The Builder Designs Blog

Home Builder Website News & Tips

April 21st: Is Your Website Ready?

Categories: Home Builder SEO, Internet Marketing for Home Builders, Responsive Design, Website Design | Posted: March 27, 2015 | By: Anna Chandler

The deadline is coming for mobile-friendliness. On April 21st, Google’s newest mobile-friendly algorithm is officially rolling out -though may take a few days or weeks to finish its changes. This change, bigger than Panda or Penguin, is bound to shake up SERPs. It may be the biggest SEO change we’ve seen in years. Is your website ready?

Google's Mobile-Friendly Deadline is April 21st

We’ve discussed before what the mobile-friendly tag is and why it matters. So if that ranking factor already exists, what is changing? Right now Google is only using the tag to help user behavior: “click on this, it’s a good site”. Mobile traffic is half of total website traffic and growing so of course Google wants to make sure people have an easy time surfing and buying from their phone. Ergo, this algorithm change steps from promoting websites that are mobile-friendly to punishing websites that aren’t.

Google says there will be a “significant impact” on mobile search results. Rankings are absolutely going to change. Fortunately, Google is pretty clear on what sites will thrive in the new ecosystem:

Google’s mobile-friendly label is page-by-page. Its possible to have a mobile-friendly tag on some sections of your website and not others. We saw that ourselves; Ideal Homes had a 100% score on their home page but their blog came back with a warning. This is an important time to consider user behavior. Is every page mobile-friendly? Is your realtor login or community search easy to use? And if there are pages that aren’t, do they have to be – like a complex interactive floor plan designed for desktop use and printing – or is this something you can change with your web designer?

Google’s mobile-friendly label is in real time. This is a big plus. Unlike coming back from a Panda hit, (notoriously difficult to recover from) Google is constantly willing to re-test the mobile layout of your site. That means any tweaks now will reap big dividends come April 21st.

You are either mobile-friendly or not. You get the label or you don’t. There’s no “90% okay” option. Google told us that while there are “over 200 different factors” at play -the big ones being font size, button spacing, viewpoint, and readability- it’s ultimately a yes or no answer.

You can test your website now. If you already have the mobile-friendly tag, don’t sweat it. You’re in good shape and will likely see page rankings improved after April 21st. To explore specific pages, use the official Mobile-Friendly Test. Or dig deep in your mobile usability report from Google Webmaster Tools. In fact, if you’re not seeing a mobile-friendly tag you, your web designer, and your SEO team need to dive into that report as soon as possible.

Now is the time to act. It’s not going to be impossible to crawl out of a hit come April, but why let your website take a nosedive when we know exactly what’s happening? And design changes can take awhile – especially if you need a whole new website. And how would you know that?

Red flag: If your website isn’t mobile-friendly. No mobile site, not responsive, this needs to be your company’s #1 concern.

Warning: If your website has a mobile version. It may survive April but Google is pushing really hard for responsive to be required – the new default of the web. A responsive redesign needs to be a portion of your budget this year.

Green light: If your website is responsive. Assuming it already has a mobile-friendly tag to (and it should), you’re going to be helped and not hurt by this rollout. April may be a great month for you! That competitor with an antique website holding on to a higher search rank in one community due to sheer inertia? Things are going to shake up.

Although even with a mobile-friendly tag for your home page it’s worth it to look into your usability report. There may be pages buried deep that need work. This is a unique opportunity in internet marketing: we know exactly what to do to make your website start ranking better, and we know what’s about to be rewarded and what’s about to be punished. So again – is your website ready?

Just Launched: Main Street Homes

Categories: Home Builder Spotlight, Website Design | Posted: March 17, 2015 | By: Anna Chandler

Main Street Homes just launched their new website with Builder Designs! Three-time “Builder of the Year”, Main Street Homes is a premier home builder in Chesterfield County and Richmond VA with over 30 floor plans as well as completed new homes for sale.

MSH website designed by Builder Designs

Their new design was the biggest change we created for this builder, moving to a responsive layout and making the communities, homes, and floor plans a little more interactive than before. Easy to navigate, you can either see all communities and homes that Main Street offers or explore within a particular county (including Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Hanover, Henrico, New Kent, and Powhatan) if you already have a destination in mind. The floor plan collection is even further searchable, by community or model series in case you want to view only two-story or first-floor master layouts. Or find a furnished model home to schedule a tour!

