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How Web Design Impacts SEO

Categories: Home Builder SEO, Responsive Design, Website Design | Posted: July 24, 2015 | By: Abby Hill

Find out the latest in SEO from Builder Designs

For those of you who don’t know, we went to the Moz SEO conference last week. Or rather, I went to the Moz SEO conference last week, but what I learned there impacts our entire team here at Builder Designs, so I say we all went to this conference in a way.

Here’s what I took away above all else: your website design has a direct effect on your SEO. Not many people are talking about this, because it’s not even something that Google is promoting, but Google is noticing how people interact with your site.

When you think about Google’s mission, it makes a lot of sense. Google is all about the user. If the user cannot find what he or she wants on Google, then Google has done a bad job. Google will not deliver a website in a search result that hardly anyone goes to and no one seems to like using.

In fact, Google so desperately relies on websites to satisfy users’ search queries that it will even deliver small websites with weak SEO if they turn out to be the one site that users are seeking out to answer their search query.

In the homebuilding industry, we know there’s not necessarily one site that users will flock to in order to find their new home. Homebuilder sites are a weird hybrid of e-commerce and information. You can’t actually buy a home on a homebuilder’s website, but you visit a homebuilder’s website because you want to buy a home. This actually makes implementing an SEO strategy incredibly difficult. It’s why so many builders find it hard to succeed online when a generic SEO company is in charge of their SEO.

So are homebuilder websites outside of this design-SEO relationship? Definitely not. The relation between design and SEO is predicated on some simple stats in your analytics: Do users get to your site and immediately click back to the search results? Or are they spending time on the site, viewing multiple pages, maybe even filling out a form?

Google does pay attention to this. If Google sees that hardly anyone ever comes to your site and those that do don’t seem too interested in what’s on the site, Google is going to look at your keywords and make a note to not have you show up in those search results.

In a way, it’s a lot like selling a home. You get ready for an open house, you’ve landscaped the yard, put some signage up around town, and put a fresh coat of paint on the outside of the house. It’s looking stunning. People are interested. They’re lining up outside the door.

But the inside? Complete ruin. The carpet is stained, the blinds are broken, there’s mold on the ceiling, and the kitchen cabinets are hanging off the hinges. The second these excited homebuyers walk through the door, they turn around and leave. Not too surprising. SEO and design work the same way.

You can spend a lot of money on great SEO–citation building, link building, keyword research, analysis–but if your website isn’t enticing to the user and isn’t intuitive to the way they search for a home, then none of it really matters. It used to be that keywords were the one key to your success, but those days have been gone since Google introduced quality scores. Today, you need good SEO to bring people to your site and good design to keep them there, sending quality scores to Google that feed back into your SEO.

In talking to other SEO professionals at the conference, I learned something incredibly valuable: not many SEO strategists have much to do with web designers. They’re either at a huge company that’s maintaining the websites of one or two major corporations, or they’re at two separate companies. Imagine that. Imagine how hard it would be if your SEO strategist could see that parts of your website were bringing down the SEO, and they couldn’t affect change because they’re not involved with your web developer.

It made us at Builder Designs see the potential for a successful future we can offer our clients. We have the unique ability to analyze the design and functionality of our sites in addition to their on-site and off-site SEO. Needless to say, we’re inspired, and we’re excited to be working on new ways that we can merge our design and SEO efforts to deliver a better product than we ever have. If we built your website and you’d like to be considered for future design testing, drop me a line at abby@builderdesigns.com.

Why Builders Need Facebook Marketing

Categories: Home Builder SEO, Inbound Marketing, Internet Marketing for Home Builders | Posted: July 10, 2015 | By: Builder Designs

Facebook is growing as an advertising platform for the real estate industry. Recently, Facebook even added first time homebuyers as a targeted demographic. No other social network has been able to utilize extreme amounts of personal data like Facebook has, which makes it the most valuable online advertising platform apart from Google itself.

Because the advertising platform is accessible to any Facebook user that manages a page, it’s easy to view Facebook advertising as something to DIY, but unless you have an online marketing background and have studied heavily the ins and outs of Facebook targeting and ad design, it’s likely you won’t see the kind of return you could be getting. If you’ve tried Facebook marketing in the past and despaired over the results, it’s likely you just need to hire the right advertiser to help you set up the ads.

