Using Google’s Keyword Planner to Better Understand SEO

We’re excited to announce the first in our new series of brief video tips for architects and engineers. We’re looking forward to posting a number of short, helpful videos highlighting online tools and tricks that can help firms improve their marketing, online presence and SEO.

Today’s video is focused on understanding a little more about what it means to optimize your site for searches based on looking at the what people are actually searching for! We are taking a look at Google’s Keyword Planner tool and highlighting how simple word choice changes make big impacts on search results and your architecture firm’s SEO strategy! Have questions? Leave them in the comments and we’ll address them or post more videos!

Five Architecture Marketing Trends that Won’t Change in 2015

It’s a new year and that means it’s time for content creators all across the world wide web to forecast what the new trends and expectations will be for the architecture and design world! If you haven’t seen all of the posts, here’s one, here’s another on construction growth, here’s a color forecast, and well…here’s one about chunky knitting in interiors.

What does that mean for us? Will it be more of the same in 2015 or a brave new world? We decided to create a post about trends in architecture marketing also – but not in a “we’re predicting the future” kind of way. So, here are:

Five Architecture Marketing Trends that Won’t Change in 2015

  1. Your Marketing Will Require Time from Senior/Billable People
    Marketing for your firm can’t sit on cruise control and it can’t rest solely on the shoulders of ‘others’. Regardless of the size of your firm, effective marketing for architecture and engineering firms requires the involvement of senior team members with technical or design background. This is because marketing in 2015, just like in 2014, is not about a catchy headline and pretty picture, nor does it rely on proposals – it must come from authentic knowledge and expertise that is then packaged, presented and disseminated to a particular client-type.
  2. Chasing Funding Will Leave You Out of Breath
    This is a tough point to argue for many senior professionals. However, if the last few years of industry activity have told us (and our clients) anything, it has been that building a focused marketing platform on the basis of your expertise, your passion and your strategic goals is much more successful than chasing market trends and budget projections. The same will be true moving forward. This is not to say you should ignore market forecasts, but chasing a big budget all the way to a client that you’ve never talked to before is rarely effective.
  3. Data Is STILL Important
    Marketing decisions can no longer be made based on what used to happen or what we THINK used to happen. Perhaps one of the best things about marketing in 2014 was that the data got even better! SEO is more accurate and authentic than ever before. Increased online efforts mean increased metrics of everything. Advertising can be purchased for $20 and we can be sure that it’s seen by 1,000 people before we spend the next $20. Views, visits, followers, downloads, leads…pretty much everything we do can be tracked as we kick off 2015. The challenge moving forward for architecture and engineering firms is to continue to refine the data and make the connections between data sets more sophisticated.
  4. So Is Your Website
    We can’t talk about marketing, we can’t talk about data, we can’t talk about getting press, we can’t talk about referrals…without talking about your website. In 2014 we finally started to see a drop-off in firms and new clients saying, “We’re embarrassed by our website. It’s something we put together ten years ago just as a placeholder and it’s been limping along ever since.” The same will be true this year. Your website is crucial and DOES in fact lead to new business, help close the deal with referrals and much, much more. 2015 will continue to be more of the same – clients will use the web to inform their buying decisions.
  5. Competition Will Continue to Increase
    …but not really. Firms are trending smaller and a large number of professionals started their own firms/design businesses over the last five to ten years (for a variety of reasons – layoffs, lack of career advancement, design control). This trend will stick around in 2015. However, there are a few factors that make the increased number of firms irrelevant when it comes to your firm winning work. First, the more focused you are on the appropriate target market, the more clear the buying decision will be for your clients. Your messaging, your marketing, your portfolio and your SEO will all eliminate a majority of the clutter from being seen as legitimate competition if they’re all done in concert. Additionally, what we’ve seen in many of the new firms is a break from the traditional “architecture-only” service model. A lot of new architecture firms aren’t necessarily practicing architecture at all, but are looking to apply their expertise as consultants, property investors, industrial designers, etc. This means the concept of who is and is not a competitor has been completely reframed within the industry.

So what will it be for your firm in 2015? How will your marketing improve given the ever-changing landscape of the rest of the industry?

