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Analytics & Dashboarding Food For Thought

Conversational AI & Contractor Operations

Conversational AI & Contracting

In an era where efficiency and knowledge are paramount, contractors are finding a powerful ally in conversational AI.

This transformative technology is not just changing the game; it’s redefining the playing field for contractors, offering unparalleled access to information and streamlining internal operations like never before.

The integration of conversational AI into the contracting industry is a direct response to the need for more efficient knowledge management and operational agility.

Imagine a digital assistant that not only understands the intricacies of the contracting world but also provides instant access to a treasure trove of accumulated organizational knowledge.

This vision is rapidly becoming a reality, thanks to a plethora of innovative companies working tirelessly to develop conversational AI solutions tailored for the workplace.

 

Key Players and Innovations

Among the vanguard of this revolution, several companies stand out for their contributions to making conversational AI a staple in the contracting industry:

  • Glean offers an enterprise knowledge management solution that leverages generative AI to enable secure and efficient discovery across all company data sources. Its tagline, “Generative AI powered by search,” encapsulates its promise to contractors: immediate access to the knowledge they need when they need it.
  • Dashworks and Knode AI transform Slack into a powerhouse of productivity. Dashworks connects with every app in your tech stack to deliver seamless answers, while Knode AI focuses on automating tasks to free up to 50% of employee working hours for more critical activities.
  • 4149, known as “Flicker, your new hypertasking AI teammate,” embodies the concept of an AI teammate designed to supercharge productivity by automating a wide range of tasks, promising a new era of efficiency for contractors.
  • Atomic Work emerges as a unified AI solution delivering great employee experiences. It combines an AI assistant, IT service desk, and workflow automation to maximize productivity and satisfaction while reducing costs.
  • ClearFeed and Tars are redefining customer and employee support on platforms like Slack, turning them into efficient helpdesks powered by GPT, thereby enhancing team productivity.
  • Xembly acts as an automated chief of staff, organizing meetings, resolving scheduling conflicts, and ensuring tasks are efficiently managed, directly benefiting contractors by streamlining administrative tasks.

These companies are just a few examples of the many players in the conversational AI space, each contributing unique solutions to enhance the contracting industry’s operations.

 

The Impact on Contractors

For contractors, the adoption of conversational AI means more than just automation; it signifies a leap towards a future where decision-making is faster, knowledge is more accessible, and productivity is significantly enhanced.

By integrating these AI solutions, contractors can:

  • Streamline Project Management: AI assistants can provide real-time updates, manage schedules, and facilitate communication, keeping projects on track and under budget.
  • Enhance Knowledge Sharing: With AI-powered knowledge management, valuable insights and information are readily available, reducing the time spent searching for information.
  • Improve Customer and Employee Support: Conversational AI platforms can handle inquiries and support tickets, providing timely and accurate responses to both clients and staff.
  • Automate Administrative Tasks: From scheduling meetings to managing emails, AI can take over repetitive tasks, freeing up time for more strategic work.

Looking Ahead

The integration of conversational AI into the contracting industry is just beginning. As these technologies continue to evolve, their impact on operational efficiency, employee engagement, and customer satisfaction will only grow. Contractors who embrace this revolution stand to gain a competitive edge in an increasingly digital world.

In conclusion, the future of contracting is undeniably intertwined with conversational AI.

As we move forward, the potential for innovation is limitless, promising a more efficient, knowledgeable, and productive industry.

The companies leading this charge are not just creating tools; they’re building the foundation for a new era of contracting excellence.

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Food For Thought

Custom GPTs for Contractors

Custom GPTs for Contractors

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Introduction to Custom GPTs
  2. The Role of Custom GPTs in the Construction Industry
  3. Benefits of Implementing Custom GPTs for Contractors
  4. Case Studies: Success Stories in the Construction Sector
  5. How to Integrate Custom GPTs into Your Business
  6. Overcoming Challenges and Limitations
  7. Future Trends: AI and Machine Learning in Construction
  8. Conclusion: The Road Ahead for Contractors
  9. FAQs: Common Questions About Custom GPTs in Construction

Introduction to Custom GPTs

The construction industry is on the brink of a technological revolution, and Custom General Purpose Transformers (GPTs) are leading the charge. These AI-driven tools are not just reshaping the way contractors work; they are redefining the future of the industry.

The Role of Custom GPTs in the Construction Industry

Custom GPTs in construction serve various purposes, from optimizing project management to automating customer interactions. These AI models can handle tasks like design analysis, cost estimation, and even provide on-the-fly solutions to on-site challenges. The adaptability of GPTs means they can be tailored to meet the specific needs of any contractor.

Benefits of Implementing Custom GPTs for Contractors

  1. Enhanced Efficiency: Automating routine tasks saves time and resources, allowing contractors to focus on more critical aspects of their projects.
  2. Improved Accuracy: AI algorithms reduce human error in calculations and estimations, leading to more precise outcomes.
  3. Data-Driven Decisions: GPTs provide valuable insights by analyzing large datasets, enabling more informed decision-making.
  4. Customer Relationship Management: AI tools can streamline communication with clients, offering prompt responses and personalized interaction.

How to Integrate Custom GPTs into Your Business

To integrate Custom GPTs, contractors should start by identifying areas within their operations that can benefit from automation and enhanced data analysis. Collaborating with AI experts and investing in staff training are critical steps to ensure successful implementation.

Overcoming Challenges and Limitations

While the benefits are significant, integrating GPTs comes with challenges. These include the initial cost of implementation, the need for ongoing maintenance, and ensuring data privacy and security. Contractors must also be ready to adapt to the evolving nature of AI technology.

Future Trends: AI and Machine Learning in Construction

The future of construction will see an increased reliance on AI and machine learning. Technologies like predictive analytics, 3D modeling, and drone surveys will become commonplace, offering even more opportunities for efficiency and innovation.

Conclusion: The Road Ahead for Contractors

The integration of Custom GPTs is not just a trend; it’s a necessary evolution for contractors looking to stay competitive in a rapidly changing industry. Embracing these technologies will lead to more efficient, accurate, and profitable operations.

FAQs: Common Questions About Custom GPTs in Construction

  1. What is a Custom GPT? Custom GPTs are AI-driven tools specifically tailored to meet the unique needs of a business, in this case, the construction industry.

