The Difference Between Digital Marketing vs. Traditional Marketing for Home Improvement Contractors

Picture of Janet Mobley

Janet Mobley

Below is the transcription for the Digital Marketing for Contractors Podcast: Digital vs Traditional Marketing. Click this link to listen to the podcast.

So we are going to get started by talking about the idea of what digital marketing really is. There’s kind of really two big categories of marketing that we see contractor businesses work in, and that’s digital marketing and traditional marketing. We’re going to highlight a little bit of what those two things actually are. 

As a business owner or as somebody who works in the contractor industry, you may just know the category of marketing, but not necessarily the difference between marketing on Google versus what’s on the radio. We want to help you understand the difference between the two.

What is Digital Marketing?

When we think about digital marketing, we put your website at the center of everything as our focus. And when you think about digital marketing, you should do the same thing. 

So you think about your website as the center of all of that focus and energy, and then you start to think about, how am I going to drive people to that website? There are a few ways. 

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Ads
  • Social Media

Those are the digital tactics and strategies to drive traffic to your website. But then it starts to blend and get a little bit more confusing when you start to talk about digital versus traditional. 

The Blurry Line Between Digital Marketing vs. Traditional Marketing

Because I’m sure you’ve seen TV ads or maybe you’re running TV ads or radio ads, and at the end of the ad they say, “Hey, come check out our company, learn more about us at” In that instance, that is traditional marketing, driving traffic to your digital marketing. 

But when we think about digital marketing, we’re thinking about anything online with the goal of sending people to your website, who are either going to fill out a form or call your business to get an estimate or schedule an appointment. 

Other Online Marketing Tactics Outside of Your Website

Okay, so we’re trying to drive leads to your business, and we’re talking about doing that primarily through your website. But there are other things when we’re talking about digital marketing that fall into that category?

For example, there’s email marketing and text-based marketing. When you’re looking at the world of home improvement contracting, it seems like it’s always evolving and changing. You can start to get into talking about Houzz and Pinterest. We would put those platforms in a social media category. But if we take a step back and look at our original definition from before, what we’re thinking about is your website and then how are we going to drive traffic to it. 

The Importance of Google Business Profile

Now, as I say that, there’s one thing, the big elephant in the room that I haven’t talked about, and that’s your Google Business Profile listing. To be clear, your Google Business Profile is not your website. And we see a lot of contractors get confused about that. 

It is a free listing that you can sign up and claim through Google that’s going to have your business hours, some products you sell, other information, and it’s also going to be where you collect reviews. 

So when we are talking about your digital online presence, we’re talking about driving traffic not only to your website, but your Google Business Profile as well. Google puts a high priority on this listing when it comes to your SEO on their platform.

Where is Your Google Business Profile?

You may be wondering, where exactly is my company’s Google Business Profile listing? Easily put, if I search for a business name, it’s the thing that pops up on the right side of Google search when I’m on a desktop.

So say you search “ABC Landscaping”, then you’re going to see a box on the right side of your screen that probably has a picture, the name of the business, the phone number, and reviews. That is the Google Business Profile listing. 

Now, on your phone, Google has made it even more seamless. Or depending on your perspective, Google has kind of pushed that Google My Business listing front and center, well above your website. So if you’re searching on a business’s name, say you search on your favorite Italian restaurant, the Google Business Profile listing pops up first for that restaurant. And without you having to click on anything or call anybody, you can see whether or not they’re open, and then you can click the button to get driving directions. 

All of those functions and features are part of your listing. And it’s something that if you haven’t claimed as a contractor, you need to go over today and ensure that you’ve done so as it’s critical for your business.

Google Business Profile as a Centerpiece of Digital Marketing

Google is actually trying to send as much or more traffic to your Google Business Profile listing as they are to your website. And even on a mobile device, maybe more so to your listing. It’s becoming increasingly more critical for home improvement contractors to pay attention to that Google Business Profile listing.

Yeah. And Don, as we’re talking about this, we might have kind of stumbled into a rabbit hole, which is fine. I think we can do that on podcasts.

A Side Note About Google’s Business Profile 

We could do a whole other article about Google’s strategy with the Google Business Profile listing and with some of their other properties and we probably will, so stay tuned for that.