We also built a “Why Main Street” section so that they can easily detail their financing options, Energy Star rating, and personal story. Learn more about their Design Studio or browse a photo gallery to explore their homes from your laptop! There are easily accessible forms to contact Main Street with a question or warranty concern, or participate in their “refer a friend” reward program.

Main Street Homes paid close attention to the layout and features of the website, just as they do their houses – “Homes with Quality and Style” is not just a slogan to this builder. They focus on affordable luxuries, elegant functional design, and specific home owner needs in their award-winning home designs in convenient neighborhoods with excellent amenities.

Founded by Vernon McClure in 1996, Main Street Homes has grown to be Richmond’s largest locally owned new home builder and the 2009, 2011, and 2013 Richmond Builder of the Year. They’ve also been a consistent winner at the HBAR Parade of Homes – since 2000 MSH has won over 100 Parade of Homes awards! Their 3,700 square foot Design Studio, opened in 2008, is now ranked among the top 6 in the nation and has been named the Best in Richmond in 2008 and 2009. And since they started asking – checking on homeowner satisfaction and ways to improve – over 90% of buyers said they would refer Main Street to a friend.

As a top builder in Richmond we know their website needs to be top-notch too. Alongside a carefully organized on-page optimization SEO program we are proud to offer them an inbound marketing campaign with Facebook ads and landing pages designed for easy client contact and follow up.

Let Main Street Homes know what you think about their website – or explore our complete portfolio for more examples of responsive home builder website design.

Content With Your Content?

Categories: Home Builder SEO, Internet Marketing for Home Builders | Posted: March 12, 2015 | By: Anna Chandler

Content Audit for Home BuildersYou need to care as much about the quality of your website’s information as you care if it exists – if the house’s description meets current standards as much as if the house is on your website to sell. Why? Because content is king. Content determines how well you’ll rank. Google’s big algorithm updates of the last few years – like Penguin, Panda, and Hummingbird – have been largely focused on punishing websites with poor content and rewarding websites with good content.

That’s because Google cares about user experience, and they know that people are spending more and more time online looking up more and more information – 18.8 billion searches were conducted in January alone. We’ve discussed before what Google considers high quality content and their “magic number”: under 250 words, and a page can be dinged as shallow. But just quoting the rule can provoke more questions than it answers: “So what do we write about?” “Really, every page?” So let’s dig deeper into our top recommendations on content marketing for home builders. It really can make a difference.

Rule #1: The following recommendations are written from an SEO perspective – copy that’ll boost your website. But all of that is ultimately from a home buyer’s perspective. We’re not trying to game the system. We’re trying to provide users all they need to tip from browsing to buying. So let’s keep in mind our golden rule: write for the buyer, not for search engines.

Home Builder Content Review

Priority 1: Review the home page. At minimum, your home page needs to include your company name, what type of homes you build – be they luxury custom homes, or townhomes and villas – and where. For the “where” you want to at least list your main cities and state(s), but a comprehensive list (including popular communities!) is even better. This crucial step ensures that search engines know to how to rank you and what for. It also tells browsers you build where they are looking. Think about the beginning research stage of a home buyer: they are still evaluating multiple companies. If they click on your website and immediately know you build where they are looking, they’re likely to dig deeper into the site and start evaluating homes or floor plans. If they aren’t sure, they’re much more likely to hit the back button and go elsewhere. And that’s a lost sale. This may sound incredibly basic, but it is a missed opportunity on hundreds of websites.

As well as a comprehensive list, this is your selling page. Explain to buyers why they should choose you over one of your builder competitors (or a re-sale). What makes you stand out? Is it your years in service, comprehensive warranty, energy efficiency?

This copy may end up being less than 250 words: that’s okay. There’s a lot else happening on the home page and you do have to consider design. But if not the minimum length, do check the data.