  2. How can Custom GPTs improve project management in construction? They can automate routine tasks, provide accurate cost estimations, and offer data-driven insights for better decision-making.

  3. Are there any risks involved in using Custom GPTs? Challenges include the initial setup cost, data security concerns, and the need for continuous updates and maintenance.

  4. What future AI trends can we expect in construction? Predictive analytics, AI-assisted 3D modeling, and drone technology are some of the upcoming trends.


Custom GPTs represent a significant leap forward for the construction industry. By adopting these AI-driven tools, contractors can enjoy enhanced efficiency, accuracy, and profitability. While challenges exist, the future of construction with AI and machine learning looks bright, promising innovative solutions and improved project outcomes.

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Food For Thought

Artificial Intelligence in Construction

5 Ways Artificial Intelligence Is Changing Construction

The potential applications of AI in construction are endless. RFI’s, rework, and change orders are standard in the industry. Machine learning is like a smart, hyper-focused assistant which is able to scrutinize mountains of data. It can alert project managers about the critical things that need their attention. Several applications already use AI in this way. Its benefits range from mundane filtering of spam emails to advanced safety monitoring.

AI is currently being used to plan and design the routing of electrical and plumbing systems in modern buildings and design new framing systems. AI is being used to track the real-time interactions of workers, machinery, and objects on the site and alert supervisors of potential safety issues, construction errors, and productivity issues.

Despite the predictions of massive job losses, AI is unlikely to replace the entire human workforce. Instead, it will alter business models in the construction industry, reduce expensive errors, reduce worksite injuries, and make construction more efficient.

 

Artificial Intelligence Will Make Construction Workers Safer

Many accidents are the result of human errors and deliberate accidents. With AI, operations managers are able to analyze and filter huge quantities of data to identify potential problem areas. For example, in the construction industry, workers often work in tight spaces, use heavy equipment, and operate large equipment. These high-risk activities can be derisked with the right IoT applications and monitoring. Many companies already have a first responder app that provides information on construction sites. In the future, AI will be integrated into these systems to quickly identify problems and inform human decision-makers before they turn catastrophic.

Artificial Intelligence Will Make Construction Sites More Effective

To improve construction effectiveness, AI can be used in many ways. It can provide an optimal construction schedule and reroute critical tasks in the event of a disruption. It can monitor activity on a job site and create a set of guidelines for safe practices. It can provide risk assessments for individual jobs, determine the best means of preventing accidents, and use predictive models to warn managers about high-risk tasks. AI can help with building management, control work process automation, and track construction activities..

For example, IBM and Cisco are working together to create construction zones with sensors and cameras that can be used for remote management and site supervision. These sensors can detect how many people are on site, if they are wearing proper equipment, and if any crews are operating outside of their scheduled area. It can also detect construction defects and inform the construction team if a build requires correction.

 

Artificial Intelligence Will Make Construction Designs More Efficient

Up to 90% of errors in design involve not updating basic information on a design, such as weight, density, and measurements of materials.

AI is now able to control these parameters accurately by directly linking data sources from the manufacturer, even for very complex designs. AI is also able to increase productivity and quality by refining designs with minimal human intervention. It can recommend the most cost-effective way to build each building based on the market conditions, building requirements, and construction priorities.

 

Artificial Intelligence Will Make Construction Estimating More Accurate

Many tedious parts of construction estimating can be eliminated with the power of AI.

AI gives construction estimators a better prediction model of what will be required on-site, allowing for a greater degree of efficiency, reduced costs, better scheduling, and improved profitability.

Smart contractors can go in-depth to understand what the project requirements are, allowing them to offer construction plans that meet the needs of their clients more effectively. Companies that employ AI will gain new levels of accuracy and precision when it comes to building estimations.

 

Artificial Intelligence Will Make Construction More Modular

In one of the most under-reported developments in the tech space, prefabricated units are on the cusp of a revolution. Prefabrication is quickly becoming a cost-saving tool for governments and businesses. Facilities that used to cost up to $100 million can now be constructed for as little as $20 million. In an effort to streamline design, construction, and maintenance, modular construction aims to reduce waste and ensure quality construction at a cheaper price. By using pre-manufactured units, modular construction essentially cuts the time needed to construct a building down by up to 50%. It’s also safer as contractors don’t have to worry about constructing multiple units on-site as in traditional construction.

AI will assist in process planning and manufacturing design to allow prefabricated buildings to be built faster, cheaper, and safer.

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Analytics & Dashboarding

Essential KPIs for Construction Sales & Estimating Dashboards

kpi dashboard for construction companies

Benefits of a KPI (Key Performance Indicator) Dashboard

Project dashboards make project management and estimating easier and more efficient by showing continuous performance data at a glance.

When employees and managers have access to their project’s data displayed in a visual element, they gain:

  • Greater insights into their projects
  • Increased efficiency and productivity
  • Improved estimating accuracy
  • Better communication among team members
  • Continuous feedback on their performance
  • Real-time information for better decision-making

A dashboard is beneficial for everyone on the team. It keeps team members engaged, managers informed, and C-suites aware of what types of business decisions to expect.

With the right dashboard, everyone is on the same page and understands what needs to be done across the team to ensure project success.

kpi dashboard construction

How to choose your KPI’s

To build a useful sales and estimating dashboard that your team will use, you need to focus on your audience and think about the KPI’s that are relevant to them.

Ask yourself the following questions before you start building the dashboard:

  • Who is your audience?
  • Who will be consuming this dashboard?
  • Is this dashboard for a salesperson, a manager, or an estimator?
  • What actions do I want the dashboard to encourage?

Knowing exactly who is your target audience allows you to focus on the KPI’s that are most important to them.

Design your dashboard with a specific purpose in mind. If you try to cram as much data in the dashboard as possible, it will end up crowded and convoluted, which leads to confusion and miscommunication.
If you have more visuals of valuable data that you would like to display, consider creating a second dashboard that allows you to deep-dive into the data.

Having a comprehensive data platform like SalesforceHubSpot, or Tableau allows you to create dashboards that serve all of your departments in a scalable way. Anyone in your organization can subscribe to a Salesforce, HubSpot, or Tableau dashboard as well as create recurring alerts based on conditions they set. 

