The Builder Designs Blog

Home Builder Website News & Tips

How to Nurture Leads and Relationships on Facebook

Categories: Internet Marketing for Home Builders | Posted: April 22, 2016 | By: Abby Hill

group of men and women looking at a phone screen and smiling

Facebook is becoming its own lead-generating platform working in-sync with your website in some ways, and independent of your website in other ways. If you get an inquiry on Facebook either through a comment on a post or in a private message, employ some of these strategies to work those leads into appointments:

1. Limit your contact to the Facebook platform

Until your prospect provides you with their contact information, converse with them on Facebook. Don’t reply to their message or comment with your company phone number–it’s listed on your Facebook profile and your website, two things your prospect already has access to. The reason they’re contacting you on Facebook is because they don’t feel comfortable using your phone number or lead form. Telling them to call you to get answers to their questions will likely result in their frustration, causing you to lose them as a prospect.

2. Move them to Facebook Messenger ASAP

If someone has commented on one of your posts with a question, go ahead and answer them, but also invite them to send you a message if they have additional questions. Doing so lets them know that you’re willing to engage them further on Facebook, which is comforting and encouraging to a lot of homebuyers.

Another scenario you may find yourself in is when a current homeowner comments on your post with a question or complaint about their home/community. In these situations, you should go to their Facebook page and send them a message letting them know you’re there to help. Next, reply to their comment on your page letting them know that you have reached out to them via message and will help them in any way you can. Doing this serves a double purpose of alerting your homeowner to check their messages and also showing the rest of your audience that you’re willing to address their issue.

3. Reply to Everything…Within Reason

Replying to someone’s comment is so much more engaging than a gratuitous “like,” and doing so will increase the engagement on your page, opening up more opportunities for leads, reviews, and overall relationship building. Reply to any comment that’s directed at your company or product–for example, if someone comments “Beautiful!” on one of your home photos, reply with your sincere thanks and “tag” the person by using the @ symbol immediately followed by their name. This will add a personal touch and notify the user that you have replied to them.

Sometimes people will tag their friends in their comment to draw their attention to your post. No need to like or comment in these situations–doing so might give off a creepy vibe.

4. Ease Into the Appointment

Once you’ve messaged with your prospect back and forth a couple of times, don’t be afraid to softly suggest moving off the Facebook platform with a simple “Would you like me to have one of our sales agents reach out to you to set up an appointment?” Most of the interested leads we have seen come in on Facebook will quickly move into the appointment phase. These prospects are usually more interested than you would assume and are typically ready to make an appointment, but have come to Facebook to get their last lingering questions answered in a way that doesn’t require commitment from them. If you play into this desire, chances are you’ll be showing them around one of your model homes in no time.

 

Have a story about an appointment or home sale you closed on Facebook? We’d love to hear it! Send your stories to abby@builderdesigns.com and we may feature you in a future BuilderIQ post!

4 Ways to Improve Your Website’s Photography

Categories: Internet Marketing for Home Builders | Posted: April 18, 2016 | By: Emily Harris

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 2.18.32 PM

With the popularity of image driven sites like Houzz and Pinterest, good photos are crucial to a builder’s online strategy. The expectations of home photography have gone up in recent years because of this and potential buyers are much more likely to notice bad photography than ever before. A new home purchase is one of the most costly, emotional purchases individuals will ever make. Homebuyers imagine living in their new space, and without decent photos, it’s impossible for them to experience this important step in the home buying process. We’ve gathered the best home photography tips to ensure your photos will captivate your potential buyers.

Hire a professional.Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 2.26.00 PM

As a home builder, photography is not something you should consider as a DIY option. You can’t expect someone to consider investing in a $250,000 home after seeing photos taken on an iPhone. The cost of hiring a photographer is minimal compared to its return on investment.

 

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 2.26.07 PMStage the home.

Homebuyers want to envision what rooms will be used for in their home and how their furniture will fit in. It’s difficult to imagine this with photos of empty rooms. Renting neutral furnishings will allow homebuyers to see the space being used for its intended purpose.

 

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 2.26.16 PMShoot in natural light.

When hiring a professional, most will insist on shooting on a bright day. Natural light will help the home seem airy, bright, and clean.

