Is Your Website Helping or Hurting Your Firm?

By: Nick Cafferky

In today’s world, having an internet presence is an absolute necessity. But just HAVING a site is no longer the bare minimum; having a GOOD one is. Here are a few things to look at when evaluating your  website.

Overall attractive layout

Your website is the store front of this century; how it looks impacts what people think of you and whether they want to do business with you. Just how important are aesthetics? An Adobe study found that 38 percent of people will leave a company’s website if they think the website’s layout is unattractive. And having people leave your site before they even learn about you is the last thing you want. Speaking of which…

“About Us” page

Once on your page, over half of all visitors will want to go to some sort of “About Us” page. Things like your firm history and personal bios are a great way to help your visitor learn about you and feel more connected. Contact information should also be readily available, as well (either on this page or a separate one). Email addresses, phone number, social media accounts — providing as much information as you can is a great way to distinguish yourself from other websites. In fact, over half of the respondents in a KoMarketing study said that “thorough contact information” is the most important thing missing from many websites.

How does it look on mobile devices?

The average adult spends 5.6 hours on the Internet, but over half (3.1 hours) of it is on a mobile device of some kind. So to them, it doesn’t matter how gorgeous your site may look on a desktop if it looks like trash on a mobile device. If you have fancy bells and whistles on your site, make sure they don’t show up as broken links and poorly scaled images on a phone or tablet. Beyond how it looks, it’s important to also remember that sites are now becoming penalized by major search engines for not being mobile responsive. If your firm’s web strategy didn’t include mobile before, it should now!

How easy is it to navigate?

If you have a logo at the top of your page, does that double as a “home” button? If not, then it should. How about your tabs/dropdown menus? How easy are those to use? Internet users are incredibly fickle, and if your site is hard to navigate, people will leave. Remember, just because something seems easy to find to you, that doesn’t mean it is for everyone else. After all, you did make the site. Try asking a friend or close client to find information on your site and see if they find it just as easily.

How Is Your Firm Impacted – Mobile and Tablet Usage Surpassed Desktop Usage in October 2016

Did the sky just fall on your old, non-responsive website?

Making the rounds this past week was the announcement from StatCounter Global Stats that for the first time, mobile and tablet usage combined to exceed website usage on desktops/laptops. That is “kind of a big deal.” DEFINITELY. But, before you start scrambling and thinking that your website is trash and needs to be completely redesigned to only be optimal for pocket-sized viewing, here are five things to remember.

  1. This data takes into account broad website usage all across the web, all across the globe. As their data shows, usage in the USA is very different from usage in India. The most important factor in website design is knowing your user/target audience.
  2. Remember the type of information your website is traveled for. The vast majority of architecture firm websites see about 3 pages visited per user, unless they are heavy content producers with active blogs. What are your top pieces of content, and why? Are they pieces of content easily digestible on a small screen? If not, you may not only want to focus on responsive design, but also examine your content practices.
  3. Social media is a large traffic driver and makes up for a significant portion of mobile traffic.In fact, for 90% of our clients, social media is their top referral traffic source. In addition to brushing up your website, be sure your social media accounts are active and focused on driving people to your best content.
  4. View this data through the lens of our industry. It is true that mobile is increasingly important, but are people spending twenty minutes at a time viewing your architecture firm’s portfolio on their iphone? Likely not. If you are prioritizing your mobile and tablet layout, take into account the likely reason that someone would visit your site on their phone. Need some reinforcement for your assumptions? Check your Google Analytics for top pages with an added filter to see which ones are the top mobile performers.
  5. Give a high priority to a well-organized homepage. There is a lot to be said for a beautiful first impression, but remember that your homepage needs to be more than a pretty splash page for a number of reasons – SEO and user experience being two of them. Bring at least a little bit of content on to your homepage that may be useful to a mobile user like contact info or the latest blog posts so they won’t have to sift through expandable menus so much.

