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Driving Growth with Digital Marketing - Marketing Content Promotion for AEC Firms

Posted by Lindsay Diven on June 22, 2022

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So far in the “Driving Revenue Growth with Digital Marketing Series,” firms have developed their content plan and created content. However, creating great content simply is not enough. AEC marketers need a promotional plan that strategically shares content with the people that benefit the most from it. This article shares some common and uncommon promotional tactics.  

Search Engine Optimization 

Search engine optimization or SEO is a series of techniques firms can deploy for their content and on their website to rank higher for certain keywords on search engines like Google. Click here for a basic introduction to SEO. 

SEO should be the first strategy to be used as part of the promotional plan and should be considered when the content is being created, especially if that content is a blog article. Marketers should optimize the piece of content for the specific topics or keywords it wants to be found for. Another way to look at it is to think about the person that marketers want to read or consume that piece of content. What types of phrases or questions would that person be typing into a search engine as that person searches for answers? Make sure that marketing content has those phrases and key words included naturally throughout the content piece.  

Email Marketing 

This is the most overlooked and underutilized promotional tactic in the AEC industry. As a Premier Partner for Deltek Vision and Vantagepoint CRM, Full Sail Partners works with hundreds of AEC firms across the country specifically advising them on CRM and marketing strategies. So many of these firms have databases full of thousands of contacts but fail to have a consistent email marketing strategy.  

By using email marketing, there is a real opportunity for AEC firms to easily, affordably, and routinely get in front of clients and prospects with the content that is often difficult and time consuming to create. With tools like the Blackbox Connector for Mailchimp or Constant Contact that connect Deltek Vision and Vantagepoint to those email marketing services seamlessly, AEC marketers can get a leg up on their competitors just by using email marketing.  

Social Media 

This is probably the most popular and utilized promotional tactic. AEC firms often promote blog articles, white papers and case studies through their social media channels including LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Each social media channel has its own pros and cons in terms of reach and engagement as well as best practices when it comes to getting in front of the preferred audiences.  

Finding out the social media channels where the ideal clients and personas spend the majority of their time is key for AEC marketers to develop the content, and they should focus their time on that channel first. Once that channel or channels are identified, marketers can research hashtags to utilize and optimize the visual content plus write engaging captions that keep both the tone of the social media channel and the brand voice.  

Live Events 

With a digital marketing campaign, often the content that is created is online. This includes blog articles, videos, case studies or white papers, for example. So, it isn’t a surprise that promoting this type of content is often forgotten when attending or presenting at live events. If the firm has technical experts or subject matter experts (SMEs) who present or speak at industry events, it’s a great opportunity to also promote the online content.  

Most recently, presenters have been including a slide at the end of a presentation with a QR code. The audience can snap a photo of that QR code, and it takes them to either a specific piece of content or to a webpage/landing page that has links to several pieces of content. Below is an example of a slide with a QR code from a recent conference. 

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It’s not just for in-person conferences or events either. If the firm’s SMEs are guests on podcasts or webinars, those can be other great opportunities to promote marketing content. AEC marketers should help SMEs prepare for these appearances, including identifying what marketing content to promote.  

Creating Great Marketing Content Simply Isn’t Enough 

Thinking about the content promotion while developing it is a great way to make sure that content performs well and meets the digital marketing goals. The content promotion plan should list the ways in which the content will be promoted including SEO, social media, email marketing, and live events.  

This article is part of the Driving Growth with Digital Marketing and will walk through how to gather and analyze the results for the digital marketing campaigns.  

 

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Driving Growth with Digital Marketing - How to Analyze Digital Marketing Campaign Results

Posted by Lindsay Diven on May 25, 2022

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If the results from the digital marketing campaign efforts are not tracked, how will the marketers know if it’s working or not? It seems simplistic when written like this, but for architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) firms, collecting and analyzing the results of digital marketing efforts is often the hardest part. And, because the results are often not collected, not analyzed, or not presented to the firm’s leaders, it’s hard for marketing professionals get buy-in for additional digital marketing resources.  

