I was invited to explain Search Engine Marketing to the construction marketing elite at the CIMCIG annual strategy conference on 2nd December.
Having started my career with George Wimpey in 1991 in the pre-internet days, my first experience of internet marketing for the construction industry was commissioning the www.tarmac.com website in 1997 using a London agency to design the site having retrieved the domain name from a Hong Kong based cyber squatter.
The site was an (expensive) online brochure site. Moving through Tarmac and Carillion I don’t recall SEO or online lead generation being mentioned and even whilst at www.buildonline.com , the website marketing objectives were more focused on email marketing and newsletter list building than the online reputation of the websites for search engines. I’m pretty sure that when I left BuildOnline in 2001 the building industry had not yet woken up to SEO so I was both surprised and excited when doing a little research prior to the 2009 CIMCIG conference that Search Marketing in construction remains a relatively underexploited online marketing channel.
I was surprised because I’m pretty sure that the industry is now online with most architects, engineers and procurement specialists being connected to Google at the office. (Neilson Online claims that in Jan 2009, 72% of the population had access to the internet either at home or at work and I don’t think the industry is any less represented than this average). And with most site based contractors being equipped with a mobile phone, the internet could be accessible by the vast majority of the workforce. Hence my excitement for the opportunity to explain to CIMCIG how SEO could be deployed as a lead generation and sales channel by construction marketers.
I needed to get an uptodate insight into the market size and found that there are 550,000 searches for glazing and 15,000 searches for roofing tiles per month on Google UK at the moment. The Natural search results for roofing tiles displayed mainly manufacturers whilst all of the Paid search results were populated by contractors and merchants paying Google for leads. It makes sense for the manufacturers to invest in SEO as they want to visible to the Specifiers and Architects who will include their products in the building specifications for the contractors to purchase.
But I was surprised that the builders merchants were not better represented in the natural search results (apart from Jewson ) since they will actually sell the vast majority of the volume to the smaller contractors. The opportunities for local search results, accessible via mobile phones wielded by local builders looking for availability and the best price from their most local merchant shone out as an opportunity for someone to own. I know a specialist SEO Agency that would be pleased to help….
As most delegates had a general appreciation for what SEO is, we overviewed our THEME approach to integrated search marketing which was pioneered by Helen Trendell and which aims to drive results from your key insights into the audience you’re targeting. The THEME approach involves identifying your target audience (TRIBE), then using your insights into the target audience to clarify what their motivations are / what benefits they are looking for online (HOOK), creating engaging content which directly addresses the HOOK (ENGAGE), choose promotional (MARKETING) tactics to present the optimised content to your TRIBE and then EVALUATE the relative success of the campaign. This was illustrated with a SEO Case study and 5 SEO tips for construction marketers:
- Identify the traffic generating keywords which represent your niche / point of difference. Think about who your target audience (TRIBE) is and what they’re likely to be looking for (ie the HOOK) – for example; architects looking for glazing specifications
- Target your keywords – create new content rich pages around your keywords
- Create useful free resources – think specification sheets, conversion tables, online tutorials, produce reviews and other useful content which will attract links back to your site
- Manage your reputation – look who ranks for your brand terms and be pro-active with any negative publicity relating to your brand online. Turn a negative into a potential positive (and traffic generator)
- Re-use offline collateral online – make sure your PR agency is talking to your SEO agency and build an online resource library of well optimised content
It’s well documented that it’s difficult to earn a reasonable profit margin in construction and as a result, the typical marketing manager does not enjoy a huge budget – every aspect of that budget needing to prove its value. The previous presentation by David Thorp, Research Director for the CIM highlighted the problems marketers have with gaining credibility amongst FDs and MDs and although that’s not a problem confined to the construction industry, it seemed to me that Integrated Search marketing (both SEO and PPC) could be a great tool for construction marketers to start to bridge that credibility gap with improved transparency, accountability and results. There’s no doubt that an increase in revenue and profit that can be directly attributed to a search marketing campaign would encourage most self respecting FDs to release more budget in anticipation of a repeat performance.