Priority 2: Review the main pages. These would be all the core pages of the website, like those that can be found in your header menu. Make a list of all pages and their current word count to prioritize, and then dig in deeper to what content they offer. Is there original copy per page? Does it explain what you do, and where? Does it showcase your specialities and reflect on you well, free of typos and other errors? Have several people at the company proof it. Even better: grab a friend or relative who isn’t as familiar with your company and ask them to read through and respond. (Bonus level: change the company name in a Word document to get an unbiased reaction.) What level of quality do they perceive? Do they understand the context of the page? Would it persuade them to buy a house from that company? As you’re already familiar with the ins and outs of your company, this gives you a nice look into a prospective buyer’s mindset.

Keep in mind: this isn’t a “write and forget”. If something changes about the company, like a new build on your lot program or better Energy Star rating, then the website deserves to be updated too.

“But really, every page?”: There are some pages you can leave short. Users want to immediately access your forms or photo galleries, after all, not wade through a few paragraphs. Here there are other considerations: Does your contact form offer a phone number and turn-around time? Does your warranty form provide an emergency line and documentation to download? Keep in mind, if properly optimized your photo pages will have tons of text even without visible copy. That all said, if the text fits naturally, go for it.

Priority 3: Review the community pages. These are traffic-heavy pages (you can get an exact user count through analytics) and extremely important to buyers in their research stage. You absolutely want 250 words or more for a community’s description. That’s just a few paragraph, and this is your buyers new home – where they’ll spend their time and their lives. They want to know about highway access, local attractions, school districts, and the general feel of the community. For help, contact your realtors and ask what sells buyers on the area. As nice filler, a testimony quote from one of your previous buyers could help sell the location (and you).

“But really, every page?”: There may be pages within a community that aren’t copy-friendly, like an interactive plat map. And that’s okay as long as the rest of the website is doing well. If it’s impossible to add copy in multiple locations, talk to your website designer about your CMS.

Priority 4: Review the available homes and floor plan pages. As less transitory, the floor plan pages would take priority here. Helpful information could include the basic stats (number of beds, baths, and garages) as well as standard features (granite countertops, stainless steel appliances) and possible upgrades (like customizable walls or a patio). Home buyers often contact their builder with a home in mind: they’ve made that mental purchase on the website. So the more detail you include, the easier it is to get that phone call.

“But really, every page?“: It could be that your homes sell to fast to write much for them, or that they pull from a data feed where copy is difficult to control (like an MLS listing updated by realtors). Again, if the website is healthy, that’ll wash out. But do keep in mind that the more you can provide the better.

Priority 5: Review the extraneous pages. Some pages on your website don’t need updating frequently, like a Terms and Conditions page or Privacy Policy link in the footer. It’s good maintenance to review these once a year and make sure they are still up to date and sufficiently long, but likely don’t require further attention than that.

This complete audit of the website’s content is a big project – but can pay rich dividends: better search engine rankings, increased traffic, longer time on site, and more sales. And after a full diagnosis further updates will only be needed as the company changes or as new communities are opened. Completing this review ensures that your website meets Google’s highest standards and is what a buyer wants when researching.

Good content ranks well. The other half of the marketing strategy? New content – which is often best met by blogging. Interested in a blogging audit for home buyers? Let us know for next week!

New Speed Tag in Google Results

Categories: Home Builder SEO, Internet Marketing for Home Builders, Responsive Design | Posted: March 5, 2015 | By: Anna Chandler

Green button that says GOIn November of 2014 we started seeing mobile-friendly tags on search results as Google began testing updates to their algorithm. By January they were omnipresent and directly affecting your SEO, non-responsive sites hit with error reports. More difficult to record but absolutely present were drops or jumps in traffic vis a vi your competitors as a mobile-friendly tag (or lack thereof) changed user behavior before they ever got to your website.

That’s all because Google is predicting this year mobile traffic overtakes desktop traffic. We know by analytics data that home buyers are surfing your website and considering a house purchase on a pretty even split between desktop, tablet, and mobile devices. Without a mobile-friendly site it’s near-impossible to get a buyer on your website or keep them there for long. Lower traffic rates, higher bounce rate, shorter time on site – the lack of a mobile-friendly tag can be a total SEO killer.

There are now rumors about a speed tag that would also affect your website. Google is just testing this out, so it’s not on everyone’s device and we don’t yet know if it’ll be part of their final algorithm. But we saw this same testing before the mobile-friendly tag, so it’s worth researching.

