Thursday, April 26, 2012

SEM Focus: SEO For The AEC Industry

SEO: Search Engine Optimization

What it is: SEO is the optimization of your website--for both customers and search engine index bots.

Why it's important: In short, more people click in the organic section of a search engine results page. It takes time to get there...but doing the right things consistently over time can get you there. Very few AEC companies focus on properly managing their SEO efforts. Sure, anyone can post a blog or build a web page these days. Even many Content Management Systems will get you going in the right direction. But then again, if everyone is doing the same thing there isn't much competitive separation between what you're doing versus your competition.

So, here are some key elements to consider to build the SEO in the AEC industry:

First, have an SEO champion
This can come in the form of your current marketing manager. They need to be empowered to make decisions that will closely fall (more than likely) with your IT department, who probably manages your website. Sometimes using an SEO consultant helps. If you can, find someone who knows the AEC industry. Sure, anyone can learn , but that takes time and money. Sometimes, there is no substitution for experience.

Second, you need an SEO strategy
Make sure this plan is in writing and communicated to the necessary team members. Focus on the fundamentals first, like
  • Have a keyword strategy, know what your target audience is searching for and how often they do it 
  • Build a website that is fast and SEO compliant 
  • Develop consistent content 
  • Build links 
Third, be relevant and consistent
Get your website HTML and structure correct and search engine friendly first. There are a ton of elements that need to be in place so get someone who has knowledge or can research what it takes. Get analytics on your site so you know what visitors are doing and can measure and quantify decision making.

Once this is done, here are some simple and easy ways to use what have to get rankings:
  • Claim your local listing pages (eg, Google Places) 
  • Get your project profiles online, this creates relevancy and local value 
  • Start a blogging and social media strategy and use internal resources to develop posts 
This is an easy and quick way to get started, but again it largely depends on staying consistent and having the right strategy to begin. This stuff takes time and research and a champion. It's a lot like building a road or building: everything depends on the foundation to last--and there's always someone who is managing the project.

If you need more help on the subject, feel free to reach out to local SEO experts. Of course, those with experience in the sector or have an understanding of the industry is better than not. If you need help finding someone, shoot me a line and I'll be glad to help or point you in the right direction!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Search Engine Marketing For The Architecture, Engineering & Construction Industry

Who loves acronyms??  (I do!  I do!):  SEM, SEO, PPC, SoMe...AEC...*barf*.  Please:  if you're as sick as I am as seeing more acronyms for everything and just need a simple explanation for these things and how they're important to you, then read on.

I know sometime acronyms are a necessary evil, and there's plenty of blog space to get technical down the road.  But first, you're a marketing leader in the AEC (whether that means Receptionist, Marketer, Architect, Engineer or all of the above including President!) who has little time on their hands.  You need the dirt on this stuff and why you keep hearing about it.  You need to know why it's important to you and the future of your business.  Here we go.

SEM: Search Engine Marketing

What it is:  SEM is the all encompassing term for everything related to being found through internet searches.  Today, that means "googling stuff."  Yup, you probably do it every day.  Think back to the last time you searched online for something...there was a reason (or, a lot of reasons) that websites showed up in the order that they did.  In a nutshell this is search engine marketing.

Why it's important:  SEM is important because of many reasons, but mainly this--a lot of people search for things online.  Information, products and yes, even services.  Today, over a Billion people searched for something on Google...alone.

SEM for Architects, Engineers & Contractors

I know what you're thinking:  "My clients aren't looking for me online."  Heard it before.  Well, the numbers say otherwise:
  • Average # of searches per month in the US for keywords related to "architect" in the top 3 search engines (google, bing, yahoo):  11 million
  • Refine to the keywords related to "commercial architect": 9,900
  • Refine even further to keywords related to "architects new york": 33,100
Granted there are not 11 million clients googling "architect" champing at the bit with pens raised ready to ink a contract, that's not what I'm saying.  What I am saying is that in broad perspective, there are a lot of people searching for terms related to architects--some looking for information, but some looking for things that can help your business, like:
  • other firms in search of partnering opportunities
  • your next great employee
  • a potential client
The point being that opportunities are out there.  Here are 3 really great reasons if you're an Architect, Engineering or Construction Company you need to have a Digital Marketing Strategy in place, or hire someone who can help you get there:
  • there are people searching for companies like yours right now--search for your type of firm (eg, mechanical engineer) right you show up "above the fold?" (in the top 3rd of the screen where most people click?)
  • the value of a client or partner gained is high, and return on marketing investment can be calculated with digital tracking technology
  • there are not many architects, engineers or construction companies actively pursuing search engine marketing the way they should--and that presents a huge opportunity and competitive advantage for those break that ground.
The marketing and business development (don't count that out!) playing field has changed significantly.  No, digital marketing is not the end all be all for the AEC industry, but in many cases it can be your company's first impression--and as they say, first impressions are everything.

