Like it or not, Houzz.com is here to stay. It’s been embraced by our clients who agree with the company tagline that it’s ‘The New Way to Design Your Home’. With nearly 16 million monthly users reported as of early 2014 it’s no longer possible to ignore Houzz as a niche social media fad. Your clients are using it; chances are your competition is using it and if you aren’t you’re missing out.
You’re probably already aware that, first and foremost, Houzz is an image-based search engine and professional directory rolled into one. It relies primarily on home professionals for the consumables. Knowing this, your goal is fairly simple: to be present in the search results for as many of your potential client’s searches as possible. But being present isn’t enough; you want them to click through to your profile, include your images in their Ideabooks, proceed to your website and ultimately hire you.
To do this you have to play by ‘Houzz’ rules. This means providing their search engine with as much information as possible, which on Houzz, is in the form of images, keywords, and the information contained in your profile.
Here’s the problem though, it can be hard to stand out and distinguish yourself from your competition especially in crowded urban markets. So how can you leverage the Houzz platform to your advantage? Here’s four ways to get you started:
1. Complete your profile.
Let’s start with the low hanging fruit. There is no easier way to begin outranking other pros in your local marketplace than by completing your profile. While it’s impossible to know the secret sauce of the Houzz search algorithm, their representatives in the pro-portal emphasize this time after time: completed profiles receive more search traffic.
It makes sense that Houzz would preferentially treat pros that completed their profile in search. They want to offer their users the best possible search results and a pro with a complete profile has more of the things Houzz thinks are important to users in one package. As consumers we understand this concept already – a pro with three reviews will have more credibility than one with no reviews.
What does this mean for you? Here’s how the profile completion percentages break down:
- Profile Basics (20%)
- Complete Your Contact Info (15%)
- Describe Your Business (10%)
- Upload 5+ Photos of Your Work (25%)
- Receive 3+ Reviews (15%)
- Place a Houzz badge on your Website (15%)
Most of these are simply a matter of filling in the blanks and completing the tasks. The primary stumbling block in the above list is usually getting past the review threshold. If your profile isn’t complete for this reason put all your efforts into this one single task. Consider asking other professionals you’ve worked with: consultants, contractors, and architects if you have to. Remember that a new client will likely view one of your former client’s review as worth far more.
TIP: Put these reviews to work as testimonials on your own website too.
2. Upload (more) high quality photos.
Five photos is a minimum for the completed profile designation, but really that’s too few to make a profile that a potential client will want to spend time looking through. Remember the primary function of Houzz is to provide users with relevant images. Your five images make for an awfully small needle in a haystack of millions.
High quality images are ubiquitous on Houzz – a minimum width of 2400 pixels offers you the best chance of being showcased on the homepage Ideabooks. If you’re lacking professional photography, upload only the best quality images you have. This is a place where poorly composed, dimly lit images can really penalize you. Remember you’re being compared to world-class professional images an amateur image is easy for users (and editors) to pass over.
If you don’t have any professional quality photos of finished spaces (Houzz’s preferred favorite) start off by uploading high-resolution computer or hand drawn renderings and drawings. Recognize that these aren’t looked upon with the same relevancy as images of finished spaces; you’ll supplement them with time and with more completed projects.
3. Add descriptions to each image.
Following the completion of the profile, this is the number one area that I find most pros can improve upon. Adding keyword-rich (for the search engine’s sake) descriptive text to each image is critical to being discovered. When you upload photos to Houzz, you’re offered a place to enter the project description, which is important, but notice that each image also has a field for descriptive text. Describe what you see in the image from the perspective of a potential client performing a search. Colors, textures, materials, shapes, furniture, appliances, and specific details – nothing is too trivial to leave out. The more you describe the more virtual file drawers the search engine will categorize your image into.
TIP: Try to avoid using ‘Archispeak’ – not the excellent, must-listen-to podcast –rather the highly technical, architectural terminology. These are less likely to be searched for by your potential clients. Some architectural parlance is okay as there are contributors (like me) who do search for those terms and you’ll stand out to them.