Project dashboards should be able to report on estimating and sales KPI’s such as Earned Labour Hours, Qualified Bids, Win Rate by Project Type, and many other useful metrics.

Some KPI categories that you can include on your dashboard include:

Project Activities e.g.:

  • Number and Value of Bids In Pipeline
  • Bids Currently Processing
  • Bids Submitted
  • RFI’s Submitted

Time Spent & Durations e.g.:

  • Average Time To Bid Submission From Lead Acquisition
  • Average Time Per Bid Submission
  • Average Time From Bid Submission To Award

Milestones & Targets e.g.:

  • Win Rate, by number of deals and value.
  • Bid Value Submitted
  • Bid Value Won / Lost

Resource Allocation e.g.:

  • Assigned Tasks
  • Bids In Review
  • Bids In Queue

Choosing the right visuals for your KPI’s

Strong visuals are hard to ignore. The key to a great dashboard is knowing which visuals to highlight, how to display them, and how to allow the user to move seamlessly through the dashboard.
Data that can be hard to grasp when presented in a table format can be easily interpreted by adding the right graphs and charts. Trends and movements can be highlighted by using colours and icons such as arrows.

It’s not enough to have the right visuals though. The elements of the dashboard need to be arranged in the right order so the question prompted by the first element is answered by the second element, and so forth down the chain of questions.

A dashboard that tracks data that no one is interested in, or that doesn’t provide a useful recommended action, is a dashboard that people won’t use.

A useful dashboard can be described as: Displaying the right metrics, for the right person, at the right time.

construction kpis

What’s the difference between a KPI report and a KPI dashboard?

The old method of using reports has several drawbacks. It requires labour to produce, it only provides a snapshot in time, which means the information is outdated by the time the receiver interprets the information, and it keeps information hidden from the producers of that information.
It is telling you how your team WAS performing, not how they ARE performing.

In large companies, reports can be behind by several weeks, depending on how many manual data inputs are required to assemble the report. This can lead to inaccurate, delayed, and inadequate decisions being made.

Meanwhile, project dashboards provide a real-time source of information displayed in a digestible way. This leads to less time wasted producing reports, faster decision-making, and more time dedicated to winning projects.

construction kpi dashboard

4 things to consider when you are choosing your Dashboard KPI’s

The Dashboard’s Purpose

The dashboard planning process is crucial to creating a useful tool for your team. This is where you need to think about its functionality, intended objectives, and hazards. (Yes, there are hazards associated with dashboards and encouraging the wrong behaviour.)

The most important step is achieving consensus within the team or department on what the most critical KPI’s are and how they should be tracked.

KPI’s are binary. They are either met, or they are not. Establishing what the criteria are for a completed KPI should be done before going live with the dashboard.

Every KPI encourages a certain type of behaviour. It is generally accepted that valuing the profitability KPI the highest can lead to disastrous behaviour within the organization that damages relationships long-term and may even put you in a problematic legal situation.
This is why you need a counter-balance KPI for metrics that may steer team members away from company values.
For example, if you have a KPI for profitability, you may want to include a KPI for Customer Satisfaction (e.g. Net Promoter Score) to balance the behaviour produced by the KPI’s.

Essentially, your project dashboard should be relevant to the user, encourage healthy and honest behaviour, and provide continuous feedback on performance.

Your Existing Data

Project dashboards depend on data. Clean, unadulterated data, and lots of it.

Start by cataloging all your data sources.

  • What data are your teams currently producing?
  • What data are your current systems (ERP, Estimating software, CRM’s, etc.) currently producing?
  • What formats are produced when exported?
  • Can you upload the exported data straight into the dashboard software?

Next, make a list of the KPI’s that are measurable with the data that you are currently producing.

These KPI’s should be agreed upon by the team before launching the dashboard. Consensus and unanimity are essential for getting the team to adopt the dashboard into their daily routine and provide valuable feedback.

Your Future Data

Building a dashboard produces a lot of useful questions.

“What would we find out if we added this metric to the dashboard and crossed it with our labour hours?”

“What would we learn if we compared suppliers across projects to find which trades worked most efficiently with a suppliers products?”

Understanding the backbones of your dashboard will help you build additional data sets in the future. Having your data export setup to produce a common format such as XLSX or CSV allows you more flexibility when merging data sets and looking for new insights.

The Actions The Dashboard Will Produce

Try to predict the actions that your team members will take after viewing the dashboard. Understanding the analytical, emotional, and procedural actions a team member will take allows you to build a dashboard that people love having around, and will provide continuous feedback on how to improve.

Some organizations like to encourage some friendly competition by including a leaderboard and win rates, and then rewarding the winners at monthly/quarterly/annual intervals. This can be great if you have a team of “aggressive” high-performers that already have a strong social bond, but putting this on a dashboard for a team that isn’t as tight-knit or competitive will just breed resentment for management for trying to pit people against each other.

Analytics isn’t all cold logic and calculated reasoning. KPI’s will need to be tailored to the culture of your team.

Now, on to the list of our essential KPI’s!

List of Essential Construction Dashboard KPIs

Estimators
  • Earned Labour Hours – Bid vs Actual
    • Earned Labour Hours = Bid Labour Hours – Actual Labour Hours
    • This is a “quick and dirty” way of seeing how your estimating data actually matches field performance.
  • Value Added – Bid vs Actual
    • Value Added = Project Bid Value – Project Actual Cost
    • A critical overview of project performance. This would be a high-level element that can be interacted with to deep-dive into the actual costs and revenues of a specific project.

Construction Sales Estimating KPIs Construction Contractor Websites 1 We create high-performing websites for the construction industry.

  • Projects bid vs won by Project Type
    • Categorize projects by type (e.g. Commercial Retail Unit, Tenant Improvements, Warehouses, etc.).
    • Projects Won By Type = Total Project Type Bids Won / Total Project Type Bids
    • Understanding which projects your team excels at, in both estimating and field performance, allows you to strategize on which bids to accept, which markets to focus on, and where your estimating data needs to be improved.
  • Projects bid vs won by Client
    • Projects Won By Client = Total Client Bids Won / Total Client Bids
    • It’s important to know how often you’re being price-checked. Smaller teams will know this intuitively, but when submitting bids at a larger scale the intuition can disappear.
    • Another useful metric is tracking the dollar amount of projects bid/won. This lets you know if you are losing projects in a specific cost range.

