SEO for Architects: [How to Rank Your Website & Get Traffic]
Hi there, my name is Nathan and I’m the Project Director for Bizop Media, a digital marketing agency for the AEC + Design industry. Today I’m going to be teaching you about SEO for Architects and how to increase the organic search traffic to your firm’s website. In this article you’ll learn what SEO is, why it gets you more clients, and how to implement the best SEO practices within the AEC industry. Without further delay, let’s find out exactly…
What is SEO & why do I need it?
Search Engine Optimization is the practice of optimizing a web page to increase the quality & quantity of traffic generated from organic search. This includes traffic from search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo. The quality of traffic refers to how relevant the user’s search request is to the website’s content. The quantity is the actual volume of traffic the website receives from the search engines. In essence, we use SEO to get more (and better) traffic to our websites. In these next sections you’ll learn about several of the different SEO ranking factors and how to optimize them to get more high quality traffic.
SEO Strategy & Planning:
The first step in optimizing for search is determining what keyword(s) we want our website to rank for. For example, let’s say you own a Architecture company who exclusively designs restaurants, and you only work within the greater NYC area. Your desired main keyword may be “restaurant architects New York City” or “restaurant designers NYC” because they align specifically with your business offerings. Picking your keywords seems fairly straightforward, but you still need to know which keywords are valuable and deliver high traffic, right?
To find these high value keywords you can use a keyword research tool such as Google’s Keyword Planner or Neil Patel’s Keyword Tool. These tools help you find the traffic amount each keyword receives a month, as well as some great suggestions for similar keywords.
* Keyword Research Tip *
Find keywords that align with your specific services offered and markets served. Generally more specific keywords have the best conversion rates, but are not searched as much as broad keywords. I recommend getting a list of both broad, high volume keyword as well as narrow, specific keywords – you will use both.
Once you enter your target keyword into the keyword tool, notice the “competition” number that each keyword has. This number gauges how difficult it will be to rank for that keyword, on a scale between 0 – 1. The more competitive the keyword, the higher the score. If your desired keyword has high competition, that often means it’s a higher ROI term, which comes at a higher cost per click (CPC) when using paid ads.
After you’ve got a list of keywords that sound promising, it’s time to lay out all of the keywords you’d like to rank for and assign them to current pages or scheduled pages to be created. Most pages are optimized to have one primary keyword (Unless it’s a large cornerstone article – more on that below), so in order to rank for multiple keywords you’ll need more pages. Each keyword you find can be the topic for a new page or blog post. For example, maybe you want your home page to target the keyword “restaurant architect New York”, but you would also like to rank for “restaurant architect Buffalo” too. This is where you could create another landing page specifically to target “restaurant architect Buffalo” and give readers info about your restaurant architecture efforts in Buffalo.
Information Architecture & Linking Strategy
Once you’ve got a list of pages/posts for each keyword you are targeting, you can organize those pages in a logical way within your site to help boost your SEO even more. To do this we help search engines define the most important pages on your website by using an internal “linking structure”.
See the image below to get an idea of how this internal linking works.
When page B links to page A, it is passing “pagerank” to page A, which boosts A’s value to the search engines.
You can see that the subpages (B) are linking to the parent pages (A) above them. The strategy here is to use many smaller blog posts to pass pagerank to your main pages or posts. The more relevant the subpage is to the parent page and the higher the traffic the subpages get, the more pagerank gets passed to the parent page. These parent pages or posts in this type of structure are known as a…
Cornerstone Articles (aka Pillar pages)
A cornerstone article or pillar page is aptly named because they make up the “cornerstones” of your website. These cornerstone pages are the “A” page (in the example above) that your smaller “B” posts are linking up to. Cornerstone pages or posts are generally 3x the length of the subpages and target higher traffic and broader keywords. To solidify the example, you may have the three pages “restaurant architect Buffalo”, “restaurant architect New York City”, and “restaurant architect Albany” that all link upwards to a larger cornerstone page named “restaurant architect New York”. These 3 subpages would all pass pagerank to the cornerstone page, boosting its rank in the search engines.
* Cornerstone Article Tip *
A well structured website should have 4 or more cornerstone articles that are very relevant to the business’s service offerings and/or target market. Cornerstone articles should target broader, larger volume keywords and have at least 4 relevant subposts that link up to them.
For more great info on content & linking strategy, check out the Wiki Strategy.
For more info on cornerstone articles, check out Yoast’s take on cornerstones.
What is On-Page SEO?
Now that we have our keywords chosen, content strategy outlined, and linking strategy in place, the next step is to actually build out the pages that we’re trying to get ranked. The On-Page SEO points in this section refer to the optimizations that occur “on-page” when writing and publishing your page/post. These On-Page optimizations include factors that tell Google and other search engines what subject our page is about.
Located in the URL, the “slug” is the web address that directs someone to the specific page on your website. Ideally, your slug should contain the target keyword and be less than 80 characters long. For example, the slug of this page is: “/seo-for-architects-rank-your-website-get-traffic/”.
The title of your page is the heading text that your user sees on the search results, it’s also displayed in the tab of your web browser. For example the title of this page is “SEO for Architects: How to Rank Your Website & Get Traffic”. Ideally, your title should contain the target keyword and be between 50 – 60 characters in length. Most search engines only display 60 characters give or take.
The meta description is the paragraph text that your user sees on the search results. Ideally, your description should contain the target keyword and be between 150 – 170 characters in length.
