Just Launched: JT Smith Homes

Categories: Latest Site Launches
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This post was written by: Builder Designs

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 9.12.46 AM

Two of our favorite sites to-date just launched this week: J.T. Smith Homes and J.T. Smith Companies. The two companies are housed under one roof and specialize in land development, residential building, and asset management in the Portland, OR metro.

J.T. Smith has been working in various aspects of the real estate industry for over 20 years, including residential land development, residential building, commercial building, and multi-family projects. This company is unique in that they are both a builder and a land developer. This allows them to control the cost of their projects using one overhead, and gives them more flexibility in building projects that fit with the surrounding scenery and community. We’re sure homebuyers in the Portland area really appreciate the thought and care that goes into J.T. Smith projects.

On the J.T. Smith Co. design we got to enter into some new design territory with their About Us page. This interactive way of displaying team member profiles looks sleek and minimal upon first glance, but when you hover over each team member’s photo, the photo flips around to reveal a pop of green and the team member’s bio. This allows the site to maintain a clean, modern look without sacrificing the SEO juice that a robust amount of text can bring. We love the way it turned out and can’t wait to utilize the technique on our own site!

 

Be sure to check out these two sites for a great example of how modern web design looks and functions. If you’d like to learn more about J.T. Smith Companies, visit them online at www.jtsmithhomes.com and www.jtsmithco.com.

Marketing New Homes in 2015: Builder Designs Offers the ‘Easy’ Button

Categories: Home Builder SEO, Social Media, What's new?
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This post was written by: Builder Designs

easy_button

 

Builder Designs is now offering Inbound Marketing services starting in 2015. Learn about our plan to increase your lead generation. 

 

For a long time, we’ve stressed the importance of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for generating organic search traffic to your website. Now, SEO is becoming one integral part of a much larger picture that encompasses marketing for your website. We refer to it over here as Inbound Marketing.

 

If you’re new to the idea of actively marketing your website, here’s something for you to consider:

 

Imagine you’re running a lemonade stand. You create the most eye-catching, inviting booth and set it up on the busiest street corner where lots of people will drive by and see it. That’s what SEO does for you—it makes you visible to the people who are searching for new homes in your area.

Now, think about how big your city is. There are people all over the city who would buy your lemonade if they just knew you were out there. Imagine how much more lemonade you’d sell by putting flyers all over the city with tantalizing pictures of your product. That’s what Inbound Marketing does.

 

Inbound Marketing is designed to target the type of homebuyer who is already or about to be looking for new homes in your area and deliver relevant ads and information to them, all leading back to your website. It simplifies the home search process. It’s like walking into a clothing store and having someone immediately hand you all the right sizes and styles so you don’t have to go hunting through the racks.

Think of SEO as insurance. Ranking high in Google results is and will continue to be important. However, relying only on SEO to bring you new leads is a mistake. With so many efficient (and inexpensive) tools out there to drive traffic to your website, why would you not use at least one of them?

 

Our Favorite Tools

LANDING PAGES
Why we like them: Since they’re designed to offer extra information about specific ads, they help increase lead generation. They’re also good for testing design and messaging without altering your website.

 

GOOGLE ADWORDS
Why we like them: A great way to make it onto Google’s front page when you’re competing with other homebuilders in your area. You can also direct people to a landing page to really increase those conversions.

 

FACEBOOK
Why we like it: Facebook ad targeting exceeds Google Adwords targeting options by leaps and bounds. We also know that more than 70% of homebuyers are already using Facebook. One of our clients saw a 500% increase in website traffic from Facebook in just one month of running our ads.

 

EMAIL BLASTS
Why we like them: Easy way to get the word out to people who are already interested in your product. Great way to test content and messaging when used with a landing page.

 

TEXT MARKETING
Why we like it: Aside from the fact that we created our own program for it, we like that allowing homebuyers to text in for more info on a home is in line with today’s consumer behavior. We also like that you can put texting keywords in your print ads and billboards to test their effectiveness at generating leads.