 

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 2.26.25 PMChoose the right perspective.

Your photographer should take photos from several different angles in each room. Make sure you include photos on your site that feature the best angles and show off the home well. For instance, a photo that’s half ceiling is not a good candidate to display on your website.

 

In general, we see better results in online marketing efforts when high quality, thoughtful photos are used. If you need help with formatting photos for your website, check out our new Creative Services offerings.

How to Make Your Blog Stand Out

Categories: Internet Marketing for Home Builders | Posted: April 15, 2016 | By: Abby Hill

Wooden desk with technology and financial figures. On the table are a laptop, phone, digital tablet and mobile phone. There are also documents with figures and graphs. There are also pens, a plant and coffee. Hands are typing on the keyboard. Home office.

Many homebuilders have a website blog that gets updated weekly or monthly because years ago we were told that putting new content on a website will help it rank better in search. However, in order to see those benefits today we have to be doing more than just publishing content for the sake of publishing content. Here are some tips for coming up with useful, interesting content for your blog that will help attract and convert customers.

 

Define Your Audience

Figuring out the audience for your blog content is the first step in planning your content strategy. Be more specific than simply defining your audience as homebuyers. Use the formula “homebuyers who _________ “ and brainstorm with your team different types of homebuyers you typically encounter and what they’re looking for. Some examples: homebuyers who are part of military families, homebuyers who are looking to customize their home, etc. You can define multiple audiences; just know the content you will be creating for each one will be different.

 

Pick Your Placement

A blog that isn’t promoted is going to die on the vine, so be sure to allocate funds to promote your content, whether that be on social media, via email blasts, or both. Decide if you’re creating the blog content to promote good feelings about your company or to help drive your prospects deeper into the sales funnel. Tip: both of these are great options to pursue, so if you have the manpower, do both. Content that promotes good will toward your brand is best shared on social media, while helpful content designed to drive prospects deeper into the sales funnel is best shared via email blast at opportune moments.

 

Find Your Unique Value

What can you offer homebuyers on your blog that’s different from what other builders are offering? This can be either in the information you give or in the way you present it. For instance, if you have a large design center with interior designers on staff, ask for their assistance creating design tips using options found in your design center. This content will emotionally resonate with homebuyers, which is especially beneficial if you’re one of the only homebuilders in the area with a design center.

 

Thinking about content that supports the sales funnel, your homebuyers are likely going to be interested in anything that helps them make a decision about a plan or a neighborhood. Brainstorm content that you can create that either gathers helpful school and community-related information to share with your prospects or more emotional content that helps them picture life in one of your floor plans. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and lean on your current homeowners for photos and testimonials. Incentivize new homebuyers with a gift card to Home Depot when they share photos of their new home and their story of why they chose it. As an added bonus, you’ll be collecting examples of “staged” floor plans to use as sales tools in the future.

 

 

Above all, be creative with your blog. Think about what’s interesting and valuable to the homebuyer, not the search engine. Share and promote your blog on the right channels and watch your readership grow!

How to Create Great Content That Converts

Categories: Internet Marketing for Home Builders | Posted: April 8, 2016 | By: Abby Hill

drawing business concept on wall

 

Many homebuilders are missing the mark when it comes to creating great content on their websites. We’re so focused on creating content for search engines that we miss the opportunity to create content for actual homebuyers. There’s a difference in the outcome of putting text on a webpage vs. creating something that’s visually interesting and helpful to homebuyers.

Great content will attract and convert more homebuyers and promote trust in your brand. The result of that will be successful marketing, more leads, and even high-value SEO. Ready to get started? Read on to learn what goes in to creating great content that converts.

  1.  Be helpful

Above anything else, great content should be helpful to homebuyers. One of the best ways to be helpful to anyone is to solve their problems. Think to yourself, as a builder, what problems can you solve for a homebuyer? What questions are they asking that you know the answers to? This doesn’t have to be specific to your company. You can even help them by providing information about the local housing market and the value of buying new in the areas you build in.

  1. Don’t be salesy

This is a hard one to grasp in the context of marketing your company, but goes hand-in-hand with the idea of helping your customers. When you show homebuyers that you’re authentically there to help answer their questions and solve their problems, they’ll naturally be inclined to want to do business with you. No need to work a self-promoting sales pitch into your content. Just be helpful.

