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Why You Need a Blog (And How to Make it Great)

May 15, 2012

Today’s post is courtesy of Stephanie Tyll, marketing coordinator at Arrowstreet. Stephanie maintains Arrowstreet’s blog, ArrowstreetLive.  You can contact her at tyll@arrowstreet.com or visit www.arrowstreetlive.com.

The AEC marketplace is a unique industry, balanced as it is between art and science; between design aesthetic and constructability. The professionals it attracts are just as unique and interesting. More than any portfolio of experience, individuals are an AEC firm’s greatest asset.

So why aren’t you showing them off?

Yes, that’s right: It’s time to start a blog. It’s time to use social media to profile your staff. It’s time to give your site’s visitors a way to learn about your office in a more casual and conversational setting than that offered by your corporate web site. A blog will add to your credibility as experts in the field, aid your recruiting efforts, and reinforce your brand and identity.

Alright, so you’ve started a blog – joined the other 156 million out there. But… now what? What do you write? How often do you update? Who should be contributing?

We launched ArrowstreetLive a little over a year ago, and several thousand page views later, I have five tips for you on maintaining an AEC company blog.

1. Your employees are your greatest asset: feature them. When your articles are personal and informative, a visitor to your blog will feel like they are visiting your office and speaking to the staff. It’s a personal connection that is invaluable in our industry. Make sure that your layout features faces along with author names, and make sure it’s easy to follow those faces to author bios and links to other articles by that author.

Based on a year of our statistics, our readership is more than four times as likely to click on a “People” or “About Us” page than even your most popular article, and 10 times more likely to do so than to click to a “Page 2” or “More Articles”. So make those pages easy to find and navigate.

We’ve also had great success with having links directly in our employee’s e-mail signatures: both links to the blog in general, and to that employee’s most recent blog article. Who can resist an invitation to “See what’s happening on our blog, including my recent article”…? (Over a quarter of our blog’s visitors came from direct links like this!)

2. Consider your readership. Solicit articles from every member of your staff, from your office manager to your CEO. It’s not just clients who are reading your blog – though they are, so keep those construction updates and thought leadership pieces in the queue! It’s also your peers and potential future employees who are getting a sense of what your office culture is like. Mingle in articles about office life and events – your bowling tournament, holiday party, volunteer activities, etc.

3. Keep it varied. Keep a backlog of articles sufficient so you can schedule a month or more in advance. This will give you greater flexibility in scheduling. Mix your topics up, mix your media up – throw in a video here or there – and avoid having the same author twice in a row. (You’ll always have a few contributors who are more prolific than others – don’t worry! There’s plenty of time to schedule them a week or so down the line.)

And whatever you do, don’t fall prey to that temptation to write all the articles yourself. It just won’t be as interesting and full of good detailed content if you’re not getting contribution from across the board.

4. Post regularly. In general, the “hot times” of the week – those when you’ll get the greatest number of readers – are Tuesdays and Wednesdays, towards the beginning of the day. On Mondays, your readers are coming off their weekends and either not engaged or busy catching up. By Tuesdays, they are more set in their schedule, and have time for a quick browse of various sites before the work day really kicks off. I tend to schedule my posts for Monday or Tuesday at 8 a.m., so that a weekly reader will always have new content to grab his attention.

Once a week is a drop-dead minimum. If I have a good buffer of articles on hand, I’ll put a second article up on a Thursday or Friday. But you absolutely need your readers to know that every week there will be something new for them to read.

5. Link freely. That means links both to other articles and authors on your blog and to the web sites of the companies you’ve referenced in your article. Not only is it responsible journalism, it’s good karma: When you link to others, some will inevitably link back to you, and you can snag a few more viewers. Rule of thumb: Link to a company’s main page the first time you mention them in your article. Also, try to avoid having more than three to five links in a paragraph, length dependent.

Lastly, this one’s so basic it doesn’t even get to be one of the five: Track your web site statistics (Google Analytics is a great free tool). These five tips are a good start, but the only way to go from good to great is to analyze your data and adjust accordingly. What articles are getting the most views? Solicit more along those lines. Which authors are getting the most searches? Flatter them with fame – encourage them to write more!

I’d love to hear what you think – and send me links to your company’s blog!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 15, 2012 7:49 pm

    This is great, Stephanie. It’s a good primer on how to write, maintain and keep up with one’s blog. I helped launch the blog at Pressley Associates Landscape Architects as their Marketing Director until a couple of months ago, and they could certainly use your counsel. Here is a link to their blog: http://pressleyinc.blogspot.com/

    And to my architecture blog: http://architalk-tlarson.blogspot.com

    Arrowstreet’s blog is great, by the way.

    • Stephanie Tyll permalink
      May 16, 2012 11:32 am

      Thanks Todd!

      Loved Pressley’s story about the Northeastern tribute project – good use of compelling images to accent and interesting story. I’d love to see more frequent small updates with anecdotes and other interesting projects – a month or more between stories doesn’t compel me to keep coming back to it for updates.

      Loved your architecture blog as well – your articles are really interesting and thought-provoking for the AEC professional audience. And a lot of imagery, which is always great. My only suggestion would be stylistic in nature – when you have a lot of images in line with your text, it compresses your text to a relatively narrow column, which is less easy to read – I would suggest sizing the images to be no more than half – or perhaps two-thirds – the total column width – or perhaps keeping your text and images on separate lines. Something like that to increase readability.

      (I really loved reading about clock tower history!)

      How is Blogspot as a blogging engine? ArrowstreetLive uses WordPress, so that’s what I’m familiar with – I love its ease of use, ability to schedule things far out, and huge library of plug-ins and other accessories.

      • May 22, 2012 7:41 am

        Thanks for your feedback, Stephanie. I’ll certainly keep it in mind for future blog posts. I’ve found Blogspot to be a good blogging engine, even though I’ve heard it’s not as good as WordPress, Blogspot has a template I have always liked for my architecture blog. And Blogspot has been upgraded recently. I look forward to more of your thoughts on blogging!

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