Are Pay Per Lead Services for Plumbers Worth?

All sales begin with leads, and plumbers are always on the lookout for ways to add to the pipeline of leads that turn into sales. One of those ways can be through a number of different pay per lead services for plumbers, like:

  • HomeAdvisor
  • Thumbtack
  • Angie’s List
  • Porch

While these services can sometimes offer some short term help, they ultimately aren’t a key part of the quality lead generation machine of a plumbing business.

In this blog, we take a close look at pay per lead services and what dive into the pros and cons of each.

Have questions at the end? Blue Corona specializes in plumber marketing. So give us a call or contact us online to learn more about how we can help you increase leads and sales while reducing your marketing costs.

What Are Pay Per Lead Services?

A pay per lead service is pretty close to what it sounds like. There are millions of directories and sites on the internet that target specific industries or specific geographic areas. These directories aren’t just there to provide a public service, they are ways of collecting data that can be sold to an audience. If you want access to these audiences, you are going to have to pay to be listed in those directories, which can then be one way to generate leads.

There are also companies that specialize in pay per lead services. Instead of charging you for a listing, as some of the big directories do, they will give you a free listing with a tracked phone number and web form in order to figure out how many leads they sent your way. You are then charged per lead.

The Most Common Pay Per Lead Services for Plumbers

This is a big industry with lots of competition, so we’ve decided to focus on the four biggest pay per lead services plumbers use.


homeadvisor for plumbing companies

HomeAdvisor is the 800-pound gorilla in the home improvement directory space. The service is free for homeowners, but plumbers who want to be listed have to pay an annual fee to advertise and pay for every lead generated by HomeAdvisor.


  • Homeowners can instantly book an appointment with local plumbers directly on the site without having to call around.
  • Users also know plumbers advertising on HomeAdvisor have cleared criminal background checks and credit checks.


  • Consumers on HomeAdvisor complain that they get bombarded with too many calls upon signing up.
  • Consumers are sometimes matched with contractors that aren’t local or service their neighborhood.
  • Plumbers have to pay for a lead distributed to them from HomeAdvisor, even if it doesn’t turn into a paying job.


thumbtack pay per lead services for plumbers

Thumbtack takes the opposite approach from HomeAdvisor in that instead of homeowners doing the searching, they simply post a project and plumbers can then examine those projects and contact the homeowners if they’re interested.


  • It’s free for homeowners.


  • Plumbing companies are charged for every lead they talk to, regardless if it turns out to be a qualified customer. For plumbers, this is a downgrade on pay per lead services, as it essentially means “pay per communication.”
  • No background or credit checks.

Angie’s List

angie's list for plumbers

In May 2017 it was announced that Angie’s List had been acquired by its largest competitor at the time, HomeAdvisor. “If you can’t beat ‘em, buy ‘em.” You could describe Angie’s List pay per lead service as “free to join, but pay to play.” If you do decide to go the paid route, you’ll pay the same fee each month whether you get 100 leads or 0.


  • Background checks are performed on the plumbers who are listed.


  • Leads are sent to multiple plumbers at once, so you aren’t guaranteed that the lead you are sent is definitely “yours” to win
  • Angie’s List shares leads with its parent company, HomeAdvisor, so if you are subscribed to both companies you may end up paying for the same lead twice.


porch pay per lead services for plumbers

Porch, like Thumbtack, puts the power of contacting primarily in the hands of contractors. Plumbers can see the leads before they choose to contact the lead, for which they will then be charged. Porch also touts its relationships with Lowe’s and BBB.


  • A plumber can pay to be cross-listed at a local Lowe’s store in addition to their online listing on Porch.


  • Leads are sent to four different plumbers, so it’s a race to connect with customers from the start.
  • The likelihood of price shoppers. Pay per lead platforms like Porch tend to attract (and encourage) the types of customers who are only looking for the absolute cheapest price, regardless of job quality. If those are the sorts of customers you want, this is a pro, but if not, it’s a major con.
  • They offer a “Porch Guarantee” which requires a strong online presence which can be challenging for plumbers who used to getting many leads offline.

Why Pay Per Lead Services Suck

After seeing some of the pros and cons for each of the big plumber pay per lead services, there are four main reasons to avoid them altogether:

  1. Race to the bottom: Very often this is a pricing game and the lowest bid wins. Instead of being able to talk about your commitment to quality or customer service, you’re trying to win on one metric alone: Price.
  2. Race to the phone: As mentioned, more than one of these services just throws a lead out to multiple plumbers like chum to sharks. Very often the first plumbing company to contact the lead closes it, and not everyone has the resources to man their phones around the clock.
  3. No real tracking: These directories aren’t really working for you, you are working for them, hence they are not invested in giving you smart and powerful tools to track where leads come from and where they go. You’re also not given too much room to share what’s unique about your company. You’re forced into cookie-cutter ads.
  4. Pay per “lead” regardless: As noted above, these platforms don’t really care whether the “lead” they furnish to you ends up being one you close (multiple plumbers receive the same lead at the same time) or one that’s genuine (no guard against those just “window shopping”).

Replace Pay Per Lead with Plumber Digital Marketing

Everything we’ve been discussing so far revolves around what happens when other people control the audience and your marketing assets.

This puts you into a position of renting your advertising instead of owning it. When it comes to lead generation for plumbers, owning is always better than renting. Here’s why:

  • Qualify leads: Instead of dealing with anyone who is willing to give out their contact information, you are able to educate them, using assets like:
  • Customize: You aren’t forced into someone else’s box so that you look just like every other plumbing company, just with a different name and contact information. You decide what your messaging needs to look like and can change it whenever you want to or the situation dictates. You also can decide how much you want to spend on advertising instead of being held hostage to whatever you are given.
  • Target: Plumbing pay per lead platforms were built for scale and as such, they are not as concerned with the particulars of your local marketplace. When you are working with your own lead generation assets that you’ve developed through plumber digital marketing, you can get as surgical as you want, targeting specific neighborhoods or zip codes, particular demographics, etc.

Here are replacements you can use today that are going to increase leads and sales more efficiently than plumber pay per lead services:

  1. Pay per click (PPC): These are extremely cost-effective and allow you to target people who are searching for plumbing services right now. With PPC marketing for plumbers, you can budget how much you want to spend each month, instantly be found at the top of Google search results, and drive more traffic to your website.
  2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) The clicks from pay per click will convert better if your plumber SEO services are on point. Part of this is related to blogs as we mentioned above, but even more important than that is making sure you have a clean and clear website that does your brand proud.
  3. Local Services ads. Google’s Local Services program makes traditional pay per lead programs look like they are from the Stone Age. One distinguishing feature of Local Services ads for plumbers: Google will refund you for money spent on inquiries from unqualified leads.

Start Owning, Instead of Renting, Your Leads

As we said at the beginning, leads are what sales are made of. But if your leads aren’t good, the sales won’t happen.

If you aren’t excited about the pay per lead universe and want to develop a top notch plumber marketing plan to help you increase leads and sales, contact us online today!

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