Facebook ads provide cost-effective advertising for builders

When you take some time to do a cost-benefit analysis of advertising on Facebook, you’ll see that it’s really a no-brainer to funnel some of your advertising dollars into this channel. Depending on if you’re working with an agency or doing this solo, as a builder you can get excellent results just by spending around $2,400 to $5,000 over the course of a year.

The benefits you get are threefold: awareness, traffic, and leads. Those benefits also lead to other wins in SEO: reviews on your Facebook page, Facebook fans, and link building opportunities through content sharing. All of these things can contribute in a positive way to your Google ranking. And considering what you might pay for one print ad that runs for a limited time and reaches a limited audience, a year’s worth of targeted, trackable awareness marketing alone justifies the cost.

Leads from Facebook should be looked at as icing on the cake. If you’re running Facebook ads for the sole purpose of lead generation, you’re probably better off investing in Google Adwords. When you consider the value of the awareness, traffic, and leads you’re getting for less than $5,000 a year, when you do happen to get a lead that turns into a sale, you’re already profiting from the advertising.

To illustrate how Facebook can play a role in your lead generation, here is a story of an interested homebuyer who came to our client’s site several times before converting. Let’s call her Amy.

Amy first came to the site on June 4th, 2015 after discovering our client’s site via a Google search. She stayed for about 7 minutes and then left. About an hour later, she went back to the site via direct entry and browsed for another 7 minutes. She came back the next day for less than a minute, and then didn’t visit the site again until June 26th.

Builder Cloud provides home builders with more information about their leads

On June 26th, she saw our client’s Facebook post directing first-time homebuyers to a landing page on their site with their starter home plans and a form to fill out for more information. No pages on their site address this demographic specifically, so we created a hidden landing page on the site to use with Facebook ads in order to provide more targeted content (which hopefully would increase conversions). Amy clicked this link and went to the first time homebuyers landing page, where she filled out the lead form. Our client contacted her and set up a meeting for the next week.

Ideal Homes builds new homes in Oklahoma City

Since her meeting, Amy has been back to the site twice, both times through Facebook. Amy initially discovered our client through Google search and showed genuine interest based on her visit, but it was actually Facebook that brought her back to the site after a 3-week absence and ultimately helped drive her to convert.

Builder Cloud can show you which leads came from Facebook

Home builders can’t rely on Google search alone to bring leads to their website. Sometimes even the best referrals from Google drop off the map until they stumble upon you through a remarketing ad or some other channel like Facebook. It’s important to extend your reach online however you can through inbound marketing. We especially recommend Facebook since it gives back multiplying returns for a minimal cost.

Have questions about this post or want to learn more about inbound marketing for SEO? Email your questions to abby@builderdesigns.com or give us a call at 913-393-3367.

Getting On Google Page 1 in 2015

Categories: Home Builder SEO, Inbound Marketing, Internet Marketing for Home Builders, Local SEO | Posted: July 2, 2015 | By: Builder Designs

 

Tips for how to rank on Google in 2015

Real talk here. We need to have a chat about “I want to rank #1 for all my keywords.” Truth be told, in 2015 this is an impossible goal. That should help you weed out any SEO company that solicits your business by promising you a #1 ranking for all your keywords. It can’t be done.

You might be thinking, “But you’re supposed to be the experts! It’s your job to make my website rank #1 on Google. If you can’t do that, why are you even here?!”

Sorry if we just put words in your mouth. You totally might not have been thinking that at all. But if it was the job of an SEO expert to make anyone’s website rank #1 on Google, we would all be out of a job.

Google cares about the user. People will use Google to find something on the Internet as long as Google continues to be the best at showing them the results they are looking for. The more people use Google, the more websites want to advertise with Google, which means Google makes more money. However, if a website isn’t playing by Google’s rules and proving that it really deserves to be the top answer to a search, Google won’t risk the success of its empire in promoting that website. Google now caters to the user, changing its results constantly depending on each individual’s location, search query, website history, and even search patterns.

Google focuses on users in 2015

Happy Google users = more people use Google = more advertisers use Google = Google makes more money

 

Because of this, you can’t consistently achieve a #1 ranking on Google. The amount of things that Google considers when planning its search results in order to cater to the user is astounding. Having good search queries in your website’s SEO is only your ticket into the game. Now more than ever, you have to also be actively competing for a spot on Google’s page 1.