 

Hit the Easy Button

We get it. Online marketing is technical, confusing, and sometimes amounts to nothing more than a scam. This is probably why so many longstanding homebuilders have left this resource untapped. This is also why we think builders who start marketing online in 2015 will have runaway success.

Builder Designs is offering homebuilders the Easy Button for your online marketing. You tell us about your business, your challenges, and your goals, and we take care of the rest. We think the only things you should have to manage in your online marketing are the leads.

Why market with us? Aside from the fact that we’ve built hundreds of homebuilder websites across the country, our plan is completely transparent and customizable just for you. Every service we offer has numbers associated with it. We don’t make false promises about getting you to rank #1 on Google or generating X number of new leads each month. Anyone who tries to make those promises isn’t being honest with you. Instead, we offer hard numbers that show you exactly what we’ve delivered in regards to your ROI:

  • How many people visited your website because of an ad (and how much each visit cost)
  • How many new leads you got because of an ad (and how much each new lead cost)
  • How much better one type of ad performed over another
  • How many people opened your email
  • How many new leads an email generated
  • How much you’ve made from your advertising campaign vs. how much you paid us to run it

 

Want to learn more about our Inbound Marketing program? Email abby@builderdesigns.com to request our detailed documents.

Just Launched: Goodall Homes

Categories: Latest Site Launches
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This post was written by: Builder Designs

Goodall Home Exterior

 

Goodall Homes just launched their site redesign, which puts them in a great spot going into 2015. We’re sure homebuyers in the Nashville, TN area will appreciate the update in design and functionality as they shop the website for more information about this home builder and their beautiful communities around Nashville.

Even though they were already a Builder Designs client, so much has happened in web design and functionality since their website was launched that a total remodel was necessary to bring them up to speed. Aside from a branding refresh, Goodall also received a new responsive design–this means that their website can be viewed on a mobile phone and tablet in addition to a desktop computer. With mobile Internet usage on the rise, it’s vital for every business to have a mobile-responsive website. Google even recently released an algorithm update that is going to label sites as mobile friendly right in the results page.

Additionally, with our new admin system Goodall is set up for the future of the changing web climate. We’re now able to automatically update our admin systems to comply with web trends, so the likelihood of Goodall needing another site remodel is greatly reduced moving forward.

We’re stoked to see how Goodall’s new investment in their online presence pays off for them in 2015. We know they’ll see increased site traffic, which always brings more leads. If you need a new website or would like to remodel your old one, give us a call at (913) 393-3367 or email amber@builderdesigns.com.

What We’re Thankful For

Categories: General Thoughts, What's new?
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This post was written by: Anna Chandler

We want to take time out of our usual schedule of website designs and internet marketing research to give thanks to all the good we have in our world. Whether it’s our awesome clients, the local sports teams, supportive families, or caffeine, we all have a lot to be grateful for.

Builder Designs is thankful for graphic

Chip: My sanity.
Scott: Family.
Brian: Bill Self, Taco Tuesdays, my kids, my new ping driver, Adobe Creative Cloud and the Kansas City Royals for creating a new set of baseball memories that don’t involve George Brett.
Tory: I am thankful for Joshua’s weekly trips to Oddly Correct to keep us all heavily caffeinated.
Mike: Berkeley. And Anna. Although I guess you should probably put my fiancé first.
Ryan: Family, friends, health, home, work, food, and being back in KC, the city of seasons.
Katie: A very fun job, coffee, pie, and that my good friends and family never use Comic Sans.
Joshua: My job, my family, and my puppy!
Amber: My health, a job I love, friends & family, and sweet doggie Hannah!
Anna: Friends, family, and new books!
Abby: Eric Hosmer, his smash hits, and his smashing good looks.
Josh: My beautiful wife, my books, my scotch, and my comfy chair.
Jerome: My new home!
Edward: I’m thankful for my wonderful wife and Vim.
Olivia: Working in a place where I get to learn new things every day. And for being done with Christmas shopping!
Karsen: Sarcasm, mimosas, and Bill Snyder.
Jen: Hot chocolate to keep me warm and caffeine to keep me awake. Also, you know, friends and family and stuff. That too.
Debbie: Coffee, chocolate, amusing or comic humor, my family, my pets, my co-workers, and Builder Designs, not necessarily in that order.