This article is part of the Driving Growth with Digital Marketing and will walk through how to gather and analyze the results for the digital marketing campaigns.  

Select the Metrics During the Planning Phase 

At this point, the digital marketing campaign is created and has been promoted. At this point it’s time to analyze the results and compare them against the original goals to determine the performance of the campaign. 

The hardest part about selling digital marketing strategies to firm leadership is showing the results. And choosing what to measure and how to measure the results is where AEC marketers often get stuck.  

The best time to select the metrics to be used in analyzing the marketing campaign results, is in the planning stages. Thinking through this while in planning, allows the tracking software or infrastructure to be put into place to gather the correct results.  

Using the original campaign goals along with thinking through how those goals can be measured, is the best place to begin.  

For example, if the original goal was to increase brand awareness in the Texas market by increasing web traffic in Texas by 25% in the first 2 quarters of 2022. The marketing department will want to make sure that they can track web traffic, including geography, and have a baseline number for the web traffic from Texas before the campaign begins. 

If the marketing department doesn’t have that ability or information before they begin the campaign, it's going to be very difficult to gather and analyze the results.  

That's why having very SMART goals outlined and agreed upon by leadership is critical to be able to track, analyze, and progress to achieving goals.

Understand that AEC Metrics May be Different 

AEC is different than other industries when it comes to marketing. It isn’t e-commerce. The AEC industry doesn’t provide online stores. AEC firm clients typically don't buy their services through their websites. So, this means that typical marketing key performance indicators (KPIs) like Cost per Acquisition, Customer Attrition, or even marketing-originated customers really aren't relevant.  

That’s why it so important to get the marketing campaigns SMART Goals determined. When those goals are clear, written down, and agreed upon by firm leadership, the metrics to determine that campaign’s performance become more clear. 

Possible AEC Marketing Campaign Metrics   

So, what should AEC marketers measure? How should they measure the results of their digital marketing campaigns? 

Marketers should identify quantifiable metrics that aligns with the goals of the organization and the SMART goals as mentioned above. These metrics should be either new leads (new to the firm’s funnel) or more interaction with current contacts to “nurture” the relationship until that content needs the firm’s services.  

And because each AEC firm’s goals are all going to be different, this article cannot simply provide a list of 10 example metrics. However, listed below are some potential metrics (KPIs) that could be considered. They are listed to help AEC marketers brainstorm metrics that are relevant to their specific digital marketing campaigns and firm goals.  

Possible AEC Marketing Campaign Metrics: 

  • Website traffic 
  • Search traffic/keyword rankings 
  • Backlinks 
  • Click-through rate 
  • Conversion rate 
  • Email sign-up rate 
  • Delivery, open, click rate 
  • Engagement/interaction rate 
  • Follower growth rate 
  • Brand mentions 

Marketers can then take those metrics and compare the marketing performance to a previous time such as: 

  • To the previous month, 
  • A 3-month average, or 
  • Specific goal(s). 

Metrics That Shouldn’t be Measured 

The things or results that the AEC marketer can’t impact should not be measured. If the marketer or firm can’t change it, there’s no point in tracking it or making it a KPI.  

Vanity metrics should also not be tracked, or at least, have too much weight or emphasis placed on them. Marketers are sometimes tempted to track vanity metrics like the Facebook page likes or Twitter followers, but if the marketing department is not currently implementing a social media campaign with the goal of getting more likes or followers, why track it? It’s not an effective KPI. 

Best Practices for Collecting and Analyzing Digital Marketing Campaign Results 

The following are some best practices that marketers should keep in mind as they plan for, implement, and analyze the results of their digital marketing campaigns.  