  1. Create visual interest

Great content should be visually interesting and easy to read. In-depth articles are great, especially when they fully answer a homebuyer’s question. However, big blocks of text are not user-friendly, and so aren’t helpful. Help your users access your content by making it visually interesting. Breaking up text with photos is a good place to start, but the real winners will think outside the box and find ways to present content in even more interesting and interactive ways. Hiring a creative designer to help you format and present your content online is a smart move.

  1. Make it personal

So many builders get by online copying what everyone else is doing. While this is easy and certainly cost-effective in the short term, it comes across as impersonal and creates a sense of distrust in your brand. A great way to get started with personal content is via your sales team. Find out what questions homebuyers are asking them, and have your team take turns writing blog posts to answer these questions. Include a photo of the employee who wrote the article on the blog posts and give the author the freedom to write as themselves rather than disguising their voice to sound formal. Consumers want to buy from brands who feel like their friends.

  1. Try video

Not great at writing and don’t want to hire someone? Try making regular videos and sharing them on your YouTube channel and Facebook. Just make sure to keep them short, engaging, and helpful. Most users won’t watch a video longer than 1-2 minutes, so try to keep your videos somewhere in that time frame.

 

 

When you decide to take your content strategy to the next level, do so in an effort to better connect with homebuyers, not to promote yourself. That will happen naturally as users discover and share your helpful content. Think about why you get up every day to build homes. What do you want homebuyers to know about living in your community or buying a new home? If you don’t know right away how you can be of help, ask! Ask your prospects what they’ve struggled with in their home search and find ways to help more people like them by creating content that solves that problem. Do this regularly and watch your “word-of-mouth” referral online skyrocket.

 

If you need help creating great content, we’re here to help you! Check out our new Creative Services designed to help you add value to your website content.

Design Do’s and Don’ts

Categories: Website Design | Posted: April 1, 2016 | By: Abby Hill

Closeup shot of laptop with digitaltablet and smartphone on desk. Responsive design web page on their screen. Modern devices on desk at office.

Your website is your biggest marketing tool, which is why it’s important to maintain the highest standards when it comes to the design appeal. Photos, layout, and even colors all come together to create a lasting impression that sells (or doesn’t sell) your stunning homes. Design has the power to make homebuyers stay or drive them away. In this blog post, one of our designers, Katie, gives her tips for website design do’s and don’ts as you continue to manage the content of your website:

 

DO invest in good photography.

Most people now have short attention spans for websites, so you want to grab them quickly–photos do that. Eye-catching photographs will add a “wow” factor to your site and draw users in. You may need to invest in a professional photographer, but we promise it will be worth every penny.

DON’T use your slideshow for promotional banners.

Most slideshows are designed to fit only the space allotted, which means your promotional banner design is going to be cut off in some areas. The slideshow is your entry image to your site. Just like a front foyer in a house, you want it to be clean and inviting. Adding advertisements to this space is like having all your shoes, coats and bags at your front door and making your guests stumble over them to get inside.

If you need a section for promotional items, speak to a design professional for ideas. They will be able to point you in the right direction with an idea that you might not have considered. For example, what about having an entry photograph that’s really amazing and then a smaller slideshow for just your events/specials.

DO accurately represent your company style on the website

This goes along with branding, but if you’re a clean, minimalist type of company, your website should reflect that style. If you’re ornate and traditional, you should have a website that has that style. Basically, don’t try to be something you’re not…own it!

DON’T overload your menu options.

Organizing your website in a way that gets your users where they need to be quickly means everyone wins. They get to where they want to go and you’ll have a stronger lead. The menu organization might not be what your office thinks it should be, either. Make sure you are putting yourself in the homebuyer’s shoes. Avoid using phrases that are used mostly by industry professionals and think about phrases that everyone would know and recognize. Don’t over-complicate.

DO format your copy.

They say it takes people about 9 seconds to make a decision about a website. If they see a block of text, they’re going to leave your site. If they see formatted headings and quick bullet points, they’re more apt to hang out and skim your content. You will have some users that will want all the information in the world, but the majority wants their information quick and concise. Think microwave generation.

