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Pet sitter websites: what your visitors want

by Therese on July 12, 2009

in Pet Business Marketing, Pet Sitting, The Pet Care Biz

I did a mini poll on Twitter and asked:

“When you visit a pet sitter website for the first time, what are the most important things you look for?”

Here’s how people voted:

20% of people responding wanted to see:
Services offered (vacation care, dog walking, overnights, etc.)
Geographical area served by the pet sitter
Prices

17% of people responding wanted to see:
The pet sitter’s qualifications
A short bio about the pet sitter

7% of people responding wanted to see:
If the pet sitter is insured

I’ve seen thousands of pet sitter websites over the years and, sadly, many of them aren’t all that user friendly. Quite often, the crucial info mentioned above is either missing, buried in the website, or confusing. Although the way a website is put together may make sense to the person creating it, the same isn’t always true for the visitors. Setting up your website so your information is easy to find, clear, and concise is going to help your visitors, but it’s also going help you get more pet sitting and dog walking business.

Here are a few pointers to keep in mind when you design a website for your pet care business:

Mention your services on the front page
It’s not necessary to go into great detail about each service, but the front page is where you want to let people know what services you offer. If the name of your company is something like Annie’s Pet Services that doesn’t really tell people what type of pet services you offer. You could be a pet sitter, dog groomer, a pet taxi service, even a pet photographer. You want your potential clients to know immediately that you’re a pet sitter – so even though it may be obvious, tell them! Make it stand out in a way that makes sense and catches their eye. We Serve Pets lists their services right on the front page, with links that take you to pages that go into more detail about the services.

Let people know where your business operates
It’s frustrating to go to a website for a local service and have to hunt for the geographical area where that business operates. If you can let your visitors know within the first second or two where you work, you’ll stand a better chance of hearing from them. Include the city and state in the upper section of your front page. If you serve neighborhoods in a certain city, be sure to add those as well. “Serving the south side” doesn’t help anybody, but if you say “serving the south side of Austin, Texas” that makes a whole lot more sense! See Smiling Dog Pet Sitters and take a look at how they let visitors know they offer dog walking and pet sitting in Austin, Texas.

Post your prices
There are opposing views on posting prices on a website, but as a consumer, I prefer to see prices. And, as the poll showed, I’m not alone. Sure, your prices may scare some people away but it will save you and your potential clients time and effort. It’s much better to have your rates out in the open than hearing “oooh, that’s too much,” after you’ve spent 15 minutes on the phone with someone. Bone-A-Fide Pet Care clearly describes their services and rates.

State your qualifications
Pet owners want to know their pets are going to be cared for by someone who has some type of background in pet care. List your pet related credentials as well as other areas of expertise that may be of interest to potential clients. And, rather than saying “I have 5 years experience as a pet sitter” say “I’ve been pet sitting since 2004.” That gives people an exact date, plus it means you won’t have to update your website every year! Vicky, the owner of Dog Walks ‘N More tells people on the front page that her dog walking and pet sitting business is bonded, insured, and trained in pet first aid. And in her, bio she includes even more info about her experience.

Include your bio
Pet sitting and dog walking are personalized services. You’re not just cutting someone’s grass – you’re coming into their home and caring for their valuable family members. Let your personality shine in your bio and tell them why it is you love your job so much, why you decided to start your business, and introduce the pets that own your heart. The owners of FurPals Pet Care have included bios about themselves and let visitors to their site know about their own pets.

If you’re insured (and you should be!) say so
It surprised me that insurance was the last thing people looked for when they visit a pet sitter website. If you’re insured though, say so – it’s good for you and your clients. (But…please…don’t say you’re licensed, unless you say you have a business license. If you want to know why I say this read this post on licensed pet sitters.) Sweet Paws Pet Sitting states clearly on their front page that they are insured and bonded, and even mentions the name of their insurance company.