4. Create Ideabooks.
If you’re not familiar with Ideabooks, they’re a core feature of Houzz and one of the more useful tools on the site. They’re essentially virtual file folders for users (and pros) to store images relevant to a specific ‘idea’ or project. They’re useful for communicating design ideas between pro and consumer and for deciphering the subjective language of design in straightforward visual terms.
Your goal is to get your images into as many user Ideabooks as possible. Why? First, for social proof as images appear with a ticker showing the number of Ideabooks they’ve been added to at the bottom of the image. When a user sees an image that’s been added to 500+ Ideabooks it confirms their good taste, naturally.
But, more importantly, (assuming you’ve tagged your image with keywords relevant to your image), this proves relevancy in the eyes of the Houzz search algorithm. It understands that users are searching for a certain term – copper siding for example -and finding things they like in images like yours. It then suggests other images that correlate to your image – “People who like this image also like these images…” It’s similar to the shopping experience at Amazon, where each search prompts more products, “People who viewed this item also viewed.” Entering this ecosystem –essentially a referral engine – is the real key to unlocking the power of Houzz for your business.
This is where creating Ideabooks comes into play. When you’re first getting started, completing your profile and uploading images, they won’t be in any Ideabooks yet. You can wait for others to add your images to Ideabooks, but that takes time. You can jumpstart this process by creating your own Ideabooks (keyword rich) and embed your images alongside other relevant images. Find work that looks like the work you do (or shares similar keywords) and correlate the images. Show the search engine how your work is related to the other work. You’ll want to be selective curating these Ideabooks; there’s no reason to put your local competition’s images in your Ideabooks, right? Be thoughtful about this and you’ll begin building social proof while telling the search engine exactly how you should be found.
If you complete even one of these four tasks you’ll organically begin to appear in more search results. Of course there are many other ways to be discovered, including paying for the opportunity, but I’ll leave that for another post.
I’d love to hear how Houzz is working for YOUR business. Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.Author Bio Eric Reinholdt is an award-winning architect, dedicated father, mountain climber, guitar player, blogger and author. He is the founder of 30X40 Design Workshop, a residential design studio bordering Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island just off the coast of Maine. This is where he lives and practices in a modern Longhouse, designed by himself with his wife, two boys and one cat. His architecture is simple, modern, site-specific, and craft-driven utilizing local materials and familiar forms juxtaposed against modern, open floor plans with minimalist detailing. It’s work that celebrates humble materials, subtle contrasts and finely crafted details. Eric is also a professional weekly contributor for Houzz.com where he has authored more than 50 Ideabooks published on their homepage and in newsletters to date. He’s the author of The Unofficial Guide to Houzz.com: Create a Profile That Resonates with Clients and Outranks Your Competition available on Amazon.com ***
If you are interested in contributing a guest post for Entrepreneur Architect, click here.
I haven’t fully embraced Houzz yet, but I see it as both helpful and hurtful to the profession. I have only a mediocre profile page (never put in the effort to flesh it out since I’m not accepting new projects right now), but still receive a decent number of inquiries from potential clients. This is encouraging, knowing that I could easily beef up my profile and focus my efforts to see greater exposure and results. However, I’m bothered that the expectation is for professionals to simply give away their trade secrets and professional services for free in the form of comments. Browse any comment section and it is rife with requests for the architect to supply detailed specification information without compensation. As a courtesy this creates goodwill, but given how prolific these requests are, it is quickly devolving into a means of devaluing our profession. Once the masses expect this information to be free, we’ll find ourselves losing money. How can we promote the idea that specifications research is part of the services provided to paying clients in the Houzz community?
Congratulations on having to turn away new projects, that’s an enviable position to be in!
I agree that there’s an expectation for free professional advice on the site and I’m always studying how other professionals handle requests for detailed information. One approach to take, especially with specification-related questions (what type of ______ did you use?) is to say, “We’re sorry but we’ve archived the files for that project – please contact our office, we’d be happy to discuss your project with you.” It’s quick, courteous and it doesn’t involve divulging client-specific or trade secrets.
Another approach is to answer the questions succinctly and in general terms only. And a third is for pros to publish articles on the site that discuss the process and what we do as architects and designers. The Houzz editorial staff is actively seeking this kind of content. But, the latter takes time which can be hard to find if you’re especially busy.
