BY GINA GALLUP, THE BRADFORD GROUP
In this day and age, most construction firms are well aware that having a company website is a vital element of their business strategies. Many companies use their websites to post updates on current projects, company happenings and other relevant information their current and potential clients may find useful, ultimately with the goal of driving business. However, this valuable content may go unnoticed if you’re not carefully implementing search engine optimization (SEO).
Search engine optimization is the process of using specific strategies in your website’s content to rank higher in internet search results, which allows people to more easily discover your company through online searches.
You don’t have to be an SEO expert to incorporate it into your firm’s online strategy. Here are a few simple ways construction firms can master SEO to be seen by more people online and gain new customers:
1. PRODUCE QUALITY CONTENT
You are already producing great content for your website, and there are many SEO benefits of providing material people actually want to read.
Google pays attention to websites’ bounce rates, which show the percentage of people who enter and then leave a website before viewing any pages. Most often, bounce rate reflects whether or not the visitor found what he or she was looking for on your website, so valuable content that answers viewers’ questions will decrease the likelihood that visitors leave your site prematurely. That, in turn, increases rankings in search engines.
Some key characteristics of quality content include:
- It is original and updated consistently
- It is factual and relevant to current and potential customers
- It uses a keyword in all the right places (more on that below)
- It links to trustworthy sources
- It is at least 600 words on a page — and the longer the better, because it shows your authority (the best-performing blog posts have more than 3,000 words)
- It is easy to read (in Google’s eyes) — so try to stay away from too many long sentences, big words or industry jargon
- It is scannable, with subheads and bulleted lists
2. USE RELEVANT KEYWORDS
Keywords are the words and phrases that internet searchers use to find your website. They sum up what your content is all about. It’s important to strategically use keywords in online content so current and future customers can find the valuable information on your company’s website.
Why should you care about being a go-to source? By continuously drawing your target audience to your website, your company comes to the forefront of their minds. When they’re ready to make a purchasing decision, they’ll think of you first.
Research and strategize a list of five to 10 main keywords for your site, such as “commercial construction,” “steel construction” or “high-rise construction,” and then tailor them for your company. For example, a keyword like “construction” is very common, so there is a lot of competition for the word. That means you would need to produce thousands of pieces of content to rank well for it. However, if you combine “construction” with a descriptor, like “healthcare,” and a location, like “Nashville” or “Tennessee,” and make it a long-tail keyword, you will be in a better position to rank for it. This is especially true as voice search becomes more popular. Plus, long-tail keywords allow you to finely target your audience, which means you know they’re looking for what you can provide.
Each blog or webpage should focus on only one main keyword at a time in order for that page to rank highly for the chosen keyword and to show authority for that specific topic. Other keywords may naturally be included, but only have one main target for the page.
For example, many people are currently searching the web for information on the coronavirus and its effect on their lives. Likely, there are some people wondering if construction companies are working during the pandemic — and that’s your target audience. Do some research to learn exactly what information this audience is looking for, and then provide content using a relevant keyword. You may start by writing a blog post with the key phrase “construction coronavirus” because internet searchers may use this wording. (Test it out on Google Trends.) You can use different variations of that keyword or split it up, such as using a headline like, “the coronavirus’ effect on the construction industry.” Even if your site is also focusing on other keywords, don’t force them in unless it just makes sense naturally.
Then, optimize that page for your target keyword. Google best recognizes on-page keywords when they are used in the title, the first paragraph and a subtitle, as well as other places naturally throughout the piece. Additionally, include them in the page’s URL and, if appropriate, the alt tag of an image.
3. BE INTENTIONAL WITH LINKS
Links are a crucial part of your SEO strategy, as they build credibility and trust with Google and, therefore, your target audience.
Links to other websites in your own site’s content are typically used as a citation — such as to show where a stat was pulled for a blog — or to refer people to related material or a partner. This allows readers to validate your sources, conduct additional research and potentially work with people in your network.
It’s also important to link to internal pages within your site under relevant keywords that naturally appear in the text. That shows Google what keywords you’re using, where you have authority and that you have informational pages dedicated to those specific topics. Plus, linking to other pages on your site allows the reader to further engage with your content. The goal is to keep the reader on your website as long as possible so they can find the information they were searching for (and eventually make a purchasing decision).
Most importantly, your company gains credibility when other websites refer people back to your website, also known as backlinks. That said, not just any backlink will do. Google will rank your site higher when it is linked to from other highly ranked sites. That means backlinks need to be created from two directions: via quality, informative material on your site that others want to link to, and through contacting sources with a reason for them to link to your site. Backlinks can be challenging to get, but they are extremely valuable for your SEO rankings. Consider working with a PR firm to help place content on news, trade and other authoritative websites that include backlinks to your site.
In the end, you must be intentional about links for them to work in your favor. Google will decrease the ranking of a website if it has irrelevant backlinks. If you write a blog post about “construction technology,” for example, and include a link under those words, it should link to a page only about construction technology. If it links to a page on “construction trends,” with only one section devoted to technology, that doesn’t work. The reader should be able to click a link and land where they expected to.
4. MAKE SURE YOUR WEBSITE IS RUNNING WELL
A secure, speedy website is not only convenient for users, it provides SEO benefits for your company, as well.
Security is important for any website, but especially when it represents a business. Google also gives a slight ranking boost to secure websites to promote internet safety. One way of securing your website is to add a SSL certificate on your site, which shifts your website’s URL from HTTP to HTTPS.
The speed of your website can also be a huge SEO advantage (or disadvantage, for that matter). If your website takes longer than three seconds to load, users will become impatient and frustrated and may not return in the future. Because Google and other search engines are aware of these statistics, they now use speed as a ranking factor for desktop and mobile searches.
There are various tools you can use to check the performance of your website. PageSpeed Insights is an online tool that provides data for your site and offers suggestions to improve its performance. Google Search Console and Lighthouse are other options that provide advice on how to improve the performance and accessibility of your website. These and similar, easy-to-use tools will keep you up-to-date on how your website is running, allow you to rank higher in search results and help you avoid losing potential customers because of a slow-running website.
Don’t overlook the importance of having a company website with relevant information for customers, but your construction company’s business strategy should not stop there. With the knowledge of what SEO is and how it is measured, you can now optimize your company’s online platform and content to rank higher in search results and widen your reach to prospective customers.
Gina Gallup is COO of The Bradford Group, a PR agency in Nashville, Tenn. The Bradford Group specializes in public relations, content marketing and social media for companies in the construction, commercial real estate, finance, tech and business services industries. Gina is certified in Hubspot, inbound marketing and Google Analytics.