  • Use the campaign goal as the basis for analyzing the results. Marketers should tie what the goal of the campaign is to what metrics they collect and analyze.  
  • Connect marketing platforms. By starting with the goals, marketers can list what metrics they need to collect. But, this is also the time to evaluate what systems can be connected and automatically share information. A great example of this is the Blackbox Connector for Mailchimp or Constant Contact. These connect the email marketing statistics to the Deltek Vision and Vantagepoint CRM systems. A marketer can easily pull in the statistics for one email campaign or an email campaign series into the Deltek Marketing Campaign.  
  • Limit KPIs to only those that are needed. Marketers might be tempted to collect more data or statistics than necessary to see how the campaign is performing. Especially when first getting started, limit to collecting and analyzing only those metrics or KPIs that are needed to see how the performance is measuring to the goal.  
  • Tailor the KPIs to the audience. If the marketing campaign performance needs to be presented to firm leadership, make sure to tailor what is shown to that audience to just what they need to see how it’s performing to goal. For example, the marketing manager may be tracking email newsletter opt-in rates and email bounce rates. However, if that’s not a goal of the specific marketing campaign, don’t report those metrics in a presentation to the firm principals.  

How to Use the Digital Marketing Campaign Results to Improve Performance  

Collecting and analyzing the performance of the marketing campaigns is only half the battle! The next step is optimizing the campaign’s performance to get even better results. And the next article in this series share a few different areas to optimize when it comes to the firm’s digital marketing efforts. Subscribe to the series below to get the next article.  

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Search Engine Optimization Basics for Project Based Firms

Posted by Lindsay Diven on April 20, 2022

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The primary goal for the AEC digital marketing program is to get a firm found online. This can be done through creating content highlighting the firm’s expertise and subject matter experts. However, it’s not enough to just publish this content on the firm’s website or blog. To have the right potential clients find that content, the content needs to appear in searches. This is where search engine optimization (SEO) comes in.  

According to HubSpot, the definition of SEO is techniques which assist a firm’s website rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). This makes a firm’s website more visible via search engines like Yahoo!, Google, or Bing for those who are seeking solutions that a firm’s brand, service or product could offer. 

This article is part of the Driving Growth with Digital Marketing series and will provide an introduction to SEO techniques AEC firms can utilize when building their digital marketing program.

How SEO Works

Search engines crawl the internet to scoop up tidbits of phrases and key words to index them. Then when a user types in a phrase, question, or key word into the search engine, it provides results to the user based on those indexes. Search engines are searching for the websites, webpages, blogs, etc. that the firm is publishing.  

Search engines also look at the firm’s website structure and design, visitor behavior, and mobile optimization. So, it’s not just about the content that is being published, but the framework in which it’s published too.  

The Elements that Can Increase Organic Traffic    

Organic traffic is what most AEC firms are aiming for and includes the unpaid visitors (or traffic) that comes to the firm’s website through the search engines. The firm isn’t paying for any of that website traffic.  

There are elements of the website, structure, webpages, and even the firm’s social media channels that help or hurt getting organic traffic. Some of the elements that have the most impact are described below. 

Consistent Content Creation 

The website needs to be updated on a regular basis. Publishing genuine content that interests the targeted personas greatly improves SEO. The more often producing and updating content, the “fresher” it appears to search engines. Make the content easy to read or skim by using small paragraphs, descriptive headings, lists and bullet points. Also, link to internal and other external pages throughout the content.   

SEO Friendly Webpage Structure    

Each webpage has a built-in structure that is universal no matter what program the firm is using for its website software. Each page usually has a hierarchy of headings that tells the search engines the importance of the content. For example, the heading tag called H1 is the main header tag. This is typically reserved for the title of the page. Then there are heading tags H2, H3, etc. Just like in a printed document, these should be used to help guide the reader (and search engines) through the webpage content.  

When creating new content, don’t cram it full of all the keywords. Make sure the keywords, topics, and phrases are spread throughout the piece and flow naturally into the content. Be sure to use keywords in the title tags (H1, H2, etc.). Also, make sure that the content is easy to read and/or skim by using many small paragraphs, descriptive headings, lists, and bullet points, for example. 

Image Optimization 

Another SEO component is how fast the webpage loads, and images are the biggest culprits when it comes to slowing down webpage load times. Since AEC firms tend to have very visual websites, it’s easy for the websites to be slowed down dramatically due to the number of images. Make sure that every image on the website is compressed and is the right image format for the screen (as opposed to print-level quality).  