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  • Qualified Bids
    • Qualified Bids = Accepted Bids + Qualified Declined Bids
    • Not all declined bids are the same. This can be detailed further by adding reasons for declining. Knowing the value of bids declined due to insufficient resources is important for planning expansion and preparing for growth.
  • Projects Lost by Reason
    • Categorize lost reasons (e.g. Price Too High, Strong Competitor Relationship, Bid Disqualified, etc.)
    • Understanding why a project is lost is the only redeeming factor in losing a project you wanted to win.
  • Value of Projects Lost by Reason
    • Are we losing projects mainly because our pricing is too high, or because or client lost the bid and we didn’t bid to their competitors? Are our bids being disqualified due to errors in our bidding process?

Contractor Websites Construction Dashboard Sales Insights 6 We create high-performing websites for the construction industry.

  • Profit margin by project type
    • In some cases, the profit margin is improved by stellar field performance, but sometimes it’s because the project was overbid but awarded anyway.
    • Using this metric along with “Projects Bid vs Won by Project Type” and “Projects Lost by Reason” allows you to understand the full story behind the profit margin. For example:
      • Your Weighted Win Rate is 25%
      • On CRU’s it’s only 5%
      • Your average profit margin is 13%
      • On the CRU’s you win, your profit margin is 28%
      • Conclusion: Something in your CRU estimating data is inaccurate
  • Estimators profitability by project type
    • Tracking individual estimator profit margin is useful to see which estimators excel at certain projects, and that will let you set up the right mentee-mentor relationships to improve the strength of your estimating team.
  • Estimators win-rate by project type
    • Same as above. Some estimators excel at certain projects, and if you’re a manager, that lets you allocate the right people to the right projects.
  • Bids currently in development
    • How many bids are currently being worked on will give you an idea of how much capacity your team has to take on additional projects, or if more resources are required.
  • Number of issues and mistakes found in bid documents upon review
    • Having a visual of the results of your bid review and QC process allows you to make changes in your estimating process to reduce mistakes and miscalculations.
Sales (and some marketing)
  • Activities
    • While I don’t recommend putting too much credence to this metric (results > actions taken), the number of sales activities per rep in a set timeframe can give you a signal of their productivity level. Some common metrics include:
      • Number of calls
      • Number of emails
      • Meetings scheduled
  • Number of Active Leads and Prospects
    • Maintaining a consistent amount of leads, in both quantity and value, is important for forecasting and maintaining good cash flow.
  • Current Market Capture
    • Current Market Capture = Qualified Bids / Accepted Bids
    • This is a quick way of estimating market share in your category.

We create high-performing websites for the construction industry.

  • Average Project Profit Margin
    • Average Project Profit Margin = Cost of Goods Sold / Revenues
    • Overall, how your estimating efforts are translating to field productivity.
  • Average Cost per Lead
    • Average Cost per Lead = Marketing Expenses / Qualified Leads
  • Customer Lifetime Value
    • Customer Lifetime Value = Average Value of Sale × Number of Transactions × Retention Time Period
    • This one takes a bit of work. You need to have some data already in place that is not readily available from your ERP or accounting department.
  • Qualified Lead Conversion Rate
    • Qualified Lead Conversion Rate = Qualified Leads Converted / Total Qualified Leads
  • Qualified Leads by Source
    • Categorize Lead Sources (e.g. Referral, Conferences, Word of Mouth, Directories, etc.)
  • Revenue by Lead Source
    • Use this metric to dial in on which marketing channel provides the highest return.
  • Opportunity-to-Win Ratio (By Number of Bids & Dollar value)
    • Opportunity-to-Win Ratio = Projects/Dollars Bid / Projects/Dollars Won

We create high-performing websites for the construction industry.

  • Average Deal Size
    • Average Deal Size = Total Dollar Amount Awarded / Total Projects Awarded
    • It’s important to know if the projects you are taking on are increasing or decreasing in size, and being able to predict changes in project size throughout the local seasons and economic cycles.
  • Sales Cycle Length
    • Some salespeople will have faster sales cycles than others. Analyze which cycles produce the highest number of winning proposals and figure out what they do differently. A faster cycle isn’t necessarily better. A salesperson may close deals faster than anyone else, but their customers may be dissatisfied in the long term due to missing details or pressure tactics. Sometimes a long cycle is a healthy cycle.
  • Customer Satisfaction
    • There are several ways of measuring your clients’ satisfaction with your services and their perception of your performance. (Net Promoter Score, Customer Effort Score, Customer Service Satisfaction, etc.)
      Start simple and scale up the survey as needed. Make it easy for your clients to complete.

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I hope you find this list of KPIs useful. I am looking forward to hearing your comments and opinions on building your KPI and dashboard process.
 
Can you find any other interesting metrics that should be considered for measuring estimating and sales performance?

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Construction Projects Analytics & Dashboarding

Guide to Construction Estimating & Takeoff Software

The construction estimating process is critical to the success of every project.
Modeling the costs and productivity requirements of a construction project requires contractors to create detailed cost estimates, project and delivery schedules, and construction plans.

Many software firms have attempted to create a seamless estimating experience and provide the tools to create a comprehensive estimating and takeoff process. This guide will cover the options that are available to contractors to allow quick, precise, and accurate cost & delivery estimates for their projects.

Let’s start with a brief review of the overall construction estimating, takeoff, and bidding process.

If you’re an estimating professional, and you just want to see our recommendations, click here.

Understanding Construction Estimating for Contractors

Construction estimating is part of the bid process, during which contractors and builders will typically compile a group of documents, known as the bid package, which summarizes the project details and key information. These bids aggregate the costs that the contractor expects to pay for the sourcing of materials and construction of the project.

The process begins with the project owner creating the bid package.

The bid package contains all of the information the contractors will need to create an accurate cost estimate, schedule, and delivery method.

The documents included in the bid package typically include the Invitation For Bid (IFB), project blueprints, location and schedule constraints, detailed specifications of the contract, which include general standards, contract terms, insurance requirements, and other information about the bid and contract.

Traditional Bidding Process

TAKEOFF

A takeoff (sometimes referred to as material takeoff or quantity takeoff) is the first step in the bidding process. This step involves examining the blueprints and bid documents in order to extract the required materials and labor required for the project.

