Someone is always looking to scam your customers. Scammers have attacked hundreds of utility customers across the U.S. in recent years. Some even make your company’s name and number show up on caller ID. They say they’re representatives of your electric utility or telecommunications company, that bills are late, your service is about to be disconnected and more.
Utilities, and their customers, have wised up to this plan of attack. Communications, the local media and word of mouth have helped people protect their money. However, that isn’t the only scam we hear about.
Lately, I’ve been getting phone calls about utility customers going online to pay their bill and being victim of websites that offer a “paying service.” These websites often look just like your site and are obviously worded in a way that can confuse people to thinking they’re making a payment on your site.
What complicates things further is that these sites do actually send a payment to your utility — after taking out their cut. They cost your customers money, they take days to process (which can result in late fees), and they take customers off your site.
So what can your utility do?
These predatory websites get traffic because they’re the first link on Google search when people type in your company name and something like “pay my bill.” You have the ability to outrank these websites by improving your website’s own rank through something called search engine optimization (SEO).
Here are three quick ways you can help your site rise to the top of the search rankings:
1. Publish Relevant Content
We’re passionate about content, and so are search engines like Google. There is no substitute for consistent, quality content that is relevant to your customers. Yes, that means your website needs new posts — and often. You’re goal is to increase your relevance and authority. That increases traffic, which improves your ranking.
Metadata is a part of each page on your website that helps the browser know what is being displayed. It also helps search engines like Google know what your pages are about. There’s title, description and keyword metadata — and they’re all important. Describing them in detail is beyond the scope of this article, but talk with your web developer to make sure you are utilizing these important features of your site.
How does your site look on a tablet or smartphone? After April of 2015, investing in a responsive website has another benefit beyond an improved user experience. To better serve the millions who use its search engine, Google has started penalizing websites that are not mobile responsive. If your website does not offer a mobile experience, Google will now place other websites above yours in search results. With predatory third-party payment sites becoming more popular, this could be harmful for your customers.
Want to know if your site passes Google’s test? Head to www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly and test your site. If your website fails the test, speak with your web developer.
Your website is a 24/7 branch office and your most valuable employee. It never calls in sick, never takes a vacation and is always ready to serve your customers. Be sure you’re investing the time and effort to get the most out of this valuable asset for your utility.