Meta Descriptions 

A meta description is the text that appears in the search results underneath the page title. See the screenshot below for the example that appears with the search of “Deltek Vantagepoint Upgrade.” Meta descriptions can be added to the backend of the firm’s website builder and should be written to include keywords and phrases. The meta description should also be relevant to the content that is on the page, so keyword stuffing will actually hurt the results. Also, the meta description length should be between 150-300 characters. 

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URL Structure 

Did you know that URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator? Just like the webpage structure and meta descriptions, search engines display the URL on the search results. Consider following these SEO best practices when creating URLs: 

  • Use clear, descriptive words in the URL as opposed to random numbers and letters. For example, www.fullsailpartners.com/fspblog would be better than www.fullsailpartners.com/453=?45659. 
  • Try to use shorter URLs whenever possible. There is some research that shows that shorter URLs perform better because URLs that are too-long will be cut off in search results. However, it’s just as important to be descriptive in the URL so don’t cut the URL length just to cut it. 
  • Use keywords in the URL. If the page is targeting a specific term or phrase, make sure to include it in the URL. But don’t go overboard or appear too spammy. The search engines know it and will penalize the content. For example, a spammy URL might be www.fullsailpartners.com/vantagepoint-partner/upgrade-to-vantagepoint/vantagepoint-upgrade-services. A good way to test this is to look at the URL through the eyes of a searcher and ask if it looks natural or like a robot wrote it.  
  • Use hyphenations instead of spaces. Every search engine interprets special characters or spaces the same. Use hyphens to separate the words in the URL.  
  • Use geographic location names, if applicable. If the content is about a specific location or a project in a specific location, use that location name in the URL. This can include city names, neighborhoods, or other regional descriptors.  

Off-Page SEO  

Some of the secret sauce to improving SEO happens off the firm’s website. Search engines like Google rank how popular a firm’s website is. If the firm’s content is popular, it sends a signal to search engines that it’s the best content, making it more of an authority in that topic area, thus a higher ranking. So, what makes a firm’s website popular? Let’s introduce a few strategies. 

Authority Building Through Backlinks  

One way to build authority in the search engines is how popular they rank a firm’s website. One factor they use is called ‘backlinking.’ Backlinks are links from other domains that points to a firm’s website or particular webpage. Each backlink is considered to be a “vote” of confidence for the content that’s being linked. Other websites should also be linking back to the specific firm’s website. Even better is if the backlinks are from higher authority domains such that end in .edu or .org. 

Think about the various ways in which the firm’s website can be backlinked. Some might include: 

  • Sponsoring industry conferences and events. Ask the host entity to place the firm’s logo on its website and link back to the firm’s website. 
  • Write articles for industry websites. Then, make sure the article has a link back to the firm’s website. 
  • List the firm in online industry directories. For example, Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) has a rather established one. 

Google My Business 

This is probably the easiest task to improve SEO is to make sure the Google My Business is set up for every office location for your firm. Make sure that the firm’s name, address(es), and phone number(s) are correct on the firm’s website and that they are also the same at what’s displayed on the Google My Business page. It sounds so simple but can be quite complex especially the more offices the firm has and how often the offices move locations.  

Getting Started with SEO 

There is no exact science or formula to rank first, or even on the first page, in a search result. Basically, if the content provides value to the people searching for it, it will rank better. Here are some best practices to keep in mind as content is developed for the firm’s digital marketing program: 

  • Research for the key words, phrases, or questions that the firm’s personas would be searching.  
  • Conduct those same searches on Google, Yahoo!, and Bing to see what pages and content is already ranking high.  
  • Review those pages and content to identify what qualities, format, content type, etc. that those pages possess.  
  • Make sure to create content that is better than those! 
  • And, if some of the firm’s content ranks high with those searches, evaluate those pages and content to see what’s working. Repurpose that specific content in new ways and create new content like that. 

Driving Growth with Digital Marketing 

SEO is just part of the overall digital marketing plan for AEC firms. Other components include identifying the persona, setting goals, and developing a content strategy. To learn more about each of these components, check out the entire Driving Growth with Digital Marketing series by clicking the link below. 

 

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