What’s something you can do today to improve your architecture practice’s SEO?
It’s really simple. Figure out where your projects have been shared online, and ask those websites to link back to yours.
These are called backlinks, and they help Google to understand how popular and trustworthy your website is. The more high-quality websites that link to yours – the better chance your website has of ranking higher in Google search results.
Over time your practice should be slowly gaining links organically just by doing your regular marketing activities like getting published, entering awards, and speaking at events. Naturally, the better your practice is doing, and the more you focus on your marketing, the better your backlink bread-crumb trail will be.
But how do we get more of these links and help our site to rank faster over time? This article is about how you can gain backlinks sustainably, without doing anything weird that could put your website at risk.
Do you actually know where your project photos are appearing online?
There are thousands of architecture and design blogs out there who re-share the most popular architectural images with their audiences.
If you’ve had your projects professionally photographed, and shared them online, there’s a pretty good chance that your images are appearing on a number of these publications right now.
Here are the steps to find those websites, reach out, and win that backlink.
Step 1: Select a project in your portfolio to start off with.
Pick a project that has been published or shared online at some point in the last few years.
Step 2. Find the websites that have shared it.
In order to find where this project has appeared online, simply right click on your image in Google Chrome and search the web.
Or go straight to Google Images and upload the image directly to perform a reverse image search.
Once you’ve done that, you’ll hopefully see something like this.
Great, Google found that particular image 300 times on other websites! Click “All sizes” to see the results.
Here’s what you get…
Pretty cool, right? Each of those images represents a webpage that’s using this particular photo of THAT House.
Repeat the process with a few of the other A-shots from the project, and move onto the next step.
Step 3. Verify the websites and create a website outreach list.
Now, as you might have noticed, there’s a lot of junk in your image results.
Your job is to sort through the junk and find the legit, real websites that have used your images. There isn’t a hard rule for what makes a website legitimate, but there’s a few clues you want to be on the lookout for in a website that’s worth reaching out to:
- A legible .com or country domain (.com.au, .co.uk etc)
- The website looks real, and seems to come from a trustworthy source.
- It’s a website, and not a social media link (ignore Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, Weibo, Tumblr etc).
- The website has contact information in their footer, or a contact page.
- They have active social media channels.
- The websites are active and have posted new content recently.
Here are a selection examples of legitimate websites and blogs that this search turned up that haven’t linked back to Austin Maynard’s website.
Even though this search turned up fewer than ten legitimate pages, that’s still an awesome result for a single image from a single project. This strategy can really add up to a heap of backlinks if you’re thorough.
Step 4. Send an outreach email.
The next thing you need to do is reach out to each of the publications on your shortlist, point out the page where your image has been used, and politely request they update the post with a link to you and your photographer.
Here’s a quick mock-up of the type of email I’d send for THAT House.
When I’m sending emails like this, I prefer to write a mail merge template in Gmail and send them using a mail merge tool like Yet Another Mail Merge. Creating a system for quickly sending these kinds of emails will save your loads of time.
Step 5. Repeat the process.
The final step is to repeat this process for each of your other projects – then do it all again in 6 months time to see if you’ve picked up any new websites.
As time goes on, more publications and blogs will pick up your projects, so it’s a good idea to turn this into a regular scheduled task on your calendar. For most practices, once every six months or so will be enough.
When you’re ready to check the results, you can open Google Search Console and download a list of backlinks that Google has discovered out there in the internet pointing to your website. You can use this list to track your new links over time.
Bonus tactic: One way you can increase the number of websites that post your images.
This is a tip I’ve picked up recently, and I think it’s pretty interesting. Have you heard of Unsplash? Unsplash is a website where people provide royalty-free images for websites, bloggers and designers to use however they want.
As it happens, architecture photos are incredibly popular on Unsplash. Some of the download numbers are simply staggering. Millions of total downloads, thousands per month.
Unsplash images are free to use. Website owners who use your photos are under no obligation to credit or link to your website, however, many will if you ask them politely using the process I showed you earlier in this article.
The method stays the same. Upload your images to Unsplash and describe them accurately, wait a little while, then find out who has used your images via Google image search, locate their contact info, and reach out.
Backlinks are critical for the SEO performance of your website, and the best part of about the Unsplash tactic – aside from the much wider distribution and use – is that it’s sustainable. As each day goes by, new sites will use your images, and you can send another lot of outreach emails and build more backlinks.
However, I’d only use this strategy if you are happy for the photos to be used freely by everyone on Unsplash. That means that you, your photographer and your client all have to be onboard with the decision to make your images public domain.
In most cases, a practice will want to protect copyright over their project photos. But hey, if you have an old project that’s being retired from your marketing, and no longer plays much of a role on your website, social media or marketing materials – then why not give this strategy a go and give the project a whole new life on the internet.
By finding websites that have used your images, reaching out, and gaining a backlink – and repeating the process as part of your marketing routine – you’ll quickly build up a base of backlinks that will help your website to rank.