This new tag is a glaring red button warning users that your website is slow. (And people hate to wait.) How long “slow” is Google hasn’t told us, but we do know from user testing that even milliseconds can affect user retention. While Google has factored in speed since 2010, this is the first time they’ve played with throwing it in a search result. This, and their mobile-friendly tag, signals that Google is taking mobile performance very seriously. Home builders would be wise to do the same before this tag is fully rolled out.

Imagine a home buyer pulling up these two results on their phone…

Mocked-up example of a Slow tag on a search result

Which website would you visit?

With the mobile-friendly tag out and speed tag likely on its way, a responsive website overhaul is more important than ever. If you’re considering what best to do for your SEO in 2015 and haven’t redesigned the site in a while – that right there is your answer. And if you do have a new site, it’s still worth your time to put it through Google’s free Mobile Friendly Testing Tool and Page Speed Test to make sure it’ll dominate search results and bring in those home buyers you need.

Lastly, if you’re looking for responsive design ideas, check out the portfolio.

The Dark Social Phenomenon: Facebook Marketing is More Vital Than We Thought

Categories: Home Builder SEO, Inbound Marketing, Internet Marketing for Home Builders, Social Media | Posted: February 26, 2015 | By: Abby Hill

Dark Social Header Image

If Facebook marketing isn’t working for you, you’re doing it wrong. If you’re posting every day and nobody is engaging with your content and your website social traffic hasn’t increased dramatically, the problem is likely that you’re:

a) Not posting the right content/message
b) Not investing in paid ads
c) a & b

The key to unlocking the infinite value of social media for your business relies heavily on two things: Good content and making sure people see your good content. For a homebuilder, this largely means photos of your houses.

If you give people something to share that’s worth sharing, they’re going to share it. If it’s not happening directly on Facebook, there’s another way you can check the success of your social media presence: measuring traffic coming from what’s known as “dark social.”
WHAT IS DARK SOCIAL?

Alexis C. Madrigal, a senior editor at the Atlantic, originally coined the term Dark Social to explain social sharing that occurs outside of what Web analytics can measure.

Analytics can’t track referrals from secure sites (anything with https) or off-page links, so:

  • Email
  • Texting
  • Instant messaging

But we know these referrals are happening. We know because we do it ourselves and because Google Analytics does track these users–you just have to do a little bit of hacking to uncover them.

When we unpack all of the direct referral traffic to see which page the user entered the site on, we can tell how many came from dark social shares. Here’s how:

A first-time visitor to the site would not know the URL of any page but the homepage, so we know they didn’t just type it in their browser directly. They clicked on a link in an email or text or instant message that couldn’t be tracked, so analytics lumped these visits in with direct traffic even though they’re social shares.
UNCOVERING DARK SOCIAL

Do we know which social sites contribute to each of these shares? No. But we can see a correlation between active social media marketing and the occurrence of dark social shares.

We ran a test with one of our biggest marketing clients to see the effect that social media advertising has had on their dark social referrals. We compared a 3-month period in 2014 when they were not marketing on Facebook to a 3-month period in 2015 when they have been running ads and posting twice a day. Here’s what we found:
* In 2014 Facebook traffic accounted for 1% of all site traffic. During this time, 28% of their direct traffic was coming from dark social.
* In 2015, Facebook traffic accounted for 13% of all site traffic. During this time, 48% of their direct traffic was coming from dark social.

 

Dark Social Stats
THE TAKEAWAY

If you’re not investing in social marketing, you’re missing a huge audience–not just the traffic from Facebook, but the traffic that results from people finding you on Facebook and sharing your links with their friends. Facebook referrals can sometimes account for up to 20-25% of total site traffic. Ask your analytics account holder how much Facebook traffic you’re getting and decide if there’s room for more investment in social marketing.

See additional stats on the prevalence of Dark Social

Read Alexis C. Madrigal’s latest research on the connection between Dark Social and Facebook.

Just Launched: Nathan Carlisle Homes

Categories: Home Builder Spotlight, Website Design | Posted: February 25, 2015 | By: Jennifer Bradshaw

Nathan Carlisle Homes just launched its new website by Builder Designs! Specializing in beautiful, energy-efficient homes for active adults in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, Nathan Carlisle’s website provides the essential information for interested buyers of their luxury senior homes.