Just Launched: Custom Homes of Texas

Categories: Latest Site Launches
Tags: , , ,

This post was written by: Abby Hill

Custom Homes of Texas

 

We just launched the new website for Custom Homes of Texas! This family-owned custom builder is located in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area and needed an online space where they could not only send current leads, but be discovered by new ones as well. With stunning photos, optimized pages, and responsive design, they’re sure to see their leads increase in 2015!

Something unique about Custom Homes of Texas is their faith-based company motto. They often use the words honor, integrity, and service when describing the way they do business, and this is something they wanted to feature in multiple places on their site. To this end, we included their special company motto in the footer throughout the website to pay homage to a meaningful part of their business.

Our copywriting team was enlisted to help optimize copy on the site, and we did so by ensuring their most important pages met the 250-word threshold for SEO. We also included their favorite Bible verse on their About Us page and some unique details to personalize their web copy so that it reflected their family-oriented and down-to-earth company vibe.

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As you can tell, these guys do some pretty incredible custom work. You should definitely go check out their new site at www.customhomesoftexas.com. If you’re in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and interested in working with them, you can reach them at 214-432-0911.

Special Ranking for Mobile-Friendly Sites

Categories: Home Builder SEO, Internet Marketing for Home Builders, Responsive Design, Website Design, What's new?
Tags: , , , , ,

This post was written by: Anna Chandler

Hey home builders: Google is launching a search results tool that could make your traffic plummet – or bring hundreds of new home buyers, because they know it’s going to be a great experience. The latest in internet marketing? Google is adding a “mobile-friendly” tag to mobile search results.

New mobile-friendly label from Google

You can see how that tag will sway user behavior. It could even be the factor that decides if they click on you or a competitor.

You’ll earn that label as long as you meet the criteria Google says translates to best user experience:

  • Uses text that is readable without zooming.
  • Sizes content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom.
  • Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped.
  • Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash.

 

Want to see how you rate? In addition to the new Mobile Webmaster Tool, Google just gave us a great Mobile-Friendly Test:

Royal Oaks Homes in a mobile friendliness test

Plug in your URL and see how you do!

(P.S: The feature is still rolling out globally, so you may not see it as a search result for a few more days.)

Google says that “We see these labels as a first step in helping mobile users to have a better mobile web experience. We are also experimenting with using the mobile-friendly criteria as a ranking signal.” Pay attention to the later point: responsive design will be be crucial to your internet marketing in the near future. Not to mention, way more user friendly for potential home buyers. (And yes, we checked: all of our responsive websites get the high score.)

Google absolutely recommends responsive design over all alternatives. Why? For starters, there’s only one website – not two, the full site and a mobile version. That means all of your content (and SEO) is the same no matter what. And that means buyers get everything they need at their fingertips instead of being limited in their buying or researching options. Plus, there’s no confusion sending buyers a link to a specific page on your website – it’s the same URL no matter what device they’re on.

Two, it scales no matter the technology. With so many devices on the market it’s nigh-impossible to design a mobile version that fits perfectly with a tiny tablet and the new giant iPhone – not to mention your 17″ laptop and the big-screen TV. Responsive design is liquid and shapes itself to the format of any user’s device.

What if you don’t have a responsive website? If you’re still working off of a mobile version, make sure that it is easy for home buyers to access, to research their desired information (like a community description, or the price point of a home), and that it’s easy for them to make contact with you through the mobile device. That translates to a notable email address and phone number on every page. Ideally, the phone number is accessible at the click of a button and not something they have to memorize and open their phone app. With those basics in place you’ll know you’re in a safe place.

…For the time being, anyway. Google is pushing mobile-friendliness hard – they even anticipate that in 2015, more users will be on a mobile device than a desktop. For the first time in human history! If there is one focus you need on the table for 2015, it’s this: responsive website design and total mobile friendliness for your home buyers.