Whatever approach you choose, it should align with your brand message. I don’t mind adding value where I can as I continue to grow my business. For me, it’s been a good place to learn how to strategically market my work with a relatively small time investment. If things become busy enough where I’m turning work away then stepping back from the engagement makes perfect sense.
As design professionals, we get to choose how we interact with Houzz. I hope that we’re able to shape it to be more symbiotic rather than less. It’s a huge audience that’s interested in design and I feel some responsibility to educate them. I hope you’ll join me to help better explain a process that’s not entirely clear to the average person.
Liza Hausman says
Eric, thanks for sharing your experience.
Brinn, what’s interesting is that professionals often share with me that they are unhappy because the general public and prospective clients have no idea about the effort, budget, details, needs etc for building and renovation projects. Then in the same breath they express displeasure at having to educate people about what’s involved. Professionals who really thrive on Houzz understand that things won’t change unless it’s everybody’s responsibility to help educate people who are smart but who aren’t knowledgeable. That doesn’t mean giving away your trade secrets, but instead is an opportunity to show people the depth of your knowledge and expertise by giving them some information that helps them to understand some of the aspects of projects they aren’t aware of, and also the value of hiring a professional. Every question can be turned to communicate a broader concept or idea. Houzz is a platform that has generated more demand for professional services than any other, in large part because the public can see the value each individual professional brings to a project, and to develop and showcase their individual brands.
Mark R. LePage says
Liza; Thanks for contributing to the conversation here at Entrepreneur Architect. I appreciate you for sharing your thoughts.
I like it not, and I can’t help feeling that architects will come to regret it some day that we let some private company use us to their benefit this way. Nobody wants to hear it though. Go post your pretty pictures and charm your prospects.
Charlotte Smith says
So have only read the first 4 chapters of Eric’s book and only addressed the first 3 tips above. However, I set up the profile 5 days ago and we have moved from hidden on page 5, to #3 on the first page out of a total of 52 organisations in a 25 mile radius from our town. No a bad start. I don’t have a feel for the traffic yet as it’s new to the UK only launching in July 2014.
I agree with Liza we have to educate our prospects. A current RIBA (UK) CPD session is “Managing Client Expectations”- with the takeaway message from not only attendees but speaker- that there is no answer to this challenge.
We disagree, the answer is education before engagement.
Blake Tubby says
I’m a landscape contractor from Toronto (Arbordale Landscaping). I did everything you said about a year ago and have had very minimal results. I have a very complete profile, tones of high res. photos and my activity is reasonable. I do show up in people’s ideabooks but haven’t had any success recruiting clients through this medium. I have now been approached by Houzz to be a part of their sponsored contractor program for a fee of 250-500$ per month with a 1 ear commitment, depending on my target areas. I am wondering if you have yet touched base on the paid contractor section, or have any experience with it. The sales pitch which I was given made it sound like it would make sense for a business such as mine, but I have doubts before investing this kind of money into it. Have any thoughts on the route I should take? If you do pass by my profile, do you have any comments or critiques? Thanks!!
Thanks for your question. I checked out your Houzz profile, you have lots of great photos and it’s a great foundation to build on.
You mentioned that you had done everything I talked about in the post, but as I looked through your profile there are a couple of things I noticed that are probably keeping you from landing the number of inquiries you’re seeking (without paying for the privilege). There’s an entire section devoted to this in my book if you’d like to read further.
Although you note you have a “very complete profile” it’s not actually complete in Houzz’s eyes. When you log in you can see this to the right in your dashboard and your Pro badge turns green when it’s 100% complete. I think the main reason is because you’re missing reviews. You need three for profile completion and preferential treatment in the search results. In your area there are almost 30 other landscape contractors with at least one review and they will always outrank you when it comes to users searching Houzz organically to find you. Especially for a service-based business like yours, reviews are critical for lead conversion.
Also, be sure to revisit items 2 & 3 in my post above. For users to find your images they need descriptions. Use keyword rich, descriptive text on every image, I didn’t see any when I quickly perused them. You might also consider creating a few Ideabooks correlating your images with other relevant images, I didn’t see any Ideabooks listed in your profile yet.