Nathan Carlisle Homes on Builder Designs

Community pages on the new website feature special video and photo sections in order to effectively show off the amenities each community offers. On select communities, an “Area Info” tab appears, which reveals more detailed information about community amenities and nearby points of interest. Home buyers can learn all they need before even moving! Providing users interesting and pertinent information is one of the best ways to boost time-on-site and trigger the next sales call, which Nathan Carlisle knows well.

That’s also why they provide an exhaustive detail pages for every available home, that include features like a mortgage calculator, e-mailing the home to a family member, or a quick contact form that puts you right in touch with Nathan Carlisle about the specific home.

Along with their focus on luxury senior living, the new “Building Green” page features an interactive home to explain the ways a Nathan Carlisle home is exceptionally energy-efficient. The home on this page has numbered pins representing different energy-efficient pieces of the home. Clicking on the pin make a nifty pop-up to appear that explains what the piece is and how it works to keep Nathan Carlisle homes energy efficient.

A division of Winchester Carlisle Companies, Nathan Carlisle is a private builder that focuses on building active adult neighborhoods. Homes by Nathan Carlisle are Energy Star certified, saving residents money and allowing them to live more comfortably in an environmentally friendly home. Currently, Nathan Carlisle offers homes in Savannah and McKinney within the Isabella Village at Savannah and the Retreat at Craig Ranch communities.

Of note, we designed not only Nathan Carlisle but their sister site Dunhill Homes where they specialize in new homes in the Dallas and Fort Worth Texas area. To see more websites like Nathan Carlisle and Dunhill Homes, please stop by our portfolio or view all web design clients.

Just Launched: Tuskes Homes

Categories: Home Builder Spotlight, Website Design | Posted: February 23, 2015 | By: Jennifer Bradshaw

Tuskes Homes just launched its new website with Builder Designs! Family owned in the heart of the Lehigh Valley for more than 50 years, Tuskes Homes focuses on building quality homes that are perfect for everyday living as well as entertaining.

Tuskes Homes website on Builder Designs

With over 50 years of experience, Tuskes Homes believes that the word “home” encompasses more than just walls and doors—it’s your place of refuge and your retreat. Setting high standards for themselves, Tuskes Homes can help make your dream home a reality. And the new Tuskes website illustrates their capabilities and achievements. Right on the home page, watch the “We Live Here Too” video slideshow and in just seconds get a real feel of the lifestyle a Tuskes Homes can provide.

Are you looking for a quick move-in home? The detail pages for available homes provides a place to explore photos of the home and read a detailed features list and description of the home, or grab a quick snapshot of basic information. Right from the page, calculate your new mortgage and start estimating, e-mail the page to a friend or loved one, and download a complete PDF of all the house’s information.

Or are you interested in a custom home? Learn more about the custom building process by Tuskes Homes with a convenient step-by-step process. This builder is proud to offer custom homes for the Lehigh Valley market with a build on your lot program that lets buyers get the perfect Tuskes home wherever they are.

But Tuskes Homes isn’t just your home builder. They’re your neighbor. Communities and homes by Tuskes are designed to make your life easier, more comfortable, and more enjoyable. The “Tuskes Touch” means that your wishes and desires are paid close attention to and their commitment to quality and customer satisfaction is easy to see inside any Tuskes Home. As one family wrote, “Tuskes Homes gave us the ability to customize our home just the way we wanted through a simple and easy process.”

We wanted to make their website as custom, beautiful, and easy-to-stay-in as their homes are. Builder Designs got to work recreating what worked on our previous website design for them while combining new technologies and a responsive design. Beyond mobile compatibility their unique video slideshow is the most visually significant change in the upgrade, but we were also able to apply some new SEO techniques that should improve website traffic and time on site. The ability to share direct links to individual homes, communities, or floor plans with any buyer on any advice was very important to Tuskes’ marketing team, and we made sure the new website is easily shared and explored. For SEO and user-friendliness, we also worked with Tuskes Homes to make buyer focus baked into the site. Custom buyers can learn more about the build on your lot program, while those looking for an immediate home can just the perfect house or community right away.