How to Get Good Reviews from Home Buyers

Categories: Home Builder SEO, Internet Marketing for Home Builders, Local SEO
Tags: , , , ,

This post was written by: Anna Chandler

Google+ icon for reviewsReviews are an important part of your Local SEO campaign. As well as being a direct ranking factor – that is, the more reviews you have, the higher you can rank – reviews are important to home buyers. Honest feedback from other buyers lets your prospective client understand your strengths and possible weaknesses. It lends credibility and trustworthiness, two key aspects for turning that search into a sale.

So don’t be afraid to ask for one! Buyers love to leave feedback. They just need a gentle reminder and the availability to leave a review. It’s usually two factors that slow them down: not being sure how or where to leave a review, and remembering to do so. A simple, polite request – and maybe a link to your profile – is all buyers need to get over that hurdle. (We provide infographics to our Local SEO clients that lay out quickly and easily the ‘hows’ and ‘wheres’ for home buyers to minimize any potential confusion.)

Google recommends three steps to encourage reviews for your business:

  • Remind your customers to leave feedback. Simply reminding customers that it’s quick and easy to leave feedback on Google on mobile or desktop can help your business stand out from sites with fewer reviews.
  • Become an active presence on Google and respond to reviews. Your customers will notice that your business values their input and respond with more reviews.
  • Make sure your business information is verified. (Only verified local Google+ pages can respond to reviews).

 

Google also provides some “but don’t do this”, most of which are for people leaving the reviews. You can read the whole list, or I’ve selected the most important notes for our industry:

  • Don’t try to delete negative reviews.
  • Don’t leave a review if you are the owner or employee of the company – that is a conflict of interest.
  • Don’t set up review stations or kiosks at your place of business just to ask for reviews written at your place of business.
  • Don’t offer money, products, or services for reviews.
  • Don’t write negative reviews about a competitor.

 

I also highly recommend checking the specific TOS of a website you’re getting reviews on, because each have their own policies. What might those websites be? The most important review site for Local SEO will be your Google My Business page. (See our Perfecting Google+ article for a great example.) Other websites to consider include Facebook, Houzz, and Guild Quality. You can check on places like Yelp or Foursquare, but those are more tightly focused on other industries.

When do you want to ask? Really, any part of the process when you feel the buyer really knows you – though the after-sales point is capturing them at their happiest. Other ideas include at the model home, sales center, or after final walk-through.

As important as asking: answering. Always, always respond. Nothing means more to that buyer and to future buyers getting an impression of your service. (And be sure to leave the reply as the business page, not your personal account – although if the sales agent who worked with them also wants to chime in, so much the better!)

To a positive review, take a moment to thank them and compliment them in turn. The more specific you can be to their experience the better. To a negative review, thank them for their feedback and offer a phone number or email for them to follow up their complaints with. That takes it off the public space, while proving to other buyers that you are a thoughtful and considerate builder.

And yes, you might sometimes get negative reviews. But user feedback actually shows a preference for mixed-reviews than a builder with zero reviews, and ratings as a whole boosts SERP. Who knows, a few bad reviews might even expose a problem to care for. Handling that feedback with aplomb and kindness is where you really show your quality.

More likely you’ll get positive after positive reviews, as home buyers thank you for the care and dedication you put in to every home you build. For SEO, builder credibility, and for the compliment of honest feedback, buyers and builders both benefit when a business is reviewed on Google.

[Want to try it yourself? We’d love to hear what you think! Check out Builder Designs on Google+ and leave us some feedback.]

High Quality Content for Home Builders

Categories: Home Builder SEO, Internet Marketing for Home Builders
Tags: , , ,

This post was written by: Anna Chandler

Content is King: content generation for home buildersIn the last few years Google has made enormous changes to their search algorithms, all devoted to providing a better user experience. (See last week’s post about the Pigeon update as an example.) We’re doing everything we can to ensure you thrive through every update. SEO has grown from a quiet, behind-the-scenes focus on meta tags and site architecture to combining on-page and off-page factors – social media, Local SEO, link building, press releases, and more – into a powerhouse of 100,000+ ranking factors. While the old work is still absolutely required to succeed, it’s no longer enough. That’s why we’re introducing our inbound marketing plan, new internet marketing features, and helping home builders improve what they already have.