There are many other tips in the book, I hope you’ll pick up a copy and run through the checklists to improve your rankings in what looks to be a pretty competitive market in Toronto. You can find it on Amazon at the link above.
Angela Todd says
Eric – thank you for the article. I rank well, and do most of these things – but I learned something here;) Thank you. I also wanted to add that answering questions also can climb your rankings. I used to get annoyed that people wanted my expertise for free online, but now I frequently (say as you suggested) that the information is archived – and direct them to call our studio for specific their project. Rarely do I hear a word. There are good potential clients on Houzz, but there are also DIY types who aren’t a good for a design professional. They just want free info and I believe they are ignorant to what they are asking. Use pre-saved responses if you must, but answer all.
Angela – Glad you found it helpful. You brought up an excellent point about responding to photo questions. Houzz loves pros who are engaged. And, even predetermined, canned responses fulfill the engagement requirement. The key (which you’ve discovered) is to make sure you know who your target market is and craft everything you do on Houzz as a response to that market. Your presaved response politely says to the DIYer that you offer a higher end service without coming out and saying “not for you”. By extension, this is also clear to the clients who are looking for higher end services that you’re an exclusive brand giving them even more reasons to hire you.
Your Houzz profile is top notch, keep up the excellent work!
Blake Tubby says
This is Blake, the landscaper from Toronto. I did most of the things that I was asked to do to my free profile to improve my ranking. My biggest question was regarding the paid service that Houzz is now offering to become an approved or sponsored contractor. I was wondering if you had any insight on whether or not it is worth the investment. I also just bought your book on Amazon! Thanks.
From my perspective I don’t think the Pro+ program is worth the investment – here’s why. To rank organically on Houzz, you have to complete your profile (min. 3 reviews, high quality photos, complete contact info., backlink to Houzz, etc.) When you pay Houzz for placement in the search rankings you’ll be listed near the top, yes. But, you’ll be right next to others who organically rank highly. This is because they already have complete (and usually really good looking) profiles.
For someone searching for and choosing among many service-based businesses (like yours) reviews will be extremely important. I see your profile now has two reviews, which is great, the more the better. A user is more likely to click on the profile of the Pro that has more reviews and once you get three Houzz will begin treating your profile differently in the search results.
The basic gist is: if you pay for placement without a complete profile you may not get the click through to your profile and website either way. Paid placement doesn’t circumvent the benefits of completing your profile. Tune your profile to your ideal client and add lots of specific image tags and you’ll be found that’s the way their search engine works. Good info. in = good info. out.
Blake Tubby says
I am working on my reviews, should have a few more coming in this week. I am also having a Houzz badge added to my company website. Therefore, my Houzz page is almost complete and hopefully will get me higher ranked.
The Pro+ program offers more than just higher ranking on the site. They also offer branded pictures, and also serve your pictures up custom to the IP addresses of where your clients live. The clients who live in your target market will see your pictures ahead of the 5million+ photos that it is also cyphering through, So my pictures will show up “organically” in my target market, as opposed to everywhere around North America like they do with the free profile and not necessarily in Toronto. Also my pictures will have special branding attached to them, showing the users where my company is based out of and will show thumbnail photos at the bottom of it that the users can click to view as well.
I feel the exposure will be good, and the market targeting may help my brand. I have had 3 or 4 discussions with the Houzz people, and I have also reached out to some companies who are already Pro+ members. With respect to the members I have spoken to, I have gotten about an 80% approval rating, and a 20% “not sure” rating (they were newer members and didn’t have much data). I also like how Houzz will provide you with analytics showing who and how many people see your photos.
I must sound like a Houzz sales rep by now, but am I wrong to think that all of this is not applicable, or am I being duped by the Greater Houzz Community? Thanks again for your insight!
We have been making improvements to our houzz and look forward to positive results once we have our badge added to our web site.
Houzz has approached our painting business regarding their Pro+ program. I am apprehensive as I have found from my personal use (and I use houzz weekly) that Pros from my area do not show up in the designated slots in search (3rd down on the page is one.) I do see photos from Pros that are quite some distance from us. I asked our sales rep about this and she told me if our IP address is based in another area, then we will only see Pros from the area in which our IP address resides. If my IP address is based on an address 2 hours from our service area, I don’t see how $300/month is going to lead houzz clients to me. For this reason (and the strict 1 year contract) we will not be using their Pro+ program.