The information produced from the takeoff is what is used to build the cost estimate and project schedule.

For a General Contractor, some examples of takeoff items may include:

  • Unit counts: E.g. Counts of light fixtures, concrete barriers, pipe fittings, doors, beams, trusses, etc. Anything that needs to be calculated in unit quantities.
  • Linear length: E.g. Total lengths of cable, lumber, wiring, trim, rebar, piping, etc. Anything that needs to be calculated in lengths.
  • Surface area: E.g. Counts of areas that require painting, drywall, roofing materials. Anything that needs to be calculated by its length times its width.
  • Cubic volume: E.g. Concrete pours, earthworks, insulation, asphalt, etc. Anything that needs to be calculated by length times width times height.
  • Physical weight: E.g. Gravel, sand, shipping requirements, waste disposal, etc. Weight calculations are often a byproduct of other takeoffs, and are useful when planning transportation and logistics.
ESTIMATE COSTS & TIMELINES

Once a takeoff has been completed, we compile the data to create the cost estimates required for materials, labour, and supplies.

The process typically follows this schedule:

  1. Review Project Scope and Requirements
  2. Create a project schedule with deadlines and milestones.
  3. Identify in-house work and work that needs to be subcontracted.
  4. Determine labour and material costs.
  5. Include risk factors, contingencies, and profit margins.
  6. List project inclusions and exclusions.
  7. Submit bid to Business Development or to the client.

There are several tools available to estimators to help them build their cost estimate.

  • Estimating & Takeoff software – Manual takeoffs are resource-intense and prone to error. software creates a seamless process from takeoff to bid, with minimal chance for human error and several integrated checks and balances to ensure you have completed the takeoff and estimate accurately. 
  • Subcontractor database – It’s critical to have a good network of subcontractors that you can rely on for expertise and cost estimates. Some companies that provide takeoff software also provide a database of material pricing and general costs associated with a construction project, which can provide a helpful overview into the cost of the project before going out to source local pricing.
  • Pre-built estimate templates – Pre-built templates are critical to efficient takeoff and estimating processes, and they help you capture details that the IFB may have missed. Most estimating software providers have multiple pre-built templates for GC’s and larger sub-trades.
  • Item specifications – Many software suites will allow you to store item specs and useful data about materials and components. The information may include things like cost to purchase, cost to install, ANSI specifications, and local distributors.
BID PROCESS

The most common way of bidding is to prepare a hard bid (AKA competitive bid, hard dollar, fixed price, and others).

The GC sources material and subcontractor pricing, and then adds costs for their own supervision, site requirements (such as offices, sanitary facilities, dumpsters), contingencies, and profit.

Contractors with the most competitive bid, along with the best strategy and history/reputation, will likely earn the work. In the case of public projects (owned by government), the contractor with the most competitive bid is required to be awarded the project by law, provided their bid fully meets the requirements of the project.

Software Tools for Estimating & Takeoff Automation

Takeoff and estimating software refers to programs that help estimators extract useful material data from blueprints and IFB files. Some software will assist with generating material cost and labour estimates.

Typically, the software will support most file types for blueprints, such as PDF, DWG, SVG, DXF, XLSX, PNG, and other types of files.

With the suite of tools offered by the software, estimators can measure, calculate, and compile information quickly with fewer errors.

Features & Functionality
TAKEOFF
  • Tools for Counts, Areas, Lengths, and Volumes – The essential utility of takeoff software is the ability to extract materials, quantities, and requirements from digital files supplied by the project owner.
  • Collaborative & Team Takeoff – Having your takeoffs and estimates synchronized to allow for collaborative work is crucial for a large team where conflicting edits may happen. Most cloud-based services offer collaborative takeoff features.
  • RFI Creation & Management– In the event that insufficient information has been supplied or there are conflicting requirements in the project, an RFI will need to be issued to rectify the conflict. Some programs allow you to create, store, and compare RFI’s in a useful layout and dashboard.
ESTIMATING
  •  Activity Tracking – Knowing who did what on which bid is critical to a good estimating management process.
  •  Audit Trail – An audit trail is a step-by-step record which provides evidence of the history of document changes to its source and is useful to see who made changes to a document.
  •  BIM – Some advanced estimating software suites include BIM (Building Information Modelling). The purpose of BIM is to provide both a high-level overview of the project, as well as critical details, to ensure that the right information is included in the estimate.
  •  Cost Database – Most estimating software allows you to import your database of supplier costs, which is critical in building an accurate estimate that is suited for your local market.
  •  Customizable Reports – Management wants to see not only the results of a bid, but how you got there. You can build reports that compare similar projects, subcontractor pricing, typical amounts spent on previous projects vs current, and just about anything else you can imagine.
  •  Historical Database – Having a database of past projects that you can refer to and learn from is an estimating best practice, especially when you can compare estimated vs actual costs with the job cost report of the project you are comparing your current bid with.
  •  Project Templates – Pre-built project templates are useful when you are estimating projects that are similar to ones you have completed before. A 50,000 sq. ft. 3-storey CRU may have similar project requirements as a 60,000 sq. ft. 2-storey CRU, and you can save hours of work by reusing the template (with careful consideration of the project’s differences).
  •  Project Workflow & Schedule – Project scheduling is the process of listing tasks, milestones, critical path items, and subcontractor requirements with a planned start and finish date.
    Scheduling is often the most critical component of a project where you need to work closely with the operations team to ensure you are setting realistic deadlines and building optimal process flows. Proper scheduling ensures the project is completed on time and within budget.
  •  Projections & Forecasting – Estimating software helps you improve budgeting and forecasting estimates by aggregating cost requirements, benchmarking, and project forecasting.  Proposal Generation
  •  Subcontractor Management – During the bidding phase of a project, the GC needs to source a multitude of estimates from subcontractors. The more subcontractors and suppliers you involve in the process, the more risk and exposure the bid gets to failing specifications, inaccurate scope coverage, and inability to perform. Knowing which subcontractors are right for the project (not too large, not too small) is critical to the success of the project.
  •  Task Management Software – Historical task data can help you with process control and productivity when estimating new projects. When you have a reliable track record of successful estimates and bids, you can build new processes and analyze the historical information to help you create better estimates and more accurately predict resource requirements during the estimating process.
  •  What-if Analysis – A What-If analysis can be a time-consuming process of creating variations of the original project and analyzing the effects those variations have on the total project cost & construction time.
    What-If analysis replaces the painful process of learning by trial and error. If a predictable process or critical path breaks down during construction, the cost to fix, reorganize, or rebuild can carry additional costs and impact the schedule of the project. Using What-If analysis, you can create scenarios in which your operational team can quickly adjust to changes in the construction process or schedule, keeping the project within budget and scheduling requirements.
 
