How Content Marketing Works for Landscape Architects

Frequently writing keyword rich content on your blog or website is your best opportunity for a return on your marketing investment. Having just launched a website for Kimberly Mercurio Landscape Architecture, together we went through the process of developing a list of keywords she would like to be known for and have started writing. Research began with a competitor's report and looking at organizations like the ASLA, American Society of Landscape Architects. Content is certainly pivotal in keeping visitors on your page and building the reputation of your brand, but great content is about more than captioned portfolio images, engaging prose or useful information. It’s also about how that information is presented, formatted, and contextualized. 

If your landscape architecture firm is interested in crafting your content to generate more traffic, then make sure you keep in mind these five critical strategies to guide your content creation.

1. A Comprehensive "Flagship" Content Plan

A comprehensive content plan seeks to answer every question - not just one or two - for your readers. Brian Clark of Coppyblogger/Rainmaker's is an evangelist of the content marketing process. He describes flagship content as the kind of content that creates return visitors and motivates them to share what they’ve learned with their friends. Examples include e-books, an in-depth video series, pod casts or a set of PowerPoint type presentations. 

Copyblogger illustrates this with its flagship content, the “Ultimate Guide to Twitter Marketing.” This guide answers every question you could ever have on the topic of Twitter and offers in-depth information that answers questions. But creating this type of document was more than just a single writer’s stream of consciousness. The guide contains hundreds of well-sourced pieces of information to support its conclusions (more on that below).

Without doubt , these in-depth pieces of content require a far greater investment of time and resources than the average blog post. But they offer far greater rewards, too. Choose topics wisely and flagship content will build real trust with visitors and convince them to take the time to share your information. The best flagship content is “evergreen content” - meaning most, if not all, of its insights, have a long or indefinite shelf life. An example of flagship content that would attract clients to a landscape design or architecture firm would include helpful information, that is not easily available and illustrates your expertise to a targeted audience. Topics on sustainable residential landscape such as, using native plants in coastal locations, in arid climates, or high-altitude locations with descriptions of the plants and care for each is the type of shareable content that will attract people to your firm. 

And what can you expect from this type of investment? Copyblogger’s Twitter guide earned more than 3,400 shares. Beyond shares, it certainly earned them many browser bookmarks, too. These bookmarks are reliable pathways for readers to return to your site for more advice and information about the paid services your landscape architecture firm offers. It should be stated at this point that though I admire Copyblogger's commitment to content marketing, but I should note that for my money Squarespace has the best website platform for built environment firms. When Squarespace is combined with inbound marketing software, landscape firms have a powerhouse marketing tool that surpasses Wordpress based systems.

In researching online content about landscape architecture, I was surprised to find that very little high-quality information exists beyond what is provided by the ASLA. This provides an opportunity for your firm to be known as a resource for information that guides your target audience be it residential, hospitality or large scale commercial builders.  Content is easy to promote as well since you can confidently put it forward as one of the top resources available anywhere on the Web, rather than cajoling visitors to read a thin or scraped piece of prose.

Don’t forget to make the most of your bump in traffic: Add a call to action and lead generation form to your blog, so that visitors can begin to work their way down your sales funnel. A compelling piece of evergreen content is the best way to convince them to sign-up with your firm.

2. Functional Tutorials and “How To” Guides

Dovetailing with flagship content are in-depth “how to” guides and other tutorials. These don’t need to be as comprehensive as your flagship pieces, but they should offer visitors real insight and understanding into a given challenge.

Of course, you’d be wise to choose a sub-topic of landscape architecture that represents your specialty, both because you’ll be able to provide exceptional knowledge and because it will help nurture leads to the particular strengths of your design business that help you stand out among other local competitors. Another client, Todd Haiman Landscape Design has been writing content on roof top gardens and making the most of small yards. His office is in Manhattan, and his client base is primarily Brooklyn. A recent article was featured on Houzz, and the result was a significant increase in website visitors and an opportunity to nurture new prospects into becoming clients.

Before you select a topic, however, make use of a keyword tool such as Google’s AdWords Keyword Planner to check on the search volume of the top keyword for your proposed how-to guide. Sometimes, a single pluralization or preposition can be the difference in hundreds of monthly searches. Be advised that the most popular searches are the most competitive, too. Try and find a keyword that connects most closely with your specific topic, even if it doesn’t gain the greatest search volume. After all, you want qualified leads, not just misdirected traffic.

To increase the impact of your guide, add images and videos (if relevant) to give your readers a fuller experience. If you feel that your content is especially in-demand and valuable, consider placing it behind an email sign-up wall. Great pieces of content are a fair exchange for email addresses, and they give you a chance to convert your visitors right away. Just make sure your content offering equals the “ask” you demand from your visitors.

3. Well-Sourced Data

Data provides value in some ways. For one, it gives you the chance to become the source of hard information, which often results in backlinks. (If you’re new to search engine optimization, quality backlinks are key to getting your content to appear in organic search.)

But even if your data doesn’t lead to more backlinks, or if you’re citing data culled by other sources, it’s still a great way to add credibility to your claims. There’s never a shortage of bloggers claiming A is better than B, or vice versa, but there is an absence of well-researched information. To take another angle, you could also use a subset or unique perspective on an existing set of data to provide original insights to your readers.

In short, remember that you’re trying to create the best quality content for your readers, and, no matter the field, using good data to back up your claims is a core journalistic and academic standard.

4. List Formatted Information

Lists are useful for some reasons. As an author, they help you organize your thoughts and streamline your writing process. For Web users, they help provide an eagle-eye view of your content before clicking. If you’re offering twenty design ideas to create privacy around in-ground swimming pools, a potential reader knows they’ll see plenty of options.

Sure I dislike them because of the low road they take but BuzzFeed has made an online fortune off this strategy because, quite simply, people like lists. Additionally, in the age of mobile reading, lists allow readers to skim quickly content and hone in on what most interests them.

5. E-Books and Other Downloadable Content

E-books, white papers, and other downloadable content can serve multiple purposes for your site. If you’re creating fantastic flagship content, it may be enough to build into an e-book. But it’s not an either-or proposition. Often, successful content-generating sites have offered flagship content along with an option to download an e-book version—after submitting their email address.

This is an effective way to convert visitors to leads after you’ve already shown them the quality of your content. If an email wall exists between visitors and every piece of content on your site, it might be a bridge too far to generate trust and interest if most visitors are getting to know you for the first time.

Alternatively, if you typically release shorter blogs, e-books are a place to showcase your extensive content generation efforts. If you already have a respectable following on your blog, you will have generated enough trust and goodwill to ask for an email address before visitors can download your latest and greatest piece of content.

Or, you can make your e-book download available with no buy-in from visitors. If you think you have a fantastic piece of content but no brand authority, this might be an effective way to drive brand awareness. Just remember that your e-book may be passed around widely without requiring visitors to come back to your site, even if they see your brand displayed on the cover.

In the end, random blog generation and a wait-and-see approach simply aren't enough in the crowded digital marketplace. Focus your efforts on creating at least a few pieces of in-depth content to pair with your posts, and be aware of post structure—like data-rich and list-based entries—that can create more traffic and interest. Think of it as intelligent architecture for your content strategy.

About Michael Conway and Means-of-Production

My firm builds Squarespace websites, Houzz profiles, and content marketing and advertising solutions for architects, interior designers, design-build contractors and landscape design firms. Our all-in-one tactics attract the right clients with exceptional architectural photography and brand messaging that sets you apart from the competition. Contact me for a free-of-charge consultation and marketing review. It takes about 40 minutes and you'll be provided a list of actionable improvements designed to solve your specific marketing problems. 

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