The Builder Designs Blog

Home Builder Website News & Tips

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

Builder FAQs: Why Am I Not Showing Up?

Categories: Home Builder SEO, Local SEO | Posted: May 1, 2015 | By: Builder Designs

Why am I not showing up? This has to be the number one question we are asked by homebuilders all over the country. The answer comes down to two possible culprits: SEO and marketing. Here’s what we look for when we audit your site if you’d like to do a little self-diagnosis:

Quality of Title Tags

Each page on your site has (or should have) its own unique title tag. You can find this by hovering over the tab of the page or by right-clicking and selecting “view source.” It should be somewhere at the top of the source code looking something like this:

You can find title tags in the source data of any website

If the title of every page is the same, you have bad SEO. If there are keywords related to your business but not where your business is located, you have bad SEO (unless you’re a national company like us).

This is the first place Google looks for a user’s search phrase when it’s choosing which sites to display in the results. If someone searches “new homes in Olathe, KS” and that phrase does not appear in any of your title tags, that’s why you’re not showing up.

Keywords Elsewhere on Site

Google also looks for keywords in each page’s meta description, header, and copy. If a user who knows nothing about your company can’t come to the site and figure out every city and metro area you build in, that’s probably why you’re not showing up.

Google Plus

Having a Google Plus page (now Google My Business) for your main office and even your model home locations allows you to appear in yet another part of Google’s page 1, the Map Pack. When a local homebuyer is searching for new homes or homebuilders in the area, Google will display results that have a map pin above the regular search results.

What this means is that even if your site is all the way down on page 3, your listing still has an opportunity to show up on page 1.

Marketing

If you’re solid on all the above things and still not showing up on page 1, your issue may just be that your market is too competitive and you need to invest a little more in buying visibility for the website.

Google Adwords is a great place to start, since these ads are keyword-driven and show up on search results pages.

Other than that, social media is a great place to pay for advertising to get more traffic to the site, which will eventually give you a little boost in SEO as well.

 

Instagram For Builders

Categories: Internet Marketing for Home Builders | Posted: May 1, 2015 | By: Builder Designs

 

instagram-logoWe have yet to see a homebuilder successfully implement an Instagram campaign, but this an opportunity to keep an eye on. Instagram is currently the leading social media channel for millennials, which tells you something about where the future of social media is headed.

The thing about Instagram is that it can be a great marketing tool, but there’s not much room for error. Much like Houzz, there is a certain style of photography you have to abide by as a brand in order to entice people to follow you. You have to create an aspirational lifestyle around your product through little vignettes rather than just uploading basic photos of the exterior of one of your homes.

 

Example of typical Instagram photography

“Aspirational” photo styling as done by West Elm

 

People don’t want to see an entire room photographed on an iPhone at the wrong time of day. They want to see the corner of a couch with a vibrant plant in the background and the shadow of window-glow splashed across the floor. Instead of “Come see our new model in Sunset Pointe,” they want something more subtle, like “Afternoon vibes #newmodel #sunsetpointe.” Hashtags are everything on Instagram. If you don’t know how and when to use them, figure it out before you begin posting as your business.

Could a homebuilder have a successful Instagram campaign? Potentially, but it would be way more work than Facebook. There are currently very few sponsored posts on Instagram–this is a channel that consumers are actually opting into for the brands they love. The idea on Instagram is not to show up in front of users unannounced, but to start inviting people to connect with you on Instagram and allow it to grow organically from there.

The downside to Instagram is having to put a concentrated effort into everything you post. The benefit is reaching the next generation of homebuyers and creating an aspirational vibe around your brand that essentially allows you to market for free.

Drawing of a lightbulb

 

Tip: Check out Instagram’s own recommendations for brands to watch that are doing Instagram right.

 

 

 

 

5 Website Mistakes Builders Are Making

Categories: Home Builder Industry, Home Builder SEO, Inbound Marketing, Internet Marketing for Home Builders, Responsive Design, Website Design | Posted: April 23, 2015 | By: Abby Hill

Having built over 300 websites for homebuilders across the country since 2006, we know a thing or two about what’s working and what isn’t. A website is an investment–a good one is going to cost thousands of dollars, but more importantly, a website is supposed to be a digital representation of your business and the people who run it.

