Changes in the SEO landscape and what it means for your AEC firm

Ben Garfinkel – No Comments

What happened?

News broke recently that Google will begin encrypting data on all keyword search queries and the internet went up in flames. For many people, this was bad news indeed. For some of us, this was expected.

Back in 2011, Google quietly revealed that they had begun encrypting keyword search data for any user that wasn’t logged-in as a Google client. It was merely a sign of things to come. It was only time before they would begin to encrypt keyword data from all users (logged-in or not). Lo and behold, here we are today.

Did I lose you already? Why is this relevant? What is SEO? Why should I care about keywords?

Let’s lose the fancy words and look at it this way: SEO, also known as “search engine optimization” can be simplified into this: your firm’s website needs to be functioning in a way that makes it easy for people to find your firm and (once they do find you) keeps them interested in what your firm has to offer.

Keywords play a role in this because people use search engines to type in their queries to find your firm. According to this Pew Internet Research study, 91% of online adults use search engines to find information on the web.

Why is this change important?

This is important stuff, but not life-changing, so take a breath and relax before you fire your SEO marketing team. Yes, keywords are important, but it’s not the end of the world unless your SEO strategy is 100% dependent on it (it shouldn’t be).

Encrypted keyword data means that we will not be able to identify exactly which keywords people are using in their search queries to find a website. Being able to identify these keywords allows us to use them within our online content in order to continue to drive traffic to the site. Having said that, any paid advertising or pay-per-click (PPC) advertising your firm does through Google AdWords will still provide this keyword data.

But keywords aren’t the be all and end all of SEO, in fact it plays just a surprisingly minor role in SEO. Great content plays a much bigger role, driving visitors to your website, motivating them to share it across their network, and making them want to come back for more. This longer-term realization will allow you to maintain a steady stream of traffic to your site and foster greater loyalty from your customers.

What can my firm do?

A better way of thinking of SEO is “discoverability” and is presented by Boxcar Marketing: Social cues, External cues, and On-page cues.

Social cues are things like images or videos, incoming links, and social sharing (e.g. on Facebook and Twitter). For example, the general public may take photos of your firm’s buildings and post them online with proper attribution and incoming links. External cues are the more technical aspects, such as ensuring a site is crawlable (by search bots), how fast a page loads, and bounce rates. On-page cues is where keywords fall under and include other things like title tags, meta descriptions, heading tags, anchor text, and image filenames.

Reading through the descriptions of cues and you’ll see a common theme: content, content, content.
Great content is original, valuable, relevant, and engaging. Great content improves inbound links and motivates social sharing (social cues) – if your firm produces great content, people will enjoy it and want to share it with their friends. Consider when people take photos of a building your firm built – posting it online and with proper attribution and incoming links to your website will drive traffic to the site. Great content improves bounce rates (external cues) because people will remain longer on your site – they’re reading the content or exploring the site to find out more about your firm. Great content is relevant, this means providing suitable titles, meta descriptions, anchor texts, and images (on-page cues).

The great thing for AEC firms is that the work you produce is already awesome and fascinating, you just need to package it in a way that makes it easy for potential customers (or recruits) to engage with. Your firm’s blog has never been more important in producing content and social media is playing an ever more important role in placing that content in front of relevant eyes.

So these changes by Google will have a dramatic impact on the SEO landscape and something all online marketings will need to respond to, but there’s no need to panic if you have a steady stream of relevant original content. Measuring your firm’s success should not be (and should have never been) focused entirely on the keyword-level and instead should be looked at in terms of offering great content with value.

How is your firm adapting to the recent changes?

If you’d like to chat more about it we’d love to provide additional insight, as well as hear from AEC firms that are making the necessary changes. Drop us a linetweet us, or post on our Facebook wall, we’d love to chat.