If you're launching or scaling your interior design studio you know that leads are the lifeblood of your business.
SEO can be one of the key pillars to helping your pipeline.
How do I know this? Because for the last several years I've worked with multiple interior designers on their SEO - and seen the results it can offer. So, to expand on my initial post about using SEO for luxury brands I'm turning my attention to the interior design market.
We'll start by covering the basics - SEO information that, honestly, you can learn about anywhere. What then follows are the specific challenges that I've seen time and again interior designers experience when marketing their brands on Google - and what you can do to solve them.
SEO Basics for Interior Designers
Inbetween the clients, the costings and the samples, the last thing you'll likely want to think about is SEO.
You should though. It's marketing tactic which can in the long term help provide a consistent and cost-effective way of generating leads all year round. It's not the easiest thing to understand though - SEO is a narrow label for a broad category of different tactics. Some are technical, some creative but all of them can help a brand to rank higher on Google for the right and relevant keywords.
While you don't have to know every nuance of SEO, understanding the basics is always helpful, giving you a clearer understanding of things and how they work.
If you do want to have a deeper read then I can't recommend highly enough the Beginners Guide to SEO from Moz. It covers all the essentials and is regularly kept up to date.
If you just want to know the absolute bare bones of SEO here's the six key areas that you might find yourself talking about if you're speaking to an SEO Consultant like myself.
THE SIX KEY AREAS OF SEO
SEO Specifics for Interior Designers
What's been mentioned above can be applied to any website - not just interior design. Here's where it gets specific.
I've worked with numerous interior designers over years on their SEO. Both residential and commercial designers, local and international; from basic colour schemes for those on a budget to whole house transformations for high net worth individuals.
Regardless of the type of interior design on offer, every one of them has experienced one of the five issues that follows. Each item is often overlooked but sorting them out can make a big difference to your SEO - or specifically getting more traffic and more leads from your website.
ISSUE 1: THERE'S NOT ENOUGH PAGES TO RANK IN GOOGLE
Interior designers fall into a common but awkward trap - they want to rank in Google but also want a lean, minimalist website.
A single page interiors website, while aesthetically beautiful is nowhere near enough for Google to rank. Everything is bundled into a single page which won't show your expertise. It's a generic but nice looking business card, but not a lead generating tool.
Let's imagine a hypothetical interior design studio. While they naturally offer interior design, digging a little deeper you find that they
Actually specialise in commercial interior design
Want to win more work in the restaurant space
Want to offer their services to only London restaurants
Also have extensive experience in Italian restaurants
Building a page about restaurant interior design in London, or Italian restaurant design is much more likely to reach the right people in Google and much more likely to covert someone who has can see that your team are experts in a specific field.
Naturally, the studio may want to do more than just Italian restaurant design. You could offer other pages of restaurants styles, but a page a topic is ideal. We can tell through Keyword Research what people are searching for so having multiple pages specialised to different areas is only going to help in the long term.
The best way to summarise this is to ask yourself the following questions and build pages around them:
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF WHEN MAPPING OUT WEBSITE PAGES...
ISSUE 2: THE IMAGES ADDED ARE TOO BIG
The HD photographs in a portfolio and across a website are what sells a studio to the world. While a site includes convincing copy and BIID accreditations it's the images showcasing your style which people are going to fall in love with.
As a result the trend for gigantic images spanning entire pages are all too common, but adding in them could be harming your SEO if not done properly.
Big images have big file sizes - and big file sizes can slow your website down. Often single images could be as high as 15mb, when ideally I would want an entire pages worth of images to be less than 3mb. The measurement of site speed is complicated (this post on Core Web Vitals goes into the details) so its my role to ensure the images are helping rather than hindering a websites performance in Google.
Because of the importance, size and frequency of stunning visuals on an interior designers website this needs more attention than most. Compromise is often what's needed. If you look at optimising your images yourself:
Resize your image first before compressing it to reduce file size first to the dimensions of the screen you expect to see the image on. There's little point uploading the equivalent of an A3 poster if on the website it will only take up the space of a postage stamp
Experiment with different image compression rates. Compress Jpeg is a useful tool for this. You can see how much smaller you can make the file without losing quality.
Check what device your visitors are viewing your website on. Huge images don't need to be huge if everyone sees them on a smartphone. Likewise, small images won't work on widescreen monitors. You can see what devices the majority of people use via your Analytics.