Google doesn’t tell anyone specifically how or what it is calculating about your online presence to determine where you rank in any given search, but we do know that part of the process goes a little something like this:

Google: Okay, this person is looking for home builders in Kansas City, and here are all these websites that are using the keyword “home builders in Kansas City.” Which do I show them? I see tons of people are going to this site, but most of them are leaving without clicking around. That must mean it’s not very user-friendly, let’s not show that one. Here’s one that people really seem to like. Whenever someone comes here, they view a lot of pages and spend a few minutes on the site. I also see they have lots of fans on Facebook, and other good websites I trust are linking to them. They even have directory listings and all of their information matches, so it looks like they are who they say they are. Definitely want to show them in this search.

Despite that being our dramatization of what Google sounds like, Google really has become that smart and will only continue to get smarter. Because it’s likely that whoever does rank #1 for a search query is not ranking #1 every day and to every user who conducts that search, the #1 ranking position has become too nebulous to build your goals around. Instead, we need to focus on overall visibility, both on Google’s page 1 and elsewhere on the Internet.

When we install basic SEO on your site, we’re entering you into the ranking game. From there, we expect you’ll be implementing different strategies to actually play the game. Strategies like being active and sharing your content on social media, having citations on the right directory sites that all match up with the business information on your website, earning links from other high-quality sites related to the homebuilding industry or where you’re located, and claiming your Google map pin.

As the experts, our goal is no longer to get you a #1 ranking, but to help your website get enough credit from Google that you’ll show up somewhere on page 1 for your most important keywords. That, for now, is still achievable through a very hands-on, qualitative approach to SEO. If you’re in need of advice or assistance in furthering your SEO beyond keyword installation, we’re always happy to help! Give us a call at 913-393-3367 or email abby@builderdesigns.com with your questions.

Ranking Google Map Pins

Categories: Home Builder SEO, Local SEO | Posted: June 26, 2015 | By: Abby Hill

Now that Google is displaying map results in a more permanent position in the search rankings, it’s important to focus on your Google Plus listing as a major piece of your SEO strategy.

These days, it seems with every localized search for new homes and home builders, Google will display the map listings at or near the top of the search results. This is allowing websites that don’t normally rank high in an organic result to show up in a prominent position on Google’s coveted page 1.

So the important question becomes how can we affect the position of our map pin within the map listings?

It turns out the answer to this is very similar to implementing best practices for your website’s SEO. In his blog, content specialist Marcus Maraih provides a list of things you can do to get your map pin ranking higher:

1. Complete and optimize your Google My Business Page
2. Make sure your online citations all use the same name, address, and phone number
3. Get good reviews on your Google My Business Page
4. Use local keywords in your website’s SEO and content
5. Get high-value local websites linking to yours

 

Where do you begin conquering this list? I’ve been digging into this over the past week or so, and have come across some puzzling results. I’ve seen pins that haven’t been claimed and optimized ranking higher than pins that have been optimized and have reviews. For example, the results when I googled “home builders in Richmond VA” went against everything I thought I knew about map rankings:

It's possible to affect the ranking of your Google map listing.
All the listings marked with an X have yet to be verified, proving that it’s possible to rank high in the map pack without even verifying your pin. But how? Why? To understand what was happening, I looked at Google’s rationality behind all of their algorithm updates: relevancy and trust.
It seems like if it really came down to it, Google would prefer to show you a website that you could trust that’s maybe not quite relevant over one that appears to be relevant but is actually untrustworthy. This makes sense when you think about how easy it is to fake anything on the Internet.

How does Google establish trust? Through citations. These are directory listings on major websites that at least tell people the name, address, and phone number (NAP) for your business. Google is looking at two things:

1. The number of complete listings you have on major directory sites
2. The consistency of your listings across all the sites

I did some research into the websites in the map results and discovered exactly what I expected to: citations are affecting the rankings.

Vertical Builders had the most complete citations out of all the results, but also some pretty big inconsistencies, which I’m guessing is what knocked them down a few pegs. Bradford Custom Homes had issues with both incomplete and inconsistent listings, which is probably why they ended up at the bottom despite their verified listing and reviews.