If you like the look of the Tuskes website and want to see more examples of a Builder Designs website, please check out our full portfolio or view individual client success stories to watch a total website design and internet marketing transformation.

Image Optimization Case Study: Evans Coghill Homes

Categories: Home Builder SEO, Home Builder Spotlight, Internet Marketing for Home Builders | Posted: February 19, 2015 | By: Anna Chandler

Evans Coghill is a new home builder in Charlotte North Carolina whose new website we designed in late 2013. Since then their website has been one of our most popular designs and both total site traffic and time on site have jumped way, way up. But Owner Alan Banks wasn’t content to stop there; he understands deeply the importance of online marketing in today’s home builder industry and wanted to make sure his website performed as best as possible. We are excited to tackle those challenges and experiments with him and recently have seen some incredible results from an image optimization campaign.

Evans Coghill home, The Churchill at Cheval

Images are very important on your website. We all know that – the right photo could be what sells a home, and it’s why you invest so much in proper photography and video. Image optimization is just as important. That’s for two reasons: ADA compliancy and search rankings.

The “alt” content of a photo is used to explain the image’s content to vision-impaired users. Usage of the alt tag means that you’re meeting the needs of every user of your website’s needs and is so important that avoiding ADA suggestions registers as an error to most SEO tools. If your website has 400 untagged photos, that’s be 800 errors getting picked up by Google – which could easily overwhelm the otherwise good performance of a website and cause its perceived quality to slip. And that means it’ll be harder to rank well for the keywords you want.

Which is one way that image optimization ties into SEO. Another is that search engines cannot see images; without descriptive text your photo gallery is basically a blank page. With image titles and tags Google can “read” the page and better understand what is on your website. Think of it as a free content boost: you’ve already paid heavily for those photos, and now they can provide even more to your website for free.

Lastly, the titles and tags tell search engines how to display the image in a search result. And that worked very, very well for Evans Coghill Homes. With title and tags easily added through our content management system, Alan worked with our team to determine the best titles and tags and then went through optimizing the complete image library on his website.

Previously, his website (if you cracked open the hood and went scouring through the HTML) looked like this:

<img src=”IMG79946.jpg” alt=”/”> – A meaningless title and empty tag.

Which we were able to fix to:

<img src=”Morrison Upper Level with 2nd Master Suite” alt=”Two master suite home in Cheval community”> - A title that explained the image and a tag that explained why it was on the website and how it should show up in search results.

(Alan was also careful to avoid keyword stuffing, which is a big no-no for image optimization. You don’t want alt=new homes home builder of new homes seriously our new homes are awesome Evans Coghill Evans Coghill Evans Coghill. For more on the nitty gritty of image optimization check out Google’s very helpful guide with video.)

It was a big project – there are hundreds of (gorgeous) photos on the site. But immediately after finishing we could see three important things:

  1. The website was far more accessible for all users.
  2. Error reports dropped dramatically, from hundreds of “medium to serious” image problems to near nothing.
  3. Evans Coghill took over image search results for their locations.

This was the most visibly dramatic result and pretty exciting to see. Searching for “new homes in Plaza Midwood”, for example, brought up almost nothing but images from Evans Coghill:

Image Search result with Evans Coghill homes

Selecting an image brought up more information from Evans Coghill and a link to their website – you can see what a great sales lead that is from anyone browsing homes in the area!

Results of an image search with an Evans Coghill home

Image searching “Evans Coghill” brings up nothing but their photos, from the logo to interior and exterior shots of specific homes. You might assume that’d always be the case. But image searching “Bonterra Builders”, a competitor in the Charlotte NC area, will only show you five photos of theirs on the entire first page of image search results – and that’s by company name, one of the easiest search terms to dominate.

Now sure, you could point out that less buyers just image search versus selecting websites to browse – and that’s 100% true. But it isn’t just the image searches. It’s the better performing website that is free of errors and has a good grade from Google as a result. That’s going to help Evans Coghill outperform their competitors in search results, and that’s going to land more sales. And it was a completely free upgrade for Alan: the capabilities and image management were already built into his website from us.

“I want to thank Builder Designs and their SEO team,” Alan wrote in after we looked at the results together. “They not only know what they’re doing but are always available to review the website, answer questions, or come up with new ideas for better performance. I know we couldn’t be where we are without their help.”