BIDDING
  •  Approval Process Control – Estimating software should allow you to customize and control the information each user can see and edit depending on their role in the organization. After the bid is completed, there should be an approval process that triggers it for review and submission to the client.
  •  Automated Quoting & Proposal Generation – Manual quoting processes are slow and inefficient in today’s world. Having a time-consuming quoting process scales poorly with your business, as the time it takes to produce winning bids is increased with each additional estimating hire. Using automation allows you to send out more bids in less time, keep track of incoming requests, and update data.
  •  Bid Management – Managing the different versions of your bids often includes making revisions to your takeoffs and estimates. Keeping track of changes and how they impact linked tasks helps you modify bids in an optimal way.
  •  Calendar Management – Everyone needs a calendar to track deadlines, milestones, and submission dates. The integrated bid calendar should show you which projects are due on what date, bid priority in the case of opportunities exceeding the bidding capacity of the estimating department, and tasks remaining until bid completion.
  •  Contact Management – Contractors submitting multiple bids to different clients will find a contact management system incredibly useful. 
  •  Customer History – Seeing the past projects that you have bid to a client is useful, especially if the Business Development team has made notes on successful or unsuccessful bids with actionable items that may improve your chances of winning the next bid.
  •  Customizable Reports – Some estimating software comes with integrated sales features that include useful reporting for operations and BD, such as insights into the sales funnel, characteristics and data on winning bids, and estimated times to complete bids.
  •  Digital Signature Software – In today’s world, people want low-friction and easy-to-use ways of doing business. The old way of printing off documents, taking them to the client, and having them sign is being phased out. Digital signature features often includes add ons such as open-tracking (being notified when your client opens the bid) and use-analysis (how long they had the document open, where they dropped off, where they spent the most time, etc.)
  •  Projections – Creating projections for the project schedule and budget is essential for the operations team to stay on track and understand how delays and cost-increases impact the project further down the schedule.
  •  Subcontractor Portal –  A subcontractor portal helps you communicate essential information, share project documents, and manage bid revisions with trades that are invited to bid on the project.

The Best Construction Estimating & Takeoff Software

ProEst

2021 06 10 07 34 44 proest home page.png 1024×768 We create high-performing websites for the construction industry.

PRICING: US$5,000.00/year

FREE VERSION?: No. Free Trial.

FEATURES:
  •  Accounting Integration
  •  Activity Dashboard
  •  Bid Management
  •  Bidder Management
  •  Building Product Database
  •  Change Order Management
  •  Collaboration Tools
  •  Cost Database
  •  Customizable Reports
  •  Customizable Templates
  •  Job Costing Software
  •  Multiple User Accounts
  •  Proposal Generation
  •  Reporting & Statistics
  •  Subcontractor Management
  •  Takeoff Software
  •  Third Party Integrations (Procore, Acumatica, Foundation, RSMeans Data)

PROS: 

  • Extensive list of features
  • Full takeoff-to-bid process integrated
  • Builds your estimate while doing takeoffs
  • Lots of pre-defined templates and reports
CONS:
  • Expensive for smaller contractors
  • Some find the scheduling feature to be lacking
  • Difficult learning curve for inexperienced users
BOTTOM LINE:

ProEst is a great option for midsize to large contractors. The system is cloud-based. This carries both pros and cons. If you don’t have an internet connection, you cannot access the suite. However, you will be able to access it on any computer with internet access, providing great flexibility.


 

PlanSwift

Takeoff Software for Construction Estimating | PlanSwift

PRICING: US$1,595.00/year

FREE VERSION?: No. Free Trial.

FEATURES:
  • Overlays
  • Quick Estimating
  • Calculate Measurements Instantly
  • Create custom assemblies
  • Import Excel Items
  • Calculate Labor, Material, & Taxes
  • Create custom formulas
  • Includes standard reports
  • Create unlimited number of custom reports
  • Takeoff Templates
  • Assemblies and Parts
  • Point and Click
  • Takeoff Templates
  • Share Estimates
  • Drag and Drop
  • Import Blueprints, Projects, and Jobs
  • Integrations: QuickBooks, UDA Construction Suite, databases like Excel, SQL Server, and MS Access

PROS: 

  • Extensive list of features
  • Detailed and customizable budgeting information
  • Intuitive and user-friendly interface
  • Lots of pre-defined templates and reports
CONS:
  • No built-in cloud syncing between computers limits collaborative work
  • Price changes in database do not change pricing for current jobs. Needs to be manually added.
  • Only PDF is acceptable.
  • No API for web integrations
BOTTOM LINE:

PlanSwift is best for smaller teams, where collaborative work features are not required. The software runs on your PC, and stores files locally. PlanSwift can be custom-tailored to fit all trades from finish paint to earthwork.


 

Stack

STACK Software - 2021 Reviews, Pricing & Demo

PRICING:

$1,999.00 / YEAR – 1 User

$4,999.00 / YEAR – 3 Users

FREE VERSION?: Yes.

FEATURES:
  • Aerial Measurement
  • Assembly Takeoff
  • Audit Trail
  • Bid Management
  • Building Product Database
  • Cost Database
  • Data Import/Export
  • Electrical Estimating
  • Electronic Plans
  • Historical Database
  • HVAC Estimating
  • Job Costing
  • Job Management
  • Overhead Costs Estimating
  • Plumbing Estimating
  • Prebuilt Assembly
  • Project Management
  • Quotes/Estimates
  • Reporting/Analytics

PROS: 

  • Pre-built database that include in-depth lists of equipment, labor, and materials.
  • Easy-to-use scheduling features.
  • Fully cloud-based.
  • Fast loading of projects files.
CONS:
  • Expensive for smaller contractors
  • Few accounting and project management integrations.
  • Rates increase as team add new features.
  • Cloud-based user interface has limitations
BOTTOM LINE:

Stack is a growing company in the SaaS space. They implement new features quickly, have an active online community, and are constantly releasing new versions.
Cloud service is an essential feature for larger teams requiring collaborative tools. The user interface is intuitive and easy to use.