DON’T have pages with 5 lines of text.

I know I just said to keep things concise, but sometimes you can be TOO concise. A page with limited content looks like a mistake–to the user AND to Google. There’s a fine line between too much and not enough. If you cannot fill it with any more text, try adding a nice photo floated to the right or left.

DO keep your branding consistent.

Keep your colors and fonts the same! Inconsistencies with your content displays to the user that you’re not sure what you’re doing. Most people say they want a bright yellow starburst to really draw attention to something, but in reality its going to look cheesy and too much like a “used-car salesperson” gimic.

DO make sure your website uses a responsive design.

Mobile traffic is going to continue to grow, but also think about large monitors. How would your website look on a 50-inch smart TV? Or a 27-inch computer monitor? Responsive doesn’t always mean cell-phone size.

 

BONUS Insider tip:

If the bill for a full website redesign gives you nightmares, try to have your photography or graphics professionally done. It might not cost as much as you’d think to have a designer or photographer work with you to create elements for your website.

Katie is a web designer at Builder Designs

P.S. If you need help with design elements for your website or just want someone to help you with content loading, check out our new Creative Services at Builder Designs.

Orphaned Pages and Your SEO

Categories: Home Builder SEO | Posted: March 25, 2016 | By: Abby Hill

surprised little boy

 

Those poor little orphaned pages. Google doesn’t have a soft spot for them. These are pages that you can get to by typing in the URL, but are not linked to from anywhere on your site. Keep too many of them alive and you may experience some issues with your ranking.

The most familiar type of orphaned page is what we call a Landing Page. Many builders use landing pages in their marketing efforts to display more specific information to the people they are marketing to–for instance, a page that contains helpful information for military families who are relocating to the area and links to nearby new home communities.

While landing pages are awesome for marketing, they aren’t search-engine-friendly. Keep in mind we’re talking about a true landing page here–one that you purposely left out of your site navigation because you only want to share it with certain people. A simple fix for a landing page is to have your SEO specialist put a meta tag on the page to let the search engine know that it doesn’t need to count this page as part of the site. We take care of this when you commission a custom landing page through Builder Designs, but since you also have the option to create pages in your admin, you’ll want to let us know when you’ve created a page you plan on keeping hidden.

SEO crawlers can understand that every page of your site exists, but it still goes through the site to look at the links between pages in order to understand which pages are the most important. When it gets stuck trying to get to an orphaned page, it will abandon your site without indexing the rest of your content. This means there is potential that you might add a new community or home to the site and it will take a long, long time to get picked up by the search engine.

In the admin of your Builder Designs website, you have the handy option of hiding communities, homes, or plans you’re not ready to display on the website. You also have the option to remove unused pages from your site navigation without deleting them outright, in case you want to use them later.

While these are great options that give you more control over your website, they do come with SEO implications. Everything in your admin that generates a page will do so regardless of whether the item is set to show or not. All it means is that the page is or isn’t linked to on the site. So you’ve probably guessed it–all of your hidden items and unused pages are actually orphaned pages.

So how big a deal is this in the scheme of things? Not a huge one, necessarily. Don’t get caught up in the implications of hiding a community or two as you work on rolling out a new section. It’s helpful for you to store this info since you know you’ll need it later. But on a side note, it’s very possible that someone may still access your hidden pages through links on other websites or their bookmarks section, especially if it’s a community which might have received press on other sites. You may want to delete the community if you do not want anyone to be able to access the page.

All in all, continue to use the show/hide feature as it’s useful to you, but when you officially close out a community, home, or plan, go ahead and delete it. Otherwise, when you end up with 50-100 orphaned pages, you may really begin to see your SEO ranking take a hit.

Site Navigation for SEO

Categories: Home Builder SEO | Posted: March 22, 2016 | By: Abby Hill

Marker drawing of a web with boxes pointing to the center
One of the most overlooked elements of a holistic SEO strategy is site navigation, or how users access all the content on your website. While a site’s structure has a huge impact on its ability to rank well, the opportunity to do things right is often missed when the website is developed without input from the SEO team.