We are also thankful for Alan and his tireless attention to Evans Coghill’s marketing plan. Our image optimization campaign was a great experiment and has concluded with quite the success story.

Responsive is Required

Categories: Home Builder SEO, Internet Marketing for Home Builders, Responsive Design | Posted: February 9, 2015 | By: Anna Chandler

Back in November, we announced Google’s brand-new “mobile friendly” tag and its impact on search results. That tag is a label that pops up only for sites that are easy to use on a mobile device, letting users know whether the result is worth exploring. That alone could be the make or break of a new visitor to a site; mobile traffic has become a huge percentage of overall site traffic. But it was also another sign that Google was tipping from “responsive website design is our top recommendation” to “responsive website design is required.

That day has dawned. Just last month, Google’s Webmaster Tools (one of the most important systems we use to keep tabs on the performance of your website) started sending us a flurry of error reports. They were flagging websites with bad mobile performance, telling us that without improvement the website’s SEO was going to suffer. Every website that had no mobile version got this report, but even some home builders with a mobile website had Google flag problems. While the mobile website was top-of-the-line when built back in 2011, it was no longer enough.

But our responsive sites? Just fine:

Mobile-friendly Test for Ideal Homes website

 

You can use that tool to check out a website yourself! Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test just asks you to plug in a URL, so you can check your home page or any interior page. That’s good to do, because some mobile issues are limited to a particular section. For instance, Ideal Homes – one of the first responsive websites we built – got 100% on all the pages but the blog.  The text of all the categories and tags were deemed to hard to read so got to work ASAP.

That problem might seem small – and it is, a small section of one post on one page in one device view – but it shows how closely Google is examining your website. If they managed to find one tiny error on a cutting-edge responsive website, you can imagine the angry red numbers we see on mobile-incompatible websites.

No mobile site and you’re sunk. But now a mobile version just isn’t enough. Responsive is required, and if you’re at all invested in how your website performs it’s time for a redesign. If you’re concerned about your website, give us a call: we’re happy to do a free review of your website and demo what ours can do.

Builder Designs Takes #IBSVegas 2015!

Categories: BD News, Home Builder Industry | Posted: January 29, 2015 | By: Abby Hill

 

Builder Designs booth at IBS

The BD Team had a great time partnering with Lasso at IBS this week to bring our Internet solutions straight to prospective clients. The show was massive this year, and even we didn’t get to see the whole thing. It was very cool to see people there all the way from China, Norway, and Canada—it truly was an international show!

We had a lot of people stop by our booth to chat with us and ask questions. Here are some highlights of what we learned about the homebuilding industry from talking to current and prospective clients:

 

  • Many vendors are very interested in having their own websites now that they’ve seen that so many of their clients have an excellent online presence. Some expressed the desire to allow homebuilders to shop for and order materials directly from the website. This was a new industry concept and certainly something that got us thinking!
  • Several builders were incredulous as they told us stories about other builders they know who don’t have a website yet. We used to find ourselves explaining the benefit of having a website to begin with, and this year everyone seemed to really understand the importance of being online. We were able to focus our message on how our solution stands out from the rest.
  • Some builders we talked to had built a lower-end website through GoDaddy or WordPress and expressed their frustration over their lack of control when it came to getting quick updates to inventory and pricing. These builders are currently unable to add new communities and floorplans as they become available or update inventory when it sells. Thankfully, our custom admin allows them to do all of those things instantly, and we hope to hear from them soon on starting a new website to fit their needs.
  • Everyone we talked to is expecting 2015 to be a great year for sales. This may be due to interest rates on home loans being at a historical low. We love hearing that our clients are confident about business growth, especially compared to what was going on in 2008! Now is a great time for homebuilders to try more aggressively marketing their website to get more online leads. We just began offering new online marketing services, so it was fun to show builders how we can help them get more leads in 2015.
  • Norway seems to think our designs are pretty cool! We had several Norwegians stop by our booth and snag a few fliers for inspiration.

 

All in all, it was a great week in Vegas. Our favorite part was by far our Builder Tech party where we got to hang out and chat with clients. It was nice to finally be face-to-face with people we’ve come to know so well over the phone and Internet.

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