Going Solar! “Project Sunroof” in your SERPS
A personalized solar calculator from Google’s Project Sunroof has officially entered the SERPs (search engine result pages). People often say things like “my roof isn’t sunny enough” or “solar is just too expensive!” Project Sunroof provides an easy and often (to homeowners) surprising answer to the question of whether solar is right for a home.
This is a big change for all search related to solar, an excellent showcase of Google’s continuing evolution from search engine to “app.” More and more activity is now happening within Google rather than external sites.
With quality local SEO (search engine optimization) and appropriate keywording in place, however, solar providers across the country have a chance to get in front of potential customers as local solar experts, since Project Sunroof data can be a persuasive source of data that convinces customers to make the switch and search for solar providers near them.
The data: What Google knows about residential solar
Google is using high-resolution aerial photos and mapping data to determine if putting solar panels on your roof makes sense. The data for Project Sunroof run deep; currently, Google is pulling solar data for 42 states! That means a large percentage of Americans can get personalized solar savings estimates by simply entering their address in Google. Project Sunroof computes how much sunlight hits your roof in a year. It takes into account:
Google's database of aerial imagery and maps
3D modeling of your roof
Shadows cast by nearby structures and trees
All possible sun positions over the course of a year
Historical cloud and temperature patterns that might affect solar energy production
Project Sunroof recommends an installation size to generate close to 100% of your electricity use based on roof size, the amount of sun hitting the roof, and your electricity bill.
The SERP: What information Google provides
Google has created an intuitive user experience that is easy to understand and provides useful information. When users search for solar providers or solar power near them, the solar savings estimator search result is displayed. This SERP displays:
Estimated savings on a 20-year solar lease (which, in most cases, is a very enticing number)
Estimated currently monthly bills for homeowners
Easy-to-understand monthly savings
Here’s a screenshot:
The next step the SERP offers users is to “search for solar providers near you” which is the real benefit to companies who install solar systems. Clicking on this conducts a Google search of that exact phrase.
What this update means for solar companies
Like we’ve seen with Home Services Ads, Google is stepping its toes into our industry. From HVAC to insulation and now solar companies, Google is gathering a lot of data from potential customers. Though this specialized SERP data is another barrier between a user’s initial search and your company’s search result, the update presents a unique opportunity for solar providers. The new SERP can help move homeowners down the lead pipeline and take care of one of the biggest issues the solar industry has: Education around the "my house isn't right" misconception.
In light of this update, by the time searchers are actually looking for local solar companies, they may already be convinced that their home is an excellent candidate for the upgrade. No matter your feelings on this update, there’s no getting around the fact that it’s changing the game of online search for the solar industry.
The upshot: Pay attention to your local SEO!
When a user clicks “search for solar providers near you,” Google will simply search that exact term. Since this query is clearly local, it will bring up organic results, local packs and Adwords ads that are targeted to your area. This means ranking for this term is more important than ever. Here are a few strategies to boost your rankings:
Make sure your solar website page has the keyword “solar installer” somewhere on it, ideally in the page title and/or headings.
Make sure your site is optimized for local SEO -- ensure that there are many keywords about your geographic area, a service area map, etc.
Ensure that third-party reviews, like those on Google+, Facebook, Yelp, and Angie’s list, are positive or have been addressed appropriately. These types of directories continue to rank highly for local, service-based queries.
Include the term “solar installer” as a keyword in your paid ad campaigns.
Like it or not, Google is getting more and more involved with the home performance, HVAC and solar industries. At Energy Circle, we’re keeping a close watch on how this and future updates continue to affect the digital landscape for our industry!