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Understanding Search Engine Optimization

By: Brian Gallagher, Vice President Structural Group

It is no secret that technology and the Internet have had a tremendous impact on how people search for information for Architectural/Engineering/Construction (AEC) products, services and technologies. Those companies that are the most agile and quick to respond to this growing trend will reap the biggest rewards. As with any marketing strategy, a search engine optimization (SEO) program should be consistent with your firm’s integrated marketing communication strategy. It is one of several tools that today’s savvy firms can employ to increase their presence on the web and ensure potential clients understand their offerings.


It is hard to believe, but even as recent as 10 years ago, the push was just to get a website up and running. Today, it is not simply enough to just have a website. A powerful selling tool, websites are often the first place potential customers go to learn more about your firm, products or services. How do web users find a firm, a product or a service when they are unsure of the website address or if they are just are looking for firms that specialize in a type of design or construction? The answer is simple, web browsers such as Google, Yahoo and MSN. But with thousands of AEC websites out there, how do you ensure that your firm doesn’t get lost in the shuffle?

For the uninitiated, search engine optimization refers to an orchestrated effort to build or massage your website to encourage higher rankings on search engine result ages (SERP) to improve the quality or volume of traffic or activity to your site. Higher rankings typically result in higher traffic. Search engines have become essential tools for anyone buying or specifying products or services. In many cases, this is now the first step in the information search process. Gone are the days when people go to massive volumes of catalogs, directories and binders. Since a majority of Internet activity is related to people searching for information about a product or service, search engines are critical to generating traffic to your site.

Several factors are important to consider for SEO efforts including site structure, layout, coding, organization and content. In addition, SEO efforts address potential problems that might prevent a “spider” from properly indexing a site.


The first step in the process is to Google your company or product. Where do you come up on the SERP? Next, Google your competition. Where do they place on the SERP? This is the starting point to benchmark where you rank compared to the competition. Ultimately, your goal is to place on the first page. There are plenty of free tools available on the Internet that provide information on how frequently a keyword or phrase is searched.


There are several steps that can be taken to improve your SEO. First, include keywords in your title tag. The title tag is at the top of the each web page. The content in the title tag usually appears in the clickable link on the search engine. This is typically a key factor in search engine algorithms and ultimately the resulting ranking. Strongly consider using synonyms or alternative phrases to enhance search engine visibility. Just by updating the title tag with your company or product name, you can usually generate quick improvements in the results. Next, web page layout and site organization should have a logical flow to how the content is presented and sequenced. Text should include good descriptive terms about your product or service as well as common search terms in the text of your main page. This will help search engines index your product or service. Evidence has shown that tricks such as using text in the same color as your background really don’t work. This means that the keywords need to reinforce themes already presented on your main page. In addition, ensure that descriptive keywords are added to the alt tags of your images and your links.

Content is critical to maximizing your SEO. It is important that your site has unique content that clearly demonstrates what you do. Develop a wide variety of content for the site including articles, case histories, profile sheets and other information. Each of these pieces of information will likely contain a variety of key search terms to help improve your ranking on SERP. Include links to various relevant sites such as associations, trade organizations, publications and other companies. This will help enhance the relevancy of your site in the eyes of the search engines. On the other side, part of your site marketing program should include posting links on relevant sites where potential visitors might go.

Once these changes are implemented, the site must be submitted to the search engines. This will allow the search engines to crawl your site, indexing and cataloguing as they go through it. This will ultimately result in high search engine rankings.


Two different types of searches exist: natural (organic) searches and paid searches. Natural searches rank your site based on a search engine algorithm that considers relevancy and content. Paid searches are essentially ads that appear next to natural search results from paid positioning that is based on keyword, paid placement, paid inclusion, keyword bids/costs per click and other factors. Any Search Engine Marketing (SEM) program should include natural and paid components. Paid searches can be useful to help you cut through the clutter of search engine results. In addition, paid placements ensure your ad or message will be seen by relevant audiences. Paid searches can be a very efficient, yet powerful way to reach your audience. Ultimately, you will be bidding on keywords. Your bid per click will help determine your ranking on the site. Eventually, your ad’s click through rate and performance will determine position. Google’s AdWords and services such as Yahoo Search Marketing and Overture, offer easy-to-use tools to help you develop paid search programs including ad development, keyword recommendations and budgeting assistance.


Clearly, one of the most important elements of SEO is the selection and utilization of keywords. These words ensure that your firm heads to the top of the list when certain words are typed in the search engine. How do you begin? Start by putting yourself in the shoes of a prospective customer; how would they describe what they are looking for? People searching for information relating to a purchase typically use longer, more specific phrases. Keywords should include product names, brands, applications, descriptions of common problems and solutions, synonyms and alternative phrases.

The goal of a search engine optimization strategy is not just driving traffic to the site, but the right traffic. Since people typically focus on specific searches, this creates an opportunity to refine your keyword phrases and their contextual reference to target the prospects. General terms can lead to wasted traffic. Selection of keywords should not be taken lightly. Choosing a general word such as “concrete” or phrases such as “ready mixed concrete” can return hundreds of pages of competing results. The key is using the right key words for what people are searching for. For example, “polymer modified concrete repair material” or “hydrodemolition of a parking structures” returns fewer, more relevant results.

Understanding the Process Each search engine has a series of rules or algorithms that it utilizes for ranking content and returning results. While each search engine’s algorithm is a secret, there are some basic rules and processes that most include. A key factor for a search engine in returning results is the relevancy.

Search engines, such as Google, Ya- hoo and MSN, use “crawlers/spiders” to find and catalogue pages. Web crawlers or spiders are programs or automated scripts utilized by search engines to browse the web, create a copy of web content and index information and data that appears in search engine results. The ultimate ranking algorithms include a variety of factors including keywords, word location and frequency, relevancy, link analysis, and clickthrough measurement.

The SEO process is not a one-time event. On a regular basis, search engines change their algorithms. This requires a constant focus on SEO that involves regular changes and modifications. Consider engaging a SEO or SEM expert to help guide you through the process. A proactive focus on SEO and SEM is a requirement for marketing success.

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TILT-UP TODAY, a publication of the Tilt-Up Concrete Association, is THE source for Tilt-Up industry news, market intelligence, business strategies, technical solutions, product information, and other resources for professionals in the Tilt-Up industry. A subscription to TILT-UP TODAY is included in a TCA membership. Subscriptions for potential TCA members are also available. If you would like to receive a complimentary subscription to the publication, please contact the TCA.