So how does your website measure up?
Try to look at your website as someone who doesn’t know where you work, what services you offer, or why they should hire you. You might even want to have someone who’s never seen your website before take a look at it and let you know what they think. You want your information to be easy for them to find and understand. If something isn’t clear to you or that friend you have look at your site, I can guarantee it won’t be clear to potential clients either.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Joan July 13, 2009 at 8:31 am

Therese, thank you for this great information. This poll is going to help many pet sitters and their websites. I’ll def make reference to this poll in my blog :)

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Therese July 13, 2009 at 10:26 am

Thanks, Joan!

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Joshua July 13, 2009 at 6:50 pm

Hi Therese,

Wow, what a wonderfully helpful poll! I, too, would love to reference these results in my pet sitting business blog.

I actually have an article written that I still need to publish about the ’8 biggest mistakes of pet sitting websites’ and it certainly includes a handful of your findings.

Thanks for the info and I look forward to more poll results!

-Joshua

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Andrea July 13, 2009 at 7:08 pm

Thank you so much! What valuable information.

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LIZ STONE July 13, 2009 at 7:44 pm

hi therese, thank you for this wonderful article. recently, i’ve talked to brenda gordon and she mentioned how pleased she was with your skillful-web related technical abilities. i’ve been thinking that i need a website overhall, and would like to talk to you regarding this endeavor. thank you. liz stone

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MelF July 13, 2009 at 10:43 pm

Thanks for the great info!

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Cindy Nevarez July 14, 2009 at 1:13 pm

Wow, what great timing Therese! We just re-vamped our website! When your poll came out we checked it against the improvements we made…we feel we hit the nail on the head.
Check it out everyone….see if you agree. Just click on my name…
Comments are welcome!

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Sharon Denison July 15, 2009 at 2:42 pm

Thanks, Therese!
Had recently done some revamping on my site and feel I`ve covered your points. Have had a couple of people comment on it to the positive! Will share this info with the other sitters in our local network.

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Keith July 17, 2009 at 5:17 pm

I have had many compliments on my website. This could be due to the fact that you designed it! Thank you!!! Keith

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Therese July 19, 2009 at 10:43 am

Hi Keith, it’s good hearing from you! I’m glad to hear the website is getting so many good reviews :)

Therese

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Holly September 29, 2010 at 12:35 am