Going back and trying to restructure a website after it’s been built creates issues similar to what happens when you try to restructure an old house. Just like load-bearing pillars get in the way of creating open-concept floor plans in existing homes, restructuring an existing website comes with its own set of limitations. The best way to overcome these limitations is to get the SEO team involved at the beginning of your website project.

For awhile we’ve been talking about the importance of user experience in SEO, and web designers are a great resource for understanding what the user wants and needs. However, when we design a website only with the user in mind, we may overlook some key elements for the search engines. A user might find your site easy to navigate, but if a search engine crawler gets to your website and doesn’t know how to get to certain pages or understand what content is important, your site won’t be able to rank well.

The most optimal website structure should accommodate both the user and the search engine. In order to achieve this, we have to focus on two things: defining the user funnels and prioritizing the most important pages.

Many websites give users the ability to get directly to any page of the site from the home page, either through dropdown menus, clickable icons, or both. While this structure is user-friendly, it isn’t search-engine-friendly. The search engine needs to understand the most important pages of your site so that it can determine which search results your site will be most useful in. When your website tells the search engine that your Warranty Info page is just as important as your Available Homes page, the search engine assumes you’re trying to game the system and may end up ranking you lower in the search results.

What’s more is that your website only has a certain amount of what’s called “crawl budget,” which is how many pages the search engine will look at when it indexes your site. In case you’re unfamiliar with indexing, it’s the process of search engines going to your site to look for content to deliver in search results. If a page of your site has not been indexed, no one will be able to find it in search. So you can see why you’d definitely want the search engine to prioritize indexing your homes and communities over things like About Us, Construction Process, and Warranty Info.

Check Your Site

Looking for an opportunity to improve your SEO with navigation structure? Use this checklist to diagnose any opportunities you may currently be missing out on without ever leaving your home page.

  • Links to other websites or social media channels
  • YouTube videos
  • Drop-down menus
  • Text links
  • Pages linked to more than once (common culprits: Available Homes, Photos, Floor Plans, Models, Contact Us)
  • Triple-linked clusters (photo + title + button all have links)

If you find at least three of these items on your website’s home page, your website may benefit from an SEO Update. Contact abby@builderdesigns.com for more information.

SEO: Then vs. Now

Categories: Internet Marketing for Home Builders | Posted: March 11, 2016 | By: Abby Hill

SEO - search engine optimization mindmap on napkin with cup of coffee

 

SEO has come a long way since its early days in the late 90s, but many home builders have yet to unlock the full extent of opportunities that SEO provides today. Keywords are the one thing SEO has always been known for, and few outside the industry understand SEO to be anything other than keywords and links, but in reality SEO today is so much more.

Modern SEO functions as an arm of sales support in that it helps attract customers to your website and ensures their needs are met in ways that encourage conversions.

An SEO strategist can research what homebuyers in your area are already looking for online and help you develop content that fully answers their needs, whether that be questions about the homebuilding process or simply looking for new homes in their area. There’s a wealth of data available online today, and SEOs know how to interpret that data into something actionable for your business. Part of SEO involves studying the ways homebuyers interact with the content on your website to determine where they’re getting hung up or where they’d like to see more information.

Much of SEO today is about utilizing data to understand user needs. In doing so, we have the ability to help you not only meet the expectations of homebuyers on your website, but exceed them. Builders who find ways to surprise and delight homebuyers on their website will see their leads and appointments increase.

Interested in SEO but don’t know where to start? A site audit can be a great way to begin a relationship with an SEO strategist and lay a foundation of work that needs to be done on your site in order to attract and convert more customers. You can get started with SEO today from Builder Designs by filling out a request for an Advanced SEO Audit.

Future-Proofing Your SEO

Categories: Home Builder SEO | Posted: March 7, 2016 | By: Abby Hill

black and white image of Google's San Jose office at night

 

We had the privilege of attending the SMX West conference last week, and from hanging out at the Google headquarters, talking to other talented SEOs, and listening to Google engineers talk about what’s new in their world, one thing became clear: we need to be forward-thinking with any SEO strategy we employ. We need to think about what SEO is going to look like months from now, not just today. We need to future-proof our SEO.

