Houzz for designers: Love it? Hate it? Do not understand it?

Cheryl Kees Clendenon Interior design

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Whaaaat you have not heard of Houzz? A year ago many of my clients had not a clue about Houzz, an online cornucopia of visual design delight. But today few can say they have not heard of it, especially those in Designerland. If you are a non designer reading this then probably need to wait for my next post:)images

Many designers have a love/hate relationship with Houzz. The topic came up again today  in a Facebook thread  as well as another forum a few weeks ago… and it shocked me at how many people did not have a clear picture of how some aspects of the site work. As I was one of the few lone wolves who were presenting a  more positive spin on Houzz, it interested me as to why some people seemed to be so vehemently against this platform and I decided to make some phone calls about some of the comments that came up. Some of the info put out was  just simply wrong and should have been investigated more thoroughly before posting but whatever. I will disclaim NOW that the following info is from the information I gleaned and confirmed from several phone calls and emails with Houzz representatives and I have no dog in this hunt people.    I do not claim to be the guru of social media but think that many designers are missing an opportunity for some great exposure and new clients.

Why so much distrust of this site? Here is what I think:  A few people  may have an “agenda” that differs from the Houzz platform, some basic misinformation out in these clubs, a few just simply against losing control of their intellectual property, i.e. their project photos, and some  simply do not know how to maximize their profile. (More on this in a later post.) I do understand (and dislike) the idea that once you post photos…well they are pretty much on there until eternity. But, is just the way they operate and no one is forcing you to set up a profile right??

Here is what I know, verified again today. Take it how you like. I have no agenda. I am not paid by Houzz. I am simply trying to be helpful but we all know how that can backfire in your face as it did for me yesterday when I was trying to voice a different opinion in a facebook group of designers. Let’s just say I was kicked out of the “club”.

Let me be clear:  I do not like certain aspects of the site either and for sure am ever vigilant in case things change.  And not professing to be an expert in digital marketing either….but am pretty successful in my field and think am brighter than the average bear.

A. First and foremost, Houzz does NOT tag YOUR photos in your profile with the hideous green price tags nor do they sell off of your photos specifically. home-designI.E. a particular bar stool in your photo. They DO however make money off of your photos in the larger sense as it is a business that is about pretty photos of homes and whatnot and all of us designers populated the site with the work that brings consumers to the well to drink the water. In hindsight we created our own dilemma.
So yeah in that way they make money. Magazines make money with our pretty pictures too and do not know ONE designer who would not kill for a cover of Better Homes and Gardens.

Ok, rinse and repeat. According to my intel, only the professional can tag their photos.  The editorial staff can do it also but usually this is when it is in a featured story.  So YES they make money off of you and NO they do not cut you in for any of the profits. Not unusual here for a for profit business to only consider THEIR needs and success and not MINE. This smacks of the gimme generation…GOOD LORD PEOPLE this is a business and you have a CHOICE to not participate. It would be awesome if they would make it so that designers could make money on the photos they provide but how about if they simply send me a check every month for just being the cool chick that I am. Right??? Let’s keep it real.

click on photo. The image tag is what you want to use if do not have a "shop" on Houzz.

click on photo. The image tag is what you want to use if do not have a “shop” on Houzz.

BUT DID YOU KNOW?? You can tag your OWN photos and then source the image tag to a link to your site to sell the item to the consumer? I am vetting this out now folks to be sure but just did a test on my own site to see and it worked. Did not try a hyper link but will…but basically if you WANT to use one of the ugly green tags ( not sure I do truthfully) on SOME photos then I have been told you can and you can advertise your business as the PLACE TO PURCHASE SAID ITEM. Say What?? So many people do not seem to know this and quite frankly neither did I. So, when you get kicked out of the club for opening admitted big mouth….you check facts. And this costs you nothing to do.

B.Much to the surprise of some people, you do NOT have to pay to have the very prominent “website” button on your home page actually uh link to your website. According again to my sleuthing,(meaning in real life I have been using Houzz for 4 years and it has always gone to my site) but also confirmed with not one but TWO Houzz people this very day. They “say” it has always been this way and honestly always worked for me so no reason to doubt this. But maybe there have been glitches in the past trying to make the link work?? But NOTE the large “website”button one the mobile app. screen shot houzz

C. There was talk today about a website builder they are offering their contributors. Some say it sucked and you know I believe this. But, you also do not need to do anything with it. Ignore it. Do not publish it. They will not publish it unless you say so. And yes Virginia, they will have some who do and those people will add SEO to Houzz with links etc. So shoot ’em for being smart. I do not know what to say except if you do not like the heat, get outta the kitchen.