I also understand, being on both the Client and Consulting side that it can be difficult to find a company you trust to handle this type of work.  Feel free to drop me a line (email or leave a comment) and I'll be happy to help or answer questions you may have.

Next time, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising.  Stay tuned.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Brief Hiatus & Evolution

Recently I have taken on a new role with an Agricultural Company. in Richmond Virginia.  It is a billion dollar co-op geared to helping farmers and everyday Americans get the resources, knowledgeable information and products they need to make their operation (whether a full time farm or a hobby) a success.  

There are two primary target markets, one including commercial agriculture, or folks who farm for a living on thousands of acres.  The other is the "Rural American."  These customers work a typical day or night job but come home and work with the land in their spare time.  Perhaps they own a horse, just got a family dog or cat, maybe they have a garden, or enjoy cooking for their families.  In many cases they have many of these things.  Needless to say, these are unique, genuine and dynamic markets that I have passion for--particularly since I fall into the category of a Rural American myself.

Since coming on, my role there has evolved in the 5 short months of tenure.  I have enjoyed the opportunity (and challenge!!) to manage their SEO efforts, in addition to PPC and online ad campaigns.  Working in these capacities has allowed me to team with agencies, graphic designers, copywriters and internal departments and enhance a number of skills including project management to communication to marketing.

As I have been out of the AEC for almost 2 years I decided to maintain the network of wonderful friends that I made during my 5 plus years there.  I'm doing this mainly because I like working with those folks and I enjoy helping them face the challenges that I remember all too well.  There is so much tremendous movement that is waiting to take place in the AEC industry that I find it fascinating, enthralling and exciting.  Even with the down-turned economy, there is a huge opportunity to be leveraged and a tipping point just waiting to occur.

I also juggled with the decision of what to do with this blog.  I considered putting it on the market for sale.  It generates enough unique visitor traffic per month to be an asset to an AEC company looking to enhance their visibility.  But in the end I think keeping it up and going is the best option for the industry.  That was the motivation of the inception of this blog to begin with and I feel I should remain true to that!  I kind of see the AEC Marketing Progressive as a library of thoughts, geared toward progressive marketing for the AEC industry.  As a newbie marketer entering the AEC nearly a decade ago, it was the resource I wish I had, and if one person can find similar value in it this way, then I have done my job.  

Thursday, June 23, 2011

SEM Is A Branding Effort

More than 60% of consumers conduct online research prior to making a purchase—that figure increases greatly when making a major purchase.

It’s not that companies don’t already know this (think about how much you’re searching online everyday!)—but that many of them often don’t understand the opportunity they’re missing.

Once solely a B2C consideration, search engine marketing (SEM) is quickly trickling into the B2B world—and saavy businesses are taking advantage of that trend by hiring companies or internal staff to manage their SEM efforts.

In my mind, SEM in the B2B world such as the AEC industry is as much a branding effort as it is a lead generation effort.  They, in fact go hand-in-hand.  The value of the brand is directly proportionate to the number of leads that enter the sales funnel and turn into gained clients.

Let’s take for instance an Architect headquartered in Richmond Virginia.  Through traditional relationship building they’ve learned about a project for a new Fine Arts Museum to be built in Portland Oregon.  Now, they don’t have an office in Portland, but have built and renovated hundreds of Museums on the East Coast.  They need that local “flavor” and want to find an Engineer and Construction Manager in the Portland, OR area.  Where does their research begin?  Online.

The Marketing Coordinator sets out with goals in mind to find the right partner.  Searching keywords like “engineer Portland” and “museum engineer Portland Oregon” etc.  Then, moves into reviewing the website of these firms to ensure they have the proper expertise.  The MC reviews social media pages, checks with her network and fellow SMPSers.  Then takes the findings back to the principals who make the ultimate decision on who to align themselves with for the project.

Now, one thing is certain here:  more than half of the time spent looking for the right partner was spent online.  Whether it’s searching, reviewing websites, or social networking—that business is on the web.

So, if so much is done on the web, and so many folks are on the web, businesses need to take a proactive approach to managing their information and brand online.  That means take a strategic approach to your SEM because everything that goes online can (and should) be optimized (social media vehicles, websites, press releases, resumes, project sheets etc.).  

It’s about being found online, cutting through the clutter and having consistency at each touch point.  Sound familiar?  This is branding in its simplest form!  