While still in its infancy, Stack is a fantastic tool for estimating teams and is currently our favorite.

CONCLUSION:

The market for construction estimating software is growing at a staggering rate, and there are new options being released frequently.

Many estimating suites come with integrations that allow you to connect to your sales CRM and KPI dashboards. However, most of the options with modern integrations are hosted in the cloud.

To ensure everyone in the organization is in the loop on new projects, you need to ensure there is cross-compatibility with other software suites that may be used for sales and operational processes.

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Categories
Search Engine Optimization Website Design

10 Free Ways to Increase Traffic to Your Construction Website in 2024

10 Free Ways to Increase Traffic to Your Website in 2024

Tips and tricks to get your website ranking higher.

You know what the internet needs?
It’s 2,515,918th article on improving SEO and website conversions.

While I say that tongue-in-cheek, what the internet really needs is an SEO-guide written specifically for construction companies and tradespeople.
I’m going to list 10 ways you can increase your SEO for free, with not a nickel spent, other than some time and writing skills.

1. Use specific landing pages with a clear value proposition

A value proposition is a quick summary that promotes the unique value of your products or services.

Too many companies focus on themselves and get too technical on their services or products. People want to know your solution, not how the sausage is made.
This is why a solid value proposition is at the core of all marketing communication. You are speaking to a person with a problem you can solve.

This is a great example from Everlast Vinyl Fencing in Edmonton, AB:

construction website

Everlast goes straight to the point of addressing the customer’s desire.

YES = “… the perfect fencing style to complement your home and landscape design.”

NO = “… thousands of fencing styles in our inventory.”

YES = “featuring materials that protect against the sun and stay durable against impact.”

NO = “featuring materials that are UV 400 rated and coated with durable polyethylene.”

Three quick tips on creating a strong value proposition:
  • It should explain how your product or service best solves a customer’s problems or needs.
  • It should describe what specific benefits your customer will receive.
  • It should explain why you are the right choice to solve that problem.

2. Improve on-page SEO

First off, what is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization refers to the practice and system of optimizing your web pages to improve a page’s search engine rankings and drive more organic traffic to the site.

Search engine results are like real estate.
You can pay an advertiser like Google to list your company at the top for your desired search terms, and rent that top space, or you can put the work into owning that space by implementing good SEO practices.

A strong SEO strategy is focused on useful content creation, as well as best practices when it comes to site loading speed, social media engagement, and development best practices.

Three quick tips on building your on-page SEO:
  • Test your site speed and optimize deficiencies. Use GTMetrix or PageSpeed Insights by Google
  • Get an in-depth SEO analysis done. Use Moz Free SEO Metrics or SEOptimer
  • Don’t forget to engage with your audience and customers. Frequent posting and engagement with your community is a vital part of building your domain’s authority and trustworthiness.

3. Build backlinks

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What are backlinks?
Backlinks are links from one website to another. Google and other search providers use backlinks as a sort of vote on how trustworthy a site is.
Good sites usually have lots of people linking to them, bad sites usually don’t.

The pages that rank highest in search results are usually the ones with the most backlinks and engagement, especially for high-volume searches.

One best practice is to build links to useful assets. If you want people to link to your page, you need to create or share something useful.
A great asset can be a blog post, guide, useful video, calculator, quiz, etc.

Three quick tips on building more backlinks:
  • Focus on high-quality links (local associations are great) over low-quality but high-quantity links.
    Spammers link to other spammers and will reduce your domain authority.
  • Build more linkable assets such as blogs, tools, and useful content.
  • Search Google for posts in your industry that are already ranking well, and build upon it. Many articles are overview only (like this one) where each category or topic can be expanded and improved.

4. Optimize your Google Business profile

Having a Google My Business page is THE MOST IMPORTANT factor in ranking well in search and getting more customers.

Google’s algorithm for search ranking does not just consider keywords, domain authority, and trustworthiness, but relevant locations with highly optimized profiles.
Optimizing your Google My Business profile is the first thing a business should do when focusing on improving SEO as it allows you to be the first result even when searching for broad keywords like “edmonton electrician”.
Here are a few examples:

THE GOOD
2021 01 30 10 18 49 colz electric Google Search We create high-performing websites for the construction industry.
 
THE BAD
2021 01 30 10 25 33 rite on electric Google Search We create high-performing websites for the construction industry.
THE UGLY
(No GMB profile at all, even when searching for the actual business name)

2021 01 30 10 24 22 taylored electrical services Google Search e1623850317423 We create high-performing websites for the construction industry.

Three quick tips on optimizing your Google My Business Profile:
  • Register your business at Google My Business and add your business information.
  • Start gathering reviews from your customers. Every business should have at least 5 reviews, and a great score is anything above 4.4.
  • Add a Call-to-Action similar to the first screenshot. Do you want customers to contact you before requesting a quote, or can you send them straight to one of your estimating forms?

5. Get social

Links from Social Media do not contribute much to your websites page ranking, but it does one thing better than any other medium. It spreads useful and viral content by incentivizing people to share it with their networks.

People can’t link to content they don’t know about, so you could be creating tremendous value on your site, and no one would ever know.
Someone much wiser than me once said, “It doesn’t matter what you know if nobody knows you know it.”

Three quick tips on engaging with Social Media:
  • Maintain a list of your best-performing content, update it, and share it regularly. Don’t feel bad about sharing old content. Remember that most social shares do not reach the full audience.
  • Don’t treat social media as a chore. Engage with your audience in an active and helpful way, and they will become your biggest fans.
  • Create more partnerships with the industry.
    Consider using your platform to elevate other businesses that you enjoy working with.Your goal here is to build real relationships and useful partnerships with people in your community. It’s not enough to just like every post they share, you need to engage, ask questions, and be useful to them.

6. Create high-quality infographics and imagery

contractor website design We create high-performing websites for the construction industry.

We live at high speed these days, and much can be communicated to our short attention spans with a well-designed infographic.

What is your customer searching for, or what is their unknown unknown? (i.e. what do they not know that they do not know?)

