SEO Basics for Professional Services Firms

By Lindsay Diven, CPSM posted 04-16-2019 09:51


Getting started with an SEO strategy can be overwhelming for any marketing professional. When you work in an architecture, engineering, or construction firm who sells professional services rather than a digital or tangible product, it can be even more challenging.

Over the years, I have learned a fair share of SEO strategies from various podcasts, articles, and consultants. I even helped formulate and implement local SEO my husband’s brand-new company that ended up ranked #1 in his targeted category. Through that experience, we both learned a lot about ethical and organic SEO and some more not-so ethical strategies that some of his competitors were using.

Since a few people have asked about SEO specific, I thought I would share some of the basics of SEO to consider before getting started implementing your own strategies or hiring a SEO consultant.  I would recommend getting a basic understanding of SEO before reaching out to any firms or consultants. While there are many good SEO consultants, there are many charlatans. Also, not sure how many specialize in our industry.

What is SEO?

Let’s just start at the beginning. SEO stands for search engine optimization. It can sound confusing, but it is rather simple. Search engines, like Google, look at all the websites and deliver search results in an order they (Google) think its relevant to the person who is searching. When you deploy SEO strategies, you are wanting to increase the quantity and quality of traffic to your websites by using organic search results. The theory is that if you are ranked in the top spots by the search engines, the person searching is more likely to click on your website.

Goals for SEO

Why would you even care or want to pay attention to SEO? First, hopefully you have a website and you want that website to generate and educate new leads, engage current clients, and probably encourage potential employees to apply to your open positions. There is a myriad of other website goals, but those are typically the basics. (If you are starting a website update initiative, read this article series first.)

The purpose of SEO is to increase the quantity and quality of traffic coming to your website. Let’s break it down further:

  • Quality of traffic. You can attract thousands of website visitors, but if they are coming to your site because Google tells them you are a resource for medical devices when you’re really an architecture firm who designs hospitals, that is not quality traffic. Instead you want to attract website visitors who are genuinely interested in the services you provide.
  • Quantity of traffic. Once you get the right visitors coming to your website, more traffic is better.
  • Organic results. The purpose of SEO is to get this additional, qualified traffic to your website in an organic matter. This means without having to pay for any ad space or listings on Google.

Basic SEO Strategies

Below are a few ways most marketing professionals can implement at their firms today. I would say that you must start with these before even determining any advanced strategies or hiring a SEO consultant.

Business Address(es)

This is probably the most essential strategy to complete. You want to make sure that your firm’s name, address(es), and phone number(s) are correct on your website, and that that information is also the same as what’s displayed on your Google My Business page. This sounds very simple but can be quite complex if you have multiple offices and they move around.

This was huge for my previous firm a few years ago. We had six offices and it took a few months to get them all claimed by our firm's Google account. But once we did, it was much easier to change addresses on Google Maps as our offices moved. 

Wordpress Plugin

If your website is on Wordpress, I would highly recommended installing and implementing the plug-in, Yoast. The Wordpress plug-in is free and walks you through optimizing your site and each page and blog post going forward for your targeted keywords. Just by using that, I learned a lot of basic SEO strategies. They also have a premium version but haven't had a need to upgrade yet.

Original, Optimized Content

Write genuine content that would interest your audience. Produce content on a regular basis such as weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. The more often you are producing and updating the content, the “fresher” it appears to the search engines.

Don't worry about cramming all the keywords into your blog posts just for SEO. However, you do want to make sure that you are using the keywords in the title tags (H1, H2, etc.), meta descriptions, and alt-tags for images and graphics.

Make your articles easy to read/skim by using many of small paragraphs, descriptive headings, lists and bullet points, etc. 

You will also want to link internal to other articles on your site and to links outside your site.

This is where I highly rely on Yoast to help. At the bottom of every page and post, Yoast allows you to plug in your keyword and evaluates your SEO. It gives you specific feedback and items to change to optimize.

Identifying Keywords

You may want to identify what keywords to target. You can use Google's Keyword Search/Planner tool. It's free if you have a Google ad words account set up (which is also free, you don't have to buy any ads to access.)

Finding the keywords or content, I have found, can be the most challenging, especially if you want to keep broad, like Architects in Chicago. I would brainstorm different niches your firm wants to target and do some keyword searching around that. You want to make sure there is enough traffic looking for those keywords to meet your goals. 

Backlinks & Popularity

Some of the secret sauce of search engines like Google is how they rank how popular your site is. The theory is that if you site is more popular, it must be more authoritative in your topic area, thus a relevant (aka higher ranked) search result. One factor they use is called backlinking.

Backlinks are links from outside domains that point to pages on your domain; essentially linking back from their domain to yours. They are considered to be a “vote” of confidence for the content that’s being linked to your domain from outside sources.

So, you’ll want to get backlinks to your site. It also matters the type of domains that backlinking. Those from higher authority domains like .edu's and .org's that are relevant to your audience.

Some ideas to get backlinks are:

  • Current firm sponsorships (think golf tournaments, etc.). Ask each entity you sponsor to place a logo on their website and link it back to you firm's website.
  • Be a guest writer on your industry associations websites (SMPS, AIA, etc.) and make sure they link back to your website.
  • Be featured in your industry online directories. I know DBIA has a rather established one, for example.

Your Firm’s SEO Goals

Before I start any marketing initiative, I like to know what the goal is for the project.

If your firm is wanting to deploy SEO strategies, why do you want to do that? What is your goal for this initiative? Is it to increase page views? Time on site? Email subscription rates? To increase webinar or event attendance?

I would get crystal clear about your goals. Being ranked #1 on Google doesn't mean anything if the traffic isn't being routed anywhere or guided to further the relationship somehow.

Once you have your goal, then you can monitor for a few months to get your own baseline numbers/statistics. Then deploy your chosen SEO strategies and track the differences. At least that's how I would approach it. This way it's specific to your firm and its efforts, budget, resources, etc. 

Your Turn

Have you used any of these SEO strategies? Were they effective for your firm?

Do you have any other SEO strategies to add? Comment below.