How bad is bad SEO (search engine optimization) in construction marketing?

The original Construction Marketing Ideas blog

The original Construction Marketing Ideas blog

For those of us who have experienced, then lost, the number one place on Google keyword searches (in my case, for construction marketing), we feel real pain. We’ve enjoyed the glory spot – the instant recognition, the credibility, and the power of being number one — and now we are consigned to a lower place in the online (and business) universe. I’m sure few bloggers who have reached top spot then lost it actually write about our experiences; after all, no one wants to rush to admit that we’ve fallen from grace.

The immediate reaction if we’ve lost our spot is to wonder why and then, perhaps, to double down on our efforts to return to the leading place. In my case, I began reading about the new rules and guidelines, the variations in Google algorithms (and, yes, Google number one still means much more than any other search engine “number one”), and whether I could regain my place in the bright lights. For a while, even, I feared the worst — penalties within Google’s systems had apparently knocked this blog so far off the top that you couldn’t find it anywhere until page three or four of the search engine listings.

Achh.  In terms of SEO, I’m more of an informed amateur than an expert. Several businesses earn their livings by providing SEO services. If you have serious competition for top spot (certainly a valid goal to achieve if your market depends on it) you may need to spend significant time, money and energies in restoring your position or beating off the incumbent.

I’ve weighed the risks and rewards of some changes, such as switching this blog to a fixed and keyword-optimized “front page” model — then decided that, outside of some common-sense internal hyperlinking and maintaining as good as possible relationships with you and other readers, the best thing to do is to simply improve the content, ignoring the various junk emails offering services to bring this blog posting to number one or (worse) offering “free high quality content” — designed, of course, to elevate the rank of the service prvovider’s clients, not this blog!

Unfortunately, some people within the AEC community fall for the spam-type emails, telemarketing calls, and other gimmicks to sell crappy SEO services. Worse, quite a few of these services are practicing techniques either long-ago or more recently banned by Google. Link farm networks, keyword stuffing, link exchange systems, and other gimmicks almost certainly will invite penalties, and serious ones at that. The damage is not irreparable, despite the implications of this Copyblogger posting, “Can bad SEO bring down your business” (there, a free internal hyperlink, these days SEO gold!) Google has built in some special webmaster tools that allow you to “disavow” bad links — freeing yourself to restore your legitimate site to its proper rankings — so if you’ve been taken down by scuzzy SEO, you can recover.

Still, I receive and remove several attempts to comment spam both this and the old Construction Marketing Ideas blog every week.

So, how can you get it right?

Well, first, my authority has declined somewhat because, well, this blog isn’t number one any more. However, communication with peers who share a common qualification — we’ve been recognized as Top Contributors on Google’s help forums, and even been invited to California at Google’s expense — is that the problems we are experiencing are wide-spread. One apparent change is that Google is pushing relevance to even more extreme levels. Previously, if you typed “construction marketing” or “construction marketing ideas” you would find we are number one. Now, keying “construction marketing” will bring this blog to nine, 10 or even lower (depending on location) but “construction marketing ideas” remains absolutely number one. (There are far fewer searches for the three-word combination.) Meanwhile, the original Construction Marketing Ideas blog (blogspot.com version) ranks somewhat higher, depending on geography, but is still lower than it had been.

If you have resources, you can spend significant money for qualified SEO consultants. You’ll often find these guys through references and relationships within your industry associations. Of course, you can also check out non-competitive similar businesses and discover who they have used. Prepare to spend tens of thousands of dollars if you really want experts to do the work correctly. This is by no means a waste of money for businesses which might have spent that much or more, on Yellow Pages listings. (If you are still advertising in the Yellow Pages, and you can measure your cost per lead and are making money, continue. If you haven’t tracked and measured your cost per lead, you need to look closely at whether you are marketing correctly, and then, whether you are spending your money wisely.)

If you don’t have resources, you can take a do-it-yourself approach, building worthy content, hanging out in social media networks, receiving peer advice, and generally working to create a solid and worthwhile site. This is likely to be successful if you are working in a reasonably non-competitive (SEO) field and you have the time to implement a consistent, yet evolving strategy.

In my case, I started this blog primarily as a service to readers and clients. Even when we were at number one, the direct revenue from sales here didn’t make or break our business. Perhaps because of Google’s increasing emphasis on regionalism, our local and regional publications such as Ottawa Construction News and Canadian Design and Construction Report  are ranking high (and are improving in ranking) in their relevant communities — and that is where we make our money, primarily. (Ugh, I had planned to add our North Carolina site here, and just received a malware warning — this is a dynamic and rapidly changing story.)

Concluding advice: Avoid the spammers and telemarketers. If you wish to pay for SEO advice, make your own inquiries, research, and work within recommendations and proven evidence. While you should focus, you should look for back-up and contingency plans. Be patient, as well.

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About Mark Buckshon