Ah, I’ll always be the curmudgeon of rates on websites. What differentiates us from all the rest of them (and today there are 1000′s of pet sitters, the market is saturated since the economic collaps) is that we taylor our visits, and prices, to what you need and not what the others are charging.
In Boston there are services who charge “$10 for dog walks” they fail to mention that they only provide potty breaks for ten minutes per job from start to finish.
The majority of services quote $00 for cats @ 20-30 min and $00 for dog walks @ 20-30 min. It helps them sound competitive. However, what does that really mean ? Is it a 20-30 min walk or a 20-30 min. time-line task -clock ticking- from the time the key enters lock to the time they lock up and leave ?
But the customer expects playgroup and not individual dog walks ? Or customer specifically requireas an individual ,1 hour walk, not a 20-30 min., multi dog group walk. Will the the pup(s) need daily meds ? What about puppies : who need 2 walks per visit and a meal regardless how many stairs you must climb 4 x’s per visit ! Geriatrics need slower walks , more attentive walks, attention to hips/eyes/feet etc. etc.
I’ve had customers aks me to wash the dogs’ feet after every walk – in common area hallway using handiwipes and a bucket – in the dead of winter when I have 4 layers of cloths on and just came in from a brisk walk. All of that takes time – and I haven’t even gone inside yet to give treat, check water and leave a note. Some customers want very specific log notes. some want nothing and you can’t find paper and pen to leave an important update.
Then theres’ the time thing: believe me I see it every day all week, all year long w/both new and established services – the lower the quote for said 20-30 minute visit the less service they give: the visit is typically 15-20 min. at best from parking the car to end of visit drive away. Is this the rate and time the customer agreed to ? I also observe this, which makes me sick – said walker promises 1 hour playgroup, failing to mention that most of it is spent picking up and dropping off other dogs, tying dogs to poles or fences- un monitered- for 10 min at a time while walkter picks up and drops off others. I also see multiple dogs stuffed into tiny vehicles & left for 10 mins in hot or freezing cars for same reason. The customers believes , based upon the website rates, that paying $16 an hour for a “playgroup”, is a better deal to my $20 for a real hour which doesn’t include the commute to park, their dog will never be left in a hot car nor ever tied to a pole – EVER. My visits are a minimum of 30 minutes, and I will add time increments as customer requests. So my rates may differ with the same customer depending upon what they want (2 days a week play group, 3 days a week single walk). Cat’s: I’ve had sitters say to me “what do you do with a *cat* for 30 minutes, they don’t need much other than food water, scoop. I get in and out quicky” . WHAT ??? Are meds involved ? Special needs pets ? How many litter boxes & where are they located ( one per floor in a 3 story house w/basement ?)
I factor in the commute to get to the sits: are they in an area w/close proximity to others ? Will I need to work thur a concierge to pick up the keys (5 people in line ahead of me) & drop off prior to leaving ? Will I be waiting to share the one working elevator with 10 contractor and 10 elderly people, mid day to get to the 39th floor ? Does it take me 15 min. to get to the condo and another 10 to find legal parking ? Or am I entering a single family home with a parking space directly out front , first floor entrance.
Mail: will I be brining in the mail for the 3 other residents ? Am I lugging large packages up 3 flights of stairs every day ? Plants: I’ve had jobs with 3 cats and 2 plants; and I’ve had cat sitting jobs which are actually a 50 house-plant job with a cat thrown in…..
How does one quote, honestly, a rate withouth enough information ? Because whatever you quote is what they will expect.
So said, my rates would seem over the top unless I actually speek with the prospect to get an idea of what they really want and need. First time pet owners often haven’t any idea what they really need. They need direction but are embarassed to ask. A seasoned professional will pick that up within minutes. but I’ll be held to the $12 they read on the website. Newly dianosed illnesses in older pets often have the owner freakd out and misinformed, I take the time to go over all of it and we will tweak the visit as necessary.
what I call “tire kickers” , the ones who’s main concern is rates will never be happy unless they get the lowest rate possible. that is up until they discover that the sitter never showed up, or stayed long enough to dump food and water into a dirty bowl, litter box be damned, or stay with the dog only long enough to drag the poor thing around the block for 5 minutes.
My belief is that when a customer takes the time to get pertinant information, to speak with a seasoned professional who takes the job seriously, who asks detailed questions and takes the time necessary to get a feel for the person on the other end, those are the best customer for me. And I always, without fail, get hired. Those are the long term customers who will last more than 6 months. I’ve been with customers 12 years. That said, 99% of my work is thru referrals who never make it to my website.
I know what it costs to run a business and what my time is worth. Similarly, I refuse compete with newbies who will do and say anything to get the work including undercutting realistic rates. I’d rather loose the prospect to “no rates listed on website” than to a competitor who is thoughful and well versed in the business. I provide references to my first meeting with any new customer.
I understand that eveyone wants rates, and everything else, immediately – that’s our society today – instant, fast and immediate gratification regardless of the accuracy of the information provided. Those folks texting while driving in rush hour traffic ,running over dogs , cats and old people are ONLY going to remember that one number – the lesser one- when they leave sitter’s website to call for service. “But your website said dog walks are $10 per walk and I have 10 dogs who need an hour walk each day at noon precisely, I called you because your rates are the ‘best’ ” . And those are the folks who think nothing of canceling , with an hours notice, two weeks of work because ” ohhhh , how fortunate that our 10 year old neighbor can walk sparky and larkey all week for only $5 a walk, sorry, see you in 2 ? “

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