5 Questions to Whittle Down Your Portfolio

One of the biggest struggles that firms seem to have with their website is where to draw the line with the portfolio – specifically, determining how many projects should be included. Designing and building a website should result in a site that can “scale up” easily, allowing firms to add projects as time goes on. That doesn’t always make it easy to decide what gets included at launch, and it also leaves very loose expectations on when/if things should get REMOVED from the site (yes, I said it – you should actually be deleting your older work).

Here are some quick thoughts to help you determine what gets cut.

  1. Was the work done for this firm? If it wasn’t, cut it. The only time it really makes sense to include projects from a prior firm is when you’re first starting out. Otherwise it is too easy to come across as a firm that’s trying to bulk up your portfolio artificially.
  2. Are you creating an “other” category? (Hint: Don’t!) If you have a beautifully organized portfolio of work, divided by your major target industries, and then find yourself adding an “other” tab, you’re doing your work a disservice and diluting your marketing message. How would a potential client feel if they found themselves to be called “other”? Who searches for “other”? Who knows what to expect when navigating to “other”?
  3. Would you want another project just like it? Part of what you’re saying with your portfolio is “I’m/we’re proud to have been involved with this project and I’d/we’d love to do it again.” Be honest with yourself and your potential clients; do you actually want to do another similar project?
  4. If a potential client only saw 4 pages on your website, would it be ok if this was one of them? If you look at your website’s analytics, you’ll probably notice that you average between 2 and 4 pages per session. Ask yourself “Is this project representative enough of the firm that I would spend half of my first impression on it?”
  5. Has this client heard from our firm in a while? Remember how dynamic the web is and how well-connected people are these days. If you show client work and a web user happens to know that client, you can bet they will reach out if they are a serious lead. If you aren’t sure what the client will say, it’s best not to open that door.

Our policy when advising clients is ALWAYS quality over quantity. It’s better to have a streamlined, more valuable portfolio than a huge directory of scattered work!

Three Tips for Mobile Architecture Firm Websites

How Important Is Your Architecture Firm’s Mobile Website Presence?

Responsive design. Boom. It’s the biggie these days and boy is everybody asking for it. It feels like it’s becoming the new “we have to get on social media because everybody else is” in many ways.

Truthfully, responsive design is important, just as social media is. The basic concept behind it is that you want your website to deliver information in a way that makes the most sense for usability based on the device it’s being displayed on. But the focus on responsive design also puts a heavy emphasis on the types of content being consumed – it’s important to know what content and how much content people are viewing when they come to your site on their phone.

Often the highest priority for an AEC website is photography – the portfolio! The work should shine. Add on a layer of focus on strategic marketing goals like SEO around certain target markets, inbound marketing, etc. and you’re putting together a good list of priorities for a website. But, pump the breaks – I need my entire website to be responsive! What is responsive when it comes to your portfolio? How much time, effort and money should be invested in reorganizing your entire website for mobile users?

I decided to take a look at the Google Analytics for every client website that we have access to and see what kind of data we could pull when it comes to mobile use. The aggregated results look like this:

  • Average % of mobile visits – 13.64%
  • Average pages per visit – 1.87
  • Highest number of pages per visit for any site on a mobile – 3

So, when we look at how much content the average person is consuming via mobile device in our industry – the answer is less than 2 pages! This doesn’t tell us that responsive design isn’t important. In fact, it tells us the opposite. It tells us that if you want to maximize the usability of your website to clients and potential clients visiting via mobile – you would DRASTICALLY simplify what you’re delivering.

Here are three tips I would pull from this data to improve your AEC firm’s mobile-friendly aspects.

  • Make contact info available on the homepage, immediately. Also, ensure your contact info is text-based, not an image. Mobile users only viewing less than two pages are probably trying call you or find you. Make it easy for their built-in phone and tablet functionalities.
  • If you have a blog, and want people to read it – make sure it’s styled well for mobile. If you are very active on social media, a high percentage of your mobile traffic is probably driven from there. If you want people to keep coming back to your blog (or stick around on it), make sure the content is easy to digest.
  • Responsive Web Design is just one piece of the puzzle. Don’t be afraid to consider that the majority of your website may just not be relevant to mobile users at all. Monitor Google Analytics, see what you can find out about your mobile users and don’t be afraid to design a mobile experience that is focused on their content needs instead of your design skills.