 

Top Five Myths about SEO in the A/E Industry

Long ago, SEO had a mystique. It was new and technical and allowed anybody to take the lead in search results. It sometimes even led to deceptive practices like hidden keywords in the background or in the footer of your web pages. My how times have changed though, and having an optimized website isn’t about chunking a bunch of metadata into your source code any longer. Search engines are smarter and our understanding of SEO has evolved, especially for service firms like those of us in the A/E industry. In order to help clear up some confusion, we pulled together a Top Five Myths about SEO in the A/E Industry for you!

Myth 1 – SEO can be done in a bubble

It can’t, not well anyway. Search Engine Optimization has ties to almost every major question at the foundation of your business and marketing plan when it’s done properly. In order for it to be successful for any sustainable amount of time, there has to be a strategy behind it and that strategy has to rely on other marketing efforts, social media and valuable content. That’s why when firms ask us if we do SEO, our answer is typically a bit complicated.

Myth 2 – SEO requires no effort from staff

This is a great follow up to the point above. Often firms hire an SEO company thinking, “All I want is to be at the top when somebody Googles best architecture firm. Done, send me the bill.” Firm leadership later gets frustrated to find out it isn’t that simple and realistically, that’s not even what they need. At a minimum, significant time should be invested up front to determine what terms are even relevant for the firm. Beyond that, however, the to-do list for firm principals, subject matter experts and marketing staff could continue to grow because if you multiply any number by zero, you still get zero. You can’t optimize what doesn’t exist, so firms with small websites and very little content will always struggle to outperform others who invest time in writing.

Myth 3 – SEO is a silver bullet

Many firms contact us with the hopes that if they achieve the Holy Grail of SEO status – First organic result on Google – that their work is done and the leads will just roll in. Unfortunately, neither of those is true. The work is not done, because rankings change every day. Leads also don’t just roll in because of your Google ranking; potential clients have to find what they’re looking for after they click through to take the next step.

Myth 4 – SEO winning = First place

Who doesn’t want to be number one? But we’re not talking about “also ran” or participation trophies. Increased traffic, improved awareness and eventual conversions are the ACTUAL goals behind any SEO effort. Seeing your A/E firm show up in the number one spot may feel great, but looking at analytics and monitoring your traffic are the only way to know if your efforts are successful. And then what? Increased traffic doesn’t equal a new contract for your firm unless you convert – which isn’t about SEO, it’s about marketing and BD.

Myth 5 – SEO firms are a rip-off

I’ve honestly lost count of how many clients and potential clients have called us to say they paid an SEO firm for nothing, zero results. This post may sound a little anti-SEO, but that’s not at all the intention. The point is, you wouldn’t take your car to the shop to get the brakes fixed then be upset with the mechanic for not putting gas in your car every week or two afterwards. Search Engine Optimization is a task you can take care of on your own or pay for (one-time fee or ongoing retainer), but it should only be one portion of your architecture firm’s marketing strategy and without putting a little gas in the tank yourself, your car is only going to get so far.

The Two Times Marketing Should Be a Priority for Your Firm

Throughout the years, I’ve had countless conversations with A/E firms about the right times to market. I don’t mean on the micro level like, “What time of day is the best time to tweet?” I mean on the macro level like, “We are a little slow right now so we figured we should market our firm a bit.”

So, I thought a brief post about the best times to market would be helpful. Below are the two absolute best times to market your architecture, engineering or construction firm.

  1. When you’re busy.
  2. When you’re not busy.

Yep, pretty much always. Marketing should be a priority year-round for your firm. Your campaign direction may change, your media may change, but a focus on marketing isn’t something that should come and go when you get the free time. Marketing is a long-term business process that builds a foundation of awareness for your firm, your team, your expertise…it isn’t just a one-time lead generation exercise when work is slow. (Lead generation is a part of marketing, but it’s more like the end result of successfully doing a number of marketing and communications activities.)

Do you pay employees every once in a while, when you have the free time? Or do you process payroll regularly as a part of managing your firm?

Marketing is just as necessary as paying bills to run a successful firm, but may not happen if you don’t get it on the schedule and build your expectations around the time that has to be dedicated to it – time from yourself, your billable employees, or even your marketing team that may spend the bulk of their time responding to RFPs.