Having consistent and complete citations seems to be the ultimate tiebreaker for ranking in Google maps, but you shouldn’t stop there. SEO of the website also comes into play, along with popularity on social media and how many trustworthy websites you have linking to your website. Here’s my checklist for what you should be doing to get your map pin ranking higher on the results page:

1. Start with a website that has good content and local SEO.
2. Create and verify your Google My Business page. Use the same NAP as on your website.
3. Create consistent listings on the following sites: Facebook, Foursquare, Superpages, Infogroup, Localeze, Factual, Best of the Web, Axicom, Yelp, Yellowpages, Citysearch, Bing, Yahoo, and Hotfrog.
4. Earn links from relevant, trustworthy websites: local and industry-related.
5. Ask your customers to review you on Google and Facebook
6. Post on Facebook daily. Use content that people want to like, share, or comment on.

 

If you’d like help working through this list and finding other strategies to improve your search rankings, email me at abby@builderdesigns.com and ask about how you can become part of our Advanced SEO program.

Why We No Longer Care About Google Rankings

Categories: Home Builder SEO, Local SEO | Posted: June 16, 2015 | By: Builder Designs

Okay, we admit it, we care about ranking a little, but not nearly as much as we used to. This is due to the ever-changing game of SEO, and in 2015 it’s an entirely different species than it was 2 years ago. Here are some things that make your search ranking less important (a.k.a what we care about now):

 

1) Because local rankings depend on user location.

Because Google now delivers search results based on the user’s proximity to the thing they’re searching for, you may rank #1 when someone searches at work because you’re right around the corner. When they go home and do the same search, you may be down at #5.

The only time proximity won’t be a factor in your ranking is if the searcher is well outside your area.

 

2) Because Google’s Page 1 design is different.

The design of Google’s page 1 has changed dramatically to include several specialty links above its organic search results. For home sales, this is usually Google Adwords and map pins.

The desire for a #1 ranking on Google came about when Google’s page 1 consisted of ten links–just the organic search results. Nothing else. Now that page 1 usually consists of 2 or 3 adwords ads, then a map with 3 or 4 listings, and THEN organic search results, it’s more beneficial to be the top Adwords ad or one of those map listings than it is to be the #1 search result.

Google's new SERP design makes organic rankings less important

 
3) Because Google algorithms.

There’s no clearer way to say it, Google algorithms make it hard to do any one thing to help achieve a #1 organic search ranking.

It’s impossible in 2015 to rank #1 for a bunch of different keywords. There was once a time where this was very possible, but now the techniques that allowed for you to do that are techniques that could get your site cut from search results altogether. It’s best to focus on a high-volume keyword phrase that is likely going to bring you business. For this reason, let go of keywords like “energy efficiency” and “homeowner tips” and focus more on “new homes in (your city).”

Also, Google made it harder to force a #1 ranking by taking a bunch of other things into consideration besides keywords. Site volume and popularity are two things that pushed directory sites to the top of the list, meaning if you want to rank #1 for a keyword involving “homes for sale,” you’d best buy some adwords or rethink your strategy, because you’ll never rank higher than Zillow or Trulia.

 

4) Because SEO is only part of the bigger picture

There was once a time when SEO was the beginning and the end, but that ship has long sailed. Here’s the truth: SEO is now a component of the much larger picture that is inbound marketing–a.k.a. doing everything in your power to get people to go to your website.

Having looked at analytics data for thousands of leads on hundreds of home builder websites, we can tell you this: a user rarely becomes a lead on their first visit to your site. What, if anything, are you doing to get them to come back? That’s inbound marketing.

 

Here’s the new “#1 Ranking”

You don’t have to divorce yourself from the juicy goal of being #1, just revise your statement to “I want to be #1 at showing up online” or “I want to be #1 at marketing my website.” Being the top search result is still something to strive for too, just not as big of an accomplishment as it once was.

Ideally, your website will show up in one of the top Adwords slots, the map pack, and an organic search result. Additionally, you should be discoverable on social media and retargeting banners in the Google Display Network. We’ve found that reminding homebuyers of your website through a Facebook ad can be successful in getting them to return to your website for more exploration until they’re ready to contact you about a home.

Help: Title and Alt Tags on Images

Categories: Home Builder SEO | Posted: June 11, 2015 | By: Abby Hill

Facebook Now Allows Targeting for First Time Homebuyers

Categories: Inbound Marketing, Internet Marketing for Home Builders | Posted: June 3, 2015 | By: Abby Hill

We noticed something new on Facebook’s advertising platform this month that gives us a lot of insight into the importance of online marketing for homebuilders: first time homebuyers is now listed as a target demographic.