Infographics for home and car maintenance routines have been a home-run. Everyone needs a reminder once in a while to clean their dryer lint trap, replace their furnace filters, and de-ice their freezer.
How does this apply to your industry?

Three quick tips on creating useful imagery:
  • Use a site like Canva to quickly create images that can be directly shared to social media. Small, frequent, and useful images are more effective than once-per-year supermassive infographics.
  • Do something that someone did before, but do it BETTER.
    You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, and you can use existing content to build yours. Just don’t plagiarize.
  • Make sure you tell a story that is interesting and useful to your audience. Random information and statistics about your industry are not engaging unless you are posting to a forum specific to your trade.

7.  Submit your site to search engines

This is so simple that I wasn’t sure if I should include it, but too many site owners believe that they can “build it and they will come”.

Google will index your site if somebody else is linking to it, but how will someone link to it if they can’t find you? And how will Google find you if no one is linking to you?
Submitting your site to Google also verifies the ownership of the domain, which increases your domain authority.

Three quick tips on connecting your site to search engines:
  • Connect your site with Google Search Console. They will also give you useful information on which keywords are best for bringing users to your site.
  • If you want to go the extra mile, also submit your site to BingYahoo, and Yandex.
  • Make sure you sign up for interruption-of-service notifications. If your site goes down, you want to be the first to know.

8. Host or participate in a podcast

Do you like to hear yourself talk?

Do you often go on long and intense monologues?

Well, then podcasting may be for you.

Podcasts are one of the best ways to engage with your audience these days. The podcasting platform is still new enough that there are giant market gaps, especially in construction and trades-related categories.

Look around for podcasts that you can participate in as a guest, or start your own if you have the voice and personality for it.

Three quick tips on using podcasts to your advantage:
  • Search Google Podcasts and Apple Podcasts for relevant shows in your market. Reach out with a topic in mind and ask if you can be a guest host. Remember to sell yourself and your story.
  • Getting started with your own podcast show takes little more than some time, about $100 in recording equipment (a decent microphone), and some editing skills.
    Here’s a great guide by Buffer on starting your own podcast.
  • If you’re set on starting your own podcast, see if you can find a good co-host or partner. If you don’t have the editing skills, maybe find someone that does.

9. Optimize for longtail keywords

Popular shorttail keywords like “edmonton electrician” might generate the most traffic, if you manage to rank for them, but targeting competitive keywords like that is not that useful for finding the right customers.

image40

Why?

Let’s say you’re a local commercial electrician, and you specialize in new commercial construction and high-rise buildings.
What you really want to rank for are keywords like “commercial electrical contractor edmonton”, because Google will only place so many links to your page on their first page of search results, and using highly competitive keywords is crowding out your niche long-tail keywords.

If your page is optimized for “edmonton electrician”, you’re going to get a ton of people looking for someone to fix their breaker box or install new outlets in their house. This is a waste of your time.

On the other hand, the “commercial electrical contractor edmonton” longtail keyword will not have as many monthly searches, but because it’s longer and more specific than the shorttail keyword, you will more easily rank in the search results and generate more qualified leads.

Here’s a screenshot of “edmonton electrician” and how many searches are done per month:

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And here’s a screenshot of “commercial electrical contractor edmonton”:

We create high-performing websites for the construction industry.

What are we seeing here? Way less volume for the second long-tail keyword, but these are the exact customers you want.

2021 01 30 13 30 52 Keyword ideas Standard Scaffold Insulation Google Ads We create high-performing websites for the construction industry.

Three (longer) quick tips on using longtail keywords:
  • Think about your ideal customer. What problems do they have and how are they looking for a solution?
    In the example of a commercial electrical contractor, they may go to Google and search for “edmonton commercial electrical contractor wcb cor”, because they’re looking for a qualified and experienced contractor with all of their safety requirements in order.
  • Write for the modern-day search algorithm. Google no longer ranks the sites with the most keywords or exact phrases on their site. We have progressed to user intent searching instead of keyword targeting. This means users are becoming more accustomed to typing in their exact problem into search instead of keywords.
    E.g. They used to search “edmonton electrician”, but now they are starting to search for “electrician to fix my breaker panel”.
  • Create useful content (ABU!). In our experience, we discovered that it’s easier to rank for longtail keywords in long-form blog posts and case studies.
    Instead of creating just another blog post, focus on actionable guides and data-driven posts that are helpful to your audience.

    SEO has evolved from strictly keyword targeting, so it is absolutely essential to have content that is highly specific and niche.
    Constantly study your customers, gather feedback, engage with them on social media, and understand what problems they are facing and how you can help them.


10. Optimize your highest traffic source

Google Analytics is a powerful tool when used properly. Unfortunately, most people don’t use it properly. Pulling useful information and valuable insights can be tricky, especially if you have a low-traffic site, but there are a few tricks to it.

You need to familiarize yourself with two areas of Google Analytics: Acquisition and Behavior.

Acquisition breaks down the data on where your visitors are coming from, and Behavior breaks down how they interact with your site.

Acquisition – How your customers are finding you.

Behavior – What your customers are doing on your site.

On the Behaviour page of Macsson Snow Removal, we can see that most people land on the homepage and then click on their Request A Quote form. After that, they return to the homepage and go to the About page or Contact page.

This is extremely useful because you can find out what your customers are after and how they look for it. Sometimes it’s just a quick quote, and sometimes they want to know more about your company.

Three quick tips on using Google Analytics:
  • Find easy and low-effort opportunities to boost traffic. Does one of your blog posts get 10x more traffic than the others? Use it to link to your other posts and update it as often as possible.
  • Look for your high-converting pages and improve their SEO.
    Our goal with SEO and content marketing is to drive potential customers to our site, and to engage them in a way that they trust us with their business.
    One of the best ways to do that is to capitalize on one of your best pages and use it to drive traffic to other parts of your site.
  • Find new keyword opportunities by tracking your internal site search. Does your site have a built-in search bar? If you do, you can analyze all of the inputs to gather information on what your customers are looking for.
    If you have a large search volume for “products”, it may mean that your products page is not visible or obvious enough for people to find.

Want To Boost Your Business Today?

We help Canada's commercial and industrial construction companies succeed with expert web design, estimating automation, and sales optimization.