Vic Wahby Photography says
As an interior design and architectural photographer, I’m puzzled how to use Ideabooks to boost my rankings. If I keyword them describing the design attributes I suppose I’d rank well for design searches. But that’s not my target audience.
My goal is to rank well when a pro is searching for a photographer since I’m selling a photography service. What sort of Ideabook strategy makes sense for photographers?
Thanks in advance! Vic
Your strategy as a photographer should be more focused on ranking in the directory rather than creating Ideabooks. Add as many keywords to your images as possible, add descriptive text to everything including your profile description. Be sure to indicate areas served, use precise service descriptions, add cost information (as appropriate).
Tune your profile to answer the questions all pros have about your services. The more complete and descriptive your profile is, the more searches you’ll appear in.
Ideabooks can still be used, but perhaps differently. Houzz has created a system to work within, but as creatives we don’t always need to use them in the way they were intended. Could you use them to describe your process instead? What if you created an Ideabook or a project comprised of photos showing your process? Setting up, composing the shots, editing, etc. Let the Ideabook tell the story of how you work. That way the pros you’re courting can envision exactly what it will be like to work with you. Then you might message pros in your area with a link to the Ideabook as a first step.
Thanks for sharing up–to-date on this subject! I find it is very informative and very well written one! Keep up on this quality!
Paul Francis Shurtleff Architect says
I wonder if Blake has seen a marked increase in his referrals since making the adjustments you suggested a year ago?
Your thoughts re: the PRO deal seems correct but I still need to get some additional reviews. I have been working at getting my profile further completed but most of the extraordinary project clients just won’t complete the reviews.
Is the Houzz Badge an absolute for my website ?
ps: all of my images are my shots.
Mark Firestone says
Thanks for the tips! I’m in the process of building a new website and Houzz account after thirty years of business in the SF Bay Area and Key West Florida. I moved back to the SF area recently and am trying to regenerate my business here. One question: Some clients of mine who use Houzz indicated to me that they use an upgraded, paid profile. I’d like to know your thoughts on that. Cheers!
Mark R. LePage says
Mark, I have not used their paid version, but the architects I know who do are very happy with the results. I recommend stating by optiminzing the free account as described in Eric’s book first. Once you gain maximum benefit from the paid version, then consider the upgrade.
Mark Firestone says
Mr. LePage –
Sounds reasonable. Thanks for the advice.
At the end of the day, from the point of view of a small custom shop, it is practically all smokes and mirrors. Just don’t expect much in return for the visibility it offers and the great reviews you might have. It helps homeowners with ideas. It vets the reviews better than anyone else. Yet, it is not a good tool to promote your business getting jobs. Actually, here it fails miserably. One needs to rely on word of mouth and one on one support. The more people you know directly the better. That is what works. No 2 ways around it. No matter what they say.
Jenny Ballantyne says
Hi, I’m an Interior Designer based in Cambridgeshire, U.K. I started my company a little under a year ago and I’ve been on Houzz as a ‘Pro’ for about the same time. A few weeks back I received an email from Houzz, they liked a kitchen project I have on there and asked if they could do a feature on it. They also asked about some of my other projects. When I explained a few others were of my own house, (including the one they were interested in) they asked if they could feature the whole house! I went from 100 saves to 1k within a week! Houzz have been fantastic and i can highly recommend making the most of your profiles to gain maximum exposure. The article is still on there, if you want to have a look.
Mark R. LePage says
Jenny; That’s a fantastic story. Congrats on your success. Thanks for sharing and inspiring others to make the most of their profiles!
Gene Kniaz says
As a new EA member, I’m still “mining the back catalog” for great information, and this post was very interesting. I hit 1k saves back in October after Houzz had featured one of my photos in an article they did – but that doesn’t happen every week, so I’m interested to see how Eric’s advice pays off. I do agree with Mark’s advice – don’t pay for Houzz until you have a fairly good library of images up. I fell for the hype, didn’t have that library in place when I signed on the dotted line, and got burned.