Traditional Marketing versus Digital Marketing: Is it One or the Other?

We’ve hit on the importance of your digital and online presence and all of that seems incredibly current and just kind of the way that the world functions at the moment. So if that’s the case, if that’s where most of the marketing traffic is happening, should a contractor just go all in with digital marketing? Is there a point to still doing all of this traditional stuff if everything is kind of moving towards websites and Google and all of that?

Simply put, the answer is no. You shouldn’t go 100% on digital. We have seen contractors try to do that, and it hasn’t been successful. And it puts us in sort of an awkward place. But I’m a big believer in transparency and honesty when we pair with our clients, and we’re supporting them and helping them grow their business. 

We almost never say you should spend 100% of your marketing, money, effort, resources, and budget on digital. Now, the mix and the ratio of digital versus traditional sort of depends on what your goals are, how old your business is, your brand recognition, etc. 

Most of our contractors fall into a couple of pretty big categories. The exterior contractors are doing roofing, siding, windows, and doors. And most of our interior contractors are these quick turnaround bath projects, the one-day bath companies. And what we’ve learned from working with our clients is that the most successful companies, especially in the bath world, have a healthy mix of online and offline marketing efforts, plus a showroom. 

When we say offline, we mean traditional tactics like billboards, radio ads, TV ads, door hangers, etc. Maybe you’re sponsoring a little league team or you’re a sponsor of your local 5K fundraiser for charity in your community to build that brand awareness. That’s what we call traditional. 

These traditional marketing tactics are helping build your brand name in the areas that you serve. When it comes to searching for something like lawn care, users may see Lowe’s or Home Depot and because of brand recognition, they’ll click on their listings first. But working to increase the brand awareness of your local company in your service area can help in that. 

What About Buying Leads from Lead Aggregators?

We’ve seen contractors that are in their first and second year of business go 100% digital and be successful, but that’s by buying leads from Angi’s List, Home Advisor, and Modernize.

So if you are a roofing contractor and you’re still crawling up on the roof, you’re going out and quoting all the jobs, and you might have one crew that you need to keep busy. If you know the number of leads that you need to run, you can turn those lead sources, like Angi’s and HomeAdvisor, on and off. 

I have seen contractors in their first year of business really get up and get off the ground using those lead sources. When I say that I haven’t seen people be successful being 100% digital, it’s when those contractors are trying to break away from the addiction to Home Advisor and grow past it, where they want to generate their exclusive leads. 

And that means they’re not competing with four other contractors that Angi sold that name to. They want to generate their own exclusive leads that want a quote from their own company, not just any roofer or any bath contractor with the small budget in that first three years of business. To do this, you are competing for that first and second page of the Search Engine Results and for Pay-Per-Click ads.

Big Competitors on the SERPs

You’re competing with Lowe’s, Home Depot and you’re competing with Angi’s List, HomeAdvisor, Modernize, and Quinn Street. And they have bigger budgets. So if you’re trying to, it’s weird, like a rock and a hard place. You’re trying to break away from Angi and you’re trying to run your own ads so you can generate an exclusive lead. 

Well, now you start running ads on the same keywords to try to generate a bath lead or a roofing lead or a siding lead. Your ads are now stacked up against those same Angi’s ads in your neighborhood, and they’re going to have a bigger budget than you do. 

So when you’re trying to break away from buying those leads from lead aggregators, and you’re starting to generate your own exclusive leads, what we’ve seen to be more successful is to have digital marketing be part of your mix. But you might want to experiment with radio, especially with exterior contractors. 

Traditional Marketing

We’ve seen them. It sounds old school. There’s still a lot of guys out there doing canvassing with canvassing teams.

Traditional Marketing Tactics

I would put canvassing in the traditional bucket for sure. I would put radio, TV, sponsoring a Little League team or your kid’s high school football homecoming game, if that’s an opportunity. All of that is traditional. That’s going to help you, including direct mail. We still have clients that are doing Valpack ads, and all of those lead sources come together as a whole to give you enough lead volume to help you meet your goals. 

Breaking Away from Lead Aggregators

But if you are in those first three years of business and you’re trying to break away from Home Advisor while trying to do it with 100% organic SEO with a website that’s less than three years old, that is a steep mountain to climb, and you are competing with the big guys that have a lot more money than you do.