D. More talk about their google rankings being so high that it out ranks your own site. So effing what? If your Houzz profile is done right and you have the website button right smack in someone’s face…who cares how someone found you? Or your site? I am sure there are some that this may not work well for…but not sure is the designer crowd. And I ran checks today without cookies, on random computers and my website came up first time always but this is a function of the google local kick as well as my organic SEO but if Houzz comes up first, I just need to make sure my profile is looking sweet!Unknown

AND if someone is searching for a designer, they do not know to search for your site anyway…duh. But then they search Houzz and find pix they like and they happen to be your work…well, maybe they will hire you. Most Houzzers are DIY who want to get info for free…this is true.  Some are just people who like getting ideas and will never ask a question but some do. Some are RUDE as hell and it annoys me to no end. But, I will answer in this way…( If I answer which usually do not have the time to do) “Thank you for your kind comments about my work. Glad you like the paint color/sofa/chandy/suitcase on the chair but we are under contractural restrictions to not reveal sources on this project.” BOOM. End of it. Now if they are nice and use their pleases and thank yous then I say answer if you know the info off top of your head and if not, say sorry this project is archived. BOOM. Done.

E. Some profess designers are being taken advantage of... I disagree with this. Kinda strong and is this really the case? Poor pitiful me…so utterly helpless against Howie the Gorilla. I say: Exploit me babeeee. All the way to the bank because Houzz brings me good clients. Call me masochistic because if this is pain/suffering/exploitation I am loving it. I cannot tell you how much have enjoyed my client in New Jersey! A lovely family and awesome project. Without Houzz, would not have had this opportunity. 

Yeah yeah…I would prefer to be able to exit stage left if I chose and take my toys photos home with me but sadly this is 2015 and people are way smarter than that and no can do. This is probably the biggest lament to me and agree with my design brethren that it sucks. Not unusual but does suck. SO WHAT DO I DO ABOUT IT?  I never add projects until after published in print OR I know they are unlikely to be picked up OR I only post second tier photos of a hot project. Teasers I call them. I have plenty of work to choose from to populate my profile with pictures that represent my firm.

F. They take your first born child.  This is not so. I SWEAR they do not. Come on really. I know there are issues with Houzz and I think those who talk about it in the attitude of simply designers being aware…then yeah absolutely be aware. But be aware of all social media. Be careful what you post.Be selective. I could be writing a blog post next week about how Houzz has gone off the deep end. I reserve the right to change my mind.

A word on my track record with Houzz. I never used any sponsored posts until last month. (And even now is for out of market business for my shop.) I loaded photos about 4 years ago and then have added sporadically…from my stinking iPhone. So for an ROI ..it is KILLING IT. Because I DO NOTHING and have had some awesome projects to the tune of several hundred thousand dollars over the past few years. Maybe more that is not even directly attributable. As a working designer, I need to be on this site and so do you. It is a mega pull for consumers. Hate it all you want but you need to be on it. Remember: ” What was sufficient to get you where you are today is not sufficient to keep you there.”

Personally I think some profess to not like the whole photo thing when in fact they just have not gotten results but who knows? Maybe is due to being in a saturated market (love living in a smaller MSA!), maybe due to their profile not being worked ( I looked at some  designer random sites today and the photography was horrid, the layout and organization poor etc so be careful whom you blame) or maybe they just are not targeting the right audience with their message. And some, like me, abhor the stupid questions about paint color on walls that you are looking at on your ancient computer, or how did you construct that super cool island ( pay me and find out) or love this: “Tell me tile name” “What is hood”…yeah the lack of manners can be distracting.

I will think of some good come backs on the way to the bank. 

Thank you and we welcome comments. Good, bad, ugly. Just do not use more than 5 curse words and you can stay in my club. Ok, max 7. But after than I gotta kick you to the curb. Ain’t got time for that. 

More on what you can do to improve your profile in the next post!





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