SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is an important aspect of online marketing. It’s especially true in the competitive world of maintenance professionals where bid prices for keywords on Google are extremely expensive. This has an impact on small businesses, real estate investors, and homeowners.

When I think of searching for maintenance professionals, I am reminded of the first time I had a real emergency for an investment property. I was a novice investor at the time and did not have my maintenance contacts in place yet nor a property manager to call upon. I had received a call from my tenant that afternoon who was extremely upset about the “basement being flooded with feces” (PG version). With no idea how to tackle this situation, I first turned to Google to search for emergency plumbers and clean up professionals. While I later learned that the basement had flooded from a backed up sewer system, I was completely in the dark on what to do at the time.

This is what’s called a “panic or emergency” type situation, and many Internet marketers and SEO professionals feast on the opportunity.

Panic Is Opportunity

There is a whole Internet world out there that thrives on panic and emergency type situations. Think about lock smiths, lost cell phones, lost and found pets, and yes, even maintenance professionals such as plumbers.

When you’re in an emergency situation, you will likely be willing to pay more and are less willing to shop around for better prices. This is why the bid price on emergency related search terms on Google are extremely competitive and expensive.

Take a look at some of these bid prices for keywords related to a potential plumbing emergency:

Keyword Avg. Monthly Searches (exact match only) Competition Suggested bid
24 hour plumber 1K – 10K High $28.85
plumber 100K – 1M Medium $25.42
emergency plumber 10K – 100K High $25.06
toilet repair 1K – 10K High $7.79
plumbing services 10K – 100K High $31.26
drain cleaning 10K – 100K High $26.99
clogged toilet 10K – 100K Medium $14.14
water heater repair 10K – 100K High $33.86
plumbing emergency 1K – 10K High $31.86
water heater installation 1K – 10K High $24.43

*Google Keyword Tool, as of Oct 21, 2016. CDN currency.

Real Estate Opportunity Is Localized

“Location, location, location” even applies to the online world. While the above keyword research gives us a macro view of the online plumbing landscape, it doesn’t tell us the whole story.

Real estate is a very localized industry. Some homeowners or real estate investors might even tack on location to their search terms. For example, instead of searching for “plumber”, you might instead search for “plumber san diego”. Unless you have location settings and GPS activated, searching for “plumber” won’t be very helpful to you. This is because the results will be more difficult to sift through and won’t necessarily apply to your broken toilet in San Diego, California.

This is important because the more localized a search term is, the more expensive the bid price will be. Just like physical real estate, the better the location, the higher the price. Check out what happens to the bid price and competition when we are more location specific. In this case, we use San Diego, California as an example. The average suggested bid price almost doubles.

Keyword Avg. Monthly Searches (exact match only) Competition Suggested bid
plumber san diego 1K – 10K High $58.70
san diego plumbers 1K – 10K High $56.32
plumbers in san diego 100 – 1K High $51.50
drain cleaning san diego 100 – 1K High $51.16
emergency plumber san diego 100 – 1K High $42.70
san plumbing 100 – 1K Low $15.45
plumber san diego ca 100 – 1K Medium $42.74
24 hour plumber san diego 100 – 1K High $52.89
air conditioning san diego 100 – 1K High $38.80
sans plumbing 100 – 1K Low $45.09
*Google Keyword Tool, as of Oct 21, 2016. CDN currency.

Why Is This Important?

Since keywords for emergency type situations typically have a higher conversion rate, there tends to be more competition. This provides an opportunity for third party portal sites, which has been a growing trend in real estate as well as the maintenance industry.

When I was in a panic for a plumber and emergency clean up crew, I searched for plumbers in my area on Google. While I did find a reputable plumber who recommended that an emergency clean up team be sent in (which he did not offer services for), I noticed in my search results that there were also “third party” portal sites that looked somewhat sketchy to me. I made a mental note to go back and investigate those sites further when I finished dealing with my emergency.

Later on that week, I was interested in learning more about these “third party” portal sites so I decided to do some investigation work. I learned that these third party portal sites were essentially lead generators for plumbing professionals. They used SEO strategies in order to rank on Google. When I called their “1 800” number and mentioned that I had a “flooded basement”, I was redirected to a third party service representative who took my information down and told me someone would call me back with more details. About 20 minutes later, a plumber called me back and when I asked him how he received my number, he told me that I was referred to him by a contact that had phoned him.

The interesting part was that when I mentioned the name of the third party website, he had no idea what it was.

This told me right away that the “third party” site was scraping data on plumbers from a directory or Google itself and were offering them leads based on calls they received on their own ranked website.

Perhaps some sort of cut was provided to the third party site or may be it was a minimal viable product for something bigger down the road.


With the rise of third party portal sites, it’s becoming more and more competitive for the small business owner to rank and obtain exposure on Google. In order to compete online, the little guy is forced to bid for expensive keywords, join an existing third party site which takes a cut, or use PPC strategies.

For the homeowner and/or real estate investor, we are flooded with search results which aren’t really that helpful for vetting the quality of maintenance work.