So what if I’m a contractor who’s kind of in that phase? What do I do then to get started with digital marketing? If I’m trying to get away from just being dependent on the pay per lead companies and strategies, what do I do to begin focusing some efforts on exclusive leads through digital marketing and get started going down that track?

Well, what I would recommend is kind of a two pronged strategy right out of the gate. You’ve got to get your website sorted. We’re going to have future episodes that are all about your website and we’ve got materials on our website about the things you need to have on yours to be a successful home improvement contractor and generate your own exclusive leads. 

What To Focus On First

I would say focus on your website and your Google My Business listing first. If those two houses aren’t in order, then you could end up working with a vendor that’s made a bunch of promises and they’re going to struggle because you don’t have those two things set up. 

Why It Is Important to Establish Your Google My Business Listing

I think one of our recent clients had this issue. It’s our classic story of a successful business. They’re trying to break out of that $1.5 million in revenue and they’re ready to scale. The owner is ready to stop running all the appointments, stop troubleshooting all the problems, and they’re really trying to break out to that next level. 

And Don, haven’t you been struggling for the past couple of weeks to claim their Google My Business listing?

It has been a big challenge, but you can see, working with them, how important that listing really is to them as a business, because at the moment, that’s where customers are finding them. 

It has been so important on our end to make sure that we’re posting regular content for them, that their information is up to date, that they’re collecting reviews and being able to respond to them, and that they’ve got pictures that show their work.

And a challenge with one of our clients was that they didn’t actually own their own profile because they had used a personal email to set it up. Originally, a former owner had used a personal email to set it up and now that owner is no longer with the company. That personal email is still with that former owner. So they didn’t actually have the ability to get into their profile and manage it or edit it and do what they needed to with it.

To clarify, the most basic thing that we wanted to do was to sit down and manage our client’s Google Business Profile listing and optimize it so that they can be found by local homeowners. This was blocked at the door because we didn’t have the login and password. And we couldn’t get the login and password because the person who originally registered and claimed that listing was no longer working for them. 

It just became painfully obvious the importance of setting that up properly. Making sure that you have ownership of that profile, that the ownership rests with the business — not with a person who works for the business — and being able to have your ducks in a row so that you can maintain all of the stuff that you need to be able to, as you described, just get eyeballs in the right places. 

So we did finally get all of that sorted out, which was great, but it took a lot of work, it took a lot of effort. And those are the kinds of pain points that we would love to help customers and clients be able to avoid.

Questions To Ask Yourself About Your Website

Circling back to Don’s kind of prompting question here, what are the action items you, listener, can do if your ducks aren’t in a row or your house isn’t in order? Do you have a website? If you do, there are a few basic things that you need to make sure are working well on it. 

We will probably get into that in a later article. But is your website information in order? Do you own the domain? Can you log into it? Could you give a login to a vendor so that vendor could help you make it better? 

What About Facebook?

So what’s going on with your website and then what’s going on with your Google My Business listing? Those are the two places that I would start. And a lot of times prospective clients call me and they want to start with  Facebook, saying “I need to get my Facebook Business page up.” 

Yes, that is part of the equation. If you’re just now trying to break away from Angi’s leads or you left your previous job and you’ve put out your sign and you’re getting started, I wouldn’t start all my focus on Facebook. It will be important later, but in our experience, it’s not the number one generator of leads. 

It’s part of building your brand. It’s part of building awareness in your service area. But you’ve got to have your website and your Google Business Profile first. Once you get those boxes checked off, then we can move down the checklist into other items.


Fantastic! This has been a great first conversation to get us going here on the Digital Marketing for Contractors podcast. We actually have a resource that we would love to point you to as a way to help you think through some of the things that we have talked about in this conversation and that you can be able to take some action on to help out with your business and your website. 


So we’ve got a resource for you called “Five Reasons Homeowners Don’t Choose You Online” and it will be a great way for you to think through “what can I do to improve my website and to improve my digital presence overall?” You can find that at Go check that out, download the resource and see how it can help you get started on improving your digital presence as a contractor business online. 

Digital marketing for contractors is created by Fat Cat Strategies. For more information, visit

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