If you’re looking to cut corners, the website is not the place to make sacrifices. We’re not talking about whether or not to put a second kitchen in the basement or installing surround sound in the home theatre. This is foundation-level stuff–you don’t cut costs by neglecting to install insulation. It’s time to value websites as investments in the way homebuyers value your homes as investments.

Here is our list of the top 5 mistakes we’re still seeing builders make with their websites.

 

1. Not Mobile FriendlyA website displayed on several devices to show a responsive design.

As you may have heard, April 21st marked the apocalypse for websites without a responsive design. If your website isn’t designed to be viewed on a phone or tablet, it’s about to fall in the Google search rankings even if your SEO is top notch. Worse than that, though, is that the majority of homebuyers who are accessing your site are going to have a tough time using it. Be prepared to see more bounces and less time on site in your analytics. Most homebuyers these days are doing their home search on a mobile phone, and ain’t nobody got time for a website that doesn’t work.

 
2. No SEO

If the quality of your website is equatable to a home with or without insulation, then think of not having SEO as a home without an address. In a community with no street names, in a small town that no one has ever heard of. Oh, and you’re not around to give people directions. Just Gary Google, and he knows absolutely nothing about the house, the location, or even the fact that you exist. Good luck.

2015 is so much different than 1995. These days, SEO is as vital as the http:// at the beginning of any web address. Being online is nothing new. It’s a game now, and you have to have SEO to play. Without it, you might as well get off the track because people are starting to lap you.

It’s simple, really. You don’t have SEO, there’s no way to show up in an online search. And online search is where builders all over the country are gaining a majority of their business these days.

 

Low quality photos will make buyers think your homes are low quality as well3. Poor Photos 

We could write a separate post on the 5 mistakes builders are making with their photos. Companies that sell $60 pairs of shoes understand the influence professional photography has on buyer impression. Why is it that some builders believe they can sell a $250K house using photos they took on their iPhone?

You should be hiring a professional photographer with lighting equipment to shoot all of the homes you wish to display on your website. We have seen builders with professional photography get six times more web traffic from online ads than builders with low-quality photos.

Photos aren’t just meant to inform–they’re meant to sell. You should be able to sell someone a home before they ever set foot inside it by the quality of your photos. To put it bluntly, being cheap about your website photos will give homebuyers the impression that you’re cheap when it comes to building their home too.

 

4. Not Updating Photos With The SeasonYou should take new photos of your listing if it still hasn't sold come Spring time

Winter brings a bit of a lull in home sales, but that doesn’t mean builders stop putting homes on the market. If you list a home in December, you’re likely going to have to photograph it with dead grass, snow on the driveway, naked trees, and gloomy gray skies. This is just what you have to do, but when April comes and that home is still on the market, send a photographer out to reshoot the exterior. Having blue skies, blooming flowers, and vibrant green grass will give homebuyers a positive impression of the home and its location.

On the flip side, when it’s April and you have homes listed with wintry landscapes, all that says to the homebuyer is that this house has been on the market for a while now and nobody wants it.

 

Your website should have an inbound marketing strategy designed for lead generation

5. No Marketing Strategy

This is one that continues to dumbfound us, considering that we know several builders who are successfully marketing themselves online without the use of any print advertising. You can pay for a fairly robust online marketing campaign…for a year….for around the price you’d pay for a handful of newspaper ads.

Even SEO has gotten competitive to the point where showing up in organic search is just the icing on the cake that is your online marketing strategy. More than 90% of all homebuyers are using the Internet at some point in their home search. Your website allows you to collect and manage more leads, online marketing allows you to pay less to have more people find out about your business…and you know at least 90% of your target demographic is going to be online seeking out homebuilder websites anyway.

Online marketing is something to capitalize on. At this point, you can safely abandon ship with your expensive print pieces and reallocate that budget into marketing your website. Still, we see many builders making the mistake of thinking online marketing is an unnecessary expense.

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