The best blogging practices/topics for builders & architects
You’ve heard that you need to do blogging to improve your google ranking as the go-to architect or builder in your area, but now what?
Full disclosure, this topic is a doozie. If at anytime your eyes start to glaze over, seriously skip to the bottom. But before you make a preemptive scroll. . . try to absorb as much as you can. The internet economy is navigated by words.
Although blogging will certainly improve your google rank, more importantly, blogging provides an educational platform to establish yourself as the authority and builds rapport with potential clients. The best feature for you? Answering questions that you explain over and over. When you finally do meet with your ideal clients, they already know you, your process and are queued up to sign a contract.
BUT, you aren’t a writer. Or maybe you do enjoy writing, but you have no idea what to write about.
Grab a pencil and a piece of paper and make a list of 24 ideas. They don’t have to be right or good or even particularly on topic. If you can get your mind working on the subject you will likely be delighted by the results. You may have to throw out half of them, but you will certainly come out with some useable ideas. Think about specialty topics that clients often request, ideas related to your area, client case studies, historical information about the area, or technical issues that clients might be worried about.
ARCHITECTURE AND BUILDER BLOG TOPICS
Here’s a short list to get you started:
1. Doggy baths: the what, why and how.
2. Winterizing tips to keep your home functioning at its best.
3. Five questions to ask when hiring an architect.
4. The Fall color guide to your town.
5. Why your town is the best place to build the homes you build or design. Here’s an example from a client of mine in Asheville, NC.
Wine cellars, security systems, architectural history, indoor climbing walls, air purification systems, radiant floor heating, sustainable siding materials, luxury car garages, urban design, surround sound systems, entertainment rooms, passive solar design . . . you get the idea. Topics that are fun, educational and interesting. Get specific and sum it up with an offer to help them get their custom home project started.
WHY BLOGGING IS A PERFECT PLATFORM FOR BUILDERS AND ARCHITECTS
Either as a local or a national specialty, architecture and building is a gold mine for education. As you well know the best architects and builders are knowledgable in geology, art, sociology, physics, psychology, materiality, symbology, politics, science, I could go and and on, not to mention when new products and techniques gain favor. Trying to explain that in one client visit is a bit limiting. This kind of specificity is exactly what google is looking for and your clients will appreciate.
Google releases 2 minor algorithm updates every day, and 3-4 major updates per year. Since 2016, every update has targeted content quality and quantity – dropping sites that do not have both and rewarding sites that do. Since the release of Rank Brain, Google’s AI has become highly effective at understanding searchers’ intent and evaluating content to determine the best fit, regardless of the keyword stuffing that used to be the norm for SEO. They’ve spent billions on Rank Brain, so it’s not going away anytime soon. Just the opposite; content is going to continue to be a primary focus for SEO. The latest acronym is EAT: expertise, authority and trustworthiness. If your content does not meet this standard, it’s not going to rank for anything that is moderately to highly competitive. Of course Google does not disclose the metrics used in its algorithm, but all of the latest reports I’ve seen from the forensic SEOs that I follow suggest that 10,000 words is the threshold at which Google starts to deem a site trustworthy. And obviously it needs to be 10,000 words of original content. Plagiarized or syndicated content is of absolutely no value and if used, the page or post should be set to no index to avoid losing credibility.
Architects and builders often want their sites to be mostly images to keep the site clean, which makes blogging an absolute necessity to rank.
While I did say google ranking is secondary to providing education, google is where people building custom homes do their research even if they have had a referral. To optimize your blog for search engines here are some guidelines. Beware, it does get a bit heady, but in light of expertise, authority, and trustworthiness, I’m going to give it all to you (keep in mind, something is better than nothing, don’t let the tech talk put you off the task).
When planning a content strategy, blog posts should expand upon the primary topic or value proposition of the service page(s). The blog posts should still maintain topical and/or geographical relevance to the niche and/or service area, without focusing on or competing with the same primary keyword as the related service pages(s). They should provide answers to questions that the target audience would be searching for. So for example, if the client is an architect, their primary service page would be optimized for “architect in (city/state)” and the content would speak to the specific architectural services they offer. Some ideas for blog posts would be: trending design ideas for new homes (topical), designing an eco-friendly/green home (topical), top 10 attractions in city/service area (geo), building a new home in (city)(topical and geo-relevance), the history of architecture in (city)(topical and geo-relevance), etc. These relate to and expand upon the subject of architecture, which helps build authority and expertise, without cannibalizing the subject/keywords of the service page.
Blog posts are generally going to target longer tail keywords than the service page(s), which are easier to rank than their short-tail counterparts (eg: “architect” is highly competitive and more difficult to rank, whereas “trending design ideas for new homes” is going to be easy to rank because it’s much more specific and less competitive). 4-5 words is generally good for long tail keywords. You don’t want to get so long or so specific that nobody is searching for the phrase. Something like “trending design ideas for new homes in Taos in 2019” is way too long and specific, being #1 for something that nobody is searching for is pointless. You could use something like mangools keyword tool or searchvolume.io to research keywords but generally speaking, common sense goes a long way. If you wouldn’t type it in the search field, odds are your audience won’t either, and vice versa. Long tail keywords are going to reach a smaller audience than their short-tail counterparts, but that audience will be laser-focused on the exact subject matter of your post so the conversion rate and time spent on site should be good, which helps the site in its totality.
SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION
Because blog posts are generally easy to rank, the idea is to pass along that SEO juice to the service pages via internal links and optimized anchor text. Somewhere within the blog post about trending design ideas, the word “architect” or a synonym should be used as anchor text, with a link back to the architecture service page. That not only passes along topical relevancy for Google’s sake, but it provides an easy link for humans to follow back to the related service page. For geo-relevant posts, the city name should be used as anchor text for a link to the GMB (Google My Business) profile url. For posts that are both topical and geo-relevant, something along the lines of “architect in (city)” or “designing a home in (city)” can be used as anchor text with a link to the GMB (Google My Business) profile url or the related service page. The anchor text should be exact or a close match to the actual service being offered. You can also build external links to trustworthy sources like the wiki page about architects, or awards/publications that are recognized by the industry, but these should be used sparingly and should open a new tab (you don’t want to encourage viewers to leave your site without providing an easy path back).
The structure of a blog post should include one h1 (primary title, inclusive of the keyword(s) that you’re trying to rank for), followed by multiple h2s and h3s that contain synonyms or LSIs (Latent semantic indexing, are words and phrases with a high degree of correlation to your target topic. Google’s algorithm uses them to help determine content quality and relevance to the search term) of the primary keyword(s). For SEO (search engine optimization), the title tag structure works like an outline (think middle school English composition class) in telling Google what the main topic and sub-topics of the post are about. For human readers, the title and sub-title structure helps to break up the content into small, user-friendly blocks rather than a wall of text. Good UI/conversion principals say that content should pass a skim test. Keeping with the same example, the post about design trends might look something like this:
H1 (primary title) “Design Trends for New Homes”
P (paragraph) about home design in general – include something about “homes designed by our architectural firm in (city)” with a link back to the service page
H2 (sub-heading) “Latest trends in kitchen design”
H3 (sub-heading) The most popular materials in kitchen design”
H2 (sub-heading) “Designing a bathroom as a private retreat”
H3 (sub-heading) “New & Innovative bathroom fixtures”
and so on….
Unlike the h1 tag that is used once per page/post, h2-h6 sub-headings can repeat several times on the same page or post, but should not skip over a class (h1>h2>h3>h2>h3>h2 is fine, but not h1>h3>h4>h3>h4, which skips over the h2 class). SEO Quake is a free extension for Chrome that makes it very easy to check your html hierarchy. Simply install the extension, right click on any page or post, select SEO Quake > Diagnosis and scroll through the check points.
WRITE FOR THE HUMANS
Lastly, don’t forget the humans. It’s easy to get so caught up in the technical work needed to placate the bots, that we lose sight of the actual human visitors. User behavior is a major factor in ranking, just as important, if not more so, than the technical components of SEO. Assuming that Google has ranked your post for the search query “design trends for new homes”, user behavior will determine for how long the post will continue to rank. If someone clicks thru to the post in the search results and bounces after a couple seconds, Google reads that action as the post was not relevant to the search query and it will drop the post lower in the rankings. Conversely, if users stay on the post longer, or navigate to multiple pages on the website, Google reads this as the post was highly relevant and will continue to rank the site higher for the given search query. The more often you post, and the more viewers you keep engaged with your material, the more favorably Google will treat your site in the rankings. Plus at the end of the day, the whole point of ranking is to generate more leads and more conversions, so we can’t ignore the humans.
IS IT WORTH THE EFFORT?
Phewww, I know I know. It’s a lot. If that felt like learning a different language, you’re absolutely right, it is a different language. Is it worth the effort? Absolutely. Education is the key to the kingdom. All of the best architects and builders in history were also educators. They taught in universities and wrote books, and they didn’t have the kind of tools that we have have now. Maintaining a blog is way easier than publishing a book or being a professor. Take advantage of it. If it is overwhelming, think about hiring a blog writer to help you. Our blog writing process starts by making a list of 24 posts for the year (two posts a month is a good place to be for architects and builders, unless your major competitors are doing more, then adjust accordingly). We interview our client, their clients, staff and collaborators to get an authentic relevant storyline.
Keep in mind that that it will take time for you to get traction from a blog strategy. Advertising on facebook and google is quicker, but it’s like renting a house. As soon as you stop paying for that ad, it no longer gives you anything back. With a blog post, you pay for it once (whether in sweat equity or hiring someone) and it’s yours forever. A blog strategy will continue to reap rewards until you take it off the web.
WANT SOME HELP?
I'm Melissa Lind,
I help builders and architects position themselves as leaders in their market to find higher quality clients and more freedom.
My blog details how to highlight your zone of genius, identify your ideal clients, curate a professional portfolio, and use online tools to educate and attract the best clients.
How to find more high quality leads and freedom.
TOP 5 actionable steps for builders and architects.