I think now architects, engineers and construction firms need to spend the appropriate amount of time and energy into effective market research.  Stop guessing and truly analyze where their target audience and market spend their time.  

If 60% of it is online, they need to have 60% of the marketing budget and effort directed as such.  That said, 40% offline is still a BIG chunk and should by no means be abandoned.  But, with a little research, some data for support, strategic decisions can be made to accommodate this increasingly important trend that is search engine marketing...which is really just an evolved extension of online branding.  

Friday, April 8, 2011

Richmond Architects Lead Recovery

Finally a positive sign in economic recovery for the AEC industry, particularly architecture.  Architects in Richmond, VA are starting to see their projects that were once put on hold return to design phases.  Additionally, some of the top local firms like Hankins & Anderson and Baskervill are seeing positive revenue streams for 2011 and continuing to grow their staff.

This is great news for the AEC industry—which was really affected by the recession.  It’s a good sign that the design phases are slowly opening back up and hopefully that means that these continue to trickle into positive signs for Engineers and Construction professionals in the Richmond area.

For additional details, read the Richmond Biz Sense article here.

Monday, March 28, 2011

AEC Innovation: Clark Nexsen & Biomimicry

Recently I caught of glimpse of Clark Nexsen's innovative push to include biomimicry into their firm culture and their design of projects.  The concept is simple--"mimic" nature; its elements and functions into the planning, design, engineering and construction of man-made projects.  All AEC companies should take note: not only in the unique approach but in the differentiation that is supplies this full-service firm--an invaluable asset given enhanced competition during the current economic conditions.

Below is an article submitted by Cindy Allen, a colleague and marketing associate at Clark Nexsen.

"Clark Nexsen recognizes sustainable design isn't just about LEED for buildings. Sustainability and green design must positively impact long-term environmental, economic and social roots. As a multi-discipline architecture, engineering and planning firm, Clark Nexsen offers a holistic, collaborative, solutions-oriented design approach that addresses integral systems, structures and finishes of a project - and environmental, economic and social impacts."

"To elevate our in-house sustainable design capabilities, Clark Nexsen employs one of only 15 Certified Biomimicry Professionals in the world: Lisa Schmidtke, CID, ASID, LEED AP. Lisa uses Biomimicry to help designers develop nature-inspired design solutions."

Nature-Inspired Design Solutions
"Biomimicry is an old practice, a new science, and an emerging discipline that studies and then emulates nature's time-tested natural forms, processes, and systems to create more healthy and sustainable designs. The basic premise of Biomimicry is that, over the last roughly five billion years, nature has already solved many of the challenges humans face."

"These natural inspirations lead to new strategies for achieving environmental goals, building a toolbox of innovative ideas from water use, to waste reduction, to interior materials safe enough to eat. Clark Nexsen uses Biomimicry specifically to measure your current level of sustainability, to improve your current level of sustainability, to help solve sustainability issues, and reach environmental goals that might otherwise seem unachievable."  

Below is the Clark Nexsen video on Biomimicry:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How Augmented Reality Can Change Our Industry

Augmented reality is a really neat concept.  Not only for the AEC industry, but for all methods of how we do business.  Augmented reality is simply put, the integration of real world, real time data into the digital world.  In order to for it to work, you have to have a method of real world perception (eg, a digital camera).  Point your digital camera at something (eg, a building) and the camera recognizes it, then overlays the object with digital information. Georgia Tech and SCAD even teamed up to create a shoot-em-up zombie game using AR.  Pretty cool--skittle bombs.

Here are some ways I can see it working for architects, engineers and construction companies:

  • A environmental scientist in the field scans a parcel of land and overlays that with wetland data, gps data and even has the option to pull historical and permit information regarding that specific parcel.
  • A mechanical engineer troubleshoots an industrial HVAC system by scanning the building's systems with their smartphone--and is able to make the recommendations necessary to fix the problem on the spot.
  • A contractor has the ability to scan an area on a construction site and overlay it with the civil engineers grading plan--or perhaps a landscape architect's planting plan--to ensure the accuracy of the build.
  • A marketer goes to a completed building, snaps a photo, and pulls with it data about the building, square-footage, functionality, even project details uploaded from the data of the technical team (eg, LEED certifications, project schedules, team information, construction photos) and downloads immediately into a project sheet for use with the firm's marketing collateral.

These are just some of the ideas on how Augmented Reality might benefit the AEC industry.  But really, there are so many more possibilities.  BIM is the closest thing I've seen to this int he industry, but if there are other uses or ideas I'd love to hear them.