Speaking of SEO, let’s take a quick second and talk about what SEO is and why we care about it. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, or in other words, the stuff you do on and off a website that helps it show up in search results. When we talk about optimizing a site for SEO, what we’re really doing is optimizing a site to attract and convert more customers. While we do talk a lot about ranking position and keywords when we talk about SEO, attracting customers is really what it’s all about. When you’re doing well with SEO, your opportunity to bring in customers and sell homes to them increases. Win win.

So how do we anticipate what’s ahead in the ever-changing world of SEO? How can we make sure our SEO is future-proof?

While we don’t know a lot of what actually goes into how Google ranks websites, we do know what drives every decision Google makes: the user. Google’s goal is to provide the best search experience for the user, and one way it accomplishes this is by delivering the best websites that fully answer the user’s search query.

So if we build websites that are easy to navigate and fast to load, and if we include awesome content that’s useful and interesting to homebuyers, and if we use the right keywords that make it easy to find this content, we’re probably pretty safe in regards to our SEO strategy benefitting us well into the future.

For those of you planning to build or thinking about building a new website in the near future, here’s a quick list of things you’ll want to include in order to future-proof your SEO.

  1. Create new and exciting content. Your SEO strategist can help you research what homebuyers in your area are searching for and asking about so that you can create content that fully answers their questions (and brings them to your site!)
  2. Have your site built mobile-first. By loading only the most streamlined version of your site on mobile, your pages will load super-fast. Plus, your users will find it easier to navigate.
  3. Hire a professional photographer to photograph your model homes at the time of day when the home receives the most optimal sunlight through the windows. Homebuyer perception of your product will improve, and it’s more likely your customers will share your website with friends and family.
  4. Have your SEO strategist advise on your website project from start to finish to ensure you’re receiving all the current technical benefits of SEO.
  5. Invest in some advanced SEO and have your redirect chains eliminated if you’ve redesigned your website more than once in the past.
  6.  Have your site built in HTTPS. This promotes data integrity, and Google has already admitted to automatically indexing and giving a ranking boost to sites that are built in HTTPS.

Why The #1 Ranking Needs SEO The Most

Categories: Home Builder SEO | Posted: February 26, 2016 | By: Abby Hill

graphic design image of a computer with pages linking out from it

If you’re the #1 ranking home builder for your most important keyword phrase or phrases, first of all–congratulations. You’re sitting right where every business owner dreams of being. It’s likely at least half of all people who search for home builders in your area end up clicking on your site. This is probably bringing you a handful of leads each month, resulting in an acquisition cost of $0 per lead. It’s a pretty nice place to be.

You might be thinking you don’t need any help with SEO, but you’re wrong. The #1 ranking position on Google needs SEO more than anyone because it’s the only position needing a purely defensive strategy. Spend any time in the SEO world and you’ll see that things can change in an instant. One day you may be ranking #1, and then days later you might be down at #5 with no clue how you got there. This is when most companies begin seeking the help of an SEO professional, but they’ve already lost a lot of traction at this point. It’s much easier to maintain a #1 ranking than regain one after it’s been lost.

SEO is like running in a race with no finish line. People who slow down once they get ahead will eventually end up getting passed by their competitors who are behind them steadily improving. Once you gain that position 1 ranking, your biggest competitor should become yourself.

One way to ensure you keep commanding half of all clicks from your best search phrase is to partner with an SEO agency. These are going to be the people most closely connected with the changes happening within Google and the SEO industry overall. Week to week, month to month, they’re going to know which strategies to stop and start so that your website can maintain that first place ranking.

Another way to stay on top is to invest in your website ongoing. You should constantly be seeking out ways to one-up your own SEO strategy. If your new website design moved you up to #1, the last thing you want to do is sit back and ride the wave for six months while your competitor develops a new site that utilizes even newer technologies than your website did. Technology changes fast, and it’s very possible that parts of your website will need updating within a year after launch. Don’t think of website updates in terms of overhauls–take your SEO strategist’s suggestions to your web developer on a regular basis and make tweaks necessary to remain the best of the best.

Don’t forget Builder Designs now offers Advanced SEO audits if you’re looking for an in-depth checkup for your website and ranking opportunities.

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