Search Engine Optimization Services Are A Waste Of Money. Here’s Why.

SEO Services Are a Scam - Don't Get Suckered!

I often get requests from owners of architectural, interior design, landscape and design-build firms for SEO services for their existing websites. Every day I find myself telling a client that Search Engine Optimization doesn't work that way anymore. The truth is that search engine results pages no longer work like they did three years ago and there are better ways to get your website found online - if you're willing to do the job. Those cold call companies that robo call offering SEO? Yeah, they're a scam too. 

Google Has One Service

It offers up search results based on what it believes is best for the person conducting the search. This is the reason we always recommend writing blog articles that answer specific questions your prospective clients are researching. That said, there are some keywords you are never going to rank for. The key is to create blog articles that are written using long tail keyword phrases. 

Here's an example search "Landscape Architect."

When conducting a search for “Landscape Architect” the first-page organic search results were,

  • Wikipedia
  • The Bureau of Labor and Statistics
  • American Society of Landscape Architects
  • Harvard Graduate School of Design
  • Houzz
  • Landscape Architecture Magazine

There was one result for a landscape architect, and the firm was located 60 miles away in an adjacent state. All but one result was about something other than landscape architectural services.

The problem for small firms is that Google search results are becoming dominated by large brands, aggregators or media companies.  Small businesses will never outrank them for generic terms without resorting to spam. Small website service pages are being seen less often than articles and other informational lists and aggregated content. Google analyzes tremendous quantities of search data. It knows that users prefer to conduct research by looking at a list of companies with reviews, images, and descriptions than one website that happened to make it to the top of organic listings.

Why Houzz and Other Platforms Matter

As a search engine user and we all use Google for research, we want to learn about services, see images of the work, understand the costs involved and read reviews. I'd much rather research dozens of landscape design companies than be directed to peripheral resources that do not answer my questions. Aggregators often show up in search results pages pushing individual firms onto the next few pages. An aggregator is a website platform like Yelp, Google+ and Houzz. This is a problem for the built environment company seeking search engine results. Spending your marketing budget on SEO services for an existing website will be costly and not help all that much.

Google is moving to the "pay-to-play" model. Google’s cash cow is advertising. It represents 90% of their annual revenue. If you are trying to be found for generic terms like residential architecture, landscape design, design-build construction, and the like, your results will continue to diminish. To counteract this, begin writing blogs and increase the number of pages on your website and write them using more specific long tail keyword phrases. Otherwise, selling services using generic terms on Google means allocating a significant amount of your marketing budget to AdWords or their other products. Paying for awareness is the future of local search. It’s time to employ a different approach.

SEO is Dead. Long Live SEO!

Search engine optimization is the foundation for attracting built environment leads. As long as Google search continues to thrive as a research tool, search engine optimization will be necessary. Here’s the caveat, one service page will not do much. Multiple pages with long tail keywords used in context are your best first option. This means blogging frequently. We like to start with one blog per week and more if the marketing budget allows for it. The key is to create value with your blog articles so that your readers share them on social media and organizations link back to your website.

If we want to attract prospects moving forward, there are things that can be done in addition to blogging.

Build Your Presence Across The Web

Search Engine Optimization means more than Google. Houzz, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest are all search engines. SlideShare, Etsy, BeHance, YouTube, Porch, and Angie’s List are search engines too. 

Google may dominate your prospective client’s first step when looking for home improvement services, but even Google has research that shows people look at a company 30 times on average before signing a contract. Houzz is an example where people skip Google altogether and fish where the fish are. Google would be an extra step that does not need to be taken.

Search engine optimization is not just optimizing your website for Google. Know where your buyers spend their time online and build an organic presence. To use Houzz as an example once again, conduct keyword research, write descriptions and titles for each image you post to your project portfolios and make certain to create ideabooks and comment on the work of other Houzz members. Don't wait around until your competitors do this first.  This is the future, and you need to follow this strategy or keep overspending on traditional advertising (With limited results.)  Using search engine algorithms to your advantage is so much smarter than spending money on tactics that no longer work.