Heading Tags are the pages H1,H2,H3,H4,H5, & H6’s that tell search engines (and readers) about the hierarchy of your webpage content. For example, the H1 of this page is “SEO for Architects: How to Rank Your Website & Get Traffic” since that is the main topic of what this page is about. An example of an H2 would be the subheading “On-Page SEO”, and an H3 would be “Heading Tags”. This is very similar to how you would structure a research paper or other professional publications. We use this structure to define written points in a logical hierarchy.
The H1 and at least one subheading tag on the page should include the target keyword. A max of 30 heading tags should be used on any one page. Length isn’t a big issue for headings, use what makes sense within the context of your content.
The body text is the main paragraph text that makes up the majority of your page/post. This body text should include the target keyword between 1% – 2% of the total page copy. For example, if the page is 300 words long, the exact keyword should appear between 3 – 6 times throughout the body text.
Subpages and small posts should be no shorter than 300 words, cornerstone pages or articles should be no less than 900 words.
At least one of the images on the page should have an alt attribute that contains the target keyword. These alt attributes are displayed by screen readers and also when the image cannot be displayed. They are also used by search engines to find out what the images on a page are about. Here you want to make sure the alt attribute describes the image appropriately. For example if you have an image that shows a restaurant you designed in Manhattan named Atomix , the alt attribute could be “Atomix Restaurant Design Manhattan”.
Mentioned in the Internal Linking Strategy above, an inbound link is just a hyperlink that directs the user to another page within the same website. Each page or post should contain at least one inbound link within the body text. See your linking structure above to determine what pages may be helpful to link to. For example this page has an inbound link to “Keywords for Architects” a few sections above. That link allows the reader to learn more about the architecture keywords subject in greater detail, and also passes pagerank to that page, thus boosting its SEO.
An outbound link is any link that directs the user to another page on a different website. Your page or post should contain at least one outbound link. The reason for outbound links is to “connect” your page to other sites within a relevant network. For example this page has an outbound link that goes to “Neil Patel’s Keyword Planner”. That link can not only pass pagerank to his page, but also tells Google and other search engines that my content is related in topic to his content.
This would be a great time to shoot Neil an email saying “Hey Neil, I wrote an article about SEO for Architects and linked to your keyword planner tool to help my clients find good keywords. I’d love if you checked the article out, and feel free to share it along to anyone you know in the Architecture industry.” This is a great way to build a link network with other relevant sites and dramatically boost your SEO, which leads us precisely to the next topic…
What is Off-Page SEO?
Now that we have our pages built and ready to go, the next step is to get that content viewed & shared by our target readers. Unlike On-Page SEO, which tells search engines what our page is about, “Off-Page” SEO helps tells search engines how valuable our page is. To help search engines see our page as high value, we use the different methods outlined below to get our page shared and distributed around the internet. These specific factors are generally optimized separately from the page/post itself – hence why it’s called “off-page”.
Backlinks are outbound links from other sites that link back to your page; they pass pagerank to your page and greatly boost SEO. If a friend links to your page from his blog, that’s a backlink. If someone shares your page on social media, that’s a backlink too. The key to backlinks is to get highly relevant, high quality links from reputable sites. For example, if you own an architecture firm who specializes in restaurant design in NYC, a backlink from a reputable restaurant industry blog in NYC may be a great backlink to have.
Here are some different examples of backlinks and their respective impact on SEO:
- Blog – someone linked to your page from their high-traffic, relevant industry blog post (Higher SEO impact)
- Social Media – your page link is shared on an industry relevant social media group (Higher SEO impact)
- Social Media – someone shares your page link on their low traffic, personal social media page (Lower SEO impact)
- Business Directory in Relevant Industry – your site is linked to from a relevant industry directory (Higher SEO impact)
- Business Directory in Non-relevant Industry – your site linked to from a directory not specific to your target industry (Lower SEO impact)
Can I buy backlinks? You shouldn’t. Google penalizes sites that use junk backlinks and often de-ranks sites suspected of engaging in suspicious linking activities.
This one is pretty simple: The more traffic your page gets, the more valuable search engines perceive that page. This is the “rich get richer” of SEO; pages that already get high traffic, do better in search engines than pages that don’t. For example, when a blog post goes “viral”, it’s because the high amount of organic traffic relative to the short time-frame pushes that page up the search (and social media) algorithms faster than less popular content. Paid traffic in the form of search ads or social media ads is a great way to drive initial traffic to fresh content. If you have the ad budget, and you don’t want to wait for the traffic to come organically, you can use paid ads to help give content the short term boost they need before the organic traffic kicks in.
Google My Business
Google My Business is a free and easy-to-use tool for managing your company’s online presence across Google, including Search and Maps. By verifying and editing your business information, Google My Business helps customers find you and optimizes your listing across all of Google’s multiple search networks.
Conclusion to SEO for Architects:
I’m aware that the topic of SEO is more dense than others, so if you have any questions at all don’t hesitate to reach out – we’ll be glad to help. Also if you have any more SEO topics you would like to see covered in more detail, feel free to comment below and I’ll do my best to add it to the discussion.
That’s all for now! I hope this article gave you actionable perspective on how to approach your SEO efforts as an Architect or architecture firm. If you have any questions about SEO, or would like to chat with me about professional SEO services for your firm, feel free to get in touch.
Thanks for reading!
Technical SEO Best Practices: Coming Soon
Todo: Discuss advanced SEO topics such as robots, indexing, rich snippets, SSL, and site speed.
Bonus SEO Best Practices for AEC Marketers: Coming Soon
Todo: Introduce marketing focused SEO tips including: grey-hat SEO tricks & re-purposing old content for SEO.