SEO for AEC Firms

SEO for AEC Firms

When we devel­op web­sites for AEC firms, the top­ic of Search Engine Opti­miza­tion (SEO) usu­al­ly comes up in the project kick­off meet­ing. Our client, the Direc­tor of Mar­ket­ing or CMO, needs to respond to the CEO, who has asked, “Can we get to the top of page one of Google search results with this new web­site?” Prob­a­bly Not. For most gen­er­al­ist AEC firms, spend­ing a lot of time and dol­lars on SEO doesn’t make sense.

Your clients don’t search for: “archi­tec­ture firm,” view the search results, go to a web­site, select your ser­vices in a shop­ping cart, and then click “buy” at check out. But if your firm has spe­cial­ized exper­tise and a con­tent mar­ket­ing pro­gram (it should), then SEO makes sense. This post shares how adding valu­able, unique con­tent, and then opti­miz­ing your pages, can help you attract searchers that arrive at your site already hun­gry your firm’s exper­tise.

SEO only works for Pro­fes­sion­al Ser­vice firms when com­bined with a nar­row focus and reg­u­lar­ly adding expert con­tent that is help­ful to your tar­get audi­ence. A mod­ern web­site requires a com­mit­ment to spe­cial­iza­tion and a com­mit­ment to writ­ing.” – Mark O’Brien, CEO of New­fan­gled and author of A Web­site That Works.

Note: I use Google in this post as the defac­to search engine because they cur­rent­ly have an 84% mar­ket share. While Bing is gain­ing momen­tum, if you adhere with Google SEO prac­tices, you will be well posi­tioned with Bing and oth­ers.

What To Do

  • Add unique, valu­able con­tent informed by your exper­tise to your web­site blog
  • Opti­mize each page of your web­site
  • Google index­es this con­tent, and brings inter­est­ed searchers to your site
  • Searchers arrive impressed with your help­ful exper­tise
  • They sign-up for your newslet­ter or RSS feed, and tell their col­leagues about your site
  • Col­leagues start link­ing to spe­cif­ic pages in your site
  • Google index­es more fre­quent­ly, and increas­es your rank­ings

What to Avoid

  • Hir­ing an expen­sive “SEO Expert” promis­ing to put your firm at the top of page 1.
  • Try­ing to out­smart Google. You will not.
  • Try­ing short term tricks that could get you “black­list­ed” from Google.
  • Devel­op­ing a “mag­ic key­word list” assum­ing it will auto­mat­i­cal­ly dri­ve your list­ing to page 1.

How To Opti­mize Your Pages
Here are the six items you should pay atten­tion to when opti­miz­ing your web pages.

1. URL — Uni­form Resource Locoa­tor or Page Link


Appears: Title Bar (see red arrow above)
Length & For­mat: As short as pos­si­ble to describe page
Con­cept: friend­ly, eng­lish (not code), con­cise, key­word-rich
Best Prac­tices: Have devel­op­er give you abil­i­ty to cus­tomize URLs through your CMS
Avoid: Code URLs like this:


2. Page Title


Appears: Brows­er Bar & link text in Google results (see red arrow above)
Length & For­mat: Up to 70 char­ac­ters
Con­cept: Key­word or Phrase, Key­word or Phrase, Key­word or Phrase
Exam­ple: Grate­ful for Great Clients
Best Prac­tices: Accu­rate­ly describe page con­tent, unique for each page, More impor­tant key­words towards front, think like a searcher
Avoid: A sin­gle tag across all your pages, long con­fus­ing titles


3. Meta Descrip­tion


Appears: black text in Google results (see red arrow above)
Length & For­mat: Up to 155 char­ac­ters
Con­cept: Com­pelling ad copy that inspires user to click
Exam­ple: Home: Lecours­De­sign is a brand strat­e­gy firm serv­ing the AEC Indus­try. We help clients tell their sto­ry to win new busi­ness.
Best Prac­tices: Accu­rate­ly sum­ma­rize page con­tent
Avoid: only key­words, gener­ic descrip­tions, quotes


4. H1 Tags


Appears: Head­line title on each page (see red arrow above)
Length & For­mat: No more than 1 line, could be 1 word
Con­cept: Com­pelling head­line that ide­al­ly con­tains pri­ma­ry key­word for that page
Exam­ple: Con­tact
Best Prac­tices: Every page needs a unique H1 tag
Avoid: mak­ing H1 tags exact copies of page titles


5. Key­words

Appears: n/a
Length & For­mat: 5–6 words or phras­es com­ma sep­a­rat­ed -or- 1 pri­ma­ry key­word (there are dif­fer­ing beliefs on this)
Con­cept: pri­ma­ry key­word, sec­ondary key­word, etc. if using mul­ti­ple key­words
Lecours­De­sign Exam­ple: Brand Strat­e­gy, Brand­ing, Logo, Web Design, AEC Mar­ket­ing
Best Prac­tices: Think like a searcher. What words would they use to find you. Unsure about which words to use? Use For exam­ple, I was unsure about which key­word is searched for more fre­quent­ly: brand or brand­ing. Below are the results:

Google Trends


6. Body Copy
Write com­pelling con­tent that is help­ful to your audi­ence. Speak direct­ly to your read­er by iden­ti­fy­ing their pain points and offer­ing solu­tions. This post is an exam­ple. I heard from sev­er­al clients that they were con­fused about SEO so I wrote this post to help them. Use key­words in your body copy but only when they make sense. In oth­er words, don’t key­word stuff at the expense of good writ­ing. You want incom­ing links and nobody will link to your copy if it isn’t read­able. In short, if your con­tent isn’t good enough to attract nat­ur­al links, it doesn’t mat­ter how “opti­mized” that con­tent is. Final­ly, make sure con­tent is index­able, not PDFs, movies, image files, etc. A quick way to test is to place your cur­sor over the text and try to select it. If suc­cess­ful, then it’s index­able.

The Oppor­tu­ni­ty
The main oppor­tu­ni­ty with search is attract­ing poten­tial clients that val­ue your exper­tise, are unaware of you or your cur­rent ser­vices, or are con­sid­er­ing hir­ing some­one else. It’s unlike­ly that you’ll con­vert them on the spot to become a client. But, a rela­tion­ship with this poten­tial client must start some­where. Con­tent Mar­ket­ing + SEO can be the first step in mov­ing this searcher from prospect to client by get­ting to know you, to like you, to trust you, and even­tu­al­ly hire you.

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A Web­site That Works by Mark O’Brien
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