 

Facebook now allows us to target first-time homebuyers

 

Industry giants like Zillow and Trulia have been proclaiming the importance of the millennial homebuyer for months, and it seems Facebook has finally taken note. Previously, if you wanted to target someone who might possibly be a first time homebuyer, the most you could do would have been to target people ages 25 to 34 who are currently renters. You might even add income to that mix, but even then it was kind of a shot in the dark as to how many home hunters you were actually targeting.

Perhaps all Facebook did was combine these targeting pieces into a prepackaged deal for advertisers, but we expect it’s more than that. Facebook has access to tons of personal and financial data from third-party sources; it wouldn’t be surprising if a user’s cache of website visits to sites like Zillow and Trulia are being taken into consideration. We’re hopeful that this new target audience will allow us to more accurately deliver ads to people who are actively looking to buy their first home.

stock photo of a twentysomething

But even if all Facebook has done is create a combination of existing targeting data, this new demographic still gives us important insights into what’s ahead for online marketing in the homebuilding industry. Previously, the home ownership targeting opportunities consisted only of homeowners and renters, and neither of these demographics is homebuilder-specific. We can think of several types of companies other than home builders who would target homeowners: retailers of patio furniture and home décor, lawn maintenance companies, lifestyle bloggers, and anyone else who might use homeownership as a way to capture an audience of a certain financial standing. Additionally, renters could be targeted by apartment complexes, universities, or DIY bloggers.

It seems first-time homebuyers is a demographic created specifically for home sales, so this tells us two things: a large portion of millennial homebuyers is using Facebook and companies that sell homes are using Facebook as an advertising platform.

With these two things in mind, we can go ahead and assume that Facebook marketing is an arena that homebuilders are going to want to compete in. You may find yourself needing to increase your marketing budget in order to compete, but the ultimate payoff will be creating awareness and generating leads that are 100% trackable.

What Managed Hosting Means

Categories: BD News, Website Design | Posted: May 22, 2015 | By: Builder Designs

Microsites and Your SEO

Categories: Home Builder SEO | Posted: May 13, 2015 | By: Builder Designs

Why Is SEO an Ongoing Service?

Categories: Home Builder SEO, Internet Marketing for Home Builders | Posted: May 7, 2015 | By: Builder Designs

Why is SEO an ongoing service? My site is already optimized. 

This is a question we hear from time to time, and even though it isn’t frequently asked, it’s an important one to address because the most vital aspect of your website shouldn’t make you feel like you’re getting swindled.

It’s not a dumb question by any means to wonder why you can’t just set up your SEO and let it go. Theoretically, you could. And it would work fine for a little while. Just like the carpeted bathroom and sponge painting in your 1990s bathroom was trendy for awhile. But interior design trends change, and SEO trends change even faster. For instance, over a span of 10 months in 2014, Google updated its algorithm 15 times. That’s 15 times that SEO experts had to reconsider and tweak various aspects of their website’s optimization to ensure that it remained competitive in Google’s rankings.

Carpeted Bathroom

As a builder, your homes are set-up-and-go products. Once you’ve built it and the warranty period has passed, your role in your homebuyer’s life is pretty much over until they might buy another house from you. Our SEO product doesn’t work like that. Imagine if you were the only one who was able to make any updates to the homes you build, and your homebuyer expected to be able to live in one of your homes for 20 years and sell it for a tidy profit without ever making a single update to the interior or exterior. How likely would it be that their expectations could be met without any help from you?

This is how we think about SEO. Your site is optimized for a specific point in time, but change happens quickly. Six months in the world of SEO can be equivalent to 10 or 20 years in the world of home design. Some updates from Google won’t apply to your website. Others will make or break your search rankings. We watch these trends, we pay attention to the industry rumors that come out months before Google makes an official update. We watch your analytics data, we look for curious drops or increases in your traffic and rankings. We make updates to maintain or grow your site’s SEO visibility.

In our initial conversations with new SEO clients, we ask you to name a few of your competitors. This is so we know who to keep an eye on in the search engine rankings. If all of a sudden your competitor starts ranking high for keywords you used to rank for, we’re going to figure out why. This is arguably one of the top reasons to have an ongoing SEO consultant for your website.

Don’t just take our word for it, though. Read what others in online marketing have to say about the importance of ongoing SEO:

The Importance of Ongoing SEO

SEO Is an Ongoing Process

SEO Is a Journey, Not a Destination

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