This week we want to talk content. Content is king. Not only is it one of the most important ranking factors, but it’s totally free and easy to implement.

So what counts as a high-quality content site? At its most basic, it’s a website that provides your users with what they want. Meaning: it’s easy to use, full of information, and leads to an easy way to contact you for more. The usability and lead generation is baked into your responsive design, but because our custom CMS makes it so easy for home builders to create new pages and add data a lot of times they’re still left with the question, “Well – what kind of information?”

Google has helpfully provided a check-list of questions; we’ve gone through and chosen the ones must relevant to home builders. ‘Yes’ answers indicate a page of high quality:

  • Would you trust the information presented in this article?
  • Is this article written by an expert who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
  • Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
  • Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
  • Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
  • Does the article provide original content or information?
  • Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
  • Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
  • Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  • Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
  • Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
  • Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
  • Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine?
  • Are the articles not short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
  • Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?

 

This high quality content will impress your home buyers and help you rank high. Along with checking over flow, keyword usage, and grammar, we have a list of topics that we recommend home buyers include. These are questions frequently asked by home buyers, and something those potential buyers want to research online before they ever call you.

Which brings up a good point: sometimes home builders ask us, “Is this too much information on the website? Am I giving everything away”?

No. For Google, there’s no such thing as too much content. And yes, buyers are reading it. The internet has drastically changed people’s method of purchase, especially the purchase of big-budget items like a new home. 9 out of 10 buyers start the process online, and most do hours of hours of research before ever contacting you. In fact, for many buyers their contact request is because they’re ready to buy. If you don’t provide that information online, are they likely to contact you to get it? Frankly, no. They are much more likely to turn elsewhere and start over. It’s not impossible for a buyer to jump through those hoops to buy your new home, but we don’t want to throw them that challenge. We want to make it as easy and painless as possible.

So home buyers checking out your website are interested in:

  • Your location. List out the cities you build in, and explain on-your-lot construction if you offer it. If you build in very popular communities with high name recognition, list those too. Preferably on the home page: that way buyers immediately know if you’re the right builder for them.
  • Your history. How long have you been in business? How did you weather the home market drop-off? Or, alternatively, are you brand-new with a lot of brand-new styles for the modern homeowner?
  • Your focus. Whether you are a new home builder, custom home builder, or a new home builder with some degree of customizability.
  • Energy efficiency.  How green a builder you are and how well-rated by Energy Star your homes are.
  • What special features your communities offer – like proximity to local attractions and free amenities.
  • What special features your floor plans offer – like modern layout or customizable exterior.
  • What special features your new homes offer – like turn-around time or quality touches.
  • What special features you offer. Why should they buy from you versus your competition? Where do you excel, what makes you the builder of choice? Some details popular builders include are special sales, women-centric building, affordability and price per square foot, customization capability, vendors used, financing offers, extended warranty coverage, and plain old fashioned customer service: how close they are and how much they care about each individual buyer.

 

Part of our SEO process is checking in on content for all new websites. We look at length, quality, keyword density, and readability. And sometimes home builders start worrying about the finicky details. But don’t. As Google says, “Search is a complicated and evolving art and science, so rather than focusing on specific algorithmic tweaks, we encourage you to focus on delivering the best possible experience for users“. That art and science of algorithm change, that’s our job. Providing high quality content to your users, to help them move from considering to buying: that’s all you need to worry about. Actually building the homes. We’ll take care of the internet marketing and get those buyers to you in the first place.

Just Launched: Portico Homes’ new builder website

Categories: Latest Site Launches, Website Design
Tags: , , ,

This post was written by: Anna Chandler

Fresh. Affordable. Right. So goes the description of Portico Homes, a new home builder in Bloomington-Normal IL with over 15 years of experience and an eye for progressive colors, modern style, and innovative designs. It’s also a good description of their new website that we just launched.

