Using digital marketing is an extremely cost-efficient way to generate leads for your practice and raise its profile. Generating more traffic to your website and collecting information about visitors is within the reach of every architect, given a little technical know-how.
Knowing about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and how to optimise relevant keywords will help your website to rise up through search results. Daniel Nelson of October Communications is an expert in keyword metadata and how it can be used by non-experts to promote their website.
Google and other search engines use many factors to sort results. The most significant of these are relevance (which examines keywords, names and locations) and domain authority metrics, which everyone wishing to boost their website’s ‘findability’ needs to understand.
Simply put, if a website’s page title includes keywords such as ‘Birmingham residential architect’, it is a domain authority metric that will determine how high that website rises among all the other sites with identical keywords.
Google assigns every website a ranking between 0 to 100, with the likes of Wikipedia, the BBC and Google itself at the top. Nelson says that, for most practices, a score between 20 and 40 would be very respectable. Faced with a client practice in the low 20s, Nelson says he would work to push them up into the 30s.
Practices can find out their own instant domain authority metric, which will be similar to that used by Google and others, by using the Link Explorer tool at Moz.
Domain authority (and individual page authority) metrics are complex, but a key ingredient is the number of inbound ‘follow links’ they receive from other websites, particularly those with high domain authority rankings themselves.
“Press is an amazing way to get inbound links,” Nelson enthuses. “If, say, Dezeen links to you, you not only receive traffic to your website, but your domain authority gets a boost.” Editorial coverage has an indirect benefit on search visibility that practices may not appreciate.
Webpage titles are important, Nelson stresses. These are the words used to name the page in the source code, the metadata, and they should be put to good use.
Google gives weight to page title words in the order they appear, so you should choose terms that potential leads might search for. The most common name for a practice homepage is ‘Home’, clearly a total waste of an opportunity.
Likewise, your practice’s name is wasted as a homepage title because anyone searching specifically for your practice by name will find you anyway. Far better to pick carefully selected words that you would expect to be used in searches.
Many are familiar with Google Analytics, the free tool that shows the number of appearances a site gets in searches and volume of traffic. Nelson also suggests trying the less well-known Google Search Console (which is free, but requires a Google account). This helps to monitor your presence in search results, including revealing which keywords are generating traffic.
Nelson points to the ‘projects’ areas on practice websites, where previous work is showcased. These, he insists, should always be used as keyword generators. Titling projects merely by the name of their street is very limiting. However, naming the page ‘Victorian conversion Hampstead’ can generate relevant search results that bring you the kind of client you're after.
Blogs on websites are another great way to embed keywords that Google will read, while creating content that that other channels, sites and social media can pick up and link to. Nelson encourages practices to produce a steady stream of blogs, which can be on any topic relevant to your practice likely to generate traffic.
After a few months, Nelson is confident practices will see the fruits of their efforts: the combination of rising domain authority through links, with a rising search relevance through keywords in page titles and blogs will generate growing numbers of hits.
“It’s the two together that provides the magic,” he suggests. “That's when it really starts to work.”
Thanks to Daniel Nelson, Director, October Communications.
Text by Neal Morris. This is a Professional Feature edited by the RIBA Practice team. Send us your feedback and ideas
RIBA Core Curriculum Topic: Business, clients and services.
As part of the flexible RIBA CPD programme, Professional Features count as microlearning. See further information on the updated RIBA CPD Core Curriculum and on fulfilling your CPD requirements as an RIBA Chartered Member.