ISSUE 3: YOU DON'T HAVE ENOUGH GOOGLE REVIEWS
A Google Business Profile for an interiors website is crucial to optimise. It gives the first impression of a brand even before someone has visited a website.
Part of this listing is your star rating, which is based on reviews scored from 1 star to 5 stars and interior designers have an all too common problem. Because projects can take months, if not years, to complete, the number of people who are able to leave reviews in any given year is likely to be in the single figures.
In itself, this is not a problem. After all, a few 5 stars reviews are better than many mediocre ones.
The problem arises is that a small number of reviews leaves a brand vulnerable if, and more often when, a bad review comes along. A dreaded 1 star review from an irate client, a case of mistaken identity or someone looking to get their kicks from being mean can topple your average rating from a premium 5 stars to something much less attractive.
As this is the first thing people see of a brand online it can seriously affect first impressions of a brand.
My solution where it's possible is to:
Consistently build up reviews in the long term from happy clients. If you haven't done this then contact historic clients to ask
Clients though can be understandably reluctant to reveal themselves. If this happens then look to your suppliers for reviews instead. Architects, photographers, landscape gardeners and antique dealers you work with are much easier to convince
If you do receive a negative review in whatever form, do respond to it. It gives you a platform to explain the situation
ISSUE 4: YOU'RE NOT ABLE OUTRANK THOSE AT THE TOP OF GOOGLE
When we talk about ranking a website on Google what we mean by default is ranking a website in the 1st position on Google. After all, the top spot receives the most attention.
However, when it comes the interior design market, often the clients I've started working with find themselves a long way behind the competition so the top spots are dominated by websites far bigger, or more authoritative than their own. When we talk about competition we're also not just talking about other interior designers in your local area. Plenty of other websites have an interest in getting in front of people looking for interior design services.
On so many occasions if you search for 'interior design in [location]' you'll see the top results are occupied by:
Houzz - who have a page of interior designers operating in that location
Magazines who have written a feature on the top interior designers in that location
Trade Directories - Yelp, Yell, Bark etc will often appear offering a list of people available
While it is possible to eventually outrank these competitors, sometimes the best approach is simply, if you can't beat them, then join them.
So, if you can, get yourself on Houzz and get in touch with the feature writer of the local magazines. Featuring yourself on other relevant websites can be hugely effective, quick solution of getting in front of target clients. You get access to their much larger audiences as well as appearing in the top positions on Google - albeit indirectly.
(It's worth emphasising the relevancy though of such listings. whereas something like Yelp may outrank your website doesn't mean featuring on there is advantageous, so be discerning).
ISSUE 5: THE BLOG IS A MESS
The biggest challenge for interior designers always seems to be time. When it comes to 'blogging' then the most common result is an occasional post. Sometimes it's news from the studio, sometimes a clipping from a magazine feature. Occasionally it's a quick write up on a design trend which after an initial rush of interest is never looked at again.
While adding content like this to a website is well meaning, it has two consequences:
First, when this approach happens over a long period of time, content which is off-topic, not read and often thin (ie too few words) means the overall quality of the site is reduced. If we had five good service pages but 100 old unused blog posts then the majority of the site doesn't amount to much and can actually begin to harm the performance of your five good pages.
Second, putting time and effort into adding random content takes away the time and effort which could be added into good content:
Content which is organised around keywords can bringing in additional traffic
It can also helps attract links to the website - which adds authority for SEO
The traffic that arrives is there for the long term if the focus is on 'evergreen' information
The biggest piece of advice I can offer is take a pause and ask yourself:
What is the business direction over the next 12 months?
What topics can we talk about that align with this business direction?
What are our competitors doing?
How many articles can we realistically create each month?
Do we have someone that can do keyword research and advise on SEO strategy?
Do we the time and budget for a copywriter?
When content marketing is done proactively it can result in some serious results, bringing more traffic and more links to a website - which in time brings more leads and clients in the long term - but you may need to realign your strategy first.
Although these are five of the most common challenges I see with interior design websites, but there's a lot more to SEO than just working on the items mentioned.
If you know that SEO is something which you should be investing in but aren't sure where to begin, then get in touch. I've spent the last decade working in SEO with a range of interior design clients and have seen the meaningful impact it can have on the new business pipeline. Get in touch here to organise an initial chat.