The website of Portico Homes, new home builder in Bloomington-Normal IL

After partnering with us on O’Neal Builders, their custom home builder division in Peoria IL, Jim O’Neal and Builder Designs went to work on Portico. The new website makes it quick and easy for home buyers to find the perfect community, quick move-in home, or floor plan to start their building process from. Along with plenty of information about Portico Homes and why they are the builder of choice in Normal, their photo gallery invites you into their energy-efficient homes:

Exterior of a new Portico Homes home

 

Interior of a new Portico Home

The most affordable homes on the market today, Portico Homes is proud to offer prices that fit your budget and your needs. And with their Low-E windows, R-49 ceiling insulation, and Energy Star appliances, you’ll continue to reap those savings for years to come. It’s not just a great deal: Portico provides those extra touches like full-size bathroom mirrors, a landscaping package, and a full sheetrocked garage that is finished and painted.

“We know that creating and moving into your dream home is one of the most important investments you can make for your family,” Jim O’Neal says. “So when we build your home we take our responsibility to you very seriously.” That is why they manage every element of the construction. Your new home team will include a designer, job site supervisor, estimator, and customer care professional to ensure that you get the attention and care you deserve.

Ranked as one of the most exciting cities in Illinois, Bloomington-Normal is nestled in a lush farming community with a strong educational community and thriving economy. Portico Homes has over five communities in Bloomington and Normal, as well as new home developments in Central, Downs, Carlock, and Washington IL. They also offer a strong build on your lot program: From Bloomington – Normal all the way south to Clinton and west to Peoria – Dunlap, if you have the land Portico has the plan!

We are proud of the new website for Portico Homes and confident that the responsive design and robust internet marketing plan will create new leads and new sales for these Illinois home builders. To speak with Portico Homes stop by and contact them here. Or if you’re curious about their design and would like more responsive website ideas, browse the Builder Designs’ latest launches.

Apple Maps Connect: A New Tool for Local SEO

Categories: Home Builder SEO, Internet Marketing for Home Builders, Local SEO
Tags: , , , ,

This post was written by: Anna Chandler

Since the last Pigeon algorithm update we’ve happily seen more and more home builders realizing the importance of a Local SEO campaign. Today there’s great news for Local SEO – and an end to a long-running frustration – you can now add or edit local business listings on Apple Maps.

For more than two years we didn’t have this capability and had to rely on Apple making the update themselves. Apple Maps Connect is their answer. Sign in with your Apple ID (or sign up for a free account) and add your new business listing. What’s really nice is that you get to place the pin for your location yourself, so you can make sure the map – and corresponding mobile directions – is exact.

How to use Apple Maps Connect for your home builder internet marketing

We highly recommend first searching for your company. If you have a listing already you’ll want to claim and edit that, versus creating a duplicate account. If for any reason there are already duplicate accounts, be sure to ask for the extras be taken down. This can occasionally happen if, for instance, your company goes under several names.

Like a strong Google My Business listing, you’ll want to choose the appropriate business category, confirm your hours, and add in your full details. Apple Maps Connect lets you link up several social media accounts, like Facebook and Twitter, which is especially nice for home builders with a strong social media presence.

Those business categories are very important, by the way – they’re the way buyers find you. Out of 671 pre-defined categories Apple will let you pick three: a main category, sub-category, and sub-sub-category. Frustratingly, there is not just a “home builder” option. The closest current match is Home Services, which also further breaks down into interior designers, apartments, real estate agents, and more. Read through a full list of Apple’s categories.

In order to verify that others aren’t editing your listing erroneously, you’ll get an immediate and automated verification call from Apple with a few numbers to fill in. From there the new account or update may take a few days or even weeks to show up. Apple reviews the information before it’s live, so you’ll want to check in later on the final version. (This is true for many citation directories.)

Right now the service is only for the US, but that should soon change.

You definitely want to get right on this. Apple Maps is already a huge product, and now that their local citations are stronger those listings are only going to get more important. They may even start rivaling Google’s importance. If you’re fighting back a drop in ranking from the Pigeon update, this is a big step in a citation building program that will help put you back on top.

As always, for more information or help setting up your Local SEO campaign and Apple Maps listing, just get in touch.

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